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Cancer develops when cells in the body function abnormally and multiply uncontrollably--a process which eventually leads to tumor growth. A healthy body routinely detects and eliminates abnormal cells.

Cancer develops when cells in the body function abnormally and multiply uncontrollably–a process which eventually leads to tumor growth. A healthy body routinely detects and eliminates abnormal cells. When the immune system is compromised and certain raw materials required for cellular health are not supplied, cancer results.

Research studies consistently demonstrate that individuals with a high intake of certain foods and nutritional supplements are considerably less likely than others to develop specific types of cancer. By ensuring that these nutrients are adequately supplied and assimilated, we can prevent deficiencies that might predispose us to a host of degenerative conditions–including cancer.

It is important to remember that cancer is not a calorie deficiency. In fact, the reverse appears to be the case. Research has shown that countries with the greatest per-capita caloric intake have the highest incidence and mortality rates from cancer. Citizens of these countries often also eat large amounts of refined and processed foods.

White flour, refined sugar, refined grains and refined vegetable oils are nutrient robbers because the body uses up important enzymes, vitamins and minerals to break down and eliminate them. It is thus possible to eat large amounts of food and even put on weight while the body starves for vital nutrients.

Let’s look at some of the nutritional deficiencies that are often involved in the development of cancer.

Enzyme Chemistry

Enzymes are specialized proteins present in all living cells. They are organic catalysts necessary for every biochemical reaction in the body–including the process of digestion. When raw foods are eaten, the enzymes they naturally contain facilitate digestion, reducing the demand on the body’s pancreatic secretions.

Cooked foods are devoid of enzymes as they are destroyed by heat. The long-term consumption of cooked foods creates a chronic enzyme deficiency, which predisposes the body to cancerous conditions.

Dr Edward Howell, author of Enzyme Nutrition, says that "there is abundant laboratory proof of profoundly disturbed enzyme chemistry in cancer." Enzyme-rich foods and enzyme supplements are important factors in both the prevention and treatment of cancer.

Lactic-acid fermented foods–such as natural sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir and buttermilk–also supply valuable enzymes. They stimulate the production of beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract, thus promoting the proper digestion and assimilation of foods and the elimination of disease-causing organisms and carcinogens.

Miso–a naturally fermented food made from soybeans--is valued as a medicinal food in the macrobiotic diet, which is widely regarded as an effective dietary regimen for healing cancer and other degenerative conditions.

Antioxidant Action

Nutritional deficiencies of the antioxidant vitamins A, B-complex, C, E and the carotenoids (especially beta-carotene, the precursor form of vitamin A) are often associated with cancer. This is because the body needs these antioxidants to destroy free radicals (by products of normal metabolism). If free radicals are uncontrolled, they encourage the development of cancerous tumors.

Lycopene, a carotenoid found in tomatoes, has been the subject of several research studies in recent years. A high intake of tomato products is associated with a reduced risk for cancer; especially of the prostate, lung, and stomach.

Mineral deficiencies–notably calcium, selenium, zinc, iodine and germanium–are also common in cancer patients. Selenium in particular has been shown to have cancer-preventive properties.

A convenient way to increase mineral intake is by adding sea vegetables to the diet on a regular basis. A variety of dried sea veggies can be found in the macrobiotic section of health food stores. Some seaweeds, such as kelp and dulse, are also available in powder, tablet or liquid extract form.

Deep-green and orange-colored vegetables and fruits are excellent sources of antioxidant nutrients and should be part of the diet every day. They have the additional benefit of contributing alkaline-forming elements, thus ensuring that the body’s pH balance is kept slightly alkaline for optimal metabolic function. Most vegetables and fruits are alkaline-forming, whereas meats, fats and most grains produce an acidic reaction in the body.

An alkaline environment prevents pathogen development and promotes the prompt elimination of toxins and carcinogens. A diet that is 75 to 80 percent alkaline-forming ensures that no acidic residues are allowed to accumulate in the body.

Cruciferous vegetables–which include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts and kale–have also been associated with lowered cancer risk; especially of the stomach, colon, and breast. This is due to the action of the plants’ indoles which block the proliferation of cancer cells.

Fatty Prevention

A deficiency of essential fatty acids (EFAs) can also put the body at risk for cancer. High-quality natural fats are important for cellular and metabolic health. The integrity of the skin and nervous system, the endocrine and digestive system all depend on an adequate supply of EFAs in the diet. Not only is the typical North American diet low in EFAs, but it is also often loaded with refined, processed and hydrogenated vegetable oils which disrupt the metabolism and further interfere with the function of EFAs.

Dr Johanna Budwig successfully used a combination of flax seed oil and quark cheese in the treatment of cancer. Flax seed oil is high in EFAs, especially the important omega-3 type. Other sources of EFAs include fresh nuts and seeds, dark-green leafy vegetables and several other unrefined, unprocessed vegetables oils available in opaque glass bottles in the refrigerated section of natural food stores.

It’s hard to believe, but the health benefits of the most abundant substance in nature–water–are still not widely recognized. Pure water is required for digestion and the elimination of toxins and waste products. We depend on water to deliver nutrients to the cells and for the circulation of blood, lymph and interstitial fluids. No wonder the metabolism is disrupted when water intake is inadequate! A study reported in the May 6, 1999 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine showed that men who drank at least six glasses of water a day cut their risk of bladder cancer in half compared with men who drank less than one glass. Make sure you drink high-quality spring water, distilled or purified with a reliable filter.



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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD