Lorna Vanderhaeghe, BSc
No other medical diagnosis strikes more fear in the hearts of people than cancer. Forty percent of Canadians will contract cancer; one in nine women in Canada will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Over 3 million North Americans have cancer today, and another 1.
No other medical diagnosis strikes more fear in the hearts of people than cancer. Forty percent of Canadians will contract cancer; one in nine women in Canada will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Over 3 million North Americans have cancer today, and another 1.7 million will be diagnosed this year.
Risk Factors for Cancer
Why does the body allow cancers to grow? A poor diet, i.e., one consisting of primarily processed and nonorganic foods and insufficient dietary antioxidants, environmental toxins, viruses, genetics, chronic stress, and feelings of hopelessness are some of the possible reasons that have been suggested.
Viruses are known risk factors for certain cancers. The Helicobacter pylori virus is now thought to be a causative agent for stomach cancer; human T-cell lymphoma virus is responsible for T-cell lymphoma; human papilloma viruses are involved in cervical cancer; and the hepatitis virus has been linked to liver cancer.
Some researchers are now exploring the possibility that genetic predisposition to cancer may be checked if the body's toxic load is kept under control and the immune system boosted.
Cells Turned Traitors
Normal, healthy cells go through a series of steps to ensure life. They grow, divide, and create new cells in a carefully performed, predetermined symphony. During this highly complex reproductive process, the cell's genetic code or DNA is duplicated and transferred to new cells. Normally, this process takes place without error, but every once in a while (approximately one in a thousand cell divisions), a mistake may occur. Most mistakes are quickly repaired, but on occasion a mistake is not detected, and cells perform differently from how they were intended.
Cancer begins when normal cells become renegades in the cell-division process, multiply unchecked, steal nutrients, and reroute blood supplies away from normal body functions. If the body's defence system (the immune system) is not functioning optimally, it can miss these marauding cells. Cancer cells mutate as often as possible, avoiding detection by the immune system, and seem programmed to survive at all costs, even if they kill their host.
Cancer is a complicated disease. Each type of cancer has different traits. Some are slow growing and easy to treat while others are aggressive and require a much more diverse treatment approach. Treatments that work for one cancer may not have any effect on another. Similarly, each person has a unique biochemistry that must be considered in treatment.
Natural Therapies Pack a Punch
Several complementary treatments combined with a wide range of immune nutrients should be adopted. A number of fruits and vegetables are especially rich in cancer-blocking agents. Broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes (rich in lycopene), Brussels sprouts, turnips, and mustard greens are a few of the most notable cancer fighters. Citrus fruits are rich in D-limonene, another powerful anticarcinogenic that stops toxic agents from damaging the DNA of our cells. Researchers in one study noted that it only took three half-cup servings per week of broccoli, Brussels sprouts, or cauliflower which contain high levels of indoles, a chemical thought to possess cancer preventive properties to decrease the risk of prostate cancer by 41 percent.
CoQ10 plays an essential role in producing energy in the cells. A powerful antioxidant with antiviral and antibacterial properties, it is most noted for its heart-protective effects; now researchers have also realized it is a potent immune nutrient. Promising research has also shown that CoQ10 in doses over 300 mg daily inhibits the growth of breast tumours.
Without a healthy thymus gland, the immune system doesn't send out enough T-cells to fight invaders. Zinc is the most important mineral to the thymus gland and can rejuvenate a small or malfunctioning thymus.
Without enough selenium we are highly susceptible to cancer, viruses, and free-radical damage. Selenium is one of the most potent free-radical scavengers that we call antioxidants. Areas of the world that have low selenium levels have correspondingly high levels of cancer and viruses.
Japanese and Chinese medicines have traditionally used beta-glucan from mushrooms. Derived from baker's yeast, mushrooms, and oats, beta-glucan stimulates macrophage cells vital to a healthy immune system. Beta-glucan has also been used for viral infections such as HIV, Epstein-Barr, and herpes and in fungal infections such as candidiasis.
IP 6 (Inositol hexaphosphate)
Phytic acid, also known as IP-6, acts as an antioxidant, binding with excess iron during energy production in cells to prevent free radicals from forming. IP-6 has been shown to enhance natural killer-cell activity important in the fight against cancer.
Several hundred bacteria inhabit the human body, including beneficial bacteria that reside in our small and large intestines and vagina. Probiotics include Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus acidophilus (the most prolific), Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and Enterococcus faecium. A diet rich in these friendly bacteria may enhance our immune systems and improve our ability to fight bad bacteria.
Produced in the pineal gland, melatonin has been referred to as the sleep hormone and an antiaging nutrient, but it is also a potent antioxidant. It regulates our internal clock (or circadian rhythm) and is an immune-system booster. Research performed in the Netherlands suggests that melatonin may protect against estrogen-dominant cancers.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
Astragalus has been used in China as a herb to strengthen the life force or qi (pronounced "chee") of the person. Astragalus contains flavonoids, polysaccharides, selenium, and amino acids. Research at M.D. Anderson University Cancer Center suggested that astragalus improved immune function, restoring T-cell counts to normal in cancer patients.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Esteemed by Ayurvedic practitioners for centuries, turmeric contains anti-inflammatory curcuminoids. These reduce pain by blocking the enzymes that cause inflammation and may promote cancer. Turmeric is also an antioxidant and improves the liver's flow of bile to gently regulate hormone function.
Seek and Destroy
Cancer is a complicated disease to treat. Our immune system is the body's most powerful defence against cancer. Treatments should focus on enhancing our immune system's ability to seek and destroy cancer cells.
While no one nutritional supplement can cure cancer, a multifaceted approach that includes a diet high in vegetables, fresh wild fish, juices, and well-researched nutritional supplements is key to ensuring the body can fight the cancer from within.