It was world cancer day a few days ago, and although it is great that there are a lot of efforts aiming at trying to cure or diagnose cancer, I would like to highlight the fact that prevention is key.
Not getting cancer in the first place would be amazing, right? And the good news is there is SO much we can do with food and lifestyle choices, and not only for cancer, but for everything else, especially lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hypertension, cancer… But before giving you a few nutrition & lifestyle tips to prevent cancer, let me explain first what cancer is.
Cancer occurs was a result of genetic mutations, triggered by an underlying cause (which include pollutants, toxins, poor diet, chronic inflammation, radiation, smoking, obesity… the list is endless). These causes eventually inactivate “tumor suppression genes” (genes meant to produce substances to fight cancer cells that develop everyday in our bodies, as a result of respiration, movement and daily metabolism), and cause the overproduction of “oncogenes” (genes that cause the overproduction of growth factors). As a result, cancer cells are not killed by our own, natural self-defense mechanisms, and the division and reproduction of those cancer cells occurs at a faster rate than normal, thus creating tumors.
Tumors can be either benign or malignant. What differentiates them is that malignant tumors, in comparison to benign ones, are non-functional cells which reproduce much faster, with different shapes and sizes and an abnormally big nucleus, and they can spread to other organs or tissues – which means malignant cells can poison your whole body… We obviously don’t want that.
The good news is that “only” 5-10% of cancers are attributed to inherited genetic defects, the rest (90-95%), i.e. the vast majority of cancers, being attributed to environment and lifestyle factors. If we change the environment and lifestyle factors that can trigger cancer to develop in our bodies, we can not only stop this process, but also start killing the existing (pre-)cancerous cells. Isn’t that amazing?
So here are a few tips to prevent cancer development in the first place:
- avoid refined sugar: most malignant cells are dependent on glucose, so when you eat refined sugar, the majority of the glucose goes to the cancer cells to feed them. I know sugar is addictive (the pathway causing sugar addiction is the same as the one causing drug addiction!), so maybe a few baby-steps a day will be more effective on the long-run than cutting it all out and then binging on it again!
- try to eat more alkaline than acidic: an acid “terrain” (i.e. an acidic tissue) is the perfect environment for cancer cells to develop. Alkaline produce include green vegetables, so go all-in with these!
- eat a more plant-based diet: to get all the nutrients and antioxidants in order to reduce inflammation and help fight pre-cancerous cells. Also, the way most cattle is fed nowadays (with omega-6-rich corn and soy instead of omega-3-rich grass) is passed on meat/dairy composition, which then gets absorbed by our bodies, and has plenty of consequences. Indeed, omega-3 fatty acids tend to be anti-inflammatory (and therefore protect against cancer) whereas omega-6 fatty acids tend to be pro-inflammatory (and therefore promote cancer growth). Finally, a lot of cancers are dependent on exogenous preformed methionine for growth (an amino acid that is found in meat). Restriction of dietary methionine can therefore inhibit tumor growth and improve cancer treatment. No need to make a radical change overnight: try cutting out one or two portions of meat per week at first, and prefer to buy high-quality meat.
- choose to buy organic whenever possible: pesticides, growth hormones, fertilizers, irradiation etc. spread on crops, and stay on and in the vegetables we eat, which then enter our bodies and our bloodstream, which doesn’t go without health consequences. If you don’t buy organic produce, make sure you wash them thoroughly before eating them.
- choose natural products to clean your house/wash your clothes: toxins in our environment interact with our bodies, whether they touch our skin or are eaten/breathed in, and are one of the many underlying causes of mutations, and therefore cancer. My tip: simple vinegar and essential oils are more than enough to clean your house.
- be active: it will oxygenate your body! No need to engage in high intensity work-outs: an active 20 to 40-minute daily walk will do. Bonus: you might get a little bit of sunlight while you’re walking, and therefore vitamin D, which will support your immune system!
To conclude this long post, I would like to highlight the fact that, even if some factors are nearly impossible to change, we all have the power to take action to maximise our chances of not getting cancer by taking simple steps nutrition and lifestyle-wise. So why not start now? 🙂
A few books/websites to find trustworthy information on lifestyle and food tips to prevent cancer:
Kris Carr’s books and website kriscarr.com
Michael Greger books and website nutritionfacts.org
The C word documentary
Dr. David Servan-Schreiber book: Anticancer, A New Way Of Life