“The superior doctor prevents sickness; the mediocre doctor attends to impending sickness; the inferior doctor treats actual sickness” – Chinese proverb.
“It is easier to prevent bad habits than to break them” – Benjamin Franklin
I reiterate; I am not a scientist or a doctor so my advice is given as a Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist and it is not specific to any type of cancer or any particular case. Please contact a professional if considering any form of treatment or supplementation.
As mentioned in my previous post ‘what is cancer’, everyone has cancer in their body every day. It is a necessary cell mutation which ensures the bodies survival. What we are talking about now is the medical ‘blanket term’ for cancer when there is uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. This is then diagnosed by the medical community and you are labelled as ‘having cancer’. The plan for prevention of cancer and indeed most chronic conditions is the promotion of health, balance and well-being concentrating on 3 main areas:
1. Strengthen and support the Immune system (the focus of today’s post)
2. Avoiding or neutralising carcinogens (touched on in my post about chemical cocktails)
3. Preventing DNA and cellular damage (I will go into greater detail in a follow up post)
This section is immense and to cover everything in one post would be impossible! I will be touching again on various parts and anything you would like to know about in more detail please let me know. I will be focusing on each nutrient separately in future posts so please let me know what you want to read about.
It can take 1-2 years to get to ‘cancer’ or it can take 30-40. What cannot be denied is the psychological influence, labelled Psychoneuroimmunology or behavioural immunology. It has been identified that there are certain personality types that are more likely to be more at risk for cancer. It may be more prevalent in individuals who may not easily form close bonds or may not easily express their emotions and therefore who internalise their every feeling. Or in those who appear passive and overly nice to everyone. They may put everyone else’s needs above their own and may be low in self esteem. Those who have experienced stress and trauma or unresolved loss from the death of a loved one, divorce or have a sense of hopelessness. This is of course very generalised and only useful if we understand why. Natural killer cell activity has been seen to be significantly reduced in those grieving, stressed or depressed. It is not set in stone that if you recognise this trait in yourself that you will get cancer. It may not be that you feel like this all of the time. It is useful to identify that perhaps these traits can be damaging to your immune system and that you seek help in changing these areas of your life so you can become stronger and more in balance with your body, mind and spirit.
Excessive stress and psychological trauma has a major role on the immune system. Nutrition, exercise, positive thoughts and attitude, release of emotions of anger and blame are really important factors in health and well-being. Identifying childhood patterns and self-image is the key to change, happiness and consequently good health. Listen to what you tell yourself and others and see if changing any one of those sentences makes you physically feel any different? The Journey by Brandon Bays is one of many books that can help guide you through processing your emotions and looking at yourself and others in a very different way. Louise Hay is another great author and guide. You Can Heal Your Life outlines many different chronic conditions and the potential emotional stagnation behind it. The connection to moods, hormones, and therefore the body’s physical being are intrinsically linked and should never be ignored.
“The power of thoughts, feelings and emotions is many times stronger than any physical influence can be” – Andreas Moritz (Cancer is NOT a Disease)
So before we talk about nutrition, without dealing with emotion blocks or stagnation you cannot truly prevent anything. Yoga, meditation, gentle exercise, music, Bach Flower Remedies, homoeopathy, reflexology, acupuncture, walking in the sunshine, swimming; there are various ways of allowing you some emotional release and positive self esteem and happiness. Find it, use it, and make it a priority no matter how busy you are. You will be made to stop if you do get sick or run down, by taking the time now to deal with your stress it will be much easier to turn your health around. Whatever happens to us physically is a direct result of how we feel mentally and emotionally.
Immune Boosting nutrients: nutrient deficiency (including protein), stress, too much sugar in the diet (which suppresses white blood cell ability to destroy foreign particles), obesity and high alcohol intake all serve to depress immune function. Addressing each of these factors is essential. This can be done through:
Vitamin A – Maintains the surface of the skin, gastrointestinal tract (essential for absorption of nutrients and stopping the breakthrough of foreign particles mounting an immune response) induction of anti-tumour activity, enhances white blood cell function and increased antibody response. Those with Vit A deficiency are more likely to be susceptible to viral infections. Sources include apricots, barley grass, butter, carrots, fish liver oils, green leafy veg, egg yolk and liver
Beta Carotene– Seen to be the better form of Vit A to take as it’s the precursor so therefore may be safer. It protects the skin against sunburn, activates macrophages and lymphocytes so can reduce the size of cancer cells, enhances T cell function and is a great antioxidant as it prevents damage. It also protects mucous membranes in the mouth, nose and throat, our first line of defence. It is found in mostly red and yellow foods; broccoli, carrots, yellow and greenish yellow veg, papaya, sweet potatoes, spinach and tomatoes.
Vitamin B6 – Has antibody and cell- mediated immunity functions playing a role in the quality and quantity of antibodies produced. It is vital in carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism (excessive intakes of coffee, tea, alcohol and protein may cause a deficiency as will taking oral contraceptive pill). It improves the oxygenation of tissues. Sources include avocados, bananas, carrot, egg yolk, legumes, lentils, oatmeal, salmon, sunflower seeds and walnuts.
Vitamin B 12 and Folic Acid – A reduction in either of these vitamins results in significantly lower white blood cell production and response to antibodies. It has also been seen to reduce the size of the thalamus and lymph nodes vital to a healthy immune response. This has also been seen in those with low levels of B1, B5 and B2. Main sources are egg yolks, whole grains, nuts, organ meats. Also found in, salmon, sardines (B12 is also synthesised by bacteria in the gut so good gut health is imperative), asparagus, spirulina, wheat germ (B1), avocados almonds (B2), lentils, peas, sweet potatoes (B5), green leafy veg, sprouts, beans (folic acid).
Vitamin C– Plays a vital role in immune enhancement. It is anti-bacterial and anti-viral but it also increases white blood cell response and function and importantly for cancer, increases interferon. It reduces inflammatory conditions and helps to reduce heavy metal intoxication. It also plays a role in the maintenance of your cell membrane protecting it from damage. Found in coloured veg; pineapple, peppers, raspberries, rose hips, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, raw cabbage. Only take in supplement form as Sodium Ascorbate.
Vitamin D– It activates lymphocytes and T-cells from the thalamus. It has a strong anti-proliferate effect on bone, skin, colon and breast cancer cells. Induces the natural programmed cell death and increases macrophages to then clear them up. Also helps the immune system to differentiate cells. Sources include synthesis through sunlight on skin (20 mins of 40% of body naturally exposed to sunlight without burn). Good sources are fish liver oils, butter, egg yolk and sprouted seeds; or in the form of D3 as a supplement.
Vitamin E– Affects both cell immunity and antibody related immune response. It is also an important intracellular antioxidant and stabilises cell membranes, reducing cell damage. Increases T-cell synthesis and stops cell proliferation by stabilising normal growth maintenance. Also improves blood flow. Sources include almonds, apricot oil, beef, egg yolk, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds and wheat germ.
Iron– Carries oxygen in the blood and is therefore necessary for healthy blood circulation and for cellular use. It is also very important for DNA synthesis. Its immune function enhances white blood cell and T-cell production and quality. A deficiency has also shown reduction in size of the thalamus and lymph nodes. Sources include almonds, apricots, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, sea vegetables (especially chorella), avocado, nettles, clams, liver and meat; as a supplement Spatone or Floradix taken with vitamin C.
Zinc– Is a key catalyst to over 200 different enzymes in the body. It activates a tumour suppressor called endostatin, which prevents the tumour from growing its own blood vessels to help support it, which is a key point in turning a tumour from benign to malignant. It helps absorption of B vitamins and also is the key to forming and secreting gastric acid which in turn helps to break down food and assimilate nutrients. It also has many functions at a cellular level improving immunity. One of its main benefits, to be touched on later, is its ability to maintain the integrity of DNA synthesis. Found in beef, egg yolk, ginger, lamb, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, seafood, whole grains and brewer’s yeast. There has been a deficiency seen in the soil in recent years so it can be taken in the form of Zinc Citrate or Zinc Policanate as a supplement.
Selenium– Has strong antioxidant and anti-tumour effects. Its role as a co-factor in Glutathione peroxidase (the enzyme responsible for most antioxidant activity) is vital. Therefore its benefits affect the entire immune system. As such it enhances resistance to infection, increases white blood cell and thalamus function and increases efficiency of lymphocytes to kill tumour cells. Selenium also assists in the detoxification of chemicals and spares Vitamin E. It has also been seen to be deficient in the soil in recent years. Sources include alfalfa, barley, broccoli, butter, cashews, eggs, fish, garlic, organ meats, onions, whole grains and meat.
Probiotics– Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium being the two key probiotic bacteria. Acidopholus has a mild antibacterial activity in that it balances the body’s bacteria colonies. All bacteria are necessary for human life and they perform so many functions, in cleaning up, in building, aiding digestion, in manufacturing and in destroying. It is really important to remember that each course of antibiotics taken kills all bacteria, not just the ones causing the infection. Repopulating the body with the beneficial bacteria is essential for balance and healthy digestion. Beneficial bacterial thrives in a more alkaline environment, something I will talk about in more detail in a future post. Prebiotics which feed the healthy bacterial environment are also important. Sources include Jerusalem artichoke (it is no coincidence that these are in season in spring and autumn where catching colds are most likely), onions, garlic and chicory root.
This is by no means the only list. There are many more aspects to healthy immune system. The body constantly strives for balance and needs to constantly ebb and shift to balance all of the bodies systems. For example, in order to really gain strength in immunity you need a healthy digestive system to supply the nutrients necessary and have a healthy bacterial environment, a good hormonal system to pass on the relevant messages to the body and as immune resultants; together with a healthy nervous system to maintain balance of emotions and stress levels. Nothing can be used in isolation; life change is exactly that – life changing.
This post has been about positive inclusions to your diet and lifestyle. The next post will be centred around what to minimise including sugar, neurotoxins like sweeteners and msg and xenoestrogens.
Interesting links and of course my sources:
You Can Heal Your Life or I Can do it- Louise Hay
The Journey (book and CD) Brandon Bays
Cancer is not a Disease: Andreas Moritz
Staying healthy with Nutrition: Elson M. Haas
Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine: Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno
The Nutrient Bible: Henry Osiecki
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3298082/ interesting article about the role of the gut and the immune system.
http://www.canceractive.com/ a holistic cancer charity.