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. If you are using any of this advice whilst undergoing Cancer treatment please let your Oncologist know of any changes to your diet or supplements.
Today I want to talk about maintaining cell health and renewal. Regulating cellular lifespan and maintaining DNA integrity to re-create healthy cells is the corner stone of Life Extension and the answer to reversing ageing – the Holy Grail!
Only a short time ago, cancer was something seen mainly in the elderly, with a few cases of early onset and children’s cancer; in fact in the 1900’s 1 in 8000 people got it. Today’s statistics of children and young people being diagnosed and sadly even dying of cancer are alarming. If conventional medicines approach to cancer is so evolved and advanced from and lifestyle is supposedly better than 50-60 years ago, why are we now being quoted as 1 in 3 people will now be diagnosed with Cancer? It is also the number one killer in the US.
As discussed in the post ‘A topic very close to my heart- Cancer what is it?‘, everyone has cancer cells at some point in their body. It is how the body reacts to these cells which determine how far the cells mutate and replicate. The cells oxygen supply, energy manufacturing processes, programmed cell life, damage to cells or DNA integrity to replicate cells are all key factors in cellular health and therefore overall life extension. Most chronic illnesses follow this same path. As ageing occurs cell death and renewal slows down and is not as efficient as in our developmental stages. So how do we optimise our ageing process?
Telomere health is the key. They are at one end of a stretch of DNA. They are important because they protect our genetic data making it possible for cell division and are likened to both the fuse on a ticking time bomb and also the plastic ends of laces that protect them from fraying.
Each time a cell replicates and divides the DNA strand gets shorter. We have a limited number of DNA strands in our body. When they get too short they can no longer divide and become inactive. The result of this is cellular ageing and causes less collagen in our skin, grey hair, pigmentation changes, reduction in reproduction, reduced brain development, subsequent memory loss, reduced muscle and bone mass and all the other symptoms we attach to the ageing process. DNA plays the fundamental role in all the bodies cell replication, the organisation of chromosomes and, of course, controls our gene expression. Since cancer is based on cell mutation, keeping the health and integrity of our DNA is the lynch pin of prevention and indeed should be considered when looking for a cure.
So how do we slow down our Telomere shortening and reducing the damage caused to DNA, in turn protecting and prolonging life but also for looking and feeling younger for longer? I can tell you now it is not in a beauty cream!
There are a few main causes of cellular and in turn DNA damage. One is oxidative stress or free radical damage. The other is Glycation. I will address each in turn;
Free radicals can cause damage to our cell membranes, proteins and DNA strands. They are of course derived from the environment but are also naturally occurring in the body through a number of different essential chemical reactions. X-rays, sunlight, chemicals in our foods, drinks, cosmetics, cleaning products, clothes, even exercise and digestion causes free radicals. The body has a very efficient way of dealing, mopping up and excreting these free radicals. However when the body is either overloaded with toxins or deficient in the raw materials necessary to deal with them, the body has to respond with cell mutation to buy time for survival.
See the post ‘Not a happy hour with a chemical cocktail‘ for some ways to reduce your chemical input. Carcinogens bind to DNA in the cell nucleus or mitochondria (the brain and energy power house of the cell) altering its structure and its potential for normal replication. Also consider alcohol, coffee, cigarette smoking, sweeteners and other neurotoxins such as MSG and E numbers. Plastics are also a number one reason for breaks in DNA. They can lessen energy production in cells, increase number of free radicals but also increase the need for detoxification thus depleting the nutrient reserves further. Reducing all of these will go a long way towards preventing unnecessary mutations.
I am by no means saying that you should cut out everything, I follow the 80/20 rule (be virtuous 80% of the time and the other 20% will look after itself). Below is a list of ways to also increase your ability to cope with the excess load. So reduce the above and increase the information below and try and find balance. Be aware and responsible for your health.
Glycosylsation is another very damaging reaction in your body. It occurs when excess glucose in our blood binds to our DNA, proteins and fats rendering them unable to fulfil their function. Glucose is of course sugar. It reduces enzymes ability by deactivating them and damages proteins and fats necessary for providing cell membrane structure and therefore protection and regulation. It also impairs the immune system responsible for programming cell death and mopping up dead and mutated cells. In short, balance your blood sugar levels- it is about way more than what dress size you are.
Dehydration- Consider your fluid intake. Thickened blood due to lack of fluid, increased diuretics from caffeine or pharmaceuticals, sugar, cigarette smoking, stress, excessive meat intake or excessive exercise will cause the cell membrane to thicken to hold onto water within the cell. Thicker walls mean that it also reduces the cells ability to absorb water and nutrients essential for cellular health and function. This in turn causes water retention and inflammation all contributing to cell mutation as the cell will need to become anaerobic (supply energy without oxygen- a key factor of a cancer cell). It is also essential to eliminate toxins from the body through bowel, bladder and sweat! So drink up that water.
Nutrients necessary for DNA integrity and cellular health;
Alpha Lipoic Acid– Very powerful antioxidant by seeking and mopping up free radicals in both a fat soluble and water soluble environment, helps to recycle and protect other antioxidants such as vitamin C, E, Co Q10 and works alongside Glutathione by elevating levels. Improves energy synthesis (essential in cancer cells to be able to stop mutating), immune system, reduces insulin resistance (seen in pre-diabetes type 2, PCOS, Metabolic syndrome- those with excess tummy weight) and increases glucose metabolism. This in turn will reduce both free radical damage and Glycosylsation. It is a sulphur containing amino acid which contributes to phase 2 detoxification. It binds and eliminates toxins from the body and to protect the liver. It also detoxifies heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium. Sources include: broccoli, liver, potato, spinach, tomato. Good in supplement form.
Bioflavonoid (citrin, hesperidin, quercetin, rutin)- Antioxidant which may strengthen and protect blood vessels and improve enzyme activity. Should be found in vitamin C supplements. Unlike Vitamin C they are easily obtainable from our foods. Decreases inflammation and protects vitamin C from oxidation. Stimulates phase 2 detoxification process. Quercetin especially stimulates the immune system, modulates gene expression, and also causes cell death in tumour cells. Sources include: apricots, apples, blue, red and black berries, cherries, citrus fruits, green growing shoots of veg, onions, garlic, rosehips. Can be lost through cooking and processing.
Calcium– really important for energy production and to support bone health. Helps to regulate cell division by decreasing the cellular proliferation that is seen in fast reproduction of cancer cells. Activates insulin so also reduces Glycosylsation by utilising excess sugar in blood. It is used to alkaline the blood and cancer thrives in an acidic environment. Sources include- almonds, broccoli, egg yolk, molasses, sesame seeds, green leafy vegetables
L Carnitine– Amino acid (protein). Can be made in the body in the liver. Plays a major role in energy production within the cell and muscles by transferring fatty acids through cell membrane. It also helps burn body fat thus reducing excess body weight decreasing the need for cell reproduction and excess oxidation of fat cells. Sources include: Avocados, beef, chicken, fish, liver. Supplement with advice from a professional.
Chromium– Mainly supports the body by reducing balancing blood sugar. It can reduce sugar cravings and enhances insulin receptors in the cells to help remove glucose from the blood whereby thinning it and also reducing Glycosylsation. Sources include: asparagus, apples, egg yolk, liver, mushrooms, nuts, prunes, raisins, liver, molasses and potatoes.
Cysteine– Essential for Glutathione and lipoic acid production. Sulphur containing amino acid and aids detoxification by supporting the liver and storing glutathione. Required for making insulin so will help protect against glycosylsation. Helps to transport amino acids through cell membranes to support energy production and regulation within the cell itself. Also may protect cells against radiation and pollution. Is another nutrient seeking and mopping up free radicals and should be taken with vitamin C to help protect the kidneys. It is good to take with a complete essential amino acid combination. Sources – beef, chicken, eggs, fish, garlic, whey protein, beans.
Glutathione– (Made up of Cysteine, Glutamic acid and Glycine). Not normally supplemented itself but worth mentioning as its fundamental role as a powerful intra-cellular antioxidant and anti-toxin. It maintains DNA synthesis and protects the cells ability to make energy. Helps detoxify DDT and other carcinogens. Recycles and thus maintains Vitamin E and C to be used again. As mentioned in ‘An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure ‘. Sources include: asparagus, avocado, eggs, garlic, plant and animal tissue, whey protein.
Magnesium-Necessary for energy production within the cells. It also facilitates water being pulled into the cells. Balances calcium. An important role in the immune system is that it may help to remove cells that have been transformed. Improves insulin sensitivity therefore reducing Glycosylsation. Protects DNA replication. Sources include: Almonds, cashews, cocoa, cod, eggs, seeds, parsnips, molasses, cod, kelp and figs.
Methionine– Sulphur containing essential amino acid. Antioxidant by creating Cysteine and helps in phase 2 detoxification (sulphur) in the liver. It seeks and mops up free radicals and is the pre-cursor to Cysteine (see above). Involved in creating antibodies and Carnitine (see above). Therefore by helping to create Carnitine and Creatine it has a role in energy production. It is low in vegetable proteins and is the least abundant in many foods. It prevents fatty build up in the liver and body. Sources include- high levels in eggs, meat and fish with lower levels in soy, peanuts and legumes, nuts and seeds.
Omega 3– regulates inflammation and reduces blood thickness. Flaxseed also helps to regulate oestrogen levels responsible for cellular growth and replication in some cancers. Important role in energy production facilitating fat burn and in return reducing body fat. Sources include: cod liver oil (fermented preferably), mustard seed oil, walnut oil, flax seed oil (do not expose these oils to heat), tuna, salmon, mackerel, sardines, cod.
(The following are mainly useful for immune support but have protective properties too. Sources found were mentioned in ‘An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure ‘)
Beta Carotene– Antioxidant roles. Reduces size of cancers. Protects DNA, cellular membranes and proteins against oxidation
B12– Important for energy production within the cells and is necessary for the production of DNA. It is involved in most rebuilding processes in the body.
Vitamin C– As an antioxidant. Also prevents nitrates (found in the soil, wine, processed meats, water and is in some pharmaceuticals) from converting to carcinogens. Ascorbic acid specifically prevents cell membranes and has been seen to reduce damage caused by cigarette smoke and air pollution.
Vitamin D– Stops over proliferation of cells (division and replication) especially in colon, bone cancer and melanoma. Helps to absorb Calcium. Increases glutathione levels. May create cellular death in breast and prostate cancer.
Vitamin E– antioxidant also protects cell membranes by reducing fat breakdown (an important component of the cell membrane). May also reduce impact of air pollutants.
Folic Acid-Helps in DNA production.
Selenium– Essential for antioxidant balance. It recycles glutathione after its done its job back to its reduced form ready to be used again.
Zinc– Has an important anti-oxidant role as it seeks and mops up free radicals. as well as its immune support function
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