Diet and Cancer

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    Dr. Jeff Feinman

    Here’s an excerpt from one of my colleague’s practice handouts. I will be posting it in the info center but I wanted to let everyone here see it first:

    Diet and Cancer
    by Dr. Bob Ulbrich

    Diet can strongly influence the outcome of cancer treatment, and can be incorporated into any treatment regimen, conventional or alternative.

    Cancer cells prefer to utilize simple sugars and are unable to utilize more complex molecules, especially omega-3 fatty acids. As cancer cells metabolize sugars, they generate lactic acid which costs the rest of the body energy to metabolize. This is why we often see “cancer cachexia” – the sugars in the diet just feed the tumor and suck energy away from the rest of the body. In general, we want to feed a diet high in protein, fiber and fatty acids, and low in carbohydrates. However, the more a food is processed, the more complex carbohydrates, e.g. fiber, are broken down into simple sugars which feed the cancer cells. Most processed foods generally have carbohydrates, e.g. corn meal, soybean meal, rice, etc., as their primary and/or secondary ingredients. In addition, processing destroys many essential nutrients such as glutamine that are important in fighting cancer. Due to the fact that there are simply no commercial pet foods available that are sufficiently low enough in carbohydrates, high enough in fatty acids, etc., it is therefore essential in combating cancer to feed a fresh, raw, whole-food diet.

    In addition to a general diet of raw food, there are specific foods that are important to emphasize. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussels sprouts) contain indoles. Indoles protect cells from damage by carcinogens and help the liver inactivate estrogen-like compounds that may promote breast cancer. These vegetables also contain sulforaphane, which increases production of carcinogen-destroying enzymes and has been shown to prevent cancer in rats. Suloraphane is a type of isothiocyanate, and isothiocyanates are thought to block tumor formation by jump-starting the body’s output of specific body-cleansing liver enzymes which in turn detoxify carcinogens and help flush them from the body. Flaxseed contains lignans, which are powerful antioxidants that are believed to stop cells from turning cancerous. Flaxseed is also a good source of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid with some anti-cancer properties. Garlic, onions, scallions, shallots, leeks and chives are good sources for allicin, which stimulates immune function and slows the growth of cancer cells. Grapes (especially the skin of grapes) contain resveratrol, which blocks the formation and growth of tumors. Soy products (tofu, soy milk, miso, tempeh, etc.) contain genistein and other cancer-fighting isoflavones. These compounds suppress the formation of blood vessels that feed cancer cells, and also can interfere with the body’s synthesis of estrogen which can reduce the risk for breast and ovarian cancer. In males, isoflavones can help prevent prostate cancer. Sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots, cantaloupe, squash, peaches, tomatoes, spinach and kale are good sources of carotenoids such as beta-carotene. Beta-carotene when tested alone has shown little protective activity, but when complexed with other nutrients (in other words, when consumed naturally in foods) it has been shown to help prevent cancer of the larynx, esophagus and lungs. Tomatoes contain another carotenoid called lycopene, which gives them their red color. Lycopene fights uncontrolled growth of cells into tumors. Studies have shown that people who eat lots of tomatoes have a reduced risk for cancer of the colon, prostate, bladder and pancreas.

    Just as important as what goes into a diet is what doesn’t go into a diet. Foods preserved with ethoxyquin and BHT’s should be avoided, as these chemicals have been shown to promote cancer. Many pet foods keep costs down by utilizing slaughterhouse waste, legally termed as “animal or meat by-products” in their formulations. These wastes or “by-products” can include moldy, rancid, or spoiled processed meat, beaks, feet, feathers, as well as tissues too severely riddled with cancer to be eaten by people. Even euthanized animals have been tracked into pet food. Most of the meat meal fed to animals contains an excess of hormones which can contribute to the production of cancer. These hormones come from two sources: artificially produced hormones which are fed to food animals to stimulate their growth; and tissues naturally very high in hormones such as glandular waste and the fetal tissue from pregnant cows that aren’t considered fit for human consumption. Pet food is often made more palatable by adding flavor enhancers, and coloring agents which are coal tar derivatives to make the food look appealing. Sodium nitrate has been used as a red coloring agent and a preservative in pet food. When sodium nitrate is used in food it can produce a powerful carcinogenic substance called nitrosamine. These are all significant reasons testifying to feeding fresh real raw food.

    Other nutritional supplements that can be important are the amino acids arginine, glutamine, and methionine. Arginine enhances the immune system. Glutamine is destroyed easily by processing yet is the preferred fuel for enterocytes, useful in chemotherapy detox, Inflamatory Bowel Disease, etc. Methionine inhibits tumor growth.

    Fatty acids or Eicosanoids also carry significant importance, specifically Omega-3 fatty acids, as anti-carcinogenic supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids promote vasodilation, inhibit platelet aggregation, stimulate immunity, and are anti-inflammatory, thereby inhibiting cancer and metastasis. Be sure to use good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as flax oil or fish oils. Not all fatty acids are the same; omega-6 fatty acids can actually enhance metastasis.

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