Nutrition & Its Importance in Cancer Therapy, Part 1

saladWith cancer overtaking heart disease as the leading killer in this country, with nearly 600,000 deaths annually (a death a minute), and with 1.5 million new cases surfacing yearly, it becomes critically important to assess the nutrition of the individual in any cancer treatment protocols.

There is a changing paradigm when it comes to treating cancer with nutrition. Conventional medicine uses three main ways for treatment (surgery, chemotherapy and radiation) in its fight against cancer. Basically, bringing out the big guns to attack and kill cancer cells, many times at the demise of the organism. This new paradigm is stating that cancer cells developed due to internal environmental conditions that need to be assessed on an individual basis. By changing the environment, we see changes in the organism. This is not intended to dissuade those from the use of the other treatments but to use nutrition concurrently with them.

First, it is important that we understand a little about how cancer cells function. In 1931 Nobel Prize winner Otto Warburg, PhD, discovered that cancer cells have a fundamentally different energy metabolism compared to healthy cells.  When we talk about metabolism, we look at two processes: aerobic and anaerobic.  Healthy cellular metabolism is referred to as aerobic, which requires the nutrient oxygen that can burn sugar, fat and protein in its energy processing. Anaerobic metabolism does not require oxygen while normal cells do. Cancer cells are anaerobic, also called sugar feeders. Due to these metabolic differences, this is the first clue to working with diet and nutrition.

Cancer cells love:

  • Animal proteins – It is recommended to eliminate and reduce high fat red meats and dairy products.  Fish protein, egg and vegetable source proteins do not tend to drive cancer cells and are preferred.  A condition called cachexia is the wasting syndrome attributed to late stage cancers when the body is basically using muscle tissue for protein. Approximately 40% of cancer patients die of malnutrition. Protein is important but the quality and quantity become an issue.
  • Sugars – The generic term to refer to all simple carbohydrates. Cancer cells love glucose and any food that has a high glycemic index can contribute to cancer growth. Dr. Keith Block, an oncologist in the Chicago area, states that all sugars must be reduced, even fruits and fruit juices. White flour products, corn, potatoes and soft drinks are to be eliminated.  Especially artificial sweeteners like aspartame.
  • Refined Fats – It is well documented that a high fat intake is a contributor to cancer cell proliferation due to a complex process of how the body deals with fat metabolization. Cancer is considered an inflammatory disorder so hydrogenated highly processed fats become a problem. Trans fatty acids found in margarine are known to create cancer-causing compounds. Flax, olive, and sesame are good oils to use due to anti-inflammatory properties.  Of course, they must be unprocessed.

Some other characteristics that cancer cells exhibit are:

  • They thrive in an altered potassium to sodium balance.  For normal metabolism the ratio of potassium to sodium is 4:1; however, it has been noted that cancer patients have a ratio of 1:4, just the opposite. The average daily requirement for sodium is approximately 1,800 to 2,200 mg. The average American consumes approximately between 10,000 to 14,000 mg per day.  It is important to reduce all refined salt that is hidden in many readily prepared food products. Switch to sea salt (reducing the amount is recommended). Also eat more potassium rich foods.
  • An Altered Acid vs. Alkaline Balance – The body has a specific PH that needs to be attended to when dealing with cancer. Cancer cells prefer a more acidic environment for proliferation. Acidic foods would include red meats, sugars, dairy, and refined grains like white rice and wheat products. Alkaline foods are the plant foods, mainly fruits and vegetables. One way to tell if you are over-acidic is if your jewelry turns colors when next to the skin, if insects like mosquitoes are not attracted to you (not too bad), and if you are prone to yeast and fungal infections. A simple way for you to test yourself is with the use of litmus paper. You will need to check the PH of the saliva and the urine at least three times per day. This is fun because it changes throughout the day. You will want to get an average reading over the period of one or two weeks.
  • Altered Immune System – Cancer cells have the ability to hide from our own immune system. This is best described in relation to fetal cells that are recognized as self in the womb Restoring communication is critically important when dealing with NK (Natural Killer Cells) and macrophages. 

Another area of importance with cancer and nutrition is the liver’s involvement. The liver is considered a digestive organ along with hundreds of other functions to life processes.  Reducing the toxic load to the liver is critical when dealing with cancer. This is important when dealing with the use of nutrition concurrent with chemo-toxic drugs and radiation therapy. Aiding detoxification processes and protecting the liver cells with the use of nutritional supplements like selenium and milk thistle extract have both shown good results. It is important to eliminate alcohol, drugs and tobacco. Also, one needs to reduce chemical laden foods with preservatives and artificial colorants.

As stated by Nobel Laureate in 1949, Albert Schweitzer, MD. “Each patient carries his own doctor inside him.  We are at our best when we give the doctor who resides within a chance to go to work.”

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