While anticancer drugs have their place, it’s important to remember that the lifestyle choices you make on a daily basis will influence your overall cancer risk in the first place. The good news is there’s a lot you can do to lower your risk. In fact, I believe you can virtually eliminate your risk of cancer and chronic disease, and radically improve your chances of recovering from cancer if you currently have it, by addressing foundational lifestyle factors.
The following — starting with diet-related pointers, followed by other lifestyle recommendations — is by no means an exhaustive list.
Eat real food, ideally organic or biodynamic; avoid processed foods and sugars, especially processed fructose — All forms of sugar are detrimental to health in general and promote cancer. Processed fructose, however, is one of the most harmful and should be avoided as much as possible.
Reduce non-fiber carbs but have large volumes of fresh organic veggies along with high amounts of healthy fats from avocados, raw butter, seeds, nuts and raw cacao nibs. Consider adding cancer-fighting whole foods such as broccoli and fermented foods, and drinking a pint to a quart of organic green vegetable juice daily.
Eating certified organic or biodynamic foods will help you avoid genetically engineered foods and ingredients, which are typically loaded with glyphosate, a suspected carcinogen that also has antibiotic activity and has been shown to harm health in a number of different ways.
Implement a cyclical ketogenic diet —Most people simply eat far too many processed foods, net carbs and too few healthy fats, and too many unhealthy fats, which results in gaining and retaining extra body fat and becoming increasingly insulin resistant.
Most also eat too much protein for optimal health and, while exercise cannot compensate for the damage done by a high-carb, low-fat diet, most do not get enough physical movement either. These factors set in motion metabolic and biological cascades that deteriorate your health and “predispose” you to cancer and other chronic diseases.
Limit protein — Newer research has emphasized the importance of the mTOR pathway. When activated, cancer growth is accelerated. To quiet this pathway, I believe it may be wise to limit your protein to 1 gram of protein per kilogram of lean body mass, or roughly one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body weight. Replace excess protein with high quality fats such as eggs from organic free-range hens, high quality meats, avocados and coconut oil.
Avoid unfermented soy products — Unfermented soy is high in plant estrogens, or phytoestrogens, also known as isoflavones. In some studies, soy appears to work in concert with human estrogen to increase breast cell proliferation, which increases the chances for mutations and cancerous cells.
Optimize your omega-3 level — Omega-3 deficiency is a common underlying factor for cancer, so make sure you get plenty of high quality animal-based omega-3 fats. I recommend getting an omega-3 index test done annually. For optimal health and disease prevention, your index should be above 8 percent.
Use curcumin — This is the active ingredient in turmeric and in high concentrations can be very useful adjunct in the treatment of cancer. For example, it has demonstrated major therapeutic potential in preventing breast cancer metastasis. Curcumin is generally poorly absorbed; I’ve provided several absorption tips here.
Avoid drinking alcohol — At minimum, limit your alcoholic drinks to one per day.
Avoid charring your meats and steer clear of all processed meats — Charcoal or flame broiled meat is linked with increased breast cancer risk. Acrylamide — a carcinogen created when starchy foods are baked, roasted or fried — has been found to increase cancer risk as well. I recommend eating at least one-third of your food raw. Avoid frying or charbroiling; boil, poach or steam your foods instead.
Processed meats of all kinds also contain acrylamide, along with nitrites that may form harmful N-nitroso compounds in your body. The evidence against processed meat is so strong, it was, as a group, classified as a Group 1 carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015.
Stop eating at least three hours before bedtime — Compelling evidence suggests that fueling the mitochondria in your cells at a time when they don’t need it leads to the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) that damage mitochondrial and eventually nuclear DNA. There is also evidence to indicate that cancer cells uniformly have damaged mitochondria, so the last thing you want to do is eat before you go to bed.
Water fasting — Multiday water fasting, even when you do not have a weight or insulin problem, provides powerful metabolic benefits that help lower your disease risk. Importantly, fasting radically improves your body’s ability to digest damaged cells (autophagy) and increases stem cells.
Optimize your gut microbiome — Optimizing your gut flora will reduce inflammation and strengthen your immune response, both of which are important for cancer prevention. Researchers have found a microbe-dependent mechanism through which some cancers mount an inflammatory response that fuels their development and growth.
So, inhibiting inflammatory cytokines may also slow cancer progression and improve the response to chemotherapy. Adding naturally fermented food to your daily diet is an easy way to prevent cancer or speed recovery. You can always add a high quality probiotic supplement as well, but naturally fermented foods are best.
Make sure you’re not iodine deficient — There’s compelling evidence linking iodine deficiency with certain forms of cancer. Dr. David Brownstein author of “Iodine: Why You Need it, Why You Can’t Live Without it,” is a proponent of iodine for breast cancer. It actually has potent anticancer properties and has been shown to cause cell death in breast and thyroid cancer cells.
For more information, I recommend reading his book. One caveat: While I believe the bulk of what he states is spot on, I’m not convinced his dosage recommendations are ideal. I believe they may in fact be five or six times higher than optimal. So, do your homework before starting iodine loading.
Improve your insulin and leptin receptor sensitivity — The best way to do this is by avoiding sugar and grains and restricting carbs primarily to fiber-rich vegetables. Exercise will also help normalize your insulin and leptin sensitivity.
Maintain a healthy body weight — This will come naturally when you begin eating right for your nutritional type and exercising. It’s important to lose excess body fat because fat produces estrogen.
Optimize your vitamin D level — Vitamin D influences virtually every cell in your body and is one of nature’s most potent cancer fighters. Vitamin D is actually able to enter cancer cells and trigger apoptosis (cell death). For general health and disease prevention, you should ideally maintain a vitamin D level of 60 to 80 ng/ml year-round. Vitamin D also works synergistically with every cancer treatment I’m aware of, with no adverse effects.
Get plenty of restorative sleep — Make sure you are getting enough restorative sleep. Poor sleep can interfere with your melatonin production, which is associated with an increased risk of insulin resistance and weight gain, both of which contribute to cancer’s virility.
The link between lack of sleep and cancer is so strong that the World Health Organization, since 2007, has tagged shift work as a “probable human carcinogen” because it causes circadian disruption.1 As a general rule, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.
Exercise regularly — Researchers and cancer organizations increasingly recommend making regular exercise a priority in order to reduce your risk of cancer and help improve cancer outcomes. One of the primary reasons exercise works to lower your cancer risk is because it drives your insulin levels down and controlling your insulin levels is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your cancer risks.
Research has also found evidence suggesting exercise can help trigger apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells. Studies have also found that the number of tumors decrease along with body fat, which may be an additional factor.
This is because exercise helps lower your estrogen levels, which explains why exercise appears to be particularly potent against breast cancer.
Finally, exercise increases mitochondrial biogenesis, which is essential to fight cancer. Ideally, your exercise program should include balance, strength, flexibility, high intensity interval training (HIIT).
Limit electromagnetic field (EMF) exposure — In 2011, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified cellphones as a Group 2B “possible carcinogen,” and the evidence supporting the theory that EMF radiation from wireless technologies can trigger abnormal cell growth and cancer1 just keeps growing and getting stronger.
Avoid BPA, phthalates and other xenoestrogens — These are estrogen-like compounds that have been linked to increased breast cancer risk.
Avoid synthetic hormone replacement therapy, especially if you have risk factors for breast cancer — Breast cancer is an estrogen-related cancer, and according to a study2 published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer rates for women dropped in tandem with decreased use of hormone replacement therapy.
Similar risks also exist for younger women who use oral contraceptives. Birth control pills, which also comprise synthetic hormones, have been linked to cervical and breast cancers.
If you are experiencing excessive menopausal symptoms, consider bioidentical hormone replacement therapy instead, which uses hormones that are molecularly identical to the ones your body produces and do not wreak havoc on your system. This is a much safer alternative.
Implement stress-reduction strategies — Stress from all causes is a major contributor to disease. Even the CDC states that 85 percent of disease is driven by emotional factors. It is likely that stress and unresolved emotional issues may be more important than the physical ones, so make sure this is addressed.
My favorite tool for resolving emotional challenges is Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). Other helpful strategies include meditation, mindfulness practice, prayer and yoga, just to name a few.
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