After being diagnosed with cancer in November, I researched like a bat out of hell (where did that saying come from anyway?) to find ways to fight and prevent cancer. I’m now winning that fight. 😉
As a skilled researcher and analyst, I think I’m uniquely equipped to gain some insights into how to fight cancer, live a healthy life, and prevent disease in general – not to mention gain more energy, focus, and lose weight in the process!
And sure enough, I’ve found said insights. Hopefully I can help a few people by sharing what I’ve learned.
So strap on your seatbelts, it’s actually not going to be a bumpy ride at all.
1. Change your diet!
“Whoa Jason you’re blowing my mind already!” You probably would’ve guessed I’d suggest this one. But there’s lots of good reasons for this.
When you’re recovering from cancer surgery or put through chemo, conventional doctors are a bit….erm….blissfully ignorant?
Nothing against doctors – they saved my life. My cancer had progressed such that I got blood clots, and my hemoglobin (the red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs) was half where it should’ve been, because the tumor was bleeding me out. I almost died, and doctors saved me.
Hospital jello is infamous. And during chemo, many patients are told to eat lots of protein (which is valid in order to heal cells the chemo has damaged), drink milkshakes, and generally eat anything in order to not lose too much weight. Not the best advice, when milkshakes might’ve got you into this mess in the first place.
If you’re fighting cancer or disease right now, nutrition is a likely cause of that. If you’re healthy and want to prevent disease, nutrition is easily your best bet.
Check it out what one study in the National Institute of Health says:
The evidence indicates that of all cancer-related deaths, almost 25–30% are due to tobacco, as many as 30–35% are linked to diet, about 15–20% are due to infections, and the remaining percentage are due to other factors like radiation, stress, physical activity, environmental pollutants etc.
That means THE BIGGEST contributor to cancer-related deaths may be diet, above even tobacco use or genetics! Genetics accounts for only 5-10% of cancer incidents.
Yet our food supply and what conventional medicine recommends to eat when battling disease, is almost polar opposite to what good nutrition actually is.
There is a slew of scientific research to show that nutrition, both by itself and coupled with chemo or other treatments, can fight cancer.
Now here’s the specifics:
Increase fruits and vegetables (but primarily certain kinds)
There are certain types of foods that are better at fighting cancer and disease than others. In general, you want mostly vegetables and fruits, to cut out all sugar and simple carbs, eliminate vegetable oils, and eliminate carcinogens from your diet.
Dr. Axe also has a great Healing Foods Diet list.
Here are some of the most important foods to eat and not eat:
Broccoli is a BEAST. Among other things, broccoli has the ability to create a powerful compound called sulforaphane that has been shown to fight cancer cells quite well through various mechanisms.
I say that broccoli has the ability to create sulforaphane because broccoli doesn’t actually have sulforaphane. It has the two precursors necessary to produce it – the enzyme myrosinase and glucoraphanin. So for simplicity I’ll just refer to broccoli’s sulforaphane potential.
Now, all cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, cauliflower) all have sulforaphane potential, but broccoli has the mostest. Broccoli sprouts have up to 100 times more sulforaphane potential than regular broccoli.
Broccoli sprouts were hard for me to find, so I just do lots of regular broccoli.
Now, keep in mind that heat kills the enzyme needed to produce sulforaphane. This includes frozen and steamed broccoli. Workaround: add some mustard seed or powder to your steamed broccoli, which adds back the necessary enzyme.
Garlic is a well-studied cancer fighter. Check out what the National Cancer Institute (NCI) says:
“Protective effects from garlic may arise from its antibacterial properties (17) or from its ability to block the formation of cancer-causing substances (18), halt the activation of cancer-causing substances (19), enhance DNA repair (20), reduce cell proliferation, or induce cell death (10).”
This is because garlic contains sulfuric compounds like allicin and flavonoids like kaempferol and quercetin, which are known to fight cancer. Boom!
Green tea contains powerful polyphenol antioxidants called Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Not only does EGCG fight free radicals and inflammation, but can also prevent cancer angiogenesis (blood supply), support apoptosis (programmed cell death), and kill cancer cells directly.
Like garlic, berries are an excellent source of the well-studied cancer fighting flavonoids kaempferol and quercetin, and other flavonoids as well. They’re also low in sugar!
I can’t take turmeric right now because I’m on blood thinners, but research has shown it be a powerful cancer fighter because of the curcumin in it.
The curcumin in turmeric is hard for the body to absorb, so combine it with some black pepper to improve bioavailability.
Get Your Fiber!
While the research on if and how fiber prevents cancer is a little mixed, most research shows that it’s still important.
Fiber can help with insulin sensitivity and digestion which prevents weight gain, and obesity is a known cause of cancer. And as prebiotic, fiber helps maintain healthy gut flora (or microbiome) which has been linked to the prevention of all kinds of diseases. In addition, when our microbiome processes fiber it creates butyrate which powerfully fights inflammation.
The best sources of fiber are from plants – dark leafy greens, beans, and grains.
Reduce Inflammation by Exercising, Cutting out Sugars, Simple Carbs and Hydrogenated Oils
Chronic inflammation can lead to cancer, there’s no doubt about it.
What is inflammation? Inflammation is the body’s normal response to damage such as injuries.
But inflammation can also happen from free radical damage. Free radicals are a normal by-product of metabolism and are fought off by our body’s immune system. But, when our body is unable to keep up the fight, we enter a state of oxidative stress and the free radicals cause damage to our tissue, DNA, and proteins – causing inflammation.
That inflammation and damage that free radicals cause to our body is what can lead to all types of diseases – Parkinson’s, diabetes, heart disease, and of course, cancer.
That makes it vital to reduce inflammation in order to get healthy.
Cutting Out Sugar and Simple Carbs
Now, there is some contention about whether sugar feeds cancer or not (the Warburg effect and such).
Most conventional medicine sites (Mayo Clinic, AICR, MD Anderson) all say that sugar neither grows or slows cancer.
Cancer does feed on sugar (which the body breaks down into glucose), but they say depriving cancer of glucose doesn’t slow down its growth. In fact, in some cases cancer can become more aggressive after glucose-deprivation.
Dr. Jason Fung also agrees that the solution of depriving cancer of glucose is too simplistic, and that cancer actually is more dependent on glutamine, also making ketogenic diets unfactual as a cancer preventative.
Based on the above research, I don’t know whether sugar grows or slows cancer. What I do know is that sugar increases inflammation in the body and can increase insulin resistance, both devastating to disease-prevention.
Which is why I still recommend reducing or eliminating sugar and simple carbs. Simple carbs are foods like white bread, cereals, pasta – anything that has the fiber removed. Even whole wheat might spike your blood sugar and insulin too much.
As far as fruits and vegetables – the resveratrol in grapes, the antioxidants and angiogenic properties in apples, and the beta carotene in carrots, are all valuable cancer fighters. But they are all high in starch or sugar, so I leave them out. In addition, high doses of beta-carotene in carrots can actually promote cancer growth. But similar cancer-fighting properties are in low-carb plant foods like broccoli, kale, spinach, berries and the like.
Cut Out Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils
Vegetable oils are highly reactive to oxidation – meaning they produce a ton of free radicals when metabolized. They’re bad news, friends!
Check out Genius Foods by Max Lugavere for a great, in-depth explanation on the science behind this. But basically, the way vegetable oils are extracted is not normal or natural, making it an unnatural (and dangerous) thing for humans to consume.
This includes canola oil, soybean oil – any oil extracted from vegetables or seeds (other than olive oil).
Cut Out Carcinogens
Carcinogens are any substance that is known to cause cancer. Luckily for us, there is a rather lengthy list of indisputably carcinogenic substances to avoid.
Two of the primary carcinogens I’d like to show you are processed meats and alcohol. Unfortunately, I like both of these things. But I like my health more.
According to the American Cancer Society, “Processed meat includes hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausage, and some deli meats. It refers to meat that has been treated in some way to preserve or flavor it. Processes include salting, curing, fermenting, and smoking.”
Red meats are a probable carcinogen. Also, cooking meat at high temperatures creates heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are cancer-causing mutagenic compounds.
After learning all of this, now I look at Slim Jim’s as cancer sticks like I do cigarettes. Which is sad because I love Slim Jim’s.
Now, at least part of why alcohol is carcinogenic is because it hurts your immune system’s ability to kill cancer cells.
Side note: It’s shocking to me that processed meats and alcohol don’t have a sticker on them warning about the risk of cancer if you consume them, like tobacco products do.
Bonus – Watch Out for Peanuts 🙁
I love peanut butter with an undying passion. But unfortunately, peanuts and peanut butter are high in omega-6’s and usually have mold, which make them highly inflammatory.
Peanuts are grown in the ground. That means they grow in moist environments, which is why they usually have mold or mycotoxins, and also why so many people are allergic to them.
Heal Your Gut and Gut Bacteria
It doesn’t make sense at first glance, but a large part of our immune system is actually in our gastrointestinal tract – our gut (or microbiome). If our gut or gut bacteria is out of whack, it can cause some major problems.
- Overuse of prescription antibiotics (18)
- Emotional stress (24)
- Medications (25)
- Over-sanitation (34)
- Smoking (35)
In order to fix gut bacteria, probiotics are all the rage nowadays and are commonly touted as the solution – which might be true.
But the National Institute of Health has a more realistic opinion that while probiotics do seem to help all kinds of ailments – primarily digestive in nature – it is yet to be concluded as a cure-all.
So in addition to probiotics and reducing the above 11 gut-destroying factors, I would also recommend increasing fiber intake. It’s a prebiotic which helps probiotics work better and produces butyrate, a primary signal of healthy gut bacteria.
Keep Epigenetics in Mind
The “epi” in epigenetics means “on top of” in Greek. So epigenetics is the study of what’s on top of genes.
In other words, epigenetics is “the study of biological mechanisms that will switch genes on and off.”
What’s amazing about this is that, you guessed it, our DIET can influence whether our genes execute their programs correctly or not.
Free radicals, for instance, can damage our DNA and certain foods can flip the wrong genetic switches on or off. Broccoli activates the Nrf2 and AMPK gene pathways and inhibits the NF-κB pathway – thereby fighting cancer. This is all epigenetics and it has a huge impact on our health.
Sometimes it can be hard to fathom how something as simple as food can prevent or fight disease. Epigenetics helps us understand how powerful diet is by understanding HOW exactly it works.
The Alkaline Theory of Cancer Treatment – Myth, Unfortunately
Many a natural medicine guru will tell you that “cancer cannot live in an acidic environment”. This is true, but ultimately irrelevant.
The unfortunate fact is that food cannot alter the pH of your blood. Your blood’s pH is tightly regulated to 7.4 – anything below or above that is life-threatening. “Alkaline water” or any other alkaline remedies won’t move your blood’s pH needle.
2. Implement Intermittent Fasting and Autophagy
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is all the rage lately, and it seems to be for good reason.
The primary reason for this is that intermittent fasting causes autophagy (aw-toff-uh-jee).
Basically, autophagy recycles old cells in order to rebuild healthy cells and repair DNA. Since cancer can be caused by mutated DNA, repaired DNA means cancer is less likely to initiate. Fasting also resets insulin sensitivity so fats can be used for fuel, and activates gene pathways that repair existing cells.
The theory behind this is that the bodies of our ancestors evolved to do repair and maintenance work in periods of not eating. Which makes sense. I bet you our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t eat 3 meals a day.
For this reason, IF and autophagy are powerful preventers of cancer and other diseases. However, in some cases autophagy can actually grow cancer if it already exists.
3. Lose Weight
Being overweight is a risk factor for all kinds of diseases, including cancer.
Notice this is not just saying obesity can cause cancer – being overweight can too.
Too many times, we rationalize things in our mind, saying “I’m just a little overweight, I’m not fat”. I did. But we can’t do that – for our friends and family, but also for ourselves.
If you’re overweight, overhaul your diet and start exercising so you can lose weight and live a long life.
Exercise activates cancer-fighting genes, fights inflammation, and just makes you feel really good (thanks dopamine!).
5. Reduce stress
Be mindful of your stress level and any emotional baggage that you might be carrying. Bad bosses, job changes, job loss, financial hardship, family disputes…all can cause chronic stress and make you sick (both in the short-term and long-term).
Meditate, pray, have faith, practice peace and gratitude. Enjoy life. Laugh more. Exercise. See a psychologist to unpack any emotional baggage or self-limiting beliefs. Whatever you have to do, make sure you stay positive and relaxed in life.