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Nutritional therapy is a powerful tool used in the health field to help patients overcome a variety of health complications. Both patients and doctors alike are aware that nutrition is vital to the health and natural healing properties in the human body. This is why targeting specific nutrients helps patients overcome vitamin and mineral deficiencies, reduces inflammation and side effects associated with allergies, and even treats simple ailments such as the common cold.
When it comes to cancer however, conventional medicine typically ignores the benefits of nutrition. Patients feel hesitant to combat cancer using alternative and natural healing treatments, and most doctors only recommend the conventional cancer treatments − chemotherapy drugs, radiation, and surgery.
However the benefits of quality nutrition don’t end with a cancer diagnosis. Read on to discover how nutrient or nutritional therapy works against cancer.
Common Misconceptions About Cancer Treatments & Nutrition
News of a cancer diagnosis usually leads to feeling overwhelmed and left with countless questions. This results in endless research the patient feels the need to conduct in a short period of time. Cancer patients are more susceptible to diving head first into conventional medical treatments as recommended by their oncologist and supporting medical team.
Unfortunately, conventional medicine neglects the anti-cancer properties that nature has to offer. Doctors are often ill-informed about research regarding nutritional therapy, and too consumed with technologies that interfere with the body’s natural potential to heal. They lack the sufficient knowledge to pass off critical information to patients so that the most appropriate decision can be made regarding cancer treatment.
Cancer patients often take the plunge into chemotherapy treatment without receiving optimal nutrition to support and reduce the risk of side effects associated with drugs and radiation. Some chemotherapy drugs are significantly associated with increasing the risk of secondary cancers and tumor growth − risks that can often be reduced or prevented with diet.
Why Diet Matters During Cancer Healing
Contrary to the common misconception that has many cancer patients believing they can eat whatever they want… you cannot heal cancer by eating processed foods, excess sugar, and food ridden with chemicals or saturated in pesticide residue. Weight gain often becomes a priority to help sustain one’s strength when undergoing chemo treatment, but it should not be. Managing healthy dietary habits will equip the body’s natural defenses to help it heal from cancer.
One dietary tool often overlooked in cancer treatment is the ketogenic diet. Diets high in healthy fats and low in carbohydrates cause the body to utilize an alternate energy supply rather than glucose metabolism. Removing glucose as the primary fuel for cells eliminates a primary energy source that permits cancer cells to thrive.
Studies show that a ketogenic diet as well as diets that restrict calories, such as fasting, can slow tumor growth. They can also cause cytotoxic effects to cancer cells and enhance cancer treatment including radiation and chemotherapy.
Antioxidants and Cancer Therapy
Patients are cautioned against supplementing their diets with antioxidants on the basis that it may interfere with cancer treatment drugs.
Despite this assumption, a total of 5,081 patients involved in 50 studies since the 1970s have shown that nutrients do not interfere with conventional cancer treatment. In fact, patients receiving common nutrients like beta-carotene (found in orange pigmented foods like carrots), vitamin D3 (concentrated in egg yolk), vitamins A, B complex, C, E, K, and other food-supplemented antioxidants have fewer side effects, increased therapeutic effectiveness, and higher rates of survival.
Other powerful antioxidants combat cancer in the body by promoting apoptosis in cancer cells and reducing their ability to proliferate. Antioxidants are also essential for shutting down the communication signals that allow cancer cells to metastasize, and destroying cancer stem cells. They also prevent oxidative damage to healthy cells and tissue by supporting detoxification pathways.
Some of the best compounds found in foods that target cancer include:
- Quercetin: Antioxidant contained in green tea, red onions, raspberries, and a variety of fruits. Boosts immune response to naturally aid the body in working against cancer cells associated with leukemia, lung, colon, and prostate cancer.
- Ursolic Acid: Found in apples and holy basil. Effective against colon, skin, cervical, lung, prostate, and breast cancers.
- Lycopene: Rich in tomatoes, grapefruit, and watermelons. Provides protection against cervical, colon, prostate, and lung cancer.
- Anthocyanins: Highly concentrated in bilberries, grapes, eggplant, and herbal teas. Suppresses tumors associated with colon cancer and leukemia.
- Curcumin: Active component in turmeric. Exhibits powerful chemoprotective activity over numerous cancers such as brain, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, kidney, and colorectal.
7 Ways That Nutritional Therapy Works
Nutrient therapy targets key factors that promote healing in cancer patients. A diet centered on plant-based nutrition kills cancer stem cells, reduces adverse side effects associated with cancer treatment, and supports the body’s vital systems essential to sustaining health.
#1. Kills Cancer Stem Cells
The unique characteristic of cancer stem cells allows them to slip under the radar from chemotherapy and increases their aggressive nature. They exhibit pro-survival mechanisms that makes them resistant to modern cancer treatment, yet susceptible to phytonutrients.
Nutrients like the “King of Spices” (turmeric) or piperine found in black pepper, assists in the elimination of H. pylori from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and prevents the release of toxins that promote cancer. Silymarin kills cancer stem cells that give rise to colon and skin cancer by upregulating powerful antioxidant systems like glutathione and SOD (superoxide dismutase) that suppress cancerous activity.
Relying on chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation is not sufficient to remove cancer from the body. Nutrients must be incorporated to kill cancer stem cells. Other powerful nutrients that target cancer stem cells include 6-gingerol, resveratrol, vitamin D3, and EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate).
#2. Enhances Overall Detoxification
Nutrient therapy helps to flush out stored carcinogens in the body’s tissue, cells, and detoxifying organs − including the liver and kidneys. The health of these two organs is essential in the purification of the blood, and ensures the passage of nutrients for circulation into tissues. It is especially critical for an individual undergoing cancer treatment to regularly support the detoxification of these organs and avoid the accumulation of drugs.
Any damage to the liver and kidneys increases the toxic burden an individual will carry. This is because of the resulting inability to detoxify carcinogens from the blood and ultimately the entire body. Parsley contains potent nutrients that aid in removing heavy metals from the blood, liver, and kidneys and is also shown to boost immune health and stimulate several antioxidant defenses.
Eating a healing diet rich in plant-based nutrition prevents constipation, nausea, and an assortment of GI disturbances. Nutrient therapy supports the healthy elimination of toxins from the gut and prevents reabsorption of carcinogens back into the body. Nutritional powerhouses that support cellular repair and inhibit oxidative stress required to fight cancer include superfoods like spirulina, seaweeds, lemon, turmeric, ginger, and black or cayenne pepper.
#3. Protects Organ Systems
When patients are ill advised on how to eat a healing diet to fight cancer, chemo drugs wreak havoc not only on cancer cells but healthy cells as well. Normal cells become inflamed and genetically damaged. Organ systems and distant tissue that may have been healthy to start becomes weakened and susceptible to new cancer growth.
Adequate nutrition prevents organ systems from becoming deficient in key antioxidants that repair DNA damage, heal cells and support their unique functions in the body. Chemotherapy and radiation damage all cells in the body resulting in common side effects like inflammatory skin conditions, GI upset, mouth ulcers, and diseases of the central nervous system and heart.
#4. Protects the Brain & Nervous System
The central nervous system has one of the most important roles in the body that influences an individual’s quality of life. Even if a primary tumor is eradicated, secondary brain metastases are common following the occurrence of skin, breast, lung, and colorectal cancer. Secondary cancers that quickly metastasize to the spine typically originate from cancer of the kidneys, prostate, lung, or breast.
Flavonoids like the aforementioned quercetin and antioxidants found in cocoa, fruit, and tea are consistently shown in studies to exhibit neuroprotective benefits. Flavonoids protect neurons from inflammation and trauma by scavenging free radicals, thus supporting one’s ability to retain cognitive function and memory. The ascorbic acid in many citrus fruits protects against oxidative damage from neurotoxins, supports pre-existing neuron function, and stimulates the regeneration of new neurons.
Given the degenerative and systemic problems that arise from cancer, it is vital to support the health of the brain and nervous system with nutrition in the fight against any form of cancer.
#5. Protects the Gut Lining
Supporting the lining of your gut goes hand in hand with strengthening the immune system to combat cancer. Nutrition is a key factor in preventing inflammatory damage that arises from leaky gut or increased intestinal permeability, malnutrition or nutrient deficiency, autoimmune problems, and the damaging effects of cancer therapy.
When our immune defenses are focused on targeting toxins and pathogenic bacteria that leach from the gut causing systemic inflammation, cancer growth is less controlled. Bacterial infections linked to gut inflammation like H. pylori increase the risk for cancer in the colon and specific types of lymphoma.
Nutritional therapy provides protection for the gut. It does this by balancing a healthy gut flora, reducing inflammation, improving nutrient absorption, regulating blood sugar, and decreasing side effects like nausea and vomiting resulting from chemotherapy drugs.
#6. Protects the Blood Cells
Maintaining the health of blood cells is critical in the fight against cancer. Blood cells are responsible for delivering oxygen and nutrients to tissue in the entire body and fueling life-giving processes. Blood cells support immunity and the elimination of metabolic by-products like carbon dioxide ensuring that the body maintains a slightly alkaline pH.
Nutrients that enhance blood cell health include:
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin A
- B-Complex Vitamins
- Antioxidants in the bark and root of cat’s claw
- Astragalus root
- Vitamin C
Such nutrients are shown to activate immune defense cells that target cancer growth such as antibodies. They also support the production of hemoglobin, stimulate white and red blood cell production, and increase the circulation of other nutrients to tissue.
#7. Protects the Cardiovascular System
One of the first lines of cancer treatment drugs is the use of anthracyclines. Considered a broad-spectrum antitumor drug, it also causes severe toxic side effects including irreversible damage to the heart and cardiovascular system. Nutrients provide a wide range of benefits for protecting the cardiovascular system from trauma.
Nutraceutical compounds found in cruciferous veggies, cherries, onions, berries, pomegranates, endives, and other plant-based foods inhibit degenerative processes from occurring. One of the best known anti-inflammatory agents that protect against cardiovascular problems and limits the toxicity of chemotherapeutic drugs on the body is ginger.
Phytosterols support the health of the cardiovascular system by reducing cholesterol levels. They can be found in almonds and pine nuts. Studies also reveal an inverse relationship between beta-carotene levels and cardiovascular disease and cancer. Other important nutrients necessary for suppressing inflammatory damage and repairing tissue of the cardiovascular system include lycopene, B vitamins, niacin, magnesium, and vitamins C, D, and E.
Protecting and Enhancing the Body With Nutritional Therapy
Only you can decide whether nutrient therapy should be used as an alternative or complementary approach to eliminating cancer and its recurrence.
But no matter what route you choose, ignoring your body’s need for nourishment when it is in its most critical fight for survival against cancer is incomprehensible. Utilize the critical window of time that you have when first diagnosed to understand what nutrients you should be incorporating into your diet that will provide you with natural chemotherapeutic benefits.