BY TRACY McCUBBIN, MD, ABOIM, ABEM
Did you know that up to 10% of all cancers can be traced back to a poor diet? In a study published in 2015, over 80,000 new cancer cases were related to a suboptimal diet. My grandmother used to say “you are what you eat” and there is something to that old adage. You want to be a lovely, bright green piece of organic broccoli! Seriously, researchers found that a higher frequency of organic food consumption was associated with a reduced risk of cancer. Specifically, those who primarily ate organic foods were more likely to ward off non-Hodgkin lymphoma and postmenopausal breast cancer than those who rarely or never ate organic foods.
And of all the food groups, cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and arugula, have the most cancer fighting properties. Consuming 4 servings per week can lower your risk of certain hormone dependent cancers. Raw or lightly cooked is the most beneficial.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also very important in relation to cancer. We must get these through food or supplements as we cannot manufacture them in our body. In many studies, eating salmon brings more benefit than taking a fish oil supplement. These omega-3s prevent tumors from creating blood vessels or lymphatics which essentially prevents the tumor from spreading. A localized cancer is much easier to treat and cure!
Flax seed is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. It is best to buy the whole seed and grind a batch every 2 weeks. Humans cannot digest the whole flax seed. Store the seeds in the refrigerator for up to 1 year. Once ground, store in the refrigerator and they will last about 2 weeks. They have a nutty flavor. Sprinkle them over salads or oatmeal, bake into zucchini bread or put a tablespoon in your smoothie.
My inspiration for this article is that March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Researchers have found that colon and rectal cancers had the highest proportion of diet-related cases, at 38.3%. In other words, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can protect you from colon cancer. They give us a great combination of phytonutrients and fiber. Aim for 2 servings of fruit and 5 servings of vegetables daily. Mix them up and maintain variety in your choices. Try to get one of each color every day!
Research shows that smoked meats and well-done meats increase your risk of colon cancer. Therefore, limit your intake of red meat to 3-4 servings (4oz each) per week. And don’t drink too much. Restrict your alcohol to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks for men.
Outside of the kitchen, be physically active – exercise is good for everything! Just do it! Combined with a better diet, exercise will help you maintain a healthy weight. And say “No” to cigarettes. Tobacco use increases your risk of colon cancer.
Now the good news! This disease is highly preventable by getting screened, beginning at the age of 50. So, after you blow out your candles, call your friendly gastroenterologist to schedule your screening colonoscopy. If you have a first degree relative with colon cancer, your screenings should begin sooner (ten years prior to that family member’s age at diagnosis). And if you have symptoms such as pain or blood in your stool, you may need a colonoscopy regardless of your age.
If you happen to be going through cancer treatment, I encourage you to take a look at Rebecca Katz’s book “The Cancer Fighting Kitchen.” It is so important to keep your cells healthy while killing off the cancer cells. She shows you how to use food to accomplish this goal. And if you are recovering from cancer, I recommend her book “One Bite at a Time.” She is truly an inspiration.
Survivors of cancer are at a higher risk for developing a second primary cancer in their lifetime and a higher risk of death from that second cancer. Researchers looked at 1.5 million patients (average age 60 years) who survived a primary cancer and followed them for a mean of 15 years. The cancer survivors had a 10% higher chance of developing another cancer when compared to the general population. The risk of dying from this second primary was 45% higher than the general population. Further analysis of the data showed that a substantial proportion of subsequent cancers were related to modifiable lifestyle factors. Oncologists and primary care physicians often do not have the time in their visits to focus on these issues, nor is this their area of expertise.
Integrative and Functional Medicine physicians are knowledgeable in this area. We focus our treatment on modifying lifestyle factors. We use motivational interviewing and coaching to help patients make these behavioral changes. We get results! Call us or visit our website for more information. Radiance Functional Medicine would love to be a part of your healthcare team.
According to the CDC, fewer than 1 in 10 US adults and adolescents eat enough fruits and vegetables. A smoothie is a great way to get you there! Try out this smoothie courtesy of “The Cancer Fighting Kitchen.” Using frozen fruit adds texture and allows you to make this all year long!
1 cup organic plain yogurt
1 cup water
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup frozen strawberries
1-1/2 cups frozen blueberries
½ cup frozen raspberries
1 Tbsp ground flax seeds
1 tsp honey, agave nectar or maple syrup
Optional: Add 1 Tbsp coconut oil for additional healthy fat
Optional: Add a scoop of whey protein powder
Optional: Add some spinach!
Directions: Combine the liquids in a blender and process for a few seconds. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.