Cancer, just the name scares most people. Cancer is a growth process gone wrong at the cellular level. Changes take place within a cell’s structure (primarily DNA) or function, which causes it to grow abnormally, both in character (type of cell development) and rate (speed of development). The process of oxidation (free radical pathology) is primary in the development of cancer and is part of what alters DNA, other cellular function and structure. What influences this alteration in cell function is still not well understood but is influenced or generated by several factors. These factors include exposure to carcinogenic (cancer causing) substances, exposure to radiation, environmental toxins and heredity. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in United States second only to heart disease accounting for some 500,000 deaths annually.
Carcinogenic substances are certain types of foods (nitrosamines and cyclamates for example), volatile chemicals (such as toluene and benzene) and specific agents (like asbestos and lead) that, by their structural and chemical nature, produce alteration in the growth characteristics of cells through various physiologic mechanisms (called oncogenesis).
Radiation exposure does not occur to the same degree as it used to. We have come to a greater understanding of radiation and have developed greater safeguards to medical exposure. But the most common radiation exposure, sunlight (tanning), still goes unchecked. Everyday work is usually not a great problem but prolonged exposure by tanning will generate cancers of many types. Radiation not only includes high-energy rays (such as x-ray) but also energies generated by high voltage electricity, microwave energy and the like.
Environmental toxins are those substances that we know are damaging and therefore limit their exposure but they find their way into the environment. These include pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, chemically altered or synthetic foods and food stuffs (GMO’s), and others substances. All of the above produce damage (mostly through free radical pathology) to metabolic pathways, growth or structural components of cells generating cancerous changes.
Heredity plays a different and significant role. Our genetic makeup will either predispose us to cancer or fight it off. There are types of cancer that are inherited but many more which are not. Each individual’s genetic makeup influences how efficiently the immune system functions to recognize, identify and attack foreign substances and if the response produced is appropriate to the attack. Genetic makeup also determines if we are predisposed to cellular damage by the factors mentioned earlier or have some physiologic/anatomical weakness that allows damage to occur not experienced by many others. Additionally there are other factors related to strength of constitution, past health problems and more that affect our body’s ability to adequately respond to immune challenge determined in part or in whole by our heritage.
Not all abnormal tissue growths are cancer. I am sure you’ve heard of benign tumors. Many of the same processes which generate malignant tumors cause benign tissue generations. The difference between a benign (harmless) and a malignant (aggressively damaging) pathology is the manner in which the cells grow and spread (metastasize). All other factors discussed above have something to do with this process and have the potential to produce either a benign or malignant tumor. Metastasis of cancer is either through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. The malignant tumors and their aggressive cell growth is what must be addressed in any therapeutic regimen.
Cancer pathogenesis (how and why cancer occurs) is a complex subject. Due to the fact that cancer development is a complicated matter, nutritional considerations to help the body overcome cancer are also complicated. Numerous factors must be taken into account (including the unique physiology of each individual person) in the determination of which nutrients in what amounts are appropriate for the condition present. Contrary to what is advertised by some, there is no “magic bullet” which eliminates all cancer. There are some extremely valuable products that can do some amazing things and should be utilized, but reliance upon one nutritional intervention is putting all of your eggs in one basket. We also do not advocate taking everything and the kitchen sink either. There is a balance that must be maintained so that the body is given all of the necessary materials to wage war against this heinous disease.
Another aspect in the nutritional adjuncts for patients with cancer is the element that many nutrients do not fight the cancer directly, but assist the body in maintaining improved health and physiology. Many nutrients are depleted by cancer and must be replaced. Chemotherapy and radiation have toxic and damaging effects which deplete nutrients and increase nutrient demands. Many nutritional substances are needed for patients with cancer to help maintain healthy body physiology, replace lost nutrients, and mitigate (lessen) the effects of cancer therapy.
There are many valuable nutrients that have shown benefit in the combating of cancer. A few of the most significant are Beta 1-3 glucan, Vitamin C, Beta-carotene, Selenium, reduced Glutathione, germanium and others specific to the type of cancer cell under treatment. These nutrients alter intracellular pH, repair damaged DNA, prevent angiogenesis (new blood vessel development), enhance immune response, and improve the activity of leukocyte (white blood cells) destruction of cancer cells and other physiologic mechanisms. You must address providing adequate nutrition to all cells of the body and meet the specific needs to combat the abnormal cell growth. As we said before, cancer is a complex subject and should not be taken lightly at any time. A nutritional program should be carefully and specifically designed to meet the unique needs of each individual and not just taking anything that sounds good. We advise anyone with cancer to make tremendous changes in activity, lifestyle, diet, exercise and nutritional therapy. Careful analysis of diet, environment, past health and current health status, heredity, nutritional supplementation and stress are absolutely essential.
With all of this said, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other factors that must be considered. There are specific diet changes which must be performed stressing wholesome natural foods, eliminating foods which inhibit good physiology and remove those items which tax the body’s ability to function at optimum levels to meet the challenges ahead. A positive attitude towards life in combating the disease is also important which touches family support and involvement of friends to assist in any way possible. Medical treatment for cancer has traditionally based upon the cytotoxic approach (chemotherapy, radiation, etc.). The biological modification of the internal environment of the body through natural substances has tremendous advantages but is usually dismissed by most physicians as unnecessary, unscientific or just plain “voo-doo.” Careful consideration should be given to medical therapy and its appropriate use. We do not advocate disregarding sound medical judgment in the treatment of cancer. But the institution of a nutritional program to give the body everything it needs to meet this challenge just makes good sense and is one aspect that the medical community regularly overlooks. When the body is facing life-threatening challenges and is in need of specific nutrients, either due to dietary deficiency, specific physiologic need or high metabolic demand; not to provide those needed nutrients is to invite failure of the therapy and allow cancer to win. Do all that is right and good to win the battle.