Anyone who has received a cancer diagnosis has likely become an expert on topics they've never considered before. One of those topics is inflammation.
More specifically, it’s important to understand the role inflammation plays within the body, and how it sets the stage for things to go sideways.
The food choices you make are a tool to support the healing process. Choosing an anti-inflammatory diet is very easy and probably one of the most significant health decisions a person can make.
Inflammation is an essential part of your body’s healing system.
Chronic low-grade inflammation is involved in many diseases including atherosclerosis and cancer. It sets the terrain for strokes, heart disease, vascular dementia, and is also being implicated in Alzheimer’s disease.
Cancer cells thrive in the physiology of inflammation.
Here is an example: If you have a wound that is need of repair, your immune system kicks in and releases inflammatory substances to get the job done. The immune system is very self-aware and knows to halt the response stops once the tissue has been healed. The immune system talks to every cell in the body – it’s kind of a big deal.
However, when it comes to cancer, the production of these inflammatory chemicals gets hijacked, so to speak. Production continues, acting as a sort of fertilizer for cancer cells to grow. Production of these inflammatory substances continues and the “stop” signals are ignored. In this way, cancer cells can produce inflammation to sustain their growth. The very process that that enables the immune system to make repairs and pursue invaders is hijacked for the benefit of cancer cell growth.
There are many cancers that are directly linked to a chronic inflammatory state:
Managing the inflammatory status of the body profoundly impacts the quality of health.
Everything that strengthens the immune system, fights inflammation, and supports the body’s own resources provides a powerful punch to the spread of cancer.
There are dietary choices that contribute or inhibit the metabolic pathways to inflammation. So, making good choices about how you feed and fuel your body is significant.
There is no food neutral zone. No culinary version of “Switzerland”. What you put in your mouth is either adding to your health or detracting from it.
|Increases Inflammation (bad)||Decreases Inflammation (good)|
|White flour||Flour from whole grains, beans|
|Sugar (in all its forms)||Low sugar diets (24g per day or less)|
|Meat from animals raised on industrialized farms, animals fed on corn, soy||Meat from grass fed animals|
|Oils high in omega-6 (corn, Sunflower, soy, safflower)||Olive oil, flaxseed oil, fatty fish|
|Dairy products from animals raised on industrialized farms||Dairy products from pasture raised animals|
|Stress, anger, a sedentary lifestyle||Working on how your respond to stress, practicing mindfulness|
|Lack of exercise||Any physical activity (for Pete’s sake, move it!)|
|Cigarettes and alcohol||I know, bummer|
Don’t be so refined.
Refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, fries, sodas, etc. increase levels of the inflammatory “messengers” called cytokines. Eating whole-grain bread, brown rice, and other whole grains allows the body to have a smoother post-meal rise in blood sugar and insulin levels, which reduce cytokine production.
Eat a rainbow.
The more fruits and vegetables you eat, the lower the burden of inflammation. Why? They contain hundreds, likely thousands, of substances that put the kibosh on those proinflammatory gangsters, free radicals. Many components in plant foods are serious anti-inflammatory agents. A good example is humble turmeric – the most powerful anti-inflammatory on the planet. KAPOW!
Some of the anti-cancer heavy artillery are cruciferous vegetables, Japanese mushrooms, berries, beans and legumes, cabbage, and whole grains.
Go for the nuts.
Adding unsweetened walnuts, almonds, and other nuts and seeds to your snacks and meals is a nutrient-dense and tasty way to ease inflammation.
Red, red wine?
A drink a day seems to lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a powerful signal of inflammation. There are lots of lovely organic reds on the shelves these days. However, too much alcohol has the opposite effect on CRP. Remember that tequila in the eye?
Studies have shown that the protective effects of red wine are when it is consumed in a specific context: during mealtime and with a diet that includes a lot of fruits and vegetables.
Spice it up.
Herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger, garlic, basil, pepper, and many others have anti-inflammatory properties.
“So why not just take anti-inflammatory medications?”
Unfortunately these drugs have side effects such as increased chance of stomach ulcers and risks to cardiovascular health.
“Why isn’t nutrition advice part of a standard cancer treatment protocol?”
Changes to diet and lifestyle cannot be patented. They do not require a prescription or medication. Advice about nutrition may not always be provided by physicians. It is up to each one of us to make our own informed choices. When it comes to a cancer diagnosis, give your body’s healing ability the right tools and the best fuel.
“Inflammation, nutrition, & cancer” was written by Nutritionist & Orthomolecular Practitioner Tricia Pearson. Thanks for reading!
Tricia Pearson is a Certified Nutritionist specializing in cancer and diabetes. Check out Tricia's services and find out how to harvest the best of your health.
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