Boosting your body

Top Cancer Fighting Foods to include in your Diet

Ian Koo, ND

Cancer, it’s a word that strikes fear in the vast majority of the population.  Luckily, advances in science and technology have allowed many patients to live longer and cancer free.  But we still have a long way to go towards curing this disease because there are so many factors that contribute to someone developing cancer.  Some of the factors involved are genetics, the environment you live in and how polluted it is, the job you do and the lifestyle you lead.  There are even more controversial causes such as cancer patients are more predisposed towards certain personality types.  Today we’ll focus on what I think is a big contributor for cancer – your diet!  A diet lacking in fruits and vegetables directly increases one’s risk of colon cancer.  In fact, a healthy diet is one of the best ways to reduce your cancer risks.

Patients always ask me, what should I eat to prevent cancer?  There’s isn’t a single food.  The general rule of thumb is to dine on lots of colourful vegetables (half your plate should be veggies) and snack on fruits and nuts.  Aim for 8 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.  Yes I know, it’s a lot.  Consider eating some veggies for breakfast to reach your goal.  Cereals, pancakes, muffins aren’t the only options for breakfast.

Research has shown that there are a number of potent anti-cancer foods.  Here is what’s on top of my list of things to eat and drink to get you started:

  • Brassica Vegetables

These vegetables consisting of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts and kohlrabi are renowned for their nutritional value.  They are rich in sulforaphane, a compound that has been demonstrated to block the formation of tumours in animal models as well as induce death of cancer cells.  It is also a good source of indole-3-carbinol which can shunt a person’s estrogen metabolism from the bad estrogen metabolites (16-hydroxyestrone) towards healthier ones (2-hydroxyestrone).  Studies have shown that women diagnosed with breast cancer have a lower ratio of 2-hydroxyestrone to 16-hydroxyestrone.

  • Mushrooms

You may have heard that cancer cells are in everyone and it’s our immune system that keeps cancer in check by gobbling up errant cancer cells.  So one strategy is to make sure that your immune system is in tip top shape.  Eat mushrooms, particularly Asian varieties like shiitake, maitake, coriolus versicolor, reishi and agaricus which have been studied extensively for their immune system boosting potential.  Even common button mushrooms have been shown to be beneficial for your immune system.

  • Watermelon, Tomatoes, Papayas, Carrots

What do all these foods have in common?  They are all shades of yellow, orange and red which tell us that they are high in carotenoids like lycopene.  Carotenoids have been shown to protect your skin from sun damage keeping it young, beautiful and protected against skin cancers.  High blood concentrations of lycopene is linked to a reduction of various types of cancers, most notably ones of the prostate.

  • Garlic, Onions, Chives, Scallions

All belong to the allium family of vegetables and have been used to flavour dishes for centuries.  Higher intakes of the allium family is associated with a reduced risk of all types of cancers.  We believe it’s due to the sulphur compounds found in this group.  These compounds can block DNA destroying free radicals thereby keeping your cells safe and free of damage.

  • Turmeric

This spice is also known as haldi in India and is a member of the ginger family.  It has potent anti-inflammatory effects thereby reducing damage to cells.  Since inflammation is a component of most chronic diseases, including cancers, this is one spice you want to include in your diet.

  • Tea

Whether you drink it during the day or sip it after dinner, green tea, black tea or white tea are healthy, tasty drinks we can all include in our lives.  All are derived from the Camellia sinensis plant which is known to be high in catechins, a type of polyphenol.  Epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) is a type of catechin found in teas and has been studied extensively.  Researchers have found that such catechins reduce risks in animal models for all sorts of cancers ranging from lung cancers, gastrointestinal cancers, pancreatic, breast and prostate cancers.  EGCG has shown the ability to prevent metastasis, angiogenesis and even cause cancer cells to die off.

Ian Koo, ND
Naturopathic Doctor & Clinic Director

Healthy Thinking

Can Lifestyle changes really make a difference in your health & with Cancer Prevention?

The answer is a resounding yes! But you don’t have to take my word from it. Experimental models and years of observational research have shown this to be true. Some people tell me, it’s in the genes so why bother worrying since you can’t do anything about it. I don’t suggest you worry too much but proactive steps for your health can certainly reduce your risks and your children’s risks.

We used to think of our DNA as a sort of foregone conclusion, a ticking time bomb for those with certain genetic markers. I’ve never believed that and then I stumbled upon the research of Dr. Randy Jirtle, a professor of radiation oncology at Duke University School of Medicine. Dr. Jirtle and his team were experimenting on agouti mice. Agouti mice are genetically programmed and bred to become obese, develop cardiovascular diseases like diabetes and have an increased risk of developing cancer. 

A funny thing happened when Dr. Jirtle changed the diet of a group of these mice. He began feeding a group of mother mice foods high in methyl donors. We won’t get into the biochemistry of what methyl donors are, but they are found in many foods such as garlic, onions, beets, broccoli, etc. What he found was that the children of this group of mice looked completely different and did not develop the diseases they were pre-programmed to develop. Yet, the agouti genes that were passed on from the parents to the kids were completely intact. Apparently, what happened was that a diet high in methyl rich foods had turned off these negative genes. So the genes have been passed on intact to the offspring, but they have been turned OFF. This to me is one of the best examples of how diet and lifestyle can make an impact on your health and your children’s health.

We know today for a fact that smoking, excessive alcohol intake, lack of exercise and activity, excess sun exposure and poor diets all affect one’s risk of developing cancer. The question is, do these things also negatively affect the health of future generations. I personally don’t think we need to wait for the science to tell us that it does.

Ian Koo, ND
Naturopathic Doctor & Clinic Director

Soothing Side Effects

Breast Cancer Treatments & the Side Effects – Acupuncture may be Helpful!

Pain & Stiffness in Joints and Muscles

Aromatase inhibitors, such as anastrozole (Arimidex), exemestane (Aromasin) and letrozole (Femara), are used to treat hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer in postmenopausal women. The drugs lower blood levels of estrogen, a hormone that stimulates the growth of these cancer cells. Although aromatase inhibitors are considered effective for early-stage cancer, nearly half of people taking them experience pain and stiffness in the joints and muscles.
The researchers studied 43 women with breast cancer who reported joint pain associated with aromatase inhibitors. The participants were randomly assigned to either true acupuncture or sham acupuncture twice a week for six weeks. During the sham acupuncture, a superficial needle was inserted into non-acupoints. All of the participants continued taking aromatase inhibitors.
At the beginning of the study and at the three and six weeks marks after treatment, pain was assessed using the Brief Pain Inventory-Short Form (BPI-SF), Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC) and the Modified Score for the Assessment of Chronic Rheumatoid Affections of the Hands (M-SACRAH).
According to the results, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, true acupuncture significantly improved joint pain and stiffness after six weeks. In addition, 20 percent of the patients who reported taking pain-relieving medications no longer needed them after acupuncture treatment. No significant improvements were reported in the sham group.
The authors concluded that "acupuncture is an effective and well-tolerated strategy for managing this common treatment-related side effect."

Hot Flashes

In another study published in the Dec. 2009 Journal of Oncology comparing the benefits of acupuncture vs. Effexor, the number one choice for the treatment of hot flashes - something that affects the majority of breast cancer survivors - the randomized control trial showed that acupuncture had a longer-lasting effect on the reduction of hot flashes and night sweats for women receiving hormone therapy for breast cancer. The women also reported additional energy, improved sex drive and clarity of thought with the acupuncture treatments. Scientific evidence supports the use of acupuncture for several other indications, including osteoarthritis, chronic pain & stiffness, post-operative pain, dental procedures, endoscopy-related pain, fibromyalgia and several types of nausea and vomiting.

Ian Koo, ND
Naturopathic Doctor & Clinic Director

Journal Reference:
Walker et al. Acupuncture Versus Venlafaxine for the Management of Vasomotor Symptoms in Patients With Hormone Receptor-Positive Breast Cancer: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2009; DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2009.23.5150

Crew KD, Capodice JL, Greenlee H, et al. Randomized, blinded, sham-controlled trial of acupuncture for the management of aromatase inhibitor-associated joint symptoms in women with early-stage breast cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2010 Mar. 






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