Around the age of fifty it seems we know at least one friend, coworker or family member with cancer. Breast cancer, uterine cancer, lung cancer, melanoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, colon and rectum cancers are most commonly detected in women around the age of 50.
I am incredibly fortunate that all of my immediate family members are still alive, healthy, and active. Yes, I come from good genes, and both of my parents still work hard to keep their minds, their bodies' and their schedules busy. Unfortunately, I can’t get them to improve their diets; trying to get my father to eat anything green, or trying to get my mother to reduce carbohydrates has been a losing battle because it “works for them”. What they don’t realize, eating better would help them perform their daily tasks easier and more effectively.
According to the American Cancer Society's 2014 study, these were the rankings of cancer risk factors (after cigarette smoking which accounted for 19% of all cancer cases and nearly 29% of cancer deaths):
1. Excess body weight was responsible for 7.8% of cancer cases and 6.5% of deaths
2. Drinking alcohol was linked to 5.6% of cancer cases and 4% of deaths
3. UV radiation was attributable to almost 5% of cases, but a lower 1.5% of deaths
4. Physical inactivity played into 2.9% of cases and 2.2% of deaths
Furthermore, the study goes on to say "when the researchers grouped together the related issues of excess body weight, alcohol intake, poor diet, and physical inactivity, they found this set of risks was responsible for a total of about 18% of cancer cases and 16% of deaths."
So, based on these findings, our strategy should look like this:
1. Stop smoking
2. Improve diet (including alcohol reduction)
3. Move more (check out today's 4-minute workout)
I don't think there is anyone alive, in this day and age, that doesn't know that smoking is bad. There is no way around this; you just have to face the facts (above) and find a program to help you stop smoking. As for physical inactivity, finding the motivation to take just one more step today than you took yesterday is where you need to start. Improving your diet is a little more complicated because there are so many articles and "miracle foods" that over-whelm us with scientific information. Below I've defines what antioxidants are, how they work and included the foods high in antioxidants in your weekly Shopping List. Another type of cancer-fighting foods gaining traction in the media are alkalizing foods. These foods help in supplying oxygen to our cells in addition to spicing up the plate!
Antioxidants are nutrients that protect your cells from unstable molecules that act like terrorists in your body. These little terrorists are called free radicals and they wreak havoc on your cells by attacking your DNA, enzymes, and/or proteins. Depending on which type of cell they attack, their destruction can lead to heart attacks, cancer, and other mutations. Antioxidants come in many forms of minerals and vitamins because they have such a wide variety of targets when it comes to destroying free radicals. Vitamin E, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, zinc, selenium and manganese are the most commonly recommended for their vigor and potency.
My picks for antioxidants include:
Pecans, chestnut, hazelnut
Asparagus, beets, artichoke
Berries, kale, red onions, black olives
Beets, cantaloupe, spinach
Fish, beef, eggs, poultry
Red wine, tea, cocoa powder, spices
Alkalizing vs. Acid-forming Foods
Foods are classified as acid-forming or alkalizing depending on the effect they have on the body. Similar to free radicals, chronic consumption of acidic foods can interrupt all cellular activity and functions. The acidification process cuts off the oxygen supply within the cells and eventually compromises the immune system.
Cancer patients are approximately 1000 times more acidic than cancer-free individuals and have dangerously low amounts of oxygen at the cellular level; thus we know, cancer needs an acidic and low-oxygen environment to survive and spread. In the absence of oxygen, glucose undergoes fermentation to lactic acid. This causes the pH of the cell to drop even lower. Urine and saliva pH of terminal cancer patients almost always runs between 4.0 and 5.5 (the pH scale runs from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic, 14 being the most alkaline, and 7 being neutral). When the cancer goes into metastases the pH drops even lower. Our bodies simply cannot effectively fight disease if our body pH is not properly balanced.
In addition to cancer, this destruction at the cellular level leads to all sorts of illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, memory loss, nutrient deficiencies, joint pain, excess weight and poor athletic performance. A diet high in alkalizing foods can help restore the body’s pH balance for optimal health and function.
My picks for alkalizing foods include:
Avocado, coconut, lemon, lime, tomato
Almonds, pine nuts
Caraway, cumin, fennel, sesame
Beets, radish, carrots, alfalfa, cabbage, celery, cucumber, jicama, kale, sprouted seeds, wheat grass
Tea (green, herbal), Water (Fiji, Evian)
Coconut oil, flax seed oil, sesame oil
Basil, cayenne pepper, cilantro, chives, oregano
Natural Medicinal Uses of Alkalizing Spices and Herbs
Herbs have been for healing and restoration for centuries, and herb specialists say that almost all herbs are alkalizing, especially the “bitter” herbs.
Ginger and turmeric are frequently used in Asian dishes for flavor and heat, but they are also powerful anti-inflammatories; in fact, turmeric is just as effective as many of the over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) at relieving pain associated with inflammation. In addition to pain relief, they can alleviate nausea, dizziness, allergy symptoms and even intestinal gas.
Fresh parsley aids digestion and acts to prevent gas and bloating. Steeping parsley with your tea is the best way to eliminate bloating and reduce excess water weight.
Sage, like most herbs, reduces the severity almost all stomach troubles, diarrhea, gas, flu and colds. Additionally, it can be seeped as a tea for sore throat and soothe to mouth sores.
Paprika is loaded with a chemical compound called Capsaicin which acts as an anti-inflammatory to help ease arthritis and joint pain. Paprika also has antibacterial properties that help to naturally control bacteria such as Salmonella and E. coli. It does not necessarily kill these bacteria, but it does slow down their growth.
Cancer prevention efforts don't have to be a full-time job, but they are a full-life commitment. Small changes, consistency and knowledge are key; however, don't wait until you are 50 to start!