‘Cancer’ can be a scary word. Even scarier, the diagnosis. The latest statistics suggest 40 per cent of Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime and that 28 per cent of deaths in our country are caused by cancer. If cancer is the enemy so many of us will face, knowing about it is the best way to defeat it and take away its power.
What most of us call ‘cancer’ is, more accurately, a group of nearly 120 different diseases. Some are easy to treat, some are much more aggressive.
It’s normal for the cells in the body to mutate. With the regular growth and death of trillions of cells, there is always a chance something will go awry. These mutated genes turn a normal cell into a cancer cell, and when that cell divides, the new cells are also cancerous.
One of the roles of our immune system is to identify and clean up these damaged cells before they get out of control. When there’s more damage than our immune system can keep up with, there’s a chance these cancerous cells can accumulate to a ‘tipping point’ that can get out of control.
We don’t have a say in some of our cancer risk factors, like genes or former exposures, but going forward, some factors that increase our risks are much more in our control. Cancer risk factors:
- An immune system that is overwhelmed or under-functioning
- Chronic stress and a lack of sleep
- Toxins and chemicals found in our food, water, air and products
- A diet deficient in nutrients, fibre and water
- A dysfunctional digestive system and microbial imbalances
- High blood sugar and insulin
Knowing this, we don’t have to passively wait around and feel helpless in our attempt to decrease our risk of cancer. There are many actionable steps we can take to move our odds. Some specific action steps:
Foods & Nutrients
Decrease your exposure to processed and refined foods, additives and preservatives, and herbicides and pesticides by eating more foods in their whole foods form, grown or raised without chemicals.
Add more fibre and phytonutrients to your daily routine by making plant foods of a wide array of types and colours the focus of each meal. Fibre helps to pull more toxins out of your body via stool and keep blood sugar balanced. Phytonutrients vary by colour of plant foods, and these compounds help support immune roles and protect cells from damage in the first place.
When choosing animal proteins, choose wild, free-range, or pasture-raised meat, dairy and eggs. Animals that are fed their natural diet are higher in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and lower in omega-6 fatty acids, which when eaten in excess can be very pro-inflammatory.
Optimize your blood levels of vitamin D. It’s important for directly protecting cells and promoting the killing and removal of cancer cells. Get your blood levels tested, supplement, get some sun exposure without sunscreen, and eat vitamin D foods like grass-fed butter and mushrooms.
Movement & Mental Health
Move your body, get outside into fresh air and nature, and get to sleep by 10 pm to help reset your circadian rhythm. This supports immune function and promotes production of the very anti-cancerous hormone melatonin.
Address your stress load and your response to stress. Do you feel overwhelmed often? Work on offloading your do-to list, asking what’s important, putting your worry energy into action steps, and building up your resilience.
Be mindful of damaging habits. Smoking is still the primary cause of lung cancer and can contribute to other cancers. Alcohol is another lifestyle choice that directly contributes to head and neck, esophagus, breast, liver, colon and rectal cancers. Assess your intake.
Reduce exposures to xenoestrogens (manmade chemicals that act like very powerful growth-promoting estrogens in the body) by switching to natural cleaning and personal care products and filtering your drinking water. Increase phytoestrogens (plant-based estrogen-like molecules that have a very weak yet protective response in the body) by including non-GMO fermented soy, ground flax seeds, and beans and lentils in your diet.
So many actions in our daily life can work for or against our body’s ability to create and deal with mutated cells. What are two or three items that you can act on easily today? Start there and begin to create a lifestyle that’s more cancer-preventative.
Angela Wright, cnp is one of the nutritionists at Nature’s Fare Markets. Besides her private practice, Align Nutrition, Ange is an instructor at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition’s virtual campus. As teaching individuals or students how to read, correct and action on their symptoms is what gets her pumped to start the day, she’d also be very excited to help you too!
Learn more: alignnutrition.com
This article was published in The Good Life.