AUTOPHAGY : Can it prevent cancer?
The Path to Health
In the last few months, I have heard more than usual of people dealing with cancer diagnosed in loved ones or colleagues.
The tipping point for me was yesterday to hear news of yet another person whose life is now touched by cancer, such that she has to take leave from work.
Tomorrow, I talk to caregivers, whose lives have also been touched by cancer.
Although psychotherapy doesn't heal cancer, as a wellness enthusiast and prevention keener, I decided to dedicate a post today to the prevention of cancer. It's very prevalence and incidence make it a key point of awareness for all.
We live in an era where cancer is diagnosed frequently. Currently, there are 15.5 million cancer survivors in the USA, and in Canada 1 out of every 42 people is living with cancer. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada. 1 out of every 2 Canadians is expected to get cancer at some point in their lifetimes, and 1 in 4 die from cancer.
What can we do?
Conventional medicine, or allopathy, will diagnose, find, locate, excise, and treat with chemotherapy.
Newer approaches are developing that speak to the science behind possible cancer prevention. These approaches suggest things you can do on a day to day basis to promote your wellness and potentially prevent cancer from happening.
For a full list of alternative therapies, see the NIH Topic Review on CAM for cancer.
What exactly is cancer?
Cancer is a condition where abnormal cells in the body grow fast and out of control. The cancer usually starts in one system of the body, like the skin, or the bones, or a different part of the anatomy. Cancer can spread to other systems, and this is called "metastasis".
What increases cancer?
Scientific research has not given definitive answers to this question. The studies are mainly "association" studies, meaning that they link events that happen at the same time as people develop more cancer, and not at the same time when people don't develop cancer. For example, shift work at night is associated with increased risk of breast cancer. But the direct cause of this is not clear, and some night shift workers do not get cancer. So there is no clear cause.
Exposure to chemicals, the sun, cigarette smoke, wood dust, and other substances, has been linked to cancer. Age, alcohol use, and chronic inflammation are also linked to cancer, among several other factors.
What prevents cancer ?
If you have a diagnosis of cancer, it is important to work with a medical doctor experienced in this area. Many are open to associated "CAM" - Complimentary and Alternative Medicine" - treatments that can be added to your process of diagnosis and treatment.
In addition, some recent books and articles written by people fascinated by the potential applications of emerging research in wellness, speak to autophagy. Autophagy is the self-destruction of cells that are not healthy. So, it is possible that by increasing autophagy, you increase the destruction of cancer cells.
What can I do?
Below are some ideas from some wellness writers with recent publications and extensive research into the science of wellness.
Researchers are finding that exercise increases whole body health through the short term physiological stress it puts on your body’s system. It is possible that this increased stress turns on the body’s repair system, which may be augmented if you don’t eat in the two hours prior to exercise. If you have caffeine only before you exercise, and exercise first thing in the morning, you then increase the intensity, which may increase the body’s ability to clean out unhealthy cells.
Hot yoga, saunas, steam rooms: increasing body temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius can turn on genes that optimize heat shock proteins inside your cells, and thus induce autophagy.
Forest walking has been shown to boost immune function, including boosting natural killer cells that kill cancer. The effect is due to phytonocides, small aromatic molecules that are emitted into the air from trees, and inhaled by you as you walk through the trees.
Chris Kresser, a Functional Medicine practitioner, speaks to the newer findings that, it is the body of the cell, not the center of the cell, that impacts whether cancer develops in the cell or not. When scientists transplant healthy cytoplasm to a cancerous cell, it has less chance of becoming cancer. When scientists transplant the center of the cell, the nucleus, of a cancer cell in to a healthy cell with healthy cytoplasm, the cell has markedly less chance of developing cancer. In the cytoplasm is where the mitochondria are, so these may be the determinants of cancer or no cancer. Further, when the mitochondria are not fed glucose or glutamine, they have less chance of promoting cancer. Cancer cells feed on glutamine and glucose. So, when you fast, healthy cells can still feed on ketones, but cancer cells can’t feed and die. One study found that a ketogenic diet reduced cancer growth by 65% and nearly doubled survival of those on the ketogenic diet.
In Glow15, Naomi Whittel speaks to the science of cancer prevention through autophagy. She recommends:
- intermittent fasting: fast for 16 hours for three days, non-consecutive, during each week. Easiest done by not eating before sleep and waiting until noon for your first meal. By doing this, you activate the body’s ability to destroy and clean up old cells that are no longer healthy.
- polyphenols: jump start autophagy with augmented polyphenol rich tea: full fruit bergamot tea. You can augment the full fruit bergamot tea with green tea, cinnamon, and coconut oil; green tea to boost metabolism, cinnamon to boost the immune system, and coconut oil to satiate and provide healthy fat
Note: Green tea contains EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) which decreases factors that lead to metastasis or spreading of cancer, and inhibits the growth of tumours.
- polyphenol rich foods: red wine (reservratrol), dark chocolate, bergamot fruit, black currants, blueberries, plums, prunes, strawberries, basil, cloves, cumin, peppermint, almonds, flax seeds, hazelnuts, walnuts, artichokes, asparagus, black olives, broccoli, leafy greens, red lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cocoa powder, green tea, coffee; note organic and sustainably grown foods have higher levels of polyphenols which are preserved better if the food is eaten raw or lightly cooked
- omega-3 fatty acids; helpful for brain, heart, and liver, these fats also turn up autophagy: bass, halibut, Alaskan cod, herring, salmon, mackerel, sardines, shrimp, trout, tuna, grass-fed meat, egg yolks, chia, flax, walnuts, brussel sprouts, kale, spinach, watercress
- sulforaphanes; turn on the destruction of old, abnormal proteins including old brain cells: broccoli, broccoli sprouts, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (red or savoy), cauliflower, collard greens, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi - note, these need to be eaten raw.
- vitamins C, D, E, K; helpful in killing cancer cells, found in the following foods: strawberries, almonds, cheese, hazelnuts, herring, milk, peanut butter, salmon, sunflower seeds, collard greens, dark leafy greens, kale, spinach, turnip greens. If you supplement, some studies are showing that you need to take 5000 IU of Vitamin D per day to prevent cancer.
As well as what you do eat, consider what to avoid. Sugar and processed flour foods that act like sugar, contribute to environments where cancer cells thrive. Avoid sugar including soda, and avoid highly processed foods.
A kind reminder that the above is not medical advice, but rather wellness tips from key authours in the wellness field.
Please stay tuned for updates with the links to the articles for the above information, which I have ready to add, but will not be adding tonight.
Wishing you glowing wellness, for you, your loved ones, your friends, your colleagues,
Dr. M. ~