Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life

A Summary by Laurel Blomquist

            The cover of Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life proclaims, “All of us have cancer cells in our bodies. But not all of us will develop cancer.”  Did you know you have cancer cells in your body? Does that thought scare you? It doesn’t have to. Read on to see what you can do about making sure those cells never proliferate or become life-threatening.
David Servan-Schreiber was an ambitious psychiatrist who had spent his life climbing the ranks of his profession. One day the volunteer subject of his brain MRI study didn’t show up, so he put himself into the machine. The scans showed a walnut-sized tumor in his brain, and thus the doctor became the patient. After diagnosis, Dr. Servan-Schreiber was treated using the most modern techniques available: surgery, chemotherapy, radiation. When he asked his doctor if there was something else he could do to prevent the cancer from returning, his doctor told him to continue living life as he had prior to his diagnosis.
I have something to confess. I was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer this past February. Yes, I followed my doctors’ recommendations regarding established medical protocols for my cancer. However, you have a feeling of powerlessness when you are just waiting around to see if the cancer is going to come back. Reading this book, as well as Foods to Fight Cancer, changed the course of my life forever.
If you had a toolbox that you could use to combat an illness from all sides, wouldn’t you want to use every tool in the box? I was inspired to change the paradigm, from giving over control to my doctors to taking control. I established a self-care routine that included rest, diet, exercise, meditation, time in nature, breathing techniques, and many more small changes in my daily routine that would alter my prognosis for the future. Of course, these diet and lifestyle changes don’t just lower my chances of getting cancer, there’s more. According to the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, “Oxidative stress impacts almost all acute and chronic progressive disorders and on a cellular basis is intimately linked to aging, cardiovascular disease, cancer, immune function, metabolism and neurodegeneration.” (
In other words, an anti-cancer diet is also anti- diabetes, obesity, insulin sensitivity, metabolic syndrome, neurological disease (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.), gastrointestinal disease (ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, etc.), autoimmune disease (Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, etc.), and any other acute or chronic disease characterized by inflammation and oxidative stress, as well as the process of aging in general. Everyone says they want a long, healthy life. I was willing to do everything in my power in order to achieve that.  
Like myself, Dr. Servan-Schreiber was not convinced that he had no control over the recurrence of his cancer other than the treatments that doctors could provide. He points out that doctors who are at the pinnacle of research in their professions cannot stop to conduct research outside of their fields, or read experimental protocols that haven’t been given a double-blind study. He does not blame his doctors for this because they are busy doing important work to save the lives of their patients. There are many other practitioners doing alternative therapies and research, however. Dr. Servan-Schreiber is not a food chemist, so he uses research from other scientists to support his dietary recommendations. He often cites the research done by Drs. Beliveau and Gingras, who you may remember from Foods to Fight Cancer,  the book I reviewed two weeks ago. Of course, these two are not the only scientists he has explored. He is a thorough researcher; the chapter on food alone has 140 citations! The scope of this article is much too short to present all his findings, so I’m going to summarize a few fruit and vegetable recommendations he recommends for an anti-cancer diet.
The doctor states that cancer is known to thrive on both sugar and insulin, so in general, eating foods that are lower on the glycemic index should be a priority. These include peas, beans, sweet potatoes, whole fruits, and alliums such as garlic, onions, and shallots, which lower insulin peaks when combined with other foods. (p. 70)
           Stone fruits, especially plums, contain high levels of antioxidants and are more cost effective than berries, year-round. He cites a study showing that these fruits fight high cholesterol as well. (p. 119)
The labiate family, which includes mint, thyme, marjoram, oregano, basil, and rosemary, are rich in the fatty acids of the terpene family, which reduce the spread of cancer cells or provokes their death. (p. 138)
In order to grow more rapidly, cancer cells stimulate the creation of new blood vessels so that they have a fuel source close by. This is called angiogenesis. A molecule which inhibits cancer cells by blocking angiogenesis is apigenin, which is found in parsley and celery (p. 120).
Fresh Ginger Root grown on our Farm
Ginger root is also anti-inflammatory, containing antioxidants that reduce angiogenesis. It’s also anti-nauseating, helping control the side effects of chemotherapy. (p. 134)
Vegetables and fruits rich in carotenoids inhibit the growth of cancer cells and stimulate immune cells to attack cancer. These foods include carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, tomatoes, persimmons, apricots, and beets. The bright colors mean the foods contain vitamin A, lycopene, lutein, phytoene, and canthaxanthin. (p. 136)
Pomegranates contain antioxidants and slow prostate cancer growth by 67%! (p. 139)
Flaxseeds contain short-chain omega-3s and lignans, phytoestrogens that block harmful hormones, lower cholesterol, and maintain balanced blood sugar levels. Our friends at Driftless Organics just started producing their own organic flaxseed oil. Add it to salad dressings or smoothies for an anti-cancer cocktail. (p. 143)
Other foods the author includes as part of an anti-inflammatory diet are olive oil (especially virgin), mushrooms, and seaweed.
When Anti-Cancer was published in 2009, the health of the gut microbiome was just beginning to be on the radar; now it’s one of the hottest health topics in popular science. Dr. Servan-Schreiber cites research that states probiotic bacteria inhibit colon cancer growth by moving toxic waste out of the body. Why not make a batch of sauerkraut, kimchi, or kvass with a vegetable of your choosing (choose a brassica for an especially potent combination) and eat it regularly? Don’t forget to feed your probiotic bacteria with prebiotics, such as garlic, onions, tomatoes, sunchokes, and asparagus. (p. 143)
In addition to recommendations for specific foods, the author also emphasized the importance of organic vegetables versus conventional.  He cites a study by Dr. Cynthia Curl, who measured the amount of organochlorine pesticides in the urine of 42 preschool children. Children who were fed an organic diet had pesticide levels below the Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum, while children on the conventional diet had a level 4 times the maximum. While he states that some doctors have interpreted these findings as insignificant, he disagrees, and so do other doctors. (p. 89)
He further states that selenium stimulates immune cells and boosts the effects of antioxidants. According to the author, organic foods are rich in selenium, while conventionally-grown vegetables are lacking because of soil depletion of this mineral. (p. 144)
This book was written as a tool to help all of us flip our genetic switch for cancer off by making decisions that will impact our long-term health. In summary, the doctor states, “Every day, at every meal, we can choose food that will defend our bodies against the invasion of cancer by: detoxifying carcinogenic substances; supporting our immune system; blocking the development of new (blood) vessels needed for tumor growth; preventing tumors from creating the inflammation that serves as their fertilizer; blocking the mechanisms that will enable them to invade neighboring tissues; and promoting the suicide of cancer cells.” (p. 125)
For more information, be sure to check out the book and his website:

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