MILK 'N HONEY HEALTH FOODS

 

DEALING WITH BREAST CANCER

FROM A NUTRITIONAL PERSPECTIVE

       

        Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer and the most common cancer found in women.  At age twenty-five, a women’s risk of developing breast cancer is 1 in 19,608.  At age forty the risk raises to 1 in 217.  From 1999 to 2003, the incidence of breast cancer rose by 21 percent in the United States.

WHAT CAUSES BREAST CANCER?

 Damaged DNA:

        Like all cancers, breast cancer can result from damaged DNA. Every time a cell divides, DNA replicates itself.  This is a very complicated process with a high chance for error as trillions of cells are dividing in the body at any given moment..  When damaged DNA results in unrestricted cell proliferation, we have cancer.  Cancer is uncontrolled cell division.  Damaged DNA can be caused by many factors including environmental toxins such as pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. Viruses and other pathogens can damage DNA. Industrial and common household chemicals, along with various forms of radiation, can negatively affect DNA.  Environmental factors often lead to free radical activity which can damage DNA. For  more on the causes and development of cancer, go to: CANCER: ITS CAUSE, TREATMENT AND PREVENTION

Free Radicals:

       Free radicals are created when molecules lose hydrogen and electrons causing molecular instability. These unstable molecules, with their lost electrons, seek to obtain a replacement electron from a stable molecule and in doing so, create a new unstable molecule.  It is these unstable molecules seeking to become stable that are called free radicals.  This process of molecules losing and seeking electrons can lead to billions of free radicals roaming around in the body at any given moment.  While free radicals are used by the body’s immune system to destroy pathogens, it is when the creation of these unstable molecules becomes excessive that free radicals are very damaging to the body. Free radical damage creates inflammation and inflammation is at the heart of most disease, including cancer..  Antioxidants are substances that neutralize free radicals. 

        Antioxidants created by the body and found in foods neutralize free radicals.  Our immune system can eliminate aberrant cells created by damaged DNA, including cancer cells.  All this is possible only if we do what is necessary to nutritionally support the body systems that are responsible for protecting us. This is why the quality of our diet and our willingness to maintain general physical fitness are such critical dynamics in the battle to treat an existing cancer or to prevent cancer from developing.

 The Hormone Estrogen:

        The body makes three estrogens: estradiol, estrone and estriol.  Estradiol is the most potent and abundant of the three and most responsible for increasing your risk for breast cancer. The more estradiol your body makes during your lifetime, the greater your risk for breast cancer. During menstruation, your body produces more estradiol. The more periods you have in a lifetime, the greater risk of breast cancer.  That is why if you start menstruating at an early age or begin menopause at a later age, your risk for breast cancer increases. For example, if you were younger than age fourteen when you began to menstruate, your risk is 30 percent higher than if you started at age sixteen. If you were ten when you started menstruating, your risk is 50 percent higher than if you had started at age sixteen. If you begin menopause at age fifty-five versus age forty-five, your risk is 50 percent higher.  The shorter your menstrual cycles are, the more of them you will have during your lifetime which will increase your risk for breast cancer.

        Pregnancies reduce your risk of breast cancer.  While pregnant, your body produces the much weaker estriol which has very minimal effect as to your risk for breast cancer.  Research shows that women who have never had a child have a 20 to 70 percent increase in risk of having breast cancer by the time they are age forty-five.  Breast feeding lowers your risk of breast cancer because you normally don’t menstruate while breast feeding which cuts down on your lifetime production of estradiol.  

        Before menopause, the ovaries produce most of your estrogen.  After menopause, the ovaries stop making estrogen, but estrogen continues to be produced by fat cells and the adrenal glands.  When estrogen reaches the breasts, it attaches to estrogen receptors on breast cells. Such receptors are found throughout the body, but are at higher concentrations in the breasts and uterus.  When estrogen binds to a cell receptor, it causes that cell to divide.  The type of estrogen that binds to breast cells will determine the rate at which these cells divide.   Estradiol will cause much greater cell division than estriol. Greater cell division creates greater opportunity for cell mutation to occur due to DNA damage.

        By causing cells to divide, estrogen prepares the body for possible pregnancy.  Once this is accomplished, estrogen leaves receptors and travels to the liver where it is processed out the body as a waste product or metabolized into two different pathways.  The 2-hydroxy pathway results in good estrogen metabolites (metabolic bi-products) which are returned to the blood stream and play a role in building strong bones, preventing heart disease and removing cancerous cells in the body. The 16-hydroxy pathway produces bad metabolites that lead to osteoporosis, breast, ovarian and uterine cancer and a variety of other health problems.

        In addition to the estrogen produced by the body, we are exposed to a variety of estrogen mimics called xenoestrogens.  Xenoestrogens are estrogen like molecules found in a variety of chemical compounds such as synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, household cleaning agents, etc.  These xenoestrogens fill estrogen receptor sites in the body and contribute to a condition called estrogen dominance.  When you add the consumption of estrogens found in dairy and meat products, along with birth control drugs, it becomes easy to understand that estrogen dominance is a growing problem and a problem that can lead to a variety of health problems, including breast cancer.

TREATMENT OF BREAST CANCER:

        If you already have breast cancer, you have probably chosen one of the conventional methods of treating your cancer. Such methods may include lumpectomy to remove a cancerous tumor, mastectomy to remove the entire breast and radiation and/or chemotherapy as a complement to both.   While these procedures may help save your life, you should be interested in what you can do to prevent your cancer from reoccurring. If you don’t presently have breast cancer, you should want to know what you can do to prevent it.  Remember, breast cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death among women.  To reduce this statistic, there needs to be awareness and implementation of nutritional protocols and lifestyle adjustments which will not only reduce the incidence of breast cancer, but provide for improved health in general.  The remainder of this essay will be dedicated to exploring what you can do to protect yourself from the ravages of this disease. 

The Soy Factor:

        Because 70% of breast tumors have proven to be estrogen dependent, it is apparent that controlling estrogen activity in the body should be a primary goal in our effort to treat and prevent breast cancer. Clinical studies show that the more soy a women eats, the less likely she will develop breast cancer.  For example, a study published in the June 2003 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reported that women who ate three bowls of soy miso soup per day had a 40 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer.  Soy beans have what are called phytoestrogens which behave like estrogen but at a much weaker level.  By competing with the body’s estrogen and environmental xenoestrogens, these phytoestrogens fill estrogen receptors at a very weak level and thus prevent stronger estrogens from exerting their influence upon cell division. 

        Soy phytoestrogens provide additional benefits.  Four studies have shown phytoestrogens can increase the length of the menstrual cycle (the time between periods) by two to five days. This may have a protective benefit against breast cancer by reducing a women’s lifetime exposure to estrogen. Genistein, the primary phytoestrogen in soy, has been shown in laboratory experiments to eliminate free radicals and thus provide protection against DNA damage.  Genistein has also been shown to block the enzyme tyrosine kinase which is responsible for signaling excessive cell division.  Finally, research has shown that genistein inhibits angiogenesis, a process by which cancerous tumors grow new blood vessels to feed themselves.      

        When consuming soy, it is best to eat the entire bean or eat products made from the entire bean.  Eating fermented soy foods such as tofu, miso and tempeh appear to provide theat most benefit.  I recommend staying away from highly process soy extracts such as textured vegetable protein (TVP) and even soy milk.  Some studies indicate that when the phytoestrogens in soy are removed from the whole bean and consumed as an extract, they can actually raise estradiol levels rather than lower them. On the other hand, such increases in estradiol when taking soy extracts did not appear to increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

The Iodine Factor:

       Next to the thyroid gland, the breasts contain the second highest amount of the trace mineral iodine.  Iodine is generally deficient in the American diet and research indicates this is contributing to the growing epidemic of breast cancer.  Iodine has been shown to increase the activity of a certain gene that plays a role in balancing estrogen activity in the breasts.  Iodine has been shown to cause cancer cell death.  It has been demonstrated that when sufficient levels of iodine are restored to breast tissue, such tissue remains healthy and is much less susceptible to cancer.  I recommend taking the supplement Tri-Iodine from the company EuroPharma as a way of increasing the body's iodine levels.  For more information on the role of iodine in the body, go to: my article on iodine under the heading "Nutrition 101: Micro Minerals.

Eat Your Broccoli:

        As mentioned above, the term estrogen actually refers to three different hormones: Estrone, Estradiol and Estriol. All three undergo various conversions in the liver.  Estrone can convert into two forms.  One form becomes a very biologically active form which is associated with cancer development.  Its other form can actually inhibit the growth of malignant tumors.  A plant nutrient called diindolylmenthane (DIM), derived from cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, has been found to increase the form of Estrone that helps to prevent cancerous growth.  Research has shown that women who have a higher level of this protective type of Estrone have reduced breast cancer risk.  Eating more cruciferous vegetables will increase DIM levels in the body and contribute to greater protection from cancer.  For those wishing not to eat a lot of cruciferous vegetables, there is a product from Natures Way called DIM Plus which will provide the body with an ample supply of DIM.  We carry DIM Plus at Milk ‘N Honey.

 Flax Seed and Breast Cancer:

        Flax seed provides the important omega-3 fat called alpha linolenic acid which will decrease the rate at which breast cells divide in response to estrogen.  Flax is a great source for lignans which are plant compounds that give plants their structure. Like phytoestrogens in soy, lignans act as weak estrogens, which compete with stronger estrogens to fill estrogen receptors. Lignans help the breast to be more resistant to toxins and decrease the effectiveness of growth factors that are responsible for the spread of cancer. Lignans interfere with angiogenesis in a similar manner as genistein in soy.

        A 1993 study from the University of Rochester showed that flax seed high in lignans lengthens the menstrual cycle and thus reduces lifetime levels of estradiol.  Finally, lignans have been shown to reduce production of estrogen by fat cells and increase the production of good estrogen metabolites while blocking the effects of toxic metabolites. This is the same thing that drugs such as Tamoxifen are designed to do. You can obtain lignans by eating ground up flax seed and/or taking high lignan flax oil. These products are available at Milk ‘N Honey.   

 Stop Feeding Cancer:

        Sugar feeds cancer! Malignant tumors frequently exhibit an increase in anaerobic (without oxygen) metabolism. This is a metabolism where cancer cells burn glucose (blood sugar) in the absence of oxygen. This results in the production of abundant lactic acid.  Lactic acid buildup lowers body pH which means body tissues become more acidic.  Cancer cells grow more prolifically in an acidic environment.  Lactic acid buildup interferes with production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), our basic energy molecule, by reducing the extraction of energy from the food we eat.  This leads to malnourishment and subsequent fatigue.  This results in many cancer patients experiencing a “wasting away” because of the lack of proper food metabolism.

        When battling cancer, you must eliminate simple sugars such as sucrose (common table sugar) and fructose from the diet.  Sucrose quickly converts to glucose.  Most commercial fructose is made from corn syrup and is 55% fructose and 45% glucose. The glucose immediately passes into the blood stream while the fructose is converted by the liver to glycogen (stored carbohydrate), which is converted to glucose as the body needs it or is converted to triglycerides which increased the amount of stored fat in the body.  

        A study involving sixty-eight mice injected with an aggressive strain of breast cancer was fed diets to induce either high blood sugar, normal blood sugar or low blood sugar.  After 70 days, only 8 of 24 mice with high blood sugar were still alive.  16 of the 24 mice with normal blood sugar were still living.  Of the 20 mice with low blood sugar, 19 had survived.

        An epidemiological study in 21 countries, including North America, revealed that sugar intake is a strong risk factor that contributes to higher breast cancer rates, especially in older women.  It is interesting to note that the PET scan (Positive Emission Tomography Device) used to detect breast cancer, uses radioactively labeled glucose to detect sugar hungry tumor cells.  Thus, the medical establishment recognizes the sugar hungry nature of cancer cells.

        A human study involved ten healthy people who were fed 100 grams of simple carbohydrates such as glucose and sucrose.  The purpose was to measure the activity of neutrophils, which are immune cells that envelop and destroy pathogens including cancer cells.  The consumption of these sugars significantly reduced the ability of neutrophils to do their job in the body. One researcher found that the protective activity of the immune systems T lymphocytes was reduced by 94 percent after eating a meal high in sugars,   Consumption of complex carbohydrates; on the other hand, do not have this effect on immunity.

        Simple sugars as found in many processed and refined foods, fast foods, deserts, snacks, soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, etc., quickly increase blood sugar levels which restrict the immune system from fighting cancer and actually accelerate the growth of cancerous  tumors. Simple sugars rapidly increase the production of insulin.  Insulin, which attaches itself to insulin receptors on breast cells, causes cells to divide in much the same way as estrogen does.  Such cell division can increase the risk for cells to mutate into cancerous tumors.  It’s been shown that women with high insulin levels have a much greater risk of breast cancer. In addition, insulin plays a role in the degree to which estrogen attaches to estrogen receptors on breast cells.  The more insulin, the more that free estrogen becomes available to estrogen receptors.

        Complex carbohydrates as found in vegetables, whole grains and legumes, break down slowly into glucose and, therefore, do not have the negative impact on the immune system or feed tumors in the manner seen with simple sugars. If you have breast cancer, get simple sugars out of your diet. This is advice for treatment of most cancers and also a way to practice cancer prevention and protect against degenerative disease in general.

        Obtain your carbohydrates primarily from vegetables which will not only give you complex carbohydrates, but will also provide vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids and fiber. Simple sugars as found in fruit are fine. However, while fighting cancer, I would go light on eating fruit in order to keep the overall level of simple sugars low in the body.

        You should also purchase a glucose monitor, such as diabetics use, to keep track of your blood sugar levels. Your goal should be to keep your blood sugar levels in the 90 to 100 mg/dl range.  To accomplish this you will need to keep dietary simple sugars at a minimum, exercise to burn sugar, and possibly take supplements which will enhance sugar metabolism. 

 INFLAMMATION AND CANCER:     

       Inflammation has been found to be at the heart of most degenerative disease including cancer. If you can limit inflammation in the body you can limit the onset of cancer and other diseases.  One way to reduce inflammation is to supplement with anti-inflammatory herbs. The king of anti-inflammatory herbs is turmeric. The herb turmeric contains compounds called curcuminoids which are phenolic compounds known to facilitate anti-inflammatory effects. They appear to block inflammatory processes by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, down-regulating the COX-2 enzyme and suppressing pro-inflammatory genes.  Turmeric’s most active and dominant curcuminoid is curcumin.  Research has shown that curcumin is an effective antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.  Curcumin has been shown to be effective in the treatment of a variety of health problems including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis.  

Curcumin and Cancer:

       In a 2004 study, lung cancer cells treated with curcumin showed curcumin to have an inhibitory effect on the growth of these cells and to facilitate the death of existing cancer cells.  A 2005 study reported in Biochemical Pharmacology found that curcumin can help slow the spread of breast cancer cells to the lungs in mice.  This report explained that curcumin acts to shut down genes that are involved in the growth of cancer cells. Research at Emory School of Medicine has shown that curcumin attacks vascular endothelial growth factors which reduces the ability of tumors to generate their own blood supply lines.  This is a critical dynamic in preventing tumors from growing. At Milk 'N Honey we make available two high quality Turmeric extracts, Turmeric Force from New Chapter and Curamin and CuraMed from EuroPharma. For more information on these products and on the connection between inflammation and disease, go to  INFLAMMATION; THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

Pomegranate and cancer:

       Pomegranate fruit contains polyphenols which are chemical compounds that perform antioxidant activity in the body.  A major polyphenol found in pomegranate is ellagitannin, which hydrolyzes in the body (breaks down) into ellagic acid.   The Hollings Cancer Institute at the University of South Carolina conducted a nine year double blind study on a group of 500 cervical cancer patients and found that ellagic acid inhibited mitosis (proliferation) of cancer cells and facilitated apoptosis (cell death) for breast, pancreas, esophageal, skin, colon and prostate cancer cells.  Ellagic acid inhibits the initiation of tumors through a number of mechanisms, including inhibition of metabolic activation of carcinogenic compounds such as hydrocarbons and certain food preservatives.  Therefore this acid is beneficial as a preventive against cancer.

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS:

       Preventing breast cancer involves the same dietary, nutritional and life-style dynamics as does preventing disease in general.  You must maintain a strong immune system by eating a high quality diet and avoiding processed, refined foods. You must get adequate amounts of fiber in the diet.  Research shows that women who eat a high fiber diet have a 54% lower risk of breast cancer.  If overweight, you must lose weight. Fat cells produce estrogen.  It is believed that 20 to 30 percent of all breast cancer diagnosed after menopause is related to being overweight. To be healthy you must exercise.  Exercise lowers blood sugar, boasts immunity, strengthens all body tissues and reduces stress.  Stress reduction is critical as research shows the risk for breast cancer, like much degenerative disease, increases with unrelieved stress. 

        There are specific nutrients that have been shown to play a role in prevention of breast cancer.  Research has shown that women with the lowest levels of vitamin B-12 have the highest rates of breast cancer.  B12 has been shown to inhibit breast cancer cells from growing.  Another B vitamin, folic acid, is critical to the repair of DNA.  A recent study showed that women who had a lot of folic acid in their diet had much lower rates of breast cancer. Taking a high quality B vitamin complex would insure you are getting ample amounts of B-12 and folic acid, as well as, all other B vitamins.

       In addition to a B- complex, I recommend a high quality green food concentrate such as BarleyLife which will provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes and antioxidants. 

        If you presently have breast cancer, there are specific supplements you can take which will help your body fight the cancer.  A substance called IP-6, made of phytic acid with the addition of the B vitamin inositol, has been shown to boost the activity of the immune system’s natural killer (NK) cells which in turn kill cancer cells.  The herb Cat’s Claw, when containing high levels of the compound called pentacyclic oxindole alkaloids (POA’s), has been shown to enhance the activity of the immune system’s macrophages, which are large white cells which digest foreign material including cancer cells.  Cat’s Claw, high in POA’s, also increase the number of T-cells which are major players in the body’s immune response.  In some European countries, Cat’s Claw is routinely used in conjunction with conventional cancer treatment.  We recommend the Cat’s Claw product Saventaro from Enzymatic Therapy. This product has high levels of POA’s and is free of tetracyclic oxindole alkaloids (TOA’s) which destroy the effectiveness of POA’s. 

        The medicinal mushroom Maitake has a compound called D-fraction, which laboratory studies show will stop the growth of cancer cells and cancerous tumors by stimulating the activity of both macrophages and natural killer cells.  All three of these components, IP-6 with inositol, Cat’s Claw with high POA levels and Maitake, are available in a single formula called Cell Fort’e Max3 from Enzymatic Therapy.  We carry this product at Milk ‘N Honey.    

 CONCLUSION: 

       If you are currently undergoing medical treatment for breast cancer, complementing such treatment with the recommendations given above will provide you with additional tools to eliminate the cancer and bring your body back into homeostasis (balance).  If you don’t have breast cancer, you will want to do all you can to prevent it.  Following the nutritional protocols discussed in this essay will provide your body with elements it needs to lower your risk of developing this disease.

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