There are so many things that have been strongly linked with fighting off cancer, that we thought we should share them! Here are our top health and lifestyle picks for warding off cancer.
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#1 – Eat Garlic
Garlic has been studied widely for its ability to prevent cancer. It has shown to be especially protective against cancers of the digestive system, particularly bowel cancer, stomach cancer, intestinal cancer, esophageal cancer and pancreatic cancer.
Garlic may also reduce the risk of prostate cancer, with an intake of garlic and scallions reducing the risk by 50% in one study. Garlic may also help to keep breast cancer at bay – with a French study showing a statistically significant reduction in those that consumed more fibre, garlic and onions.
It is not known how garlic works to prevent cancer, but naturopaths and herbalists have used garlic for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties for centuries. Perhaps its ability to modify gut flora may play a part in its anti-cancer effect in the digestive tract. Most studies are population-based and look at dietary intake. It seems that the more garlic and other foods from the allium family you eat, such as onions and scallions, the more protection you will have against these cancers. Try eating 1 or 2 small cloves per day, some cooked and some raw for the best benefit
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#2 – Up Your Cruciferous Vegetable Intake
Cruciferous vegetables are part of the brassica family. They include these vegetables, as well as others:
|Bok ChoyBroccoliBrussels sproutsCabbageCauliflower
A higher intake of cruciferous vegetables has been associated with a reduced risk of developing several cancers, including breast, colon and lung cancer. Their anticancer properties are thought to come from their sulfur compounds, such as indoles and isothiocyanates. In vitro studies have found that indoles and isothiocynates can help to inactive carcinogens, protect cells from DNA damage and help to induce apoptosis (pre-programmed cell death that prevents tumour formation). They can also inhibit angiogenesis (blood supply to the tumour) and tumour cell migration (stop cancer cells moving), both of which are essential to cancer treatment and prevention.
You should try and eat at least 1 serve of cruciferous vegetables every single day, and if you are at high risk of cancer then more than this wouldn’t be a bad idea.
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#3 – Have a Cuppa
Tea contains polyphenol compounds, in particular catechins, which may help with cancer prevention. These catechins have significant free radical scavenging activity, which can help to protect cells from DNA damage, which helps them to function as they are intended. Polyphenols, green tea in particular, have been shown to inhibit tumor cell proliferation (growing) and induce apoptosis. Green tea can also help to activate the detoxification enzymes glutathione s-transferase and quinone reductase, which can protect against tumor development.
Although green tea’s anti-cancer properties are well established in-vitro, there have been mixed results in clinical studies. In saying this, there are many positive studies on green tea intake being associated with reductions in the risk of cancers such as prostate, colon, breast and lung cancer. Inconsistencies in results may be due to the different preparations of tea being used, how long they are brewed for and when they are consumed. All of this considered there is still a large body of evidence that suggests that having 3 or more cups of green tea per day significantly reduces your risk of cancer development. Green tea does contain caffeine, so try not to drink it too late at night.
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#4 – Get Some Sun
Wait – haven’t we been told to stay out of the sun to prevent cancer? For years we have been warned of the dangers of the sun but it is now apparent that we need it more than we need to avoid it. Most of your Vitamin D is created in your skin as a result of sun exposure. Deficiencies of Vitamin D have been associated with an increased risk of bowel cancer, and may help to prevent breast cancer, prostate and pancreatic cancers.
Vitamin D has roles in the immune system and acts like a hormonal modulator in the body. We are learning more and more about vitamin D every day but what is apparent is that we really need good levels and that we are not getting enough.
To increase your vitamin D levels through sunlight you need to expose your unprotected skin (no sunscreen etc) between the hours of 10am and 2pm. Short periods of approx. 10 minutes with the forearms or belly exposed will give you the best conversion. It is important not to let your skin become too hot and never burned, those with fair skin may need to take care and have less exposure. Consider taking a vitamin D supplement if you cannot get adequate sun exposure.
Vitamin D can also be found in fatty fish, cod liver oil and organic eggs. If you’re unsure if you’re getting enough, ask your naturopath or your GP to check your levels.
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#5 – Boost Your Antioxidant Intake
Antioxidants include nutrients such as vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin A, zinc, bioflavonoids and lipoic acid as well as dozens of phytochemicals that have identified for their effects. Antioxidants work to prevent cancer by scavenging free radicals – compounds, which in excessive amounts can cause cellular damage and lead to precancerous changes in the cell. Antioxidants also have a role in buffering and assisting with the elimination of toxins such as heavy metals, which can increase cancer risk when there is too much in the body.
The studies that have been done on isolated antioxidants have been found to protect against some cancer types. To gain the most anticancer effects it is best to eat a diet rich in a wide range of antioxidants, rather than taking a supplement. Foods with high antioxidant levels include berries, kiwifruit, pineapple, paw paw, lemons, capsicum, spinach, carrots, tomatoes, grapes, nuts and seeds. Generally foods that are brightly coloured are high in antioxidants, so aim for a rainbow on your plate.
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#6 – Go Organic
Although some may say that eating organic isn’t worth the money, one thing is clear; eating organic is the only way to avoid cancer-causing chemicals that you ingest from your food. Studies have suggested that pesticides can increase the risk of leukaemia, lymphoma, brain tumours, bladder cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer.
There is strong evidence that a higher level of pesticide exposure, for example in the home (fly spray or vermicide use) or those living in agricultural areas have a much higher change of developing several cancers. Eating organic in an urban setting is essential if we are to break the cycle of pesticide use to reduce the risk to workers and residents in farming communities. Pesticides in the home should be used cautiously and sparingly if absolutely essential.
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#7 – Move Your Booty
There is strong evidence that exercise is associated with reduced rates of colon and breast cancer. There has also been links between how much you move and uterine, lung and prostate cancer.
Physical activity has been found to affect a number of immune factors and has an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Exercise can also modulate insulin, hormones and energy balance so may affect cancers this way.
Research is also indicating that exercise helps to improve quality of life and breast cancer survival rates for those already diagnosed.
Exercising moderately for 30 minutes 5 days a week, or intensely for 20 minutes 3 days a week is considered the minimum amount that we need to stay healthy. Doing 3 longer sessions of 1 hour in the week would also be a great level of physical activity.
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#8 – Shed Those Extra Kilos
If the link between inactivity and cancer hasn’t got you off the couch yet, this will. Obesity increases your risk of developing cancers of the esophagus, pancreas, bowel, rectum, breast, uterus, kidney, thyroid and gallbladder. In some cancers, obesity can increase the risk of development by up to 40%.
Excess fat in the body causes more hormones that can stimulate cancer growth. Obese people are also in a state of inflammation, which can further increase the risk of cancer. If you are overweight then checking in with a naturopath may help. As well as giving you a diet and lifestyle plan they can prescribe you supplements to help improve metabolism and check out if there is anything that could be stopping you from losing weight.
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#9 – Ditch the Plastic
Studies have shown that bisphenol A (BPA), a common ingredient in plastics may increase your risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer, and a study published this year (2014) found that liver tumors were found in mice whose mothers were exposed to BPA during gestation and nursing. BPA is found in plastic water bottles and other drink bottles, plastic food storage containers, CDs and in the plastic that lines canned food. BPA is lipophilic (fat loving) so is easily leached into your food through these mediums. It can also be found in children’s toys and household items.
BPA is directly linked to exposure and avoiding it can help to decrease concentrations in the blood quite quickly. Use a glass or stainless steel drinking bottle, avoiding ‘wet’ foods that are in plastic, particularly if they have been heated up (no microwaving) and avoiding canned food will help to decrease your levels. BPA free plastics may be no better; they often contain other bisphenol compound that could be just as harmful.
Another plastic toxin is phthalates, and is found in food wrappings, babies toys and plastic wrap. They can disrupt the endocrine system and have been found to alter gene expression and increase proliferation of cancer cells in-vitro. Avoiding all plastic is the safest way to go.
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#10 – Give Your Beauty Cabinet a Health Check
Are cancer-causing compounds lurking in your beauty cabinet? From your lippy to your moisturiser, there are many things you need to look out for that can increase your risk of cancer.
May contain lead, a known human carcinogen. Most of your lippy ends up being consumed by you, so this one is essential to get organic.
Fragrance is an ingredient that can contain hundreds of different chemicals. Most commonly they contain phthalates, which have been shown to disrupt the way that cells behave, which could increase cancer risk. Perfume is the highest source of phthalates, but most scented beauty products contain some level of this chemical. Even those that are ‘unscented’ often have a chemical concoction to mask the smells of the product.
Nail polish contains benzene, a known human carcinogen and has strong links to breast cancer. Look for natural based polishes that are free from this chemical.
Moisturisers, cleansers and makeup
These products can contain parabens, which are endocrine disruptors that have the potential to increase the risk of breast cancer.
These products may contain a chemical called hydroquinone, which has been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer, and should be avoided.