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Natural Strategies for Cancer Patients
By Russell L. Blaylock
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2003 Russell L. Blaylock, M.D.
All rights reserved.
Fighting Cancer with Nutrition
We have known for more than a century that people who eat a diet consisting mostly of fruits and vegetables have a cancer rate much lower than those consuming few of these healthy foods. Only recently have we begun to understand the scientific basis of this protection, however. New techniques for measuring biochemical events on a molecular level have allowed us to map out the many ways the components of fruits and vegetables inhibit cancer formation.
Even more exciting is the discovery that many of the chemicals found in edible plants can turn cancer cells into normal cells, meaning that food components may indeed be used to reverse cancer itself. In addition, these same plant chemicals can reduce the complications associated with the conventional cancer treatments and enhance, sometimes dramatically, the effectiveness of these treatments.
Nutrition in Cancer Prevention and Treatment
The ability of nutrition to prevent the occurrence of cancer is now beyond dispute. In a paper appearing in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Dr. K. A. Steinmetz and his coworkers found by reviewing 206 of the best human cancer surveys and 22 animal studies that of all the dietary factors considered in relation to reducing cancer development, at all of its stages, the most important was the intake of fruits and vegetables.
In fact, over all, the cancer rates were reduced 50 percent in the people who ate the most fruits and vegetables, with the greatest reduction being in cancers of the esophagus, oral cavity, larynx, pancreas, stomach, colon, rectum, bladder, cervix, ovary, endometrium, and breast. Even better protection was seen with some types of cancer.
The greatest fall in cancer rates in humans has been with cancer of the stomach, attributed almost solely to a higher intake of vitamin C-containing foods. To better appreciate the power of phytochemicals in foods in preventing cancer, let us look at a study done in Japan. It was found that people eating the most yellow-green vegetables had a stomach cancer incidence 65 percent lower than those eating significantly fewer of these vegetables. If that is not impressive enough, another study found that persons eating citrus fruits just twice a month or less had a sixteen-times higher risk of developing stomach cancer than those eating fruits at least once a week or more.
Today we hear a lot about cancer of the pancreas. It took the lives of President Jimmy Carter's sister and actor Michael Landon, as well as of 28,200 people in the year 2000 alone. It has a mortality rate of more than 90 percent. Yet, its occurrence appears to be strongly related to our diet. In one study, it was found that people who ate no vegetables had a fourfold higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer than those who ate five or more servings of vegetables. Reducing the pancreatic cancer risk depended mostly on eating vegetables and fruits high in beta-carotene and especially lycopene, the red pigment in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon.
This same red pigment appears to play a leading role in preventing prostate cancer, with the risk being lowered 35 to 45 percent in those eating a lot of such fruits and vegetables. Vitamin E, especially when combined with selenium, also dramatically reduces the risk of this cancer.
While we are learning more about how these nutrients inhibit cancer, something even more exciting is occurring in the world of science. We are now finding that the very same nutrients can be used to inhibit the growth, invasion, and metastasis of cancers that already exist, and that when we combine these nutrients with conventional cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, the conventional therapies work significantly better. If that were not enough, an increasing number of studies have demonstrated that vitamins, minerals, and other phytonutrients can protect patients from the harmful side effects of these conventional treatments.
Numerous anticancer components are found in foods. A partial list includes:
Antiestrogens and antiprogestins
Carotenoids, folate, niacinamide, and vitamins A, D, K, and B12
Flavonoids (some 5,000 have now been identified)
Glycolipids and glycoproteins
Selenium (principally in an organic form)
Sterols and sterolins (plant steroids)
Most patients dread the effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatments as much as, and sometimes more than, their cancer. This is especially so for patients who already have had to go through several rounds of chemotherapy treatments. Today, it is not uncommon for cancer patients to undergo such treatments for as long as a year. Overwhelming fatigue, nausea and/or vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and severe bone marrow depression can make life seem hopeless and, for many, hardly worth living.
To be physically ill every day for months is very difficult. Yet my experience, confirmed now by many studies, has shown that patients do not have to suffer to receive benefit from the conventional treatments. The vast majority of the complications and side effects of the conventional treatments can be avoided by using simple nutritional methods.
While I do recommend many special supplements, the central and most important part of the treatment program is diet. As you shall see throughout this book, diet can mean the difference between success and failure. Many of the phytonutrients I will discuss are not available as separate nutrients, but are obtained by eating selected fruits and vegetables. By combining the two — special supplements and diet — you can supply your body with a very powerful brew of cancer-fighting nutrients.
I always tell my patients that if they try to depend on supplements alone and not change their diet, they will ultimately fail. It is estimated that as many as 70 percent of all cancers are related to the diet. To continue eating the same foods that led to your cancer in the first place is to travel down the road to disaster because, as you shall see, foods often contain extremely powerful cancer-causing and promoting substances as well. The typical Western diet — high in red meats, bad fats, food additives, and carbohydrates — is a perfect cancer brew. Below we can see the effects that different dietary excesses can have on prostate cancer:
High red-meat intake — 200 percent increased risk
High caloric intake — 190 percent increased risk
High dessert intake — 180 percent increased risk
This brew not only causes cancer, but can promote the growth of existing cancers as well. This is especially true of fats. Certain fats, called omega-6 fatty acids, not only stimulate cancer growth, but also powerfully suppress the immune system at the same time. I tell my patients that eating these fats is like adding fertilizer to crab grass. Throughout the book I will describe other cancer fertilizers.
Another problem I see when discussing diet changes with my patients is what most people consider eating lots of fruits and vegetables to be. To many, it means eating their favorite vegetable or fruit. If they like green beans and bananas and eat them several times a day, they consider this to be eating a lot of fruits and vegetables. The beans often come from a can and have very little nutrition left plus have high levels of toxic metals. And the bananas, while having some important nutrients, are very high in sugar, a cancer growth–promoting nutrient.
We see that regular consumption of these foods and a high total caloric intake dramatically increases men's risk of prostate cancer. Additional risk factors include milk consumption and a low intake of the omega-3 oils combined with a high intake of the omega-6 oils.
When I analyze most of my patients' diets, I find that the majority do not eat even two servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Most studies confirm this observation. For example, one survey found that Americans eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables less than 25 percent of the time. The statistics are even worse for children.
In terms of health benefits (mainly in terms of antioxidants), eating fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day does very little good. The health benefits begin at five servings, and for people below the age of fifty, they reach a maximum at ten servings. For those over the age of fifty, adding two additional servings — that is, consuming a total of twelve servings a day — provides the maximum health benefits. So, up to a limit, we gain greater benefit by eating more fruits and vegetables.
Several studies have shown that eating large amounts of fruits and vegetables, especially vegetables, not only retards the growth of cancers, but can convert very aggressive cancers into much more benign tumors. This is a remarkable finding. In the past, we thought that once a cancer formed, its prognosis was always in one direction: Aggressive cancers stayed aggressive and less aggressive cancers could become more aggressive, but never the reverse. Newer studies are even showing, at least experimentally, that some cancer cells can be changed into normal cells using specific nutrients. So, instead of directing all our efforts into figuring out how to kill cancer cells without harming normal cells, we can simply change cancer cells back to normal cells.
The Importance of Understanding the Cancer Process
In the past, before we understood why nutrition works, most of our information was based on anecdotal stories (case histories), studies of large populations of people (epidemiological studies), and word of mouth from those utilizing nutritional treatments outside the medial establishment. This presented two major problems. First, physicians hesitated to use nutrition because little proof or explanation existed for its mechanism of action. Second, cancer patients were often afraid to rely on a treatment method that was not endorsed by the scientific community.
Despite the tens of billions of dollars spent on the war on cancer, we have not found a cure for the disease, but we have learned a lot about the cancer process and how cancer cells differ from normal cells. It is this basic knowledge that elucidated for us what many early practioners of alternative medicine knew all along: something in plants, both as foods and as herbs, has a beneficial effect in suppressing cancer growth.
Chapter 2 of this book goes into more detail about how cells become cancers, what causes this transformation, and why some people are more at risk than others. I would suggest that you read the chapter for its content and not try to memorize all of the technical terms, since they are not important to your understanding. If you find the chapter too technical, I suggest you skip over it and move deeper into the book. I include the chapter because many cancer patients spend an inordinate amount of time exploring all the aspects of their disease and develop a sophistication that allows them to better understand the intricacies of the science.
It should also be appreciated that much of the scientific work was done in an experimental setting. While thousands of cancer patients have been treated successfully with nutritional treatments, few carefully controlled studies of these large populations of patients have been properly done. This is because such studies are very expensive and no one, until recently, has taken an interest in funding them. Recently, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has begun several studies of the nutritional treatment of cancers in large numbers of people. It will be several more years before the final results of these studies appear.
For the cancer patient, waiting for the results of academic studies is not an option. I have used nutritional methods for at least twenty-four years, more so in the last five years, and I have seen undeniable benefits — and no harm — in my patients. There is no question that the patients using these methods tolerate their treatments better and have far fewer complications. They also respond much better to their conventional treatments.
As I will show in the following chapters, selected nutritional supplements affect the cancer cell at multiple steps in its metabolism in such a way as to significantly interfere with its ability to survive. They do this without interfering with the effectiveness of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. By using different ways to kill and suppress cancer cells, nutrition, in fact, enhances the effectiveness of the conventional treatments.
To kill cancer cells, or to at least force them into a dormant state, every mechanism on which the cancer cell depends must be interfered with. Nutritional supplements do this more effectively than either chemotherapy or radiation treatments, and with little or no effect on normal cells, except to make them stronger.
Changing your diet is a very difficult thing to do, especially if the changes are drastic. Most of us are so accustomed to eating foods that are full of artificial flavors, very sweet, or creamy in texture that eating foods without these qualities becomes a chore. Dietary compliance is the most difficult problem I face in treating cancer patients. This is especially so for the patients having the worst diets. For example, a person who lives for his barbecued ribs, french fries, and soft drinks will have great difficulty switching to a plate full of fresh raw vegetables, fruits, and pure water.
If understanding why nutrition is so important does nothing else, it at least helps cancer patients to stick to the new diet. The more you understand the mechanisms by which phytochemicals inhibit cancer growth and spread, the more you will appreciate why even minor variations in your diet can have significant effects on your cancer. There is serious question as to whether cancers are ever completely eradicated. If they are not, then sticking to the diet becomes even more important, since the dormant cancer can be reactivated by a bad diet.
The longer you adhere to the diet, the easier it will be for you to follow. Tastes change with time. People on low-salt diets find normally salted foods far too salty. The same is true for low-sugar diets: people on low-sugar diets soon find foods and drinks containing sugar to taste too sweet. This readjustment process of the taste buds allows us to conform to a diet we previously thought would be unbearable. It's all what we get used to.
Supplements Versus Foods
Many health practitioners who treat cancer with alternative methods insist that no supplements are needed, only pure, healthy foods, while others disagree and promote the use of supplements. Personally, I see a third way: a program based principally on dietary changes and whole foods plus the use of specially selected supplements that have shown particular activity against cancer.
My selection of supplements is based on hard science and numerous clinical studies, as well as in my own personal experience. For example, we now know that the anticancer activity of the different forms of vitamin E varies considerably. Some forms of vitamin E, such as d- or dl-alpha-tocopheryl acetate, have very little anticancer activity, are poorly absorbed, and may interfere with other nutrients, while the d-alpha-tocopheryl succinate form of vitamin E has powerful anticancer activity, is well absorbed, and has the greatest antioxidant activity. The same can also be said for synthetic beta-carotene compared to natural forms.
We should also appreciate that we still do not know all the components in edible plants, nor do we understand many of the functions of the food components that have been isolated. By using only extracts of these plants, we may be missing an as-yet-unidentified anticancer nutrient. In addition, the process of extracting the known nutrients could destroy some of the mysterious components.
One of the big mysteries of nutritional cancer treatments is why it takes so many fruits and vegetables in the diet to have any anticancer effect. Ten servings of fruits and vegetables add up to a lot of produce. Closely connected to this mystery is the difference between the cells of animals and the cells of plants. Most of the nutritious components of plants are confined within their cells, which differ from animal cells in that they have tough cell walls surrounding their membranes. Unfortunately, humans do not have enzymes in their digestive tracts to dissolve these cell walls. As a result, we cannot absorb most of the nutrients in plants.
This leaves us with three ways to extract these locked-in nutrients. First, we can mechanically break the cell walls by chewing all our fruits and vegetables until they are fine mush. Unfortunately, most of us chew our fruits and vegetables just a few times and then swallow. Second, we can cook our fruits and vegetables, since the heating process breaks the cell wall down. The disadvantage of this method is that you also destroy some of the nutrients and wash others away. In addition, you neutralize many of the plant enzymes, which have been shown to play a part in the anticancer effects of plants. Finally, we can mechanically break down the cell walls by either juicing our fruits and vegetables or liquefying them in a blender.
Excerpted from Natural Strategies for Cancer Patients by Russell L. Blaylock. Copyright © 2003 Russell L. Blaylock, M.D.. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 - Fighting Cancer with Nutrition,
2 - The Cancer Process,
3 - Chemotherapy: Poisoning Cancer (and You),
4 - Radiation Therapy: Burning Cancer,
5 - Nutrition and Cancer: Facts and Fallacies,
6 - Nutrition and Cancer Treatments,
7 - Nutrition, Cancer, and Immunity,
8 - Fighting the Special Problems of Cancer Therapy,
Appendix A: Suggested Reading,
Appendix B: Diagnostic Laboratories,