It has been common knowledge for some time now how important diet is to maintaining a balanced immune system, and in helping to prevent many (I would actually say all pathologies) namely cancer.
I would like to make it clear that I do not treat cancer tumors; I am simply stressing the importance of diet in the eventual genesis and progression of this disease. Often patients seek advice regarding diet and nutrition, since apparently no one speaks to them about this important pillar of our health, although many feel that something clearly needs to change.
Information pertaining to the “terrain” where the disease first developed is often lacking and this must change. This situation is frequently observed in patients diagnosed with malignant tumors and it saddens me terribly. We treat the malady but we do not treat health, or look to alter what may have led to the appearance of disease in the first place.
Patients today read a lot and are better informed. We must all follow the most recent breakthroughs and know a bit about diet and nutrition, physical exercise, supplements, hormonal balance and healthy lifestyles so that everything may go as well as possible. These are the five pillars of medicine which should be understood by all (diet, physical exercise, dietary supplementation, hormonal balance and healthy lifestyles). Treating only the signs and symptoms of disease, not treating disease prevention and the terrain where it will eventually develop, is only likely to postpone a bad outcome.
Bad eating habits stress the immune system and will facilitate the appearance of disease.
Diet, the immune system and malignant tumors are in fact related. We estimate that genetics is only responsible for the appearance of 10% of tumors. Epigenetics, or in other words, everything that happens in our environment is responsible for “genetic derepression” even if it is already present and leads to the development of the pathology. Genetics may provide us with a weapon but we pull the trigger. I often say, and we need to realize this once and for all: we are what we eat! Over 2,000 years ago Hypocrites was already of the same opinion, something so simple to understand, yet apparently so difficult to respect and remember when we sit down for a meal.
There is a close relationship between diet and the immune system, thereby tumors.
Acute or chronic stress and I remind you that stress is not only emotional or due to psychosomatic factors, it is also physical (for example, violent physical exercise, and radiation) and chemotherapy (for example the birth control pill) all favor the eventual appearance of disease.
It is well-known that the immune system secretes peptides, predecessors to neurotransmitters, and that tumor cells and stress block effector cells from triggering an immune response such as NK (Natural Killers) lymphocytes.
This is a highly individual response because everyone reacts to the same event with different types of “stress”, which are determined by the behavioral modulation each individual developed since their intrauterine life, and especially during their first years of life, as well as their experiences throughout life. Thus why I advise everyone to try to see the positive side of everything, not to focus on the bad experiences in life, and always strive for harmony.
The truth is that all “stressful” situations impact our body emotionally, physically or chemically. This in turn causes our suprarenal glands to secrete more cortisol and catecholamine, in other words, to stimulate our Sympathetic Nervous System. These hormones inhibit our white blood cells, involute the thymus, leading to a suppression of the immune system, consequently making the person more susceptible to infection and tumors.
High cortisol levels increase the TGF (Tumor growth factor), inhibit macrophages, the cells respond immediately to “destroy” cancer cells which form daily in our body, and inhibit other cells of the immune system.
Research has shown that stress levels directly affect the immune system’s suppression levels.
Stress and nervous tension lead to a “fight or flight” reaction, which is characterized by a rise in cortisol. If we come for example, face to face with a lion, if our suprarenal glands are working well, we have two options: fight or flight. If our suprarenal glands are not working effectively by deploying a cortisol response, we will most surely succumb to the lion.
We need to understand that our immune system works better in a parasympathetic mode, which is activated during periods of sleep, rest, relaxation or meditation.
This is why the importance of sleep, and its quality is fundamental, and is usually the first issue to address with any patient, instead of resorting to the use of hypnotics, anxiolytics or anti-depressants which may bring problems in the future.
Cancer was, until recently, attributed to DNA mutation. We forgot about tumor metabolism since finding out about the existence of oncogenes, which are capable of promoting cancer, and tumor suppressor genes, capable of repairing this same DNA and regulating cellular death (apoptosis).
But before these mutations can happen, there are other local, structural and metabolic imbalances taking place on a cellular level.
Modern medicine is focused on “destroying the enemy” instead of comprehending what caused this aggressive behavior in the first place.
I would like to point out the importance of epigenetics, the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression.
Meaning that even without any modification in the DNA sequence, genes may “mal-function” as a result of the environment we live in.
There may be an alteration in DNA transcription, an aberrant activation of designated genes, an alteration in the control of chromosome duplication, in silencing the genes implicated in the ripple effect that is the start and progression of cancer.
The simplified sequence for better understanding should be:
- An alteration in cellular metabolism;
- An anomalous genetic expression (an alteration in DNA transcription, inactivation of gene suppressors);
- DNA Mutation;
In 1931, Otto Heinrich Warburg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for his work, which showed fermentation in an anaerobic (lack of oxygen) environment. In this case, a cell without oxygen makes the environment acid, which as most know is highly conducive to the development of cancer tumors.
Cancer can then be viewed as a consequence of a diet and an anti-physiological lifestyle since every form of cancer is characterized by two basic conditions: acidosis (due to an elimination of hydrogen ions in the interior of the cancerous cell which is intracellularly alkaline) and a lack of oxygen.
Cancer cells are in fact “anaerobic” (they do not need oxygen to survive) and do not survive in organisms with high oxygen levels.
Tumor metabolism is therefore anaerobic, requires an acidic pH level and sugar fermentation.
A normal mitochondria (our cellular energy factory) generates 38 moles of ATP for each mole of glucose, in order to render “cellular energy”, while a tumoral cell generates only 2 moles of ATP for each mole of glucose.
Therefore, tumor cells need a lot of sugar for the fermentation process so they can generate ATP, the energy needed for its survival. They need more sugar, 20 to 30 times more than a normal, healthy cell, thereby using anaerobic glucose which produces lactic acid and the aforementioned acidosis.
I hope you have understood that cancer cells need sugar to develop and survive. Therefore, giving a patient sugar is only feeding and facilitating the progression of tumors, even if they have not manifested themselves yet.
Changing diet to restrict sugars and starches enables us to undermine cancer cells, alter their state of subsistence and make them “die from starvation”, reactivate their mitochondrial metabolism so that they are no longer anaerobic. As a result, the cells are thereby more vulnerable to therapy (chemotherapy or radiation therapy, both less effective in anaerobic cells) and are able to better respond to therapies successfully.
Intracellular alkalinity leads to specific alterations in genes which are responsible for pathological functions at the origin, during the growth and uncontrolled progression of a tumor.
What to do?
Given what we have discussed, I hope everyone has understood the bad influence sugar has on tumor metabolism, and how it will only promote and facilitate the proliferation of the tumor.
Glucose serum levels should never be above 85 mg/dl when fasting, and at any other time of the day should never exceed 140 mg/dl.
I would like to highly advise clinical laboratories to take care to centrifuge blood immediately after it has been collected and clot retracted, as opposed to having it sit on a counter for prolonged amounts of time, waiting for the end of the day to centrifuge all the serums.
I know this still happens when I see patients’ glucose levels at 40 mg/dl, which is not clinically justified. There is a decrease of about 7 to 10 mg/dl per hour in blood glucose levels due to erythrocytes being consumed. Therefore, if blood is withdrawn from a patient at 8 a.m., and the blood is only centrifuged at 1 p.m., the glucose level may have dropped by close to 50 mg/dl, and a patient who thinks they have a reading of 80 mg/dl, in fact has 130 mg/dl while fasting, a value that indicate a pre-diabetic state with “altered glucose levels when fasting”.
Personally, I would prefer to see patients’ blood test results that were not taken when fasting. I need to see how the patient’s body reacts on a day to day basis, and as explained before, the “referenced intervals” for blood tests have very little in common with the “normal” or “accepted” values. They simply mean that 95% of the population for that particular age group is within these values. These are the patients who rely on laboratories for blood testing.
To carry on where we left off, glucose levels over 85 mg/dl produce a chemical reaction with proteins and lipids called glycation, a process known to feed cancer cells, and also one of the main enemies of longevity.
When glucose levels sit at 110 to 124 mg/dl at fasting, mortality risks rise by close to 40% and the risk doubles if the interval rises to between 126 and 138 mg/dL.
Research shows that high glucose levels are in fact related to more cancer and a higher
resistance to chemotherapy treatment in breast cancer, and perhaps most other types as well.
Our bodies respond to the high levels of glucose by producing more insulin, which in turn promotes the development of cancer tumors.
I remind you that the three main consequences of insulin peaks are: a proliferation of adipose cells, a proliferation of tumor cells and a decrease in anabolic hormones. All these cause hyperglycemia and although the body makes a great effort to keep everything in balance, when given sugar, it is inhibited from reestablishing this balance.
Even amongst the non-diabetic population, high base insulin levels are also related to an increased risk of cancer mortality.
Glycated hemoglobin (HgbA1c), a blood test which allows us to understand the relationship between erythrocytes and sugar present in the blood over the last three months, is an important evaluation parameter, and we have ascertained that mortality risks double if these levels are over 7% when compared with a population whose levels are below 6,5%.
Diabetics are in fact at a higher risk for developing tumors; according to some studies, the risk is 40% higher than for those who are not diabetic.
Recent studies indicate an elevated risk for pancreatic cancer for women with gestational diabetes.
For all of these motives, controlling our sugar intake is fundamental.
Consequently, genetics, epigenetics and the biological field are all related.
We cannot forget that the disease will appear as a cellular imbalance in the field.
Genetics, as we have seen, is responsible for 10% of tumors, and even then, its appearance, earlier or later in life depends on the biological field and epigenetics.
Epigenetics continues to research genetic instability, the alterations in aberrant transcription for specific genes, a predisposition for genetic instability, and the crucial role oncogenes and suppressor genes play. However, we are left with a fundamental question: which causal factors trigger the destabilization process and DNA mutation?
The biological terrain is healthy when a psycho-emotional, physiological and biochemical balance that keeps our body and immune system in balance exists.
Factors which unbalance the biological terrain are: modern diets, psycho-emotional stress, chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, intestinal dysbiosis, a deficiency in oligo elements, xenobiotics, and metabolic acidosis.
We have spoken about most of these themes previously. I would like to ask you to re-read what I have written about endocrine disruption, given how important the subject is for all of us.
Today, all crops are full of pesticides, herbicides, and tobacco is light years away from being the primary cause of cancer compared to the food we eat. Thus we are back to square one: the importance of diet, the type and quality of food we are eating,and how we chew and digest it is fundamental to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
A difficult task nowadays. As I often say: vary your toxins. From fish, fruit, vegetables, eggs and nuts to dried and germinated legumes, do not eat any processed foods, “packs of …” whether they are whole wheat biscuits, gluten-free, protein bars, gelatin in a cup, canned goods with preservatives…
It is sadly true that meat is loaded with hormones and anti-biotics, fish full of plastic and mercury, organic vegetables, which may be free of insecticides, pesticides and herbicides are still probably laced with that little unknown product that will keep the slugs away, not to mention the quality of the water used to water them or the soil and manure quality? This is what is available to us, like it or not. Try varying who you buy your produce from, and buy from local producers at small farmers’ markets. Re-read my posts on diet and nutrition, and endocrine disruption.
So now what to do?
– Control your diet, vary “your toxins” as much as possible, trying to stick to natural and organic as much as possible;
– Control endocrine disruption by being aware of endocrine disruptors;
– Control dysbiosis and inflammation. Treating the intestine is fundamental. “All disease originates in the intestine.”
– Control your pH, remembering that the internal pH of tumor cells is alkaline, and the exterior acidic as the cells release hydrogenium from inside the cell (H+)
Controlling pH levels means analyzing the patient on a global scale so that we may identify their dietary deficiencies in regard to certain oligo elements, which we will prescribe in order to reestablish this balance. The process implies specific solutions, which feature these oligo elements but I remind patients that our diet, by itself, may be more acidic or alkaline.