There is never one program/one remedy that fits all. For instance, my new book, The Gene Therapy Plan, provides a wide range of different foods, beverages, and supplements that I use to create targeted therapies for a variety of medical conditions. However, the nutrients I describe are individualized for each patient for whom I create a “targeted regimen” of medical treatments and adjuvant therapies to prevent disease and maximize treatment.
While I share years of information that I’ve collected on nutrients, it’s important to recognize that “targeted” medical care requires the expertise of a professional. In an ideal situation, the nutrients I outline could be used by practically anyone without any guidance. Unfortunately, in the real world the issue of health is anything but ideal. People are suffering in epidemic proportions from multiple chronic conditions. And in the current state of medical practices, this means that for each condition, different medications are prescribed mainly to ameliorate symptoms, with each having its own set of side effects.
The Right Clinician
Finding a clinician who is great at both taking your history (i.e., medical, family, and social history) and evaluating the underlying causes of disease is crucial to developing sound treatment and incorporating preventative measures. Your diseases, medications, and diet makeup your health status. Without a clear history or definition of underlying inflammation, toxicity, and immune function, certain foods you eat can do only so much.
Further, no two patients are alike. Even identical twins do not share the same risk for developing diseases. While genetics plays a role in disease, it is only a small proportion of medical conditions that can be solely attributed to genetics alone. In fact, many of the diseases that are the top causes of mortality in the U.S. are attributed to non-genetic factors—cancer, heart disease, and obesity. Sure, certain cancers like breast cancer have identifiable genetic links like BRCA1 gene, but these make up only 8% of all breast cancer; however, the majority of cancers (90%) are not caused by genetic mutations that have been inherited.
Cancer: The Ultimate Masquerader
One of the important factors in why cancer evades the body’s natural defense system is because of cancer cells’ cloaking ability. Cancer cells are able to render themselves invisible from your body’s aging immune surveillance system by cloaking its surface markers. The ability of cancer cells to mask their presence makes it difficult to get rid of them entirely after chemotherapy, which is why relapses occur after patients appear seemingly “cured” post-therapy.
Have you ever wondered why cancers generally show up more in older people? It is because the body’s immune system is not as efficient at doing its job when you’re in your 60s or 70s as it was when you’re in your 20s. When you are healthy, your immune system’s defenses are strong. Cancer cells appear practically every day in your body, but a healthy immune surveillance system is able to initiate and activate a series of steps that will call on immune cells to target and kill cancer before it becomes a problem.
Unfortunately, health wanes because of unhealthy diets, lack of sleep, and little to no physical activity. As a result, after years of poor health practices, the immune system becomes weak. What you see with advanced aging and coexisting chronic illnesses is cancer cells sneaking past a weakened immune surveillance system.
The Nutrigenomic Approach to Preventing Disease
Food & Herbs to the Rescue
Environmental factors such as diet play a huge role in the development of diseases such as cancer. The good news is that the contributors to the development of these diseases are things that you can control through your diet. Nutrigenomics uses food in a targeted, balanced way to prevent and to treat disease.
Antioxidants in your diet are crucial because they help protect you from inflammation, free radical damage, and the diseases that develop as a consequence of cellular dysfunction and tissue damage in your body. A pro-inflammatory environment in the body contributes to the development of cancer. A study, which appeared in Carcinogenesis, reported that N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is protective against lung cancer in those undergoing computed tomography (CT) screening. While CTs do a much better job at detecting lung cancer than chest X-rays, they also deliver a greater amount of radiation that could switch normal cells into cancer cells or even promote the proliferation of precancer cells.
Mice were given a carcinogen typically found in tobacco smoke, then over the course of four weeks were either exposed to varying amounts of CT radiation or received no radiation weekly. A subset of mice exposed to radiation was given N-acetylcysteine, and another subset that was never exposed to radiation was also given the antioxidant. Several months after the end of the study, the researchers evaluated the mice for the development of lung tumors. The mice treated with NAC that also received radiation did develop tumors; however, the tumors were comparable to the group of mice that never received any radiation. The researchers concluded that N-acetylcysteine probably could make CT screening for lung cancer safer.
Reishi Mushroom: A Warrior Against Cancer
Consumption of foods that contain compounds that can target pathways used to promote the formation of tumor growth and metastasis is crucial. A multi-targeted compound with anticancer effects is Reishi mushroom. Reishi has a multitude of therapeutic effects. In the prevention and treatment of cancer, polysaccharides, triterpenes, and ganoderma lucidum peptide have been shown to have chemotherapeutic effects.
Reishi mushroom significantly enhances your immune system allowing it to immediately detect, target, and kill cancer cells. Specifically, Reishi extracts force cancer cells out from hiding by making them display their cell surface markers and tagging them for destruction by the body’s immune killer cells. Reishi mushrooms not only enhance immune defenses against cancer, but limit the amount of chemotherapeutic drugs needed as well.
Crunching Your Way To Prevent Cancer
When your mother told you to eat your vegetables, she definitely had good reason: Cruciferous vegetables are a mainstay in helping to maximize the body detoxification centers in order to prevent toxic build up and DNA damage. The consumption of cruciferous vegetables has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer by up to 54%. Cruciferous vegetables are a potent food group that contains a vast array of toxin-fighting nutrients. Many studies have shown that cruciferous vegetables are protective against a number of cancers such as breast, colon, prostate, and ovarian types.
Cruciferous vegetables belong to the plant genus Brassica, and these vegetables have a wide range of dietary options for you to explore:
• Black and brown mustard
• Bok choy
• Brussels sprouts
• Collard greens
• Japanese radishes
Cruciferous Can Reduce the Risk of Cancer By Up to 54%
Here’s why the compounds found in cruciferous vegetables pack such powerful cancer fighting ability. Following are the most commonly researched compounds found in cruciferous vegetables that have been shown to eliminate the toxic burden in your body in order to prevent cancer from developing:
Glucosinolates, commonly found in broccoli and broccoli sprouts, are a powerful anticancer compound. In the study, a diet high in glucosinolates results in a 32% reduction in prostate cancer risk. Specifically, glucosinolates exert chemopreventive effects in myriad of ways:
• Boost the genetic expression of detoxifying enzymes. Prevent cancer cells from creating new blood vessels, hinder metastasis by turning off genes involved in the spread of cancer, and promote cancer cell death via glucosinolates derivatives.
Another protective feature of glucosinolates derivatives is the prevention of stomach cancer by killing H. pylori. Dietary sulfur, rich in broccoli sprouts, reduces condensation and attenuate gastritis in each primary infected mice and humans.
Caveat: Do not overcook (boil) cruciferous vegetables because this reduces the conversion of glucosinolates into bioactive molecules by approximately 300%. Steaming is best.
Di-indolyl-methane (DIM), a glucosinolate derivative, prevents cancer by promoting cancer cell death or apoptosis, preventing tumor growth, inhibiting both cancer angiogenesis and invasion. Both DIM and I3C, another compound involved in cancer prevention, are involved in blocking tumor growth in the female breast and reproductive tract. DIM has shown early promise in animal studies in preventing leukemia and tumor development in the prostate, ovary, cervix, and thyroid. It has also shown promise in the suppression of cancer stem cells, which are responsible for recurrence even after treatment has been successful.
Indole-3 carbinol (I3C) is a crucial compound in cruciferous vegetables that’s been shown to help prevent cancers. I3C has been particularly protective against cancers of the reproductive tract as well as breast, prostate, and colon cancers. For instance, in reproductive tract cancers, I3C helps to maintain healthy ratios of estrogen metabolites; this is important because certain metabolites protect against cancer (2-hydroxy estrone), while others promote cancer (16–hydroxyextrone). One study shows that I3C is also beneficial in early cases of cervical cancer; 50% of patients who received I3C experience complete regression of their cervical cancer, which was not the case in the placebo group.
Watercress, a pungent vegetable, has been shown to prevent prostate, colorectal, and lung cancer. Watercress contains high amounts of the substance phenethyl-isothiocyanate (PEITC), which is a glucosinolate derivative. Of particular interest,
PEITC is an epigenetic modulator that activates cancer-suppressing genes.
More good news: Toxin-fighting compounds found in cruciferous vegetables continue working long after it’s been cleared from your body.
Plant-Based Foods: Powerhouses To Combat Cancer-Causing Genes
I tell my patients to eat an array of pant-based foods and herbs, which have been shown to combat cancer-causing genes. The dietary goal in preventing and beating cancer is to eat foods that are loaded with antioxidants:
Incorporate these herbs in your meals to fight cancer:
• Chili Powder
Spice Rack Suggestions
• Fenugreek: As a medicinal herb, fenugreek made its mark in ancient Egypt where it was first described as a remedy for digestive problems and menopausal symptoms. Centuries later, fenugreek is used as an appetite suppressant, antidiabetic antidote, and lactation stimulator. The herb is indigenous to the Mediterranean region. Although its seeds and leaves are used to spice up dishes, it has been shown to fight prostate cancer. Researchers have also shown that fenugreek kills breast and pancreatic cancer cells, but is selective enough to avoid normal cells.
• Curcumin: Spice up your meals with curry because researchers have found that it (and piperine found in black pepper) selectively target stem cells. Curcumin is a natural pigment that gives curry’s turmeric spice its yellow color, and piperine is an extract in black peppers. The study showed that while cancer stem cells were targeted normal breast tissue cells were unaffected by these compounds.
• Turmeric is also a strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and chemotherapeutic agent. Ecogenetics has revolutionized our understanding of how ecogenetically healthy food can be utilized to treat and prevent disease at the level of our DNA, and turmeric is another example of how readily available ingredients we use in cooking can help prevent diseases like cancer. Turmeric has been shown that curcumin slows down the growth of tumor cells and keeps cancer cells from replicating. Studies are also underway to explore the ability of curcumin to cut off the oxygen supply to tumor cells.