Nutritional Interventions in Cancer Prevention and Cancer Therapy
Updated: Dec 1, 2021
Picture source: New Scientist
Written by Jennifer Coomes CN, E-RYT
Click here for Jennifer's bio!
It’s good be back in connection with all of you. This article comes at such a timely place in my life and I’ll tell you a bit more about that as we get started. Some of you know that I was in a car accident earlier this year in February and that I finally turned in the man who raped me in 2006 to the university where he worked and to the police in 2019 and 2020. As a result of that rape, I had debilitating severe PTSD that worsened during the rape case and improved this year with my Trauma Nutrition protocol. Car accident and PTSD recovery had its own stressors where I learned that my body was having trouble rebounding appropriately, which is why I had to take this year to dig deeper into my healing. What you don’t know as much about is that I was diagnosed with abnormal breast tissue changes in June 2021 that resulted in three breast biopsies this month. All areas were found to be benign for cancer but I do have two high risk areas that need surgical biposy removal to reduce chances for cancer down the road. So, I’m writing this article for all of us, especially at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has brought its source of stressors. Of course, moving through trauma and life brings its own stressors too. The one thing we all need more of right now is a better focus on our health. So, if you are on the path I am on towards genuine healing and health, this article is for you!
Stress can play a huge role in the promotion of cancer and our ability to manage it while our nutrition and lifestyle choices can play a huge role in cancer prevention. My focus here will be on cancer prevention first, and I’ll share some brief information on immunotherapy and chemotherapy, which are the two main therapies used to treat cancer. As a clinical nutritionist (CN), doctorate student in clinical nutrition (future DCN), and soon to be culinary nutrition expert (CNE), my research in nutrition has taken me deep into many conditions ranging from autoimmune disease, PTSD, Covid-19, and cancer. So, you’ll get a close up here on how to use nutrition to retrain your immune system into functioning at its best. Now is the time, so let’s get at it.
There are a few things that happen in the body when it is generating cancerous cells and tumors. The immune system is naturally trained to “clear” cancerous cells by activating a T-cell response, and more specifically, a T-helper cell 1 (Th-1) response. Cancer cells can also be a bit like playing hide and seek. Cancer cells will look for a way to hide from your immune system’s natural response to get rid of anything that doesn’t belong. The key for the cancer cell is to survive, thrive, and procreate, so to speak.
There are two things that allow these cancer cells to do thrive: (1) an oncogene that promotes cancer cell growth, and (2) a brake on the tumor suppressor gene that is designed to stop tumor cell growth. The Th-1 response is naturally designed to “clear” cancer cells, growth, and tumors from the body and it is constantly doing that, but if your immune system does not have a good Th-1 response, then cancer has a way to grow and thrive. Immunotherapy is designed to regenerate that broken Th-1 response to attack cancer cells while chemotherapy is designed to stop tumor growth. Both can either deplete the immune system or cause autoimmune responses, so cancer prevention and cancer treatment require sound diligence to help improve the immune system response while not creating over-reactivity. Clinical nutritionists and culinary experts are an excellent resource when you need to figure out specific foods that will help you thrive to prevent and heal the immune system.
To address cancer prevention through nutrition intervention, we have to think about what kinds of foods help promote a healthy Th-1 response or what foods are specifically found in research to be associated with increasing the risk of cancer. This is when it’s important to start to really think about your food as medicine rather than just hearing the cliché go in and out of your ears. How you eat, what you eat, and what you do over time makes a sincere difference in your ability to control and reduce cancer growth in your body. You really have power over this! So, let’s look at some foods that can do good and foods that can do damage to our immune system regarding the risk of cancer. Check out this table below:
Here is my strong recommendation for how to use these foods. As many of you may know, if you are experiencing other health conditions, some of these foods that are included for cancer prevention may not be as good for other conditions like cardiovascular disease (coffee) or food sensitivities (diary). The foods above have been found in research to have shown an association with increasing or reducing cancer risk, and only that. Keep that in mind in your personal choices in nutrition and remember that moderation is always a good idea when we’re talking about how to increase the best long term function of our immune system.
There are other vitamins and minerals that can be helpful and harmful in cancer growth, so when it’s time to seriously address the immune system weaknesses and the causes of cancer, it’s important to realize that how important it is to achieve just the right balance of your vitamins and minerals in your body. For instance, high levels of copper and iron can enhance cancer development (Wang et al, 2013). Other vitamins and minerals like selenium, zinc, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E can be huge players in stabilizing the immune system (Wu et al, 2019; Donaldson, 2004).
Being able to use nutrition correctly to combat and prevent disease requires years of specialized training and experience. I deeply encourage you to contact me for a clinical nutrition/culinary appointment if you are looking to make serious changes in your health with nutritional interventions. With a look at your medical history, blood labs, and a good nutritional assessment based on evidence, you can get the right therapy recommendations specialized to your needs.
Look below for great information to get in touch with me and the type of services I offer! Don’t forget the Goals for Health program that gives you discounts on nutrition services when you bring in your most recent blood labs from an annual physical or doctor’s visit. It’s a win-win and a great step towards the kind of health and lifestyle you can maintain for the good years of your life.
Here are some great recipes to get started and I hope you enjoy!
Cancer Prevention Recipes by Jennifer Coomes
Buttery Herb Nut Spread
Prep Time: 2 hours (sunflower seeds soaking, vegetable prep)
Cook Time: 30 minutes Serves: 1
· Sunflower seeds, 1 cup
· Walnuts, 1 cup
· Ghee, 3-4 tbsp (depending on how dry or moist you like your spread)
· Himalayan salt to taste, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp
· Organic garlic, ground, 1/2 tsp
· Organic onion powder, 1/2 tsp
· Organic thyme, minced, 1/2 tsp
· Organic dill, minced, 1/2 tsp
· Organic oregano, minced, 1/2 tsp
· Organic chives, minced, 1/2 tsp
· Organic cilantro, minced, 1/4 tsp
· Organic parsley, minced, 1/4 tsp
· Organic sesame oil, 1/4 tsp (this will drastically change the taste texture, so add at the end to taste)
1. Soak sunflower seeds and walnuts in water for 2-6 hours in separate bowls. Then, drain and rinse.
2. Melt ghee and add salt, garlic, onion, thyme, dill, oregano, chives, cilantro, and parsley in a small saucepan under low to medium heat until ghee is melted. Let cool. (Note: This mixture and be hardened into a paste by putting the mixture into a bowl on ice until it becomes like a paste. You can transfer into another container if you make extra and would like to use for other recipes)
3. Put sunflower seeds and walnuts into a food processor. Add the ghee mixture. Add the sesame oil a little at a time to taste due to its ability to dramatically change the taste texture. Blend until mixture is like a semi-crunch spread.
4. Season to taste. Remove mixture from the food processor. Add to your favorite cracker, salad, or maki roll and enjoy!
Buttery Herb Salad Crunch
Prep Time: 4 hours (sunflower seeds soaking, vegetable prep)
Cook Time: 30 minutes Serves: 1
· Organic salad greens, cut, 1 cup
· Organic pear, 1⁄2 matchstick, 1/4 cup
· Organic radishes, small dice, 1/4 cup
· Avocado, sliced, 1/4 cup
· Organic tomato, small dice, 1/4 cup
· English cucumber, small dice, 1/4 cup
· Buttery Herb Nut Spread, 1/4 cup
· Coconut aminos, 1 tbsp
1. Add cut salad greens to a small salad plate or bowl.
2. Sprinkle the pear, radish, tomato, cucumber, and avocado on top of the greens.
3. Add the Buttery Herb Nut Spread on top of the salad.
4. Drizzle the coconut aminos on top of the salad.
Cherry Pecan Morning Bread
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes Serves: 7
All Purpose Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (try Premium Gold with Golden Flaxseed), 1.5 cups
Pecans, ½ cup, chopped
Coconut, ¼ cup
Organic cherries, 1 cup
Baking soda, 1 tsp
Baking powder, 1 tsp
Organic nutmeg, ground, 1 tsp
Organic cinnamon, ground, 1 tsp
Maple syrup, 2/3 cup
Water, 1/3 cup
Coconut Oil, ¼ cup
Vanilla Extract, 2 tbsp
Chia seeds, 1 tbsp
Warm water, ¼ cup
Apple cider vinegar, 1 tbsp
1. Combine chia seeds and warm water. Stir. Set aside until it gels into a paste.
2. Combine flour, pecans, coconut, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a bowl.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a small baking bread pan with coconut oil.
4. Combine cherries, maple syrup, water, coconut oil, vanilla extract, apple cider vinegar, and chia paste in a blender until smooth.
5. Add in blended wet mix into the dry mixed ingredients. Use a spatula or mixer to combine.
6. Grease bottom of bread/muffin pan with coconut oil.
7. Add in this new mix into the bread pan and place in the oven for 30 minutes or until center is done. Test with fork or toothpick—when clean, bread is complete.
8. Take out of the oven, cut into slices, and enjoy with almond butter!