According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 25% of deaths in the US are cancer related. This is number 2 only to heart diseases. Breast cancer is the most common threat for women. For men, it's the prostate. And unrelated to gender, lung and colorectal cancer are most common.
There is a constant battle to cure the disease and help those afflicted to recover. With one in every three predicted to get cancer in their lifetime, the chances are that we know or have known someone close to us who has fought or is fighting the battle. But as in most health related battles, prevention should always be our first line of defense. With that understanding, there are some simple lifestyle changes we can make that are known to decrease our risk of cancer.
1. Drink Water
First, let's get passed the eye-rolls....Great! But seriously, every cell in our body needs water to run correctly. Without water, our bodies will not run as efficiently. Cellular metabolic processes slow down, wastes are not eliminated as efficiently, and immune fighting cells and nutrients do not travel as quickly or don't always reach where they are needed. Every chemical reaction in our bodies require water! So any amount of dehydration decreases our performance to some degree. The goal is to drink half of your body weight in ounces each day of pure filtered or natural spring water. This may be difficult at first, but soon after you start you will develop a thirst for it and the desire will be there. If I'm wrong, I'll buy you a soda.
2. Eliminate Sugars and Artifcials Sweetners
Ok, so I won't buy you a soda. Research shows that insulin is not just related to diabetes, but to many chronic diseases. When we don't effectively control our blood-sugar and have high insulin level, our cells don't communicate normally. And when cells don't communicate in a normal way, they start to behave irregularly and -- in a way -- neglect their normal function. This opens the door to many illnesses, including an increased risk of cancer. We all know those sugary foods we need to avoid. Refer to my previous post about Glycemic Load for the tools to control insulin levels. And as you'll find in nearly all health related articles ever written, eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains which help to maintain your insulin levels to promote over-all wellness and decrease your risk of cancer.
3. Exercise and Maintain a Healthy Weight
Regular exercise is proven to help reduce insulin levels and helps our bodies make better use of the insulin already present. Being overweight or obese may increase your risk of cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, stomach and uterus, according to the Mayo Clinic. High insulin levels are part of the deal when we're overweight. If you're not sure what insulin has to do with cancer risk, then you're just skimming through this post. Aren't you? Exercise is also important for proper lymphatic function. The lymphatic system transports fluids, nutrients, and immune cells throughout the body. But it doesn't have a pump like the circulation system has the heart. It relies solely on physical movement to move these fluids and nutrients throughout the body.
4. Add Cruciferous Vegetables
Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and bok choy are some super foods. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber as well as healthy plant compounds called phytochemicals which are proven to slow the growth of tumors in the breast, lung, colon, liver, and cervix. Cruciferous vegetables are known to carry excess estrogen out of the body which is a great tool in the prevention of the disease since excess estrogen is linked to increased risk of some forms of cancer. They also contain compounds that produce enzymes in the body shown to detoxify and remove various carcinogens. And lastly, they are known to reduce oxidative stress which can greatly reduce the risk of colon, lung, prostate, breast, and other cancers. This is a simple yet powerful addition to cancer prevention, but please don't cook the heck out of them.
5. Incorporate Dark Leafy Greens
Greens are very high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc and vitamins A, C, E and K. They are crammed with fiber, folic acid, chlorophyll and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals needed to maintain normal function and strong immune systems. Some of these were mentioned before for other reasons, but include napa cabbage, collards, bok choy, watercress, kale, mustard greens, broccoli rabe, and dandelion which are all great tools in preventing cancer. (Eat spinach, swiss chard and beet greens in moderation. They are healthy too but are high in oxalic acid)
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Philip Bramucci is a certified master herbalist, nutritional consultant, holistic health practitioner, and a member of The American Herbalist Guild.