Did you know that cancer directly affects HALF of the U.S. population?!
It is estimated that 1 in 2 women and 1 in 3 men in the United States will develop cancer at some point during their lifetime. In the United Kingdom this number is estimated to be 1 in 2 for both women & men.
New cancer cases have steadily increased for the past 150 years: (stats)
- 1:20 (1 person in 20 was diagnosed with cancer) – 1900’s
- 1:16 – 1940’s
- 1:10 – 1970’s
- 1:2 – 2017
In several European countries, cancer is already the leading case of death, and in the United States it is expected to surpass Heart Disease as the #1 cause of death by 2020!
And although an aging body does increase your risk for cancer, this is not a disease of the elderly. Children are getting cancer at an increasing rate of almost 40% in the last 17 years!
After accidents, cancer is the next most frequent cause of death in children.
These numbers are staggering to me!
And admittedly, at first, a bit depressing. But they don’t have to be. If we understand the causes of cancer, then we can understand why these numbers have been climbing.
And, more importantly, we can begin to understand how to change these statistics. And how to make sure YOU don’t become the 1 in 2 that develops cancer in your lifetime.
I have some empowering news for you! There is actually A LOT you can do to prevent cancer.
It is widely accepted that at least 50% of all cancers can be prevented with diet & lifestyle. (AICR)
And depending on which expert you listen to, that number can increase up to 90%!! (Winters)
Think about this for a minute…9 out of 10 cancers could be avoided with optimal diet & lifestyle practices!
Now if you’re already facing a diagnosis of cancer please don’t use this information to berate yourself. I truly believe that our modern-day culture (that we ALL get sucked into) creates the environment which allows cancer to take hold.
This is not your fault. You were born into this culture and as a global community we haven’t addressed the major issues. BUT it is not too late to take steps to change that. Your body has an amazing potential to heal! Don’t ever doubt that.
If you’ve been following along with The Rustic Dietitian for awhile now then you already know some of the reasons why I believe more and more people are getting cancer (& bad luck is NOT one of them) as well as the 3 primary systems that are essential to recovery & prevention: Digestion, Detoxification, & Immunity!
So with those factors in mind I created a list of cancer prevention action items that might look a little different from the traditional messages of: “Lose Weight – Stop Smoking – Be Active – Eat Healthy – Protect Your Skin – Get Vaccinated”.
Let’s dive in to my “Top 10 Tips” for preventing cancer!
1. Avoid Environmental Toxins
When you look at those statistics showing increasing rates of cancer, why do you think that is? What’s different now?
Honestly, our lives are completely different now than they were in the 1900’s; our food, our work, our lifestyle, and most importantly our ever increasing toxic environment (especially since the introduction of pesticides in the 1940’s).
Toxic chemicals are everywhere, our food, air, water, and most of them are invisible. It is estimated that more than 20 million chemicals have been created since the Industrial Revolution. And globally a new chemical is created on average every 27 seconds!!
It is also estimated that almost 90% of all cancers are due to the exposure to environmental carcinogens. When you consider that many people are functioning with sub-optimal detoxification systems; it’s no wonder cancer rates are soaring.
The first step in managing this risk is to limit your exposure to as many known environmental toxins as possible. Go through your house, your place of work, your car, any place where you could be exposing yourself to toxins and consider all the possible suspects.
- Cigarette Smoke & Air Pollution
- Medications (prescription or over-the-counter)
- Heavy Metals and other Pollutants in the Air and Water
- Cosmetics & Personal Care Products
- Chemicals in Clothing, Bed Linens, Towels, Furniture, Carpet, etc.
- Plastic By-Products
- Radiation & EMFs from mobile phones, computers, wireless networks, etc.
Remove what you can, replace with natural alternatives, protect yourself when possible, & boost your body’s ability to process & remove these toxins from your body.
2. Support Detoxification Pathways
With all the toxic chemicals we’re exposed to everyday, it’s pretty easy to think why our detoxification system could be burdened and sluggish. If on top of this you add in genetic mutations or methylation issues, then detoxification simply doesn’t function like it’s meant to.
Once you’ve removed as many toxins as possible from your life, then the next step is to boost detoxification. Some of my favorite ways to support detoxification include:
- Fasting: intermittent & extended-day
- Sweating: through exercise, saunas, &/or hot baths
- Hydrating: keeping a variety of hydrating fluids flushing through the body; water, spa water, herbal tea, green tea, fresh veggie juices, or broths
- High Fiber Diet: focusing especially on those foods that also support liver function, like dark leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, alliums, beets, citrus
You can read more about how to move through a proper Detox HERE. I would suggest bringing in as many strategies as possible on a daily basis and then plan to do a full 7-day Detox at least twice a year; possibly with extended fasting as well.
3. Avoid Toxic Foods
The next step is to remove toxic substances from your diet. Many toxins end up in our food supply, like pesticide residue, heavy metals, antibiotics, & growth hormones. Plus the toxins we add to processed foods, like preservatives, emulsifiers, artificial colors, or sweeteners. Although small exposures here and there may not prove to be a problem, ongoing chronic exposure is most certainly problematic.
The easiest way to limit your exposure to these toxic foods is by sticking to real, whole foods. The way nature intended. Buy organic, wild, and pasture-raised whenever possible.
Limit your consumption of alcohol (which is considered a toxin as far as cancer is concerned) and purify your water (or have it tested to make sure you’re not unknowingly exposing yourself to heavy metals).
Remove sugar, refined white carbs, processed meats, and inflammatory fats. If you haven’t already, you can Download your Free Guide HERE to help you get these 4 toxic foods out of your diet and start replacing them with healthier options.
4. Choose an Anti-Inflammatory, Nutrient Dense, Immune Boosting Diet
Once the toxic foods are out, then it’s time to bring in more of the RIGHT foods. The healing, nourishing, anti-inflammatory, & immune boosting foods. These are the foods I talk about ALL over my blog. Without these foods in your diet, your body simply won’t have the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and ward off disease, including cancer.
- Colorful Plant Foods: especially dark leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, alliums, berries, mushrooms, & citrus
- Low Glycemic Starches: moderate to low carb intake overall
- Wild Fatty Fish: plus other high quality animal proteins that are ideally organic, wild, & pasture-raised
- Healing Fats & Oils: especially avocado, coconut, ghee, butter, nuts, & seeds
- Herbs & Spices: especially turmeric, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, & cayenne
- Green Tea & Bone Broth
5. Feed Your Microbiome
The health of your gut, which includes your entire digestive system & microbiome, are essential to optimal health. Even when it comes to cancer. The microbes that make-up your microbiome play a critical role in your immune system, digestive system, & even detoxification system. Microbes (or the lack thereof) can even play a role in how effective chemotherapy or radiation work! This continues to be an area of ongoing research and the more we learn about the microbiome the more we understand just how critical it is to the prevention of cancer.
You can read more HERE to learn why the Microbiome is so important, what disrupts its diversity, and how to take steps to keep it healthy. In general though there are 3 important foods that feed your microbiome & keep your gut balanced. And unfortunately the Standard American (Western) Diet is deficient in all 3.
- Fiber: a diet focused on veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, & whole grains will provide plenty of fiber to keep the microbes fed
- Prebiotics: these are a type of fiber that fuels good bacteria, like Jerusalem Artichoke, Dandelion Greens, Garlic, Leeks, Onions, Asparagus, Jicama, Banana, Chicory Root, Radishes
- Probiotics: these are fermented foods with active & live cultures that add good bacteria to your gut, like Sauerkraut, Pickled Veggies and Fruits, Kimchi, Miso, Tempeh, Natto, Kefir, Kombucha, Yogurt
As I’ve discussed in several other blog posts Fasting is both an ancestral & modern strategy that can re-boot the immune system, balance blood sugar, optimize detoxification, & support healthy digestion. This therapy, which was totally normal for our ancient ancestors, is a missing health strategy for most people today. But it doesn’t have to be. It’s actually really easy to start bringing it in.
You can read more about the health benefits of Fasting & how to get started HERE. I suggest a 3-step approach.
- Extend Your Overnight Fast: to a goal of 12-14 hours every night
- Add Intermittent Fasting: there are a lot of options here as to what this could look like. I suggest starting with trying to extend your overnight fast to 16-18 hours 2-3 times a week. This can be done by skipping breakfast or finishing dinner earlier.
- Add Extended Fasting: this one should only be done under the supervision of a qualified health provider but once you have experience with intermittent fasting you could then try a 3-5 Day Fast a couple times a year.
7. Minimize Stress
Stress is such a common link that we all share that I actually think we’ve come to normalize it. It’s almost such that if you’re not stressed, there’s something wrong with you. That is a problem! Our bodies are beautifully designed to handle acute bouts of stress. We’ve fine tuned these pathways since the beginning of time. What our bodies are less adept at handling is chronic unrelenting stress. This type of stress (which ALL of us are exposed to) slowly deteriorates our bodies. It weakens the immune system, disrupts the microbiome, interferes with healthy sleep cycles, and imbalances our hormones. All of which set the stage for cancer to grow and thrive.
I know this one is easier said than done to change. I’ve been there. I totally understand. But sometimes a radical life change is actually the best thing for you. And I’m not saying this is the solution for everyone. But it’s definitely something to meditate on and be open to. I can’t tell you how many of my clients told me that it took a diagnosis of cancer for them to finally make big changes in their life, that they knew they should have done a long time ago. Don’t wait for cancer to take hold before you make the changes your intuition is telling you to do.
Before the radical life change, there are steps you can take to begin to shift the amount of stress in your life plus how you respond to that stress, both physically & mentally. You can read more about how to do this HERE. I suggest working through the following 3 steps:
- Identify your sources of stress & begin to map out a plan to change or reduce them
- Add tools & strategies to help you relax and better manage stress
- Practice living in the moment (not lamenting over the past or worrying about the future)
8. Add Time in Nature
Have you heard of Nature Therapy before? In Japan this is known as Forest Bathing. This is actually a thing. A recognized medical prescription. The health benefits from spending time in nature are vast. (study) It lowers stress, improves the microbiome, and boosts the immune system. It can increase your exposure to vitamin D, depending of course on the time of year, where you live, and where the sun is in the sky. Even energetically it can be beneficial by something known as grounding or earthing. (study) Unfortunately more and more of us sit all day in an office or in our home, surrounded by concrete and building. Maybe a bit of lawn or garden here and there but often far removed from nature.
The how is pretty simple here…simply get outside and find some green space. A park, a forest, the beach, a lake or river. Take your shoes off and put your bare feet on the earth. Lay in the grass or on the sand. Jump into the river, lake, or ocean. Try to do this as often as possible.
9. Surround Yourself With Support
We can’t ignore the impact living in community and in connection with others has on our health. When we surround ourselves with people who we love, who inspire & motivate us, who make us laugh, who we can lean on in hard times, who give us a purpose, we improve our own health. This is one of the hallmark lifestyle factors in people who live beyond 100 years.
Who are your “people”?! If you’re not sure, start to find them. They could be family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, people you share hobbies with, etc. Most importantly they are people who make you feel good. People who lift you up. People you connect with & share a purpose with. Then, gather! Don’t let the business of your life take you away from the time you could spend with these people. Time spent in community is time added to your life!
10. Don’t Ignore Inflammatory Symptoms
Finally, my last tip to help you prevent cancer, is to not ignore what your body is trying to tell you. Cancer doesn’t just happen overnight. Most cancers take many years to develop and grow. In the meantime, there are often signs that your body is struggling. Signs that if left ignored could develop into something more. Here are just some signs that your body is burdened by inflammation, a sluggish detoxification system, an imbalanced microbiome, or a weakened immune system.
- IBS or other chronic digestive issues
- Allergies & Other Sensitivities (environmental or food related)
- Chronic Fatigue
- Chronic Headaches or Migraines
- Acne, Hives, Eczema, or other chronic skin issues
- Autoimmune Conditions
It’s really important to get to the root cause(s) of these symptoms. Don’t simply learn to live with them or take medication to manage them. There is something underlying it that if left unaddressed could grow into an even bigger problem. Unfortunately the western medical model is not always great at getting to the root cause. They are very good at prescribing medication to help you manage the symptoms and feel better (hopefully). But not always at figuring out the why? Why is it there in the first place? What can you do about it? This is where integrative and functional medicine really shines. If you struggle with any chronic symptom or condition, the best thing you can do is to add an integrative or functional provider to your health care team. They will help you identify & treat the root causes!
First, Start With Diet
Whew! That was a lot! A bit more detailed than the “Eat Healthy, Move More, Stop Smoking” model, right?!
I really believe that all of these factors play a role in the cause of cancer. And only when we begin to make changes to our diet & lifestyle that are aligned with the above factors, can we truly prevent cancer.
We need to start thinking about cancer from all the ways it can grow. And approach it in a holistic way. Addressing both the physical and the mental, while supporting digestion, detoxification, & the immune system.
To summarize, here are all the ways you can help your body prevent cancer:
- Eliminate Environmental Toxins
- Support Detoxification Pathways
- Eliminate Toxic Foods
- Add an Anti-Inflammatory, Nutrient Dense, Immune Boosting Diet
- Feed Your Microbiome
- Incorporate Fasting
- Minimize Stress
- Spend Time in Nature
- Surround Yourself In Community
- Get To The Root Cause of Chronic Symptoms
And if that list feels totally overwhelming, take it one step at a time. Every step you take will dramatically reduce your risk for cancer and help your body heal.
As always I suggest starting with your Diet! Remove the toxic foods and add in more of the nourishing, healing ones. This can make such a huge impact on your health. And furthermore any provider who tells you “your diet doesn’t matter”, should be fired. Find someone who knows better and is willing to help you get to the root cause(s) of your chronic symptoms.
If you’re ready to start designing your ideal Cancer Prevention Plan, and gain the support and guidance of a trusted professional, then let’s start by scheduling a Free 20-minute Planning Session. Book your free call HERE.