Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
A cancer diagnosis is just about the scariest news anyone can receive. It can also be very confusing. The sheer volume of information on treatment can be overwhelming. With this in mind, I’ve tried to simplify the most critical component for cancer prevention and treatment—cellular health.
Put simply, cancer is the uncontrolled growth of a group of cells turned bad. It begins within the DNA, affecting genes that regulate the process of cell division and duplication. Cellular division is a complex process that involves turning on and off hundreds of genes. The “regulators” of the process play a critical role in controlling and limiting division. Without these regulators, cellular growth proceeds unchecked.
Unfortunately, the cell division regulators are prone to damage from oxidative stress, toxins, and inflammation. And when these regulators become damaged, the DNA isn’t protected, the cells become unhealthy, and cancer is the result. So prevention begins with the health of the cells themselves.
How to we keep healthy cells from turning bad? It starts with my least favorite vegetable to eat—broccoli.
Cruciferous Vegetables Promote Healthy DNA
Laboratory experiments offer evidence that cruciferous vegetables—such as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale—help preserve the integrity of DNA. As a vital cell component, DNA is vulnerable to damage from toxins, inflammation, etc., which can contribute to the initiation of cancer and determine the overall health of the cell.
Extracts of broccoli and watercress, for example, provide bioactive compounds, including glucosinolates, isothiocyanates, carnosic acid, and carnosol, that have a multitude of favorable effects on DNA and healthy cell division.
If, like me, you detest broccoli, cabbage is another option. It provides a natural source of benzyl isothiocyanate, a compound known to maintain cellular health, likely through DNA protection mechanisms.
But here’s the million-dollar question: How much cabbage, broccoli, and watercress do we have to eat to obtain the benefits of healthy DNA and healthy cells? A lot! We’re talking several servings every day. This is why supplements are so important. A high-quality cruciferous vegetable supplement can provide optimal levels of the bioactive compounds necessary to affect your DNA. For most of us, food alone just can’t do it.
Curcumin: The Workhorse of Cellular Health
Curcumin’s benefits are so diverse that they affect virtually every system in the body. It’s no accident that the National Institutes of Health has funded numerous studies investigating curcumin as a treatment for diseases from cystic fibrosis to autoimmune diseases to various cancers. Even pharmaceutical companies are jumping on the bandwagon, working to derive patentable molecules based on curcumin, which they hope to market as anticancer treatments.
Scientists usually go out of their way to avoid hyperbole when describing the subjects of their research, but curcumin’s amazing properties can
tempt even the most staid researchers to throw caution to the wind.
“Curcumin… has emerged as one of the most powerful chemopreventive and anticancer agents,” wrote Indian researchers last year. “Its biological effects range from antioxidant and anti-inflammatory to inhibition of angiogenesis, and it is also shown to possess specificanti-tumor activity.”
A thorough review of curcumin’s anti-cancer effects shows that this golden spice impacts several different cancers, including:
- Breast and cervical cancer
- Gastric and colon cancer
- Liver and mouth cancer
- Prostate cancer
How does curcumin help support cellular health and prevent cancer? While the exact mechanism of action is not known, it has to do with curcumin’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Curcumin promotes your body’s healthy response to inflammation by inhibiting key inflammatory factors such as NF-kappaB, a protein molecule that acts like an “on switch” in genes that govern the body’s pro-inflammatory responses. Curcumin has been shown to exert powerful inhibitory effects on NF-kappaB activation.
Curcumin also inhibits the metabolism of the primary protein involved in inflammation, called arachidonic acid.
A majority of the inflammatory response starts with this protein, and curcumin prevents it from starting the inflammatory cascade.
And that’s just the beginning. Ultimately, curcumin is a powerful antioxidant. Free radicals are highly reactive compounds that attack healthy cells, causing considerable damage. They come from pollution, industrial chemicals, and even your own body. Free radicals are the reason we need antioxidants—and curcumin is one of the best.
Because free-radical-mediated damage of cell membranes, DNA, and proteins is believed to be associated with cancer, as well as a other diseases including atherosclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases, curcumin is thought to play a vital role in guarding against these conditions.
Turn Off Cellular Damage by Activating AMPK
AMPK is an enzyme that serves as the body’s master regulating switch. It inhibits damaging stressors by promoting celldefenses and preservation tactics. Increasing AMPK activation “turns off” many damaging effects of cellular aging, thus enabling cells to return to their youthful vitality.
Studies show that increased AMPK activity supports reduced fat storage, new mitochondria production, and the promotion of healthy blood glucose and lipids—all of which are critical to keeping cells cancer-free.
So how can you “activate” AMPK? By supplementing with two plant extracts—Gynostemma pentaphyllum and rose hips. An extract of the plant Gynostemma pentaphyllum was traditionally used in Asian medicine to promote longevity, and scientists now know why—G. pentaphyllum promotes AMPK activation.
The second natural compound found to increase AMPK activity is trans-tiliroside, extracted from plants such as rose hips. Trans-tiliroside also boosts AMPK activity, but it triggers different downstream metabolic benefits than G. pentaphyllum.
Combining these extracts boosts AMPK activation. By doing so, your cells can better manage energy, metabolism, and cellular “housecleaning.”
Other Ways to Keep Cells Healthy
Keeping your cells functioning optimally requires a little work. For starters, drink plenty of water, limit your intake of sugar, and eat less. But there’s much more you can do. Increase your intake of colorful fruits and vegetables, including broccoli. Throw in some kale, cauliflower, and watercress. Mix it all up with seeds and nuts, and some good unsaturated fats.
For supplements, take cruciferous vegetable and curcumin extracts, as well as AMPK activators, and you’ll amplify your cellular health. Which is the best way to keep good cells from turning bad.
Putting the Squeeze on Cancer
AW: You say that MCP has “numerous life-saving benefits.” How so?
IE: Because of its unique molecular structure, MCP can easily enter the bloodstream and work throughout the body to fight cancer and address other health concerns. For example, MCP is a powerful yet gentle natural chelator, proven to bind to and remove harmful heavy metals and environmental toxins from the body without affecting essential minerals. MCP also boosts immune cells and strengthens overall immune function.
AW: What about MCP as a preventive therapy for cancer?
IE: First, let me explain a little bit about a molecule called galectin-3, which is normally present in small amounts in healthy people. Groundbreaking new studies show that excess galectin-3 molecules have a direct involvement in the process of chronic inflammation and subsequent fibrosis. Research shows that elevated galectin-3 levels promote the growth and spread of cancer.
Here’s where MCP comes in: Pectasol-C binds to and blocks harmful galectin-3 molecules on the surface of cancer cells. Numerous peer-reviewed studies over the past 15 years have demonstrated MCP’s potent cancer-fighting properties, mainly due to this ability.
AW: How can we find out if we have elevated galectin-3?
IE: The FDA approved a galectin-3 blood test for measuring cardiovascular disease risk that should be covered by most insurance. This test can also be used as a biomarker of metastatic cancer. Health Diagnostics Laboratory (myhdl.com) offers galectin-3 testing.
AW: What is the dosage for MCP?
IE: For those with concerns about cancer or other diseases related to elevated circulating galectin-3 levels, the optimal dosage is 6 capsules or 5 grams of powder taken three times per day on an empty stomach. For long-term health maintenance, use 6 capsules or 5 grams of powder per day.
Maitake: A Magical Mushroom
Resembling a large pinecone, maitake mushrooms sprout in clusters at the base of oak and other trees. Long prized for its healing properties in Chinese and Japanese medicine, this fungus—which means “dancing mushroom” in Japanese—is native to northeastern Japan, as well as North America. Maitake’s rich flavor and delicate texture make it a favorite dish in Japanese cuisine.
Culinary delights aside, maitake garners a lot of attention for its ability to strengthen immune function and reduce cancer risk. And deservedly so: the mushroom’s bioactive extract, Maitake D-Fraction, contains a unique type of beta-glucan that supports the body’s immune system in a variety of ways. Two studies show that Maitake D-Fraction activates numerous genes that promote apoptosis (cell death) in breast cancer cells. Other research supports the mushroom’s use for high cholesterol, hypertension, and high blood sugar.
Maitake can be taken year-round to support immune and overall health in capsule or liquid form. Follow label directions for best results.