Cancer and Inflammation: Part 2

by Dr. Elaine Rancatore

You now know what creates a chronic state of inflammation from Cancer and Inflammation: Part 1. Now we’ll explore the power of food in the fight against cancer.

Obesity is associated with a chronic state of low- level inflammation. Adipose (fat) tissue makes several substances called cytokines that are associated with inflammation. Obese individuals, with greater amounts of adipose tissue, have higher levels of these molecules. The National Cancer Institute reports that obesity is related to increased risks for cancer of the breast, uterus, ovaries, colon, esophagus, gallbladder, pancreas, and kidney. Achieving and maintaining and optimal weight is important in both the prevention and recurrence of cancer.

Our Food Choices: The foods that we consume impact our state of inflammation. Overconsumption of refined sugar and flour promotes inflammation by increasing insulin and insulin-like growth-factor (IG-F). An imbalance in the ratio of omega-6-fats to omega-3 fats also contributes to our chronic state of inflammation. Omega 6 fats are pro-inflammatory. Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory. In the US, the typical diet has a ratio that favors omega 6 fats 4x what is deemed healthy. Vegetable oils ( corn, sunflower and soybean), and trans fats are sources of omega 6 fats. Products from animals fed corn or soybean are also sources of omega 6 fats. Sources of Omega 3 fats are salmon, sardines, walnuts and flaxseed. Finally, the under consumption of fruits and vegetables leaves us defenseless against inflammation. Plants contain numerous substances called phytochemicals. They have the capacity to do many beneficial things to keep us healthy and to fight disease. Some are anti-inflammatory. Some inhibit grow of new blood cells or interfere with cytokines thereby inhibiting cancer cell growth.

Exercise: Daily physically activity helps to reduce our state of inflammation through its effect on insulin and IG-F, by reducing our adipose tissue, and by regulating cytokines. In addition, regular physical activity helps with stress management.

Stress: Chronic stress leads to a persistent state of inflammation. In an acute emergency, the chemical surge that occurs in your body, allows you to evade an oncoming car while crossing the street. These stress hormones-cortisol and adrenaline are lifesaving in these circumstances. However, when we are chronically stressed the persistent presence of these hormones elevates our blood sugar, heart rate, and blood pressure. They promote weight gain. They also impair our immune system. Of importance, a particular type of white blood cell, our natural killer cells (NK) are impeded by our stress hormones. As the name implies, the activity of NK cells aids in destroying (“killing”) cancer cells.

Sleep: Inadequate sleep increases our level of inflammation and may facilitate weight gain. Research has noted higher levels of inflammatory markers in individuals who had disrupted sleep patterns or insufficient sleep. Low levels of Leptin and high levels of Ghrelin have been observed in people who slept for only 5 hours. Leptin and Ghrelin are two hormones that regulate appetite.

WHAT CAN YOU DO? Be proactive. Reduce your state of inflammation by:

  1. Choosing foods that are anti-inflammatory. We like to refer to Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid.
  2. Avoiding or minimizing consumption of pro-inflammatory foods.
  3. Working towards achieving or maintaining a weight and body fat in the healthy range.
  4. Focusing on your daily sleep patterns. The importance of quality sleep should not be overlooked. The Harvard Medical School has 6 Reasons Not to Scrimp on Sleep.
  5. Engaging in routine stress management practice. Chronic stress is a partner in the inflammatory process. Duke Integrative Medicine has a great program to help people cope more effectively with stressful situations.
  6. Staying physically active. Exercise. Move more often. It reduces inflammation. The American Institute for Cancer Research offer great tips for changing your exercise habits.


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