Introduction: I am thrilled to feature a guest post from my friend Ingrid Arredondo. She is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and a board Certified Holistic Health Counselor. I have learned so much about nutrition from Ingrid over the years, and I’m really excited that she’s agreed to share some of her knowledge on a topic that affects us all in some way.
Learn How to Reduce Your Family’s Cancer Risk with a Nutrient-Dense Diet
We’ve been conditioned through various channels that there’s nothing we can do but wait for “it” to happen. Many of us have been impacted if not personally then through a family member, friend or acquaintance. Cancer used to be far less prevalent than it is today and reportedly, is on the rise every year. According to the medical world, the best protection against cancer is early detection, which creates a climate of fear, powerlessness and hopelessness. However, through education and prevention, natural therapies can create a feeling of empowerment, independence and hope. And it’s key to remove stressors from the body and add support to build the body’s defenses and achieve optimal health.
Top 3 Supportive Foods to Add to Reduce Your Cancer Risk
- 3 Hour Chicken Stock* – Stock has so many minerals and other nutrients, aids digestion and heals the gut. Have as much as you want but try for at least 1 cup per day. To make – cover a whole pastured chicken or chicken parts with water in a large pot, bring to a boil, skim foam and simmer at the lowest heat for 3 hours with a little apple cider vinegar and Celtic sea salt. Serve each with more salt and a tablespoon of butter. You can also include it in recipes. *Note: NOT bone broth which is cooked longer than stock and as a result has a different amino acid profile, which can be too intense for those with mental, learning, mood or behavior concerns. It also contains FODMAPs (small chain carbohydrates – read sugars – that are poorly broken down by the small intestine) from the cartilage that may exacerbate symptoms for those on a low FODMAP diet and/or have digestive issues like IBS, SIBO, etc. A few signs that bone broth is not for you: You feel spacey/buzzy/unreal, have tummy trouble, your tongue looks/feels coated after eating or you just don’t feel well. As you’ll see me write or hear me say repeatedly, everyone is a bio-individual and will respond to things differently. For those who are OK with bone broth, I like Kettle & Fire.
- Grass Fed Butter – Yes, butter! According to the Weston A Price Foundation, “Many of the saturated fats in butter have strong anti-cancer properties. Butter is rich in short and medium chain fatty acid chains that have strong anti-tumor effects. Butter also contains conjugated linoleic acid, which gives excellent protection against cancer.”
- Cruciferous vegetables (cooked only) – Not only do they increase fiber to promote good bowel function, add nutrients and crowd out foods on the Stressors to Remove list, but they also are known to stimulate detoxifying enzymes and inhibit enzymes that create carcinogens. Make sure they’re cooked as in the raw form they can have a goitrogenic effect, which can put a strain on the thyroid gland.
Top 3 Stressors to Remove to Reduce Your Cancer Risk
- All processed foods and GMOs (GMO means genetically modified organisms and usually refers to food that has been genetically engineered for reasons unrelated to health or nourishment)
- Sugar and anything that contains it – including high fructose corn syrup, etc. This includes grains, high starch foods and vegetables.
- Fake fats and oils – such as margarine and butter replacements, commercially available oils especially canola, soybean, corn, cottonseed or other “vegetable” oils. Your body doesn’t know what to do with them and they’re typically already toxic and rancid when you buy them.
Cancer in many cases depends on how many toxins are accumulated and concentrated in certain areas of the body. Nutritional Therapy, a natural approach, can be an extraordinarily beneficial step in taking charge of your health by helping the body achieve optimal health by addressing and balancing the body’s foundations. While Nutritional Therapists don’t diagnose or treat disease, our strong point is prevention through strengthening the whole system. Creating this kind of balance includes adding nutrients to build the body’s defenses and removing stressors that place a burden on the body. In the case of cancer prevention concerns, we typically look for clues that the body is out of balance by reviewing a client’s health history (as well as family cancer and other disease history) and overall signs and symptoms to determine foundation areas that require support.
Sometimes people feel that a cancer diagnosis can come out of the blue and there was no warning. How and why did this happen? That person always seemed so healthy and was never sick. However, there are early signs of imbalance and potential disease, albeit seemingly small and insignificant, but we’ve lost the connection with our body’s messages and innate intelligence and instead rely on others for their interpretations.
Signs and Symptoms of Imbalance
Please know that the very abbreviated list below DOES NOT mean one will get cancer, but is indicative of an underlying imbalance in the body and that one is not in optimal health. The greater the overall number and more chronic the symptoms, the greater support the body needs.
- Digestive complaints – heartburn/acid reflux, stomach upset or cramping, gas, belching or bloating, chronic constipation or diarrhea
- Stool that floats, leaves a grease slick on the water, contains undigested food or mucus, is light or clay-colored
- Allergies, sinus congestion, stuffy nose
- Food allergies/intolerances or cravings for certain foods
- Coated tongue, fungal or yeast infections
- Gets sick often or, conversely, NEVER gets sick
- Fatigue or, conversely, keyed up (sometimes a combination of both)
- Chronically stressed (and who isn’t these days?)
- Mood swings, anxiety, depression, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, memory issues
- Weight gain or loss
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Skin issues such as acne, eczema, psoriasis or rosacea
- Headaches, joint pain or muscle aches
- Chronic health concern or history of disease in either parent
- Many rounds of antibiotics in lifetime (especially more than 500 days total)
- Thyroid issues and/or hair loss
- Dry skin, dandruff, cracked, itchy or peeling feet, sunburn easily
- Wake at night; irritable, shaky or have headaches if meals are delayed
- Sore breast tissue especially during PMS
- For men – difficulty with urinating (dribbling, interruption of stream)
Most of us are currently experiencing or have experienced at least some of these on occasion or on a chronic basis, possibly thinking they’re normal, but they’re not. While not a claim to prevent or cure cancer, there are many steps that can be taken to remove stressors on the body to allow you to take charge of your own health. There are so many wonderful complementary therapies, exercises, supplements etc. that can be helpful, but the place I’d recommend starting is where the largest reduction of toxins and, therefore, the largest benefits may be received.
The Greatest Source of Toxins
The greatest source of toxins is the direct result of a poor diet and improperly digested food that has rancidified (fats), putrefied (proteins) and fermented (carbohydrates) in the digestive tract. Instead of a being a source of nutrition for the body, the gut becomes a river of toxicity congesting the intestines, liver and lymph system, which among their other functions, are all responsible for filtering toxins from the system.
Over time this toxicity and congestion can eventually wear our bodies down and take the focus away from their other critical roles. For example, in addition to filtering the blood, the liver has over 500 roles in the body, which include metabolism of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins; making enzymes and creating bile which aids digestion and absorption of fats; processing of drugs and hormones in our body, etc. so not very much of that work can take place if it’s not in top shape. Our colon, liver and lymph get sluggish and are unable to detoxify and toxins are reintroduced back into the body. Imagine NYC on a hot summer day during a sanitation strike and think of that same scenario, but in your body. Not a pretty picture! Instead, we want to move things through the colon at the right pace – quickly enough to remove toxins, but slowly enough to absorb nutrients.
The best way to take control and reduce the introduction of toxins into your body (and increase the speed that they exit) is by:
- Consuming a nutrient dense, properly prepared diet and
- Supporting digestion.
Essentially, it’s not only what we eat, but also how we eat and what we absorb. Without proper digestive support our food just sits in the gut. You could be eating the best diet in the world but it doesn’t matter if your body’s not able to break it down to utilize it…or worse if it just rots in your gut.
Properly Prepared Nutrient-Dense Diet
So to avoid this, let’s first focus on diet. As a heads-up, some of these ideas may be different or even contradictory to the dietary advice you’ve seen before. But so much of this is similar to what your grandmother or great-grandmother used to make. I’ve had several of my senior clients or those raised outside America exclaim, “that’s what my mother/grandmother would give me/feed me!” How we got so far off course from our ancestral way of eating is a topic in itself so we’ll leave that for another time. But I often hear “why can’t I eat wheat when my [ancestors] would eat that all the time?” The simple answer is, our ancestors knew that grains were very hard to digest so they would take several steps like soaking, sprouting and fermenting to increase it’s digestibility and nutrient assimilation. Over time this step, as well as many other ancestral traditional foods and traditions, were abandoned.
We’re also bio-individuals meaning we’re all different – what some of us can eat and tolerate others cannot. However, that said, I’ve also seen many people able to reintroduce certain foods back into their diets after healing their digestive systems and bodies. So here are some guidelines in a nutshell of stressors to avoid and supports to add in order to strengthen and protect us.
Supportive Foods to Include
A great way to remove the “stressors” is to slowly replace them over time (or more quickly if you’re ready for a lot of change immediately) with the healing, supportive foods listed below.
- Pasture-raised Meats and Wild-caught Fish (especially liver and homemade meat or fish stock – “3 hour chicken stock” (see above in my Top 3 Supports to Add)
- Easy to digest fats and oils – animal fats (grass-fed butter – I like Kerry Gold, Ghee, pork drippings, beef (lard), lamb, goose, duck & chicken fat), virgin coconut oil (cook with all these fats), virgin cold pressed olive oil, avocado and avocado oil (avoid cooking avocado and olive oil at high heats) *Note: the more fresh animal fats the quicker you will see improvement in digestive and other issues.
- Non-starchy fresh vegetables – French artichoke, avocado (though technically a fruit), beets, asparagus, *broccoli, *Brussels sprouts, *cabbage, *cauliflower, carrots, cucumber, celery, green beans or Haricot vert, zucchini, eggplant, garlic, onions, *kale, lettuce, mushrooms, parsley, green peas, peppers, pumpkin, runner beans, squash, *spinach, tomatoes, turnips, watercress. *Consume cooked only for those with Thyroid issues
- Organic, grass fed, cage-free, free-range, pastured, wild-caught etc. products (but read labels; just because it says organic doesn’t mean it’s good for you)
- Pasture-raised Eggs if tolerated (preferably with cooked whites and uncooked yolk – e.g., poached, soft boiled or over easy)
- Ripe fruits in moderation, but do not include raw fruit with meals as it may interfere with digestion of meats – fruits that DO combine well are lemons, avocado and sour-tasting varieties of apple.
- Sprouted Grains – Only if tolerated – if signs and symptoms remain you may want to consider removing.
- Nuts and seeds (as unprocessed as possible) – if problem digesting, try soaking nuts for 24 hours with 1 tablespoon sea salt (take care to not overdo it with nuts, nut butters and nut flour)
- Beans & pulses – Dried white (Navy) or haricot beans, lima beans, string beans, lentils and split peas (other types are too starchy) Soak dried beans, lentils and peas for 12 hours to remove lectins and some starches)
- Honey (raw honey – especially Manuka honey – in very small amounts) and occasional Stevia
- Beverages – filtered water, meat/fish stock, freshly pressed juices (limit fruit juice due to sugar content)
- Unprocessed salt such as Celtic Sea Salt or Himalayan salt.
- Fermented Foods – Note: Although I do believe in the power of fermented foods for some, others may either have difficulty tolerating it at least initially or they may require some additional gut healing to allow for this. The best way to find out is to start SLOWLY, as with any new change and see how your body feels and reacts. If it does well, increase, otherwise reduce or eliminate and try again in the future.
Stressors to Reduce or Eliminate
You’ll notice a theme with reducing/eliminating sugars, starchy foods, grains, alcohol and lactose. All are sugars or converted sugars, which creates an enormous strain on the body and actually inhibits digestion, especially when consumed with proteins. In addition, sugar is a major feeder of cancer. To further reduce the stress on the body remove rancid, processed fake oils the body doesn’t know what to do with. This can be a lot of change for some so try to take a few steps at a time and remember it’s fine to eat some of these occasionally (See Support to Include for more details).
In a perfect world I’d recommend eliminating all of the items below, but since that’s not realistic, I’d advise “Add In the Good to Crowd Out the Bad.” Start with adding in as many of the items from the Include section and you’ll naturally start to reduce/eliminate the stressors from this section. You can also start with my Top 3 Recommendations for Supports to Add and Top 3 Stressors to Remove at the top of this post.
- All processed food and GMOs
- Sugar and anything that contains it, including fruit juice, sodas and energy drinks (check your labels, they will sneak them in)
- Artificial fats like margarine and butter replacements, commercially available oils especially canola, soybean, corn, cottonseed or other “vegetable” oils (see oils in “Include” section).
- Unsprouted grains and all wheat/gluten – However for many, the best health is achieved by removing grains entirely as it removes a lot of starch and all gluten in the diet.
- All starchy vegetables and anything made with them: potato, yam, sweet potato, parsnip, Jerusalem artichoke, cassava, arrowroot and taro.
- Alcoholic beverages – absolutely no beer (see grains)- small amounts of dry wine, gin, Scotch Whisky, bourbon and vodka are permissible occasionally.
- Starchy beans and peas; soy, mung, garbanzo and fava beans; bean sprouts and chickpeas.
- Lactose and anything that contains it: fluid or dried milk of any type, yoghurt (homemade ok or try no sugar coconut yoghurt – I love Anita’s), buttermilk, ice cream and sour cream, (some cheese ok if you can tolerate dairy – Cheddar, Camembert, Colby, Edam, Gorgonzola, Gouda, Havarti, Limburger, Monterey Jack, Parmesan, Roquefort, Stilton, Swiss). If you remove just two products I’d say avoid ice cream and milk (especially low fat or skim).
If you’re now thinking “No Way! I’m not changing/removing that!” That’s OK. Start with the stuff you can change. And when you do eat any sugars, starches or grains be sure to eat it with a fat such as grass-fed butter to slow down the speed that sugar enters your bloodstream.
These lists may sound extreme and possibly overwhelming, but start with the recommendations at the top of this post for the Top 3 Foods to Add and Top 3 Stressors to Remove. Do the best you can to slowly make these changes over time – maybe start by switching out the fats/oils with the healthier, easy to digest options like grass-fed butter and virgin coconut oil. Another week or two later switch out your conventional & GMO products for organic or grass-fed options. And remember to “Add in the Good to Crowd Out the Bad!”
There are many things to do to support the digestive process. In Nutritional Therapy, we believe that digestion is a North to South process (meaning it starts with the brain, then the mouth, the stomach, small intestine and all the way down). Digestion issues are supported by starting at the top to improve the breakdown and absorption of nutrients while avoiding food rotting and creating toxicity in the gut. In addition to digestive aids/supplements, it’s important to remember that digestion is a parasympathetic process. This means that digestion (and detoxification for that matter) must take place in a relaxed state and cannot occur during stress because the fight or flight response is prioritized by the body over digestion. Below are a few steps to improve digestion:
Get into a Parasympathetic State
- If you have trouble relaxing try meditating for a few minutes and/or take 3 slow, deep breaths before you start your meal.
- Eat at the table, not while doing work, standing or watching TV.
- Slow down while eating – say grace or a prayer, appreciate your food.
- Chew each bite 30 times or more (see the highest number of chews it takes to completely break down one bite) – Your stomach doesn’t have teeth so the more you break down your food, the easier the job the rest of your body will have absorbing nutrients and the more energy it will have for other functions.
- Sometimes simply reclining or laying down after a meal can help digestion – listen for the tell-tale sign when your stomach starts gurgling and rumbling.
Supplements and Other Digestive Aids
We’ve been conditioned to think that stomach acid is bad for us and that we have too much of it (hence all the acid inhibitors both prescription and over the counter), but acid reflux, conversely to what we’ve been told, is not having enough acid to digest food in the stomach. The stomach is made to handle high levels of acid, but when food and acid start to bubble and ferment it pushes upwards towards the delicate tissue of the esophagus, which is not meant to handle this acidic pH level. I highly recommend the book “Why Stomach Acid is Good For You” by Jonathan Wright if you’d like to learn more.
The suggestions below help raise acid in the stomach and generally work for most, but as a reminder, we’re all bio-individuals and what works for some may not work for others. This is not intended for those with ulcers who may require some additional digestive support before following this protocol.
- HCL/Pepsin – This is one of my favorites and many of my clients have experienced profound results with its use. Start with 1 with each meal. If you don’t experience any warmth/heartburn increase to 2 with each meal. Continue to increase by 1 additional pill each day until you feel warmth/heartburn, then reduce to the previous day’s amount. Do not exceed 7 – If you need more, you may require additional digestive support.
- Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar – This is a great place to start for those who want to minimize supplements and have an all-in-one product. 1-2 tsp of ACV in a small amount of water before meals provides digestive support by raising the level of acid in the stomach and adding enzymes and probiotics.
- Lemon Juice – Another way to raise the level of acid to help digestion. ½ lemon squeezed into a small amount of water before meals.
- Digestive bitters – Primes the body and lets it know that food is coming so it will produce stomach acid and other digestive support.
- Reduce liquids while eating – Too much liquid dilutes stomach acid when we’re trying to increase it. Keep liquids to between meals and no more than 1 cup during meals. Stick to warm or hot liquids to aid digestion, because cold foods and drinks tend to slow & impede digestion.
There are so many other methods to support digestion but here are a few:
- Chia seeds in water (1 part chia to 8 parts water) Soothes the digestive tract and moves toxins through.
- Fat Digestion – Thins bile and increase production of bile in order to break down fats into smaller globules. Properly digested fats are very important for many reasons including helping to avoid congesting the lymphatic system and creating building blocks for healthy cell walls.
- Enzymes – Breaks down proteins, carbohydrates and fats further. Look for one that provides many different enzymes in one.
- Probiotics – Adds good bacteria to the intestinal tract and helps convert food into vitamins such as Vitamin K and B-vitamins. Look for a product that has several strains of probiotics (at least 10) and try to rotate probiotics periodically to get the best results. I’d recommend a therapeutic level/brand, but Biokult is a good choice that’s accessible.
- Zinc – This can be an underlying cause for some if they’re not producing enough stomach acid. Adding a supplement or foods that contain zinc can be helpful.
Detox and Supporting the Liver
A hugely important part of bringing the body back in balance is supporting the liver. However, it’s critical to mention that before doing any kind of detoxification program like juicing, green powder drinks especially with chlorophyll, liver cleanses etc. you must FIRST address imbalances in the body’s foundations (digestion, blood sugar regulation, essential fatty acid and mineral balance, and hydration) and open up the detoxification pathways. Otherwise toxins will be reintroduced back into the body (sometimes in a more harmful form) and overwhelm the system making you feel even worse.
NOTE: Anyone with cancer in the process of chemotherapy should not do anything to detox, which requires a lot of energy. Also avoid using chlorella or any green drinks that may contain it. This will dump an overwhelming amount of toxins and heavy metals into the body, which can be too much for the system to handle. Detoxification can come later in their recovery process.
Just making some of the dietary changes and including digestive support listed above may create a detoxification or healing reaction, which is normal and a sign that your body is adjusting and working to come back into balance. Usually one will feel worse for a couple days before getting better and any strange thing one’s body does while on a new protocol can be a healing reaction such as: headache, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, cramps, diarrhea, nausea, temporary recurrence of old symptoms, feeling emotional, leg cramps, and the list goes on. If you can push through the symptoms, do so, otherwise you may want to pull back a little as your diet may be too detoxifying and overwhelm your system. In the rare case that you experience hives or another allergic reaction stop immediately and review your protocol to determine what may be the cause.
As you can see, removing many sugars, reducing toxicity and healing the body through diet and digestion to help protect against cancer is a huge topic and despite the length of this blog we’ve barely scratched the surface – but it’s a great place to start! Addressing diet and digestion alone helps support the other foundations within Nutritional Therapy, but even more healing can take place by individually addressing each of the five foundations: Digestion, Blood Sugar Regulation, Fatty Acid and Mineral Balance and very importantly – Hydration.
Ingrid is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association (2018) and a board Certified Holistic Health Counselor (CHHC) who received her training from Teachers College Columbia University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (2008). She is a member of the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP), the Nutritional Therapy Association (NTA) and the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Ingrid works with adults and children with various health concerns and specializes in learning, mood and behavior issues; thyroid, adrenal and other endocrine challenges; and supporting the health of recovering vegetarians. Ingrid can be found online at her website https://fulllifenutrition.com/
Disclaimer: If you have a medical condition, please speak with your doctor before making changes to your diet. No information in this article or anywhere else on this website is meant to replace medical advice or treatment by a medical doctor. The information presented herein is not presented with the intention of diagnosing or treating any disease or condition. This information is for educational purposes only. No responsibility is assumed by the author nor anyone connected with this website for the use of this information and no guarantees of any kind are made for the performance or effectiveness of the recommendations provided.
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