A Very Interesting Public Radio Interview

Last week, I was in my car driving to Las Vegas from the east coast.  One of the interesting programs I listened to was an interview of May Elizabeth Williams who wrote a very interesting sounding book that I have not read, but hope to.  The title of the book is “A Series of Catastrophes and Miracles: A True Story of Love, Science and, Cancer”

First, I would like to make clear, that while I think a healthy diet and lifestyle can and will prevent a lot of medical conditions; getting sick, especially with cancer, is not the patient’s fault.  Even if the person is a smoker.  The reason I say this is because there are a lot of smokers who never develop lung cancer, and there are a lot of people who develop lung cancer who never smoked.  Got it?  I am not playing the blame game.  Disease stinks, I try to share information with clients to prevent disease.

Mary Elizabeth Williams was diagnosed with melanoma.  The worst kind.  Stage 4.  She was treated and the treatment worked for a while, but then was diagnosed with metastatic disease.  The cancer had spread to her lung.  A primary cancer is no picnic, but metastatic disease is terrible and all too often fatal.

Luckily for Mary Elizabeth doctors were conducting drug trials for a new treatment which involves training a patient’s immune system to recognize the cancer and just mobilize to fight those cancer cells.  It is as amazing as good science fiction, except it is real and for Mary Elizabeth, it worked.  This is the same sort of treatment that former president Jimmy Carter received for his brain cancer.

Here is why I am writing about this.  The treatments are wildly expensive and they don’t work for every kind of cancer.  However, I can tell you that how you eat impacts your immune system.  We all probably have cancer cells in our body.  It takes years and years for cancer to grow into a tumor.  Researchers estimate that breast cancer can exist for up to 10 years before it becomes a problem.  I have a client who found out she had a tumor on a bone that had completely healed that she did not even know about until she fell and needed x-rays and MRI’s.  Pathologists often find cancers that were resolved in patients when they do an autopsy for some other cause of death.

So here are foods to eat and things to do to improve your immune function:

1:  Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Especially berries and leafy greens.

2.  Eat plenty of beans.

3.  Include 1 tablespoon of ground flax in your daily diet.

4.  Eat mushrooms.

5.  Add a teaspoon of ground turmeric to your daily diet.  Use ground black pepper with it so you can absorb the curcumin.  You can stir turmeric into oatmeal, soups, stews, beans, pasta sauce.  It really doesn’t have much taste.

6.  Every day make a point of eating a serving or 2 of cruciferous vegetables.  Cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower.  Just do it.

7.  Add seeds and nuts to your diet.  Sesame, flax, peanuts, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds.  They are good and good for you.  A great snack.

8.  Make the switch to whole grains.  Brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat.

9.  Vitamin D.  Take a supplement or catch some rays without getting a burn.  Either way, people with the highest blood levels of vitamin D fare the best when diagnosed with cancer.

10.  Exercise.  150 minutes a week,  Do something you enjoy, but do something physical.

So those are things to add to your diet.  Here are things to take out of your diet to improve immune function

  1. Processed foods.  The healthiest food is in its least processed state.  An apple is an extremely healthy food, apple juice, not so much.  Grapes, healthy, grape jelly, not at all.  Got it?  Good.

2.  Preservatives.  You should have this one covered if you follow the instructions in number 1.  Preservatives increase the shelf life of foods, but they reduce your shelf life.  Really, they wreak havoc with your immune system.

3.  Omega 6 Essential fatty acids.  Omega 3 prevents cancer, omega 6 promotes cancer.  Omega 6 is mostly present in animal foods ad processed foods.

4.  Don’t smoke.

5.  Don’t drink excessively.