The Importance of Good Nutrition
By: Dr. Robert Avery, Former Professional Advisory Board Member
Cancer Support Community sponsored an important event for all cancer patients and survivors. Nutrition, bodywork and mind/body therapies are modalities that reach far beyond cancer and chemotherapy because they are necessary for your health. Cancer and chemotherapy can be very damaging to your physical and psychological health, but there are ways to feel better.
One thing I’ve learned is that the human body is truly amazing. Yes, we all get sick at some time or another, but if you give the body all the nutrients it craves, it will heal itself. There are a few processes that make us sick, bad genes, inflammation, oxidation, and a poor immune system. The good news is good food will alter these processes and positively affect health. So it seems your mother was correct when she said, “eat your vegetables.”
Since the human genome project was completed we have a new understanding into how genes cause disease. In fact, scientist have found genes for many disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, colon cancer, breast cancer, and obesity, but having a bad gene does not mean you will have the disease. In fact, bad genes can be turned off and good genes turned on by the foods we eat. Oleic acid in Olive oil has been shown to turn off the Her-2 neu oncogene which is a very bad gene in breast cancer patients. Cruciferous vegetables, broccoli and cauliflower, turn on genes that are responsible for breaking down cancer causing substances in your gut. Finally, green tea can turn off genes associated with lung cancer and breast cancer.
The immune system is necessary to fight infections and even prevent cancers. Chronic inflammation results when the immune doesn’t turn off. It is very damaging and is associated with many diseases including heart disease, stroke, arthritis, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Foods that encourage inflammation include processed foods, white sugar, white flour, red meat, cured meats, or corn oil. Good foods proven to turn off inflammation include omega-3 fatty acids (olive oil, flaxseed and fish oil), and fruits and vegetables.
Free oxygen radicals are produced when we use energy. This is a normal process but these radicals can cause diseases by damaging our mitochondria and DNA. Our bodies utilize micronutrients in fruits and vegetables to neutralize damaging radicals. Essential nutrients to eliminate these include beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, selenium, alpha-lipoic acid, carnitine, gingko biloba, green tea, grape seed extract, lutein, lycopene and coenzyme Q10.
Finally, our diet can improve the ability of our immune system to fight infections. Scientific studies have demonstrated increased numbers of natural killer cells, improved white blood cell function and immunoglobulins when our diet includes sources of vitamin C, vitamin E, carotenoids, bioflavenoids, zinc, garlic, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, and mushrooms (maitake, reishi, shiitake).
The foods we eat are essential for good health. Science is demonstrating how diet boosts our immune systems and reduces inflammation and oxidation and turns off bad genes. Sticking to a diet high in fruits and vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids and low in processed foods, sugar, animal fats, and red meat will go a long way in curing some illnesses and preventing diseases. Hippocrates had the right idea more than 2000 years ago when he said, “Let thy food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”
Dr. Avery works for Missouri Hematology and Oncology Care and was a past member of Cancer Support Community’s professional Advisory Board. This program is entitled Nutrition and Epigenetics; DNA is NOT Destiny, How your food affects your genes. Good nutrition and lifestyle modification has been known to prevent diseases but the exact mechanism has not been known until now. We know that the chromosomes contain DNA which contains the genes. Genes are the blueprint to a cell and are the basis for health or disease, but it is not that simple. We have many genes, good and bad, in our cells but only a few are turned on. The process of turning on and off genes is called Epigenetics and it is an exciting field in medicine. The chemicals in our foods have an effect on our genes and can potentially turn on good genes and turn off bad genes. This is probably the most exciting research that I have seen and is the topic of our next talk.