The war on cancer is very, very real. Most doctors will have you think that chemotherapy and Western medicine is the only option, but never forget that you have a choice. And when you consider the side effects of chemo, a holistic approach is certainly worth thinking about.
It doesn’t help that chemotherapy is often paired with other forms of treatment. Even worse, it’s not always fool-proof, and there are chances of recurrences. Furthermore, it all comes at a cost, causing side effects like hair loss, poor appetite, pain, anemia, fertility problems, and nerve issues.
Though unconventional, taking the natural route skips the harsh outcomes of chemotherapy. And while it’s not as aggressive on cancer cells, it gives the body a chance to fight cancer instead of trying to fight both cancer and chemotherapy. It all comes down to what you think is right for you. So, whether you’re on a mission to heal cancer or prevent its relentless return, remember these five components of holistic healing.1 2
1. Eat Fruits And Vegetables
Never forget that food is medicine. Granted, nutrition may have a stronger role in cancer prevention, but it still matters during management and healing. Plant foods can’t be emphasized enough. Fruits and vegetables are jam-packed with antioxidants like vitamin A, C, and E. These nutrients hunt and destroy free radicals, the very molecules that fuel cancer development.
In many cases, fruits and veggies contain other cancer-busting components like sulforaphane, a chemoprotective nutrient in broccoli. Sulforaphane targets inflammation, gene mutations, and even stem cells that might survive chemotherapy. Meanwhile, the bromelain in pineapple protects healthy cells from DNA damage.3 4
2. Avoid Refined Carbohydrates
Whether or not you have cancer, there are many reasons to avoid loading up on simple, refined carbohydrates. Cancer cells sustain themselves by combining sugar and protein. It’s a process called abnormal glycosylation and explains why cancer cells tend to “consume” more sugar. Unsurprisingly, simpler sugars are easier to eat up.5
And then, there’s the issue of weight gain. The more refined carbs you eat, the more likely you will be to pack on the pounds. It’s an established risk for cancer development! Additionally, hyperglycemia, or high blood glucose, enhances the risk. A 2014 study in BioMed Research International shares that it stops apoptosis, an important process of cancer cells killing themselves. Hyperglycemia also contributes to more malignant types, but controlling it may have a therapeutic effect.6
3. Exercise More
Physical activity is one of the best things you can do. It’s a top tool for cancer prevention, and its power holds strong even after diagnosis. In a 2017 study in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers, researchers found that resistance training lowers the inflammatory markers seen in breast cancer. Another 2017 study saw a link between tumor suppression and physical activity.
Exercise can even block certain pathways, making it easier for the body to control cancer cells. Barriers like pain and fatigue might get in the way. However, do whatever you can, because every little bit counts. Aim for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.7 8
4. Relieve Stress
When you’re looking at cancer in the eye, de-stressing seems impossible. But like exercise, stress relief will be a game changer during this time of need. Think of it this way: Stress releases cortisol, the infamous “stress hormone” that controls immune and metabolic functions. At high levels, cortisol works against you, helping cancer thrive and grow. Why let cortisol have its way?9
As you navigate the road of cancer healing, make stress management a top priority. Spend time with people that matter to you. Do things you love, whether it’s gardening or doodling. At its core, self-care is cancer-care. Consider cognitive behavioral therapy, yoga, and meditation to regulate stress levels. Focus on avoiding build-up of negative emotion, because once it does, the immune system will have a harder time fighting back.10
5. Boost The Immune System
Together, all of these habits promote optimal immune function. But why not give it a push? With holistic remedies and treatments, the immune system can get the boost it needs. For example, reishi is a medicinal mushroom. According to a 2016 review, reishi rouses up white blood cells like natural killer cells and T-lymphocytes. Cordyceps, another medicinal mushroom, also improve cellular immunity by supporting macrophages. With these natural treatments, you can help stimulate the immune system.11 12
Let’s not forget about other plant foods. Spices like turmeric, or “Indian solid gold,” has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It’s been found to disrupt pathways necessary for oxidative stress! Ginger offers similar benefits by scavenging for free radicals.13 14 15
These are just the basic, core concepts of holistic healing. They can be used in place of conventional treatment, as a supplement, or after the fact. Again, do whatever you think is best for you.
|↑1||Side Effects. National Cancer Institute.|
|↑2||Breast Cancer Recurrence. John Hopkins Medicine.|
|↑3||Mokhtari, Reza Bayat, Narges Baluch, Tina S. Homayouni, Evgeniya Morgatskaya, Sushil Kumar, Parandis Kazemi, and Herman Yeger. “The role of Sulforaphane in cancer chemoprevention and health benefits: a mini-review.” Journal of cell communication and signaling (2017): 1-11.|
|↑4||Rathnavelu, Vidhya, Noorjahan Banu Alitheen, Subramaniam Sohila, Samikannu Kanagesan, and Rajendran Ramesh. “Potential role of bromelain in clinical and therapeutic applications.” Biomedical reports 5, no. 3 (2016): 283-288.|
|↑5||Sampathkumar, Srinivasa-Gopalan, Mark B. Jones, M. Adam Meledeo, Christopher T. Campbell, Sean S. Choi, Kaoru Hida, Prasra Gomutputra et al. “Targeting glycosylation pathways and the cell cycle: sugar-dependent activity of butyrate-carbohydrate cancer prodrugs.” Chemistry & biology 13, no. 12 (2006): 1265-1275.|
|↑6||Duan, Wanxing, Xin Shen, Jianjun Lei, Qinhong Xu, Yongtian Yu, Rong Li, Erxi Wu, and Qingyong Ma. “Hyperglycemia, a neglected factor during cancer progression.” BioMed research international 2014 (2014).|
|↑7||Dethlefsen, Christine, Louise S. Hansen, Christian Lillelund, Christina Andersen, Julie Gehl, Jesper F. Christensen, Bente K. Pedersen, and Pernille Hojman. “Exercise-induced catecholamines activate the hippo tumor suppressor pathway to reduce risks of breast cancer development.” Cancer Research 77, no. 18 (2017): 4894-4904.|
|↑8||Winters-Stone, Kerri, Lisa J. Wood, Sydnee Stoyles, and Nathan Dieckmann. “The Effects of Resistance Exercise on Biomarkers of Breast Cancer Prognosis: A Pooled Analysis of Three Randomized Trials.” Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention Biomarkers (2017): cebp-0766.|
|↑9||Moreno-Smith, Myrthala, Susan K. Lutgendorf, and Anil K. Sood. “Impact of stress on cancer metastasis.” Future oncology 6, no. 12 (2010): 1863-1881.|
|↑10||Kiecolt-Glaser, Janice K., Lynanne McGuire, Theodore F. Robles, and Ronald Glaser. “Psychoneuroimmunology: psychological influences on immune function and health.” Journal of consulting and clinical psychology 70, no. 3 (2002): 537.|
|↑11||Jin, Xingzhong, J. Ruiz Beguerie, Daniel Man-yeun Sze, and G. C. Chan. “Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) for cancer treatment.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2 (2009).|
|↑12||Zhou, Xuanwei, Zhenghua Gong, Ying Su, Juan Lin, and Kexuan Tang. “Cordyceps fungi: natural products, pharmacological functions and developmental products.” Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 61, no. 3 (2009): 279-291.|
|↑13||Aggarwal, Bharat B., Chitra Sundaram, Nikita Malani, and Haruyo Ichikawa. “Curcumin: the Indian solid gold.” In The molecular targets and therapeutic uses of curcumin in health and disease, pp. 1-75. Springer US, 2007.|
|↑14||Chikara, Shireen, Lokesh Dalasanur Nagaprashantha, Jyotsana Singhal, David Horne, Sanjay Awasthi, and Sharad S. Singhal. “Oxidative stress and dietary phytochemicals: Role in cancer chemoprevention and treatment.” Cancer Letters (2017).|
|↑15||Sultan, M. Tauseef, Masood Sadiq Buttxs, Mir M. Nasir Qayyum, and Hafiz Ansar Rasul Suleria. “Immunity: plants as effective mediators.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 54, no. 10 (2014): 1298-1308.|