Tags: absorption, Cancer, curcumin, green tea, inflammation, Pain, resveratrol, synergy, vitamin D
Natural Cancer Fighters
Patients are increasingly incorporating Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) into their cancer prevention and treatment plans. Some surveys on the use of CAM by cancer patients have reported it as high as 64%.
There are some powerful natural ingredients that can help decrease the risk of getting cancer or augment current treatment plans. Let's take some time to discuss the recent scientific research evidence on the natural supplements that may prove to be the best weapons ever for fighting against cancer!
Cancer and Inflammation
As prevalent as cancer is, it is not normal. Every cell in the body comes equipped with an automatic self-destruct mechanism; they are programmed to die after a certain number of divisions. However, when it comes to cancer, the normal mechanisms governing the cellular life cycle have gone haywire. Cancer cells continue to divide indefinitely, without ever dying off, which can lead to rapidly growing tumors. Then, in a process called "metastasis," these cells may spread to other organs. While many factors are involved in the origins of cancer in the body, one of the most dangerous root causes is inflammation. Ever since the research of Rudolf Virchow in the 19th century, an association between the development of cancer and inflammation has been appreciated. Current research continues to validate this view. As the body fights to control inflammatory markers, it actually creates free radicals. The problem is, our bodies then respond to this threat by creating even more cells (cell dysplasia) to make up for the damage from what it views as free radical "invaders." This sets the stage for cellular "population explosions" that can even draw in cells from surrounding unrelated tissue. So what you really have is a relationship between inflammation, free-radical damage, and DNA mutation. This is why finding the right nutrients is so important.
Curcumin: Extraordinary Inflammation Fighter
Curcumin, the key compound from the spice turmeric, can stop inflammation and free radical damage in their tracks. It inhibits the way the body overexpresses inflammatory markers, including interleukin 1b (IL-1b), interleukin 6 (IL-6), and tumor necrosis factor-a (TNF-a). This is important because inflammation fuels the growth of cancer. And in a very direct way, curcumin alters the potential for tumors by inhibiting the activity of matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) and MMP-2. These enzymes (also known as proteases) are normally involved with building tissue, which in most cases is a good thing, but obviously that's not the case when talking about tumors. In a study involving liver cancer cells, curcumin was shown to inhibit these proteases as they tried to build tumors. Beyond that, other studies have shown that curcumin can inhibit the spread of many different types of cancer cells, including cancers of the bladder, breast, lung, pancreas, prostate, cervix, ovary, kidney and brain. It can also fight osteosarcoma, leukemia, and melanoma.
So, curcumin is important because it's effective at all three stages of cancer - it can stop cancer cells from forming, kill existing cancer cells, and stop cancer cells from spreading. In addition to being used as a preventative, curcumin can also be utilized as an adjunct to chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
There have been some challenges, though. Standard curcumin doesn't absorb well, and because of this, clinical trials have had to use increasingly larger dosages (up to 10-12 grams daily) in order to get even a small amount into the bloodstream. There's no toxicity associated with curcumin, even at these very high dosage levels, but cost, comfort and compliance are very real issues here.
Research has focused on improving curcumin's bioavailability, by adding lecithin and/or piperine. However, it's important to avoid piperine in long-term treatment because it interferes with almost every prescription drug and can adversely affect the liver. There is a powerful curcumin extract that has been extremely successful. It combines micronized curcumin (reduced to a very small particle) and turmeric essential oils. That allows this bioavailable curcumin extract to have up to 10 times the absorption and greater blood retention time at significant serum levels than standard 95% curcumin extracts. This is very important for anyone who wants to see fast effects from curcumin without having to take huge dosages. Resveratrol: Strengthens the Power of Curcumin
But as strong as curcumin is, it does even better when it's paired with resveratrol. You're probably familiar with resveratrol, the anti-aging compound found in red grapes. It's considered to be one of the reasons behind the "French Paradox", in which people in France - despite their rich diets (of mostly whole foods and smaller portion sizes) seem to live longer, healthier lives. The prevalence of red wine during regular meals led researchers to discover that one of the compounds, resveratrol, did indeed appear to slow down the aging process, and even keep metabolism running more smoothly. Resveratrol is also a strong free-radical fighter and cardioprotective ingredient.
While it's generally associated with red wine grapes, the compound has many botanical sources, all of which deliver the same resveratrol. It's no different than the vitamin C from an orange or a kiwi. Despite the different sources, it is still the same form of vitamin C. In any case, like so many natural ingredients, resveratrol has a natural synergy when paired with other strong herbal extracts. Combining resveratrol with curcumin, for instance, greatly increases it's free-radical fighting power. But beyond being a strong antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory, resveratrol is a strong cancer fighter, too. Like curcumin, it kills cancer cells and stops cancer cells from spreading. In fact, current research shows that the combination of curcumin and resveratrol may be another therapeutic - or even preventive - intervention to battle colon cancer.
Green Tea: Keeping Cells Healthy, Stopping Cancer Cells from Spreading
Tea is second only to water as the most commonly consumed beverage in the world. Compounds in green tea have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities. One group of these compounds is called catechins, and of these, perhaps the most powerful is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). As cancer fighters, green tea catechins appear to work on multiple fronts. They help prevent the DNA-damaging effects of oxidation and inflammation, prevent the development of cancer cells, inhibit the growth of tumor cells (reducing tumor weight in the process), and improve chemotherapy treatment. Like curcumin, green tea appears to inhibit many types of cancer. Clinical research has shown that it treats premalignant lesions before prostate cancer can take hold. And, in Japan, where green tea consumption is traditionally much higher, boosting green tea consumption has also been effective against stage I and stage II breast cancer. In a case-control study in China, three types of cancer - pancreatic, colon, and rectal cancer - saw a decreased risk due to higher consumption of green tea. The numbers did show difference between women and men. For women, the reduced risk of pancreatic, colon, and rectal cancer was 47%, 43%, and 33% respectively. For men, the percentages were slightly lower overall; 37%, 18%, and 28%.
Getting the amount of green tea catechins from consuming the beverage alone can be a challenge. When choosing an extract, look for one that is standardized to contain at least, (or more than) 95% polyphenols, 75% catechins, and 40% EGCG.
Vitamin D: An Undervalued Miracle
Vitamin D is a miracle, no doubt about it. It can reduce the risk of Alzheimer"s and Parkinson"s, build bones and stop osteoporosis, and prevent up to 70% of cancers. So why are so many Americans - up to 58% - so deficient in vitamin D?
Mostly because this vitamin - actually a pro-hormone - has very few food sources, and many people don't get the vitamin D they need from exposure to sunlight. Plus, because vitamin D uses cholesterol as a building block, cholesterol-lowering drugs actually make it more difficult for your body to synthesize vitamin D. And as we age, our skin changes structure in a way that can reduce vitamin D production by up to 60%. Plus, there are genetic factors involved as well. A polymorphism - a slight mutation - on the VDR (vitamin D receptor) gene makes it more difficult for the body to absorb and use available vitamin D, whether from sunlight or supplements.
Our old recommended daily requirements for vitamin D are partly to blame as well. Until recently, they were set at 400 IUs, which is barely 10% of what the body needs. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is associated with at least 17 forms of cancer.
In fact, clinical research has found that high levels of vitamin D can reduce risk of colon cancer by 40%. Another study found that over 75% of breast cancer survivors in their studies were vitamin D deficient, while yet other studies concluded that high levels of vitamin D - much higher than our current recommendations - may reduce the risk of breast cancer by 50%! That's an amazing statistic - if vitamin D were a pharmaceutical drug, the manufacturer could practically boast a "miracle cure". And yet, we tend to overlook something as simple as a nutrient like vitamin D.
Other studies have found that vitamin D is able to enter breast cancer cells and trigger cell death - in other words, vitamin D can kill breast cancer cells. And, like the other natural fighters, vitamin D shows a protective effect for many types of cancer, including ovarian, prostate, stomach, bladder, kidney, and lung cancer. While there is no agreement on how much vitamin D a person needs for a daily intake, current research certainly shows a need for higher recommendations. In some disease treatment, extremely high dosages of 50,000 to 100,000 IU have been used, but for most of us, a daily intake of 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D - possibly boosting it in a range of 4,000 to 6,000 IU for cancer prevention - is probably just right.
Of course, the best way to fight cancer is to prevent it from gaining a hold to begin with. Stopping inflammation and helping the cells of the body develop normally is one of the most important ways to do just that. Supplementing with the best bioavailable curcumin, standardized resveratrol and green tea, along with meaningful levels of vitamin D, is a must whether you are looking to prevent cancer or are currently battling it.
Consider adding the following formula to your dispensary:
Curcumin Micronized (Curcuma longa) Rhizome Extract, phospholipids, turmeric essential oil, Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) standardized to contain >95% polyphenols, 75% catechins, and 40% EGCG (no caffeine), Resveratrol from Polygonum cuspidatum standardized to contain 8% total resveratrols