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Cancer stem cells have a pro-survival strategy involved in promoting cancer cell invasion, growth and metastasis (9). These cancer stem cells are unlike typical stem cells because they are designed to promote cancerous activities including: (4, 12)
- The ability to self-renew
- Resistant to chemotherapeutic drugs
- Not influenced by anti-growth signals or by contact with other stem cells
- Not regulated by normal cell functions including apoptosis
- Promote inflammation
- Regulated by tissue invasion and metastasis
- Sustained by angiogenesis and flawed cellular energy
Fortunately, cancer stem cells are affected by phytochemicals or the nutrients in our diets. These nutrients are designed to prevent and treat the pro-survival cancerous properties which equip a cancer stem cell to function. The following 12 nutrients are phytochemicals found in our diets which manipulate the communication pathways between cancer stem cells and the corresponding cancer cell.
Ursolic acid is a dietary compound found in the waxy coating of fruits such as apples as well as herbal medicines like holy basil. Exhibiting powerful anticancer potential, ursolic acid has been effectively shown to treat the following cancers: (1)
All underlying properties in which ursolic acid is capable of preventing and treating cancer is not yet fully understood. However, researchers are aware of ursolic acid’s ability to reduces enzymes which promote inflammation in the body and contribute to abnormal cell cycles, reduce the expression of genes which turn of cellular apoptosis in cancer stem cells thereby triggering “cell suicide” to occur in cancerous cells as well as inhibit DNA replication from occurring responsible for the progression of tumor growth and metastasis. ( 1)
Furthermore, ursolic acid has been shown in studies to reduce tumor size and concentration. You too can inhibit the development of tumors forming in your body by increasing your dietary intake of ursolic acid.
Many experts use a dosage of 150-300 mg, 3 times daily for optimal benefits. This is significantly more than you could get from using apple peels and taking holy basil which have between 5-10 mg of ursolic acid per serving. Apple peels and holy basil do have a number of other phytonutrients that are beneficial for the bodies immune system and should continue to be used.
A bioactive compound which has been shown to destroy cancer cell activity is lycopene. Lycopene gives fruits and vegetables their red fleshed pigmentation. Some of these lycopene rich food sources are tomatoes, watermelons, pink grapefruit and red oranges.
Anticancer properties of lycopene stem from its ability to cause cytotoxic and pro-apoptotic effects in cancer cells. In other words, lycopene can disrupt cancer stem cell’s communication pathways which enable a cancer cell to live and cause it to die. Lycopene has been shown to protect against cancers including: (3, 4)
Consuming a diet rich in biologically available nutrients such as lycopene is as simple as snacking on watermelon in the summer months or supplementing breakfast with a bowl of grapefruit in the winter.
Although the benefits of lycopene can be achieved from juicing, it is always best to consume the pulp from citrus foods by adding this back into your drink. When preparing a homemade sauce, increase the availability of lycopene to be absorbed by your body by cooking down tomatoes with their skins on to optimize their nutrient content.
When taking a supplement, the anticarcinogenic properties of lycopenes have shown to increase when combined with vitamin E and selenium (4). If you are looking to reduce unnecessary carbs and stay on a ketogenic diet, you may consider supplementing with 30-50 mg of lycopene, 1-2 times daily. This is roughly the same amount you would get from eating 2 servings of organic tomato sauce.
The mortality rate of colorectal cancer worldwide is estimated to be more than 639,000 people annually ( 1). Perhaps partly responsible for this very high statistic is that a carcinogenic bacteria known as H. pylori invades the gastrointestinal lining of half of the global population. Piperine, known as the “King of Spices” may help to lower the incidence of cancers relating to thestomach and breast. In fact, piperine has been identified as one of the major compounds which target cancer stem cells of breast tumors (4). (2)
Piperine is a compound found in black pepper which has anecdotally been used to treat common ailments such as colds, fever and most recently has been studied for its anticancer properties. Piperine inhibits H. pylori from adhering to a surface within the gastrointestinal tract and therefore prevents this bacterium from releasing toxins which cause stress, inflammation and promote carcinoma cells. One possible mechanism of piperine antimutagenic properties is that it prevents proteins from binding, which would cause genes to express factors promoting cancer. (2)
Reap the benefits of piperine by adding black pepper into your diet daily. Crack fresh black pepper onto salads, flavor meat, and add into fresh sauces, dips and soups.
Isothiocyanates are synthesized in our bodies by compounds with strong antioxidant potential. One such form of isothiocyanates is sulforaphane. Cruciferous vegetables contain this anti-cancer compound which promotedetoxification, activate cancer inhibiting agents, boost immunity and protect the body against breast, stomach, spleen, prostate and colon cancer. (7)
Isothiocyanates inhibit cancer in the following ways: (7, 8)
- Stimulate Nrf2 signaling pathways associated with blocking tumor formation
- Induce phase 2 enzymes which increase powerhouse antioxidants includingglutathione
- Improve healthy gut microflora by reducing carcinogenic bacteria such as H. pylori linked to stomach cancer
- Improve antioxidant potential
- Reduce inflammation
- Remove carcinogens
When seeking to achieve the benefits of isothiocyanates to prevent and treat cancer, aim to consume at least two servings of cruciferous vegetable sprouts daily for optimal impact. Not all sprouts are created equal and consider eating broccoli, cauliflower, kale and brussel sprouts. Broccoli and cauliflower sprouts alone contain up to 100 times more of the compounds required to create isothiocyanates (8).
If you would like to supplement with sulforophane, many health practicioners recommend to take 300-600 mg, one to two times daily. This is especially good for hormone sensitive cancers as the isothiocyanates are powerful estrogen metabolizers.
Curcumin is an extract found in the spice turmeric and possesses antioxidant,anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer abilities. Curcumin prevents chronic inflammation from occurring which is repeatedly evident in the development of cancer. By interacting with the signaling pathways of cancer stem cells, curcumin is noted in regulating the various factors involved in cancer stem cells.
Curcumin has the ability to control inflammation, prevent tumor invasion, hinder cancer cell growth, turn off factors which suppress apoptosis, prevent angiogenesis and inhibit metastasis. Curcumin has shown to target cancer stem cells involved in regulating cancers such as: (13)
- Non-Hodgkins lymphoma
Take advantage of the cancer stem cell targeting properties of curcumin and addturmeric to all of your dishes. Many practitioners recommend supplementing with 500-1000 mg doses – 3-4 times daily with food. Curcumin and turmeric should always be mixed with peperine from black pepper and taken with a fat based meal for optimal absorption.
Green tea is an abundant source of a polyphenol called epigallaocatechin-3-gallate, better known as EGCG. The antioxidant potential of EGCG has been linked to a variety of health benefits with anti-cancer properties. Drinking green tea regularly may be responsible for reducing the risk of some cancers including breast, colon, prostate and lung cancer. (14)
EGCG works by interrupting the signaling pathways associated with cancer stem cells. Consequently, this nutrient prevents cancer cell proliferation, inflammation and metastasis. Studies show that EGCG inhibits vital proteins required for cancer cell survival and shuts off the mechanisms which trigger their growth (15).
Try sipping on green tea in the morning to reduce inflammation or adding green tea as a base for your smoothies. Opting for matcha green tea is the best strategy as it contains up to 10 times more EGCG than commercial green tea.
If using supplemental EGCG than go with a dose of 400-800 mg of ECGC, 1-2 times daily. Always use this earlier in the day as it is slightly stimulating. Green tea does reduce folate absorption so it is adviseable to consume extra raw green veggies (rich in folate) in salads or juices or supplement with an extra 400-500 mg of methyl-folate or calcium folinate if using green tea.
A naturally occurring phenolic compound called resveratrol is found in grape skins and red wine. Resveratrol has a profound ability to prevent and heal metabolic conditions especially relating to cancer cells. Resveratrol protects cell’s ability to repair damage and extends their lifespan. (16)
Resveratrol has shown protective properties from cancer of the prostate, liver, pancreas, colon, skin and many other organs (17). Resveratrol supplementation may be recommended for patients combating cancer to take upwards of more than 200 mg daily. Otherwise healthy individuals may consume a supplemental dosage of 20-100 mg a day to receive optimal anti-cancer health benefits.
Each day the body produces approximately 10,000 cancer cells which have the ability to invade, proliferate and spread (6). One of the most common factors involved in the pathogenesis of cancer is vitamin D3 deficiency. Receiving adequate amounts of vitamin D3 daily is necessary to destroy cancer cells.
Supplemental dosage of 20,000 I.U. vitamin D3 daily may be a reliable therapy to slow the progression of cancer and reduce systemic inflammation ( 5). Vitamin D3 supplementation is perhaps most vital in its need for proper GcMAF production. GcMAF is a protein which improves the natural immune system response and treats cancer. GcMAF requires a steady intake of vitamin D3 in order to eradicate tumors completely. ( 6)
Today, our health is dominated by high doses of pharmaceutical drugs which decrease the ability for our bodies to naturally absorb vitamin D from the sun and from our diets. Combined with our lack of time spent outdoors and decreased oxygen supply to cells, our bodies can provide a suitable environment for cancer stem cells to produce tumors. Increase the ability for your body to better absorb vitamin D not only through natural supplementation of dietary intake, but also reducing stress and synthetic drug intake.
It is best to get your vitamin D3 (25-OH) between 60-100 ng/ml with ideal ranges between 80-100 ng/ml for individuals looking to prevent or slow cancer growth. As a general rule, many practitioners recommend taking 1,000 IU’s per 25 lbs of body weight to slowly raise your vitamin D levels into range or take 2,000 IU’s per 25 lbs of body weight to quickly raise your vitamin D levels.
Adding ginger to your tea, meat marinades and vegetable dishes such as coleslaw and salad dressings is an excellent way to boost the chemopreventive properties of your meals and beverages.
A major compound contained in ginger is 6-gingerol. This phytonutrient decreases nitric oxide production which wreaks havoc and stress on cells and processes in the body. As a result, 6-gingerol protects against free radical damage and has exhibited strong neuroprotective properties in research. 6- Gingerol enhances the antioxidant defense system by contributing pharmacological activity to protect cells from carcinogens and cancerous activity. (10)
I recommend adding fresh ground or dried ginger to meat marinades or on vegetable dishes. It is also a great practice to consume a cup or two of ginger tea everyday. I am also a huge fan of fermented ginger, which is commonly used in Asian dishes such as sushi and in the Korean dish kimchi.
You may better know this healing nutrient as milk thistle. Silymarin is a flavonoid highly concentrated in milk thistle which protects the body from both skin andcolon cancer by acting as a powerful detoxifying agent. The primary use of milk thistle is designed to promote liver, kidney and functioning of the gastrointestinal tract. Silymarin has also been therapeutic in the prevention and treatment of cancer cell growth of the skin, prostate, breast and cervix. (11)
The chemotherapeutic effects of Silymarin is a result of its ability to improveoxygenation in blood cells and promote enzymatic activity of antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione. Silymarin prevents toxins from accumulating in the detoxifying organs of the body and improves their ability to function and reduce the risk of cancerous cell growth. (11)
Consider taking 200 mg of milk thistle daily to protect your body from carcinogens and inflammation and to lower your risk of developing cancer.
A dietary antioxidant quercetin is found in a variety of vegetables, fruits, teas and wine. Quercetin targets cancer stem cells by interfering with signaling pathways related to free radicals such as reactive oxygen species. Quercetin exhibits cancer prevention and treatment properties by improving the production of other antioxidant levels including glutathione and SOD which further scavenge free radicals involved in the signaling pathways of cancer stem cells. (18, 19)
Researchers have shown that high dose quercetin has the potential to impair the expression of genes which activate cancer cells associated with leukemia (20). Often it is heard that an apple a day will keep the doctor away. Truth be told that this old saying has some validity because apples, more specifically the peels of apples, contain quercetin.
Other quercetin rich foods are raspberries, green tea, red onion, and dark colored tomatoes. Due to its tremendous impact on relieving inflammation, quercetin supplements are often marketed to prevent the release of histamine associated with immune cell responses (20).
The ideal supplemental range for quercetin is thought to be 400-500mg – 2-3 times per day.
Over 600 types of anthocyanins occur naturally in plants such as berries (especially bilberries), grapes, eggplant, tea and even certain types of oranges. Anthocyanins exhibit anticancer potential by supporting gene function which in turn inhibits the tumor growth pathway in cancer stem cells. Anthocyanins also trigger apoptosis by manipulating the communication between cancer stem cells and tumors. (9)
Anthocyanins equip the body with a natural healing ability to treat colorectal cancer, reduce breast cancer tumors and limit leukemia cells from spreading. These dietary components have the ability to control cancer stem cells which otherwise are uncontrollable. Anthocyanins boost the productivity of genes which suppress tumors, induce apoptosis in colon cancer cells and create dysfunction in leukemia cells. (9)
Consuming both fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables containing these powerful phytochemicals can protect your body from developing cancer and treat already present tumors. Additionally, try having a natural sauerkraut with red cabbage and red onions on a daily basis.
Commit to an Anti-Cancer Diet
Shutting down the signaling pathways which stimulate the pro-survival mechanisms of cancer stem cells is necessary to living a cancer free life. The answer to killing cancer stem cells is found in our diets and must be committed to long-term.
Plant based diets rich in phytochemicals which fight chronic inflammation, slow cellular aging, promote normal cellular functioning and most importantly target and destroy cancer stem cells is crucial to living a cancer-free life.