The relationship between cancer and inflammation is well established. There is a strong association between chronic, ongoing inflammation in the body and the occurrence of cancer. It is most obviously demonstrated with the increased chance (five to seven times higher than the general population) for people with chronic inflammatory diseases.
For example chronic acid reflux and heartburn which inflames the stomach and esophagus increases risk of stomach and esophageal cancer. Acid reflux may be caused by infection with H. Pyolori which can be treated with antibiotics as well as natural medicines.
- Chronic infection of the liver with Hepatitis virus B and C increases risk of liver cancer.
- Chronic autoimmune inflammation of the colon or lower intestine, Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Disease, increases risk for colon cancer.
- Chronic inflammation of the lungs due to exposure to inhaled chemical irritants including chemicals found in cigarette smoke or volatile inhaled chemicals from resins and varnishes or inhaled particles such as asbestos increase risk of lung cancer.
- Chronic inflammation of the skin due to repeated sunburns increases risk of skin cancer.
Inflammation fuels cancer in several ways:
- Inflammatory chemicals release free radicals or free roving electrons that damage cells and may initiate damage to the genetic material in our cells, our DNA thus leading to cellular mutations, loss of normal cell functions and cancer.
- Inflammatory chemicals stimulate the production of new capillaries, tiny blood vessels that feed cancerous growths.
- Many cancer cells will spread and metastasize in clumps that contain both inflammatory white blood cells of the activated immune system, called lymphocytes and sticky blood cells called platelets, which allow the cells to attach to new organs and tissues. This allows cancer cells spread by travelling to and establishing growth in new locations.
Common Triggers of Inflammation:
- chronic bacterial, viral or parasitic infections
- chemical irritants such as formaldehyde or toluene found in many cosmetics or benzene found in oven cleaners, detergents, furniture polishes and nail polish removers
- Inhaled particles from fiberglass, silica or asbestos found in building materials and insulation
- Ionizing radiation from sun exposure or frequent medical scans and xrays
Once the immune system has become activated and inflammation unfolds, the inflamed cells are further damaged by oxidative stress... the presence of roving free electrons that can damage cellular genetic material, our DNA. Damaged DNA is a primary cause of cancer as the expression of genes becomes altered. Protecting cells from this damage is crucial in preventing and controlling cancer.
Recognizing that inflammation is occurring and is ongoing and poorly managed is the first step. The second step is to take action
Here are Five Ways to Reduce Inflammation Naturally
1/Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
An anti-inflammatory diet is organic and free of chemical additives and artificial colorings and flavorings and preservatives. Eat whole, fresh, unprocessed foods that are not charred or deep fried. Eat a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Eat healthy fats and oils, emphasizing Omega 3 fats found in cold water fish such as salmon and cod and sardines. Include other healthy oils such as walnuts, almonds, avocadoes, olives and flax seeds. Eat animal products from grass fed rather than grain fed (conventionally raised) animals. Emphasize a plant based diet over a diet derived primarily from animal products. Avoid refined sugars and flours and corn syrup. Eat plenty of fiber from whole grains, fruits and vegetables and beans. Drink plenty of fluids everyday.
2/Use Anti-Inflammatory Herbs to Manage Inflammation
Common Herbs which reduce inflammation by lowering inflammatory and damaging molecules such COX2 and LOX5 in our cells include: Tumeric, Ginger root, Boswellia, Resveratrol, Milk Thistle and Cat’s Claw.
3/Avoid chemical exposures: Eat an organic, chemical free diet as noted above. Drink filtered water. Use only cosmetics that are free of irritating and carcinogenic additives. Identify chemical exposures in the home (cleaning supplies, garden supplies) and the workplace (chemical exposures, fumes, inhalants, radiation).
4/Identify and Treat Chronic Infections: Do you have persistent heartburn? Do you have chronic loose stool or diarrhea or gas and bloating? Have you been exposed to hepatitis or parasites while travelling internationally? Do you have a chronic post nasal drip or cough? See your health care provider to determine the cause and get proper treatment and follow up. Once the infection is resolved take measures to boost your immunity to prevent future infections. Eat fermented foods or use probiotic supplements which contain healthy organisms that are part of natural immunity in our digestive tract and intestines.
5/Keep your body lean. Keep your weight under control. Reduce your Body Fat. Build Muscle. Excess body fat is a factory for inflammatory molecules. All overweight and over fat people have much higher levels of inflammation than people who are lean. Eat a balanced diet, get regular cardiovascular and weight bearing exercise. Get enough sleep and manage your stress. All of these factors will contribute to normal body weight, reduced fat and increased lean muscle.
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Emily Shacter and Sigmund A. Weitzman, ”Chronic Inflammation and Cancer,” Oncology 16, no. 2 (February 2002). www.cancernetwork.com/journals/oncology/o0202d.htm (accessed fall 2006).
National Cancer Institute Division of Cancer Biology, “Executive Summary of Inflammation and Cancer Think Tank.” http://dcb.nci.nih.gov/thinktank/Executive_Summary_of_Inflammation_and_
Cancer_Think_Tank.cfm (accessed fall 2006).
Haiyan Xu et al., “Chronic inflammation in fat plays a crucial role in the development of obesity-related insulin resistance,” J. Clin. Invest. 112 (2003): 1821-30. Also available at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.
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