We’re so inspired by Audra Wilford of MaxLove Project. After her young son Max was diagnosed with brain cancer, she did what all mothers do: she stepped up to bat for him, fighting for his well-being on all fronts.
When plunged head first into the medical system like this, so many of us find ourselves ill-equipped with information on healing through food and proper nutrition.
Audra recognized this immediately and set up MaxLove Project to help families just like hers become empowered to fight disease to the best of their ability. MaxLove equips families with research, resources on quality of life care, education for kids on superfoods or “fierce foods”, and whole-body wellness education.
Audra relates, “As a family affected by childhood cancer, we know what it means to fight, collapse with exhaustion, and get up and fight again. But through it all, we know that families like us don’t just want to survive, we want to thrive. One key to thriving while battling cancer is nutrition. But when we left the hospital and entered into chemotherapy after our son’s brain surgery, we were told by our oncologists to let Max eat whatever he wants, just get him calories. We were stunned by this: he’s fighting for his life, yet he can eat hot dogs and candy all day? This was the beginning of our journey to survive…”
Whether your family is fighting disease or you’re looking for guidance and inspiration to keep your family in optimal health, here are insights from Audra on the value of eating an “anti-cancer” diet…
1. A healthy diet is the foundation for surviving and thriving
Our daily diets create an overall environment in our bodies. Through diet, we can make our bodily environment more or less favorable to cancer, and more or less favorable to a healthy recovery from cancer treatment.
No diet has ever been shown to completely cure or prevent cancer. But many high-profile, peer-reviewed studies show that the right dietary strategies lead to lower cancer rates, better quality of life while in cancer treatment and a longer survival time.*
Most researchers believe that an overall healthy diet works on so many different parts of the body and in so many different ways, that it is best to talk about creating a healthy overall bodily environment, rather than talking about how a diet can have a single, specific effect.**
2. The right nutrients can boost our immune system’s competence
While there are sometimes good reasons to depress the body’s immune system (as in bone marrow transplants), the immune system plays a key role in healing from cancer. As a group of researchers stated in a recent study: The strength of the immune system is “the strongest prognostic factor for recurrence and overall survival.”*
The immune system is very complex and not completely understood, but we do know that diet influences its effectiveness. A diet rich in plant-based whole foods and minimal in refined carbohydrates and non-organic meat has been shown to promote a healthy immune system.
3. Cancer is promoted by inflammation in the body. Many foods are anti-inflammatory
Inflammation is the body’s natural immune response to damage (shocks, cuts, burns, poisons, infections, etc.). It is now widely accepted that inflammation plays a large role in cancer growth, “including initiation, promotion, malignant conversion, invasion, and metastasis.”*
Diet can affect inflammation in the body. Sugar, refined carbohydrates, and non-organic meat can contribute to inflammation.
Specific whole foods are anti-inflammatory: cold-water fish (wild salmon, cod, halibut, haddock, chunk light tuna), grass-fed beef, organic omega-3 eggs, olive oil, avocados, chia seeds, blueberries, sugar-free chocolate. Specific plant extracts are strongly anti-inflammatory: turmeric (curcumin), green tea extract, quercetin, and resveratrol.
4. Tumors need blood vessels. Some foods help inhibit their quick growtH
Everyone has cancer cells. But they don’t become tumors if they don’t have a blood supply. Growing blood vessels for this supply is called angiogenesis.There are some popular anticancer drugs, like Avastin®, that work as anti-angiogenics.
But there are also a wide array of whole foods that have anti-angiogenic properties: apples, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, red grapes, oranges, tomatoes, celery, garlic, leeks and kale. And there are anti-angiogenic plant-based extracts: turmeric (curcumin), selenium (high levels in Brazil nuts), green tea extract, vitamin D, and resveratrol.
5. Oncologists don’t treat late effects. Proper nutrition can help
Diabetes and malnutrition are major risk factors for children after cancer treatment.* If children start on a healthy diet while in treatment, their risks will likely decrease. If our goal as parents is for our children to not only survive, but thrive, nutrition must become a major part of their treatment.
* For example: Shanmugam, M. K., R. Kannaiyan, and G. Sethi. 2011. Targeting cell signaling and apoptotic pathways by dietary agents: Role in the prevention and treatment of cancer.
Nutrition and Cancer 63 (2): 161–173; Mamede, A. C., S. D. Tavares, A. M. Abrantes, et al. 2011. The role of vitamins in cancer: A review. Nutrition and Cancer 63 (4): 479–494.
** For example: Servan-Schreiber, D. 2008. Anticancer: A New Way of Life. New York: Penguin Publishers, ch. 6.
Sources: American Institute for Cancer Research; Anticancer: A New Way of Life, by Dr. David Servan-Schreiber; Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Compendium, by Dr. Jeanne M. Wallace.
* Bindea, Gabriela, et al. 2010. Natural immunity to cancer in humans. Current Opinion in Immunology 22 (2): 215-222.
*Grivennikov, Sergei, F.R. Greten, and M. Karin. 2010. Immunity, inflammation, and cancer. Cell 140 (6): 883-899.
* Emily S. Tonorezos and Kevin Oeffinger. 2012. Obesity following childhood cancer: Mechanisms and consequences. Energy Balance and Hematologic Malignancies (5): 141-158; Oeffinger,
Kevin, et al. 2006. Chronic health conditions in adult survivors of childhood cancer. New England Journal of Medicine 355 (15): 1572-1582.
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