October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and it is appropriate that I continue with more of my holistic strategy against cancer. You can read my article on Fighting Breast Cancer and also other articles on cancer at www.superqigong.com. Today I will go in detail on the nutritional defence against cancer, and nothing is more important than understanding the role of anti-oxidants and how they protect us from cancer.
8 FIGHT THE FREE-RADICALS
At the molecular level, free-radical damage is the real culprit for most cancers, chronic diseases, and aging. The other predisposing factors only contribute by adding excess free-radicals, or making the cells and genes more susceptible to injury by the free-radicals.
Genetic damage is occurring all the time in all of us, and cancerous cells emerge every minute due to the assault by at least 10,000 free-radicals on each cell every day. In healthy people, the immune system is able to prevent gross cellular damage, and exterminate the ones that are mutated before they can start a cancer colony.
Much of the free-radicals is the product of normal metabolism, and is neutralized by anti-oxidants from our diet ( and supplements ). However, excessive free-radical and chemical exposure from various sources, especially in our modern-day polluted environment, have made it very difficult to sufficiently neutralize these damaging entities. Infra-red and ultra-violet rays from sun exposure cause heat-damage and free-radical formation in the skin, which is the main reason why our exposed skin shows the signs of aging first, and why skin cancer is the most common cancer in many countries.
About 10 years ago I imported the first urine test available for estimating the net free-radical activity in the body. Only 1 out of every 10 people I tested had normal free-radical activity ( which is important since our cells produce them during normal metabolism, and our immune cells also use free-radicals to kill bacteria and other invaders ). The rest had excess free-radical activity, with the majority having extremely high net excess free-radicals over their anti-oxidant defence. You can also test your blood for free-radical activity.
There are also test methods which measure the anti-oxidant content in the blood or body. The bio-photonic scanner measures the level of carotenoids in your skin, and is a reliable indicator of the level of other anti-oxidants if you take a rich diet of fruits and veggies, or if you take a wide-spectrum anti-oxidant supplement.
However, it is more important to know the net balance between your free-radical load and your anti-oxidant defence. Treat your anti-oxidants as your assets, your free-radical load as your debts, and the net free-radical activity as your net worth. As long as you are alive, you will always have a net free-radical activity ( it is not possible to neutralize all as they are continually being produced by the metabolic activities of your cells ). The aim is to have normal, but not excessive net free-radical activity.
Since it is difficult to reduce our free-radical load, we have to rely on anti-oxidants from our food and supplements. Anti-oxidants are nutrients from various groups – vitamins, minerals, enzymes, peptides, phytonutrients ( plant nutrients not yet classified into other groups ) and others. It is important to have all these anti-oxidants because each performs duties that others cannot. They all work in tandem in what is termed the anti-oxidant cascade, with each being dependant on another anti-oxidant for optimum function. Each anti-oxidant becomes a free-radical itself ( though weaker than the free-radical it neutralizes ), and thus need to be “rescued” or “recycled” before it does some damage to the cell it is supposed to protect.
The cell membrane is the first defence barrier for the cell. Here, anti-oxidants protect it from damage that would lead to aging, disease and cell-death. For cancer, the most important events are within the cell itself, where the chromosomes and other important organelles are exposed to free-radical damage. Chromosomal damage leads to mutation and cancer. The five indispensable intracellular anti-oxidants are vitamins C, E, co-enzyme Q10, alpha lipoic acid (ALA) and glutathione.
VITAMIN C – THE MAIN ANTI-OXIDANT
Vitamin C, being the most abundant water soluble anti-oxidant, provides the main escape route for the body to get rid of free-radicals. That is the wisdom in it being excreted in the urine within a few hours. Although it is recycled by the other four companions, a deficit in any one of them would mean the recycling stops. So unless you have adequate supply of all, 50% of the vitamin C absorbed becomes useless ( in fact, harmful, as it becomes a free-radical after doing its job ) within a few hours. Even if you take a “sustained-release” form ( “long-acting” is a misnomer ), it actually means the absorption from the intestines into the blood is slowed down, so the dose you take provides a longer supply to your cells. Once inside the cell, it is not long-acting unless you have enough of the others as well.
Taking plenty of vitamin C supplement does not mean that you don’t need the other anti-oxidants, now that you understand that they work in a team. You also need to take it every few hours to have continued protection ( or take the sustained-release formula ). There is much disagreement on how much to take. I recommend 1000mg every 3-5 hours. For the sustained-release form, you can take up to 3000mg once or twice a day. Since it is so cheap, cost is not a deterrent.
VITAMIN E – TAKE ALL 8 TYPES
Vitamin E is another very important anti-oxidant against cancer. I had previously stressed on the importance of taking vitamin E8 supplement, which contains all the 8 isomers ( or esters ) of vitamin E. Unfortunately, almost all the available supplements only provide d-alpha-tocopherol, while a few provide mixed tocopherols or mixed tocotrienols, and only one that I know of provides all the four tocopherols and four tocotrienols. So, if you are taking a vitamin E supplement, you are most likely to be taking only d-alpha-tocopherol. Check the label!
Vitamin E exists in nature as combinations of the eight, and they work in synergy. However, when present singly, or in unbalanced combinations, they are beneficial only to a certain level, and become harmful at higher levels.
It is not surprising that in 2004, John Hopkins University researchers found that taking vitamin E supplements ( read d-alpha-tocopherol ) may do more harm than good. Because his review showed that those who took vitamin E supplements actually died earlier than those who didn’t, lead researcher Dr Edgar Miller advised that unless you are proven to be deficient in it, you should not take the supplement. Other researchers also found that taking d-alpha-tocopherol alone may reduce the levels of other isomers, namely gamma- and delta-tocopherols.
In 2002, Life Extension magazine published an article in which it reviewed 12 different studies on vitamin E. Its conclusion was that tocotrienols, but not tocopherols, reduced breast cancer risk by as much as 60 percent. Other studies have since shown that tocotrienols, but not tocopherols, kill breast cancer cells. Although thought to be weaker than tocopherols, for fighting cancer, especially breast cancer, tocotrienols are more powerful. Malaysia is the world’s leading manufacturer of tocotrienols, so we all should be benefiting from that. It is best to have all 8 isomers in adequate amounts. Vitamin E also works synergistically with vitamins A and C.
CO-ENZYME Q10 – FOR ENERGY & ANTI-CANCER
Co-enzyme Q10 is not only important in the mitochondria for energy production, it is also needed as part of the intracellular anti-oxidant cascade. Thus it is abundant in the heart, liver and immune cells. The heart needs it most for its incessant work. The liver is the body’s detoxification centre, and the immune cells need it to fight invaders and cancer.
Although in the last decade doctors have realized the importance of CoQ10, especially for heart health, its usefulness is still very much underestimated, especially for improving immunity and fighting cancer. A study on breast cancer showed that 90mg CoQ10 per day caused breast cancer tumour regression in 6 out of 32 patients. It can also reduce the side-effects of immunosuppressive and chemotherapy drugs.
Similar doses have been shown to improve metabolism, help reduce weight, and improve sugar control. It is safe even in high doses, but the limiting factor is the price.
ALPHA LIPOIC ACID (ALA) – VERSATILE ANTI-OXIDANT
ALA is a unique anti-oxidant because it is both water and fat-soluble, and can do its work at the cell membrane as well as inside the cell. It helps in recycling the anti-oxidant vitamins, while being a powerful anti-oxidant itself. It is needed for the recycling of glutathione, which is the most important intra-cellular anti-oxidant.
Used together with CoQ10, it is especially beneficial for the heart, and for countering the side-effects of radiotherapy.
Glutathione is a peptide ( made of 3 amino-acids ). It is the cell’s master anti-oxidant. It is also an immune-booster and detoxifier, and therefore is most abundant in liver cells. It is produced within the cells, and to increase the production, we need to eat a diet rich in its component amino-acids, especially cysteine ( others are glycine and glutamic acid ). Glutathione-boosting supplements are made of whey protein with high content of these amino-acids.
Because of its crucial role as the main conductor of the intra-cellular anti-oxidant cascade, it is in fact the most important anti-oxidant to fight cancer, as well as combating degenerative chronic diseases and aging.
Some doctors use GSH intravenously as part of cancer therapy. Maintenance is by booster supplements. In lower doses, it is also used as part of the anti-aging prescription.
Many other anti-oxidants are necessary for health and healing, but you must make sure you have enough of the above 5 first. If you already have cancer, you will need higher doses ( within safe limits ). Only then will taking the other anti-oxidants become really useful because when the intracellular anti-oxidant cascade is working well, then the entire cascade ( including the extra-cellular portion ) can function better. There are thousands of nutrients with anti-oxidant power, and they all complement and enhance the protection provided by this basic five. Some of these have been shown to be more effective against cancer than others.
Special mention must be made of Dr Patrick Flanagan’s silica hydride, which is the most powerful general anti-oxidant known without itself becoming a free radical. It is a useful back-up for any anti-oxidant program.