In functional medicine, we focus on supporting whole body health. When systems within the body go awry, the risk for cancer can be increased. Two different people with the same kind of cancer can have developed that cancer for completely different reasons based on their own personal history and risk factors. However, there are certain things that everyone can do to help prevent cancer and minimize the risk of ever developing it.
Many risk factors have been identified for the development of cancer, including: genetics, smoking, poor diet, lack of exercise, toxin exposures, stress, and lack of sleep. Even though one may be at an increased risk of developing cancer due to genetics, it certainly does not have to be a definite diagnosis. The things that we do in our daily life impact the expression of our genes, referred to as epigenetics. Just because someone carries a gene, does not mean that gene will necessarily be expressed. We can incorporate lifestyle changes to help minimize the likelihood of developing cancer. This also applies to other health conditions, but for today we will focus on cancer.
So, how can you reduce your likelihood of developing cancer?
- Minimize sugar and processed foods: Sugar feeds cancer and can increase its likelihood of growing. Try to minimize sugar as much as possible. I recommend keeping sugar intake to less than 25 grams per day. Processed foods also increase inflammation within the body, which can increase the chances of developing cancer. Work to reduce processed foods to less than 20% of your total daily intake. The other 80% should be whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, lean meats, seeds, nuts, and legumes.
- Reduce inflammation: Inflammation has been identified as a common finding in those with cancer and chronic diseases. Reduce inflammation by eating a diet composed of at least 80% whole foods each day.
- Exercise! Try to exercise on at least 4 days of the week for at least 30 minutes each time. This improves the overall health of cells, and reduces inflammation.
- Minimize stress. Incorporate mindfulness or meditation to help minimize stress. If you are frequently feeling stressed, have your adrenal function checked by a functional medicine provider.
- Get adequate sleep. Aim for at least 7 hours each night.
- Improve gut health. A majority of our immune system is found in our gut. With cancer being a disease of the immune system going awry, improving the gut will help improve the immune system, which can help prevent cancer!
For more personalized recommendations on reducing your risk of cancer, see one of our functional medicine providers who can help assess and reduce your own personal risk factors.