Snapshots from One Fluffy Chix Fight Against Breast Cancer
What do you eat to prevent breast cancer, or cure it, if you are unfortunate enough to be fighting it? Will proper nutrition help you beat it? And just what is “proper nutrition”? What role does low carb nutrition play in nutrition and breast cancer? The answers to these questions are not clear-cut or easily determined. In order to discuss these questions, we must first understand a few things about the nature of the beast – breast cancer. We must also understand the difficulties involved in writing nutritional policies for use on populations with breast cancer.
Bringing You Up To Speed
In Part I of Eating to Beat Breast Cancer, we learned a whole new language, Aldus. We learned a couple of Breast Cancer 101 factoids, and learned about the difficulty of knowing exactly how to eat “properly” for your particular type of breast cancer. Often, learning the terminology is as difficult and confusing as knowing what to eat. When your life is hanging in the balance, it can be close to impossible to fly in the face of popular nutrition advice and exert the courage of your convictions. What if you’re killing yourself by nutrition?
In Part II of Eating to Beat Breast Cancer, we experienced the circuitous, and often laborious, route to getting research studies funded. We also learned about the difficulty we face in getting these nutrition studies funded due to financial constraints, and about the dire need for funding contributions from the private sector. Awareness is simply the first step in identifying areas where you can make a difference in the fight against breast cancer.
The road from theory to proof is long, and filled with hurdles that must be crossed in order to reach an actual conclusion. After the FDA blesses the study, and gives the go ahead, researchers must persuade their medical peers to accept the study, and adopt the study’s premise into their “best practices” procedures. Peer adoption represents one more struggle, more pushing the rock uphill, and more Herculean paradigm shifts to behold.
In Part III we will look at several of the latest studies, articles, and even YouTube Videos that will help you make the most informed decision possible about what to eat and how to eat, should you or a loved one develop breast cancer. Breast cancer will intimately involve 1 out of 8 women in their lifetime. It’s a staggering statistic. And breast cancer – even cancers as an entire “class” – are difficult to categorize with broad generalities. What works to fight some cancers, doesn’t work on others, so do you due-diligence and research like your life depends on it – cuz it does!
Living an Anti-Cancer Lifestyle
I attended an anti-cancer conference at MD Anderson Cancer Center earlier this year. The program discussed nutrition and cancer – or living an anti-cancer life. A lifestyle that addresses the total person, and does not determine or limit “lifestyle” to only that which goes down your gullet.
The program was based on the book Anticancer: A New Way of Life, by the late Dr. David Servan-Schreiber. Dr. Servan-Schreiber died last year of a brain tumor. But his remarkable legacy is that he lived 20 years in remission with a deadly form of brain cancer that usually claims its victims in 6 years or less.
During those 20 years, he pioneered an anti-cancer program that has helped many people and forms the foundation of an exploratory multi-disciplinary program underway at MD Anderson.
Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, PhD, professor of behavioral science and general oncology at MDACC (MD Anderson Cancer Center), moderated the anti-cancer program and informed us that 1 out of 2 men and 1 out of 3 women will get cancer in their lifetime. You are already aware that 1 out of 8 women will get breast cancer. With statistics like those it is enough to scare you straight.
The takeaway, as I alluded to in Part II, is that it’s easier to eat, and to LIVE, if you eat to survive – and LIVE before you ever get cancer in the first place. Although I don’t agree 100% with Dr. David Servan-Screiber’s prescription for nutrition – following a low fat, largely vegan lifestyle; I do agree with many of the tenets of his nutritional advice, and with the other tenets of living an anti-cancer life, which he explains in great depth in his book.
The tenets of living an anti-cancer life touch on the importance of exercise, achieving and maintaining a normal weight, eating to reduce inflammation, reducing stress, reducing exposure to toxins and contaminates as much as possible in your immediate environment, positively interacting with a social network, practicing positive mental health, and investing in your spiritual self – pray or meditate daily. Don’t be that girl or dude your neighbors described as, “Well she was a very quiet neighbor, kept mostly to herself, and didn’t raise much of a ruckus…”
In Houston, we are blessed by not one, but two hospital systems with excellent programs dedicated to the treatment of breast cancer. The Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center in the Baylor College of Medicine ranks among the finest breast centers in the United States. Together with MD Anderson Cancer Center, we have some of the brightest research minds tuned to fighting and curing this monster.
Dr. C. Kent Osborne, director of the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center and Smith Breast Center is the acting chief of the section of Hematology-Oncology at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Osborne is professor of Medicine and Molecular and Cellular Biology and also co-directs the internationally acclaimed SABCS, San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, a thirty-five year old symposium dedicated to exposing the latest advancements in breast cancer research.
What Influenced Susie to Follow a Low Carb, Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle?
I promised studies! Many of these studies helped reassure me and persuaded me to follow a controlled carb diet that included intermittent fasting, while I actively fought to beat the beast. I chose to eat low carb and IF (Intermittent Fast) because of the effects of low carb and IF on insulin control and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance plays a key role in the inflammatory pathway and many researchers suppose that inflammation is one of the biggest determinants of cancer tumor proliferation, or conversely apoptosis (cellular death). In other words it could be the factor that controls whether cancer lives long and prospers, or if it dies like the gravy-sucking monster it is!
I chose to eat low carb and IF not only because of the relationship between a high carb diet (high grains and high sugar) and insulin production, but also because of the hormonal and biochemical influences that a ketogenic, low carb diet produces in cellular pathology. I hear people all the time tell me that you can’t “starve a cancer” through cutting out carbs. Please know, first of all, that I’m not “cutting out all carbs”. Low carb does not automatically denote “no carbs”.
But it is true that you can’t kill cancer by cutting out all sugar and carbs. Let me explain from my biochemistry-challenged lay perspective. Even if you were to totally eliminate carbs from your diet 100%, your body has the ability to produce the necessary glucose via gluconeogenesis, to provide the very tiny amount of sugar the body needs to sustain life (about 1 tsp). So even if you’re not eating sugar, your body will make what it needs in order to remain in homeostasis (on an even keel). So the cancer will get food – maybe not AS MUCH food as it would if you were flooding your cells in a sugar bath and high carb diet, but it could still potentially feed from the sugars formed through gluconeogenesis. It will even get food at the expense of healthy, normal cells. In fact, it can live and thrive while the rest of your body is wasting away in starvation because the cancer robs those cells of nutrients. It’s called cachexia, or wasting, and many cancer patients die of cachexia.
But the hormonal responses and signalling pathways ARE very dramatically affected by a low carb diet, and an atmosphere where insulin levels are reduced to “normal” or near normal. And these same hormonal and signalling pathways biochemically produce certain types of cancer to become stressed. They can inhibit genesis (or cellular reproduction). Angiogenesis controls the formation of new blood vessels. A tumor actively needs a “nest” of these blood vessels to support its rapid cellular division. A low inflammation, low insulin diet such as a low carb diet or IF could potentially counteract tumor angiogenesis, which would contribute to apoptosis or tumor cell death.
Okay, Olle Olle Oxenfree! I See Your Eyes Are Glazed Over and I’ve Gone Too Far!
I can’t tell you to follow this sustainable, nutritional, low carb lifestyle.
As I told you in Part II, I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, nor am I a licensed therapist. But I am good enough, smart enough, and doggonnit, people like me – that’s enough for me.
Oh and as anecdotal information, the Wizard (my oncologist) told me he didn’t have a problem if I wanted to follow a low carb diet or practice intermittent fasting. His goal for me he said, and I paraphrase, “Lose weight. Get down to a normal body weight, the sooner the better. Your medicine actually will work better on normal weight people than on people who are obese or overweight.”
The medicine the Wizard referred to is called Femara, or the generic letrozole, which is an aromatase inhibitor. Aromatase inhibitors block estrogen conversion from androgens within fat cells and also blocks the action of estrogen on estrogen receptors. Even post-menopause, your body continues to produce estrogen, especially if you’re fluffy like me. Androgens produced in the adrenal glands and pituitary gland get converted to estrogens via aromatase. And aromataste inhibitors target that pathway but can be easily overwhelmed and put on overload when our bodies produce a lot of estrogens in our fat cells. And if we’re also consuming sources of estrogen (like soy) or mediators of estrogen production (like alcohol), there is even more pressure put on the aromatase inhibitor. That’s why they tend to work better on skinny folk!
I will leave the researchers and brainiacs the task of presenting the nutritional options of eating to beat breast cancer. Be sure to read the studies below to help you make an informed decision. Remember some of the studies were performed on mice and in vitro (test tubes). That’s my disclaimer and I’m stickin’ to it.
Don’t forget! CoppaFeel! Do those monthly self-exams and get your yearly mammogram. Be informed about your family history and get those yearly well-woman exams too. It will be the best insurance you will ever have. Breast cancer, when detected early, is up to 98-99% curable and has a lower incidence of recurrence. Avoid these preventive and pro-active steps and diagnose breast cancer as a late Stage III cancer, such as mine, and your 5 year survival window after chemo, surgery, radiation, and 5-10 years of anti-hormone therapy falls to 50% or less.
Discover breast cancer in Stage IV, and you will fight the disease the rest of your life. It becomes a chronic disease at that point and not something anyone can ever claim to have beaten. You might live 3-6 months, 3-6 years, or you could look like my friend, Marilyn.
My sweet, dear friend Marilyn has been heroically fighting Stage IV breast cancer for the past 13 years. Every week for the last 13 years, Marilyn visits the breast cancer infusion room and gets her treatment. She had periods of remission during those years where the treatment plans beat the tumors back and/or stabilized them.
She’s now in a current crisis and is having to go through chemo yet again. Marilyn has already undergone 3 groups of intense, highly focused sets of radiation over the last six months. She continues to fight like a girl, with every weapon in her super-hero arsenal, including a very strong, very positive mental attitude and prayer life, as well as a concerted focus on eating a healthy, controlled carb diet filled with cancer fighting veggies.
The point of telling you this is that my mama’s old sayin’ is true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Join the group of 7 and eat to beat breast cancer before it starts.
And support your local Pink Ribbon Club Foundation if it’s within your wherewithal. Every dollar counts.
Studies On The Effects of Controlled Carb and Low Carb Nutrition and Intermittent Fasting on Cancer and Hyperinsulinemia:
Diet and Breast Cancer Risk (If it were me, I would ignore the advice given in this article about increasing consumption of soy.)
Susie Snax #4
Sardines with Mustard and Pork Rinds
Recipe By: Susie T. Gibbs
Serving Size: 1 Serving Yield: 1 serving
Preparation Time: 3 Minutes
This is a cheap, quick and convenient lunch or snack filled with Omega 3’s. It also gives you a quick hit of Vitamins D3 and Vitamins A. I call this brain food!
- 3 1/2 ounces sardines in olive oil – drained, reserve oil
- 2 tablespoons mustard
- 1 serving pork skins
- 3 ounces baby carrots
- Open can of sardines and drain off oil. Make sure the sardines are packed in olive oil and not soybean oil. (Note on Oil: I like to reserve the olive oil and use it to make the dressing for Caesar Salad that evening.)
- Place a piece of sardine on a pork rind. Top with yellow mustard. Eat. Enjoy. Follow with a carrot chaser for a great hit of carotenoids and Vitamin A.
Per Serving: 399 Calories; 24g Fat; 39g Protein; 9g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 137mg Cholesterol; 1176mg Sodium; 7g Net Carbohydrate
Serving Ideas: Serve with pork rinds, yellow mustard and either grape tomatoes or baby carrots.
SUSIET’s NOTES :
This is one of my very favorite Susie Snax.
Because the fish must be eaten after opening in order to keep it from oxidizing and tasting “yukky,” it’s generally a lunch for me. I don’t want to try to eat half a can and save the can for another day. Once opened, sardines have a very short shelf life! If I shared it with someone else it could be considered a Susie Snax!
The baby carrots are optional of course, but I love the crunch! It takes a busload of raw carrots to get your body acting on the grams of carbohydrate in the carrots – so I don’t worry about the carbs in 2 or 3 ounces of raw carrots. Now, cooked carrots is a whole ‘nother issue, my friend.
And let’s not be shy, this is a perfect MDS (Mustard Delivery System).