It is now widely accepted that there are many factors that increase our chances of contracting cancer. All too often these factors are associated with our lifestyle. ‘You are what you eat’ may be a cliché, but it could make a huge difference to our body’s ability to protect itself.
In his book, Everything that you need to know to help you beat cancer, Chris Woollams brings together the results of tremendous amounts of research undertaken to help his daughter, Catherine, who was diagnosed as having a brain tumour. He gives chapter and verse on his findings and the mix of treatments that led Catherine to being given the all clear and resuming a full life – albeit with a totally different diet and lifestyle.
Generations ago, the food we ate was grown or raised at home. We knew what the animals were fed, the only fertilisers put around the vegetables were natural manures and nothing was added to the water. Nowadays, life is very different. We shop at supermarkets because it’s convenient and the produce looks good. We buy meals to microwave and serve in five minutes. We eat ‘food’ that is processed and purified beyond all recognition.
Fruit and vegetables are sprayed with insecticides and fertilisers, and with preservatives for the long journey to the warehouse and colourants to keep them looking good. Then, when they arrive, they are given a spray shower to make them look fresh! Animals are fed on antibiotics, growth hormones and steroids to fatten them up and keep them healthy – a sick animal is bad for the profit margins! Any crops they are fed are likely to have been sprayed with chemicals. You are what you eat– everything that is on and in the food you eat is taken into your body. Is it any wonder, then, that it has been shown that there is a relationship, both positive and negative, between the food we eat and certain types of cancer – usually those that are connected to hormones, such as liver, breast, colon, prostate and stomach?
Top of the Nine Nasties List is milk and dairy products. Humans are the only animals who drink the milk of different species (cows, goats etc). Milk commonly contains oestrogen, pesticides, animal fat and perhaps also growth hormones or antibiotics. Research in Scandinavia in 2000 concluded that, “there is a direct link between consumption of dairy foods and testicular and prostate cancer rates”.
Meat and animal fats are also not good for you, again because of the chemicals contained in them. Even farmed fish is not good: farmed salmon, for instance, contains 20 per cent more fat than natural fish.
Fats and oils increase oestrogen levels in the body, increasing the risk of breast and prostate cancers. Saturated fats are the worst – stay away from fried snack foods and fast foods. Olive oil is monounsaturated and is better, but is still best used in moderation.
Refined and processed foods are just as bad. White flour, as we know, has had much of its original goodness removed, for instance. All processed and ‘ready to eat’, foods have preservatives added to increase their shelf life. Check the ingredients – do you really want all that inside your body?
Sugar and salt are also nasties. Recent studies have shown that many of our favourite breakfast cereals (yes, even the so-called healthy ones) are high in salt and/or sugar, which are anything but healthy. Pressure is now being put on manufacturers to reduce these dangerous ingredients. Beware of hidden salt and sugar – the most unlikely products contain one or the other or both!
Roasted or baked snacks – crisps, crispbreads, biscuits and the like – very often contain acrylamides. These are produced when the cooking process takes place at a temperature above 120 degrees centigrade. Acrylamides are highly toxic – how many children do you know who eat such snacks every day?
Nitrites are equally nasty. They are used as preservatives in foods such as ham, sausages and other meats. In the article about children’s cancers, the point was made about the direct link that has been established in the US between the nitrites in hot dogs and brain cancers.
Caffeine is a poison. It is found, as we all know, in coffee, tea, chocolate and many soft drinks. It depletes the body of many vitamins, but especially the B vitamins so vital for women, and can damage the immune system.
Do you have a sweet tooth? Be careful of those artificial sweeteners! If you gave up sugar because it was bad for you and turned to sweeteners instead, think again. Aspartame, commonly used as a low calorie sweetener in diet drinks and yoghurts, is believed by some to be a neurotoxin and a carcinogen (cancer-causing agent). While the arguments rage, the tests continue. It certainly triggers aggressive brain tumours in rats – but nothing definitive has been found yet to prove the link with brain tumours in children. On the other hand, there have been many studies to prove the link between saccharin – another common sweetener – and bladder cancer, so think carefully.
We are what we eat. We live in a country where fresh fruit and vegetables abound, where the fish comes straight from the sea and where olive oil is natural. As Chris Woollams says, “think nourishment, think nutritious” – we could all be doing our bodies a big favour!