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You may have seen this egg tray of lemons floating across your social media feeds and wondered what it was all about. And if you’re a woman you may want to pay particular attention as knowing what each of these lemons represents could save your life in the future. The idea behind this graphic, started by the Wordlwide Breast Cancer Organisation as part of their ‘Know your Lemons’ campaign, is to raise awareness about breast cancer. Early detection of a disease such a breast cancer is important because it’s more likely to be treated successfully. According to Patrick there are changes that you can make to your diet and lifestyle that will minimize your risk of cancer, reduce the risk of recurrence and speed up full recovery if you have had cancer, and specifically dietary factors that relate to breast cancer.

It might seem like a lot of information to take in but simply tweaking your diet and making a few minor lifestyle changes could change your life forever.

The anti-cancer diet

  1. Decrease the following from your diet:
    • Avoid, or at least limit, your intake of red meat to a maximum of 310g a week, or 150g twice a week (150g is roughly a palm-sized portion).
    • Avoid, or rarely eat, burned meat – be it grilled, fried or barbecued – or processed meat products (most pies, burgers, sausages).
    • Minimise your intake of fried food. Boil, steam, poach or bake food instead.
    • Limit your intake of dairy food, choosing organic whenever possible. Ideally, avoid it if you have any cancer, but certainly avoid it completely if you have breast, prostate or colorectal cancer.
    • Don’t drink alcohol and, if you do, certainly limit your intake to one drink a day if you are male, or one drink four times a week if you are female. Ideally, limit your intake to three drinks a week, preferably choosing organic red wine.
  2. Increase the following in your diet
    • If you eat meat, choose organic low-fat varieties, game or free range and organic chicken.
    • Eat fish, such as herring, mackerel and salmon, instead of red meat, as well as white fish. Arctic cod and halibut are the least polluted.
    • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables – seven or more servings a day (organic whenever possible).
    • Have a variety of colours in your selection of fruits and vegetables, including something red/orange every day (such as carrots, sweet potato, tomatoes, peaches or melons) and something blue/ purple (such as berries, cherries, grapes or beetroot) and something yellow (mustard or turmeric) most days.
    • Have a serving of cruciferous vegetable every day. This includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale.
    • Eat a clove or two of garlic every day.
    • Choose shiitake mushrooms and spice up dishes with turmeric. These contain anti-cancer agents.
    • Have some soya milk or tofu, or a bean dish, every other day.
    • Add flaxseeds to your breakfast and use flaxseed oil in salad dressings. Generally avoid refined vegetable oils – use only cold pressed oils.
    • Eat wholefoods, such as wholegrains, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds and vegetables, all of which contain fibre. Some of the fibre in vegetables is destroyed by cooking, so it’s good to eat something raw every day.
    • Drink green tea and ‘red’ herb teas, rich in antioxidants, or regular tea, in preference to coffee. However, for general health, don’t drink excessive amounts of any caffeinated tea.
    • Drink six glasses of water each day, or herb or fruit teas if you prefer, perhaps with a glass of diluted juice or cherry concentrate. An excellent choice for immune boosting would be cat’s claw tea sweetened with blackcurrant and apple concentrate.

As well as following the general advice for Cancer there are some dietary factors that specifically relate to breast cancer:  

  1. Control the factors that stimulate growth
    Cancer cell growth is influenced by hormones and growth factors. Eating too much sugar and refined carbohydrates promotes high insulin levels, which stimulate the growth of breast cells. High-sugar diets also lead to weight gain – another risk factor for breast cancer. Losing weight and eating less sugar can make a big difference to breast cancer survival, as does taking regular exercise and staying relaxed. Another major promoter of insulin, which is strongly linked to breast cancer, is milk. Milk is naturally high in oestrogen, as well as growth factors such as insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). IGF-1 has been found to directly stimulate the growth of cancer cells. If you have breast cancer, it is recommended that you avoid dairy products completely. If you don’t have cancer, keep your intake if dairy products low i.e. less than 300ml a day and less than 1.2 litres a week. Other growth promoters can come from excess hormone disruptors, which are carcinogens found in some pesticides, cosmetics and cleaning products.
  2. Increase your intake of phytoestrogens
    Phytoestrogens in beans, especially soya beans, but also in chickpeas, lentils, nuts, seeds and rye, help to block oestrogen receptors from powerful hormone-disrupting chemicals that mimic oestrogen, such a PCBs, dioxins and some pesticides. Eat at least some beans, lentils, rye, alfalfa, raw nuts or seeds – particularly flax and pumpkin seeds – every day. The liver is the main organ responsible for removing excess hormones from the body. Eating cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts, helps the liver to do this so try incorporate these vegetables into your diet daily.
  3. Increase your intake of Vitamin D
    Numerous studies show an association between higher levels of Vitamin D and a lower risk of developing and/or surviving cancer. There are three ways to increase your blood levels of Vitamin D: eat it, supplement it or expose yourself to sunlight. The best dietary sources are oily fish and eggs and it is advisable to take better-quality, high-potency multivitamin-minerals to get the recommended dose of Vitamin D and to increase this dose during the winter months or if you’re not exposed to sunlight naturally often.

Lifestyle changes

The combination of changing your diet, taking protective nutritional supplements and making a few lifestyle changes designed to reduce your exposure to carcinogens is likely to reduce your overall risk of developing cancer by at least 50 per cent, and even as high as 90 per cent. In real terms this could mean adding 10–20 years to your life (as well as adding life to your years). Your greatest chance of reducing your risk is by starting early – it is never too soon for prevention.

Top ten lifestyle tips

Listed below are the top ten lifestyle tips for reducing your exposure to potential carcinogens. Some are relatively easy to put into effect. Others, such as cutting down your exposure to exhaust fumes, depend on where you choose to live and work, and how you get from home to work, and vice versa. Such factors should be part of your long-term plan. Your health is your greatest asset. It is worth protecting.

  1. Don’t smoke, and minimise the time you spend in smoky environments.
  2. Minimise the time you spend in traffic jams, breathing in exhaust fumes, and, if possible, live in a less polluted area.
  3. Minimise your exposure to very strong sun and use a good sunscreen, ideally containing Vitamin A (such as Environ’s RAD), which protects your skin from damage but doesn’t stop you making Vitamin D. A sunscreen is especially important if you have fair hair, light eyes and many moles. Don’t combine alcohol and strong sunlight.
  4. Use natural alternatives to drugs whenever possible. Don’t have oestrogen- or progestin-containing HRT and have an X-ray only if it is absolutely essential.
  5. If you use a mobile phone, use it infrequently and use an earphone attachment.
  6. Don’t heat food in plastic, and reduce the amount of drinks and fatty foods you buy that are packaged in direct contact with soft plastics.
  7. Switch to natural detergents and check that your bathroom and household products don’t contain known carcinogens.
  8. Don’t use pesticides in your garden or on your indoor pot plants.
  9. Control the level of stress in your life. Prolonged stress depletes your immune strength.
  10. Get enough sleep. It is vital for the immune system.