Cancer: Strategies for Life

Cancer incidence increases dramatically with age. This begs the question: Is cancer the price we pay for living longer – or is it the price we pay for decades of poor lifestyle choices?

If your lifestyle choices are crappy you’ll feel and look crappy – maybe not for a while, but sooner or later the damage will start to show. And you’ll greatly increase your odds of getting sick. Really sick.

5-10% of cancer is genetic and inheritable, but environmental factors can influence the expression of these genes so that cancer is not inevitable. (Sometimes, of course, people get cancer despite their best efforts at a healthy lifestyle. There’s no “fair” here!)

This leaves 90-95% of cancer that is directly attributable to epigenetic (environmental) factors. Cancer can take decades to develop, with cell division as the critical time when things can start to go pear-shaped. DNA is especially vulnerable during cell division and keeping your chromosomes and telomeres healthy is key to accurate DNA replication and prevention of the genetic instability that drives cancer. Chronic stress, sleep deprivation, obesity and diabetes, smoking, pollution, toxin exposure and poor nutritional status – all impact telomere and chromosomal health.

The simple strategy for living well is basically to live as we are designed to live. Our evolution selected the fittest to survive – those individuals who could handle the harsh environment that involved periods of food scarcity. The over-abundance of convenience food that surrounds us in modern society is at odds with our genes and is pushing our species over the edge……

Periodic fasting may be a potent regenerative strategy, challenging as it undoubtably is! Regular over-consumption of protein is also new to our evolutionary landscape.

We are beautifully designed to move, yet we pay instructors to show us how to “exercise” on special equipment, indoors, with artificial light and climate control. And we have to buy special clothes…..

Physical activity, preferably something fun and/or productive, outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine will stimulate our appetite for nourishing food, cheer us up, get our digestion working well (deep diaphragmatic breathing really gives the intestines a wake-up!) and ramp up production of the awesome cancer-fighting antioxidant hormone melatonin which is vital for a good night’s sleep.

There is no doubt that the food you eat has a significant effect over time. Snack on nutrient-dense foods like berries and nuts and seeds. Eat lots of leafy greens and colourful veggies. Garlic and turmeric and green tea are awesome. And good fat is vital. Protein from grass-fed animals and from small fish living in clean waters (small fish because they haven’t accumulated the fat-stored toxins from the whole food-chain!). Nothing GMO, you’re not a lab rat.

Eating biodynamic/organic food tastes great and you maximise your nutrient intake while eliminating the toxic chemical load of factory food. Win-win!

Avoid exposure to toxins wherever you can. Traffic fumes, cosmetics (you absorb whatever you put on your skin), deodorants and perfumes, mouthwashes and breath-fresheners, household cleaning products, dry-cleaning chemicals, air-fresheners, food additives in processed food, the list goes on….. Some exposure is an inevitable consequence of living in modern society, so it’s up to you not to add to it!

As self-repairing mechanisms we have massive influence over our vitality and wellbeing as we age. And with age being a risk factor for cancer it becomes obvious that healthy ageing strategies are our best bet at preventing cancer.

Every choice we make has consequences, and these consequences become our experience of life. May you live a life you love!

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Photo credit:  Tess Parker / Salamanca Market, Hobart

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