The question of whether there really is such a thing as an anti-cancer diet has long been debated by everyone from scientists to adepts of an all-natural healthy lifestyle who firmly believe in the healing powers of natural products, herbs and other organic substances. Most of the times, the compromise in terms of which one of the approaches should prevail - the ones supported by conventional medicine or the more flexible, mind-body or nutritional ones - has always been "use them both in complementary fashion".
And while some of us may think that we really can't beat cancer by making compromises, in an age when so much research points to the fact that natural substances do give our bodies better odds at beating this deadly disease, it's a crime not to try and reach a balance between conventional treatments and other, more liberal approaches.
Dr David Servan-Schreiber is a medical professional who battled brain cancer and who - after months of painstaking research - came up with a diet and lifestyle book called "Anticancer", in which he talks about the best ways to protect our bodies from this terrible affliction. "It would be madness not to use the best of conventional Western medicine such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy and soon molecular genetics", he says.
"But at the same time it is also unreasonable to rely only on these more technical approaches and to neglect the natural capacity of our bodies to protect against tumors, when so much research now points to ways in which we can reduce the risk of developing or dying from the disease", reads an excerpt from his book quoted by the Daily Mail.
So, what does Dr. Servan-Schreiber tell us about cancer? Put simply, he claims that the first decisive step towards protecting ourselves is to become aware of the - slightly startling but scientifically confirmed - fact that we all have cancer cells dormant in our bodies and that these defective cells do not behave like normal ones. They multiply out of control, releasing toxic substances that "poison" the surrounding tissues and create inflammation, which - researchers say - helps sustain their growth.
The more inflammation they cause, the more aggressive the tumor and the higher the chances of the cancer spreading to other parts of our bodies. "Oncologists at the University of Glasgow have been measuring inflammation levels in the blood of patients with various cancers since the 1990s and have found that patients with the lowest levels of inflammation were twice as likely as the others to live for several years", Servan-Schreiber explains.
The diet he has come up with is based on a very simple principle: since these cancerous cells exist in all our bodies, it's normal - given that some of us get cancer and some don't and, of the ones who do get cancer, many successfully survive it - that our bodies also have a certain number of self-defense mechanisms at their disposal to fight the cancer. Servan-Schreiber believes that the best way to boost our immunity, reduce inflammation and keep cancer cells in check is to eliminate a series of toxins from our environment, adopt a diet rich in anti-cancer natural substances and exercise. More on the specifics of his diet in a coming article.