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At the age of 32, Elissa Goodman was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
At that moment she recalled her teenage years tagging along with her chronically ill mother to a health ranch in Rancho La Puerta, Mexico, where she witnessed her mother and other women eschew traditional medicine in favor of a holistic approach centered around fresh, nutritious foods. Her mother was able to wean herself off of medication, so, facing her own health crises, Goodman committed to changing her diet to emphasize plant-based foods. Six months later, she was cancer-free.
“In India, where turmeric is widely used in the diet, the prevalence of four common U.S. cancers—colon, breast, prostate and lung—is 10 times lower,” says Goodman. Photo credit: Shutterstock
Many people like Goodman—who has dedicated her life to nutrition and healthy living—believe that focusing on nutrition rather than relying entirely on conventional cancer treatments could make all the difference in fighting the disease. “One of the most basic and most powerful ways to reduce the risk of cancer is through diet and lifestyle,” says Laura Kraber, a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who works with Dr. Frank Lipman. And this isn’t fringe science: According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), a diet rich in plant-based foods vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans can help prevent the onset of cancer.
While there’s no definitive answer to whether or not any food could directly prevent or treat cancer, there are some things we know for sure. Cancer cells thrive on sugar and high insulin levels can also increase inflammatory responses in the body, which are a factor in the onset of cancer. Processed meat that contains nitrates can cause inflammation as well.
The idea behind an anti-cancer diet is to strengthen the immune system and address chronic inflammatory symptoms. According to Goodman and the American Institute for Cancer Research, here are some beneficial foods to embrace:
1. Leafy Greens
Spinach, kale, arugula, romaine, collard greens, Swiss chard—they all have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. According to the AICR, carotenoids found in these veggies can inhibit the growth of certain breast and skin cancer cells.
2. Cruciferous Vegetables
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, rapini, cabbage and turnips are high in B vitamins and magnesium, as well as polyphenols, which can slow the growth of cancer cells. And since excess body fat can increase the risk of several types of cancer, the dietary fiber in these non-starchy vegetables can help—particularly with cancer in the mouth, pharynx and larynx, esophagus and stomach.
“In India, where turmeric is widely used in the diet, the prevalence of four common U.S. cancers—colon, breast, prostate and lung—is 10 times lower,” says Goodman. The active substance in turmeric is curcumin, which can decrease inflammation and help the body detect and destroy mutated cells.
“This powerful medicinal mushroom has been researched for its ability to prevent cancer cell growth, stop tumor and cancer from metastasizing, [and] build immune strength and immune response against advanced stage cancers,” says Goodman.
Probiotics like sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and tempeh welcome beneficial microflora into the gut and regulate its pH balance, as well as maintain health of the digestive tract. Goodman adds, “the natural lactic acid and fermentative enzymes, which are produced during the fermentation process, have a beneficial effect on the metabolism and a curative effect on diseases like cancer.”
The high concentration of the omega-3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid, eases inflammation. Flaxseeds are also a potent source of magnesium, manganese, thiamin and dietary fiber.
A polyphenol called resveratrol, abundant in the skin of grapes, has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers. AICR lab studies found that resveratrol could inhibit cancer and tumor growth in lymph nodes, the liver, stomach and breasts. It’s also been able to kill tumors from leukemia and colon cancer.
It sounds counterintuitive—after all, high estrogen, which is found in soy, is linked to breast cancer risk. But human studies backed by the AICR show that soy actually doesn’t increase the odds of developing this disease. The dietary fiber can in fact contribute to cancer prevention. To avoid GMO soy, go organic every time.
A healthy diet will go a long way, but cancer is no joke. As Kraber says, “Although alternative treatments and protocols do exist, radiation and chemotherapy are the most successful cancer treatments that medicine currently has to offer.”
So consider these nutritious foods as a way to boost the cancer treatment that’s right for you, but obviously consult a doctor when it comes to making a life-changing choices about how best to fight the disease.
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Tensions are continuing to rise in Canada over a controversial pipeline project as protesters enter their 12th day blockading railways, demonstrating on streets and highways, and paralyzing the nation's rail system
Colorado River Has Lost 1.5 Billion Tons of Water to the Climate Crisis, 'Severe Water Shortages' May Follow
California is headed toward drought conditions as February, typically the state's wettest month, passes without a drop of rain. The lack of rainfall could lead to early fire conditions. With no rain predicted for the next week, it looks as if this month will be only the second time in 170 years that San Francisco has not had a drop of rain in February, according to The Weather Channel.
The last time San Francisco did not record a drop of rain in February was in 1864 as the Civil War raged.
"This hasn't happened in 150 years or more," said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability to The Guardian. "There have even been a couple [of] wildfires – which is definitely not something you typically hear about in the middle of winter."
While the Pacific Northwest has flooded from heavy rains, the southern part of the West Coast has seen one storm after another pass by. Last week, the U.S. Drought Monitor said more Californians are in drought conditions than at any time during 2019, as The Weather Channel reported.
The dry winter has included areas that have seen devastating fires recently, including Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Mendocino counties. If the dry conditions continue, those areas will once again have dangerously high fire conditions, according to The Mercury News.
"Given what we've seen so far this year and the forecast for the next few weeks, I do think it's pretty likely we'll end up in some degree of drought by this summer," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported.
Another alarming sign of an impending drought is the decreased snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. The National Weather Service posted to Twitter a side-by-side comparison of snowpack from February 2019 and from this year, illustrating the puny snowpack this year. The snow accumulated in the Sierra Nevadas provides water to roughly 30 percent of the state, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Right now, the snowpack is at 53 percent of its normal volume after two warm and dry months to start the year. It is a remarkable decline, considering that the snowpack started 2020 at 90 percent of its historical average, as The Guardian reported.
"Those numbers are going to continue to go down," said Swain. "I would guess that the 1 March number is going to be less than 50 percent."
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast that the drier-than-average conditions may last through April.
NOAA said Northern California will continue deeper into drought through the end of April, citing that the "persistent high pressure over the North Pacific Ocean is expected to continue, diverting storm systems to the north and south and away from California and parts of the Southwest," as The Weather Channel reported.
As the climate crisis escalates and the world continues to heat up, California should expect to see water drawn out of its ecosystem, making the state warmer and drier. Increased heat will lead to further loss of snow, both as less falls and as more of it melts quickly, according to The Guardian.
"We aren't going to necessarily see less rain, it's just that that rain goes less far. That's a future where the flood risk extends, with bigger wetter storms in a warming world," said Swain, as The Guardian reported.
The Guardian noted that while California's reservoirs are currently near capacity, the more immediate impact of the warm, dry winter will be how it raises the fire danger as trees and grasslands dry out.
"The plants and the forests don't benefit from the water storage reservoirs," said Swain, as The Mercury News reported. "If conditions remain very dry heading into summer, the landscape and vegetation is definitely going to feel it this year. From a wildfire perspective, the dry years do tend to be the bad fire years, especially in Northern California."
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A warm day in winter used to be a rare and uplifting relief.
Now such days are routine reminders of climate change – all the more foreboding when they coincide with news stories about unprecedented wildfires, record-breaking "rain bombs," or the accelerated melting of polar ice sheets.
Where, then, can one turn for hope in these dark months of the year?