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Episode 546
The Doctor's Farmacy

Making Your Body An Unwelcome Place For Cancer To Grow

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Cancer is a topic that scares just as many people as it directly impacts, which is nearly everyone. While the conventional medicine approach to treating the disease is very important and lifesaving, Functional Medicine takes a slightly different approach. In Functional Medicine, we look below the surface to identify what imbalance is allowing the cancer to grow. By focusing on the terrain, you can learn how to reduce the risk of weeds like cancer.

In this episode, I’ll be featuring an in-depth discussion on cancer from my Longevity Roadmap docu-series. In this series, I am joined by my colleagues at The UltraWellness Center: Elizabeth Boham, MD, MS, RD, Medical Director and Physician; Todd LePine, MD, Physician; and George Papanicolaou, DO, Physician.

To get all of my longevity tips, sign up for my weekly Longevity newsletter at drhyman.com/longevity.

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I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

Transcript Note: Please forgive any typos or errors in the following transcript. It was generated by a third party and has not been subsequently reviewed by our team.

Dr. Mark Hyman: (00:10)
Cancer is scary. I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t been affected by this disease in some shape or form or way. In my family, my sister and my father both die from cancer. I see so many patients who are recovering from cancer and they don’t want it to recur. And I see patients who are worried about their genetic risk for cancer. But there are two parts to cancer, the cancer itself and the host in which the cancer grows. And that, my friends, you can do a lot to influence. I don’t want you to feel helpless when it comes to this disease, which so, so many people often feel. When it comes to prevention and even how to improve outcomes from treatment, functional medicine takes a very specific approach to cancer. And don’t get me wrong. Conventional medicine is absolutely necessary.

Dr. Mark Hyman: (01:02)
And once you have cancer, an integrated approach of chemo, radiation, and surgery, combined with boosting your immune system and making your body an unfriendly place for cancer to grow or come back, is really essential. The problem is that most patients don’t get taught how to do the second part. I remember one patient, she had three different cancers. Her doctors just wanted her to do what we call active surveillance, which is just doing scans and tests to see if it comes back. There’s nothing active about that. It’s passive, just wait and see and hope it doesn’t come back. And hopefully we catch it early. And it’s terrifying for most people who are looking for some way to prevent it. That is where functional medicine shines. Finding the underlying root causes and optimizing your biology, making it an unwelcomed place for cancer to grow or come back.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: (01:55)
The American Society Of Clinical Oncology has estimated that obesity is going to overtake smoking as the number one cause of cancer worldwide. And unfortunately, we are seeing way increased risk of obesity, an increased rate of obesity. We know that two thirds of adults and a third of our children are obese. This is a driver for many causes of cancer, not all cancer, but definitely, obesity increases inflammation in the body, increases insulin resistance, and is a driver for many types of cancer in the body. We are also seeing an increased rate of colon cancer in our younger population, which is very concerning. And I think that, of course, obesity and toxins and inflammation are triggers for colon cancer as well, but we also know that a shift in our microbiome has an impact on our risk of cancer. And unfortunately, there’s a high number of antibiotics in our food supply that may be contributing to this shift in our microbiome.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: (02:54)
I think that when we’re looking at cancer, it’s really important that we take a functional medicine approach. We want to look at all the systems in the body and how they’re impacting a person’s risk of getting cancer. So, we really focus on the terrain. It’s important to pay attention to the cancer cell, but I think it’s also important to pay attention to the terrain in somebody’s body. The terrain is like the soil. It’s everything surrounding that cancer cell. And it can influence whether a cancer cell is going to grow and proliferate, or if a cancer cell is not going to grow and proliferate. So we can have an impact on the terrain in our body by working to lower inflammation in the body. We know that cancer likes to grow in the face of inflammation. So, whenever we work to lower inflammation in the body, we’re creating a terrain where cancer is less likely to grow.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: (03:49)
We know that not all precancerous cells go on to become cancerous cells. In the United Kingdom, they did a study on 40 to 50-year-old women, and they noted that over 40% of those young women who died of some other reason, they died of another accident or another disease, over 40% had precancerous cells when they looked in their breast tissue. That’s precancerous cells called DCIS or LCIS. The stage zero cancer that we’re often treating to prevent it from going into full blown cancer. So, we know that if those women were able to live longer, that 40% of them would not get an invasive cancer. So, what we realize is that we’re always producing these precancerous cells in our body, and not all of them go on to become invasive cancer. And that’s where our lifestyle has a big impact on whether those cells become invasive cancer or not. We know our diet can have a big impact on whether those cells become invasive cancer or not.

Dr. George Papanicolaou: (04:56)
The first steps that I take in treating a patient that comes to me is establishing relationship, especially, when a person has cancer. Because as you can imagine, it’s a very, very vulnerable place to be. It’s a very scary and uncertain place to be. And when your doctor or healthcare provider can enter into that space, in that place with you, and show you empathy, it makes all the difference in the world. That empathy and that compassion, actually is part of the healing process. That’s where I start. Then the hard work begins. I want to find out everything I can about that patient. I want to know the mood their mother was in, the night they were conceived, all the way up to the last symptom they had the moment they walked into my office. When I get all that information, I’m able to find the triggers that may possibly have started the cascade of events that, through the system out of balance, that resulted in the cancer forming.

Dr. George Papanicolaou: (05:59)
That trigger may be the root cause or may be one of several causes to their cancer. And that’s how we go looking for it. With a really, really strong history. Now, as I gather that information, I plotted out on something called the Functional Medicine Matrix. It’s like a wheel with seven spokes. And I take these symptoms and I put them into the physiologic spokes. So we have one spoke that is the gut and the digestive processes. We have another spoke which are the immune processes, and another spoke which is energy, mitochondrial function. We have another one that is toxins, and we have another spoke that is the cardiovascular system and the transport system within the body. We have another spoke that’s going to be the hormones and neurotransmitters that communicate throughout the body. And then we have our last spoke which is the structures. The structures, everything from the mitochondrial membrane, all the way up to a bone, they’re all structures. The symptoms that they have, represent some type of imbalance or malfunction in one of those system pieces.

Dr. George Papanicolaou: (07:20)
Now, all this system pieces are interdependent, integrated, and they’re working together to maintain your health, to regulate your health, and to actually heal you. And once I’ve put all that information on that wheel, and it’s actually on paper, but it’s also in my brain and the gears are turning, I can begin to find those root causes that we need to work on. By the time I’m done getting the history using the matrix, I usually have a really good understanding of where we’re going to need to go. But I often do still have some of the puzzle pieces missing. And that’s where I do some testing. The three most important tests that I do are a complete nutritional analysis, a digestive system microbiome analysis, and a DNA analysis. Why these three tests? We know that oxidation, inflammation, infection, toxins, are all part of the chronic illness and cancer cascade.

Dr. George Papanicolaou: (08:27)
These three tests provide the first really good look under the hood, and help me begin to understand, physiologically, where some of the problems may be. The first test I do is nutritional analysis. Nutritional analysis that I do, looks for a 125 nutritional markers. It also looks for biomarkers of metabolic dysregulation, inflammation, oxidation, and toxins. The second test I do is a gut/digestion/microbiome test. Almost every patient that walks into my office has gut issues. The tests that I do will look for markers of inflammation and imbalance of important bacteria, the presence of infection and even toxins in the stool. The third test I do is a genetic test. The way I explain it to patients is that we’re looking for, not mutations, but small variations in your gene blueprint that will possibly predispose you to physiologic abnormalities that lead to chronic disease and cancers.

Dr. George Papanicolaou: (09:42)
I can explain it like this. You’re a contractor, so you’re going to be building bathrooms for all types of people. And so, when a person comes to you, you want to be prepared for whatever the budget is. So, you have one blueprint for a cheap bathroom. You get a toilet, you get a sink, and you get a light bulb. Then you have a more moderate budget. That person gets a nicer sink, a nicer bath tub, they get a nice fixture, and they get a linen closet. And then you have the really high budget one with the jacuzzi and the waterfall shower and the marble. They’re all different, but they’re all labeled bathrooms. And you look at the blueprint, and at the top of each blueprint, it’s going to say, bathroom, but each one of those is going to function differently.

Dr. George Papanicolaou: (10:37)
It’s the same thing with the genes that we’re looking for. They’re called single nucleotide polymorphisms. They’re the gene blueprints that have one mild variance, like the variances we saw in his bathrooms, that will result in the protein that they make, having a different type of function. It might function too fast, it might function too slow, it might not function at all. And if we can identify that, we can then help you change your lifestyle, give you a nutritional plan, and even target supplements that account for that variation so that it doesn’t have that long-term impact and lead, possibly, to chronic disease or cancer. So, it’s a really important test. The test that I use, looks at five critical physiologic pathways and the possible variations and blueprints that make this pathways work. Those pathways include oxidation, inflammation, methylation, and detoxification. Variances in any one of those can be fairly critical.

Dr. George Papanicolaou: (11:46)
As an example, there are genes that make proteins that are responsible for detoxifying and removing estrogen. One’s called the CYP1A1 and one’s called the COMT. If you have the single variations in those genes, you’re not going to be able to appropriately remove estrogen out of your system once it’s done its job and it needs to be removed. Once the estrogen has done its job, it’s going to be metabolized. And some of those intermediate metabolites are actually inflammatory. And if you can’t move them out of your system appropriately, because you have variations in those two genes, they recycle. And now, you have recycling inflammatory estrogen compounds, which increase your risk for breast cancer.

Dr. George Papanicolaou: (12:39)
If we can identify when you’re 20 years old, we can identify that you have those genes and they have those variances, then we can actually give you a lifestyle and nutrition plan and target supplements that will upregulate the detoxification and removal of estrogen. And instead of worrying about whether you need to get a mammogram or thermography, you’ve taken care of removing your cancer causings, you created for yourself a cancer free zone, and you’ve created, instead of a cancer generating zone. And that’s what I really worry about. I want to create that type of environment.

Dr. Mark Hyman: (13:23)
Now, what’s fascinating is that, scientists have been discovering a whole new pathway that may be generating cancer and using diet to treat it. One of the leading cancer doctors in the world, Siddhartha Mukherjee, who wrote the book, Emperor of All Maladies, came up to me once at a conference, says, “Mark, we’ve discovered one of the keys to cancer.” He said, “You know what it is?” I looked at him and I said, “Yeah. Sugar.” He’s like, “How did you know?” And I was like, “Well, yeah, I’ve been paying attention.” He says, “We’re doing studies on mice and animals, where we’re, literally, reversing cancers that don’t have good treatments, like pancreatic cancer. That’s a death sentence. Melanoma, often a death sentence. We’re reversing these cancers in animal models using a ketogenic diet. That is a diet that’s 70% fat and less than 5% carbohydrate.”

Dr. Mark Hyman: (14:19)
Turns out that cancer cells love sugar. So, insulin promotes the growth of cancer cells. It doesn’t just promote the growth of belly fat. It promotes the growth of cancer cells. And cancer cells need carbohydrates and sugar to grow. If you shut off that supply, they can’t grow. Humans, sort of like a hybrid car, we have electric and we have gasoline. The gasoline, let’s say, is the sugar pathway, and the electric, let’s say, is the fat pathway. So, we can live just on fat. We don’t need carbohydrates. There’s no essential carbohydrates, but we turn our metabolism from processing carbs to processing fat, and all of a sudden it turns on all these anti-aging mechanisms, these anti-inflammatory mechanisms, they shut down cancer growth. So, they’re studying this aggressively now in science. And it’s really exciting to see this. And there are human trials going on, with brain cancer and maybe other cancers.

Dr. Mark Hyman: (15:20)
I have a friend who’s a doctor who developed a throat cancer, and he decided to go on a ketogenic diet during his treatment for chemo and radiation. He did better than all the other patients. He had less side effects, he recovered better, he was more resilient, and he’s clear of cancer. And it was a 50-50 chance. Now, who knows if it was that, but I bet you, a lot of it is. And so, I think we have to understand that our diet plays such a huge role. I remember being a medical student on the oncology ward, and I said to my professor, and I was always interested in nutrition. I said, “So, how much cancer do you think is diet-related?” And I thought, he’d say 10%, 20%. He said, “70%.” Now, if that’s true, that means we have an incredible opportunity to reduce the burden of suffering from cancer, on our population. That we have control over this.

Dr. Mark Hyman: (16:21)
And I think people feel helpless. They feel so helpless around cancer. They know, “Okay. I can exercise, and I can eat better, and I can eat a low-fat diet, even though it’s not the right thing for heart disease.” But people don’t know, like, “Okay, what do I do with cancer? I just go to the doctor, get my Pap test, get my colonoscopy, stick my finger in my butt, check my prostate, do my PSA, okay, get my mammogram, colonoscopy.” But that’s not prevention. That’s just early detection, and that’s okay. We want to detect stuff early and we’ll prevent cancers doing that. But how about focusing, instead of on the tumor or the cancer, on the host where the cancer grows. And that is what functional medicine does. That is what the science of rejuvenation does. That’s what we have the potential to change.

Dr. George Papanicolaou: (17:11)
Cancer Cells, in general, and I’m sort of generalizing because not every cancer is the same, but there are some cancer cells which are dependent upon glucose metabolism. And glucose metabolism, you can actually metabolize glucose through what’s called the anaerobic pathway, which is without oxygen, or you can metabolize it through the mitochondria, which is with oxygen. And cancer cells, for some reason, have this effect called the Warburg effect. And the Warburg effect causes the body to produce excess amounts of lactate as a by-product and they sort of feed on glucose. And what we found is that, when some patients do a fasting for a period of diet and go into a ketosis, which is producing ketone bodies, when you’re burning your fat, it basically starves off cancer cells and shrinks cancer cells. So, that can be a very effective treatment for the immune system in general, and also actually treating various types of cancers.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: (18:12)
Autophagy means self eating. And that’s really a process that happens in our body when we’re cleaning out old or damaged cells. And autophagy, we want to be able to do that. So, we want to be able to get rid of abnormal or damaged cells all the time. Fasting has been shown to be one great way to help support autophagy in our body. We also know, on the other side, that excessive eating causes a lot of cancer producing systems in our body. So, we know that excessive eating can cause a lot of inflammation in our body, can cause a lot of insulin resistance and has been associated with a higher rate of cancer. So, fasting is a time when you’re not eating. So, there’s been a lot of discussion about fasting and how phenomenal it is for our health. We know that fasting can lower inflammation in the body. It can lower oxidative stress. It’s one of the main things that has been shown to help improve longevity, when we cut back on the amount of food that we’re eating.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: (19:15)
And so there’s been a lot of research about fasting and cancer risk. And there’s been studies that show that if somebody doesn’t eat for 13 hours at night, for example, so that would mean that they wouldn’t eat between 6:00 PM and 7:00 AM. They have a decreased risk of breast cancer. And if they’re going through breast cancer treatment, they have a decreased risk of recurrence. So, giving the body time to rest, giving the body time to not eat, is actually really important for everything, from lowered inflammation to letting our mitochondria heal, to giving the body time to get rid of those older damaged cells. So, that’s an important thing to incorporate. There’s been research, also, on looking at different forms of fasting, such as the fasting mimicking diet around cancer treatment.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: (20:04)
So, Valter Longo has done a lot of research, and others have done a lot of research around using methods of fasting while giving chemotherapy. And so, what typically is recommended for some people undergoing chemotherapy, is to cut back on calories for a specific amount of time. And they found that, that’s helpful for a few different reasons. We know cancer cells like to grow, or they feed off of sugar or glucose in the body. They can’t adapt as easily as our natural cells in our body. So, our healthy cells can adapt when there’s not a lot of sugar around. They can use fat, and we can go into ketosis and use fat for energy, but the cancer cells can’t adapt as well. So, when we cut back on calories, we make those cancer cells more vulnerable. So what Valter Longo and others have done with the fasting mimicking diet, is they’ve said, “Okay, if people cut back on calories for three days before chemotherapy and two days afterwards, will that help the chemotherapy be even more effective?”

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: (21:11)
And some of the research has shown that, “Yeah, absolutely.” For some people, it may help the chemotherapy be more effective because the cancer cells become more vulnerable, they don’t have the food to survive, and our healthy cells are able to adapt to ketosis and survive during that time. So, they cut down on calories to 700, to 1100 calories, somewhere in there, for those three days before, and two days after chemotherapy. I think it’s very important that if you’re thinking about implementing some of these changes, you’re going through chemotherapy and you want to implement some of these changes in your diet, to see if it helps, you really want to work with somebody to be safe.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: (21:53)
Because if you cut back on calories so much and you’re losing weight, then that’s not healthy. We know that that is not a healthy thing to be doing during chemotherapy, for some people. Other people, they cut back on calories, they can still maintain their weight and they get the benefit of the fasting mimicking diet. Those are the people that would benefit from something like this. But it’s a lot of work and it takes some careful planning to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs. And so, working with a nutritionist, I think, is really important if you’re considering the fasting mimicking diet.

Dr. George Papanicolaou: (22:28)
When it comes to treating cancer and chronic disease, the name of the game is stopping inflammation. And there’s no more powerful medicine than what’s on your plate. So, I always recommend an anti-inflammatory diet. The Mediterranean diet with its focus on fish, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and olive oil, with meat, maybe once a week, good dairy choices, and most importantly, severe limits on sugar and carbohydrates, is a great choice for person who wants to stop inflammation when they’re treating their cancer or the chronic disease. Sugar is a potent trigger for inflammation. It also creates obesity. And obesity, itself, puts you at risk for 13 different cancers. Targeted supplements can be an important part of a nutritional regimen when you’re trying to prevent or support somebody who has cancer.

Dr. George Papanicolaou: (23:30)
Antioxidants can be critical. I’ll include vitamin C, CoQ10, and omega 3 fatty acids. For detoxification support, I’ll include glutathione, which is a master detoxifying molecule in the body, silymarin, NAC, and for women, to help with estrogen removal, DIM and calcium D-glucarate. Immense support will include mushroom compounds like turkey tail, and then some minerals like zinc selenium, and I’ll also include vitamin D. Recently, I’ve been adding in targeted supplements that can limit tumor growth. Tumors secrete a chemical called vascular endothelial growth factor. This growth factor allows the tumor to develop a blood supply of its own, that keeps it growing. Wormwood, also known as Artemisia, is a compound that can suppress VEGF and limit tumor growth by eliminating that angiogenesis or vascular generation or blood supply that the tumor uses to grow.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: (24:39)
Black raspberries can make precancerous cells in the esophagus and colon, less likely to progress into cancerous and invasive cells, which is amazing. So, add in some berries and raspberries every day. In addition, green tea has a component called EGCG, Epigallocatechin-3-gallate. EGCG has a lot of amazing properties for our health and our body. One of the things it can do is it can cause precancerous cells, be less likely to become invasive or cancerous cells. It also has a lot of antiangiogenic properties in it as well. And that means that it prevents the growth of blood vessels to a cancer cell and prevents them then from growing and metastasizing. So, in order for one cancer cell to grow and to spread, it needs to have a process called angiogenesis to occur. And angiogenesis is the process where blood vessels grow and feed that cancer cell.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: (25:42)
One of the amazing things about green tea is that it has anti-angiogenic properties. That means it prevents the blood vessels from growing and feeding that cancer cell. In addition, green tea also impacts us epigenetically, which is phenomenal. Epigenetics means the expression of our genes. So, we can influence the expression of our genes through the foods we choose, which is great. We can make tumor suppressor genes more active. That means that the body has more tumor suppressor genes being expressed when we consume sulforaphane, which is rich in our broccoli. Sulforaphane can impact our epigenetic expression, which means that it can cause more tumor suppressor gene production, which can lower the risk of cancer.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: (26:32)
We know, also, green tea can impact our epigenetic expression. Green tea can cause more production of genes that produce glutathione. And glutathione is this master antioxidant and detoxifier for our body. Our risk of cancer is always influenced by both our genetics and our environment. We know that over 90% of cancers are influenced or caused by our environment. So, by not smoking, by doing regular exercise, by maintaining a healthy weight, by making the right food choices, we can lower our risk substantially. We know that, at least, 30% of cancers are caused by a poor diet or this sad diet, that standard American diet. We know we can influence our risk of cancer substantially by the lifestyle choices we make.

Dr. Mark Hyman: (27:22)
So, your body has DNA repair enzymes. It has the ability to fix this damaged cells, to clean up the garbage. And we can do that. So, for example, if you’re looking at your DNA, what causes it to be damaged? Well, it’s the usual stuff. There’s no surprises here. It’s your diet. It’s the same old crappy, sad diet, the standard American diet of processed food, high sugar and starch, and lack of protective nutrients. So, it’s not only the bad stuff you’re eating.

Dr. Mark Hyman: (27:49)
It’s the lack of the good stuff, what we call protective foods, that activate these mechanisms, whether they are phytochemicals, or whether the right essential fatty acids, or whether the right nutrients like vitamin D, these are designed to repair and heal your system, to give you a metabolic tune-up. And then we identify how to eliminate those things in addition to your diet, it may be causing a problem. It could be, you have a load of heavy metals or a load of chemicals and pesticides, or maybe using a ton of makeup or sunblock that has lead in it, or phthalates, or maybe you’re drinking from plastic bottles that have BPA in them, other chemicals that continue to erode your health. So, getting rid of all that stuff is really important.

Dr. Todd LePine: (28:31)
The toxins that we are exposed to on a daily basis, are things that we’re eating. So, if you’re eating food and you look on the package and there’s something that you can’t pronounce, don’t eat it. There’s lots of chemicals that we put in our mouths every day. So, eating a diet that’s mostly whole foods, that’s not packaged, doesn’t have labels on it, is a good way to start. Also, drinking clean water is really, really important. Also, choosing where you want to live. If you go onto the website, Environmental Working Group, they have some incredible interactive graphical maps of different places around the country that are exposed to things like the polyfluorinated chemicals similar to the Teflon related products. And you can see where these compounds are in the United States, and if you actually overlay some of the areas where there’s higher levels of cancer, you’ll see that there’s an overlapping, relate to a lot of these toxins.

Dr. Todd LePine: (29:30)
There is an excellent paper called the exposome, which is the sum total of all of the things that we are exposed to as people. And the exposome is related to things in the water, things in the air, things that we are exposed to with chemicals, that we might breathe in, old buildings can potentially have that with mycotoxins, especially moldy buildings, chemicals from paints or glues, that new car smell, which everybody likes is really probably… I would tell people “I would never buy a new car because that new car smell is a toxic chemical, and you’re going to be smelling that for a good year or two.” So not only will you save money buying a used car, but you’ll be less toxic. So, just being aware of these chemicals that we’re exposed to, in the air that we breathe, the water that we drink, and the food that we eat. Also, a lot of people do body, creams, and lotions, you can just make sure that you’re having these personal products, which are least toxic things that don’t contain things like parabens and BPA and such.

Dr. Mark Hyman: (30:32)
Instead of dividing everything into diseases and labels, the emerging science points to a different way of thinking about diseases. Rather than divide the body into organs, functional medicine approaches disease as a systemic problem. We have to treat the system not the symptoms, the cause, not the disease. This completely redefines the entire notion of disease. How we label cancer is no longer in alignment with what we know about the origins of cancer. Two people who have the same cancer, with the same name, like breast cancer, can have two completely different diseases which require different treatments. Just because you know the name of the disease doesn’t mean you know what’s wrong with you or what to do about it. Classifying tumors by body site or organ, misses the underlying causes and mechanisms and the pathways involved in that particular cancer. It gives us no information about how it manifested in that given patient.

Dr. Mark Hyman: (31:35)
And two people with cancers in different parts of the body, may have developed the disease for the same reasons. And two people with the same cancer in the same part of the body, may have developed it for also different reasons. A patient with prostate cancer and one with colon cancer may, in fact, have more in common with each other than two patients who have colon cancer. So, we need to look under the hood and find out what caused the illness to begin with. Many things can contribute to cancer. Studies show that diet, exercise, our thoughts and feelings, environmental toxins, all influence the initiation, the growth, and the progression of cancer. If a nutrient-poor diet, it’s also full of sugar and lack of exercise and chronic stress and petrochemical pollutants and heavy metals, can cause cancer, could it be that a nutrient-dense, plant-rich diet full of phytochemicals, and physical activity, and change of our thoughts and mindset and our reactions to stress, and upregulating our detoxification, might treat the garden where the cancer grows?

Dr. Mark Hyman: (32:43)
In other words, treat the soil, not the plant. It’s the foundational principle of regenerative agriculture and of regenerating your health. The good news is we can enhance our immune function and our immune surveillance through dietary and lifestyle changes, as well as specific nutrient and phytonutrient therapies. We can facilitate our body’s own detoxification system to promote the elimination of carcinogenic compounds. We can improve our hormone metabolism and reduce the carcinogenic effects of too much insulin from our high sugar and refined carb diet. So, here’s what I really want you to get. One of the main underlying causes of all age-related diseases is this. Insulin resistance, including heart disease, cancer, dementia, which is being called type 3 diabetes now. And of course, diabetes, and even something called sarcopenia or muscle loss, which we will dive into in a later episode, this is really a unifying theory of aging.

Dr. Mark Hyman: (33:44)
But of course, it’s not the only thing, toxins, infections, and even your microbiome are really important factors in cancer, and overall, aging. In functional medicine, we don’t just address one thing. We address everything. Think of it like a hundred thousand mile checkup on your car. Here’s a cool example of how this works. There’s a powerful new cancer treatment called immunotherapy, that activates your own immune system to fight the cancer. And when it works, it’s a miracle, but it doesn’t work in everyone, for very various reasons. Now, one reason seems to have to do with your gut health and your microbiome. It turns out there is a very important beneficial bacteria in your gut that regulates your immune function called Akkermansia. It’s a fancy name, but it’s basically one of the microbes that lives in your gut. If your gut is unhealthy and you have low level of this good bug, the immunotherapy doesn’t work.

Dr. Mark Hyman: (34:43)
But if you feed it with polyphenols, which are compounds in plants, like from cranberry, pomegranate, and green tea, things that it likes to eat, it’s going to grow, and the immunotherapy, miraculously, will work. So, you treat the host, not just the disease, that’s the key. And even if we have cancer risk genes, we can change how those genes are expressed. Our genes are regulated by things in our control, our diet, nutrients, phytonutrients, toxins, stress infections, and other sources of inflammation. This is all good fertilizer for soil in the garden of our body. The key is learning how to cultivate that garden. The important thing is to figure out what works for you, develop a plan, and to stick with it. So, thanks for tuning in, and see you next time for episode four.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

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