Traditional medicine is adept at detecting and treating different types of cancer; from mammograms to chemotherapy, we are slowly but surely waging a battle against this pervasive disease. But when it comes to preventing cancer before it starts, functional medicine plays an important role.
"It looks at the underlying root cause and then individualizes treatment, focusing on the patient instead of the disease," writes Elizabeth Boham, MD, a board-certified family medicine doctor who began studying functional medicine after being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 30. "While annual mammograms and colonoscopies are amazingly helpful tools for detecting cancer as early as possible—and have saved many, many lives—they aren't actually preventing cancer from forming in the first place."
Through her studies, she's learned that cancer prevention is different for every single person; there are different genetics, causes, and environments at play. Below read up on how Boham recommends cultivating the balance necessary to prevent cancer from forming in the first place (or stop it from coming back).
Eat a Whole Foods Diet
"Choose real, whole, nutrient-dense plant foods and the very best quality animal foods," she advises. "Make every meal an array of colorful plant foods, lean protein, and healthy fats." She also cautions against eating sugary foods, which have been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. "Avoid anything ending in '-ose' (sugar), and limit foods made from flour or processed grains," she adds.
Minimize Environmental Toxins
Believe it or not, many of the seemingly innocuous household items we're exposed to on a daily basis contain harmful toxins that can "wreak hormonal, metabolic, and overall-health havoc," she writes. She mentions BPA, which lingers in some canned and plastic containers, as well as pesticides, parabens, and metals like mercury and lead. "Visit the Environmental Working Group to learn more, and ask your functional medicine doctor to test whether toxins could be suppressing your immune function."
"Less than 5% of Americans are getting 30 minutes of physical activity every day," she writes. "That's too bad because just 45 minutes five times a week can improve insulin resistance, help you become leaner, and reduce your cancer risk." While a half-hour walk will do the trick, research has found that High-Intensity Interval Training can slow down the aging process and even improve the health of female cancer survivors.