Cancer, Immune Support, Diet and Nutrition

What does Nutrition have to do with Cancer?

Having cancer means you’re more likely to have a weakened immune system, as it is your immune system which has the ability to identify and destroy rogue cancer cells in the body. What causes a weakened immune system is due to many factors, but one the most influential factors is diet and nutrients.

Nutrient deficiency is the most common cause of a depressed immune system. Clinical evidence shows that a single nutrient deficiency can impair the immune system profoundly. There are a number of key nutrients people should consider supporting in their diet our supplementary intake.

Vitamin A plays an essential role in:

  • Maintaining the integrity of the epithelial and mucosal linings of the body, this can be your intestinal tract, your respiratory lining of your lungs, your skin, your urinary tract etc.

  • Stimulating and enhance numerous immune processes including, immune cell activation against tumors, increased natural killer cell activity and increased antibody response.

  • Building and maintaining the thymus gland, a key immune organ, which activates the white blood cells.

  • Where to find it? Eggs, Oily Fish (sardines, Mackerel, Herring)

Vitamin D plays an essential role in:

  • Immune system regulation.

  • Supporting the innate and adaptive immunity. The innate immune system is a primitive approach to presenting an immediate immune response to viruses, bacteria or defective cells, but it doesn’t provide long-lasting immunity, however adaptive immunity involves the production of antibodies to a pathogen which generally provides long-lasting protection.

  • Where to find it? Made in the skin from exposure to the sun

Various minerals have a specific immune role too.

Iron has a specific role:

  • Just a mild deficiency can cause degeneration in lymphoid tissues, together with defection white blood cell activation against pathogens and defective cells. Zinc has a critical role to play with immunity. With a deficiency there is decreased white blood cell production, decreased thymus hormone (thymus hormones activate immune response) and decreased white blood actions on pathogens and defective cells. It acts synergistically with Vitamin A to increase white blood cell development.

  • Where to find it? In liver, spinach, eggs, nuts and seeds.

Selenium is vital mineral for:

  • An effective immune response, in its role is in supporting the anti-oxidant glutathione. Supplementing with Selenium even with normal levels, at 200mcg dosages has shown in studies in a 118% improvement in cancer-killing ability of white blood cells and an 80% rise in natural killer cells (white blood cells which hunt cancer cells).

  • Where to find it? Brazil nuts, sardines.

Glutathione is:

  • The most important antioxidant made in the body and it effects all components of the immune system including the development and expression of white blood cells.

  • Where to find it? Garlic, onions, asparagus, cauliflower.

Perhaps the most effective method of re-establishing a healthy immune system is employing measures to improve thymus function. This is the gland which matures the T-cells, those white blood cells which kills cancer cells. This is done by the hormone it secretes. The best way to boost thymus production is to optimize the adequate intake of anti-oxidants and increase the use of nutrients required in the manufacture of thymic hormones. These nutrients include Zinc, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C.

Diet and Immune system


As well as immune activation there is immune suppression by food and the No.1 food source suppressing the immune system is sugar. Eating any significant amounts of foods with high amounts of glucose, fructose (fruit sugar) sucrose, honey reduces white blood activity and the effect can start as quickly as 30 minutes after ingestion of the sugary food, and the immune suppression can last as long as 5 hours.

The actual mechanism of why glucose suppresses the immune system is due to the elevated rise in Insulin. Insulin competes with Vitamin C on regulating the immune response. Vitamin C activates the immune response where Insulin suppresses it by blocking vitamin C’s channels with the white blood cells. Considering the average person consumes over 100g of glucose/ sucrose / day, this leads to the inescapable conclusion that many people have chronically depressed immune systems.

What to do?

To combat this effect short term fasting or intermittent fasting should be encouraged as this results in a 50% increase in the immune response to bacteria viruses, and ‘sick’ cells.

We can see from these interventions with our nutrient and dietary influences that we can have a lot of control over our immune response. Making the right dietary choices, getting checked on your nutrient status and taking appropriate supplements where needed can be really helpful in ensuring your immune system is in top shape for keeping rogue cancer cells at bay.

Miles Price, Functional Medicine Specialist and Clinical Nutritionist at Life Clinic can help you to check all those elements and give you the right advise depending on your condition.

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