Sunday, June 16, 2019

Dr. Weil on the development of integrative medicine in modern practice by Dr. Mercola

Dr. Weil on the development of integrative medicine in modern practice

Written by Dr. Joseph Mercola   
  • Integrative medicine is the solution to the desperate problems and complications of chronic degenerative disease experienced in the U.S. Conventional medicine is really ineffective when it comes to these issues
  • We need to elect representatives who are not beholden to the vested interests that want the health care system to go on as it is. Vested interests are profiting greatly from the present system and are blocking the implementation of more effective and less expensive strategies
  • The 4-7-8 breathing technique Dr. Andrew Weil teaches activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which improves your heart rate variability, improves digestion and blood circulation and lowers high blood pressure
  • About 50% of 80-year-olds have sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass). One of the key prevention strategies for sarcopenia is to stay active and use your muscles as much as possible. This is also why strength training is so highly recommended for seniors
  • The University of Arizona is committed to making integrative medicine a top priority. The Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine is getting a building on campus and will open the first integrative medicine primary care clinic there in Tucson in 2020
Dr. Andrew Weil, director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, is one of the true pioneers of this field, having advocated holistic approaches to health for about 50 years.
"I was always interested in science and biology," Weil says, and "I have a lifelong interest in plants … that led me to be a botany major at Harvard as an undergraduate and started me on a career interest in medicinal plants."
Fascinated by mind-body interactions, Weil began studying alternative medicine in college. After graduating medical school, he did a yearlong fellowship with the National Institutes of Health. He also did a fellowship with the Institute of Current World Affairs, which allowed him to travel around Latin America and Africa to collect information on medicinal plants and traditional healing.
"I chased around the world looking for healers and to see what I could learn because I felt that what I had learned in my conventional medical education wasn't going to serve me. I saw the methods do too much harm, and I had learned nothing about keeping people healthy," Weil says.
"The irony is that when I finished traveling and landed back in Tucson, it turned out the person who had most to teach me had been here all along. That was Dr. Robert Fulford. He was a doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.). He was then in his 80s and a master of cranial therapy.
He really made me aware of the healing power of nature. I am an enormous fan of osteopathic manipulation and cranial therapy. I recommend them a lot. I hope more D.O.s will go back to their roots and again practice manipulation ...
After I finished my internship, I took a course at Columbia University on medical hypnosis — one of the most interesting courses I ever took. As a result of that, I also make frequent referrals to hypnotherapists. I have, again and again, seen how changes in the mental realm initiate healing and affect the physical body.
To me, that's one of the great limitations of the dominant scientific and medical paradigm, which only looks at the physical as being real and believes that changes in the physical system must have physical causes to be physical. Nonphysical causation of physical events is not allowed for. Integrative medicine philosophy challenges that materialistic paradigm."

The emergence of integrative medicine

It wasn't until the 1990s that medical institutions began opening up to Weil's methods. "I had a large following in the general public, but none of my medical colleagues paid any attention to me," he says. In the '90s, however, health care economics began faltering, forcing institutions to start listening to what patients really wanted.
At a fundamental level, integrative medicine is the solution to the desperate problems and complications of chronic degenerative disease experienced in the U.S. Conventional medicine is really ineffective when it comes to these issues. As for the best way to help conventional physicians embrace these strategies, Weil says:
"My focus has been on training physicians and allied health professionals through the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. We have a two-year intensive fellowship. We now have 1,800 graduates: highly physicians, nurse practitioners and physicians' assistants in practice in all states and in a number of other countries.
Many of them are now training other people. We also have a curriculum in integrative medicine in residency training that's now been adopted by 70-some residency programs around the country (as well as in Canada, Germany and Taiwan)."
While 1,800 doctors are a drop in the bucket — a fraction of a percent of the 1.1 million physicians in the U.S.1 — they are important change agents.
"I think for things to change, there has to be a grassroots sociopolitical movement in this country, in which enough people get angry enough about the way things are," Weil says. He hopes the growing numbers of health professionals trained in integrative medicine will catalyze that movement.
We also need to elect representatives who are not beholden to the vested interests that want the system to go on as it is. Those interests are blocking the implementation of more effective and less expensive strategies.
"We may have to have a total crash of the health care system for things to change," Weil says. "To every graduating class of our fellows, I say, 'You are the ones who could start this movement in the country.' Doctors are victimized by the current system. They should be marching in the streets, demanding change.
As dysfunctional as our health care system is, it's generating rivers of money. That money is flowing into very few pockets — the pockets of Big Pharma, the manufacturers of medical devices and the big insurers. Those vested interests have total control of our representatives …
I think doctors today are so unhappy. I hear many, many doctors say they wish they hadn't gone into medicine. They'd never let a son or daughter of theirs go into medicine. I never heard anything like that when I was in college. Medicine looked like a very desirable profession. You could be your own boss. You were highly regarded in society.
All that has changed. Throughout history, much of the satisfaction of practicing medicine derived from the therapeutic connection with the patient, the getting to know someone. All that has evaporated in this era of for-profit, corporatized medicine. The time allowed for medical visits gets shorter and shorter.
The main obstacle is that our priorities of reimbursement are totally backward. We happily pay for drugs, for invasive procedures, for diagnostic testing. We don't pay health professionals to sit with patients and talk to them about diet or teach them breathing exercises. That has to change.
Of course, we also need to have data to show to the people who pay for health care that integrative approaches using lifestyle modification and natural therapies save money and produce outcomes that are equal to or better than those of conventional medicine."
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Breathing basics

One of Weil's health strategies is a simple breathing technique called "The 4-7-8 Breath." "I teach that whenever I get the chance. I've done it with all my patients. I teach it to all our fellows. I do it with friends. I teach to all groups I speak to," Weil says.
"It's breathing in through your nose to a count of 4, holding your breath for a count of 7, blowing air out through your mouth to a count of 8, and doing this for four breath cycles at least twice day day. You have to practice it regularly. It is the master key to changing the activity of the involuntary nervous system," he explains.
"Of all the remedies that I've given to patients over the years, the one that I've gotten the most positive feedback about is that simple technique. It costs nothing, uses no equipment, takes very little time. Medical doctors don't take it seriously because they don't believe that something so simple — something that does not involve a drug or device — can change anything in the body. For that reason, little research has been done on breath work.
I do the 4-7-8 breath at least twice a day — when I wake up and when I go to sleep — and any time during the day that I feel that I want to focus and relax. (I now do eight breath cycles at a time and don't recommend any more than that.) One result that I've seen in myself: I have a very low heart rate. It's usually in the low 40s, sometimes in the high-30s.
I exercise regularly, but I'm not fanatical. I swim and walk every day. But up until maybe 20 years ago, my heart rate was around 70. The only way I can explain the change is that it is a result of doing that breathing exercise regularly. It has increased my vagal tone, slowed my heart rate and kept my hands very warm most of the time. It's the power of the relaxation response — one of the great rewards of doing this breathing practice."
Aside from activating your parasympathetic nervous system, which increases your heart rate variability, proper breathing will help improve your digestion and blood circulation and lower high blood pressure.

Maintaining cognitive and physical health into your senior years

At 77, Weil is also a testament to the cognitive benefits of this and other holistic techniques. His mental acuity for someone in their late 70s is truly remarkable, and doesn't seem to have changed since his youth. When asked what he attributes his general health to, he says:
"I get good rest and sleep. I use supplements wisely. I'm a great believer in the power of mushrooms. I take a number of mushroom products that I think are helpful both mentally and physically. I eat a lot of fermented foods. You know there's increasing research on the connection between the microbiome and mental-emotional well-being.
I think that's another strategy. And I drink matcha green tea every day. (I am so much a fan of it that I created a company — Matcha Kari — and got the URL matcha.com to bring high-quality matcha from Uji, Japan, to people in this country.
I spend time with people who are active and happy and positive and I think that's a great strategy as well. I have two companion animals, two wonderful dogs that I spend a lot of time with. I attribute a lot of my well-being to living with them as well."
Among Weil's favorite medicinal mushrooms are turkey tail and lion's mane. Turkey tail has a number of cancer-protective effects, both preventively and therapeutically, while lion's mane contains a unique nerve-growth factor. "I recommend it to people with neuropathy," Weil says. There's also evidence suggesting lion's mane can help improve cognitive function.

True food kitchen

Last year, I had the opportunity to try out the True Food Kitchen while at the Paleo f(x)™ conference in Austin, Texas — a restaurant chain Weil conceptualized. He explains:
"I'm a very good home cook. I'm not a chef. But over the years, many people have said, 'You ought to open a restaurant.' I was never tempted to do that because I know nothing about the restaurant business, and it looked like a very tough business.
But about 11 years ago, a mutual friend introduced me to a very successful restaurateur in Arizona, Sam Fox. I proposed the concept of a restaurant that would serve wonderful, delicious food that was also healthy. His immediate reaction was, "Health food doesn't sell."
I think he thought I meant tofu and sprouts. He regarded me as a hippie and didn't see any possibilities for a collaboration. I invited him and his wife to my home. I cooked a meal for them. They liked the food. His wheels began to turn, and he said he would give it a try, but he was very skeptical that the concept would succeed.
We opened our first True Food Kitchen in Phoenix 11 years ago. It was a success right out of the gate. There are now 29 of them around the country. People love the food. We still don't have any real competition. The menu is based on my anti-inflammatory diet, with something for everyone there.
You can go with a mixed group. There are meat entrees — although not many of them — wonderful produce and fish. Gluten-free people can get what they want, people who are vegans, paleo or keto can find what they want there. It's been a great delight to see people liking the kinds of food I've enjoyed most of my life."
We certainly need more restaurants like that, because eating too much processed food is one of the key challenges most people have. While you may not think of restaurant food as processed, a vast majority of it is.

Staying active is a key component of longevity and health

About 50% of 80-year-olds experience sarcopenia, loss of muscle mass. As noted by Weil, one of the key prevention strategies for sarcopenia is to stay active and use your muscles as much as possible. This is also why strength training is so highly recommended for seniors.
"I use my muscles a lot," Weil says. "I am careful in what I do, but I go up and down stairs a lot when I get the chance. I lift things. I don't feel that I've lost muscle strength. I certainly have more aches and pains than I did when I was younger, but I think my musculoskeletal system is in good shape …"
"It's important to pay attention to how your body changes and how it reacts to different things … In my 20s, I ran for a time — until I got signals from my knees that they didn't like that. I shifted to cycling and did that for a long time. And then I got into swimming, which agrees with me very much. I think it's good to be flexible and open to change …"

Integrative medicine is the answer to many growing problems

Like me, Weil sees integrative medicine as the way of the future. "I've always said that one day we'll be able to drop the word 'integrative' and it'll be just 'good medicine,'" he says. He believes this transition is inevitable, because the forces that are taking down our health care system continue to build.
This includes a growing population of seniors, uncontainable health care costs due to our dependence on expensive technologies and drugs, and growing epidemics of lifestyle-related disease that conventional medicine cannot successfully manage.
"This is happening all over the world, but it's most advanced in the U.S.," he says. "Our health care system is farther over the cliff. At the same time that we are paying more for health care than any other people in the world — now 18% of our GDP — we have worse health outcomes than any other developed nation. The World Health Organization ranks us 38th, on par with Serbia. Something is very wrong with that picture. It's unsustainable."

On cannabis

One positive change is the growing acceptance of medicinal marijuana and hemp, the latter of which was legalized in the 2018 Farm Bill. While Weil no longer uses cannabis, he recounts his personal history with the plant during his 30s. He also conducted the first ever double-blind human experiments with cannabis, which were published in the journal Science in 1968.
"We've been very stupid in our relationship with that plant," he says. "Cannabis sativa — the word 'sativa' means useful — is amazingly useful. It gives us a very high-quality oil and an edible seed, a medicine, an excellent fiber and an intoxicant. That's a lot of ways for one plant to serve us.
We have let a multibillion-dollar industry in hemp textiles slip away to China, a multimillion-dollar industry in edible hemp products go to Canada. We have rejected cannabis as medicine for a long time. I'm very happy to see this change.
I regard cannabis as the plant world's equivalent of the dog. Dogs long ago decided to co-evolve with us. Cannabis has done the same thing. We can't unravel the ancient history of cannabis, because as far back as we can look, it's always been associated with human settlements and human activity.
It wants to do nothing other than to serve us. It lets us manipulate its genome. It just wants to help us and we have turned it away. It's nice to see that change."

Psychedelics may have a place in medicine

Weil also believes there's a place for psychedelics, such as magic mushrooms. "The great magic and potential of psychedelics is that they can show you possibilities that you otherwise would not have believed," he says. However, once you've touched on these new possibilities, he says you need to find other, nondrug ways to re-experience or maintain them.
"If you try to use the drugs as the sole method of having them, they fail you," he warns. "The example I have written and talked about [is] when I was about 28, I wanted to learn to practice hatha yoga. I worked with a number of postures.
The one I had the most difficulty with was the plow — where you lie on your back and try to touch your toes on the floor behind your head. I worked at this for a long time and I got my toes to within a foot of the floor but no further, because I would have excruciating pain in my neck. No matter how I persisted, I couldn't make further progress.
One spring day, I took a dose of LSD with friends in a beautiful outdoor setting. I felt terrific. My body was completely elastic and flexible, and I thought I ought to try that yoga pose. I lay down, got my feet over my head and lowered them. I thought I had about a foot to go and they touched the ground. I couldn't believe it. I raised and lowered them. It was a source of such delight.
The next day I tried to do it and I got my toes within a foot of the floor and had a horrible pain in my neck. But now there was a difference. I had seen that it was possible. I was motivated to keep at it and, in a few weeks, I was able to do it. If I had not had that experience, I don't think I would have kept up the practice. To me, that's a model of how these drugs work. They can show you possibilities.
I think they have tremendous potential in medicine. Everyone looks at their use in psychotherapy, and that's fine, but I think they have a tremendous potential to change how people experience their bodies. For people who have chronic diseases, a structured psychedelic session can show them that it's possible to be without pain or other symptoms. And that can motivate them to figure out how to maintain the improvement in other ways."

More information

While Weil says he's done writing books, he's in the process of writing a collection of stories from his life. The University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine in Tucson, which he still heads up, is also entering a new phase of growth.
"The university has made a solid commitment to make integrative medicine a top priority," he says. We will get a dedicated building on campus and will open the first integrative medicine primary care clinic in Tucson early next year.
You can find more information about this on the Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine website. There, you can also sign up for online courses to explore topics such as nutrition, integrative pain management, cardiovascular health management and more. There's also a research sectionyou can peruse to learn more about the benefits of integrative medicine.
"We think we have a model that is replicable, sustainable, profitable that can be eventually replicated throughout the health care system here and elsewhere. We're expanding our teaching programs. We have a very strong research initiative as well.
This is all very exciting — something I've waited for, for a long time … I think the future is going to be very bright for our field. Medicine doesn't change as a result of intellectual argument. It changes as a result of economic necessity. And time is on our side.
Our health care system is in deep, deep trouble. The wisdom of what [Dr. Mercola] and I have been advocating for so long will become more and more apparent as the health care crisis deepens."

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Human diet causing 'catastrophic' damage to planet: study

Human diet causing 'catastrophic' damage to planet: study

Marlowe HOOD
The landmark health study in The Lancet calls on people to double their consumption of vegetables, fruits and nuts
The landmark health study in The Lancet calls on people to double their consumption of vegetables, fruits and nuts (AFP Photo/Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS)
Paris (AFP) - The way humanity produces and eats food must radically change to avoid millions of deaths and "catastrophic" damage to the planet, according to a landmark study published Thursday.
The key to both goals is a dramatic shift in the global diet -- roughly half as much sugar and red meat, and twice as many vegetables, fruits and nuts, a consortium of three dozen researchers concluded in The Lancet, a medical journal.
"We are in a catastrophic situation," co-author Tim Lang, a professor at the University of London and policy lead for the EAT-Lancet Commission that compiled the 50-page study, told AFP.
Currently, nearly a billion people are hungry and another two billion are eating too much of the wrong foods, causing epidemics of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Unhealthy diets account for up to 11 million avoidable premature deaths every year, according to the most recent Global Disease Burden report.
At the same time the global food system is the single largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the biggest driver of biodiversity loss, and the main cause of deadly algae blooms along coasts and inland waterways.
Agriculture -- which has transformed nearly half the planet's land surface -- also uses up about 70 percent of the global fresh water supply.
"To have any chance of feeding 10 billion people in 2050 within planetary boundaries" -- the limits on Earth's capacity to absorb human activity -- "we must adopt a healthy diet, slash food waste, and invest in technologies that reduce environmental impacts," said co-author Johan Rockstrom, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Impact Research.
- Where's the beef? -
"It is doable but it will take nothing less than global agricultural revolution," he told AFP.
The cornerstone of "the great food transformation" called for in the study is a template human diet of about 2500 calories per day.
"We are not saying everyone has to eat in the same way," Lang said by phone. "But broadly -- especially in the rich world -- it means a reduction of meat and dairy, and a major increase in plant consumption."
The diet allows for about seven grammes (a quarter of an ounce) of red meat per day, and up to 14. A typical hamburger patty, by comparison, is 125 to 150 grammes.
For most rich nations, and many emerging ones such as China and Brazil, this would represent a drastic five-to-ten-fold reduction.
Beef is the main culprit.
Not only do cattle pass massive quantities of planet-warming methane, huge swathes of carbon-absorbing forests –- mostly in Brazil -– are cut down every year to make room for them.
"For climate, we know that coal is the low-hanging fruit, the dirtiest of fossil fuels," said Rockstrom. "On the food side, the equivalent is grain-fed beef."
It takes at least five kilos of grain to produce a kilo of meat.
And once that steak or lamb chop hits the plate, about 30 percent will wind up in the garbage bin.
Dairy is also limited to about one cup (250 grammes) of whole milk -- or its equivalent in cheese or yoghurt -- per day, and only one or two eggs per week.
- Push back -
At the same time, the diet calls for a more than 100 percent increase in legumes such as peas and lentils, along with vegetables, fruits and nuts.
Grains are considered to be less healthy sources of nutrients.
"We can no longer feed our population a healthy diet while balancing planetary resources," said The Lancet editor-in-chief Richard Horton.
"For the first time in 200,000 years of human history, we are severely out of sync with the planet and Nature."
The report drew heavy fire from the livestock and dairy industry, and some experts.
"It goes to the extreme to create maximum attention, but we must be more responsible when making serious dietary recommendation," said Alexander Anton, secretary general of the European Dairy Association, noting that dairy products are "packed" with nutrients and vitamins.
Christopher Snowdon of the Institute of Economic Affairs in London said the report "reveals the full agenda of nanny-state campaigners."
"We expected these attacks," said Lang. "But the same food companies pushing back against these findings realise that they may not have a future if they don't adapt", he said.
"The question is: does this come by crisis, or do we start planning for it now?"
Some multinationals responded positively, if cautiously, to the study.
"We need governments to help accelerate the change by aligning national dietary guidelines with healthy and sustainable requirements, and repurposing agricultural subsidies," the World Business Council for Sustainable Development said in a statement.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Turmeric's 'Smart Kill' Properties Put Chemo & Radiation To Shame

Turmeric's 'Smart Kill' Properties Put Chemo & Radiation To Shame

The ancient Indian spice turmeric strikes again! Research finds turmeric extract selectively and safely killing cancer stem cells in a way that chemo and radiation can not.
A groundbreaking new study published in the journal Anticancer Research reveals that one of the world's most extensively researched and promising natural compounds for cancer treatment: the primary polyphenol in the ancient spice turmeric known as curcumin, has the ability to selectively target cancer stem cells, which are at the root of cancer malignancy, while having little to no toxicity on normal stem cells, which are essential for tissue regeneration and longevity.
Titled, "Curcumin and Cancer Stem Cells: Curcumin Has Asymmetrical Effects on Cancer and Normal Stem Cells," the study describes the wide range of molecular mechanisms presently identified by which curcumin attacks cancer stem cells (CSCs), which are the minority subpopulation of self-renewing cells within a tumor colony, and which alone are capable of producing all the other cells within a tumor, making them the most lethal, tumoriogenic of all cells within most if not all cancers.  Because CSCs are resistant to chemotherapy, radiation, and may even be provoked towards increased invasiveness through surgical intervention, they are widely believed to be responsible for tumor recurrence and the failure of conventional treatment.
The study identified the following 8 molecular mechanisms by which curcumin targets and kills cancer stem cells:
  • Down-regulation of interleukin-6 (IL-6): IL-6 is classified as a cytokine (a potent biomolecule released by the immune system) and modulates both immunity and inflammation. It's over expression has been linked to the progression from inflammation to cancer. Curcumin inhibits IL-6 release, which in turn prevents CSC stimulation.
  • Down-regulation of interleukin-8 (IL-8): IL-8, another cytokine, is released after tumor cell death, subsequently stimulating CSCs to regrow the tumor and resist chemotherapy. Curcumin both inhibits IL-8 production directly and indirectly.
  • Down-regulation of interleukin-1 (IL-1): IL-1, a family of cytokines, are involved in response to injury and infection, with IL-1 β playing a key role in cancer cell growth and the stimulation of CSCs. Curcumin inhibits IL-1 both directly and indirectly.  
  • Decrease CXCR1 and CXCR2 binding: CXCR1 and CXCR2 are proteins expressed on cells, including CSCs, which respond to the aforementioned cytokines in a deleterious manner. Curcumin has been found to not only block cytokine release, but their binding to these two cellular targets.
  • Modulation of the Wnt signaling pathway: The Wnt signaling pathway regulates a wide range of processes during embryonic development, but are also dsyregulated in cancer. Curcumin has been found to have a corrective action on Wnt signaling.
  • Modulation of the Notch Pathway: The Notch signaling pathway, also involved in embryogenesis, plays a key role in regulating cell differentiation, proliferation and programmed cell death (apoptosis), as well as the functioning of normal stem cells. Aberrant Notch signaling has been implicated in a wide range of cancers. Curcumin has been found to suppress tumor cells along the Notch pathway.
  • Modulation of the Hedgehog Pathways: Another pathway involved in embryogenesis, the Hedgehog pathway also regulates normal stem cell activity. Abnormal functioning of this pathway is implicated in a wide range of cancers and in the stimulation of CSCs and associated increases in tumor recurrence after conventional treatment. Curcumin has been found to inhibit the Hedgehog pathway through a number of different mechanisms.
  • Modulation of the FAK/AKT/FOXo3A Pathway: This pathway plays a key role in regulating normal stem cells, with aberrant signaling stimulating CSCs, resulting once again in tumor recurrence and resistance to chemotherapy. Curcumin has been found
  • in multiple studies to destroy CSCs through inhibiting this pathway.
As you can see through these eight examples above, curcumin exhibits a rather profound level of complexity, modulating numerous molecular pathways simultaneously. Conventional cytotoxic chemotherapy is incapable of such delicate and "intelligent" behavior, as it preferentially targets fast-replicating cells by damaging their DNA in the vulnerable mitosis stage of cell division, regardless of whether they are benign, healthy or cancerous cells.  Curcumin's selective cytotoxicity, on the other hand, targets the most dangerous cells – the cancer stem cells – which leaving unharmed the normal cells, as we will now learn more about below.

Curcumin and Normal Stem Cells

Normal stem cells (NSCs) are essential for health because they are responsible for differentiating into normal cells that are needed to replace damaged or sick ones. If curcumin were to kill normal cells, like radiation and chemotherapy, it would not provide a compelling alternative to these treatments.  The study addressed this point:
"The safety of curcumin has been long established, as it has been used for centuries as a dietary spice. The question arises as to why curcumin does not seem to have the same deleterious effects on normal stem cells (NSCs) as it does on CSCs. There are several possible reasons that curcumin has toxic effects on CSCs, while sparing NSCs."
The study offered three potential explanations for curcumin's differential or selective cytotoxicity:
  • Malignant cells take in much more curcumin than normal cells.
  • Curcumin alters the microenvironment of cells in such a way that is adverse to CSCs and beneficial to NSCs.
  • Curcumin may not only directly attack CSCs, but may encourage them to differentiate into non-lethal, more benign cells.

Concluding Remarks

This study adds growing support to the idea that safe, time-tested, natural substances are superior to synthetic ones. Given the evidence that a safe and effective alternative may already exist, chemotherapy, radiation and even surgery may no longer be justified as the first-line standard of care for cancer treatment. In fact, a significant body of evidence now implicates these treatments in worsening prognosis, and in some cases driving cancer stem cell enrichment in tumors. Radiotherapy, for instance, has been found to induce cancer stem cell like properties in breast cancer cells, essentially increasing their malignancy and tumoriogenicity by 30 fold.  This is hardly progress when one considers the role that CSCs play, especially in contributing to post-treatment secondary cancers.
Turmeric and its components, of course, are not FDA approved drugs, and by definition the FDA will not allow an unapproved substance, natural or synthetic, to prevent, treat, diagnosis or cure a disease.  This means that you will not be seeing it offered by an oncologist as an alternative to chemotherapy or radiation any time soon.  This does not, however, mean that it does not work. We have gathered over 1500 citations from the National Library of Medicine's bibliographic database MEDLINE, accessible through pubmed.gov, and which can be viewed on our database here: Turmeric Research, showing that curcumin and related turmeric components possess significant anti-cancer activity.  Truth be told, the information is so extensive, revealing over 700 possible health benefits, that I believe this plant embodies a form of intelligence and even compassion. You can learn more about this supposition here: Turmeric's Healing Power: A Physical Manifestation of Compassion?  I also discuss this concept in my lecture, Food As Medicine Rebooted, which you can watch below: 


Of course, the point is not to wait until one has such a severe health problem that taking heroic doses of spices or herbs becomes the focus. It is important to remember that ancient cultures used spices like turmeric mainly in culinary doses, as part of their dietary practices. These smaller amounts, delivered mainly as whole food extracts, likely constituted effective preventive strategies – perhaps preventing the need for radical, heroic intervention later in life. If you read our previous article, Turmeric: A Wellness Promoting Tonic at Low Doses, Research Reveals, you'll see this point explored in greater depth in light of a human clinical study.
For more research on turmeric and cancer, you can view our two database sections on these topics below:
To learn more about the profound healing properties of turmeric consider watch the Turmeric presentation put together by K.P. Khalsa and Sayer Ji, and which is free along with a video and e-book library of learning to members, starting with as little as 25 cents a day. Become a member or learn more here.

Article originally published: 2015-03-22 
Article updated: 2019-01-02 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Curcumin Targets Cancer

How Curcumin Targets Cancer

spices and herbs

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • The bioactive ingredient in turmeric is curcumin, responsible for over 150 potentially therapeutic activities in your body
  • Curcumin has demonstrated preventive and treatment actions against cancer cells, and may help both reduce the negative effects of chemotherapy agents and intensify the cancer-killing abilities of the drugs
  • Consumed alone, bioavailability of curcumin is poor; however, there are methods that may improve absorption and help raise your therapeutic levels
By Dr. Mercola
Turmeric, a yellow curry spice used in Indian cuisine, has a long history of medicinal use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine. Curcumin is one of the most well-studied bioactive ingredients in turmeric,1 having over 150 potentially therapeutic activities, including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and powerful anticancer actions.
Cancer has an incredible global impact and places a vast financial and emotional burden on the families it touches. Nearly 40 percent of American men and women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and over $125 billion is spent annually on medical treatment and patient care.2
The American Cancer Society estimated there would be over 1.6 million new cases diagnosed in 2017, equating to 4,630 new cases and 1,650 deaths every day.3 The most common types of cancer include breast, colon, lung and prostate.4
Despite advances in cancer treatment protocols, scientists realize prevention plays an essential role in reducing the number of people who die from the disease. After 30 years of testing more than 1,000 different possible anticancer substances, the National Cancer Institute announced that curcumin has joined an elite group that will now be used in clinical trials for chemoprevention.5

Curcumin May Play a Multitargeted Role Against Cancer Cells

In this interview, Dr. William LaValley discusses the interaction curcumin has on cancer and the multiple ways this molecule affects cancer growth. If you have ever been diagnosed with cancer, it may feel as if it grew overnight when, in fact, cancer cells take years to develop.
The progression of a cell from normal growth to cancer happens through several stages. Deregulation of physiological and mechanical processes that initiate and promote the growth of cancer cells makes use of hundreds of genes and signaling routes, making it apparent a multitargeted approach is needed for prevention and treatment.
Research has demonstrated that curcumin has a broad range of actions as it is able to effect multiple cellular targets.6 Studies have found, based on the activities of curcumin in the body, the spice could be an effective method of cancer prevention, or in treatment when used in conjunction with conventional treatment protocols.
The multifaceted action of curcumin has made it useful in the treatments of several different types of diseases, including colon cancer,7 pancreatic cancer8 and amyloidosis.9
Curcumin triggers a variety of actions that affect the growth, replication and death of cancer cells. Cancer cells lose the ability to die naturally, which plays a significant role in the hyperproliferation of cells common to cancer. Curcumin is able to turn on the apoptosis (cell death) signaling pathway, enabling the cells to die within a natural time span.10
Cancer cells thrive in an inflammatory environment. Although short-term inflammation is beneficial for healing, long-term inflammation increases your risk of disease. Curcumin is able to block the pro-inflammatory response at several points and reduce the levels of inflammatory cytokines in the body.11
The strong anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin may match the effect of some drugs.12 Early in development, cancer cells learn to replicate and grow in an environment cells normally find inhospitable. Curcumin may change the signaling through several pathways, and put a stop to this replication.13
Curcumin may also stop the ability of cancer stem cells from replicating and reduce the potential for recurrence after treatment. Curcumin also helps support your immune system, capable of seeking out and destroying early cancer cells naturally.

Curcumin May Enhance Cancer Treatment and Chemotherapy

Some of the same ways that curcumin works in your body are the processes used to enhance your cancer treatments and chemotherapy.
While some chemotherapy has been developed to target specific cells, most therapy drugs are nonspecific and affect all cells in your body. Some studies in the past decade have demonstrated exciting potential for curcumin in the fight against cancer.
In addition to changes to your cells mentioned above, researchers have found curcumin may help protect your body against the damage caused from chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and it may enhance the effect of these same treatments, making them more effective.
These effects have been demonstrated in animal models treating head and neck tumors,14 and in culture of human breast, esophageal and colon cancers.15,16
Patients treated for chronic myeloid leukemia with chemotherapy exhibited a reduction in cancer growth factor when curcumin was added to the treatment protocol, potentially improving the results of the chemotherapy over being used alone.17
Protection against radiation therapy was demonstrated in a study using breast cancer patients receiving radiation therapy.18 At the end of the study those taking curcumin had less radiation damage to their skin.
Curcumin has also been effective against angiogenesis in tumors, or the growth of new blood vessels to feed the overgrowth of cancer cells, and against metastasis.19
Curcumin is able to affect cancer cells through multiple pathways and has fulfilled the traits for an ideal cancer prevention agent as it has low toxicity, is affordable and is easily accessible. However, while effective, it has poor bioavailability on its own.20

Poor Absorption Has One Benefit

In my interview with LaValley, he discussed the poor bioavailability of curcumin in raw form. Only 1 percent of the product will be absorbed; even supplements that have a 95 percent concentration are absorbed at 1 percent.
This means, when the supplement is taken alone, it is a challenge to maintain a therapeutic level. However, in the case of colon cancer, this poor absorption into the bloodstream may be an advantage.
As there is poor absorption, higher levels of curcumin stay in the intestinal tract for longer periods of time, having an effect on gastrointestinal cancers. In one study, participants took a 1,080 milligram (mg) dose per day of curcumin for 10 to 30 days between their initial biopsy and surgical removal.
The patients taking the supplement experienced a reduction in blood levels of inflammatory agent, improvement in their body weight, and an increased number of dying tumor cells.21
A team of scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and at Pondicherry University, India, discovered the bioactive ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, can both prevent and cure bowel cancers.22 The team found the compound triggered cancer cell death by increasing a level of protein labeled GADD45a.23Lead author Rajasekaran Baskaran, Ph.D., who has more than 20 years of experience in cancer research, commented:24
"Studies on the effect of curcumin on cancer and normal cells will be useful for the ongoing preclinical and clinical investigations on this potential chemopreventive agent."
As an increased bioavailability and absorption may also improve the actions of curcumin in the body, researchers have studied a variety of different delivery methods, including oral, intravenous, subcutaneous and intraperitoneal, as well as different formulations of the product.25
Bioavailability improved when curcumin was delivered as a nanoparticle, in combination with polylactic-co-glycolic acid, liposomal encapsulation26 and when taken orally with piperine, the active ingredient in black pepper.27

Multiple Types of Cancer Affected by Curcumin

Research demonstrates that while curcumin has multiple pathways through which it impacts cancer cells, the substance also has an effect on multiple types of cancer. Studies estimate that genetics may play a role in approximately 5 percent of all cancers, with the majority of cancer growth attributed to lifestyle choices.28
Research demonstrates curcumin exhibits activity against breast cancer and decreases the toxic effect against some of the chemotherapy agents commonly used.29 Mitomycin C is a potent antineoplastic drug. However, prolonged use may lead to kidney and bone marrow damage, with secondary tumor growth. Curcumin appears to reduce the side effects of Mitomycin C and improve the efficiency of the drug at the same time.30
Another study demonstrated that curcumin inhibited the growth and metastasis of lung cancer cells.31One of the deadliest cancers worldwide, pancreatic cancer, also appears to respond to the use of curcumin in preclinical trials.32 The antiproliferative effects on pancreatic cancer appeared to be from a reduction in oxidative stress and angiogenesis and triggering apoptosis of cancer cells.
Apoptosis, anti-inflammatory actions, reduction in angiogenesis and reduction in the adverse effects of chemotherapeutic agents has also led researchers to consider curcumin an adjunctive therapy in the treatment of liver cancer.33 Curcumin also inhibited and slowed the development of bladder cancer in rats,34 stopped the formation of metastasis in prostate cancer,35 and when combined with ultrasound, increased death of cervical cancer cells.36
But not all scientists are convinced by the number of studies over the past 15 years demonstrating the multiple effects curcumin has on the inflammatory response and cancers, as well as the low toxicity profile.37 In one meta-analysis, researchers claimed curcumin could not meet the criteria for a good drug candidate.38

More Benefits to Curcumin

Curcumin offers additional benefits to your health. It may work as well as some anti-inflammatory medications to treat arthritic conditions.39 In combination with aerobic exercise, curcumin was found to improve endothelial cell function in postmenopausal women,40 and was also found to ameliorate arterial dysfunction and oxidative stress in the elderly.41
Disease processes may increase oxidative stress and free radical formation in your body. Curcumin is a potent antioxidant,42 but also may boost the function of your body's own antioxidant enzymes.43
Your brain can develop new connections powered by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).44Reduced levels of this hormone may be linked to depression and Alzheimer's disease. However, curcumin can increase your levels of BDNF45 and effectively reduce your potential for suffering from age-related reduction in brain function.46
Researchers have also discovered that curcumin has an effect on several pathways in your body that may reverse insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia and other symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome and obesity.47 The reduced potential for metabolic syndrome and obesity is related to the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin, which may also have an effect on heart disease, atherosclerosis and Type 2 diabetes.48

Genetic Regulation May Be One Powerful Way Curcumin Fights Cancer

It is becoming widely accepted that cancer is not a preprogrammed inevitability, but rather the result of the impact of your environment on genetic regulation that may trigger cancer cell growth. There are multiple influences that may damage or mutate DNA, and consequently alter genetic expression, including:
Nutritional deficiencies
Stress
Free radical damage
Toxins and pollution
Chronic infections
Infectious toxic by-products
Hormonal imbalances
Chronic inflammation
Researchers have demonstrated curcumin may affect more than 100 different pathways in your cells, helping to prevent hyperproliferation of cell growth characteristic of cancer, and aiding in the treatment of the disease. Through the reduction of inflammation, prevention of the development of additional blood supply to support cancer cell growth and destruction of mutated cells to reduce metastasis, curcumin has great medicinal and preventive potential.
Several studies have demonstrated an impact on transcription factors and signaling pathways, and have reviewed the molecular mechanisms curcumin uses to regulate and modulate gene expression.49,50,51 Overall, curcumin is powerful, cost-effective and has a low toxicity profile.52

Using a Curcumin Supplement

Turmeric is a wonderful spice used in Eastern culture cuisine. It is one spice I recommend for your kitchen as it works well with tomato sauces, soups, leafy greens, cauliflower, stir-fries and stews. Choose a high-quality turmeric powder instead of curry powder as studies have found some curry powders have very little curcumin.
If you are looking for therapeutic effects, you may want to consider a supplement. It is difficult to achieve a dose of curcumin used in research solely from your diet. Typical anticancer doses range between 1,200 and 3,000 grams of bioavailable curcumin extract.
You can increase the absorption by making a microemulsion, combining 1 tablespoon of curcumin powder with one or two egg yolks and 1 to 2 teaspoons of melted coconut oil, as the curcumin is fat soluble. Then use a hand blender on high speed to emulsify the powder.
Absorption may also be increased through boiling. Add 1 tablespoon into a quart of boiling water. (If you add it to room temperature water and then boil, it doesn't work as well.) After boiling it for 10 minutes, you will have created a 12 percent solution and you can drink this once it has cooled down. The curcumin will gradually fall out of the solution over time, and in about six hours it will be a 6 percent solution, so it is best to drink the water within four hours.
Curcumin is a very potent yellow pigment and can permanently discolor surfaces if you aren't careful. To avoid inadvertently staining your kitchen yellow, I recommend you perform any mixing under the hood of your stove with the exhaust fan on to make sure no powder gets into your kitchen.
Alternatively, it is far easier to take curcumin in supplement form — just make sure it's a high-quality brand that is formulated to increase bioavailability. And, look for a turmeric extract with at least 95 percent curcuminoids. Just be aware that these are relatively rare and hard to find.