The #2 Cancer-Healing Food: Turmeric
Turmeric root is perhaps the most studied and talked about food for preventing and fighting cancer. In fact, it is so powerful that MD Anderson Cancer Center formed a Center for Cancer Prevention by Dietary Botanicals specifically to evaluate the efficacy of using ginger, black pepper, and turmeric—a trio of spices routinely used in Indian food—to heal and prevent colorectal cancer.[i]
OK, so we hear about turmeric all the time, but why is it so good? To break it down, turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, and brain-protecting superfood. The spice made from turmeric root that gives curry its bright yellow color, it has its superpowers because it contains three potent compounds: curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and bisdemethoxycurcumin.[ii]
No matter how you do it, consuming turmeric is a no-brainer! The curcuminoid compounds in turmeric have been shown to decrease tumor size in cases of colon, prostate, and breast cancer.
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center published a study with rats who were exposed to cancer-causing substances. They then treated them with turmeric and were protected from colon, stomach, and skin cancers! How amazing is that! I realize this study was done on rats, but we can extrapolate that there is an effect on the human body too. In this study, the replication of tumor cells stopped when turmeric was applied directly to them in the laboratory.[iii]
Other laboratory experiments have shown that curcuminoids protect the body in a few more ways: They enhance the activity of a crucial detoxifying enzyme and act as antioxidants by neutralizing free radicals (which cause DNA damage).[iv] Detoxifying the body is one of the beneficial healing strategies that are discussed in Chapter 5.
There is hope for healing colon cancer with turmeric. Functional medicine expert Mark Hyman, M.D., is an advocate for eating phytonutrients, recommends turmeric root to reduce gut-based inflammation.[v] Founding member of the American Academy of Lifestyle Medicine and author of How Not to Die, Michael Greger, M.D., is another believer. He states that the low incidence of bowel cancer is attributed to natural antioxidants such as turmeric that majority of Indians consume on a daily basis.[vi]
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic and John Hopkins School of Medicine did a small collaborative study published in 2006 of five people at high risk for colon cancer. The patients each received 480 milligrams of curcumin (found in turmeric) and 20 milligrams of quercetin (found in red onions and grapes) three times a day in an attempt to determine differences in the number and size of polyps in their colons. And the great news is that within just months they were able to observe noticeable changes! All five patients had decreased polyp numbers and size from baseline. In fact, on average they ended up with fewer than half the polyps, and the ones that were left had shrunk in half, after this six-month treatment with curcumin and quercetin.[vii]
Turmeric Is Especially Good For . . .
If you are undergoing a course of radiation treatment, it may interest you to know that turmeric may help to reduce skin irritation and damage from radiation, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and the Mayo Clinic. [xvii],[xviii]
Doctrine of Signatures: Spiritually speaking, turmeric is a flowering plant that indigenous people believe is helpful for grounding, renewal, and blossoming. Because turmeric root looks like intestines and fingers, it is also said to be useful for strengthening the digestive system and improving conditions that affect the hands, especially inflammatory conditions like arthritis. Also, the yellow color of this spice resembles the pancreas and it is therefore said to be useful for treating pancreatic conditions.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center:
Caution: If you are undergoing a course of chemotherapy, please check with your doctor. I have heard conflicting advice regarding turmeric; some reports say it may interfere with chemotherapy drugs and others saying it can make chemo even more effective.[xix]
Caution: Turmeric can stain the teeth. To avoid staining, swish and spit out water with activated charcoal toothpaste after eating.
The Cancer Free with Food Recipes with Turmeric
Other Ways of Incorporating Turmeric in Your Cancer-Healing Kitchen
Here are some different ways to incorporate turmeric in your kitchen.
You can purchase turmeric in these ways:
Nutrition tip: To enhance absorption, try cooking your turmeric in a bit of extra-virgin olive oil. Also add black pepper at a ratio of ¼ teaspoon black pepper for every teaspoon of turmeric. I love the Chickpea Burgers and Taco recipe—because it calls for you to sauté the turmeric with olive oil and black pepper before adding in the grass-fed beef (or beans for a vegetarian alternative).
Resources from Cancer-Free with Food Book
[i] Visit: https://www.mdanderson.org/research/departments-labs-institutes/programs-centers/center-for-cancer-prevention-by-dietary-botanicals.html.
[ii] Lauren Martin and Corey Schuler. “Turmeric, Curcuminoids, and Curcumin Defined,” Integrative Therapeutics (September 1, 2016), https://www.integrativepro.com/Resources/Integrative-Blog/2016/Turmeric-Curcuminoids-Curcumin-Defined.
[iii] “Turmeric,” Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (accessed June 26, 2018), https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/turmeric.
[v] Mark Hyman. “Ingredients Archive: Turmeric,” Dr. Hyman blog (accessed June 30, 2018), http://drhyman.com/blog/ingredient/turmeric.
[vi] Michael Gregor. “Turmeric Curcumin and Colon Cancer,” Care2 (posted March 6, 2015), https://www.care2.com/greenliving/turmeric-curcumin-and-colon-cancer.html.
[vii] M. Cruz-Correa, D.A. Shoskes, P. Sanchez, et. Al. “Combination Treatment with Curcumin and Quercetin of Adenomas in Familial Adenomatous Polyposis,” Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, vol. 4, no. 8 (August 2006), pp. 1035–8, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16757216.
[viii] M. Bayet-Robert, F. Kwiatkowski, M. Leheurteur, et al. “Phase I dose escalation trial of docetaxel plus curcumin in patients with advanced and metastatic breast cancer,” Cancer Biology and Therapy, vol. 9, no. 1 (January 2010), pp. 8–14.
[ix] R. Epelbaum, M. Schaffer, B. Vizel, et al. “Curcumin and Gemcitabine in Patients with Advanced Pancreatic Cancer,” Nutrition and Cancer, vol. 62, no. 8 (2010), pp. 1113–1141, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21058202. Also: N. Dhillon, B.B. Aggarwal, R.A. Newman, et al. “Phase II Trial of Curcumin Patients with Advanced Pancreatic Cancer. Clinical Cancer Research, vol. 14, no. 14 (July, 15 2008), pp. 4491–9, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18628464; and Kanai M, Yoshimura K, Asada M, et al. A phase I/II study of gemcitabine-based chemotherapy plus curcumin for patients with gemcitabine-resistant pancreatic cancer. Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology, vol. 68, no. 1 (July 2011), pp. 157–64, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20859741.
[x] Z.Y. He, C.B. Shi, H. Wen, et al. “Upregulation of p53 Expression in Patients with Colorectal Cancer by Administration of Curcumin,” Cancer Investigation, vol. 29, no. 3 (March 2011), pp. 208–13, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21314329. Also: A.B. Kunnumakkara, P. Diagaradjane, S. Guha, et al. “Curcumin Sensitizes Human Colorectal Cancer Xenografts in Nude Mice to Gamma-Radiation by Targeting Nuclear Factor-KappaB-Regulated Gene Products,” Clinical Cancer Research, vol. 14, no. 7 (April 1, 2008), pp. 2128–36, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18381954.
[xi] S.S. Lin, K.C. Lai, S.C. Hsu, et al. “Curcumin inhibits the migration and invasion of human A549 lung cancer cells through the inhibition of matrix metalloproteinase-2 and -9 and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF),” Cancer Letters, vol. 285, no. 2 (November 28, 2009), pp.127–33, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19477063. Also: M.G. Alexandrow, L.J. Song, S. Altiok, et al. ”Curcumin: A Novel Stat3 Pathway Inhibitor for Chemoprevention of Lung Cancer,” European Journal of Cancer Prevention, vol. 21, no. 5 (December 7, 2011), pp. 407–12, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22156994; and S.H. Wu, L.W. Hang, J.S. Yang, et al. ”Curcumin Induces Apoptosis in Human Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer NCI-H460 Cells Through ER Stress and Caspase Cascade- and Mitochondria-Dependent Pathways,” Anticancer Research, vol. 30, no. 6 (June 2010), pp. 2125–33, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20651361.
[xii] J. Shi, Y. Wang, Z. Jia, et al. “Curcumin Inhibits Bladder Cancer Progression via Regulation of β-Catenin Expression. Tumour Biology, vol. 39, no. 7 (published online July 14, 2017), http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1010428317702548.
[xiii] K. Selvendiran, S. Ahmed, A. Dayton, et al. “HO-3867, a Curcumin Analog, Sensitizes Cisplatin-Resistant Ovarian Carcinoma, Leading to Therapeutic Synergy Through STAT3 Inhibition,” Cancer Biology and Therapy, vol. 12, no. 9 (November 1, 2011), pp. 837–45, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21885917.
[xiv] C.N. Sreekanth, S.V. Bava, E. Sreekumar, et al. “Molecular Evidences for the Chemosensitizing Efficacy of Liposomal Curcumin in Paclitaxel Chemotherapy in Mouse Models of Cervical Cancer,” Oncogene, vol. 30, no. 28 (July 14, 2011), p. 3139–52, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21317920.
[xv] Q. Qiao, Y. Jiang, G. Li. “Curcumin Improves the Antitumor Effect of X-ray Irradiation by Blocking the NF-kappaB Pathway: An In-Vitro Study of Lymphoma,” Anticancer Drugs, vol. 23, no. 6 (January 23, 2012), pp. 597–605, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22273827. Also: Uddin S, Hussain AR, Manogaran PS, et al. “Curcumin Suppresses Growth and Induces Apoptosis in Primary Effusion Lymphoma,” Oncogene, vol. 24, no. 47 (October 27, 2005), pp. 7022–30, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16044161.
[xvi] K.W. Chang, P.S. Hung, I.Y. Lin, et al. “Curcumin Upregulates Insulin-like Growth Factor Binding Protein-5 (IGFBP-5) and C/EBPalpha During Oral Cancer Suppression,” International Journal of Cancer, vol. 127, no. 1 (July 1, 2010), pp. 9–20, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20127863.
[xvii] National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “Turmeric,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of health (accessed June 30, 2018), https://nccih.nih.gov/health/turmeric/ataglance.htm.
[xviii] Timothy J. Moynihan. “Curcumin: Can It Slow Cancer Growth?” Mayo Clinic (accessed June 30, 2018), https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cancer/expert-answers/curcumin/faq-20057858.
[xix] “Turmeric,” Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
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by liana werner-gray
Hi. I am a Health researcher bringing you honest information about cancer healing treatments and foods that kill (and cause) cancer! I love diving into the scientific studies that show this research.