Caitlin, of Jackson Heights, NY, USA, posing for Breast Cancer Awareness – Photo Courtesy: Caitlin Regan
I was watching the local news when they featured a study suggesting that turmeric and black pepper help prevent breast cancer. The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center has shown that compounds in these spices limit the growth of stem cells and potential tumors.
The study focused on the effects of the compounds curcumin, found in turmeric, and piperine, found in black pepper, on cancer stem cells.
The University of Michigan press release further explains, “Cancer stem cells are the small number of cells within a tumor that fuel the tumor’s growth. Current chemotherapies do not work against these cells, which is why cancer recurs and spreads. Researchers believe that eliminating the cancer stem cells is key to controlling cancer. In addition, decreasing the number of normal stem cells – unspecialized cells that can give rise to any type of cell in that organ – can decrease the risk of cancer.”
Since my exposure to turmeric was as Indian saffron, I wondered if Ayurveda, the system of medicine native to India, prescribes a specific diet for breast cancer prevention.
Ayurveda and Breast Cancer
According to Ayurveda, breast cancer involves a disorder of all three constitutions (doshas). Along with physical, emotional, spiritual and environmental factors, breast cancer may develop from a hereditary tendency triggered by improper diet and lifestyle. If the accumulation of toxins (ama) is not expelled, the imbalance can lead to a malignant tumor (sannipatika gulma). Therefore, Ayurveda advocates a natural diet and lifestyle as the first step in cancer prevention.
Avoid Junk Food
According to an article in the Protocol Journal of Botanical Medicine, women should avoid refined, processed, artificially flavored, refrigerated, frozen, canned or microwaved foods. Extreme pungent, bitter, salty, sweet, sour, fried and cold food and drinks should also be avoided. Coffee, caffeine and alcohol should not be consumed.
A combination of basmati rice and mung dal (Khichari) is recommended as it cleanses all three doshas and meals should be eaten three to five hours apart. The article’s author goes on to detail a program of cleansing and rejuvenation (panchakarma and rasayana) and gives recommendations for the physical, emotional and spiritual elements of one’s life .
Non-Toxic Alternative to Breast Cancer Prevention Drugs
Madhuri Kakarala, lead author of the University of Michigan study, mentioned earlier, is hopeful that they have found a non-toxic alternative to breast cancer prevention drugs. But, she cautions that one should not use turmeric and black pepper as breast cancer prevention supplements at this time as more research needs to be done. And, since breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women (after lung cancer), I just have one thing to say . . . hurry up with that follow up research!
Links to Breast Cancer Information & Statistics:
- American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Facts & Figures: http://www.cancer.org/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Cancer Data http://www.cdc.gov/
- SEER Cancer Statistics Review (National Cancer Institute) http://seer.cancer.gov/
- International Agency for Research on Cancer: http://www-dep.iarc.fr/
Corinne Kohrherr is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Board Certified Chinese Herbalist, Registered Nurse, Licensed Massage Therapist and DONA Certified Childbirth Doula. She is a holistic healthcare practitioner and lives in New York City with her dogs Martini and Olive.