Myeloma and DIET

December 17th 2007 post: I spent most of this past weekend baking butter-ridden, U.S.-style Xmas cookies and (of course!) tasting them since every year I try new recipes that have to pass my own personal and very strict “quality control” tests.  Most of these cookies are full of stuff that’s no good at all for us (oh yes even white sugar and flour), with the possible exception of my oatmeal spice ones, which contain turmeric as well as other spices. So of course today I am posting about a study that makes a possible connection between what we eat and the risk of developing myeloma. Cookies don’t seem to be on the list of foods that prevent myeloma (although I may work on changing that). Hmmm, I wonder why… 

The full study, published in the December 2007 issue of “Cancer Causes Control,” is available online, see: http://tinyurl.com/ypswov). It was conducted in Connecticut on 179 women between the ages of 21 and 84, diagnosed with myeloma between 1996 and 2000. Since you can read it on your own, I won’t go into too much detail. I would like, however, to highlight a few of the most significant points:

  1. “Only a handful of studies have evaluated the association between diet and multiple myeloma, and results have been inconclusive.” Previous studies, of course.
  2.  “Intakes of protein, fat, and dietary fiber were not associated with multiple myeloma risk.”
  3. “Intake of vitamin A was associated with a statistically significantly decreased risk of multiple myeloma.”
  4. “There were no clear associations between consumption of various fruits and multiple myeloma risk.”
  5. “There was a suggestion of an elevated risk among individuals within the highest quartile of hard candy, jam, jelly, honey, and syrup […] consumption.” HONEY? Oh, bother!
  6. “alcohol intake was inversely associated with multiple myeloma.” Coffee and tea made no difference.
  7. The study gives us another reason to take omega-3, since these “essential fatty acids found in fish, have been shown to limit mouse myeloma cell growth in an experimental study.” Interestingly, omega-3 was a crucial supplement in the Washington Post story that I referred to in yesterday’s post. The cancer world appears to be a small world after all…

The study found that some dairy foods were associated with risk of developing myeloma: ice cream (drat!), custards and cream soups. Vice versa, higher intakes of fish, tomatoes, fruit, vegetables and alcohol were associated with a lower risk.

And read this: “In laboratory studies, vitamin D has been shown to inhibit growth of myeloma cells by inducing cell cycle arrest, down-regulating the anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 protein, and increasing the activity to caspase 3 protease, a regulator of apoptosis…” Okay, I admit, I have been collecting heaps of material on vitamin D, and I also have begun taking vitamin D3 once a week (thanks to my vitamin-D-obsessed-with-good-reason friend Sherlock), but I haven’t gotten around to dealing with this topic mainly because it’s so incredibly HUGE. I will figure out something over the holidays.

The study’s finding about tomatoes is interesting. One usually associates lycopene with prostate cancer prevention, but here it is suggested as being important in the prevention of myeloma, too. Oh, and the business about alcohol intake doesn’t mean we should all become heavy drinkers. It simply means, according to the study, that the flavonoids in beer and the resveratrol in wine may have a preventive effect. These researchers have the humility (I like that!) to point out that their sample size was very small and specific, that they had a low response rate and so on. More and better research is needed, clearly. Nonetheless, it was an interesting read.

Final point: I wonder if I have enough time before Xmas to come up with a luscious turmeric tomato broccoli codfish cookie? Hmmm.

Update. June 22nd 2008 post, not specific for myeloma but still important: A few days ago a blog reader (thanks!) sent me the link to an interesting Medline Plus story (see: http://tinyurl.com/4j9qku) concerning the effect that dietary/lifestyle changes can have on cancer genes. The effect turns out to be quite startling, to say the least.  

A study recently published in the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” (full study: http://tinyurl.com/4abcfo) shows that men with early prostate cancer who changed their diet, decreased stress levels and became more physically active were able to change the expression of hundreds of their cancer genes: Some of the changes positively affect genes that help fight cancer, while others help turn off genes that promote cancer development. How about that?

 

A bit of background (see MedLine for the full story): Previous epidemiological studies have found that the incidence of prostate cancer is significantly lower in areas of the world where people eat a more plant-based, low-fat diet instead of the higher-fat, higher-protein diet often consumed in the United States.

 

So a team of scientists decided to conduct an interesting experiment: In September 2005, they reported that after intensive lifestyle changes — consuming a vegan diet with about 10 percent of calories from fat, walking 30 minutes six times a week, and practicing stress management one hour daily — men with early prostate cancer lowered their PSA scores by 4 percent, while men in the control group saw their PSA score rise by 6 percent. PSA (=prostate-specific antigen), by the way, is a prostate cancer marker.

 

But what were the reasons behind such an improvement?

 

The researchers conducted a second study to answer that question: Thirty men diagnosed with early prostate cancer were enrolled in the study. The men were predominantly white (84 percent), with an average age of 62.3 years, and an average PSA score of 4.8 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). Their Gleason scores — another measure of the severity of the cancer — were an average of six. The details can be seen in the MedLine article, but what I found extraordinary is that three months of dietary and lifestyle changes affected more than 500 genes. FIVE HUNDRED!

 

Now, I am not suggesting that we ALL go on plant-based or vegan diets. This may not be a good idea for certain types of cancer. For instance, as I have written before, Dr. Gonzalez has found that his myeloma patients respond better to a high-fat, meat-based diet. So please proceed with caution.

But if you are at risk of developing prostate cancer, why not change your diet and see what happens?

I must admit that reading these articles gave me a sense of power. Even though I don’t have prostate cancer (!), perhaps I can affect my own type of cancer via certain lifestyle and dietary choices. Yeah! food! 

P.S. Last Thursday’s Cancer Compass newsletter also had an article on this topic: http://tinyurl.com/4xy8uy

October 14 2011 post (on the impact of diet in our gut): Diet has an important impact on the viral populations that live happily in our guts (hmmm, I’m not sure about you, but the thought of my gut being filled with creepy crawly bacteria and icky picky viruses has always made me feel a bit queasy…I know, I know, some of ‘em are good…):  http://goo.gl/K8Gqk. I haven’t read the full study, which is not available for free online, but it might be interesting to see which diets are most effective at keeping those viruses under control…

October 17 2011 post. In this video, Dr. Berenson gives the background for the creation of an international “consensus” panel on MGUS: http://goo.gl/EXk2w

The second link will take you to the written “consensus” text. It’s long, but it contains some good information, for example the bit on vitamin D and calcium supplementation: http://goo.gl/Lkh6T

Yes, all this is very interesting, BUT I really wish our MM specialists would also address the issue ofDIET. Of course, I realize that it would be impossible, for obvious reasons, to recommend ONE SINGLE diet for all of us (MGUS, SMM and MM). However, I strongly believe that it wouldn’t be that difficult to compile a list of recommended and possibly beneficial foods. And hey, why not?, also a list of foods to be avoided like the plague!

The “good food” list should certainly include broccoli and all the cruciferous family veggies, celery, parsley, garlic, onions AND, very importantly!, spices of all sorts…especially turmeric, ginger, hot red pepper (=capsaicin), Nigella sativa/black cumin (I bought some organic Nigella sativa while I was in the States, and boyohboy is it yummy! It gives a delicious, slightly peppery taste to your food, too. I sprinkle the little black seeds on most everything, just as I do with turmeric) and so forth…

Another thing: from what I’ve read, we also need some protein. And that is why I occasionally have some red meat (free range Tuscan, no antibiotics, no hormones etc.), even though I hate the idea of eating part of any animal. But I also want to avoid becoming anemic (=the A in CRAB, let’s not forget that…).

Now, how hard would it be to compile a list of foods that we shouldn’t touch even if there were nothing else on the table? For example: sodas and anything containing high fructose corn syrup (hey, did you know this corn syrup crap is inside cough medications? No kidding. I was absolutely flabbergasted when I bought some Robitussin for my cough while I was in the U.S. and found HFCS listed as an ingredient! What the…???), asparagus (yes, we apparently should avoid eating asparagus…see my GOOD OR BAD FOR MULTIPLE MYELOMA? Page on the right).

More “food” for thought: folks who have been through stem cell transplants or have low immunity should probably avoid a raw fruit and veggie diet. Because of my almost nonexistent immune system, I no longer eat or juice anything with a skin, no matter how organic it is. I prefer to be cautious, that’s all. So I peel and wash everything carefully…Too bad, but there you go…

Ah, that reminds me of something important. Recently, some of us myeloma folks have had some interesting exchanges on the issue of “to boost or not to boost” a myeloma immune system. For some unknown (to me!) reason, many of us keep repeating the refrain that, since myeloma develops inside our immune system, we shouldn’t do anything to boost it, because we’d be boosting the cancer cells, too. But wait, where is the proof to back up that statement? So far, I have seen none. Zip.

Ok, perhaps one should not take any of those “immune boosting” supplements that you can find publicized online. But I disagree, VERY STRONGLY!!!, that we shouldn’t do healthful things to keep our immune system well and strong. After all, when our defenses are low, it’s more difficult for us to fight off infections, right? And infections are so bloody dangerous for us. They can kill us. Take Michael Gearin-Tosh (do a search of my blog if you don’t recognize his name), for instance. He refused to take antibiotics to treat a tooth infection and ended up dying of sepsis in 2005. His death could probably have been avoided. And that is why, whenever I have an infection (right now I’m at the end of a 7 week + very bad cough that I didn’t take good care of in the beginning, oh well), I take antibiotics and whatever else is available…not just conventional stuff, mind you. I also take Manuka honey and so on…

Speaking of 2005 and infections, that was the year of my painful, incredibly bothersome chronic yeast infections. I spent more time with my gynecologist than with anyone else. It was an awful period. Nothing worked (my gyn prescribed tons of antibiotics for me, and back then I took everything without asking any questions or knowing any better). Well, as we know, recurrent infections are a symptom of active myeloma…eh.

At any rate, some time after beginning the curcumin protocol (=January 2006, but back then I was mainly keeping an eye on my MM markers, not on my general health…so I don’t remember exactly when I realized this), I noticed that the infections had stopped. Just like that. And I have NOT had one yeast infection since. At the time, I was so relieved that I didn’t connect the dots…but I’m now certain, 1000000000%, that curcumin has eliminated that problem for me once and for all. A most welcome side effect of this wondrous spice ingredient, of which there have been many, actually, including bringing down my high cholesterol, triglycerides and so on…Eh, in addition to the most important effect of all–keeping me, = at high risk of progression, stable for all these years…! :)

Well, I’ve sort of gone all over the place with this post, sorry about that, but that’s because I’m feeling like my old self again, energetic and feisty and perky, with words and ideas rushing through my reawakened brain, finally getting plenty of sleep, since I no longer am awakened by coughing fits at night. Oh, by the way, if we should not be doing anything to boost our immune system, then we shouldn’t ever go to sleep, either…There is a strong, reciprocal relationship between sleep and the immune system, you see… ;)  And, hey, we also should NEVER EVER laugh, since laughing also gives a boost to our immune system…

Nope, if we wish to avoid boosting our immune system, we should always stay stressed out and angry, never sleep, eat the worst possible foods chock full of chemicals, smoke, get drunk, never laugh or exercise or meditate…well, you get my point…

I mean, HELLO?, that would be absolutely ridiculous…RIDIKKULUS! Makes no sense to me!

But what do you think? I’d love to read your comments/recommendations/whatever. And please feel free to disagree with me, too! I’m all in favor of constructive debate… :)

P.S. I would like to state that I wrote this post with absolutely no intention of criticizing Dr. Berenson’s wonderful and much appreciated work and research. By now you know that this amazing specialist is at the top of my verrrrrry short (sorry to say) list of most admired MM specialists. :) No, this is not a time to criticize. I would simply like to see our MM specialists speak out on foods and lifestyle (whatever!). The time for the generic “eat healthy and exercise” advice is gone. We now know that there are specific foods (etc.) that might help us in this battle. So let’s name them! I don’t want to be the only one doing stuff like this…basic stuff, when you think about it…

UPDATE: October 18 2011 post. Just got back from work and found a very timely Science Daily article: http://goo.gl/EDoLA

In a nutshell, compared to mice fed a diet filled with lovely cruciferous (=broccoli etc.) veggies, mice fed a diet without any of the healthful green stuff had much lower amounts of crucial immune cells, which led to their having lower levels of antimicrobial proteins, heightened immune activation and greater susceptibility to injury. We’re talking, 70 to 80% of the no-veggie mice’s crucial, protectiveimmune cells simply vanished. After only two-three weeks without any broccoli-related greenies! No kidding. Even the researchers weren’t expecting such an incredible result…

Speaking of results, they offer a molecular basis for the importance of cruciferous vegetable-derived phyto-nutrients as part of a healthy diet. I’m not surprised, of course, but now for the first time, according to these researchers, we have MOLECULAR PROOF that our diet can have a huge impact on our health…on our immune system…blablabla. Ah, if only I could go back in time, I’d avoid eating all the easy-to-fix, fast food chemical rubbish that I swallowed hastily throughout my undergrad and graduate years. Back then, food wasn’t important to me, and I was so focused on my studies that I paid no attention to my health. How foolish. But, true, I didn’t know any of this stuff…back then…

Anyway, this is a super important article, easy to read, so I really urge all of you to go have a look at the details that I haven’t included here but that are fascinating…

And those who are scientifically-inclined might want to check out the abstract of this study (the full study isn’t available for free online, unfortunately): http://goo.gl/63dme Have a look in particular at the “Graphical Abstract.” A stunning image that shows the difference between a healthy small intestine “fed” with cruciferous veggies and an unhealthy one…Cool graphics, yes, but what is really important is the message: without the green veggies, we have reduced immune surveillance, and we are subject to being “inflamed” all the time…not good, eh! The abstract also addresses the issue of epithelial cells, which I wrote about in my quercetin post (October 16 2011).

And now, something just for the fun of it…and to give a boost to our tired immune cells! A cat answers the phone: http://goo.gl/Zv2tf Enjoy! :)

10 Comments

  1. Years ago, about the same time when I first noticed other myeloma symptoms, I had a severe backache after eating a bowl of deliciously irresistable, perfectly ripe slices of beefsteak tomatoes. It lasted two days, and I haven’t been able to eat raw tomatoes since.

    The interesting part is that the backache occurred where my first plasmacytoma was removed in 2007. Since then, after inadvertently enjoying other tomato dishes that weren’t cooked enough, I’ve had similar backaches in new places that later turned out to be tiny myeloma lesions, in my lower back and hip.

    I get similar aches when I take 30mg of revlimid, rather than 15mg. Dex alleviates them. These aches coincide with better reductions in m-spike and kappa. I’m guessing that the rev is killing more of the tumor than usual when I get these aches, and that the aching is inflammation due to cell death.

    Naturally, I’m also trying to guess whether having raw tomato might be part of the problem, or part of the solution.

    Oddly (and thankfully), I can eat cooked tomatoes all day without a problem.

    Has anyone else had a similar experience with tomatoes, or any other food for that matter?


    FrankH

  2. Margaret, could you please point me to where you have written about Dr. Gonzales and how his MM patients do better on high fat/meat diets?

    The diet issue is a huge question for me. I have SO many friends who are raw/vegan and swear it is the way to go, as does a lot of the alternative cancer literature. And on the other hand you have Mercola and Wolcott trumpeting the Metabolic Typing Diet and heavy meat/protein consumption (if you are a protein metabolizer, which I am). I do SO much better on high protein diets, but don’t want to compromise the MGUS situation. I am prepared to start juicing and getting more plant based if necessary, but not if it’s true that MM patients do okay or even better with meat-based diet.

    So any info you have on diet would be most helpful at this point. Who is Dr. Gonzales? Where can I read his research? Thanks in advance. Joy

    1. hi. i started with mgus in 1994, then smm, i suppose, and now mm. have done alternative the entire time, no chemo. different for different people. i started vegan, coffee (you know), vegetarian and now plant based with some meat and eggs. i need some animal protein. feel much better. get very weak with just vegan.
      i think vegan is good for a while as a de-tox, but with blood cancers some animal protein seems good. I believe dr. gonzales also suggested that.
      take lots of herbs, vits, etc. stable for about 14 months. introduced curcumin about 9 months ago. bad numbers down a little, good! david

  3. In 2006 my father died of MM aged 63, only 5 months after diagnosis. His only symptoms were heavy nosebleeds and some aching. He was a long term (40 yrs) alcoholic and I have always thought that this might have caused the MM, it certainly speeded up the progress of the disease. Is there a proven link between alcoholism and MM?

  4. Joy, Dr. Gonzalez is dr-gonzalez.com. He has information on his website about metabolic typing diet and how he uses it for his patients. Most blood cancer patients have the protein or carnivore metabolic type, so a raw diet would not appeal to you. It is like giving a lion hay. You would do better on a meat diet, that does not mean you only eat meat. But you do better with red meat and fatty meats in your diet, unlike vegetarians who do better with more veges. So the statement no meat when you have cancer is just not accurate. It depends what your metabolic type is.

  5. Hi, I reads something on he website that I’m confused about. It says studies have shown that higher intakes of fish, tomatoes, fruit, vegetables and alcohol were associated with a lower risk of myeloma; then in another place it states: “alcohol intake was inversely associated with multiple myeloma.” Coffee and tea made no difference”. Is this an error or are there conflicting outcomes in different studies? I’ve just been diagnose after three years of going to my doctor. He kept telling me nothing was wrong and i just needed to rest more and it was just stress, then after insisting on further tests and a full screen blood test IgM kappa MGUS was diagnosed. It’s not a high level but as I’m really interested in health and nutrition and as I’m sometimes involved in advice work I’m interested in knowing as much as i can not only to help myself but also others.

  6. One thing I forgot to mention in my previous comments is that my husband and I had previously included a LOT of cruciferous vegetables in our diet, but due to my husband having a major problem with a twisting bowel our bowel doc told me to delete them from our diet to prevent wind, I did then, but since reading about broccoli sprouts and cabbages reincluded them and hey! No wind, no bowel twist, and today I believe that the exclusion of cruciferous vegetables, brought on the Multiple Myeloma, as he’d gone for around 6-7 years pre-cancerous but never progressed, he also included daily doses of Aloe Vera juice prior to commencing radiation, and I believe that assisted in preventing the bowel twist thing. And, if you have to have radiation, slippery elm is wonderful to help burn from radiation also.

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