My Uncle Albert has suffered with prostate cancer for years. I say “suffered,” but he really doesn’t suffer much. There’s no pain and no real effects from the cancer. He has a very slow-growing tumor that likely will never interfere with his life. This is probably because of his favorite way to pass time.
My uncle gardens. He’s one of the most amazing gardeners I know. My aunt (his sister) and I talk all the time about his secret gardening tips. While some people have recipes for their meals, he has recipes for his dirt. And there’s one food he grows that’s particularly good for keeping prostate cancer at bay.
While the exercise my uncle gets gardening is great for him, the foods he grows are what really protect him. One of Albert’s favorite foods to grow is peppers. My aunt texted me last week and told me his peppers were outgrowing his grandkids’ peppers. No surprise there. But it could be these peppers that keep his prostate cancer at bay.
Researchers discovered a few years ago that habanera, jalapeno, and Scotch bonnet peppers have an ingredient that fights prostate cancer. Doctors at the UCLA Cedars-Sinai Medical Center were amazed. The blazing chemical in peppers, capsaicin, kills 80% of prostate cancer cells.
When the researchers turned up the heat in the diets of lab mice injected with human prostate cancer cells, it forced the cancer cells to commit suicide. The scientific name for cell death is apoptosis. This normal activity keeps a balance between young replacement cells and worn-out cells. In defiance, cancer cells want to be immortal. They often escape apoptosis by mutating or by dodging the genes that control scheduled cell death.
The pepper extract curbed the growth of prostate cancer cells in other ways. First, it acted on male hormone receptors that control cancer growth genes. And it also slashed cancer cell production of PSA. PSA is a protein produced by prostate tumors that sometimes alerts doctors to the presence of prostate cancer in men.
In the UCLA study, tumors in the mice that ate the pepper extract shrank to one-fifth the size of tumors in the untreated mice.
The dose of pepper extract that was so protective is easy to achieve. It is 400 mg of extract three to four times a week (take it every other day). This is one instance where I strongly recommend the extract or the supplement over the food. To get enough pepper in your diet to fight cancer, you have to eat three to eight fresh habanera peppers per week. You’d better have an iron constitution to do that. Those peppers are hot!
The Scoville heat index measures a pepper’s heat in Scoville heat units. Habaneras are the highest rated pepper for capsaicin content. They usually contain up to 300,000 Scoville units. The more popular jalapeno, grown in the southwestern United States, contains 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units. I don’t know too many people who like to eat anything that hot! You can buy pepper extracts and supplements at most health food stores.
Your Best Prostate Cancer Fighter
Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer among men. Over 30,000 men die from it in the United States each year. Deaths from prostate cancer failed to drop in past decades while we spent billions on treatments. Here’s why: Advanced prostate cancer cells hardly respond even to high doses of drugs or radiation.
Because of the poor response to drugs, scientists keep searching for treatments. There’s particular interest in the compounds found in foods. And capsaicin is one of the best anti-cancer foods there is. But what makes them so powerful?
Cells turn into cancer for one reason – they don't die. Normally, cells live their life, replicate, and then they die before they cause any damage. Cancer occurs when the cells refuse to die off. And since peppers help with apoptosis, this gave researchers a clue in discovering why they work so well. They found that capsaicin does something very unique with cancer cells. The hot spice doesn't actually attack the cancer and kill it.
Instead, capsaicin travels through your body looking for cancer cells. When it finds one, it attaches itself to the edge of the cell. From this position on the cell membrane, it switches on a cell receptor called TRPV1. This receptor acts as a channel that determines what goes in and out of the cells.
When the capsaicin turns on the TRPV1, it sends the cancer cell into overdrive where it starts to self-destruct. The more capsaicin in your body, the more cancer cells it forces to self-destruct.
Fights More Than Just Prostate Cancer
The researchers found that “Capsaicin is capable of inducing apoptosis (cell death) and inhibiting cancer cell growth in many different types of cancer.” This includes osteosarcoma, colon, breast, and pancreatic cancer cells. Just as importantly, the capsaicin leaves normal cells unharmed.
Unfortunately, the researchers showed their true colors in their report. Instead of focusing on the ability of capsaicin, they shifted the focus to drugs and said the capsaicin isn't effective if you eat, inhale, or inject it. The researchers think it will be effective only as a pill attached to another drug that targets cancer cells.
They obviously missed the results of other studies showing the drugs aren't necessary. In 2006, for instance, researchers found that the spice causes prostate cancer cells in mice to die. And the study didn't use drugs to enhance the capsaicin. They said that a 200-pound man can eat three to eight habanero peppers three times a week to see this effect. And another study in China in 2015 found that eating the spice lowers your risk of dying from cancer, heart, and respiratory diseases.
So don't wait for researchers to find a drug to carry capsaicin to cancer cells. Just eat plenty of peppers each week. But, what if you can’t handle hot peppers? Simple! Take a capsaicin capsule instead of torturing your tongue. It’s better to use the spice as a preventive. But if you have cancer, consider adding more of it in your diet. It could be a valuable part of your cancer-fighting regimen.
Albert grows many forms of organic peppers in his garden. Peppers are loaded with antioxidants. They fight inflammation, so they work wonders for migraines, arthritis, and muscle pain.
Dieters will love to know that hot peppers suppress appetites. Allergy sufferers can use these spicy favorites to clear a stuffy head. And peppers are a great source of vitamins A, C, and E, folic acid, and potassium. But I don’t recommend limiting your prostate health regimen with just peppers. There are a couple of other nutrients you should include as well.
Two-Nutrient Combination Fights Prostate Cancer and Lowers Cholesterol
I’ve told you in the past about selenium. It’s a fabulous cancer preventive and detox mineral. And it’s vital for fighting prostate cancer. As great as selenium is, though, you can actually make it work better. In fact, one group of researchers found that the results are extraordinary when you combine selenium with milk thistle.
In this small study, researchers followed 37 patients who had prostate cancer. All of them had also suffered through a radical prostatectomy. The researchers divided the participants into two groups. The first group took a placebo. The second group took a combination of selenium (200 mcg) and milk thistle (570 mg).
Prior to chemical drugs taking over the medical field, doctors regularly used milk thistle, also known as silymarin, to protect the liver and even fight liver disease. There is a tremendous amount of literature on its ability to keep the liver healthy, which is why the researchers used it in this case.
To determine the combination's effectiveness, the researchers evaluated the participants' lipid-panels and the associated changes due to cancer. They also looked at their quality of life.
Frankly, this study is a bit skewed toward failure for these nutrients, simply because all of the participants had gone through radical prostatectomy. This operation removes the prostate gland and tissues surrounding it, including seminal vesicles and some nearby lymph nodes. While radical prostatectomy can cure prostate cancer in men whose cancer is limited to the prostate, it's rarely needed. Prostate cancer is usually slow growing (the men usually die of something else first), there are better ways to treat the cancer, and the side effects from the surgery can be life altering. Plus, there's no way to completely fix the impact of the surgery.
However, in this case, the nutrients had a remarkable impact on the lives of these participants.
The participants started taking the supplements two to three months after surgery. They took them for a total of six months. Here's what the researchers found: The nutrient combination improved the quality of life score and decreased LDL and total cholesterol. Selenium levels in their blood also increased.
Both of the markers for lipid metabolism (LDL and total cholesterol) affect prostate cancer progression in post-surgery men. So the fact that the nutrient combination lowered these two markers was pleasantly surprising to the researchers. And the improvement in quality of life is significant. I suspect the scores would have been even better had they taken these nutrients prior to surgery.
This study proves that treating your liver and your prostate together can go a long way toward fighting prostate cancer. Together, these two supplements can protect you against prostate cancer. And avoiding the disease in the first place is the best way to live a long life. And if you have prostate cancer, taking enough selenium (150 mcg total) and milk thistle (100 mg) will help prevent and fight the tumors. Add in some peppers, and you’ve got the ingredients of a powerful anti-cancer nutrient plan.