By Dr. Kirsten West, ND, LAc

As a naturopathic doctor, one who works almost exclusively with cancer patients, there is a common theme: Inflammation. In fact, inflammation and cancer go hand in hand. This is why a large part of my case analysis, with all of my patients and clients, has been to assess the state of physiological inflammation. This is approached via patient history, lifestyle, and specific laboratory markers. When taken together, this information provides a good picture into the nature of terrain and most specifically, the level of inflammation. This perspective helps to guide our practice, case assessment, and best therapies in the management of inflammation. It is the way to move forward towards optimal health and most importantly, it is one of the ways of optimizing the terrain.

We are fortunate, as naturopathic physicians, to have many well studied, anti-inflammatory tools at our hands. For those who have been and are working with me, you know that one of my mainstays, is curcumin. It is the main constituent found in Turmeric (a spice commonly found in Indian food). And in fact, curcumin is one of the best anti-inflammatory tools there is. One of its primary actions is the suppression of NF-κB. The simple addition of Turmeric to foods is a metabolic approach to cancer.

Chapter 8 explains the reasons why inflammation (most notably chronic inflammation) can be such a risk factor and why suppressing NF-κB is so important:

Inflammation is actually a normal and protective process designed to help safeguard tissues and promote healing during injury or infection.

 Acute inflammation, in the case of the stubbed toe, is a good thing and persists only for a short amount of time, days to weeks. Where inflammation becomes problematic is when it shifts from acute to chronic. A chronic stimulation of blood vessel growth provides growing cancer cells non-stop food and oxygen, which is why cancer is often called a “wound that does not heal.”

In fact, chronic inflammation is considered a main precursor for cancer development, contributing to at least 25 percent of cases. Chronic inflammation can also lead to “-itis” diseases such as arthritis and colitis. (-Itis is a suffix meaning inflammation.) Many cancerous tumors are preceded by chronic inflammation in a given organ. For example, people with chronic bronchitis are 15–20 percent more likely to develop lung cancer. And those with gastritis are more prone to the development of gastric cancer. In chronic inflammation, the agents engaged to reduce the acute inflammatory response stick around because the inflammatory trigger is never turned off. The daily stubbed toe, the daily bagel.

Constant activation of NF-κB in cancer cells is linked to elevated production of inflammatory mediators such as TNF, Interleukin -6, prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), and ROS.  Here the function of frontline inflammatory responders switches from protective to pestiferous, as they become promoters of tumor growth by activating genes involved in cell proliferation and carcinogenesis. When TNF lingers as a chronic, low-level presence in the body, it promotes cancer by encouraging the conversion of precancerous tissue into fully malignant cancers. In fact, tumor-promoting inflammation is one of the ten hallmarks shared by all cancer cells. The activation of NF-κB attracts those turncoat immune cells discussed in the last chapter called tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) into a tumor. TAMs are dangerous because they produce the inflammatory cytokine IL-6, which in turn stimulates production of CRP, the well-known marker of inflammation. Not only are levels of CRP associated with resistance to chemotherapy, but both IL-6 and CRP can stimulate the production of ROS and impair antioxidant defenses. [1] This is a perfect example of how interconnected the Terrain Ten are. Here the inflammatory process and the immune system can together provoke oxidative stress. This is also another reason why we cannot tackle cancer with a one molecule–one target mindset; it clearly must be a metabolic approach that addresses the whole terrain, not just the tumor.

Optimal Terrain Consulting is here to guide you on not only the mitigation of inflammation but on ALL aspects of optimizing your terrain. Remember that inflammation is only one of the Terrain Ten™ Patterns. With this said, the addition of Turmeric to your sautés, reading the Metabolic Approach to Cancer, and/or a trip to India are a good way to start!

(Just let me know if you are choosing the latter. I would love to come.)


Dr. Kirsten

[1] Yi, Jian-Hua, Dong Wang, Zhi-Yong Li, Jun Hu, Xiao-Feng Niu, and Xiao-Lin Liu. “C-Reactive Protein as a Prognostic Factor for Human Osteosarcoma: A Meta-Analysis and Literature Review.” PLoS ONE 9, no. 5 (2014). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094632.