Scientists are beginning to realize that healing phytochemicals and functional foods can be more effective for treating cancer than chemotherapy and other high-risk, conventional methods.
This is an important and necessary shift, given the precipitous rise of cancer incidence and the unsatisfactory effectiveness of mainstream oncology.
While chemotherapy and radiation therapy have certainly helped many people, it’s becoming clear that there simply has to be a better way. These treatment modalities rely on bombarding the body with substances or forces toxic enough to kill even rampantly proliferating cancer colonies—which means that the rest of the body is subjected to the same toxicity. This process cuts the body out of the equation; the entire burden of fighting cancer is placed on the externalized method, and the body must simply cope with the chemicals and radiation with which the battle is fought.
On the contrary, anticancer phytochemicals work by empowering the body to fight cancer on its own. Many of the most powerful cancer-treating foods and phytonutrients also fight cancer cells directly, but unlike chemotherapy and radiation, they do so without killing healthy cells or compromising the immune system.
We’ve written about many of these cancer-fighting foods and compounds in past articles; one in particular that’s getting a lot of attention lately is lemon (and specifically d-limonene, a terpene found abundantly in lemons).
The cleansing, disease-fighting power of lemons
Lemons are an all-around wonder. They provide the body with loads of antioxidants and other nutrients, alkalize the body, control systemic inflammation, support healthy endothelial function, balance digestion and microbiome diversity, and offer incredible support for both the liver and the kidneys.
For these reasons and more, adopting the practice of adding lemon juice to your drinking water is one of the simplest possible ways to augment every aspect of your health (this is why lemons are at the heart of so many “cleanses” and detox regimens). At the very least, try adding lemon juice (always freshly squeezed) to the first glass of water you drink in the morning.
And the cleansing abilities of lemons extend to your household too. In a past article, we discussed how lemon essential oil can be used not only for its health benefits, but also as an ingredient in homemade laundry detergent, teeth whitener, soap, natural disinfectant, face wash, wood and silver polish, and much more.
Within the last decade, thanks to the rising tide of interest surrounding functional foods, researchers have honed in on lemons as a powerful tool for fighting cancer. Here’s what they’ve found so far.
Lemons contain cancer-fighting vitamin C. As we’ve written about before, vitamin C is an absolute powerhouse for preventing and fighting cancer, especially when taken in the right form and at the proper dose. It improves many of the primary markers for cancer development and proliferation, including systemic inflammation (as measured by pro-inflammatory cytokines and C-reactive protein). Improvement of these markers via high-dose vitamin C has been shown to increase cancer survival rates.
Lemons reduce cancer risk via cellular detoxification. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) of Australia reports that regular consumption of lemons and other citrus fruits can reduce the risk of cancer by up to 50%. Researchers attribute this benefit to their unparalleled ability to facilitate cellular detoxification, as well as their high levels of d-limonene.
Even d-limonene on its own has been shown to exhibit potent anticancer properties: when researchers at the University of Arizona Cancer Center gave the compound to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients for 2-6 weeks, their primary breast cancer markers dropped by an average of 22%.
Lemons contain 22 directly anticancer compounds. D-limonene is just one of a whole cornucopia of anticancer compounds that lemons contain. Researchers have identified 22 different anticancer limonoids, all of which have the capacity to prevent cancer and to fight its proliferation.
A study published in the journal Food & Function examined nine isolated limonoids, and found all of them to exhibit anti-proliferative properties (i.e. blocking the growth of tumors), the ability to induce apoptosis (i.e. kill cancer cells by causing them to commit cell suicide), and anti-aromatase properties (aromatase inhibition, which lowers endogenous levels of estrogen, is a key part of every breast cancer treatment protocol).
So when life gives you lemons…
…put them to good use! Adding lemon juice to your drinking water is a simple way to benefit from lemons every day.
And after squeezing the lemons, don’t throw away the peel and fruit; these parts have been shown to contain even higher levels of d-limonene (an average peel contains 300 milligrams). You can grate lemon zest from the peel onto salads, stir fry dishes, and desserts, or even add the entire lemon rind to a smoothie.
As always, choose organic over conventional. Fruits with tough skin (like lemons) are generally considered to be more protected against pesticide contamination (this is the case with the Environmental Working Group’s “Clean 15). But since you’ll be eating the lemon zest and peel too (wouldn’t want to waste all those cancer-healing, detoxifying nutrients), you’ll want to err on the side of organic.