Posts Tagged ‘Alcohol and Cancer’

Is it Safe to Drink Alcohol if You Have Cancer?

In Breast Cancer, Cancer, Uncategorized on March 28, 2017 at 4:15 pm

We all know that chronic, excessive alcohol consumption can dramatically raise one’s risk of cancer and other degenerative diseases. Cancer patients typically make some major lifestyle changes to increase their survival—and often this includes cutting back on (or eliminating) alcohol consumption. For many, this is very difficult, just as smoking and/or sweets are hard for others to eliminate.

But, all too often I find myself wondering if my clients are trying too hard to be healthy. I talk and talk about healthy habits, food choices, vitamins, and nutritional supplements. Eat this, not that, drink this, not that, etc. However, sometimes I feel like I forget to stress hard enough the need to enjoy life.
Healing from cancer can be hard; staying healthy can be even harder, as our motivation wanes. So just to be very clear — eat the cake; drink the wine; go on the trip; buy the dress—wear the dress. Life is too short to put happiness on hold.

While I really do not advise making a daily trip to the bakery, an occasional piece of birthday cake just isn’t going to matter. In fact, it will bring essential joy as you celebrate your or a loved one’s birthday. We know that sugar feeds cancer, but these days, so does everything else, so it seems — so an occasional treat is not all that bad.

As for alcohol consumption, we know that drinking in moderation is good for the heart—and can be good for the soul. Studies show that light to moderate drinkers are more social, which has a positive effect on longevity.

But what about alcohol and cancer?

When alcohol breaks down, it is converted into acetaldehyde, a toxin which damages DNA and hinders the cell mechanisms that would ordinarily repair it. Acetaldehyde also produces harmful free radicals that increase inflammation—cancer’s friend.

wine 3Thankfully, there are ways to help alleviate the potential harm. Therefore, while excessive consumption of alcohol undeniably damages the body, you don’t have to give it up completely. If you enjoy the pleasures of social or moderate drinking, you can help neutralize alcohol’s toxic effects by consuming certain nutrients and phytonutrients.

Further, should your preference be wine, it is good to know that red wine (and to some extent, white) contains some powerful anticancer nutrients, making it actually somewhat protective against cancer!

Therefore, the purpose of this article is to remind you of the perils of drinking alcohol and to educate you on ways to minimize the risks of alcohol consumption so that you can still enjoy it without so much guilt. After all, we know that stress and deprivation are not good for anyone — certainly not someone who has beaten cancer only to end up depressed. A glass or two of red wine now and then can be a very nice social experience and can be quite enjoyable–and healthful–just don’t over-do it.

The Skinny on the Vinnie…

Wine is good for the heart and may actually inhibit the development of certain cancers, including breast cancer. Interestingly, red wine is a good source of folate, biotin, vitamin B6, niacin, potassium, magnesium, and other important anticancer nutrients, so in itself, it is part of the solution.

The resveratrol in red wine has potent antioxidant and anti-cancer effects, suppressing the production of inflammatory cytokines as it protects, and even repairs damaged DNA – healing the injury before it can result in cancerous changes. Resveratrol also provides cardiovascular benefits by reducing LDL cholesterol and decreasing the stickiness of blood platelets.

Some studies have credited resveratrol with blocking the development of cancer at multiple stages – from tumor initiation through promotion and progression. Of course, in my humble opinion, you would have to overindulge to get enough resveratrol to effectively block cancer, and clearly that is not a good idea. Still, it is comforting to know that you will get some benefits from the resveratrol.

The quercetin in red wine also protects DNA in cells because it collects around the nucleus of cells offering powerful anti-oxidant protection. It prevents tumor cell growth and has strong anti-inflammatory properties. It also stimulates liver function to detoxify estrogen and other carcinogenic agents, helping to remove them from the body.

Quercetin also binds to excess iron in your body. It removes it from tissues, and prevents its absorption. This process is called chelation. This is critical as iron can be a key ingredient in cancer cell growth. Quercetin has the ability to steal the iron from cancer cells which can stop their growth and induce cell death.

In summary, red wine is loaded with polyphenols, which can do a body good. That said, please limit consumption and be sure to consume adequate helper nutrients, which will be discussed below. Also, while the focus on this article is wine, the nutrients below will help protect you should wine not be your cocktail of choice.
Lastly, given that you would never eat conventional grapes laden with pesticides, please consider organic wines and spirits. Likely too you have seen some of the resent research indicating that organic wines from California are laced with pesticides. While this is true, this is also true of most organic crops from California and Mexico. Local organic is better, and wine from small vineyards that do not require pesticide use and which are irrigated with clean water are also a good option.

Anti-Alcohol Substances:
In general, protective components are carotene (think carrots), folate (B9), niacin (B3), vitamins B6, B1, C, D, E, and a few others in smaller amounts. A diet that includes foods rich in the antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene can promote a healthy inflammatory response in the body. In addition, lycopene, ursolic acid, lutein, and other phytochemicals in plant foods can provide protection. Herbs and spices including turmeric and ginger are also known to have anti-inflammatory properties.

I also recommend eating Brazil nuts or taking supplemental selenium as selenium levels tend to be reduced in people who drink alcohol regularly. Importantly, a deficiency of selenium can significantly increase your risk for cancer. Having a high-fiber snack with your cocktail is also a good idea.

Highlighting B Vitamins:

Acetaldehyde depletes cells of vitamin B-6 – a nutrient needed to prevent dangerous oxidation. Again, the body converts alcohol into DNA-destroying acetaldehyde, a carcinogen in the same family as formaldehyde. Acetaldehyde also interferes with the actions of folic acid and can lead to folate deficiency in heavy drinkers. Folate deficiency can impair the body’s ability to suppress cancer genes called proto-oncogenes.

A note on folic acid—research indicates that women who drink alcohol in moderation and have a high folate intake may not be at any higher risk of some breast cancers than those who abstain from alcohol. But when it comes to folic acid, go for the real thing– you can find it in abundance in citrus fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, dried beans, and peas, and yes, red wine—all in the form of natural folate, which is much safer than synthetic folic acid (please don’t depend on the folate in wine…you need much more). If you take a supplement, be sure it is folate, not folic acid.

Acetaldehyde also robs the cells of Vitamin B-1, or thiamine. Experts say it is often thiamine deficiency – rather than the toxic metabolites of alcohol – that causes the brain degeneration associated with alcoholics.

Vitamin C is key in preventing oxidative damage caused by alcohol:

Alcohol depletes vitamin C, a vitamin that helps defend the body from alcohol damage. This potent antioxidant protects brain cells against the toxic effects of alcohol, and helps control brain levels of pro-inflammatory substances which are increased by alcohol and its toxic metabolites. Vitamin C also helps to regenerate vitamin E, which helps protect the brain and liver from the aging process. Therefore, supplemental C can be very helpful.

Antioxidants are called free radical scavengers because they neutralize free radicals in the body. An antioxidant such a vitamin C can donate electrons to the free radical, thus stopping the free radical from stealing another electron. To explain, antioxidants prevent oxidation damage by donating electrons to replace those lost to oxidation. This process of providing electrons is the reverse of oxidation and is called reduction. Our tissues maintain a controlled balance of reduction and oxidation, known as the ‘redox state’. Cells produce antioxidants and antioxidant electrons continuously in order to prevent oxidation damage.


Acetaldehyde from alcohol also depletes necessary glutathione, causing dramatic reductions in the body’s natural defense systems. Glutathione is the body’s ‘master antioxidant’. It binds to toxins and promotes their excretion via the bile and urine. N-acetylcysteine, or NAC, binds acetaldehyde, neutralizing its damaging effects, and replenishes glutathione levels in tissues.

NAC is also used for preventing alcohol- related liver damage and to combat toxicity from Tylenol use. It does this so effectively that it is used in conventional medicine – along with vitamin C – to treat acetaminophen overdoses.

NAC is most helpful when taken immediately before alcohol ingestion – but it can also be used after indulging as well.

Love your liver…

Alcohol is tough on the liver, and you depend on your liver to remove toxins from the body. Green tea and silymarin (milk thistle) prevent damage to the liver by acting as an antioxidant and enhancing the detoxification process. Grape seed extract and barley grasses are also helpful.

Milk thistle, in particular, is a natural remedy for liver regeneration that is backed by considerable modern research. Long used by natural healers to support liver health and function, milk thistle helps promote the elimination of toxins –including those related to alcohol consumption. Studies have shown that milk thistle’s active constituent, silymarin, can enhance the immune system, fight inflammation, protect DNA, and help to alleviate alcohol-induced liver disease.

In cell studies, silymarin has been found to inhibit the conversion of ethanol to acetaldehyde, reduces liver cancer cell proliferation, stops the growth of blood vessels that nourish tumors, and promotes the regeneration of normal liver cells.

How much is too much? Most experts would say 1-2 drinks daily is okay. Don’t think because you abstain all week that you can have seven glasses of wine on Saturday night. Also, remember that the body needs time to metabolize each drink, so allow some time between that first and second cocktail. A good rule of thumb for alcohol consumption might be to avoid amounts that produce a hangover – for which acetaldehydes are primarily to blame.

Enjoy your wine if it brings you pleasure, but limit consumption and load up on the protective nutrients that may eliminate or reduce risk of cancers associated with drinking alcohol. Again, and this is very important– while there are clearly health benefits to drinking alcohol, moderation is imperative. The following is a great article that defines the pros and cons, especially the discussion on ethanol and methanol: Moderate Drinkers Live Longer than Non-Drinkers, Study Finds.

It is not my recommendation for you to use this information as a justification to start or continue drinking alcohol. There are many non-alcoholic sources of the anticancer nutrients mentioned above. Of course, it is good to know that there are certain nutrients and supplements that can help neutralize the damaging effects of alcohol should you choose to imbibe. My goal is simply to suggest that you not sweat everything, and that you spend time living, not just avoiding death.


~~If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any~~

Elyn Jacobs is a breast cancer survivor and holistic cancer strategist who helps people make better, healthier, non-toxic choices. She emphasizes the critical nature of addressing the root cause of cancer and not just its presenting symptoms (such as the tumor). Elyn specializes in understanding the role of estrogen in breast cancer and debunks the myths associated. She is a Contributing Editor for The Truth About Cancer and was creator and host of the Survive and Live Well Radio Show on the Cancer Support Network. Elyn is on the Medical Advisory Board for BeatCancer.Org and is on the Advisory Board to the Radical Remission Project. Elyn was the Executive Director of the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. Contact Elyn via her website. Elyn offers consults via Skype, phone or in person.

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Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Anti-Cancer Party

In Uncategorized on October 27, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Wine, Cheese and Chocolate are three things you don’t always associate with an anti-cancer diet.  However, while critics may say–whoa, hold on now—hear me out.  Wine, cheese, chocolate can be good for you, in moderation and with a few rules.

Red wine, (and dark chocolate) have positive components that are actually good for your heart and may inhibit the development of certain cancers, including breast cancer. There have been studies and reports on this for years. Of course, there are studies that say ANY alcohol raises your risk for breast cancer (likely these were done by teetotalers…just kidding).  The bad news is that the body converts alcohol into DNA-destroying acetaldehyde, a carcinogen (same family as formaldehyde). However, you can help neutralize alcohol’s toxic effects by consuming certain nutrients and phytonutrients. A glass or two of red wine now and then can be a very nice social experience and can be quite enjoyable–and healthful–just don’t over-do it. 

Protective components are carotene (think carrots), folic Acid (B9), niacin (B3), vitamins B6, B1, C, D, E, and a few others in smaller amounts.  Keep in mind that red wine is a good source of folic acid, biotin, vitamin B6, niacin, potassium and magnesium….so it itself, it is part of the solution.  A note on folic acid— research indicates that women who drink alcohol and have a high folate intake are not at any higher risk of some breast cancers than those who abstain from alcohol.  But when it comes to folic acid,  go for the real thing– you can find it in abundance in citrus fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, dried beans, and peas, and yes, red wine—all in the form of natural folate, which is much safer than synthetic folic acid.  (Please don’t depend on the folate in wine…you need much more). 

Alcohol also depletes necessary glutathione; NAC helps the body produce more glutathione. (N-acetyl cysteine is also used for preventing alcohol related liver damage and to combat toxicity from Tylenol use).  Keep in mind that alcohol is tough on the liver, and you depend on your liver to remove toxins from the body. Green tea and silymarin (milk thistle) prevent damage to the liver by acting as an antioxidant and enhancing the detoxification process; grape seed extract and barley grasses are also helpful. Remember too…always have a high-fiber snack with your wine and  consider a daily  brazil nut, as they are high in selenium, of which a deficiency can increase risk for cancer; selenium levels tend to be reduced in people who drink alcohol regularly.

Take a look at these links…you can taste the controversy—so please, while there are arguments on both sides, it is best for your all around health to enjoy  your wine if it brings you pleasure, but limit consumption and load up on the protective nutrients that may eliminate or reduce risk of cancers associated with drinking alcohol.







Cheese; a cancer no-no, right?  Most of us think cheese is the enemy; it’s loaded with fat and contributes to cancer.  Dr William Li has a different opinion. Certain cheeses contain Vitamin K2 that inhibits cancer growth.  But don’t think you are limited to Gouda and Jarlsburg; other hard and soft cheeses contain K2, as do butter and egg yolks.  Also, full fat dairy contains CLA which has powerful anti-cancer benefits, so skip the low fat versions; just be sure to buy organic, locally produced cheese made from cows or sheep not injected with hormones, and who are grass fed, whenever possible. CLA may also help reduce body fat—especially belly fat, something which increases our risk for cancer.  Remember—real food for real people; when you mess with Mother Nature you pass up on nutrients and add chemicals.  (Eat the butter and cheese, pass on the substitutes)




Chocolate, oh how we love chocolate. Chocolate was once thought to be nothing more than a decadent indulgence.  We think of chocolate as forbidden as we try to avoid sugar; but chocolate actually helps regulate blood sugar.  Just be sure to eat the real thing….the general rule is to look for 70% or higher and  sugar content should be minimal; read the ingredients (there should not be many and they should be real foods). And, research shows that dark chocolate may just be the top antioxidant, right up there or even better than blueberries! For better or worse, the food you eat sends messages to your genes which alters their expression patterns, and that in turn can alter disease. Inflammation-related genes are no exception, and inflammation is the precursor to cancer. Eating plenty of blueberries and chocolate can make those inflammatory genes behave nicely. Chocolate covered blueberries anyone?

There is more to the chocolate story:



So, enjoy your party—but don’t cry…..have some red wine, some cheese and a few truffles, soufflés and even hot chocolate as it can be a good source of resveratrol and cocoa phenols (flavonoids) as long as dark chocolate with a high content of cocoa is used.  Just remember that terrible word…moderation.  Live a little….isn’t that why we work so hard to beat cancer?



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Elyn Jacobs is a breast cancer survivor, professional cancer coach, radio talk show host, speaker, and the Executive Director for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. Elyn is also on the peer review board of the Natural Standard Database. Elyn empowers women to choose the path for treatment that best fits their own individual needs.  She is passionate about helping others move forward into a life of health and wellbeing. Elyn lives in New York with her husband and two young boys.


Integrative Oncology Works!!!

In Uncategorized on March 5, 2012 at 8:23 pm

This past weekend I attended the Annie Appleseed Project CAM conference; so many excellent speakers. Over the next few weeks I will be sharing some of what I learned. What resonated throughout the conference was that conventional medicine alone is not the answer.Today I will talk about Dr Gwen Stritter and her roadmap to beat cancer.

Dr Stritter provided a humorous and excellent plan for someone just diagnosed with early stage breast cancer who wants to increase her chances of a cure.  I just loved the positive tone; note she did not say to prevent recurrence, but rather spoke of that lovely word cure. She said that if she were diagnosed at 12pm, what she could do at 12:01pm that could take her on the path to wellness.

Exercise:  Fast walking 3hours a week improves breast cancer survival by 40%.  5-6 hours increased survival even more.  So, she will go for a walk. Social support: Increased contact with friends and family post diagnosis was associated with lower risk of death by 70%.  So, on the way home, she will stop in and visit some friends and family.  Alcohol:  having one alcoholic beverage a day increases death by 36%.  So, she’d give up that glass of wine with dinner…well maybe indulge only twice a week as she really loves wine.  D3: Vitamin D3 decreases metastasis and increases survival by 55%. So, she’ll pop in a 2000mg supplement as soon as she gets in the car.  Omega 3: high intake of omega 3 fatty acids from fatty fish increases survival by 25%, so she’ll call her husband and ask him to toss the fried chicken, and will stop at the fish market to buy some salmon for dinner. Controlling inflammation:  having a high CRP, (which indicates increased inflammation), results in a 100% increase of death.  So, she will take some anti-inflammatory natural products such as curcumin, omega 3 (yes, perhaps a supplement too), boswellia and a few others.  Low toxicity pharmaceuticals:  a daily baby aspirin reduced breast cancer death by 70% (alternatively, one regular aspirin taken three times a week can reduce recurrence by 50%, according to my integrative onc).  So, she will stop at the drugstore and buy some aspirin.  She might also take some other pharms that look promising, so she’ll call her primary physician. In trials, Propranolol, a cheap and non-toxic drug commonly prescribed for high blood pressure, increased  breast cancer  survival by 80% (in a retrospective study).  Metformin, which is derived from the French lilac plant, increased survival in diabetic patients by 60%, and non-diabetics with breast cancer who did not take Metformin had 3 times the risk of distant metastasis….the risk went up 300%!.  Metformin is cheap and has very few side effects.  (My doc recommends that almost everyone take it to avoid cancer, and certainly to prevent recurrence).  There is another study expected to be released by 2014, but likely you will not want to wait until then.

And of course, she will switch to a mostly plant based diet, be conservative on oil and fat intake, and if she were a smoker…she would stop asap! 

In summary, if she does all this, cancer does not stand a chance; she has provided an extremely hostile environment for her cancer to grow.    She also commented that Dr Keith Block did an excellent study on these combined steps and found a substantial increase in survival for those with advanced metastatic cancer.  Her overall deduction?  Integrative Oncology works!!! 

A few things to add:

You will likely need to ask your primary doc, not your oncologist for prescriptions for Propranolol and Metformin as they are not yet approved for cancer despite the fact that they can be quite effective.    At this conference as well as at the Integrative Healthcare Symposium, several doctors commented that Metformin was the only cancer drug that actually worked. My doc started me on this a while back, handing me piles of research to support his recommendation.

Also, remember to address stress….more on this later, but I offer this post until then: https://elynjacobs.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/changing-the-cancer-environment/

Lately there has been much in the news about red wine and breast cancer.  Research shows that a small amount of red wine may actually reduce breast cancer risk.  http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/240065.php?utm_medium=twitter&utm_s

The trick is small.  Those who love wine (like me) might take this too far.  Your body converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, a carcinogen.  Acetaldehyde boosts cancer risk by inflicting oxidative stress that damages DNA, prevents DNA repair, and triggers a pro-inflammatory reaction.  You can help offset the damage by adding a few foods and plant-based compounds like silymarin, resveratrol, grape seed extract and barley grass, as well as adding some supps like selenium, NAC, vitamin B6, and folate, to prevent alcohol-related deficiencies of valuable cancer fighting nutrients and minerals.  The trick is to take the supps just before, with, or even immediately after accidental over- indulgence of wine. (Have a brazil nut with that wine!)So, I offer up this article, which effectively provides a good explanation of the dangers of alcohol as well as what we can do to offset the damage should we accidentally over-indulge.  http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2011/dec2011_Link-Between-Alcohol-and-Cancer-Death_01.htm

Elyn Jacobs




Elyn Jacobs is President of Elyn Jacobs Consulting, Executive Director for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation, a certified cancer coach and a breast cancer survivor.  Elyn helps women diagnosed with cancer to navigate the process of treatment and care, and educates to prevent recurrence and new cancers.  She is passionate about helping others get past their cancer and into a cancer-free life. To learn more about Elyn’s coaching services, please visit:  https://elynjacobs.wordpress.com