Crucifers Against Cancer
In October we honor those who have been affected by breast cancer: survivors and their families and friends, loved ones we have lost. We also raise breast cancer awareness and remind one another that it isn’t just a threat to older women, but to young women and men as well. While hundreds of millions of dollars have been contributed towards research, treatment, and support, we are still without a cure. Research suggests that a whole foods, plant-based diet, avoidance of alcohol, tobacco and sugar, and daily exercise can go a long way in cancer and disease prevention. Populations that consume higher amounts of fruit and vegetables have demonstrated a lowered risk of developing cancer. The most current research suggests a particular group of vegetables with significant antioxidant and anticancer properties.
Cruciferous vegetables (crucifers) contain powerful phytonutrients including a plant indole called indole-3-carbinol (I3C). Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, mustard greens, turnips, cauliflower, collards, and kale, are all a part of the crucifer family. I3C can also be made in a laboratory. The biggest problem with taking I3C as a supplement is that it is not very stable or absorbable. Diindolylmethane (DIM) is a dimer of I3C, which basically means that it comes from digestion of the I3C found in the crucifers. DIM, unlike I3C is more stable in supplement form.
The United States National Cancer Institute is currently investigating DIM as a potential therapeutic agent in clinical trial research. Earlier laboratory research has shown that DIM promotes positive estrogen metabolism in both women and men. The National Institutes of Health is sponsoring clinical research for the use of I3C for breast cancer prevention. Currently I3C is used for the prevention of not just breast cancer, but also colon cancer and other types of cancer.
Although DIM and I3C are both available in supplement form, these are truly supplements that should be used under medical supervision. Overuse of I3C for example, can through hormones off balance. Increasing your consumption of cruciferous vegetables, is not likely to cause any serious problems. That being said, in theory if you were eating pounds and pounds of these veggies every day, there may be some risk of goiter or thyroid suppression as crucifer vegetables do contain “goitrogens” which can interfere with thyroid hormones. That and digestively speaking, you may want to increase the crucifer intake gradually to help to prevent digestive distress. Some side effects that have been reported with high doses of I3C include imbalance, shakiness and nausea. It can also cause skin rashes and an increase in liver enzymes.
Definitely talk to your health care provider before beginning any new supplement or extreme dietary regime. He/she may recommend blood tests prior to working together.