If you have bladder cancer, you may have heard that you need to avoid meat, especially meats cured with nitrates. Or you may heard the key to beating cancer is avoiding sugar. But the real criterion that tells you whether a food helps you win the battle against bladder cancer is how it influences a process called methylation.
Methylation is a process of chemical modification that adds a -CH2 (methyl) group to a biologically active molecule digested from food or absorbed from the environment. In the genes that are most important to the development of bladder cancer, but not in the genes for all kinds of cancer, high levels of methylation turn cancer-causing genes off and switch cancer-fighting genes on. Low levels of methylation let cancer-causing genes run unchecked and leave cancer-fighting genes unactivated.
The process of methylation is best understood for a cancer-fighting gene called LINE-1. Anything that interferes with methylation limits the activity of LINE-1 and interferes with your body's ability to fight bladder cancer. Anything that increases methylation increases the activity of LINE-1 and increases your body's ability to fight bladder cancer.
What interferes with methylation? Benzene, lead, and organic pesticides interfere with methylation. They increase your risk of recurrence.
What assists methylation? In general, dietary antioxidants help the process of methylation. Green tea catechins increase methylation. Antioxidants of all kinds in fresh and, surprisingly, dried, fruits and vegetables increase methylation. So do the antioxidants in coffee and black tea.
Another way to reduce the concentration of the chemicals that interfere with methylation is to dilute them. If you can't afford organic, you can drink more water.
You can also keep the pH of your urine to the alkaline side. In alkaline urine, many toxins become bound to other chemicals that neutralize them.
Eating more plant foods and fewer foods of animal origin generally helps raise pH and alkalize urine. Hard cheese and smoked fish are especially acidifying, while farmer's cheese, milk, and ice cream are relatively harmless (just avoid getting too much sugar).
Alkalizing urine makes a big different. In March 2011, the US National Cancer Institute reported that alkalizing urine could offset the risk posed by two of the most significant risk factors for bladder cancer, smoking and overweight. Of course, if you smoke, it helps to stop. If you can't stop smoking, drink your water and eat your vegetables, keeping meat and cheese to a minimum.