Breast cancer strikes 1 in every 8 women in the United States and is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. But scientists believe many cancer cases could be thwarted by some basic but often overlooked wellness strategies. Heed these holistic tips for preventing and treating breast cancer from Thom Lobe, MD, ND, founder of Beneveda Medical Group in Beverly Hills, an energy medicine center that combines conventional and alternative medical therapies.

Eat vegan

“Studies, including the famous China Study, show that animal proteins tend to feed and support cancer,” says Lobe. “A whole-food, vegan-based diet helps combat cancer by taking away important cancer growth factors. If you’re at risk for or have cancer, you’re much better off getting rid of the animal protein, and that includes dairy, like milk and cheese.” Walnuts are one excellent, vegan protein source; in a 2008 study, mice with breast cancer tumors who ate the human equivalent of 2 ounces walnuts daily showed slower breast cancer growth than the control group.

Eat alkaline, not acidic

“Cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment, so foods that alkalinize tissue fluid—the fluid that’s bathing the cells—tend to reduce cancer risk,” says Lobe. Focus on eating all sorts of naturally alkaline vegetables and fruits—including tart citrus, a surprisingly alkaline food. (See our article on how to pH balance your diet.)

Next page: Nutrients for cancer prevention and treatment

Eat antioxidants for prevention ...

Go for every color of fruits and vegetables for the most nutrients: berries of all kinds, melons, strawberries, bell peppers, leafy greens, and more, as well as nuts, grains, seeds, and green tea. Also “get out in the sun for vitamin D,” which shows anticancer and immunity-boosting effects, says Lobe. “As a general rule, organic foods are better because you don’t have pesticides. Supporting your local farmer also supports your health.”

... but avoid some supplements during treatment

Scientific findings continue to back up antioxidants’ role in cancer prevention; but if you’re in cancer therapy and undergoing chemo or radiation, “antioxidants [such as vitamins A and C] are counterproductive to what your doctor is trying to do,” says Lobe. Be sure to ask your doctor whether and how you should minimize antioxidant intake while undergoing cancer therapy.

Replenish

When you’ve completed cancer therapy, “you need to replenish your body with the nutrients it needs to rebuild,” says Lobe. “Treatment may have sucked all the good stuff out of your body, so minerals and trace elements may have been lost.” In his practice, Lobe recommends a nutrient assessment because “we want to know what’s in your body that’s out of balance and to restore that balance.” Just eating healthy will help (again, no animal products); particularly nourishing choices, Lobe says, include fresh fruits, fresh juices, and smoothies.

Next page: Exercise and laughter

Keep up exercise

Research supports regular exercise for keeping cancer at bay; but even if you’re battling cancer, don’t neglect exercise, says Lobe. “This doesn’t mean you should wear yourself out at the gym, but being fit and strong will help your body fight the cancer.” Exercise boosts mood, he says; plus, “keeping the juices flowing keeps the lymph fluids and blood going, so medications are getting where they’re supposed to.” Lobe recommends a minimum of 20 minutes heart-rate-increasing exercise three times a week, including stretching, even if you’re in the hospital. Start with ideas from our Fitness in Minutes article, with workouts for 10, 20, 30, and 60 minutes.

Believe ... and laugh

“Your body will pay attention to your beliefs,” says Lobe. “If you know that your body is at war with the cancer and will expel it from your body, then you turn on subtle mechanisms that affect every part of your defenses and immune system to fight it.” And laughter really is good medicine! Aside from keeping you in a good, healthy frame of mind, laughter strengthens the immune system to help you ward off cancer in the first place. “It’s part of the philosophy of intention, and the subtle energies that work in the body,” says Lobe. “Someone who can laugh has a positive attitude and outlook on life. Of my cancer patients, the ones who can laugh are the ones who tend to get better.”