FASCIA, CANCER AND THE KETOGENIC DIET
FASCIA is the tough, elastic sheath / membrane that surrounds muscles as well as bones, nerves, blood vessels, and organs. Not only is it the most abundant connective tissue in the body, but more recently, a number of amazing properties have helped it jettison it's role as anatomy's proverbial red-headed stepchild. THIS POST describes countless reasons why fascia continues to shed its Clark Kent image, while taking on a Superman-like persona. But even Superman has his Kryptonite, which in fascia's case is inflammation.
We've all seen the stickers on the rear windows of cars or pickups saying Cancer Sucks. Well; it does. It literally sucks the life right out of people. One of the biggest problems I see, however, is that few people understand how big a deal INFLAMMATION really is in relationship to our nation's leading cause of death. Many people realize that inflammation can affect fascia, but there are not nearly as many that can tell you that CANCER is itself an inflammatory problem (this means that it is caused by, and fed by inflammation). The craziest part of this whole scenario --- the monkey wrench in the gears --- is that inflammation also happens to be an important part of your immune system, with a certain amount needed to actually attack and combat CELLULAR MUTATION (the example that comes immediately to mind is TNF or Tumor Necrosis Factor --- necrosis being a medical word for death).
Cancer is the collective name of a group of diseases, many of which share little in common other than two distinct characteristics --- they all have abnormal cell division (the body loses it's ability to stop tissue growth) and they all have the ability to metastasize (mutated cells can travel and implant in distant parts of the body, continuing their abnormal growth from multiple locations). The end result is that the Cancer consumes all of your body's energy, nutrition, and metabolic factors. As the process gains steam, I don't need to tell you what happens next.
One of the unique characteristics of fascia is its microscopic structure. I like to tell people that fascia is like WELL-COMBED HAIR, with a TUBES-WITHIN-TUBES structure. But honestly, I would not be doing fascia justice without discussing how its structure relates to its function via a property known as TENSEGRITY. Take, for instance, a scientific paper on Dr. Grahm Scarr's site (Biotensegrity: Tensegrity in Biology) called Fascial Hierarchies and the Relevance of Crossed-Helical Arrangements of Collagen to Changes in the Shape of Muscles, and published in a 2016 issue of the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies.
"The importance of the fascia to normal function has been recognized by ‘hands-on’ practitioners for more than a century but it is only recently that it has emerged as a significant contributor to mainstream orthopedic knowledge. Once dismissed as a packing tissue of little consequence, the fascia is now recognized as a continuous interconnected network that permeates and envelops almost every part of the body. Muscles are composite structures consisting of contractile myofibres surrounded by complex hierarchies of collagen-reinforced fascial sheaths. They are essentially flexible cylinders that change in shape, with the particular alignment of collagen fibers within their myofascial walls reflecting the most efficient distribution of mechanical stresses and coordinating these changes. Helixes spontaneously appear in self-organizing systems as the most efficient way of organizing components of similar size on the surface of a cylinder or tube. They are a common motif in protein construction because they provide an energy-efficient solution to molecular close-packing and form a structural model for coiled winding at multiple size scales throughout the body and in a diverse group of organisms. The formation of a helix is based on simple geometric principles and its persistence is ensured because it is one of the most stable of structural configurations. It is thus not surprising that a system of crossed-helical tubes should predominate in compliant biological tissues because this is one of the most efficient ways of optimizing mechanical stresses within their walls. The myofascia, as a fibrous specialization of fascial / ECM tissues that surround and interpenetrate muscles is then a complex hierarchy of helically-reinforced tubes contained within larger tubes; and continuous with higher-level fascial tubes that surround groups of muscles, the limbs and entire body. Bundles of collagen fibres within the perimysium and epimysium form crossed-helical configurations that balance longitudinal and circumferential stresses and coordinate changes in muscle shape during contraction and extension, and should thus be considered as an essential part of muscle function."
As you can imagine, fouling the fascia with inflammation causes so many problems it will make your head swim. Firstly, inflammation is the cause of problems in the ECM or Extra Cellular Matrix, of which, are said to be the top cause of FIBROSIS in the United States. The family of fibrotic diseases (yes, cancer is on the list) doubles as the leading cause of national mortality as well. Furthermore, when fascia becomes inflamed, it becomes dense --- the actual word is DENSIFIED / DENSIFICATION (remember this principle because you are going to see it several times). This thickening, which can happen to any connective tissues (i.e. LIGAMENTS, TENDON, etc) is problematic because among other things, it severely affects PROPRIOCEPTION. Affect proprioception and because fascia is a ubiquitous tissue (it's everywhere), you adversely affect all physiology. This is why certain people have said that inflamed, mechanically altered fascia is at the root of all sickness and disease; cancer included (HERE). Enter Helene Langevin.
By any criteria, Dr. Langevin is brilliant. After getting her medical degree in 1978, she did a post-doctoral fellowship in neurochemistry at Cambridge. Her residency in Internal Medicine was at Johns Hopkins, and her fellowship in Endocrinology at the same. And not only is she a professor at Harvard (Medicine), she is a professor at University of Vermont as well (Neurology, Orthopedics and Rehabilitation). For the record, neurology and endocrinology are the two most difficult and complicated specialties in medicine. Oh; I almost forgot to mention that she is also the Director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital of Boston. And on top of everything else, since the early 1980's she has been a leading researcher in the acupuncture field as well. Listen to these cherry-picked portions of the highlights of the transcript of an interview she gave to Brooke Thomas on her Liberated Body site (Connective Tissue and Inflammation with Helene Langevin: Fascia, Cancer, Chronic Pain).
"The connective tissue is really the home of the immune system. Cancer is not just a collection of tumor cells growing out of control. They need a base and that base is the connective tissue --- the stroma. The cancer takes the connective tissue hostage. Dr. Patricia Keely at The University of Wisconsin has studied cancer's likelihood to spread along places where the connective tissue matrix forms these railroads [channels of fascia]."
Of course, this makes me want to learn more about Dr. Keely. Dr. Keely was unique in her field (I say "was" --- she died of breast cancer back in June) because her battle with cancer was not just in the lab, it was personal. She contracted Hodgkin's Lymphoma at 21, defeating it, but later developing esophageal cancer, and finally succumbing after a decade-long battle (she was 54 and a professor of Translational Research as well as the founder of University of Wisconsin's Keely Lab, the purpose of which is to study cellular physiology as related to both the ECM and metastatic cancer). In plain English, she studied the effects of breast density as related to cancer progression. An interview she gave to Anita Clark almost a decade ago for Madison dot com (Cancer Personal for UW Scientist: Patricia Keely is Fighting Cancer on Two Fronts) stated.....
"Her research team found a causal link between dense breast tissue and cancerous tumor formation. Mice with dense breast tissue have a three-fold increase in breast tumors, and their tumors spread to their lungs more quickly. Her research suggests that collagen, a protein in dense breast tissue, serves as a pathway for the cancer to crawl out toward the bloodstream. And they believe the alignment of the collagen fibers shows this progression at an early stage."
What's fascinating in this line of thought is that cancer in muscle itself is not common as reinforced by an article on Muscles and Joints dot com, revealing that "A tumor growth in the skeletal muscles is a rare condition... There are only a few of the malignant tumors (muscle cancer) annually with less than one such case per one million inhabitants." But this "densification" thing is big --- particularly in connective tissues, and particularly when it comes to cancers in the connective tissues / stroma. Once again, Dr. Keely tells us just how big on the University of Wisconsin website.
"Appropriate cellular interactions with the extracellular matrix (ECM) help to establish normal cellular architecture and differentiation. During oncogenic transformation, these normal interactions with the ECM are profoundly altered, resulting in cells that lose their polarization and differentiation, lose anchorage dependent growth control, and acquire a migratory, invasive phenotype. Patients with "dense" breast tissue have a four to six-fold increased risk of developing breast carcinomas, making it one of the greatest risk factors for carcinoma. Increased breast density is associated with a significant increase in the deposition of connective tissue, or extracellular matrix (ECM) components, most notably the protein, collagen."
The aspect of her statement that caught my eye was her mention of "loss of cellular polarization". Why? Because if you've ever read Becker's amazing Body Electric, you already have some idea of the astounding effects of electricity and polarity both in and on biological systems.
CANCER, FASCIA, AND CELLULAR POLARITY
"Loss of cell–cell adhesion and cell polarity is commonly observed in advanced tumors and correlates well with their invasion into adjacent tissues and the formation of metastases. Growing evidence indicates that loss of cell–cell adhesion and cell polarity may also be important in early stages of cancer." From a 2007 issue of Nature Cell Biology (Cell Polarity in Development and Cancer)
"The correct establishment and maintenance of cell polarity are crucial for normal cell physiology and tissue homeostasis. Conversely, loss of cell polarity, tissue disorganization and excessive cell growth are hallmarks of cancer." From a 2011 issue of Cell Death & Differentiation (Epithelial Cell Polarity: A Major Gatekeeper Against Cancer?)
"Whereas the importance of cell proliferation in cancer is well recognized, the role cell polarity plays is only beginning to be appreciated. If cell proliferation and death are analogous to acceleration and brakes in a car, and metabolism is analogous to fuel, cell polarity can be compared with the steering wheel, which controls direction and maintains spatial relationships in traffic. Improper steering can result in significant damage even to a non-speeding car, and conversely, proper steering can prevent damage to a speeding car. similarly, we posit that loss of control over cell polarity can disrupt normal cell behavior and lead to initiation and progression of cancer." From a 2012 issue of the Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology (Cell Polarity As A Regulator of Cancer Cell Behavior Plasticity)
"Epithelial cells possess a distinctive apical–basal polarity and loss of polarity is frequently assumed to be a common feature of cancer progression. A widely accepted paradigm for cancer progression is that epithelial cells undergo a transition, during which they lose apical / basal polarity and become highly migratory. [These cells] penetrate the basement membrane, cross the endothelium and enter the lymphatic system or bloodstream through which they are rapidly disseminated. At ectopic sites in the body, the cells colonize surrounding tissue to form metastases." From a 2013 issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (Cell Polarity in Morphogenesis and Metastasis)
"Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer related death in women worldwide. The developing mammary gland is a highly proliferative and invasive tissue, and some of the developmental programs may be aberrantly activated to promote breast cancer progression. In the breast, luminal epithelial cells exhibit apical–basal polarity, and the failure to maintain this organizational structure, due to disruption of polarity complexes, is implicated in promoting hyperplasia and tumors." From the June 2016 edition of the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry (Cell Polarity Proteins in Breast Cancer Progression)
Best guess is that after looking at the quotes above, you get the point ---- cancer is intimately related to a loss of polarity in certain kinds of cells --- abnormal electrical charge if you will. When you think of polarity, think of magnets. The positive sides will repel each other, as will the negative sides. But the positive side of one magnet is attracted to the negative side of another. Every cell and fluid in your body is charged. And because these charges are intimately related to ions (THINK HYDROGEN IONS HERE --- H+), the more positively charged a cell or tissue is, the more likely it is to be acidic (see link). Likewise, the hydroxyl ion (OH-) is the opposite, and carries a negative charge.
This helps explain why we should have a slightly negative overall polarity. If you really want to understand this whole relationship better, read Dr. Sircus' cool article from last December, ELECTROMAGNETIC PROPERTIES OF CANCER. Just remember that none of what you are reading today is 'way out there' or confined to alternative medicine. It's mainstream. In fact, DR. OTTO WARBURG won the Nobel Prize for Medicine back in 1931 for his pioneering work on this topic --- a topic that's getting increasingly wider play with every passing day (HERE). Now lets move on to the relationship of the fascia system to the lymphatic system.
FASCIA, CANCER, AND YOUR LYMPHATICS
What the heck is the lymphatic system? While everyone is very familiar with the part of your circulatory system that deals with blood (arteries, veins, and a pump --- your heart), few people know much about the lymphatic system. Although the two systems are similar, instead of moving fluid and blood cells around your body, the lymphatic system moves something called lymph. Lymph is a clear fluid that is made up of the liquid that leaks from our blood vessels (blood vessels are porous so that various molecules --- oxygen, nutrition, metabolites, etc, can be transported to where they are needed). Be aware that when this system becomes "plugged" or stagnant, the results are problematic, sometimes causing something known as LYMPHEDEMA.
Our body is under a constant invasion from every sort of microbe you can imagine. A failure to properly deal with these invaders by our immune system (80% OF WHICH LIVES IN THE GUT) would mean a quick death. The lymph system carries germs or other things that should not be there to the lymph nodes (larger nodules of lymphatic tissue), where they are filtered out. Because B-Cells (white blood cells that make antibodies) and T-CELLS (white blood cells that either eat the bad guys or throttle back on immune response to lessen one's chances of developing AUTOIMMUNITY) live in these nodes, said invaders are recognized, marked for destruction, and wiped out.
For reasons that are not totally clear, once cancer makes it as far as the lymph nodes, it actually has a better chance of survival, which is why finding cancer in lymph nodes is not a good thing. Instead of activating the immune system against cancer like would happen in the presence of germs, cancer in the lymphatics suppresses the immune system. Listen to the first two sentences of Lymphatic Vessels in Cancer Metastasis: Bridging the Gaps, from a 2006 issue of Oxford Academic's Carcinogenesis.
"Distant organ metastasis is the most important factor in determining patient survival in cancer. This is thought to occur via the body's own systems for transporting fluid and cells, the blood vascular and lymphatic systems. Cancer cells may exploit these vascular systems by expressing growth factors, which alter the normal pattern of angiogenesis and lymphatic vessel growth (lymphangiogenesis), thus creating conduits for tumour metastasis."
In a paper presented to 7th Interdisciplinary World Congress on Low Back a Pelvic Pain, Australian massage therapist Peter Lelean (Migratory Fascia - A Role In Ductal Carcinoma In Situ?) wrote, "Treatment of shoulder pain in women revealed common pelvic misalignments and anomalies in upper thoracic myofascia, where distorted strain patterns may inhibit lymphatic function, therefore becoming a risk factor in Ductal Carcinoma In Situ." After talking about the part of the latisimus dorsi not associated with the THORACOLUMBAR FASCIA, he invoked TRAVELL & SIMMONS, quoting them as saying clear back in 1983, "Entrapment of this lymph duct by passage between tense fibers of an involved pectoralis major muscle, may cause edema of the breast. This seems to coincide with the reportedly higher proliferation of ductal accretions in the upper outer quadrant."
Osteopath Steve Matta expounded on this when he said in last year's Lymphatics, "The lymphatic channels course through fascia. Fascia can sometimes be nice and loose or it can be super tight. If all goes well, the lymph is able to move through lymphatic channels without any problems and we can properly fight infections. Let’s think about this for a second…if the lymphatic channels are located in the fascia and the fascia can tighten up, what do you think happens to the flow of lymph when the fascia is tight? That’s right, it slows down." So, beyond things like lymphedema, other problems can occur. Sometimes bad problems.
Something like seven and a half gallons of lymph (interstitial fluid) courses through the lymphatic system each day. A failure to move this fluid means you increase the amount of cellular waste in the body, which causes inflammation, which then EPIGENETICALLY turns on the genes said to cause cancer. In an article called Fascia, Muscles, and the Lymph System, renowned fascia therapist Victoria L. Magown wrote, "Fascia plays an important role with our Lymph System. The majority of our Lymph System lives in the Superficial Fascia right under the skin. The Fascia and Muscles need to be flexible, supple and strong to move the lymph through the lymphatic vessels. This is done by the Fascia and Muscles contracting which constricts the lymphatic vessels and pushes the lymph fluid forward. Check valves prevent the fluid from flowing backward. Since the lymphatic system does not have a heart to pump it, its upward movement depends on the motions of the Fascia, Muscles and pumping joints." The thing is folks, it's not like I haven't shown you all of this previously (SEE MY ARTICLE ON THE PRIMO-LYMPHATIC SYSTEM).
MORE ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FASCIA & CANCER
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Dr. Schierling completed four years of Kansas State University's five-year Nutrition / Exercise Physiology Program before deciding on a career in Chiropractic. He graduated from Logan Chiropractic College in 1991, and has run a busy clinic in Mountain View, Missouri ever since. He and his wife Amy have four children (three daughters and a son).
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