This is part of a blog series comprised of live posts from the International Symposium on Malignant Mesothelioma, held March 2-March 4, 2015 in Bethesda, MD. The event was organized by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, and co-hosted with the National Cancer Institute.
Asbestos fibers, which cause mesothelioma, are like little sharp needles. When they are inhaled, they penetrate the lung and go directly into the pleural membrane around your heart. The shape of the fibers allows them to lodge into the lung and can cause mesothelioma to develop over time.
Dr. Melpo Christofidou-Solomidou, who works at the University of Pennsylvania, has dedicated her career to radiation and lung damage. As mesothelioma patients become ill, they develop both inflammation and fibrosis.
The inflammation is caused by fluid in the lungs, and most patients will experience a lingering cough as a result.
Fibrosis means that the lung is stiff and thus cannot support normal breathing. In a normal lung, you will find a shiny tissue. It will look wet and smooth. In a lung affected by mesothelioma, you will find a matte finish that has rinds (think the texture of an orange). This makes it hard for the air to move in the body and as a result, it becomes very difficult to breathe.
Dr. Christofidou-Solomidou may have found an ancient ally in helping mesothelioma patients battle inflammation and fibrosis: flaxseed.
We’ve all heard of “superfoods” and flaxseed is one of the oldest. In fact, this ancient remedy (one Hippocrates himself recommended) has found its way into the modern world. Flaxseed has the highest content of Omega-3 fatty acids and is comparable to fish oil. It can boost antioxidant tissue defenses, which is imperative when it comes to mesothelioma.
Through her research, Dr. Christofidou-Solomidou has found that flaxseed has anti-fibrotic affects in lungs. Her lab has found promising results in research on mice. Mice that were fed a high flaxseed diet responded better to the radiation treatment than those that had no flaxseed.
Currently, flaxseed diet research is being performed for a variety of diseases including breast cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, and high cholesterol. At the University of Pennsylvania, researchers are currently studying flaxseed diets and how they help with radiation damage, cigarette smokers, cystic fibrosis, and lung transplantation.
Dr. Christofidou-Solomidou closed by mentioning the University of Pennsylvania was recently awarded a $10 Million grant to research the deposited asbestos in Ambler, Pennsylvania. This 11-acre property is in a residential area, and though it was originally covered with soil, the soil has now eroded. Her team will be trying to discover if a flaxseed diet will inhibit chronic inflammation, delaying or preventing the induction of asbestos-induced mesothelioma.
If you are interested in adding flaxseed to your diet, Dr. Christofidou-Solomidou suggested the following, “Grind flaxseed fresh every day. That is the best way to use it.”