This post is the second in the series exploring the 9 key factors that Dr Kelly Turner PhD found were present in the recoveries from advanced cancer that she studied in her book Radical Remission. Those 9 factors are:
- Radically changing your diet (Part 1 here and Part 2 here)
- Taking control of your health (here)
- Following your intuition (here)
- Using herbs and supplements (here)
- Releasing suppressed emotions (here)
- Increasing positive emotions (here)
- Embracing social support (here)
- Deepening your spiritual connection (here)
- Having strong reasons for living (here).
Today we are going to explore what radically changing your diet might mean. To find out more about the book Radical Remission, go to the previous post “Being Radical – Introduction” here.
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food
One of the real tragedies of modern medicine is that our doctors are not trained in nutrition.* Dr Gawler tells the story that as a trained vet, nutrition had been central to his studies. Yet, when he was first diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma in 1975, he asked his treating doctors for dietary advice and none was forthcoming. When I was diagnosed, I gave up sugar (again). I told my oncologist this and he said “Don’t worry too much about that. Eat what makes you feel good.” That was despite him having told me that the lymphoma had been caused by “lifestyle factors” (I wrote about that here). It’s simply because they just don’t know about nutrition. Yet the saying “we are what we eat” rings loud and true.
So people who seek healing from cancer (and other chronic disease) tend to change what they eat quite radically. Dr Turner identifies 4 major changes that people make to their diets. The first 2 of the 4 are:
- greatly reducing or eliminating sugar, meat, dairy and refined foods; and
- greatly increasing vegetable and fruit intake.
The others can be found in Being Radical – Radically Changing Your Diet (Part 2) which is here.
I don’t intend to repeat what Dr Turner says in her book, mainly because I want to encourage you to read the book yourself. But the reasons for making these changes are compelling and addressed in a wide amount of material. I’m also going to give you links to some resources so you can find out more for yourself. The others, and some suggestions about how to make a radical change to your diet, will follow in the next post.
The one thing that all the well known “alternative” cancer therapies have in common is the recommendation to return to a whole foods diet. To eat real food, not food that has been processed, manufactured or technologically altered. This includes the Gerson Therapy, the Gawler Healing Programme (found in You Can Conquer Cancer) and the Budwig Protocol. Ultimately the goal in changing diet is to detoxify the body, prevent further toxicity and to nourish it deeply so that it can heal.
Greatly increasing vegetable and fruit intake
I know, I’ve reversed the order. But I like to focus on what we add into our diet before we talk about what to take out. It’s a lot easier to say to someone, “eat as much of this as you like” than it is to say “NO! You can’t eat that!” And the beauty of adding in lots of fruits and vegetables is that you can eat heaps of them and you will feel better and won’t notice it around the hips.
So why add them in? If you eat multicoloured fruits and vegetables, then you will get all the phytonutrients you need. Eating the rainbow ensures a high level of antioxidants, as well as most of the vitamins and minerals you need. Also many vegetables have specific cancer fighting qualities. For example, greens are high in iron, calcium, vitamins A, C and K. Cruciferous greens like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage are also known for their anti-cancer phytonutrients.
If you want to know about specific fruits and vegetables, check out Nutrition Facts where Dr Gruger reviews all of the latest peer reviewed science. Another fabulous website is the Angiogenesis Foundation where research is being done into the possibility of starving cancer cells through diet. It has the Eat to Beat Cancer website.
My choice was to embrace a plant-based diet as recommended by the Gawler Foundation. And on a plant-based diet, ALL foods have come from plants ie whole grains, legumes and fruits and vegetables. For 9 months I drank 7 fruit and vegetable juices a day, and ate salad with every lunch and dinner. Everything I eat is still subjected to the test “Will this help me or will it harm me?”
Greatly reducing or eliminating sugar, meat, dairy and refined foods
Sugar: As I said above, the first thing I did was give up sugar. By sugar I mean refined, processed sugar. Our bodies require some glucose to function and this can be derived from vegetables, fruits and whole grains and some alternative sweeteners discussed below.
The medical fraternity says that there is no conclusive evidence that there is a relationship between sugar and cancer but we know cancer cells love sugar. In fact, when I had PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans, I was injected with a radioactive sugar and then required to lie perfectly still for 30 minutes. The sugar was taken up first by the cancer cells so that when the scan was taken, it was the cancer cells busily consuming the radioactive sugar that were highlighted. That is how they managed to get the most accurate picture of tumour size. You tell me then whether there is a link between sugar and cancer?
Even if there is no direct link between sugar and cancer, sugar tends to cause inflammation in the body, which underlies just about every chronic disease we know: cardiac disease, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune diseases, Alzheimers and cancer. The list goes on. It is also well known for suppressing the immune system. So now I eat nothing with added sugar. I have explored the world of natural alternative sweeteners (maple syrup, agave, rice syrup, honey) but am not a fan of most. They still have fructose in them, which the body has trouble processing. They are okay in moderation.
I’ve recently started to experiment with stevia. It has no calories, is just the leaf of the stevia plant, is 300 times sweeter than sugar and might even assist in balancing blood sugars. If you are trying it, be careful. With most brands you need only the tiniest bit. For a really special treat, I have a date. Not with my husband but a dried, caramelly, naturally sweet medjool date.
Meat: About half way through my treatment, and after reading You Can Conquer Cancer, I made the decision to change to a plant-based whole foods diet. My last meat was at my birthday chemo although I significantly reduced the amount I was eating before that. So why give up meat, or at least greatly reduce its intake?
- Our digestive tracts are not designed to eat large quantities of meat and it sits for too long in our guts, increasing the risk of absorbing toxins.
- Most people eat way too much meat these days. And an excess of protein causes acidity in the body (whereas vegetables tend to create an alkaline environment) and increases the levels of insulin growth factor 1. High levels of IGF-1 double the risk of breast cancer and promote cell division.
- Livestock these days are not always grass-fed. Instead they eat large quantities of grain which means their fat is high in Omega-6 oils that cause inflammation rather than Omega-3s which reduce it and assist in carrying nutrients from cell to cell. The same goes for farmed fish, which in Australia is the only way we can get local salmon.
- Livestock are also treated regularly with antibiotics which then make their way into our stomachs. Antibiotics threaten the beneficial flora in our guts and can cause an imbalance in favour of opportunistic bacteria and pathogens, readying our bodies for disease.
- It’s good for the environment. Greenhouse gases from meat production form up to 22% of total greenhouse gases which are causing the planet to warm. Also we know that the land it takes to grow feed for livestock could be better used growing food for humans.
If you don’t want to give it up completely, make sure you eat good quality meat, whether wild caught fish, organic chicken or grass fed beef, occasionally. And it should be no larger than the palm of your hand. And if you eat the occasional egg, you might like to try organic or biodynamic. More on that next post.
Dairy: When we think of dairy, we think of calcium. It’s been a constant message since as long as I can remember that you need dairy for your bones. Ironically, even though Western countries consume considerably more dairy than Eastern, they still have far greater, and ever increasing, rates of osteoporosis and fractures. The reality is that dairy just doesn’t live up to its reputation. You are better off to eat tahini and leafy greens if you really want to get some calcium.
And some leading researchers have linked the protein in dairy, casein, to cancer. Seriously. There is a link to an article below by T. Colin Campbell. He has been seriously criticised for his China Study but his studies with rats with elevated levels of casein and relative rates of cancer have been replicated many times.
Dairy based yoghurts, kefir and cottage cheese are allowed on some of the cancer protocols. This is for three reasons:
- the cultures are rich in healthy probiotics which help the gut environment (see my last post about this here);
- the lactose and casein are pre-digested by the probiotics, meaning that the dairy can be much better tolerated and not have any negative effect;
- on the Budwig Protocol, the protein carries the anti-cancer lignans of ground flaxseed, phytoestrogens, straight into the tumours.
Refined foods: Yep! This is what a whole foods diet is all about. Cutting out refined foods. We all know that breads, pastas, flours are very high in simple carbohydrates and convert to glucose in the body quickly. They give us a quick spike in energy and then a come down. They also create high insulin levels which are linked to inflammation and cancer.
People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.
Many refined foods have long lists of ingredients, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t understand most of them. The tastes are engineered by someone in a white coat in a lab so that they are completely irresistible to the modern palette. These are not foods. They are food products.
Eating real food
A whole foods diet means that everything is pretty much made from scratch. And we know exactly what is in it. Occasionally I’ll buy something in a tin or jar. But if it’s got more than 5 ingredients (except for my sauerkrauts that have about 12 but they are all plants) or I don’t know what one of the ingredients is because it’s a chemical or only identified by a number, or if there is added sugar, I just won’t buy it. And this is getting harder as my eyesight is starting to remind me I’ve reached middle age.
The most amazing thing I’ve found is that once I’ve become familiar with some recipes, it actually doesn’t take as long as I would have thought. And deep gratitude goes to my mum who taught me how to cook at a really young age. It must be daunting to change your diet to whole foods if your kitchen threatens you.
Next post: fasting, going organic and drinking filtered water.
Until then, be happy. Be well. Just be.
Is Sugar Toxic? New York Times (2011)
Inflammation: A Common Denominator of Disease published by the Arizona Center for Advanced Medicine
Growth Factor Raises Cancer Risk (1999) Harvard Gazette
Animal Protein as a Carcinogen T Colin Campbell
Got Proof? Lack of Evidence for Milk’s Benefits Mark Hyman MD
Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar The Nutrition Source, Harvard School of Public Health