Food

Growing Evidence Points to a Specific Diet That Can Starve Cancer Cells of Their Prime Fuels

Deep nutrition is the answer to cancer.

A ketogenic diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet.
Photo Credit: Elena Shashkina/Shutterstock

The following excerpt is from the new book The Metabolic Approach to Cancer: Integrating Deep Nutrition, the Ketogenic Diet, and Nontoxic Bio-Individualized Therapies (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017) by Dr. Nasha Winters and Jess Higgins Kelley.

Every organism on this Earth requires food to create energy in order to live and reproduce. Food is the fuel that keeps our bodies driving down the road. All of the energy, genetic instruction and structural and regulating materials for your terrain come from nutrients. Simply put, food and the nutrients obtained from it are required to sustain life. When nutrient levels become deficient, symptoms (such as headaches, fatigue, weight gain, aches and pains) will be followed by disease. Low vitamin D causes rickets, low vitamin C causes scurvy, low folate in a mother results in spina bifida in the child. Without food, we die in approximately 40 to 180 days (this depends on a person’s body weight; some obese people have survived and remained healthy without food for over five months!).

With the right foods, we can heal. It’s time to start giving credit where credit is due: Certain foods and dietary habits have kept us alive for 2.6 million years. Deep nutrition, a metabolic approach, is the answer to cancer. And where Western medicine is trying to isolate the active forms of food to create synthetic versions able to be patented, we recommend the whole foods and dietary practices, such as fasting, that have sustained us for millennia. Yes, not eating is powerful medicine. All foods contain more than one active ingredient, and we strongly believe in the therapeutic power of synergies.

When sugar, processed grains, soda, preservatives, additives, trans fats, synthetic oils, pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified corn and soy, and junk food are replaced with organic, wild and fermented vegetables, bone marrow and organ meats, healthy fats, specific herbs and adequate hydration, the terrain shifts in a matter of days. We’ve seen it happen—and tested it—hundreds of times during our multiday cancer retreats over the years. Epigenetic markers change, blood sugar levels decline, immune systems are fortified, hormones balance, digestion improves, toxins are removed, and fogs of depression are lifted. When stress, endocrine and sleep disruptors, and environmental and emotional toxins are removed and replaced with peace, purpose, nutrients, nontoxic products, rest, exercise, and healthy relationships, the body becomes incredibly resilient. All these elements are powerful enough to affect DNA, and that’s good medicine. Cancer doesn’t like that.

You’ve heard it before, but it is true: You are what you eat. But we take things further: We are not just what we eat, but what our food eats. When it comes to deeply nutritious foods, the quality of the soil where the food was grown is also essential. When animals are fed toxic diets they become toxic to eat. If you feed animals antibiotics, hormones and genetically modified grains and legumes, they go from being healthy to four-legged Superfund sites—not to mention propelling antibiotic resistance. The treatment approach we lay out in our book dives deep into food quality and also bio-individuality. There is not, cannot and should not be a one-size-fits-all diet all the time. What you eat needs to change with the seasons, for example, and is largely based on what your genetics can tell us. We look at many nutrigenomic factors (meaning, how our genes affect our foods and vice versa).

We subscribe to the metabolic theory of cancer—the proven fact that cancer cells are fueled by sugar and that altered mitochondrial metabolism is the ultimate cause of cancer. In fact, a December 2016 meta-analysis research paper assessed more than 200 studies conducted between 1934 and 2016 and concluded that the most important difference between normal cells and cancer cells is how they respire, or create energy. Cancer cells use a primitive process of fermentation to inefficiently convert glucose from carbohydrates into energy needed to sustain their rapid growth. But the most important finding is that fatty acids (dietary fats) cannot be fermented by cancer cells, which makes a ketogenic diet the most powerful dietary approach to cancer identified to date. And thanks to more than 100 years of research by the physicians and scientists Otto Warburg, Thomas Seyfried, Dominic D’Agostino, and Valter D. Longo, as well as a rising number of others, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that low-glycemic, ketogenic diets and intermittent fasting should be an integral part of an effective anticancer diet program.

We realize there are many people who are drawn to what we are talking about, and others who are not. Our approach aims to empower people. Sadly, many cancer patients spend more time looking at new cars than at their grocery lists. Using diet to prevent and manage cancer requires engagement, and that is not always easy. Conventional medicine, on the other hand, allows the patient to be passive—the doctor performs surgery or administers chemotherapy, and the patient just waits for the test results. In the conventional model the healing, and ultimately the trust, lie with the doctor.

We believe, however, and have seen over and over in our practices, that true healing occurs when the patient is an active participant in the healing process. Our process is for those who are motivated to take charge of their health and willing to make lifestyle changes. It’s about getting to know yourself, and maybe changing things you never thought possible. It’s about asking questions, and not shying away from answers. It’s about undoing the notion that you are a victim of cancer and you have no control over the process. Because you do.

Nasha Winters is the founder and CEO of Optimal Terrain Consulting. She has been working in the health care industry for 25 years and is a nationally board certified naturopathic doctor, licensed acupuncturist, practitioner of oriental medicine and a fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology. 

Jess Higgins Kelley is the director of the Oncology Nutrition Therapy Certification Program at the Nutrition Therapy Institute in Denver, Colorado and the founder and CEO of Remission Nutrition, a metabolic nutrition consulting, education and research enterprise. She has contributed health and nutrition articles to local and national publications.

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