One thing I’ve learned to discipline on this journey to fight cancer is my diet.
My immune system needs full support; my lymph system needs circulation and my liver, responsible for detoxifying my body and supporting the flow of chi, needs all the help it can get.
As a cancer patient, I need energy and life force, minerals and vitamins.
Just as importantly, I need to feel good.
Many natural foods and supplements have been found to do all of the above and whole foods, working together in the right combination, can attack cancer at its varying stages of progression. Few medical doctors have been trained adequately in nutrition to give the full-range of proper advice for cancer prevention or support, so for anyone like me, who wants to live cancer-free, I would highly encourage you to consult a reputable nutritionist and naturopath.
What food makes us optimally healthy is often person-specific.
Traditions, like Ayurveda and Eastern medicine, recognize that each of us has a predominating constitution or set of inheritances that determine not only our physical structure but our emotional anatomy, preferences, perceptions and the accompanying physical problems our bodies will confront over our lifetimes.
In many ways, Medieval medicine—borne on the idea that there are four temperaments based on four humours (phelgmatic, melancholic, choleric and sanguine)—is similar.
The Greek physician, Hippocrates, whom some consider the father of medicine, incorporated those four temperaments into his medical theories; they have influenced modern psychology.
Whether Medieval, Ayurvedic or Eastern, the same principle applies: sources of disease originate from an individual’s specific imbalances based on his or her specific constitution.
That said, no one diet suits all constitutions.
In the realm of cancer, some patients are found highly deficient in minerals, others are overheated, others “damp”—still others, too acidic. Finding the right nutritional programme for any individual, whether disease-ridden or disease-free, depends on careful investigation of all factors that might set the individual internal terrain off-balance.
Nonetheless, I thought I would share with you some of the general things I’ve learnt about how and what most of us eat can either stimulate or discourage disease.
In this post I’ll be looking at the White Supremacists—otherwise known as the bad foods.
First, there are some big “no-nos” that most holistic traditions agree cancer-active patients need to eliminate completely.
In my opinion, anyone who wants to stay optimally healthy should avoid these foods. The usual suspects in the realm of disease, the big “no-nos” have been proven to promote everything from diabetes to heart attacks.
In addition to being nearly nutritionally void, some of the following white foods feed cancer cells, rob our bodies of calcium, build up acid in our gut and line our intestinal walls with mucous, which then causes a whole host of problems, both physical and emotional. There’s a reason cancer is called in China a “rich, white person’s disease”.
Here they are, the Three Bad Whites:
1. White sugar
2. White rice, bread & pasta
Here is a quick overview of some of the central sick things attributed the Big Bad Whites.
For those of you that grew up in the 80s like I did, you probably remember the incessant television ads insisting, in a catchy tune accompanied by a freckled young boy smiling with a milk-mustache, that “milk–does-a-body-good.”
My response to that industry-funded advertisement is that it depends on what milk you’re singing about and to what body you’re feeding it.
Growing babies need their mother’s milk for growth; milk is full of essential enzymes and growth-inducing chemicals that promote healthy cell division necessary for the growing child.
However, no species on the planet consumes the milk of their mothers beyond infant years, and no species—save humans—drinks the milk of an another animal.
A human baby normally takes 180 days to double in its birth weight, while a cow takes only 47 days. Cow milk, even organic cow milk, is considerably more abundant in a growth factor chemical called IGF-I. Scientific literature strongly supports the link between high circulating IGF-I levels and several types of cancer—a disease that begins with rapidly dividing cells.
IGF-I is just one example.
Many powerful chemicals contained in milk have an important role in the development of healthy mammals.
But what happens when the chemicals intended by nature to stimulate cell growth in newly born animals send similar signals to adult tissue in humans?
Beside growth-inducing chemicals abundant in milk, dairy is full with a host of natural and human-induced chemicals and bacteria.
Milk is an excellent culture for the medium of the growth of many unpleasant bacteria and micro-organisms, some of which have been known to cause diseases such as IBS in humans.
Listeria, found in soft cheeses, can cause meningitis and septicaemia. And if that is not enough, contemporary intensive farming methods—found predominantly in North America—use a wide range of chemicals including antibiotics and anti-parasitics that compromise human immune systems, among attacking other things in the body.
The inhumane methods of intensive methods of dairy farming means that cows live in artificial, unhealthy conditions where they are milked more intensely and for longer periods of time. Cows udders become infected; pus leaks into the very milk many humans end up drinking.
If you drink milk from these cows, you’re ingesting the pain they’ve suffered and you’re contributing to their suffering.
A lot of additional hard evidence supports that milk does not do the body good, nor does supporting the multi-national dairy industry do our planet any good. Professor Jane Plant, in her book Your Life in Your Hands, cites dairy as the leading cause of cancer, as well as a number of other diseases, including child-onset diabetes and a host of allergies.
Contrary to what the dairy industry would like us to believe, milk products rob the body of calcium. Rather than aid in the maintenance of healthy bones, the deficiencies in milk often cause the body to withdraw calcium from the bones to neutralize the proteins and lactic acids in milk.
If you are interested in reading more, this article by the AFPA is rather thorough: “Does Milk Really Do the Body Good? Calcium and Protein: A Mixture for Disaster” A good documentary that exposes truths some of the dairy industry would prefer to keep from us is Food Inc.
If you’d like an alternative to dairy, I’ve found almond, rice, quinoa, oat and hemp milk many times more delicious than cow’s milk. A whole range of soy and rice cheeses can substitute cheddar, mozarella and brie. While at first you may turn your nose up at such a suggestion—I was once one of you—my response now is that if you have cancer, have had cancer or are at risk of cancer (and with one out of three people getting cancer in our modern world, who isn’t at risk?), eliminate dairy even if it means giving up goat’s cheese.
For the rest of you—consume this white felon sparingly.
White bread, pasta, and rice
The miscreants in this pale trio are criminal characters that have come from overly refining, processing, preserving and packaging what was once a healthy food.
Brown rice tonifies the body and mind; it is beneficial for those with weakness, pallor and depression, writes Paul Pritchford in Healing with Whole Foods.
White rice, on the other hand, sits in the gut providing calories, but no essential nutrition.
A telling anecdote: leave damp white rice on the counter for a couple of days and it rots. Leave damp brown rice on the counter and it sprouts!
Similarly, white bread and white pasta contribute to cancer and disease by raising the acidity of the body, which deprive the body of oxygen.
Cancer develops in a low-oxygen environment.
The process of refining and preserving eliminates much of what the original grain had to offer. When wheat is refined, it loses 75% of its B vitamins, at least 90 % of its mineral content, 98 % of its vitamin E and 99% of its fibre. The overproduction and storage of grains means that moulds are increasingly common, resulting in the presence of aflatoxin in the grains…and that is carcinogenic.
In short, eat whole grains: brown rice, barley, quinoa, oats, rye and spelt.
Eat whole grain and sprouted breads.
Pass on the white pasta, white bread and white rice.
The more demand is made in restaurants, the more those foods will become available. Don’t be a whitey!
When you have cancer, excess sugar should be the first outlaw thrown into the slammer—cancer cells literally feed off of the stuff.
The German biologist Otto Heinrich Warburg won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery that the metabolism of malignant tumours is largely dependent on glucose consumption.
When we eat foods with a high glycemic index (white flour, white sugar), blood levels of glucose rise rapidly. The body immediately releases insulin to enable the glucose to enter the cells, which is accompanied by the release of a molecule called IGF (or insulin-like growth factor, whom we met earlier when discussing milk).
In short, sugar nourishes tissues and makes them grow faster. IGF and insulin promote factors in inflammation, which stimulates cell growth and fertilizes tumours.
Corn syrup is ubiquitous in packaged and processed foods. Read the labels! Anytime you see the words gluctose, fructose, corn syrup or any word ending in “ose” that you can’t pronounce, keep it on the shelf and out of your body.
Our bodies have always had a difficult time digesting refined sugars and several studies have shown that this difficulty in the stage of digestion is what contributes most significantly to adolescent acne, as well as a lot of other digestive related problems. Corn syrup is pure toxicity; our bodies can simply not handle this chemically produced sweetener. Dr. David Servan-Schreiber in Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Live sees there’s good reason to believe refined sugar is the biological malfeasant responsible for the epidemic of cancer.
I know you may have a sweet tooth. Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I indulged in an almond croissant at least once a week. It was full of all the wrong stuff: refined sugar, refined flour and all the bad fats.
The only healthy thing in that treat was the almonds (which I now eat raw).
Now that I’m more informed, I’ve found the almond croissant has lost her allure—she simply whispers to me, in her sultry sweet breath, cancer and I have the wisdom to walk away.
My advice: if you have cancer, have had cancer, have a high-risk for cancer, have diabetes or just want to stay optimally healthy, cut this refined, sweet, white guy out of your life.
I promise that you’ll meet other sweet dudes along the way—stevia or xylirol, a birch-bark extract, are both natural sweeteners that don’t raise the blood sugar and your indulgence won’t result in a toxic relationship.
There are a number of foods, not in the white category, you can do without if you want to live cancer-free.
All preserved, smoked and refined foods can stay in the aisles of the supermarket and away from your precious cells.
Red meat has been linked to certain forms of cancer, as well as most oils except flax, olive and coconut. If you need animal protein, fresh ethically farmed fatty fish high in Omega-3 is your best bet.
A good rule is to eat as close to the earth as possible.
Happy eating! And happy, by the way, is a whole other dimension to a healthy diet!
Enjoying and relaxing with your meal will ensure the best nutrients are optimally digested!
Nancy is a writer, artist, yogini and teacher living in London, England. She has taught and trained in yoga and meditation in Thailand, India, Nepal, Mexico and Canada. On March 16th, 2012, Nancy was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma—otherwise known as breast cancer. Through living with this disease, Nancy has been learning to trust the way her spirit dances though all things and reform what to her is yoga. (www.paperbirchyoga.com)
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Editor: Bryonie Wise