Radically Changing Your Diet
No Sweets, No Meat, No Dairy, No Refined Foods
The vast majority of the Radical Remission survivors I continue to research talk about how they reduce or eliminate sweets (sugar), meat, dairy products, and refined foods from their diets in order to help themselves heal. Let’s start with sugar. There has been a lot of talk about sugar and cancer, and for good reason. It is an indisputable fact that cancer cells consume (i.e., metabolize) sugar – glucose – at a much faster rate than normal cells do. This is precisely how a PET scan (positron emission tomography) works: first, you drink a glass of glucose, and then the scan detects where that glucose is being metabolized the fastest in your body. Those glucose “hot spots” are the areas in your body that are most likely cancerous. While researchers are still not clear whether a high-sugar diet causes cancer, what we do know is that once cancer cells are in your body, they consume anywhere from ten to fifty times more glucose than normal cells do. Therefore, it makes logical sense for cancer patients to cut as much refined sugar from their diets as possible, in order to avoid “feeding” their cancer cells, and instead rely on the glucose found naturally in vegetables and fruits. Knowing that the average American eats the equivalent of twenty-two teaspoons of sugar a day – when we should only eat six to nine teaspoons at most – means there is much room for improvement, whether or not we are currently dealing with cancer.
One Radical Remission survivor who changed his diet – and, in particular, cut sugar from his diet – is a man named “Ron.” Ron was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of fifty-four. His blood tests came back positive for prostate cancer (Gleason score of 6 and PSA level of 5.2), and he tested positive for cancer on two out of twelve biopsy samples. Therefore, his doctors recommended immediate surgery to remove his entire prostate. However, Ron had recently heard of someone who had healed his cancer through nutrition, so Ron wanted first to look into that option. There was no integrative oncologist or nutritionist with whom to talk in his rural town, so he started reading books and articles that explained how cancer cells consume lots of sugar and how many typical American foods, such as white potatoes and white bread, contain it. After a few weeks of intense research, Ron decided to postpone the surgery for a little while and try radically changing his diet instead:
Cancer was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, because I was always pretty keen on fitness, but I did not eat that well. I was a big-time sugar junkie. . . . [To get rid of my cancer,] I eliminated sugar and everything white. No white potatoes, no white bread—that sort of thing. And I ate a lot of greens and did a lot of juicing of cabbage, which I still do, but not as frequently as I could. . . . Cancers are anaerobic . . . and glucose is a nitrogen shuttle, which feeds them. So, if you can just cut off that [glucose] shuttle supply, the cancer is not going to make it.
After changing his diet in this way, Ron’s PSA dropped down to a healthy 1.3 in less than a year – and he avoided having his prostate surgically removed, which can have permanent, negative side effects on urinary and sexual function. He has been cancer-free now for more than seven years.
Using Herbs And Supplements
Supplements Alone May Not Be Enough
While the participants in my research laud the benefits of supplements to help a sick body regain balance and health, they are also quick to note that one should not rely on supplements as magic bullets. Unfortunately, Americans in general have grown quite passive about taking care of their bodies. Many people think they can treat their bodies however they want and then simply take a pill when things start to go wrong. For instance, when their blood pressure is high, they think first to take a pill instead of reducing their stress and increasing their sleep. When their back chronically aches, they think first to pop a pain pill instead of reducing the amount of time they spend sitting in a chair during the day and increasing the amount of exercise they do each week.
Similarly, the solution to cancer is not only to take supplements. Supplements certainly have a place; they make up for vital nutrients and minerals not often found in today’s food supply, and they help the body detoxify the chemicals from our modern environment. Nevertheless, they are not the single solution.
One Radical Remission survivor who feels strongly about this is a natural healing advocate named Chris Wark. At only twenty-six years old, Chris was shocked to be diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer and was immediately rushed into surgery. Although the surgery successfully removed a large tumor from his colon, his doctors still insisted on chemotherapy because the cancer had also spread to his lymph nodes. Much to their dismay, Chris refused the chemotherapy, saying that he first wanted to try more natural methods of healing. His doctors told him he was “insane.”
Nevertheless, Chris went forward with this plan and radically changed his diet along the lines of what we saw in chapter 1. He then looked for someone to advise him on which supplements to take, which led him to clinical nutritionist John Smothers at the Integrative Wellness and Research Center in Memphis, Tennessee. John was the first person to tell Chris that he had done the right thing by refusing chemo and, instead, changing his diet and lifestyle, and this made John an instant ally and friend. Chris describes his supplement use this way:
Along with a strict anticancer diet, my nutritionist recommended many different nutraceutical-grade herbal supplements to address issues common to all cancer patients: liver detoxification, Candida/ fungal overgrowth, parasites, suppressed immune function, and nutritional deficiencies. However, a radical change of diet and lifestyle is foundational to healing; supplements are “supplemental.” The right supplements can provide additional support to the healing functions in the body, but if you are not willing to make necessary changes to your diet and lifestyle, supplements won’t do you much good. In other words, if you keep eating processed food, drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, and not moving your body, you are not likely to see much benefit from supplements. Taking supplements without a radical change of diet and lifestyle is like fighting a house fire with a squirt gun.
Less than a year after his diagnosis Chris was declared cancer-free, and things have stayed that way since 2004. His doctors were and continue to be baffled, but Chris is not; he is convinced that the major changes he made in terms of diet, lifestyle, and supplements were what led to his healing.
Increasing Positive Emotions
What Are Positive Emotions?
The positive emotions Radical Remission survivors try to experience on a daily basis are happiness, joy, and love. The definitions of the words “happiness” and “joy” most people can agree on, but the use of the word “love” in this chapter may require further explanation.
In this book, I discuss three types of love. The first type is the feeling you get when you love yourself, your life, and others. It is a feeling of love that comes from within you and that you then project outward into your life. The second type of love is received by you from others; it is also called “social support.” I purposefully separated these two kinds of love – that which you give to yourself and others versus that which you receive – because the participants in my research talk about them as two distinct actions, and also because not everyone excels at both. Finally, the third type of love, discussed in chapter 8, is an unconditional and spiritual type of love, which has no sense of separateness, no sense of “you” or “I.”
This chapter focuses on the first type of love, which is the love, along with the happiness and joy, you create in your own life and then spread to others. One Radical Remission survivor who really focuses on this first type of love is Efrat Livny. Efrat was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer at the age of forty-nine, ironically only four years after she had left her high-stress job in order to enjoy life more. While she used a wide variety of both conventional and alternative treatments in order to address her cancer, increasing positive emotions was, for her, one of the most important steps she took:
From the very early stages of my cancer journey, it was clear to me that I would not declare battle but rather find ways to accept and befriend this new and unexpected chapter in my life. I knew that in order to do so, what I needed most was to find gratitude, joy, and fun in my life—as often and as much as I was able. Chemo presented a huge challenge for me. I could feel fear and resistance welling up in me as I prepared for my first treatment. Somehow, in the midst of it all, I thought that the right pair of shoes would make all the difference. So, I got myself a pair of purple Converse high-tops. They made me smile when I walked into that room. . . . It was those things – joy, fun, kindness, and gratitude – that became my true medicine.
Efrat has now been cancer-free for more than twelve years, and she still makes sure that joy, love, and happiness are part of her daily health regimen.
Excerpted from RADICAL REMISSION by Kelly A. Turner, Ph.D., reprinted with permission by HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright 2014.