Nutrition and Cancer

Can the right foods cure cancer?

When it comes to getting unsolicited advice about nutrition and cancer, the only thing that may be worse than being a cancer patient is being pregnant. 


“Raw foods can cure cancer!”

“Johns Hopkins says sugar feeds cancer!”

“I recommend avoiding blueberries.  They interfere with chemotherapy.”


None of these statements is true.


But even if they were, no one likes being preached to.  It’s like telling someone they should quit smoking.  We all know!  Now shut up. 


First and foremost, my philosophy regarding nutrition and cancer is to support patient choice.  If you don’t have the slightest interest in what diet can do for you, read no further!  Changing one's diet isn't for everyone.


But if you’re interested in evaluating the evidence for cancer diets, read on.

Let’s cut through the crap. 
What are the facts about nutrition and cancer?

Very simply, the conventional wisdom is wrong.  This “wisdom” says that alternative cancer treatment using diet and nutrition is worthless.  


People even claim that that there are no peer-reviewed studies on nutrition and cancer or specific cancer diets.  “It’s all anecdotal!  Self help doesn’t work!”    

Is this true?  

No. Doctors and cancer centers tend to argue against specific diets for cancer patients.  They are afraid that a focus on diet, nutrition for cancer, or other self help strategies will lead people away from conventional therapies.


There is very little evidence that this happens.  


Patients do not usually pursue diet as their only treatment. They usually become open to an alternative route only as an adjunct to conventional therapy, or when their disease becomes terminal.  


And the good news is that focusing on nutrition and cancer can do a lot for you whichever category you are in.

What can nutrition offer?

“Food is medicine.” — Hippocrates.


Modern medicine has all but forgotten this simple principle.  There are many studies that lend support to the idea that nutritional changes can lengthen and improve the quality of life of a cancer patient, especially terminal cancer patients. I discuss the scientific publications providing this evidence much more on the Gerson and Macrobiotic Diets and Ketogenic Diet pages.  


In some cases, proper nutrition may even be capable of regressing terminal disease (1-4). 


We don’t fully know how dietary therapies help to offer healing.  There is indirect evidence that it can bolster immune health, but it is possible that the positive thinking or self help alone may have powerful healing effects.

But what about my doctor’s nutrition advice?

Oncologists often recommend that patients eat foods like cakes, cookies, and crackers because they are appetizing and can help keep a patient’s weight up.  


This may be true.  But these foods are also devoid of important nutrition that cancer patients very much need.  


Many doctors and cancer centers say they don’t believe food makes a difference in cancer treatment.  But if that’s true, why do they often issue recommendations against blueberry consumption? 


There is no evidence in the medical literature to suggest that antioxidants from blueberries or other foods will interfere with chemotherapy.  And there is a lot of evidence that proper nutrition for cancer patients helps them retain muscle mass and a higher quality of life throughout their conventional treatment.


In fact, all of the evidence points in the opposite direction when it comes to antioxidants, and even high levels of IV vitamin C seem helpful (5, 6). If you get advice for food avoidances from your doctor or cancer center, ask them for the rationale.

So what can I do to improve my nutrition?

Your body is under a lot of stress.  Your healthy cells need fuel to survive.  They also need nutrients to properly perform their functions.  


White bread products and sugar are universally recognized as unhealthy and non-nutritious from a standpoint of providing vitamins and minerals.  This doesn’t suddenly change when you become a cancer patient.


So, at a minimum:

Here are the basics!

  • Eat only whole foods.  Shop the edges of the grocery store, rather than the aisles.
  • Eat a wide variety of colorful vegetables, including starchy vegetables like potatoes.  Eat the rainbow!
  • You don’t need to eat vegetables raw.  Many vegetables should be eaten cooked, such as beans.  
  • Vegetables such as kale, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and cabbage offer important benefits. Eat as much as possible.
  • Fruits should be limited, and should be mostly berries. 
  • Eat any wild-caught fish.  Sardines are an excellent and cheap source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are very important.
  • Eat eggs and meat from organic or free-range poultry.  
  • Eat organ meats and bone broth from organic, free-range, or grass-fed animals.  I recognize that meats like liver, heart, and kidney are distasteful to many people and not typically eaten in Western societies.  But they’re loaded with vitamins that are important for a properly functioning immune system.
  • Eat organic to the greatest extent possible.
  • Healthy fats are OK, specifically grass-fed butter, olive oil, and coconut oil.
  • Drink juiced vegetables daily.  Vegetables that can easily be juiced include romaine, kale, parsley, endive, radicchio, carrots, beets, celery, and Swiss chard.  Aim for 3-6 eight ounce cups.

Why vegetable juice?

If you do not own a juicer, I highly recommend buying one.  Juicing vegetables accomplishes three things.


  • Juicing concentrates the phytonutrients.  It is much easier for cancer patients to drink a few cups of juice than to chew platefuls of vegetables.  3.5 pounds of carrots will juice down to roughly 3 cups of carrot juice, for instance.  
  • Juicing breaks open the cell walls and releases the nutrients, leaving less work for your digestive system to perform.  Too much fiber can be irritating to the gut.  The Omega juicer will eliminate a lot of fiber.
  • Juices are more tolerable and appetizing for cancer patients than eating platefuls of vegetables, especially because vegetable juice can be mixed with small amounts of fruit juice.  

“Foods” to avoid

  • Boxed or canned food (so-called “processed” food)
  • Alcohol
  • Sugar, including soft drinks or store-bought juices
  • Anything artificial, including sweeteners
  • Grains, especially white bread products like crackers, cakes, cookies, and so on 
  • Most dairy, except for yogurt
  • Cured, charred, or barbecued meat

Water

Filter your drinking water and drink as much of it as you can. 

Filter your shower water, too, to avoid exposure to chlorine through your skin.  It’s easy and cheap.

Special Cancer Diets

If you are interested in learning more about nutrition and cancer, or specific cancer diets to pursue as a frontline therapy, these two pages will be indispensable:

Gerson and Macrobiotic Diets 

Ketogenic Diet

If you have melanoma or glioblastoma, both pages are essential reading.  Of course, I highly recommend them for all cancer patients.

Useful Items

I suggest three basic items in getting started with your healthy changes, and I use these products in my own home as well: a shower head filter, a drinking water filter that removes radiological toxins, and a juicer.  


Just visit my Amazon Store and hit the "Basic Products" tab!


Don't have a good source of organic, grass-fed meat in your local area? Slanker Grass-Fed Meat will ship right to your home.  Easy! 


Always seek the advice of your nutritionist, physician, or cancer center before undertaking any diet or exercise program, and get monitored with regular blood tests by your doctor or cancer center.

Return to Home Page

Gerson and Macrobiotic Diets

Ketogenic Diet

References

(1) Hildenbrand GLG, Hildenbrand CL. Bradford K, Cavin SW. 1995. Five-Year Survival Rates of Melanoma Patients Treated by Diet Therapy after the manner of Gerson: a retrospective review.  Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 1: 29-37.

(2) Gerson M. 1978. The cure of advanced cancer by diet therapy: a summary of 30 years of clinical experimentation. Physiol Chem Phys 10(5):449-464

(3) Molassiotis A, and Peat, P.  2007.  Surviving Against All Odds: Analysis of 6 Case Studies of Patients With Cancer Who Followed the Gerson Therapy.  Integrative Cancer Therapies 6(1): 80-88.

(4) Kushi LH, Cunningham JE, Hebert JR, Lerman RH, Bandera EV, Teas J. 2001.  The Macrobiotic Diet in Cancer.  Journal of Nutrition 131: 3056S-3064S.

(5) Riordan NH, Riordan HD, Meng X, Li Y, Jackson JA. 1995. Intravenous ascorbate as a tumor cytotoxic chemotherapeutic agent. Med Hypotheses 44: 207-2 13.

(6) Chen Q, Espey MG, Krishna MC, Mitchell JB, Corpe CP, Buettner GR, Shacter E, Levine M.  2005. Pharmacologic ascorbic acid concentrations selectively kill cancer cells: action as a pro-drug to deliver hydrogen peroxide to tissues. PNAS. 102(38):13604-9.