All healthy cells have a pre-programmed life cycle. However if cells do not replicate correctly they may not have this ‘used by’ date. They are ‘eternal’ cells, which we refer to as cancer cells.
Cancer cells circulate in our bodies all the time. Ordinarily our immune system will take care of them, however if other factors enter the equation such as poor diet, inactivity, or possibly a virus or trauma of some form, the immune system may be compromised and under perform. This can result in these cancer cells evolving into tumours.
A high functioning immune system is the best defence against getting cancer, or in fact any disease. So the question is ‘what do I have to do to boost my immune system so that it can prevent cancerous cells developing into a tumour?’ And if tumours are already present, ‘how can I supercharge my immune system in order to kill those tumours?’
From a nutritional perspective it is not complicated, but from a habit perspective it may require some effort.
Firstly, you have to eat right if you are going to avoid cancer, or beat it if it is already present. Choosing a way of eating is a very personal thing. It will be influenced by your tastes, circumstances, finances, family and your starting point among many other factors. Also, don’t be distracted by whether you need to lose weight or don’t need to lose weight. Eat for health. A healthy weight follows good health – along with healthy arteries, a healthy heart and a disease free life. While I recommend you make your own choices, over time I’ve come to some conclusions that may help simplify things for you. So, when you bring it all together it comes down to this: Aim to consume a variety of foods with a focus on micronutrients from plants. This is premised on the Mediterranean Diet (of ancient and modern Greece and southern Italy), generally recognised as one of the healthiest diets to follow.
1. Eat whole foods. Aim to eat mostly plants including vegetables and fruits, legumes and pulses, and some whole, unprocessed grains (such as spelt wheat).
2. Eat fish and seafood in small quantities regularly. Eat small amounts of meat rarely.
3. Occasionally eat eggs and nuts. Consume small amounts of whole (unhomogenised) dairy (cheese and yoghurt). I prefer goat’s cheese or yoghurt.
4. Eat fresh, not packaged. Eliminate any refined or processed products including meat, seafood, dairy or carbohydrates.
5. Don’t eat too much of any one thing. For example wheat / bread / pasta or rice.
6. Eat for health and wellbeing, not weight loss.
7. Don’t be obsessive. Be open to new information.
8. Don’t impose dietary doctrines on children. Their needs and tastes are different to adults and change with age. Try to keep them away from processed carbohydrates, sugar, processed meats and foods cooked with seed oils. Ensure they drink plenty of water, enjoy fruit, and eat vegetables. Active kids need lots of energy and whole grains are a good source of fuel. Oat porridge, spelt bread, brown or basmati rice are all good. White commercial breads are not recommended.
Often the difficulty with implementing a healthy diet is not in understanding good nutrition but in changing old, unhealthy ways of eating that may have existed since childhood. It is easy to understand good nutrition but changing habits is another story altogether.
There may also be a perception that changing your diet is time consuming and difficult. The pressures of the typical contemporary lifestyle, the inherent time stresses, and the availability of convenience foods have become a trap. Overwhelmingly, the key to success is the strength of your desire to eat well for the sake of your health, and for the health of your family.
This is the basis of eating well and being well. Pursuing a diet like this will give you more energy and keep you free from lifestyle diseases because it stimulates your immune function. Trying to boost your immune system while eating a less than adequate diet will not work.
With the foundation of a healthy diet in place you can now add in other elements that will supercharge your immune system – and these are the same elements that aid in post-op recovery if surgery has been required.
This nutrition plan is not so much an elimination of foods that conflict with your efforts to avoid chronic disease, but rather replacing bad for good. The really interesting thing here is that as you pursue this nutrition plan it will become self perpetuating – your body really ‘wants’ these foods and so by pursuing these various factors you will find that your body will start reject unhealthy food naturally. I found that after about three weeks on this plan it felt like my body only wanted the good stuff and things like red meat and sugar became repellent, a bit like someone who has given up cigarettes and then really dislikes smoking. This is what you can do:
1. Alkalise your diet. Immune function peaks in an alkaline environment. Eat alkaline foods – very simple: fruits and vegetables, in abundance. Animal products are all acidifying. Red meat, processed meat etc. are all to be avoided. Some fish is fine (once a day at most). Three to four eggs per week will help if you are active. The specific guideline is 0.8 grams per kilogram of lean body weight. However the plants that you eat are also abundant in proteins (amino acids) so you need to factor that in too (it is these proteins that cattle get from grass).
The acidifying component of any food is protein. And it turns out that there is such a thing as ‘too much of a good thing’. Excess protein causes a condition known as acidosis, which triggers a flood of free radicals which in turn can become cancerous.
The most acidifying foods are beef, cheese, dairy in general, and processed meats like bacon and peperoni.
2. Enzyme smoothies. These help your body heal – big time. Put fresh sprouts, fruit, and fresh orange juice in a blender. Sprouts are very important – the mother lode of enzymes. Enzymes are proteins that enable metabolic processes. They enable your body to heal, while also helping to alkalise your blood.
3. Freshly squeezed orange juice after every meal. Fresh orange juice provides the enzymes to digest the food you just ate properly, provides a huge alkaline boost, and also the sugars that transport the nutrients in the food.
4. Juicing. There are plenty of arguments about juicing vegetables, however if you are supercharging your immune system this is very helpful. Juicing provides an abundance of enzymes, many micronutrients and alkalinity. Very useful to do.
5. No glucose (refined sugar / added sugar) – at all. Cancer cells make energy anaerobically and are therefore dependent on glucose for fuel. This includes processed foods like noodles, white bread, pastries etc. – refined starch is pure glucose.
This excludes ‘sugars’ in fruit. Sugar in fruit behaves very differently to refined sugars. Please don’t exclude fruit from your diet in the mistaken belief that it contains sugar. Fruit has a strong alkalising affect which straight away tells us that fruit sugar is okay, as refined sugar is acidifying.
6. Forget about alcohol. It will destroy all of the above efforts by doing the complete opposite to what you are trying to achieve. Very sorry!
7. What you shouldn’t do. Australians consume billions of dollars worth of supplements each year and there is no evidence that they work. The science tells us that they can’t work – vitamins and other micronutrients perform in combination, in food. Over the counter supplements are either a waste of money or potentially harmful, as I think everyone with cupboards full of half empty bottles of supplements knows. The exception to this is professionally prescribed supplements from your naturopath which are purposed to solve a specific problem.
If you have concerns please see a naturopath. They can also help you with your diet if you are struggling with that side of things. (Please note: naturopaths are university qualified health professionals who have studied nutrition in detail).
When I was doing my cancer treatment I had been given bad advice about taking certain supplements which ultimately were discovered to be blocking the functions of my principle treatment. As Hypocrites famously said – let food be thy medicine. This is what your body understands, not massive over doses of ‘important nutrients’. If you over supply nutrients to your garden the plants will start to die. A similar principle can happen in your body when you over supply particular nutrients.
8. Exercise. This is the last thing most people want to hear. As a personal trainer for many years I have heard every excuse in the book. However disease doesn’t listen to excuses. Make up your mind – get fit or die? This was always the case, but now that disease is making you revisit this idea there is only one answer – you must do exercise if you want to be well and fully recover.
Your health is directly dependent on your metabolism. Your metabolism comprises the biochemical systems that make your body function properly – for example insulin is a biochemical system that regulates glucose levels and fat storage. There are many of these systems and they are all dependent on activity in order to function properly – and most notably exercise and movement enables these systems to successfully interact.
Your health, through your lifetime, is inevitably associated with the amount of activity carried out over the entire day. It does not have to be intense. Housework, the garden – basically just being on your feet and moving, as in low level but ongoing exercise. For my recovery from surgery I had a policy of just being on my feet as much as possible. I washed dishes, the car, mowed the lawn or just walked. It worked. I was doing box jumps just four weeks after surgery. After eight weeks I was doing a full range of loaded exercise in my gym.