Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and is responsible for 30% of all deaths. It is estimated that an average of 555 Canadians are diagnosed with cancer every day and an average of 216 Canadians die from cancer every day. Lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer are the most common types of cancer, accounting for half of all new cancer cases. Are we winning the war on cancer? I think not. Perhaps the medical orthodox view that cancer is primarily a genetic disease needs rethinking and revisiting.
Cancer As A Metabolic Disease
While cancer is most commonly treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, emerging evidence is now indicating that regulating the metabolic functions within our bodies may be the real solution for treating cancer. According to Dr. Tom Seyfried, we have misunderstood the nature of cancer and the fundamental question is: is cancer a genetic or metabolic disease? The answer to this question is important because it alters our solutions. The academic and pharma industries view cancer as a genetic disease – that is the current dogma. Sometimes cancer is also just viewed as bad luck.
Otto Warburg (German medical doctor, cell biologist and Nobel laureate) stated that cancer occurs from the damage to our mitochondria and cancer cells have a defect in respiration and, as a result, they compensate through fermentation. Dr. Warburg discovered that cancer cells are unable to flourish using energy produced from cellular respiration. By removing carbohydrates from the diet, the glucose which would feed the cancer cells is eliminated, thus the idea that you can deplete cancer cells of their energy supply. Based on this info – Dr. Seyfried has put together observations seen in cancer based on a metabolic underpin. What are some of the reasons that the mitochondria in our cells may become damaged? Things like environmental toxins, carcinogens in our food supply, accumulation of bad food choices like oxidized vegetable oils or too much sugar, viruses (such as hepatitis C, Papilloma, Epstein Barr), inflammation, and even advancing age (unfortunately the one variable that none of us can alter!). All of the aforementioned environmental irritants applied to me. At time of my cancer diagnosis in 2012, I had believed my disease to be a combination of bad luck and bad genetics (and I have a lot of challenging genetics). I have changed my views about this. I believe that my downward spiral into cancer stemmed from, in large part, mitochondrial damage. So for me, the metabolic theory of cancer certainly rings true.
I consult and speak regularly with Dr. Nasha Winters and Dr. Kirsten West from Optimal Terrain Consulting in Durango Colorado. My goal is to continue my momentum towards achieving an “optimal terrain”. For those of you who may not be familiar with this expression, you may be wondering what I mean by terrain? I mean everything about the internal environment – mind, body and spirit. Optimizing your terrain involves a different way of thinking about your health – uncovering the “WHY” as well as the “WHAT”. Understanding the WHY begins with turning over every stone to uncover underlying imbalances in the body that contributed to the cancer diagnosis. To quote Louis Pasteur – “it is not the germs we need to worry about – it is our inner terrain”.
Dr. Nasha Winters (along with co-author Jess Higgins Kelley, MNT) have a much anticipated book “The Metabolic Approach to Cancer: Integrating Deep Nutrition, the Ketogenic Diet, and Nontoxic Bio-Individualized Therapies”, coming out in May 2017. This book drives home the message that there are many variables of your health that are in your control and outlines how to make the changes necessary to optimize health, defeat cancer and prevent cancer.
The Ketogenic Diet As Cancer Treatment
For those with active cancer, early research suggests that a very low-carb, or ketogenic diet may be safely used as an adjuvant therapy to conventional treatments and may enhance cancer cell therapeutic responses. There are currently 11 trials assessing ketogenic diets as an adjuvant cancer therapy. One preliminary report suggests that patients who were able to continue the ketogenic diet for over 3 months showed improvement with a stable physical condition, tumor shrinkage or slowed growth. A recent study found that ketone supplementation extended the survival of mice with metastatic cancer. However, almost no studies on ketone supplementation have been used in human clinical trials.
A ketogenic diet being used therapeutically to treat cancer is slightly different than a normal ketogenic diet. The fat content in the former is significantly higher (up to 90% of calories) while the protein content is lower (5-10%).
Most cancer cells feed off carbs or blood sugar in order to grow and multiply. By eating a ketogenic diet, your metabolic processes are altered and your blood sugar levels go down. It is thought that this will starve the cancer cells so that they will grow more slowly, decrease in size or possibly die. Additionally, eliminating carbs can lower calorie intake, which reduces the amount of energy available to the cells in your body and may slow down tumor growth. Because cancer cells cannot use ketones as fuels, the ketones may reduce tumor size and growth.
I have been following the Optimal Terrain protocol for a year and a half now, which includes eating a ketogenic diet. I won’t say that it is easy to follow this way of eating – after all, restricting carbohydrate intake to only 35 grams or less a day is not easy. In fact, some days it can be damn hard. But I have been eating this way now for 15 months and I feel better than I ever have with even energy (no more urge to nap in the afternoons), great mental clarity and focus, and significantly reduced allergies. Not only do I feel great, I have confirmation from blood tests that this diet is working wonders for me, as blood tests show that I have come a long way towards optimizing my terrain. For example, I have lowered insulin levels, lowered cholesterol, significantly lowered inflammation and kept cancer at bay. And I can feel the difference in my body.
I’ve had many people say to me, “How can you eat this way? It’s so hard. I sure couldn’t do it.”
My response is usually something along the lines of, “Yes, the keto diet is hard. But cancer is hard. You have to choose your hard in life.”
I choose the keto diet.