Originally published in September-October 2004 icon
By Ginny Fraser
We've all heard the saying "One mans meat is another mans poison", but two quite distinct disciplines for identifying our highly individualised dietary needs are showing that this is literally true.
Metabolic typing and blood typing are two kinds of dietary technologies that cast a whole new light on the concept of "the ideal cancer diet".
Here we look at Metabolic Typing, the theory that some foods are bad for everyone (and we all know what they are: refined sugar, processed foods, partially hydrogenated oils) but that there are also good foods that are bad for you and bad foods that are good for you.
Before you rush out for a McDonald's in exasperation at yet more confusion about what to eat, read on. According to the science of Metabolic Typing, the style by which your body produces and processes energy determines your Type and consequently the diet that will help you to optimum health. And it may mean that foods you previously thought were unhealthy could come back on the menu though probably not the McDonald's).
It's a system that has rigorous science behind it and a prestigious pedigree, including Dr William Kelley, a US dentist who strongly believed that each of us has our own personal metabolic code. Through identifying this unique metabolism and with his work on pancreatic enzymes, he successfully treated cancer patients for many decades, and his work was taken up - and continued today to critical acclaim - by Dr Nicholas Gonzales.
There are also good foods that are bad for you, and bad foods that are good for you
William L. Wolcott worked as Kelley's assistant for eight years and later took the understanding of metabolism to a deeper level. Dr Harold Kristal, a former pupil of Wolcott's, is another foremost practitioner in the US, while in the UK Dr Etienne Callebout is an enthusiastic proponent of Metabolic Typing.
With this system you are assessed according to the acidity or alkalinity of your blood - the ideal level being 7.46 - mildly alkaline. The usual view is that most of us - especially people with cancer - are too acid (from eating meat, sugary and processed foods) and we should eat alkalising foods like vegetables. But this might not be the best course of action. Wolcott's research centres on the metabolism - the sum total of all physiological and biochemical reactions in the body to sustain life. He states that although hundreds of thousands of biochemical reactions take place on a daily basis, they all fall under the regulation of a handful of fundamental homeostatic controls" (FHCs). Wolcott's system recognises nine FHCs, with two having primary and specific influence on diet - the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and the Oxidative System (OS).
The Autonomic Nervous System
This has two sub-branches - the Sympathetic and the Parasympathetic - which work in opposition to each other to maintain metabolic balance and efficiency. For instance, the Sympathetic nervous system speeds up the heart rate, while the Parasympathetic slows it. They work together to achieve the proper heart rate as well as the functioning of other organs and glands, which are "switched on' by the SNS, and "switched oft' by the PNS. Some people inherit stronger organs and glands that are stimulated by the Sympathetic division, and these are known as Sympathetic Dominant Metabolic Types. Those with organs stronger in the Parasympathetic are known as Parasympathetic Dominant Metabolic Types. Those relatively balanced are of the Balanced Dominant Metabolic Type.
The Oxidative System
The other significant control is the Oxidative System which concerns the rate at which nutrients are converted to energy in all of the body's trillions of cells. Within this group there are Fast Oxidisers, who are poor at metabolising fats and overly reliant on carbohydrates for energy. These people burn carbohydrates too quickly but increased amounts of certain fats and proteins help balance them and normalise their energy production. Slow Oxidisers also have problems with deficient energy production and do better on more carbohydrates and less fat and protein in their diets.
The nine types mentioned earlier are combinations involving the pairing of the two types and are as follows:
In 1983, Wolcott discovered that within each pair one FHC will be dominant - either Automatic or Oxidative and the significance of this is that whichever control mechanism is dominant will dictate how nutrients behave in your body. Wolcott's principle, "The Dominance Factor", effectively explained why a diet that makes you healthy, fit and trim can make your friend unhealthy, unfit and overweight. Different foods are used to balance (among other things) the pH of the blood, which helps upgrade or optimise all the systems of the body. Wolcott found that foods that acidify members of one group, alkalise members of the other, and vice versa.
Foods lower in protein and fat and higher in carbohydrate (like most fruits and vegetables) acidify the blood of the Oxdisers, but alkalise blood of Autonomic types. Foods higher in protein and fat (eg meat) alkalise the blood of the Oxidisers, but acidify the blood of Autonomics.
The theory is that when a person is metabolically balanced, many disease symptoms subside, and that when you eat incorrectly for your Metabolic Type it is like putting the wrong fuel in your engine - the body is simply unable to function efficiently. This failure to meet ones genetically-based nutritional requirements for the Metabolic Type initially produces sub-clinical symptoms such as lowered energy, aches and pains, stiffness, depression, anxiety, constipation, insufficient digestion, etc. But left uncorrected, these conditions can develop into full-blown degenerative diseases like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity and so on.
The theory does explain why there seems to be no "perfect" diet to suit everyone. William Kelley discovered this himself when he recovered from cancer using a mainly vegetarian diet, which, when applied to his sick wife, only made her sicker. When he gave her some beef broth she perked up and recovered!
What Type Am I?
There are various ways to determine your Metabolic Type. Wolcott's book, "The Metabolic Typing Diet, Doubleday 2000", contains 65 questions to help you identify your type, and is termed a "basic' method. Questions might relate to how you feel after having a large salad for lunch (if it satisfies then you are more likely to be a Sympathetic Slow Oxidiser), or if you are often hungry (which means you are more likely to be a Parasympathetic and Fast Oxidiser.
Whichever control mechanism is dominant will dictate how nutrients behave in your body
More in-depth analyses are available for a price (between 75 and 490) from Wolcott's organisation, Healthexcel (http://www.healthexcel.com). These range from on-line questionnaires and advisor support through to a comprehensive programme (recommended for people with cancer) which involves various physiological home tests and a hair analysis which will provide an analysis of all the nine FHCs, and a detailed spec of supplementation, detox and lifestyle change recommendations.
Enough Of The Science, What Do I Actually Eat?
As described earlier, within each dominance system (Oxidisers and Autonomics) there is both an acid and an alkaline blood type. So there are two acid blood types - the Fast Oxidiser and the Sympathetic - and two alkaline blood types - the Slow Oxidiser and the Parasympathetic. But here comes the tricky bit. Instead of putting the acid types on one diet and the alkaline types on another, the way it works out is that the acid member of one dominance system shares the same diet with the alkaline member of the other dominance system.
The tomato acidifies the Oxidisers
Lets take some common, generally considered healthy, foods to demonstrate the principle, the tomato and spinach. The tomato acidifies the Oxidisers. This is good news for the Slow Oxidiser as it would help with over-alkalinity, but it wouldn't help the Fast Oxidiser's already acid blood and would tend to exacerbate the condition. For the Automonics, then, the opposite is true - the tomato is alkalising. Good news for the Sympathetic (who runs on the acid side) but bad for the Parasympathetic (alkaline).
Spinach, on the other hand is alkalising for the Oxidisers, so for the Slow Oxidiser (over-alkaline) it is undesirable, while doing a power of good to the Fast Oxidiser The reverse is true for the Autonomic Group - spinach is acidifying. Therefore good news for the Ps and bad for the Ss.
Are you still with me? If the whole thing makes no sense - don't worry. Take a look at what the two food groups involve.
In a nutshell, Slow Oxidiser / Sympathetic foods are lower in protein and fats and higher in complex carbohydrates. Fast Oxidiser / Parasympathetic foods are higher in protein and fats and lower in complex carbs. Its a logical system. The sluggish metabolism of the Slow Oxidiser is further slowed down by too much protein and fat but does well on complex carbohydrates (whole grains, fruit and vegetables), which provide the quick-burning fuel they need. The Sympathetics, on the other band, are running on nervous energy and too much protein and fat over-rev the engine of their already hyper metabolism, so their energy production is slowed down and balanced by the complex carbs.
Only in cases of gluten allergy should Group 1 types avoid wheat
According to Harold Kristal, another researcher in this field, what he calls "Group I" (for the Slow Oxidiser / Sympathetic) contain all grains, but states that wheat is best of all - quite a controversial view in the light of the general consensus about wheat and its high allergy-promoting quality. Only in cases of gluten allergy should Group 1 types avoid wheat which has an insulin-like effect helping Slow Oxidisers who tend to run higher blood sugar Group is can eat flesh proteins, but only poultry, and - another surprise - lean pork. As the diet is substantially lower in fats than the Group II (Fast Oxidiser / Parasympathetic) dairy sbould be limited and diet should be low or non-fat.
Group II types get what used to be the "politically incorrect" diet, until Atkins invaded the public consciousness with his high protein / high fat approach. Fast Oxidisers burn up carbohydrates too rapidly, and thus need higher protein and fat proportionately to normalize energy production. Parasympathetics tend to have somewhat sluggish systems that are worsened by the high potassium content of a bigb carb diet. The high protein intake in Group II foods diet will help move them into a greater balance by stimulating the weaker Sympathetic system.
Group II people should eat plenty of dark meat such as beef, lamb and liver; they can chow down on dairy (though not as a primary source of protein), but must avoid wheat and potatoes. It is important that Group IIs don't eat carbs on their own, but always have protein and fat with a meal. Whilst protein foods are pretty unlimited for the Group Is, their fruit and vegetable menu does have some restrictions, such as the nightshade family of potatoes, tomatoes, aubergine and peppers, and cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli. Fruits should be restricted to the less sweet varieties, like Granny Smith apples.
Vegetarians smoke 80% less, drink 60% less and are 80% less likely to be overweight
In terms of cancer, this approach raises some interesting questions and probably confuses many readers. "Hang on', you might be saying, "In The Tree of Life, Chris Woollams says that vegetarians have 40% less cancer" or, "Surely the Gerson therapy advocates a totally vegetarian diet?" and "What if I am a Fast Oxidiser / Parasympathetic, am I supposed to ignore all that?" Well, other statistics may put the vegetarian issue into perspective. As Woollams goes on to say, vegetarians smoke 80% less, drink 60% less and are 80% less likely to be overweight, so perhaps their avoidance of cancer is down to those factors as much as diet.
Wolcott's point of view is, "The immune system is highly dependent for its efficiency on the proper biochemical balance. Given the different genetically-based requirements for nutrition seen reflected in indigenous cultures all over the world, and given the clinical successes of metabolic typing over the past 25 years, it is not bard to understand that different people need different diets and different nutrient balances to optimise the immune system." He goes on to say, "If vegetarianism is so key, how can it be that cancer in the Eskimo culture where they eat 10 pounds of meat a day, huge amounts of fat, and NO CARBOHYDRATE, cancer is so rare that they did not even have a word for it in their language?!!"
What this debate highlights is that diet is a crucial area for anyone healing their cancer and they need to do their own research rather than rely on anecdotal information and received wisdom. Tiresome though it is, continuing to check out new or different information seems to be part of the package for those intent on recovery.