The Principles Of Healthy Eating And Cancer

Changing your diet to beat cancer

By Chris Woollams

Before we start to develop a healthy eating plan, let us look at some other already established views on what healthy eating means in either a preventative or corrective sense. The important thing is to learn sensible values long before you might have cancer. If you have cancer, review the information in this book carefully and slowly. Psychotherapist Rollo May concluded, "It is an old ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way." Before you do anything, find your way.


(a) The Macrobiotic Diet


Some argue that this established, hundred-year-old viewpoint places too much emphasis on cooked rather than raw foods. However, it is worth a brief review for the important principles behind it.

Unlike most modern-day diets, many of which give the feeling of having been created or invented often with slimming in mind, macrobiotics is best described by the phrase ’back to basics’.


Open quotesThe concept of macrobiotics is not focussed on dietClose quotes

The term itself comes from the Greek: macro meaning great or long and biotic meaning, concerning life. The original word was attributed to Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine. However the concept of macrobiotics is not focussed on diet per se but rather the ancient Chinese belief that all life, indeed the whole universe, is a balance of two opposing forces Yin and Yang.

One’s environment, one’s lifestyle, one’s diet and one’s health are all interlinked, as is one’s soul, to the greater universe and the community at large. A disease in an individual is an affliction on the community, a measure of its failings, and cannot be thought of as separate or confined to the individual.

Between 1896 and 1907 a Japanese army officer who was, even then, deeply concerned at the Westernisation of the traditional Japanese diet, implored the Japanese people to re-embrace their traditional healthy values. Sagen Ishizuka went ’back to basics’ and stated his fundamental belief that the food we eat not only sustains life, it makes for our basic health and happiness. He set up a clinic and started to treat hundreds of patients with the principles of Yin and Yang, and his traditional Japanese peasant diet. His fame and success brought him the title of the ’antidoctor’!

In the 1950s George Ohsawa brought the macrobiotic principles and diet to the West. Michio Kushi consolidated this and there is a Kushi Institute in London.

The modern macrobiotic diet is not dissimilar to the diet still used by Okinawans. Surrounded by a coral sea, their diet has less carbohydrate (and therefore calories) than even the Japanese diet, and small amounts of protein from fish and vegetables. They have an extremely high organic mineral intake, the lowest cancer rates in the world bar none, and an average life expectancy of 81.2 years, the highest in the world.


Open quotesThe modern macrobiotic diet is not dissimilar to the diet still used by OkinawansClose quotes

Yin elements in the macrobiotic diet are regarded as cold, slow, filling and weak; Yang in contrast is quick, dry and hard. Most disease, and especially cancer, is regarded as having a Yin cause. However for any individual all aspects of their life should be assessed by Yin and Yang principles, not just their diet. Any excess thought to be causing an illness can then be corrected or counterbalanced by providing foods of the opposite force.

The five basic principles are that:

1: 
Foods are the foundation of health and happiness.

2: 
Sodium and potassium are opposites in food, reflecting opposing Yin and Yang forces.

3: 
Man’s staple food is grain.

4: 
Food should be unrefined, whole and natural.

5: 
Food should be grown locally, ripe and consumed in season.

If you meet with a consultant concerning a cancer do not be surprised if he delves into everything in your past from diet to lifestyle, from illnesses to allergies.

He is likely to recommend a core diet, although it must be noted that a fundamental tenet of macrobiotics is that every one of us is an individual and one man’s grain is another man’s poison.

The core diet is likely to include:

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Whole grains (e.g. millet, barley, brown rice).

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Vegetables (including pulses and some fruits).

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Seaweed and sea vegetables.

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Fermented soya products (e.g. tofu, shoyu and miso soup).

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Regular consumption of oily fish.

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Monounsaturated oils.

» 
Japanese low caffeine green tea.


Open quotesEverything needs to be fresh, whenever possible, and freshly preparedClose quotes

Everything needs to be fresh, whenever possible, and freshly prepared. Freshly prepared juices may be recommended, but raw food may not at the outset, as even if vegetables are only blanched, cooked foods have more ’fire’, more energy. Dairy, sugar and meat are likely no-go foods. Organic food predominates and the diet may be extended to include exercise, yoga and even a little meditation.

A change to a macrobiotic diet and lifestyle has helped many people achieve a new health, and it has helped many cancer patients. It does require effort and time, but it does not have to be forever. Some people find its corrective action may only be needed for a year or so.


(b) The Gerson Therapy


The Gerson Therapy was developed by Dr Max Gerson (1881-1959) and first used in the 1920s as a treatment for an incurable form of TB, where he achieved phenomenal results. It must be understood from the outset that the Gerson Therapy is an extreme diet therapy used primarily by people who already have a chronic illness. It is however occasionally used in a preventative context.

Let us be quite clear. For many people, and particularly those for whom orthodox medicine had failed, the Gerson Therapy has been an important part of their ’cure’. "Suffering isn’t ennobling, recovery is" (Dr Christiaan Barnard). Many people have recovered with the Gerson Therapy.

The basic idea of the Therapy is to stimulate the body’s own immune defences to do what they normally do in a healthy body, whilst readjusting the balance of the molecules and atoms within the cells, returning them to levels normally found in healthy cells.


Open quotesThe theory is that a diseased body will simply restore itself to full
healthClose quotes

Once both parts of this Therapy are fully established the theory is that a diseased body will simply restore itself to full health. There is no doubt that this therapy has had notable successes, especially given that patients have often tried and failed with all available orthodox treatments beforehand.

In the case of cancer, diseased cells have been known to liquefy, which in itself creates a further problem. The process of breaking down tumours can be so effective that large amounts of toxins are released by the diseased cells into the bloodstream. However, the largest detoxification organ, namely the liver, is often seriously impaired when cancer is in the body and so it needs to be simultaneously cleansed and stimulated to deal with the extreme levels of toxins produced.

One method of achieving this is to stimulate the liver with up to five coffee enemas per day for a limited period, whilst using castor oil every other day. This causes the liver to expel its waste via increased levels of bile juices into the intestine.

The Therapy is arduous. A ten-hour day spent juicing plus making and using the coffee enemas is not unusual; and a period of two years to fully cleanse the body is not uncommon. The theory is that it takes a long time for the body to go through the multi-step cancer process, and so it takes an equally long time to restore it to full healthy working order.

Patients frequently experience ’healing reactions’ when large amounts of toxins are released into the blood system.

Dr Max Gerson was described by Dr Albert Schweitzer as, "one of the most eminent geniuses in medical history". He originally published A Cancer Therapy: Results of Fifty Cases over fifty years ago. His work is now driven by his 80 year old daughter Charlotte, who stresses that it is applicable to a host of diseases, not merely cancer, and that even healthy people should consider a period on the Therapy from time to time merely as a precautionary detox.


Open quotesThe Therapy aims to provide optimum nutritionClose quotes

The Therapy aims to provide optimum nutrition consisting of a deliberate over abundance of minerals, enzymes and vitamins, whilst avoiding the toxic pesticides and herbicides of normal food by using only organic versions.

The basic principles of the Therapy are:

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The use of only organic food to avoid pesticide and herbicide toxins.

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No animal fat or protein in the first eight weeks. Both milk and soya are banned to avoid the body receiving fats and protein, both of which have been found to ’feed’ cancer cells.

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No pulses (lentils, beans and, again, soya) to be consumed as they can prevent mineral uptake because of their phytic acid content.

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All water used for cooking or rinsing must be provided from distilled or reverse osmosis sources.

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Water must not be drunk as it dilutes the power of the juices. A little peppermint tea is allowed.

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Neither plastic nor tin foil may be used as it may contaminate food.

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The diet is limited to freshly made juices of vegetables, fruits and leaves, consumed within 20 minutes of preparation to avoid losses in enzyme effectiveness. Large quantities of raw fruit and vegetables are also consumed, along with some lightly steamed vegetables, stewed fruit, potatoes and oatmeal.

» 
The aim is to exclude sodium, whilst developing potassium intake. Fresh juices provide more easily absorbed and digested nutrients, whilst not taxing the bodily systems. The use of hourly juices over the length of the day also avoids calorie and, thus, insulin surges and actually limits the total number of calories consumed per day.

» 
Organic, in season, fresh vegetables and fruit are the ideal.

Absolutely essential to the diet therapy are:


  • Apples - raw.

  • Carrots - raw and lightly cooked.

  • Potatoes - baked, mashed or in potato salad.

  • Sweet potatoes - but only once per week.

  • Fresh fruit - grapes, cherries, mangoes, peaches, oranges, apricots, grapefruit, banana, tangerines, pears, plums, melons, papayas (pears and plums may be stewed).

  • Dried fruit - apricots, dates, figs, peaches, raisins, prunes.

Absolutely forbidden are:


  • All things bottled, canned, frozen, preserved, refined, salted, smoked and sulphured.

  • Bicarbonate of soda in food, toothpaste and mouthwashes.

  • Alcohol.

  • Salts.

  • Avocado - too much fatty acid.

  • Basil, oregano (aromatic oils can cause difficult reactions).

  • Berries (except red, black and whole currants).

  • Biscuits, cake, chocolate, cocoa.

  • Coffee (any sort), tea.

  • Cucumbers.

  • Fats and oils (except flaxseed).

  • Mushrooms.

  • Nuts (too much fatty acids/fats).

  • Peas (sulphured), lentils, beans, seeds (phytic acid/enzyme inhibitors).

  • Pickles.

  • Pineapples.

  • Refined flour.

  • Soft drinks, fizzy and fruit juices (preserved).

  • Soya (fat content and phytic acid).

  • Spices.

  • Sugar (including sweets).

  • Tap water.

Forbidden for first eight weeks: all dairy, eggs, meat and fish.

The type of juicer is also crucial. Centrifugal juicers simply do not get the full volumes of minerals, vitamins and enzymes out. Gerson recommended a heavy press juicer that involves two stages and a double press.


Open quotesThe type of juicer is also crucialClose quotes

Of course, the Therapy is hard work. You need time to prepare the fresh juices, as they have to be drunk at their prime. Then there is the preparation and use of the coffee enemas. But as Goethe said, "The day is of infinite length for him who knows how to appreciate and use it."


(c) The Plaskett Therapy


Dr Lawrence Plaskett is vice chair of the UK Nutritional Cancer Therapy Trust. After a degree in biochemistry at Cambridge, a doctorate at London University and a number of years in food companies and government agencies, Dr Plaskett turned his extensive knowledge to updating the Gerson Therapy. His argument is simple: Dr Gerson was brilliant but since his death over 50 years ago much more has been learned about nutrition and biochemistry.

It is Plaskett’s firmly held view that a nutritional approach to cancer should be nationally available. More fundamentally he argues that orthodox authorities are already in full acceptance that nutrients can protect against the inception of cancer. And that various sources (one being the World Health Organisation) indicate that up to 60 per cent of cancers appear to have nutritional cause.

This may or may not be the case. Indeed, cancer development is a multi-step process and nutrition, or rather poor nutrition, may be a factor in virtually all cancers, even if other factors are more damaging or finally tip you over the edge.


Open quotesCancer development is a multi-step process and poor nutrition may be a factor in virtually all cancersClose quotes

As a biochemist he cites a multitude of research showing, for example:

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Flavenoids such as quercetin (apples and onions) stop the proliferation of cancer cells in vitro, especially if vitamin C is present (Kandaswami).

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Quercetin and genistein (a soya isoflavone) are the most potent anti-proliferating flavenoids in colon cancer (Kuo).

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Quercetin has potential in the treatment of leukaemia (Teofil).

» 
Catechins in green tea reduce size of human prostate and mammary tumours (Liao).

» 
Beta-carotene and vitamin C influence the survival of women with breast cancer (Ingram BJC 1994).

» 
Lycopene (tomatoes) inhibits prostate cell growth, as do beta-carotene, canthavanthin and retinoic acid. Coenzyme Q10 produces good results with breast cancers (Lockwood 1994).

Plaskett argues that many recent scientific discoveries have proven that Gerson was totally right and considerably ’ahead of his time’. His research into the latest scientific studies has supported, for example, the importance of omega 3 (from fish oils and linseed oil) as an essential element in the good health of cells; the use of coffee enemas to induce raised levels of glutathione S-transferases, the enzymes of liver detoxification; the use of high potassium in the diet and digestive enzymes to help increase absorption.

Where he feels recent studies have added to Gerson is that there is no need for castor oil, iodine and iodide, dried thyroid, liver juices and liver injections. Instead he recommends a very detailed and precise list of supplements, some of which vary according to the cancer.


Open quotesPlaskett is very open and honest about what is still unknown about the particular ingredients of plantsClose quotes

Plaskett is very open and honest about what is still unknown about the particular ingredients of plants, vegetables and fruits that might be protective probably because he is such a precise man.

He cites carotenoids, flavenoids, indoles, thiocyanates, ellagic acid, curcumins and limonaids as protective but, given that there are 4000 flavenoids known to science for starters, he is honest enough to conclude that exactly which ones are the best, and how much should be taken of each is imprecise. With quercetin he adds that large quantities of onions might not be too good for the digestion or even breath, but supplements (which are available) might lack important ’assisting’ micronutrients.

Plaskett included in his therapy:


  • Coffee enemas (but less than Gerson).

  • Fruit and vegetables (but less than Gerson).

  • Potassium (as Gerson). Plus magnesium in addition to ensure that the sodium pump worked effectively.

  • Linseed oil (as Gerson) but with fish oil.

  • Digestive enzymes (as Gerson) but supplemented by amino acids.

  • Bowel flora bacteria (not used by Gerson).

  • Aloe vera (not used by Gerson). It stimulates the immune system and is a glycoprotein (see later).

  • High fruit and vegetables but concentrating on specific ones backed by scientific evidence.

  • Adjustment of the therapy to different cancers - e.g. the use of soya for hormonal cancers.

  • The use of very specific levels of certain supplements.

His scientific studies have led him to seven areas for inclusion in his therapy:

1: 
Antioxidants - using vitamins E, C, curcuminoids from turmeric, coenzyme Q10, and multiple carotenoids and flavenoids.

2: 
Anti-proliferating agents to slow down cancer proliferation e.g. flavenoids, carotenoids, vitamin A, curcuminoids.

3: 
Detoxifying agents - e.g. organic sulphides from garlic, thiocyanates from brassicas and magnesium to increase glutathione levels.

4: 
Differentiators - to induce cancer cells to become more ’normal’ e.g. bromelain (from pineapple), zinc, s-allyl cysteine (from garlic).

5: 
Inhibitors of metastasis - stopping cancer spreading, e.g. bromelain, soya.

6: 
Immune stimulation - e.g. aloe vera, bromelain, vitamins and minerals.

7: 
Angiogenesis inhibitors - inhibiting growth of new blood vessels needed by tumours, e.g. soya bean genistein, garlic.


Open quotesThe therapy is vigorously veganClose quotes

The therapy is vigorously vegan. Dairy products, eggs, fish and meat are excluded. (A low protein diet has been shown to be effective against cancer (Tannenbaum).) All fried foods are avoided, as are processed foods.

Fresh vegetable intake is high, but uses only those with phytonutrients with proven anti-cancer properties e.g. garlic, cabbage, red-leaved lettuce, carrots, celery, parsnips, parsley, onions (red and green), tomato, aubergine, broccoli, cucumber, kale, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, radishes, brusselsprouts, endive, watercress, capsicum peppers.

Herbs and spices are used: liquorice, ginger, turmeric, mint, horseradish, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, chives, basil, mustard and tarragon (all organic); and Plaskett even provides a list of daily requirements:

  • Garlic: 10 gms

  • Fresh onion: 100-150 gms

  • Fresh tomato: 200 gms

  • Turmeric powder: 5 gms

  • Pulses, fresh and dried peas, lentils, chickpeas and beans: 40 gms

  • Oats: 50 gms

  • Brown rice: 125 gms

  • Buckwheat, barley, fresh sweetcorn: occasionally

  • Potatoes, baked and boiled: freely used


Open quotesSoya is only included if the cancer is hormonalClose quotes

No tea or coffee - but dandelion, organic Japanese green tea, rooibosch teas are allowed. Soya is only included if the cancer is hormonal. Nuts and seeds are avoided to minimise fat and protein intake.

Forbidden foods include:


  • Sugar of all kinds (including honey, syrup, jams)

  • Textured soya

  • Confectionery, chocolate

  • Ice cream

  • Fizzy soft drinks, squashes

  • Alcohol

  • Yeasts

  • Oxo, Marmite, Bovril

  • Modified foods

  • No fats (because they activate carcinogens) other than a limited amount of linseed oil and fish oil (both for omega 3)

  • Dried fruit (it contains sulphite).

Juices consist of six per day (all freshly squeezed):

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1 glass of orange juic

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2 glasses of leaf juice (endive, watercress, lettuce, green peppers, red cabbage)

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3 glasses of apple and carrot (1:1)

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Some beetroot juice is also used.

Of interest may be the future nutritional developments in hand for the Plaskett Therapy. For example:


  • Brassica vegetables possess a number of anti-cancer agents. Even higher levels of some of these are found in germinating broccoli seeds.

  • Some cultivations of garlic produce higher selenium levels and these bulbs have been linked with, for example, effective prevention of mammary tumours (Ip and Lisk). Garlic normally contains sulphide rather than selenium.

  • Saffron has anti-cancer components crocin, picrocin and saframal.

  • Shiitake mushrooms have 1:3 beta-glucan polysaccharide which has shown strong anti-cancer properties, (as do Cordyceps and reishi mushrooms).

  • Curcuminoids seem to exhibit more anti-cancer properties, the more research is done!

  • Limonene-rich orange peel oil is also strong in anti-cancer properties although the oil may produce negatives too.

Clearly, here we are looking at a very detailed, disciplined and thoroughly prepared nutritional plan. The detail of supplements down to the exact number of milligrams is possibly more exact than the thirteen juices and supplements of Gerson.

Either way both men fervently believe that poor nutrition can cause cancer; and perfect nutrition can restore health.


Open quotesBoth men fervently believe that poor nutrition can cause cancer; and perfect nutrition can restore healthClose quotes

We would be wise to heed both men.

There is no doubt that at first the Plaskett Therapy, like the Gerson Therapy, is hard work. But I have met many people who learn to use it whilst leading full and happy lives; the boss of a large corporation, a mother of a six-year-old daughter who works part-time. If it all seems too much at the start don’t despair.

"Despair is the price one pays for setting oneself an impossible aim." (Graham Greene). If you have cancer, curing yourself through a diet therapy is certainly not an impossible aim.

Changing your diet to beat cancer
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