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In July 2012, at the age of 38, I was given the devastating news that I had advanced ovarian cancer. This is my blog and the story of my fight to regain my health. I hope to share with you things that I've found helpful along my journey and keep you posted on my progress.

Anti-Cancer Diet

If you want to help your body fight cancer rather than fuel it, what you eat and drink, and how you prepare your food, are both very important. Many people have cured themselves from cancer through nutrition alone and there is a wealth of research and evidence that shows what a vital role diet plays in preventing and treating cancer.

I was therefore staggered to find that at no point during my treatment did the NHS give me any recommendations on what I should be eating and drinking to help improve my prospects. The subject was never brought up by the doctors and even when I asked questions about it, there seemed to be a complete lack of knowledge on the subject and the response was always that it didn’t matter what I ate as it wouldn’t make a difference! Even more staggering perhaps, is that while patients sit in the treatment room have chemotherapy to try to rid them of their cancer, a nice lady wheels around a trolley of sugary drinks, sweets, salty snacks and coffee sweetened with heaps of white sugar, unknowingly feeding your cancer at the very moment it is being treated!

It is fair to say that there is a lot of conflicting information around about what you should and shouldn’t eat to help you body prevent and fight cancer, but there is also a lot of common ground where the majority to diet advisors agree. If you are looking for hard medical evidence on which foods fight cancer, I would recommend a book by Professor Robert Thomas called “Lifestyle and Cancer – The Facts”. Professor Robert Thomas is a consultant oncologist at Bedford and Cambridge University Hospitals who specialises in research on lifestyle and cancer. For something a little lighter consider reading “Crazy Sexy Cancer Diet” by Kris Carr. However, if you want to know my suggestions from all the research I’ve done, please keep reading!


Some Basic Principles

There are some basic principles that seem to be consistent across most of the recommended cancer fighting diets that I’ve come across. It’s useful to have these in the back of your mind when you’re trying to choose what to eat and drink.
  1. Cancer cells feed on sugar and die from oxygen.
  2. Cancer thrives in an acidic environment and can’t survive in an alkaline one.
  3. Cancer develops when the body is overloaded with toxins (free radicals) and doesn’t have enough toxin-fighting nutrients (antioxidants) to counteract them.
  4. Bad fats (trans fats - partially hydrogenated oils) help cancer develop by restricting oxygen flow to cells and good fats help fight cancer by increasing it.
  5. Processed foods contain harmful chemicals and carcinogens that can encourage cancer.
  6. Meat and dairy products contain natural and artificial growth promoters that can support cancer growth.
  7. Carbohydrates turn into sugar which can feed cancer.
  8. Foods with fungi, yeast and moulds promote cancer.

Food Rules

If you are going to try to follow a strict diet that helps you fight not fuel your cancer, I would recommend that you put together some simple and easy to follow “food rules”, with do’s and don’ts. These are my food rules, which I try to follow, although as with any diet, it’s not always easy to keep to it all the time. I’m not saying that these are all a must but there seems to be a general consensus that these are all good things to do. The most important ones are shown in bold – these aren’t just “do’s” but “must do’s”!

Foods to Avoid

  • No sugar, sugary drinks, snacks or chocolate
  • No processed foods
  • Avoid all bad fats – hydrogenated oils, trans-fats and saturated fats (except virgin coconut oil, which is a natural and healthy saturated fat)
  • Avoid highly acidic foods and focus on mainly alkaline foods (see below)
  • No refined salt (use sea salt or Himalayan pink salt instead)
  • Avoid dairy products
  • No meat or fish
  • Avoid foods with a high glycemic index (see below) as the body turns them quickly into glucose
  • Only sprouted grain or whole grain gluten free breads
  • Limit fruit to one small piece of whole fruit per day
  • No preservatives or condiments except small amounts of organic raw honey
  • No corn in any form
  • Avoid yeast except for nutritional yeast
  • No peanuts (all other nuts are OK as long as they are raw)
  • No unfermented soy products (e.g, tofu)
  • No tea or coffee except green or herbal teas
  • No vinegar except organic apple cider vinegar
  • No alcohol except one glass of organic red wine per day
  • No dried fruits (e.g. prunes, raisins)

Out of all of these, avoiding sugar is the most important. When you have a sudden intake of sugar, your immune system effectively shuts down for up to 5 hours. Your immune system is your body's defence against disease, so you need this up and running at full strength all the time.

Foods to Focus On

Try to build your diet around the following foods, varying them as much as you can.
  • broccoli
  • asparagus
  • beetroots
  • cabbage
  • carrots
  • cauliflower
  • sprouts
  • celery
  • cucumbers
  • aubergine
  • green and yellow squash
  • green beans and peas (fresh)
  • red, yellow and green peppers
  • spinach
  • mustard greens
  • collards
  • kale
  • lettuce
  • okra
  • parsley
  • scallions
  • radishes
  • swiss chard
  • watercress
  • sea vegetables, such as nori, wakame and niziki
  • wheat grass
  • barley grass
  • turnips
  • sprouted grains or beans
  • garlic
  • onion
  • lemons
  • shitake mushrooms
  • seaweed (especially Modifilan)
  • nuts (except peanuts and cashews)
  • all herbs and spices
  • kidney beans
  • garbanzo beans
  • tomatoes
  • butternut squash
  • pumpkins
  • sweet potatoes
  • flaxseeds

In addition to these foods, it is very important to drink lots of clean, filtered water. I typically drink around 2-3 litres a day. A tip here is to drink water from a jug so you can see how much you’ve had.

I would also suggest including herbal teas in your diet. The following teas are said to have anti-cancer properties:
  • Essiac
  • Pau D’Arco (also called Taheebo)
  • Chapparal
  • Red Clover
  • Holy Basil
  • Green tea

Glycemic Index and Acidity


Foods with a high Glycemic Index (GI) and foods that are highly acid-forming, all help support an environment that is conducive to cancer. The following charts show examples of acidity and GI levels of different foods. Avoid high GI foods and high acid-forming foods as much as you can but don’t stress about it as stress causes acidity and increased glucose too!



Food Preparation


Perhaps almost as important as the foods you eat is the way your prepare them. There are people who say that a strictly raw food diet is best, and I have tried this myself, but I think that some cooked food can be beneficial in other ways, providing it is cooked in a healthy way.

From the research I’ve done, I’ve found that the following recommendations for preparing food are fairly common:
  • Use organic ingredients where possible
  • Use fresh rather than canned ingredients
  • Use coconut oil or hemp oil for cooking and flaxseed oil for salads
  • Avoid cooking at high temperatures, e.g. grlling, baking, barbecues
  • Juicing vegetables is a great way to get large amount of nutrients
  • Use a masticating juicer rather than a centrifugal one as it produces a healthier juice
  • Drink fresh juices soon after preparation – don’t store in the fridge
  • Try to eat 80% raw foods and 20% cooked
  • Avoid over-cooking – steaming is best
  • Avoid non-stick pans (cast iron or stainless steel are best)
  • Use chlorine-filtered water
  • Wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly before use
  • Avoid leftovers - freshly prepared foods maximise enzymes
  • Vary foods used to maximise effectiveness – a range of colours is good
  • Avoid adding salt except small amounts of Himalayan Pink Salt

Supplements


If you are going to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet it is worth considering supplements that you may need. Vegetarian diets are often low in Vitamin B12 and vegan diets can be low in Iodine, Calcium, Zinc and Iron. Be aware though that some studies show that iron may help feed cancer, so don’t take any more than you need.


Fasting


One last thing worth mentioning with regarding to eating is not eating at all! Fasting is believed to be an effective way to fight cancer, effectively starving the cancer cells of the very food they need. Some people have been known to fast for up to 40 days, but I would strongly recommend that you look into this very carefully before doing a fast of any length. The longest I have fasted for is about 3 days. I drank only water and found it quite hard but I believe it did help a little at the time.


Over to you...


There's a lot of information here but also a lot that I’ve left out. There is so much information on the internet and in books about diets for cancer patients that it’s hard to sift through it and work out the right thing to do. Hopefully I’ve given you a flavour (forgive the pun!) of the advice you will find out there and steered you in roughly the right direction.

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