There are a lot diets out there claiming to be the best for healing cancer. And I would dabble with them all. I started with the alkaline diet, went to keto, vegan, raw, juicing, back to keto, back to alkaline. Tom gave me some really good advice which was not to get obsessed with the diet part. It wouldn’t heal stage 4 cancer alone. He said to give up sugar anyway but not to get hung up on the rest. I got very hung up on diets. So much so that what I ate became the main focus of my day and took up the most time and energy and I ended up losing over 2 stone in the space of a few months.
I did first year of Chef school in DIT Cathal Brugha St a couple of years ago (Ali came along and I didn’t finish it, yet!). I studied food science and human nutrition along with various other modules along with all the practical bits and pieces. This course was so enjoyable and it really stood to me when it came to understanding how nutrition affects our health. I had an interest in diet and nutrition a long time before cancer came into my life and flirted with vegetarian and vegan diets for years. My longest stint as a vegetarian was 3 months. Christmas came and I couldn’t resist the turkey and gravy and sausage meat stuffing. Drool!
What are these anti-cancer diets then? If you google anti-cancer diet, you will get a whole variety of diets covering every single food group claiming to be the best. I don’t stick to one specific diet now, but I draw bits and pieces from a lot of them. I’ve kind of made up my own. There’s lots we would have heard about over the years and some might not be so familiar when it comes to cancer prevention. Superfoods, raw foods, fermentation, dairy free, sugar free, low histamine, sirt foods… There is so much out there, it’s hard to find a balance and nearly impossible to take and eat everything that’s supposed to be good for you or claims to kill cancer cells.
The alkaline diet
I started with the alkaline diet. It seemed to be a very popular one amongst cancer survivors. I draw a lot of my information and recommendations from people who have survived cancer. Obviously I am obsessed with the science bit and always look for evidence to back up any claims. I research a lot and I will be adding a section to the blog with resources where you can see some evidence yourself. The premise of the alkaline diet is that cancer thrives in an acid environment in the body. All foods are either acidic or alkaline. So you want to keep your body in an alkaline state if you can. All food has a value on a pH scale but in your body, they can become alkaline or acidic. Take lemon for example. Acidic on a pH scale but alkaline causing in the body. Confusing eh? Well luckily there are lots of charts, books and websites available to see which foods are more alkaline causing in the body. Except some of these charts and books and websites can contradict each other which is very annoying. And when you’re as obsessed as me with eating the right thing, it can cause huge frustration. There’s an easy to understand guide here… Alkaline Sisters
Most acidic foods: anything deep fried. Most alkaline: cucumbers. I loved chips and hated cucumbers. How the tables would turn…
The ketogenic diet
The Ketogenic diet works on the idea that cancer cells preferred source of fuel is glucose and starving them of it will kill them. By following the ketogenic diet, you cut down carbohydrates (glucose) and get about 75% of your daily calorie intake from fat. It’s a low carb, low protein, high fat diet. It makes your cells switch from using glucose to using fat for fuel. This is called putting your body into ketosis. So if you starve cancer cells of their main source of fuel, they’ll die right? This sounded like a good plan and I got into it for a few months. It was so hard to change my mindset that fat is good for the body. Any other diet I had ever tried was low fat. Including the alkaline diet. How do you do keto then? It’s a high fat diet… where do we generally get fats from? If you think about fat in your diet, you probably think about crisps, chocolate, cake, deep fried foods etc… But all of those are unhealthy (and acid forming going by the alkaline diet, allowing cancer cells to thrive!). How can you get 75% of your calorie intake from fat and keep it healthy? It is really bloody hard. And I lost a lot of weight doing this diet, mainly because it took me so long to get my head around it. I couldn’t think of things to eat. It’s nearly impossible to make fat your main food source, you’d want to be eating brazil nuts and avocados all day! My friend Kate bought me a really helpful book called the Ketogenic Kitchen by Patricia Daly and Domini Kemp, two advocates of the keto diet and two cancer survivors, not by diet alone I must add. They both did conventional medical treatments too but they claim that the diet helped and now keeps their cancers at bay. I ended up eating a lot of eggs, nuts, avocados, cheese, green vegetables, pesto, spoons of coconut oil, butter in my coffee… I was literally eating fat from the spoon. The diet is very hard to do if you want to do it the vegetarian way. You would really need to be into eating oily fish or meat at least once a day to do this diet, it’s hard to get enough fat otherwise.
The raw food diet
There are so many people online who have claimed to have cured their cancer with a raw food diet. Fruit and vegetables, vegan based, cold food… very hard to do in the middle of the winter. I have Rosanna Davison’s Eat Yourself Beautiful book which is really helpful for a raw food diet. The book is vegan based but has a lot of raw food recipes in it. I still eat a lot of raw food now but it’s hard to do it 100%.
I am not claiming that these diets work or don’t work, I am sharing what I did and what I have found in my research. I swapped over and back so many times when I would come across some research that went against one or the other. There are claims that blood cannot be turned alkaline and that the body needs to be in a constant acidic state therefore rendering the alkaline diet useless for its intended purpose. There are also claims that the keto diet doesn’t do its job either, some studies have shown that certain types of cancer cells prefer fat as its fuel source. Other studies have shown that a high fat diet can help cancer metastasize to other parts of the body. It’s a bit of a head wreck to be honest so I came up with my own diet which I will share in Diet: Part II.
If you want to see some of what I eat, check out my Instagram. I update it every couple of days and it has been a place where I have posted foodie pictures for the past few years. If you go back far enough, you’ll see where the switch happened from cupcakes and boxes of chocolates and plates of curry cheese chips (my favourite) to my now ultra-healthy veggie juice sippin’ ways.
Coming soon: what not to say to someone with cancer and starting on the cannabis oil.