Fighting cancer is a long and difficult battle. To support your body through this process, it is imperative to think of treatment holistically. Not only should you be engaging with the treatment recommended by your care team, but you also need to be bolstering your body and preparing it carefully to have the greatest chance of beating the disease.
This means paying close attention to the food you put in your body, the physical demands you place on it, and much more. By understanding your individual protocol for holistic treatment of cancer, you can set yourself up for success from the very beginning.
Dietary Basics While Fighting Cancer
Prepare Yourself for the Digestion Process
Your dietary choices begin even before you start eating. Digestion is extremely important for allowing your body to absorb nutrients effectively. You can prepare your body for the digestion process by taking a shot of apple cider vinegar prior to a meal. If you do not like the taste of apple cider vinegar, a shot of lemon juice can also help in preparing the body for digestion.
Once you begin eating, do so mindfully and be sure to chew all food thoroughly. Avoid distractions while you are eating, since digestion begins in the mouth. The signals that originate in the mouth travel to the gut to get everything moving. Try not to talk while you eat, whether to someone in person or over the phone. Minimize your distractions for a week and reassess your digestion—you should notice a clear difference.
Ketogenic and Organic Is Best
In terms of food, a ketogenic, organic diet seems to be ideal for someone fighting cancer, especially for brain cancer. Research has shown that a ketogenic diet, which reduces sugar intake, can help slow the growth of brain cancer. While this is not a definitive treatment, it can reinforce other treatment modalities.
Be sure to incorporate as many colorful fruits and vegetables as possible in your daily diet and embrace a classic keto diet, particularly if you cannot get enough organic produce. Some useful resources to use when identifying recipes to try include the following:
Limit eating out to once or twice per week so you can be more mindful of exactly what you are consuming.
As you begin this new diet, only eat foods that can be mushed easily with a fork, at least at first. This is referred to as the “fork test.” This means you may need to lightly cook most of the vegetables that you eat. Consuming a lot of fiber from plant-based foods can result in stomach discomfort and bloating, but following the fork test can help.
If you find that you still have some bloating and discomfort, scale back temporarily and start to add more vegetables in a slow, controlled manner. For some people, the transition to a vegetable-focused ketogenic diet is a slow one, so do not worry if you need to introduce these foods gradually. Eventually, your gut biome will readjust to the new diet.
Making the Best Dietary Choices (What to Avoid)
Avoid Sugar, Particularly Added Sugar
When it comes to choosing the best foods, organic produce and grass-fed proteins are your best choices. Be sure to avoid added sugars whenever possible as these can drive cancer growth. Moreover, added sugars cause peaks and valleys in your glucose levels, which creates a lot of imbalance in your entire body. Glucose affects virtually all systems, from the gastrointestinal tract to hormones, not to mention the nervous system. Avoid cakes, candies, and fruit juices, which all have a lot of sugar.
Avoid Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
In addition, avoid genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The problem with GMOs is that we have no idea the extent to which they affect our health. At the same time, the potential for serious disease is very real. Studies have shown that glyphosate, an herbicide used in the production of GMOs, can cause gastrointestinal inflammation and affect gut bacteria health.
Some foods commonly contain GMOs, so it is important to always buy them organic. A checklist of foods that are genetically engineered but may not be labeled as such can be found here. In addition to the foods on this list, oats, beans, legumes, and potatoes should always be bought organic since glyphosate, a pesticide, is used as a drying agent in their production.
Avoid Food Treated with Pesticides and Other Chemicals
Another resource to think about as you purchase food is the Dirty Dozen, which is a list of foods to avoid because of the pesticides and other harmful chemicals they are known to contain. Use the Dirty Dozen as a guide at the supermarket and continue to purchase organic as much as possible. There is a similar list known as the Clean 15 that can also help you make good choices.
As a general rule of thumb, it is a good idea to avoid gluten. Gluten has been connected to inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract, as well as fatigue and brain fog. Many people know that gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, but gluten is used in many other foods. Cutting it out of your diet completely means reading labels carefully. Other resources that will help you identify sources of hidden gluten are:
Sourcing Protein on a Cancer-Fighting Ketogenic Diet
While the above sections are a good guide to what to eat while you are fighting cancer, it can be helpful to get a little more specific. You will need to eat a plant-based diet that is heavy in protein, which is part of the ketogenic approach. To learn more about high-protein plant foods, check out this article in Prevention.
You can occasionally swap the foods recommended here with some quality animal proteins, such as fish. Ideally, you should include fish in your diet two or three times per week. Always try to buy wild caught fish and opt for fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, anchovies, and sardines.
Peanuts should typically be avoided because they are a potential allergen and have been connected to mold. The important thing when it comes to selecting which sources of protein are best for you is to listen to your body. Everyone responds differently so listen to what your body is telling you.
Avoid charring your food, particularly proteins, when you cook (this can happen if you cook food at a high heat or over an open flame if you are not careful). The compounds that are created when you char food can promote the metabolization of estrogen into a carcinogenic form.
Your choice of cooking oils is also very important. Typically, avocado oil is best for high heat, coconut oil for medium heat, and olive oil for low heat. Use only the amount of oil you need to cook, as too much can create imbalance in the digestive system.
Specific Guidance about Choosing Fruits and Vegetables
When it comes to choosing particular fruits and vegetable, follow the ketogenic rules. Stick with darker fruits like blackberries, raspberries, grapes, cherries, and strawberries. Fruits like watermelon, pineapple, and mango should be avoided since they are low in fiber and high in sugar. Blueberries are one of the best fruits to eat because they contain so many antioxidants. Some people recommend eating a cup of blueberries each day while you are fighting cancer.
Cruciferous vegetables include kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and more. See this complete list. Cruciferous vegetables are high in vitamin C and fiber and are an excellent dietary choice.
Eat them raw or cook them on low heat for up to 10 minutes and serve with mustard seed powder or daikon radish to replace some of the nutrients lost in cooking. If you buy frozen cruciferous vegetables, always add mustard seed powder or daikon radish since nutrients get lost in the blanching and freezing process.
Ideally, you should eat a serving or two of broccoli sprouts each day as they help with hormone metabolism and have up to a hundred times more nutrients than regular broccoli. In total, you should have two servings of cruciferous vegetables each day.
You can add many cruciferous vegetables such as kale to smoothies with berries, apples, or bananas, as well as some mustard seed powder. You can find some keto-friendly smoothie recipes here. When making smoothies, use water or nut milks without carrageenan. You can also make your own nut milks.
Horseradish is another strong tool for balancing hormones. Try to eat three artichokes and/or beets each week because they help convert excess estrogen in the body, which can cause cancer growth. Grapefruit is another great option. Eat one every other day—it can replace one cruciferous vegetable for that day. Tell your physician you are eating grapefruit as there can be drug interactions.
When you eat citrus, keep in mind that the pulp, rind, and white core have some of the most beneficial elements. In particular, these parts have concentrated bioflavonoids, which are also present in cherries, peppers, onions, and grapes. Berries are also helpful for balancing hormones, so try to have a serving or two each day. Flax powder is a great addition for hormone balancing, too. Grind flax seeds by hand if you are able.
While you are battling cancer, it is important to think about cortisol control. Cortisol is a stress hormone released by your adrenal glands. Start your day with 12 ounces of celery juice as the first thing you consume in the morning. Celery juice is great for detoxifying your body and supporting your adrenal glands. Also, this juice boosts digestive health.
If you plan on being in the sun, add spinach, watercress, and parsley to the juice. If you need to sweeten this juice—or anything else for that matter—stick to monk fruit. Sugar feeds cancer, and artificial alternatives like aspartame and Splenda are also harmful.
What to Know about Spices and Prebiotics
Spices should be added to your food every day. Many spices have particular benefits, so choose them based on the symptoms you are trying to treat. One of the key spices to include is turmeric, which should be mixed with an oil and black pepper for maximum effect. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and promotes brain health.
Ginger is another natural anti-inflammatory that also fights nausea. Garlic has antimicrobial properties and rosemary has been linked to better brain health. Oregano is another antimicrobial. Clove can help with allergies and cayenne improves digestion and circulation.
Thyme can help suppress a cough and is yet another natural antimicrobial. Cumin promotes digestion and helps regulate both blood sugar and cholesterol. Cinnamon promotes glucose balance in the body and cilantro is a detoxifier.
Your diet should also include prebiotics, which are different from probiotics. Probiotics are helpful gut bacteria. Prebiotics are fibers that the body doesn’t digest but that facilitate the growth of those good bacteria in the gut. In other words, prebiotics help feed the good bacteria in your digestive track that limit inflammation and improve overall immune functioning.
Examples of prebiotic foods are garlic, onions, bananas, whole oats, and apples. A list is also available at Healthline. Eat one or two servings of prebiotic foods each day. You should notice a different in your bowel movements and your skin health when you do.
For some people, prebiotic foods can upset digestion, so start slow and gradually build up over time. Many people also notice an improvement in their mood balance once they start taking care of the gut. Fermented foods—such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and kombucha—are also an effective way to promote gut health.
The Importance of Fasting and Good Fluids
Fasting is an important part of overall health. Put at least 13 hours between dinner and your breakfast the following morning as this is the time your body detoxifies itself. In addition, fasting has been shown to boost your immune system.
Eat your last meal before 9 p.m. to avoid spiking your blood sugar as you sleep and ensure that your dinner is balanced with lots of vegetables. Dinner should be your smallest meal of the day. The 13-hour mark for fasting is ideal because it can be a protectant from cancer.
This practice is called intermittent fasting and it has been linked to improved metabolic and cardiac health. You should fast for a day or two before and after a cancer treatment. This is because fasting desensitizes cancer cells while protecting the healthy ones. Such a practice can significantly increase the efficacy of treatment.
As a general rule of thumb, you should also fast with water alone one day each week. Water intake in general is very important. Purchase spring water if possible and always drink at least 1.5 liters each day. Drinking 32 ounces of water as soon as you wake up can provide you with energy and prime your body for optimal hydration.
Coffee can push your adrenal glands too hard. A better source of caffeine is organic green tea as it provides soothing nutrients and antioxidants. For some excellent green tea, check out Pique Tea. Drinking two cups of tea each day has been linked to breast health.
Limit your overall alcohol intake as it can wreak havoc on the body. If you do drink, choose organic red wine; while it still has traces of the herbicide glyphosate, it will do the least damage to your gut biome. Beer is the most disruptive drink choice because it causes estrogen production in the body. Of course, avoiding alcohol altogether is the best choice to make for your body.
Supporting Your Body with Adequate Sleep
Once you are providing your body the right building blocks with proper nutrition and hydration, it is important to support it with sleep. Consider sleep one of the most important cancer treatment interventions. Through sleep, your body restores its immune system and balances its hormones, not to mention it is the key way to get energy during the day. Ideally, you should wake up feeling energized.
Good sleep begins with good sleep hygiene. An hour before you want to fall asleep, turn off your phone or at least put it on airplane mode. Turn off all florescent lights and use a Himalayan salt lamp to illuminate your space. Figure out the best way to unwind for you, whether that is a bath, stretching, yoga, meditation, or something else.
Good sleep hygiene encourages your body to release melatonin, which helps you sleep. During this period, blue light from your phone or other electronics can disrupt this process. You can buy blue light blocker glasses to prevent this issue. Over time, your body will get used to this routine and know when you are preparing sleep. Make sure your bedroom is completely dark and there is no light coming in from the street. Also, use the bathroom before bed to avoid needing to get up in the middle of the night.
You should aim to be asleep by 10 p.m., as this will promote deep sleep from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Try to have your last meal by 6 p.m., or 9 p.m. if you need to work late. If you are working late, take magnesium glycinate an hour before bed. Once you wake up, open your blinds and expose your body to sunlight right away. Doing this triggers cortisol production and helps you wake up and feel energized.
Maintaining Mental, Emotional, and Physical Wellbeing
One of the most important aspects of a holistic approach to cancer treatment is finding balance. A body is not a machine. You need to find time for yourself. Importantly, driving in the car alone, shopping, and going to the gym do not qualify as “you” time. Set aside time to think and reflect. Be present and aware during this whole period. Doing this promotes a mindset of peace that has been shown to promote health.
You will have a lot of stress put on your body, so it is important to set aside time for yourself, even if it is just 15 minutes each day. Deep meditation or breathing exercises are a great way to be present and check in on your wellbeing. Adding some creative outlets like drawing, dancing, singing, and writing can also be helpful. Figure out what you are inspired to do and pursue it—creativity is great for your mental health.
Engage in the practice of “grounding” each day—ideally, as soon as you wake up and get out of bed. This means walking around barefoot outside. Mix it up and get to the beach a couple of times each week if you are able. Only recently have people realized how important this practice is for overall wellbeing.
You also need to exercise. Do something active, even if it is just going for a walk, each day. In truth, exercise is one of the most effective therapies we have because it treats every system in the body. Do a mix of both cardiovascular and weight-bearing exercise. Ideally, you should engage in three to four days of moderate weight-bearing exercise and two days of light to moderate cardiovascular exercise each week.
Workouts do not need to be more than an hour. Over time, you will likely be able to do more physical activity as you continue to work out, since energy begets more energy. Do not overdo it, but continue to push yourself if you are enjoying it.
Avoiding Toxins and Detoxing
While you are going through cancer treatment, it is particularly important to avoid introducing any toxins into your body and to detox from those that have already been introduced. Avoid anything made of plastic, whether bottles, storage containers, utensils, or something else. Plastics are xenoestrogens, which means they work like estrogen in the body and can promote cancer growth.
Avoid any wireless radiation at night by turning offer routers and turning off your phone or putting it into airplane mode. The electromagnetic signals from these devices can disrupt your hormone balance and throw off natural rhythms as well as interfering with your sleep hygiene.
Invest in a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) air filter at home—or even a PECO (photoelectrochemical oxidation) filter if you are able. The difference between the two is that while a HEPA filter removes dust and other allergens from the air, a PECO filter destroys these particles. Additionally, a PECO filter works on materials up to 1,000 times smaller than HEPA filters do.
If cost is an issue, many of the affordably-priced HEPA filters like Air Doctor, Germ Guardian, and Silver Onyx work well as long as the filter is truly a HEPA one. Investigate the coverage of different products. Put a PECO in your bedroom if you are able and then HEPAs in living spaces. If any place in the home smells musty, investigate it for mold. Anything with mold needs to be thrown away immediately. Bedding, furniture, clothing, and books can all attract mold.
Consider using an infrared sauna to detox from metal and other toxins; reputable spas and treatment centers have these facilities available. Use non-VOC saunas with low electromagnetic radiation such as Clearlight or Sunlighten.
Wipe away your sweat constantly in the sauna. Start with 20 minutes at 140 degrees Fahrenheit and drink fluids if you start to feel dizzy or nauseated. Drinking a liter of water before and after can help. Coconut water is also a good choice. Work up to 30 minutes gradually.
Be sure to use quality oral care products. A great toothpaste without toxins is Dentalciden. And an ideal mouthwash is an essential oxygen baking soda rinse. Brushing and flossing after meals is very important. You can also swish a teaspoon of coconut oil around your mouth to promote oral health (spit it out afterwards; don’t swallow).
Sample Supplement Protocols for Supporting Your Body
Supplements are a great way to ensure your body has everything it needs to be healthy while undergoing cancer treatment. Below is a sample supplement protocol. However, it is imperative to note that this is not medical advice and each body is different. You should speak to a nutritionist or naturopath to come up with a regimen appropriate for your body and diagnosis.
Upon Waking: 18oz of organic fresh celery juice on an empty stomach.
– Douglas Laboratories Astragalus Max-V: 1 capsule
– Host Defense Mushrooms Reishi: 2 capsules
– Integrative Therapeutics Curcumax Pro: 1 capsule
– Integrative Therapeutics Vitamin C with Quercetin: 2 capsules
– Thorne Betaine HCL & Pepsin: 1 capsule
– Designs for Health Hi-Po Emulsi-D3 1,000IU: 5 drops
– Host Defense Mushrooms Stamets 7: 2 capsules
– Integrative Therapeutics Curcumax Pro: 1 capsule
– Integrative Therapeutics Prothrivers Wellness Brain: 2 capsules
– Integrative Therapeutics Prothrivers Wellness Flavonoid Complex: 2 capsules
– Integrative Therapeutics Prothrivers Wellness Multivitamin: 2 capsules
– Integrative Therapeutics Vitamin E 400UI: 1 capsule
– Klaire Labs Micellized Vitamin A 1,500mcg: 1 drop
– Thorne Betaine HCL & Pepsin: 1 capsule
– Designed for Health Magnesium Buffered Chelate 300mg: 3 capsules
– Douglas Laboratories Astragalus Max-V: 1 capsule
– Douglas Laboratories Zinc Picolinate 50mg: 1 capsule
– Thorne Betaine HCL & Pepsin: 1 capsule
– Clinical Synergy ArteMax- 1 capsule
– 1 dropper THC/CBD
– Melatonin – 20mg (3-4 days a week)
You should also speak to professionals about creating protocols based on your particular needs. Below are some sample protocols that can serve as a basis for creating your own.
1. Immune protocol:
Biocidin LSF: Start with 1 pump per day and after one week work up to 3 pumps per day. Hold in your mouth for 30 seconds before swallowing to address systemic infections.
Olivirex: Take 1 capsule, 3 times per day. After 10 days go up to 2 capsules, 3 times per day. Continue the Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and Vitamin C.
Discontinue protocol two days before chemotherapy and resume two days after.
2. Gut protocol:
Biocidin advance: Begin with 1 drop, 3 times per day. After 10 days, work up to 5 drops in mouth or in water, 3 times per day, to address overgrowth of pathogens in the gut.
Smooth Move tea: one per day to help with bowel movements with a shot of juiced ginger if you get nauseous.
Continue Metagenics UltraFlora probiotics. Stop protocol two days before chemotherapy and resume two days after.
3. Glioblastoma protocol:
Meriva 500-SF (curcumin): 1 capsule, 2 times a day for anticancer and anti-inflammatory effects. Once this one is done, purchase the Wise Woman curcuma/turmeric tincture and use 1 dropperful 3 times per day with meals for anticancer and anti-inflammatory effects. Once done, go back to the Meriva capsules.
Boswellia AKBA: 1 capsule, 3 times per day for brain inflammation.
Resveratrol: 1 capsule, 3 times a day after meals for glioblastoma fighting activity.
Oxaloacetate: 1 capsule, 3 times a day with food to inhibit tumor cell metabolism.
Continue the high dose melatonin, berberine, alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), Vitamin E, and Artemisia. Note: Be sure you are taking at least 500mg, twice per day of the berberine. You can discontinue the bromelain. Discontinue the protocol two days prior to chemotherapy and resume two days after.
ConcenTrace Mineral drops: Use 4 drops per every 8 ounces of water to replenish and sustain mineral levels.
ATP Cofactors: Take 1 tablet, 3 times a day with food to support energy and reduce crashes.
Other Holistic Health Resources
This guide is meant as a resource to support your body and mind holistically as you battle cancer. Depending on your circumstances, you may need some additional support. For example, you could consider next generation sequencing via an organization like Cellworks, which uses genetic information to help generate personalized treatment plans.
You may also benefit from a cancer nutritionist (Patrice Surely offers remote sessions at http://www.patricesurley.com) or a hypnotherapist (Katya Lovejoy offers remote sessions at https://www.katyalovejoy.com). Local acupuncturists, massage therapists, and chiropractors can also be fantastic resources. Naturopaths can help test for mold, heavy metals, and gut biome health. Daily meditation with apps like Calm can be extremely helpful and very affordable, as well.