During all my research into cancer prevention and treatment I have become convinced that there is a great deal that an individual can do to help themselves heal the cancer in their bodies. Research in other types of chronic disease has shown that a multidimensional approach of diet, exercise, nutritional support, stress reduction (meditation, counseling, etc) can have a dramatic affect in helping the person heal from such chronic diseases as heart disease (Dr. Dean Ornish), senility (Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa), and many others. While these programs vary in their individual components, their share this multidimensional approach.
Does such a multidimensional approach work for cancer? There is no data on such a program, but different aspects of this approach - diet, exercise, supplements, etc. - have all been shown to decrease the chances of getting specific cancers. In addition there has been evidence suggesting diet, supplements, exercise, etc. can also be used to treat cancer. While a review of the literature in this area is beyond the scope of my web site, I will discuss these different alternative approaches to cancer below and the types of data which suggest that they are powerful ways to help your body heal from this disease.
Often I am asked, what would I do if I found out I had cancer. Based on the results from other chronic disease studies, I would use a multidimensional program which incorporated all the options discussed below. Thus I would choose a dietary approach that made the most sense to me, an exercise that I enjoyed or felt helped fight cancer, learn some meditation, and set up a supplement program that I could live with. In addition it is important to have support during this time and feel useful, and I would try to be part of both a support group and continue to give to my community and those people around me so I would feel vital and needed. The specifics of this kind of program might be different for every person - some would choose a vegetarian diet, some a macrobiotic, etc. But hopefully by setting up this type of multidimensional approach, which can be done at the same time as traditional therapy, a cancer patient can give themselves the best opportunity to activate their immune system and overcome this disease.
While nutrition is a simple concept, it can be a very powerful tool in fighting cancer. Can something as basic as the food we eat or supplements we can take actually help you heal from cancer? Well I was skeptical too at first, but there is growing evidence that diet and/or supplements can not only prevent cancer to a great degree, but also help to heal cancer.
After reviewing the information, I can't say I became convinced that one particular diet was magically cure for cancer. But I did run across a number of studies and reports that showed very interesting results that diet could have a strong influence on a persons cancer. There is a lot of information that specific types of diets play a role in different cancers. For instance, in our culture we get about 5 times the breast cancer than that seen in Japan. And when Japanese women change their diet, they begin to have our high rate of cancer. So there is some connection between their diet and a low rate of breast cancer and our diet and high breast cancer rates. There are lots of similar studies that point to different diets being statistically linked to certain diets. In general, my conclusion from reading these studies was that a vegetarian, low fat diet was associated with much less cancer. After reading these articles, I have since become a total vegetarian - simply because I feel it gives me the strongest chance of preventing cancer in the first place. If you are interested, you can find out more information by listening my radio show about preventing breast cancer with nutrition, exercise and other lifestyle changes. This show is on my Healthy Foundations page.
But can diet also help heal cancer. There are a number of studies and results from specific dietary programs that suggest that diet can be a powerful tool in fighting cancer. In his book, Beating Cancer with Nutrition, Dr. Patrick Quillan argues very persuasively that diet and supplements can greatly increase your odds of fighting cancer. You can hear an interview I did with Dr. Quillan on this subject at cancer nutrition radio show. Basically Dr. Quillan found that a basically vegetarian diet combined with very aggressive nutritional support can significantly increase the odds of survival. You will information on his book at Nutrition and Cancer Website. If you are interested in his supplement program, Dr. Quillin has made arrangements for a company to make all the supplements available in one package (some in pills and some in a poweder) - for information see Quillin Supplements.
And Dr. Quillan is not alone in these finding. There are a number of dietary regimes that have shown very interesting results with regard to cancer. One of the best documented of these, The Gerson Institute diet, has been shown to reverse cancer in many "terminal" patients. While the Gerson diet is very all consuming (juicing every hour, taking huge amounts of supplements, coffee enemas to detoxify the liver, etc.) and so is not for everyone, the results for specific patients is sometimes amazing. I have personally talked with 3 pancreatic cancer patients who used the Gerson diet - which is amazing considering that the survival rate for pancreatic cancer is almost 0%. Similarly, there have been studies that show the Macrobiotic diet (for info contact the Kushi institute)can affect cancer, and that of the dietary programs such as the Gonzales program (212-213-3337) has produced much better survival from deadly cancers. And Dr. Keith Block (847 492 3045), has become a leading practitioner of using very aggressive nutritional therapy in conjunction with standard cancer treatments such as chemo and radiation. What I take away from all these different results is that while no specific diet is a magic cure, dietary changes can be a powerful way to fight cancer. How to choose which one? Perhaps the best way is to learn about the different options and see which one fits you best or the one you feel would help you the most. I choose vegetarian as a preventive diet - if I get cancer I may well choose a more serious, difficult diet like the Gerson diet that has shown a remarkable ability to help people heal from terminal cancers. So choose that diet which you both believe in and can live with.
2. Supplements There has been a lot of studies in recent years showing that certain dietary supplements can help reduce cancer. There is less specific information on the use of supplements as to treatment of cancer, but there is some information. The most prominent study I am aware of on the treatment of cancer with supplements was a study in Canada on patients that had been deemed to have "terminal" cancer. Those people in the study where given the choice - they could continue with their current diet or they could choose to take a large dose of Vitamin C - 8 - 10 grams a day - in addition to their current diet. The results, although certainly based on a small sample, were amazing. Those who did not choose to take the Vitamin C lived an average of only 6 months. But those who chose to take the Vitamin C lived an average of almost 6 years.
While there aren't other studies which point specifically to the benefit of taking certain supplements for fighting cancer, there has been a great deal of anacdotal results showing the benefits of using supplements. Dr. Quillan claims to have a great deal of success with his use of supplements, as does The Gerson Diet as well as the Gonzales diet and Dr. Block (who practices outside of Chicago). In addition, there are numerous studies which suggest that certain supplements can affect the immune system and make it stronger. Certainly every cancer patient can use the strongest immune system they can get when fighting cancer.
Personally, I think there is little downside to taking supplements (some cost and the hassle of taking them during the day), and a lot of upside potential in helping to strengthen the immune system so it can fight the cancer. But again, how to choose a supplement program? If you choose a specific dietary approach, you may be given a very detailed supplement program as part of that approach. If instead you are putting together your own supplement program, I suggest reading Dr. Quillan's book Beating Cancer With Nutrition. Another approach is to have your blood tested so as to determine which nutrients you specifically need. Frank Weiwel, director of People Against cancer (see cancer resource page, feels that the testing program offered by Dr. Taylor has a great deal of merit. Dr. Taylor analyzes your blood to determine an optimal supplement program. His number is (217) 525-6843.
3. Exercise Can exercise help heal cancer? There is very little evidence in this country that it can - although studies have shown that exercise can significantly reduce the chances of getting breast cancer. While researching this question I came across an amazing group in China which strongly believe that a certain type of exercise can cure cancer. I first hear about Guo Lin Chi Gong on a video about healing called "The Heart of Healing" (I believe it is available at libraries and was made by a group called Noetic Sciences). The segment was amazing - I really suggest watching it if you have the chance. It details how in China a cancer group has sprung up which uses an exercise method called Guo Lin Chi Gong to fight their cancer. They practice together every day, by the hundreds in parks across China, and over the years over a million Chinese cancer patients have used Guo Lin Chi Gong to fight their cancer.
In practice this type of exercise is in the most part a simple form of meditative walking and combined with a specific style of breathing. Those practicing it believe that this type of meditative walking and breathing can reverse cancer and the statistics they quote on its efficacy are breathtaking.
While I remain skeptical that Guo Lin Chi Gong is as amazingly effective as the chinese practitioners say, I have come to believe that it is a very important option for fighting cancer and should be considered as a part of every cancer patients treatment arsenal. How did I come to believe so strongly that Guo Lin Chi Gong can be helpful in fighting cancer? I met a very feisty woman from china, Chen Tai Tai, who had practiced Guo Lin Chi Gong for 8 years after having a brain tumor the size of a "duck egg" removed from her brain. She was initially told, after surgery to remover the tumor, that she might last two years. But at the hospital they taught her Guo Lin Chi Gong and she began to religiously practice it - up to 8 hours a day! When I met her she was going strong after 8 years, in fact as she taught me the steps I could barely keep up with her.
She was gracious enough to consent to teach me the method. I wanted to make sure anyone interested could learn it as well, so she helped me to make a video so anyone could learn. If you are interested, you will find a lot more information on Guo Lin Chi Gong on my Guo Lin Chi Gong pace as well as an article on this fascinating way of fighting cancer and information on the video as well.
So should you add exercise to your cancer treatment program, and if so, what kind? Again, I feel exercise can only benefit a cancer patient. It is a stress reduction therapy, can help strengthen your body and immune system, and it just feels nice to move. While I believe that any type of exercise can be of benefit, Guo Lin Chi Gong is fascinating to me since it is an exercise method that has been developed specifically for cancer and has been, according to its practitioners, been very successful. In any event, I believe you should definitely try to add some exercise component to your cancer treatment program.
Over the last few years, there has been much more interest in meditation and stress reduction as a means of treating cancer. I have to admit I am of two minds on this whole movement. While I definitely believe that your mind can be a very powerful weapon in supporting your immune system and fighting cancer, I don't like the idea promoted by some in this field that a person has in some sense caused their own cancer in some psychological way and only by rooting out this psychological cause can hope to recover from their cancer. Similarly I don't buy the whole point of view that a positive attitude is the best way to fight cancer. Don't get me wrong, I believe that a positive attitude is very important and can help with recovery, but I don't believe it is a cure all and that people should rely only on their positive attitude and ignore all the other options (diet, supplements, exercise, etc.) which can also help to heal cancer. I believe in not putting all your eggs in one basket - and in addition, approaches that utilize all these different modalities together have shown that they work together to produce very powerful healing for different types of chronic diseases (heart disease, aids, senility, etc.) Thus, while I do think meditation and stress reduction can be powerful, I also believe that they work best when used in conjunction with a total program of diet, supplements, exercise, etc.
In picking a form of meditation/stress reduction, I believe it is less important which type you pick than it is finding one that feels right for you. While the options available seem quite different (guided imagery, yoga, tai chi, chi gong, etc), there is an old saying that these are different paths to the same destination. Thus I would urge you to try a few out and see which form appeals to you. Finding a good teacher is crucial - I have found asking friends for leads is often the best way to find a good teacher. Also many cancer centers now offer meditations classes or other options - check with your Doctor and local cancer centers. If all else fails there are plenty of books and tapes available of meditation as well as those books and tapes specific by people who have specific cancer meditation programs that they have developed. Again I would first try to find a good teacher in your local area - but if that fails then I would try a few books or tapes to see which one feels right to you.
One of the most interesting studies to come along in recent years was a cancer study concerning the use of counseling for breast cancer patients. In its first trial, the authors found that those patients who were simply part of a breast cancer support group survived twice as long as normal breast cancer patients. This notion, that being part of a community, could increase survival by 100% was astonishing. And it did correlate to the finding of Dr. Ornish with regard to heart disease. Recently he published a book where he found that one of the most significant aspects to reversing heart disease was in feeling part of a community. Isolation or feeling lonely, he found, could literally break your heart.
While the study in breast cancer is very small, it certainly does suggest that feeling part of a community can have similar strong affects on a persons ability to fight cancer. Perhaps feeling useful, needed or understood simply makes your immune system stronger. This clearly overlaps the whole idea of positive thinking causing a person to have a stronger immune system. It should be no surprise that feeling isolated or lonely can have a negative impact on your health or in healing from cancer.
Again, it is relatively easy to find some sort of activity that will help a cancer patient feel more part of a community and there is little downside. Many cancer centers or hospitals offer cancer support groups, and other groups have sprung up on their own in many communities. In addition, other options exist like volunteering that can help to make a person feel less lonely and useful. Finally there are hot lines you can call to talk with people and to find resources on support groups, etc. Hopefully you can find a list of these resources through you local cancer centers or hospitals, or through some of the links you will find on our cancer links page.