A review of the Nutritional Therapies in the Management of Cancer

One in three people will contract cancer in their lifetime. Compared to the early 20th century cancer was seen as a rare disease. In Hong Kong the number of new cancer cases are rises by on average 2% per year, the most common cancers being lung, colorectal, liver and stomach. Factors like urbanisation, adoption of the western diet (trans fats and sugar), increasing pollution and an aging population all influence the incidence of particular cancers in Hong kong.


Cancer results from an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. As the cells continue to divide they form into cancerous tumors. The frenzied development of a cancerous tumor can overwhelm the organ or tissue where it is located. Left unchecked, many cancers can eventually destroy enough tissue that the body loses its ability to sustain life.

Although the potential causes of cancer are numerous, they can be placed into these basic categories:

  • Genetics + family history (5-10%)
  • Environmental influences (25%)
  • Dietary habits, Lifestyle Factors eg. Sleep, exercise, stress management (75%)

The key message to understand here is that we have more control over the development of cancer than first thought. Traditionally it was believed that cancer was ‘in our genes’ and it was pre-determined, however it is now becoming clearer that by modifications to diet and lifestyle can dramatically reduce your risk of getting cancer. An example is by not smoking or being around smokers you can substantially reduce your risk of getting lung cancer.

The typical western diet of high carbs and low fats, promotes obesity and thereby contributes to the development of cancer. A poor diet fails to nourish the anti-cancer systems of the body. Cancer promoting foods like refined sugar, excess carbohydrates, bad fats and certain meats all have their role to play in weakening immunity, promoting an inflammatory response, disrupting sugar metabolism and stimulating the release of cancer promoting hormones.

The body’s ability to heal

The human body is actually designed to win the battle against cancer. Most of us have circulating cancer cells – the only reason we don’t have a diagnosis of cancer is because we have been successful in destroying and eliminating these cancerous cells. We each have body systems, immune cells and pathways set up to help prevent and defeat cancer. Diet, lifestyle, the external environment and genetic make-up all influence the body’s ability to fight cancer.

Existing cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiotherapy severely underestimates the body’s potential for self-healing. The body has an innate system of checks and balances that work to keep us strong. This primarily is the immune system which is supported by the detoxification system. We have over 1 trillion white blood cells circulating the body, which are composed of anti-bodies, lymphocytes, T cells, Natural Killer Cells, macrophages and others to form a formidable anticancer team.

An important factor in remaining disease free is maintaining or creating a healthy environment. Unfortunately aspects of our environment are directly damaging to cells. The air you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat and the chemicals you touch can create cellular damage. Many environmental factors can make a person more vulnerable to cancer and they are called carcinogens.

Reassuringly there are some proactive steps one can take through diet and lifestyle to help prevent cancer. Although cancer is a disease of genetic expression, it can be mitigated through modifications of the diet, how much weight we carry or changing our external environment.

The kind of food we eat has a big impact on health. Proactive cancer prevention places the emphasis on whole fresh and fermented foods which provide essential cancer fighting nutrients. Some food contains significant nutrients that help keep the body healthy and operating at peak capacity. These include:

  • Tomatoes – contain lycopene which supports the immune system.
  • Whole grains – contain lignans which positively influence the hormonal system.
  • Citrus fruits – contain flavonoids which enhance immunity.
  • Broccoli – contain sulforaphane and other compounds that help stimulate detoxification and immunity
  • Rosemary – contain Carnisol and other aromatic compounds that can help prevent and treat cancer.

When it comes to the macro-nutrients its important to ensure an adequate balance of carbohydrates proteins and fats. Maintaining good levels of healthy fats is important which include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Some saturated fat is ok, as is good levels of Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) particularly Omega-3s which have been shown to be effective against reducing cancer by increased apoptosis (cell death).

Protein is essential for people with cancer, it can help to boost white blood cell counts and overall immunity. Undergoing conventional cancer therapy may require as much as 50% more protein than usual and one way of ensuring adequate protein intake is through protein shakes. The form of powdered protein provides a readily assimilated form of protein which can be quickly used by the body.

Among the essential amino acids, glutamine is especially important. Not only is it the most abundant amino acid in the body but its also involved in more metabolic tasks than other amino acids. It is especially important as a source of fuel for white blood cells and for cells that divide rapidly, like those in the small intestine. As an adjunctive support to help patients recover from chemotherapy and radiotherapy, glutamine is very supportive.

The scientific evidence linking vegetable and fruit intake to cancer prevention and treatment in impressive. Studies have shown that vegetables in the diet improve immune function and strengthen liver detoxification. Compounds in vegetables help protect DNA from damage that would otherwise lead to cancer.

What promotes cancer growth

Certain metabolic changes in the body promote cancer growth and initiation, these include anaerobic metabolism (low oxygen), an acidic environment and a glucose rich diet.

Anaerobic Metabolism

Normal cells typically create energy via a process known as aerobic metabolism (with oxygen). However, if something happens which either inhibits the bloods ability to transport oxygen, lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood or damages the cells ability to make energy, then cells have no energy and this creates a problem. Since there is not enough oxygen for the cells to breathe, it changes to anaerobic (without oxygen) respiration to survive. The cell stops breathing and starts fermented glucose to make energy, the by product of which is lactic acid, which further inhibits the cell from receiving oxygen. This is the essential requirement that turns normal cells that depend on aerobic respiration into cancer cells which are anaerobic dependent.

Dr Otto Warburg, a cancer biochemist, initially discovered in the 1930’s that cancer cells are anaerobic. He believed that cancer occurs whenever any cell is denied 60% of its oxygen requirement. His research indicated that cancer is a fermentative disease caused by cells which have mutated from aerobic respiration to anaerobic respiration.

The pH Balance

Our blood must always maintain a pH of approximately 7.35 so that it can continue to transport oxygen. We have an in-built buffer system which allows the correction of an imbalanced pH so that we can continue to supply oxygen where needed. However when our buffering systems reach overload, excess acids are dumped into the tissues, as this continues tissues begin to deteriorate. The acid wastes begin to oxidise the veins and arteries and begin to destroy cell walls.

Normal cells create energy via aerobic respiration and cells which are alkaline are able to absorb sufficient quantities of oxygen to support aerobic respiration. However when cells become more acidic less oxygen is absorbed and the cells begin to ferment glucose in order to survive. Cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment and don’t do well in an alkaline environment. So good advice would be to support the body with alkaline rich foods such as most vegetables and fruits, olive oil, green tea, raw cheese and avoid too much acidic forming foods – like sodas, coffee, alcohol, chocolate, meats, chicken and processed grains.

A review of the nutritional therapies for cancer

A variety of nutritional therapies for cancer have sprung up in the last few decades. Some are gaining in popularity and credibility due to their long term effectiveness against cancer, whilst others are being falsely purported by celebrities and alternative practitioners who have particular vested interests in such therapies. Establishing a clear unbiased opinion of the true effectiveness of a nutritional therapy requires an objective case-by-case review, understanding the therapeutic action of each element of the nutritional protocol. I shall review the three most common nutritional therapies used for cancer.

Budwig Diet

Back in the 1950s, a German Biochemist, Dr Joanna Budwig, began to study the effects of fats on human metabolism. She began her research by analysing the blood samples of thousands of ill patients, and she then compared these samples to the blood of healthy people. She soon found that the blood of seriously ill cancer patients was deficient in certain essential ingredients, including phosphatides and lipoproteins, whereas the blood of a healthy person contained sufficient quantities of these ingredients.

Budwig believed that chronic disease (cancer) is a result of a body lacking in Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) which are full of electrons and bind to oxygen and proteins. When they are absorbed into the cell wall they pull oxygen into the cell, and when bound to sulphur based proteins they become water soluble. This is the theory behind budwig diet: The use of oxygen in the organism can be stimulated by lipoproteins (sulphur rich proteins found in cottage cheese and linoleic acid – EFA) and oxygen is the nemesis to cancer.

This protocol encourages the consumption suplur-rich foods like nuts, onions, chives, garlic, and especially cottage cheese and yogurt. The budwig protocol also emphasises optimal detoxification with liver cleanses, infra-red saunas and coffee enemas to be used regularly. Many foods are eliminated on the diet, including all pork, fish, sugars, animal fats and processed foods. She emphasises that the any foods should be prepared fresh and eaten straight away. This is to ensure that the consumption of the enzymes in the foods are utilised.

DR Kelley Enzyme Therapy

Dr. Kelley was an orthodontist practicing in Texas in the 1960’s. He was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer and was told by the oncologist at the time that there was no treatment effective enough to beat the cancer. Dr. Kelley then started experimenting with his diet, and consuming various proteolytic enzymes (protein digesting) and he noticed that his symptoms were going away. He tweaked and modified his therapy over time to include the detoxification procedures of coffee enemas, liver cleanses and infra-red saunas. He eventually cured himself of his cancer and started to apply the protocol he created to patients in the local area and soon he started to develop a reputation for helping people beat their cancer. The key difference of Dr. Kelleys protocol to Gerson and Budwigs protocols is the intensive use of proteolytic enzymes in the therapy together with the supplementation of amino-acids to support the immune system. Combining the enzymes with the amino acids is believed to have a specific role to play in weakening and breaking down the cancer cells and exposing them the immune system which provides further support in causing cancer cell apoptosis (cell death).

Today the protocol is modified to include other supplements which upregulate the immune system and optimise gut function. The dietary approach restricts red meat, chicken turkey and pork but allows some eggs and salmon to be moderately eaten. There is strong emphasis on eating liver daily, fresh vegetables together with nuts, seeds and some specific fruits.

Gerson Therapy

The Gerson therapy, developed by Dr. Max Gerson in the 1930’s, is longest existing nutritional cancer treatment available today. Dr. Gerson, a German physician who moved to New York in the 1930s started treating cancer patients in the 1940’s. He was getting some good successes with patients reversing their cancer conditions and he declared that he had found a cure for cancer, declaring publicly on national radio. He came under increasing scrutiny by the medical establishment and was later condemned by the New York state medical society.

According to Dr. Gerson, cancer is the result of two things: deficiency and toxicity. Gerson believed that cancer could be reversed if the patient cleansed their bodies from toxins which have built up over time and restore the immune system with proper nutrition. The dietary principles are one of rejuvenation with providing the body with micro-nutrients from a fat-free organic, vegetarian food diet with 13 pressed fruit juices per day. An abundance of nutrients from copious amounts of fresh, organic juices are providing your body with a super-dose of enzymes, minerals and nutrients. These substances then break down diseased tissue in the body, while coffee enemas aid in eliminating toxins from the liver.

The diet, which includes three full vegetarian meals, freshly prepared from organically grown fruits, vegetables and whole grains are consumed daily.  A typical meal will include salad, cooked vegetables, baked potatoes, a ‘Hippocrates soup’ and juice. Supplements included are a potassium compound, Lugol’s solution (iodine), Vitamin B-12, Thyroid hormone and Pancreatic Enzymes. Amino acids are very restricted on this diet in that no nuts, seeds, meats, poultry or fish are allowed.

Coffee enemas are the primary method of detoxification of the tissues and blood on the Gerson Therapy. Cancer patients on the Gerson Therapy may take up to 5 coffee enemas per day The Gerson Therapy also utilizes castor oil to stimulate bile flow and enhance the liver’s ability to filter blood.

Life Clinic Says:

A common theme in all these nutritional approaches is that they all recognise toxicity as one of the contributing factors in cancer development, and by optimising detoxification through coffee enemas, infra red saunas or colon cleanses improves the elimination of toxins from the body.

The differences which are apparent between the protocols are related to amount and types of supplements consumed and the macro-nutrient ratios advised. Gerson advises a low fat low protein high carbohydrate intake approach. Budwig and Kelley advise a more balanced protein fat carbohydrate intake with Kelley advising more coconut milk and oil. Kelleys supplementation guidelines include a wider variety of nutrients compared to Budwig and Gerson. The supplements Dr. Kelley recommends are designed to boost immunity, strengthen organ function and increase detoxification in the body.

The key distinction between the protocols however is the clinical diagnostic testing which the Kelley protocol now applies to assist in customising the supplementation. This improves the efficacy of the overall protocol in combating the cancer.

Each of these protocols have had their own degrees of success in helping patients with cancer and deciding which protocol to go for is a personal decision. At LIFE clinic we are offering the Dr. Kelley Nutritional protocol as we feel it is a more complete program supporting the body in fighting the cancer.

If you would like to know more about the Kelley Cancer protocol at LIFE Clinic, please email us, or contact reception on 2881 8131.


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