By Marika Sboros

If cancer has touched you or anyone you’ve ever cared about, this book is for you. Even if you just want to reduce your risk of dread disease, it is for you.

The Metabolic Approach to Cancer (Chelsea Green Publishing) is groundbreaking. The book’s subtitle speaks volumes: Integrating Deep Nutrition, the Ketogenic Diet, and Nontoxic Bio-Individualized Therapies.

Yes, the “k” word (ketogenic) diet is there. Yet many oncologists still consider it a swear word despite the growing evidence base. And they pass that prejudice on to patients who believe ketogenic signals grave danger.

Take, for example, an oncologist’s response to a patient in South Africa last year. The patient said that he had done research and wanted to go on a ketogenic diet before and during chemotherapy. He might as well have said that he wanted to inject laetrile (discredited apricot kernel extract) into his veins.

The doctor’s response was abrupt and angry: “In that case, I’ll cancel your chemotherapy.” The doctor went on to indicate that the patient’s medical aid wouldn’t pay for future treatment. That’s enough to terrify the life out of any cancer patient. After all, orthodox treatment costs can bankrupt patients and their family, even with medical aid.

The response was an example of what experts say is “eminence-based medicine”. It is also the symptom of the terminally ill paternalistic model of medicine. This book effectively sabotages any vestige of foundation for that model. It also undermines one of modern medicine’s “most entrenched paradigms”. 

Americans authors Dr Nasha Winters and Jess Higgins Kelley are powerhouse cancer mythbusters. They make their book a milestone on many different levels. Not the least of those are their authentic voices. Both have been up-close-and-personal with the disease.

Winters is a naturopathic oncologist, a specialist in integrative medicine and a cancer survivor. Her experience of dread disease made her switch midstream from conventional (orthodox) medicine to become a naturopathic oncology physician.

Winters says that she has seen “hundreds of stage IV cancer patients” who have lived far beyond their “expiration date”. All because they exercised their freedom of choice to follow an evidence-based treatment model different from convention.

Likewise, Kelley is an iconoclast. She is a master nutrition therapist who has practised oncology nutrition therapy for more than 10 years. She has taught at the Nutrition Therapy Institute in Denver, Colorado since 2010. Kelley is also founder of the innovative Oncology Nutrition Therapy Certification Program.

In 2014 doctors diagnosed her father, John “Jack” Higgins, with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). GBM is the most common form of malignant brain tumour in adults. It is also the most aggressive form  – it grows fast and spreads as quickly as it kills. Therefore, it has a grim prognosis – as have other forms of the dread disease.

Higgins died in October, 2016, eight days short of his 62nd birthday. Winters and Kelley dedicated their book to him.

It’s a mistake to assume that Winters and Keely are against orthodox medicine. Far from it. They just don’t buy into the orthodox view that cancer is a genetic disease. They also don’t believe it’s just down to bad luck, as some researchers believe.

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The authors draw on 30 years of collective work in the fields of naturopathy, oriental medicine, acupuncture, nutrition and integrative oncology. They also draw on one of the most exciting avenues of research: the metabolic model.  That’s based on the pioneering work of German physician Dr Otto Warburg in the 1920s.

Warburg’s well-known theory is that all cancer is a disease of energy metabolism. At heart of the model is mitochondrial dysfunction. Rebooting mitochondrial function and depriving cancer of the fuel it needs to survive lie at the heart of this book.

Thus, the authors are not fans of modern medicine’s “slash, poison and burn” treatment approach. They see well-documented limitations inherent in chemotherapy and radiation, even surgery.

An influential book on that topic is Tripping over the Truth by Travis Christofferson. The subtitle is: How the Metabolic Theory of Cancer is Overturning One of Medicine’s Most Entrenched Paradigms.

Christofferson calls Winters and Kelley’s book a “new gem” in the universe of books on the disease. It is “a powerhouse of detailed information on how to prevent, manage, and treat cancer”. that’s because they hone in on the health of the person, “not just killing cancer cells alone”.

The foreword is by Kelly Turner, PhD, a Harvard graduate. Turner is the New York Times bestselling author of Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds, now in 20 languages. It is the fruits of her extensive research into ” radical remission of cancer”. That’s what she calls people who heal themselves without “Western medicine” or after it has failed.

Turner calls cancer “a mitochondrial disease related to a person’s physiology, psychology, and ecology”. Examining a damaged gene by itself is like “putting on your seat belt after your car has crashed”, she says.

Thus, Winters and Kelley remind readers that chemotherapy and radiation are carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Therefore, they focus on safe, effective, evidence-based options to conventional oncology’s “antiquated and largely ineffective treatments”. In other words, they mean treatments that make patients “far more likely to die earlier” and with lower quality of life.

They don’t underestimate the battle confronting patients. They say that cancer is history’s ” most elusive, cunning, adaptable, intelligent, and innovative disease”. It is also one that has “outsmarted us for a long time”. And while it isn’t contagious, the disease is “unquestionably the bubonic plague of our day”.

The authors dispense with the somatic mutation theory (SMT) that the disease is from “rogue” cells.  The theory is that there needs to be extensive damage over time to a cell’s genetic material — deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Once it reaches breaking point, the cell “goes rogue from its intended function and becomes cancerous”.

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They say that the experts cast SMT theory was set “in carbonite over 75 years ago” but is now outdated.Thus, they seek to release research and treatment from “the tiny confines of this tenet”.

It doesn’t get us any closer to preventing or curing this “scary, heartbreaking, expensive and painful disease”. Clearly, doctors are “not winning the war on cancer — not even close”, say Winters and Kelley. They say that there’s a better chance of surviving Russian roulette today than cancer and associated Western treatments.

The numbers tell a grim tale and not only in this book. The World Health Organisation says that the disease is the second leading cause of death globally. Research showed that in 2015, cancer caused around 8.8million deaths. It also showed that the vast majority (70%) of deaths are in low- to middle-income countries. Research also shows that cancer directly affects almost half of the US population.

Winters and Kelley dispel the enduring myth that it is a disease of ageing. They point out that from the early 1980s to 1990s, the incidence of cancer in American children under age 10 rose by 37%.  They also point out that after accidents, cancer is the next most frequent cause of death in US children.

The authors take a sober look at why cancer research and drug development are big business. In 2014 alone, the global market for cancer drugs hit $100 billion. Cancer may be “spectacular for the economy” but has proven “both costly and deadly for the patient”, they say.

That’s all about the problem. This book is also strong on solutions.

The authors go over some old scientific ground but with new eyes. They know that they aren’t the first to declare that “cancer loves glucose” (sugar). Nor are they the first to show that uncontrolled growth defines cancer.

They build on the pioneering work of US biochemistry professor Thomas Seyfried. Seyfried, a world authority on the metabolic model of cancer, famously said that we’ve made cancer into “an industry”. He also said that we should “not have to burn and poison patients to treat cancer. There must be a gentler way.”

Winters and Kelley devote their book to showing you the way.

They provide “logical, nontoxic, therapeutic strategies for starving cancer cells of their prime fuels” while enhancing overall health, says Seyfried. Their book is a “valuable resource for all cancer patients and their oncologists”.

They don’t pretend that there’s any magic bullet or single intervention to cure cancer magically. Instead, they offer insight into how the disease develops and how to stop it in its tracks.

Fighting cancer requires diets and lifestyles that are in accordance with our evolution, they say. The key is to understand “the underlying conditions” that include metabolic disorders and inflammation. These create the fertile ground (Winters and Kelley call it the “terrain”)  for cancer to develop.

They expose the ubiquitous threats to optimum health in modern urban lifestyles. These include the American food pyramid, overconsumption of sugar, GMO foods, modern agriculture practices, processed soy, grains and gluten, pesticides and antibiotics.

They also finger low-fat diets, vegan diets, processed foods, nutrient deficiencies, sedentary lifestyles and stress. These contribute to “imbalances in the terrain” and to the cancer process, they say.

Through epigenetics, to which they devote a chapter, the authors show the benefits of positive diet and lifestyle change. They explain how to influence gene expression and mitochondrial function through diet, lifestyle and even thoughts.

“That’s powerful medicine,” they say.

The metabolic model means optimising the body’s healing mechanisms instead of waging war on them.  It involves “treating the terrain, not the tumour”. The model is also about building up the body, not attacking it.That involves a diet that provides adequate amounts of macro- and micronutrients, vitamins and minerals. It also means giving the body enough exercise, sleep, fresh water, sunlight, love, and attention.

Do that and like a healthy garden, your body will flourish, they say. Feed it anti-nutrients and chemicals, insufficient sunshine and expose it to excessive stress, and your body will wither.

Winters and Kelley empower patients and restore their right to be actively involved in their own health and treatment. At heart, this book is about making modern medicine what it should be: healthy collaboration between doctor and patient.

The authors invite you on a neverending journey. It is one that points the way to living with, instead of dying from, cancer.