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“You have cancer” is a phrase that incites fear in even the strongest of us. In fact, the love of my life, James Templeton, opens up about how this devastating phrase sent his whole world crashing down in the fight for his life in his new book, I Used to Have Cancer, and he’s one of the strongest people I know. He’s thriving more than 30 years later, and he and I are on a mission to inspire you to fight cancer – and win.
Cancer is more of a household word than most people realize. Current statistics show that 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. According to the National Cancer Institute, only 5 to 10 percent of all cancers are caused by genetic mutations, yet the first question most people think of when they are diagnosed is, “does this cancer run in my family?” The truth is, even if a cancer runs in your family, the odds are it isn’t “dirty genes,” but actually a “dirty environment.”
The toxins and radiation we are exposed to in the air we breathe, the water we drink and bathe in, and the foods we eat, plus all of the other lifestyle choices we make, are risk factors for the 90 to 95 percent of cancers that aren’t caused by your genes. The science of epigenetics says, in essence, that “genes load the gun,” but it’s the environment you live in, plus the environment your cells are in, that “pulls the trigger” on you developing cancer. In other words, your environment trumps your genes, and this explains why not everyone with genetic mutations known to cause cancer will actually develop that cancer.
For almost a century now, we’ve known that the foods you eat play a huge role in the health of your body, all the way down to your cell level. Nutrient dense foods are rich in antioxidants and polyphenols that repair damaged cells and help you build new healthy cells, and are essential in the fight against cancer. On the other hand, eating processed, fried, or sugary foods creates inflammation in your body and sets the stage for cancer to develop when given the chance.
For more than 20 years, James Templeton and I have enjoyed healthy, delicious meals he has personally prepared, and I want to give you some insight into the foods we eat that he discovered in his fight against cancer. James started his natural healing journey with the macrobiotic diet, and later, with education and insight from our shared mentor, Dr. Hazel Parcells, he changed his diet to add even more anti-cancer foods. Since he first started his fight more than 30 years ago, more and more diets to fight cancer have popped up, and it can be confusing to navigate all the choices.
When looking for which diet to go on, most people research the diets that have been found to be effective for their specific cancer. But, in over 3 decades of working with people who are fighting cancer, James and I have both observed that two people diagnosed with the same cancer often require two completely different dietary approaches for healing. One may require an enzyme-rich vegan diet with juicing and coffee enemas, while the other may see results with a keto diet, high in healing fats and very low in sugars. The differences between people usually come from their genetic ancestry.
We’ve been told that “you are what you eat,” but the opposite is also true, you need to “eat what you are” – meaning foods that suit your DNA and ancestry. Your genetic preferences are written into your DNA – which comes equally from your mother and father. Written into that genetic code is the ideal environment for your healthy genes to express themselves, and a large part of this ideal environment is created by the foods you eat.
A lion doesn’t thrive while eating a diet of fruits and vegetables, just like a deer isn’t going to hunt and eat prey animals – both can survive, but it isn’t ideal for either of them. You are no different. If you are descended from a people who lived in an cold climate with very limited access to fresh produce, you likely have a higher need for essential fats from cold-hardy animals and deep sea fatty fish, while someone descended from tropical populations is better suited to a diet centered around fresh produce.
The human body is wonderfully resilient and will try to handle everything you give it – until it can’t. When you are fighting a disease like cancer and eating foods that don’t match your body chemistry and ancestry, even the diet that seems the healthiest can further impair your immune system, causing more inflammation and contributing to disease. This is what James discovered on his healing journey, and why he adapted from the macrobiotic diet to include more foods. It took a leap of faith on his part – but only made him stronger.
Because cancer seems so intimidating, I’d like to take the sting out of it and break it down into what’s really happening in your body. Simply put, cancer develops in a body that’s out of balance and has damage at the cell level that needs to be repaired. On a daily basis, your body makes one million cancer cells, but a properly functioning immune system destroys them all. When your immune system is overloaded or suppressed, by poor diet, toxins, stresses, or other diseases, these cancer cells grow unchecked and become a cancer diagnosis. When you support your body with a healthy diet that’s right for your ancestry, your immune system thrives, your detoxification organs work properly, and your body is better able to clear out those cancer cells with the therapies you use.
I know some of you are sitting with ancestry DNA results in hand, finding yourselves to be too much of a mix of different populations to sort things out by your DNA alone. Or, like James and me, you have a mix of ancestries in your household and need to find common foods that feed everyone. Fortunately, most anti-cancer diets have 5 basic principles in common that can be used universally to bring your body back into balance and promote health all the way down to the cell level.
Fiber is nature’s broom, sweeping toxins and excess hormones out through the digestive system to be eliminated. Both soluble and insoluble fiber are needed to keep this process moving smoothly – soluble fiber binds the toxins, while insoluble fiber moves them through. Many anti-cancer diets are very high in fiber-rich foods like vegetables and fruits that haven’t been juiced, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Despite high-fat diets like keto and paleo taking center stage in the diet world, fats are still much maligned in the anti-cancer community. This is primarily due to the hormone-sensitive cancers like breast, ovarian, and prostate. Our sex hormones are fat soluble, and healthy essential fats like Omega 3 and Omega 6, when consumed in the right balance, not only build healthy cells, but also support healthy hormone balance.
The ideal ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fats is 4:1. These fats are in hempseeds, hemp hearts, and hempseed oil in a 3:1 ratio, which is as close to perfect as we can get in a food source. Other good sources of these fats include all nuts, seeds and their oils; wild caught fatty fish; organic, free range poultry and eggs; grass-fed organic meat; and grass-fed organic butter and raw cheeses.
Balance needs to be restored in a body that is developing cancer. While we often hear about how the acidic state of our bodies promotes cancer development, Dr. Parcells taught me that intracellular pH balance is crucial for your cells to make energy and sustain your life – and intracellular pH is often too alkaline in disease states. This is one reason why juicing vegetables and fruits is such a staple in many anti-cancer diets.
Organic leafy greens, fiber-rich vegetables, and a small amount of low-glycemic fruits should be staples in every anti-cancer diet. These healthy carbs are rich in enzymes, antioxidants, and other powerful anti-cancer compounds that have been well researched for their powerful healing effects. Green vegetable juices are packed with potent disease-fighting nutrients, but are also well-known for their pH balancing effects – both inside the cell and out. And I’ll let you in on a little secret – my cran-water, made famous through my Fat Flush family of plans, is also very effective at balancing intracellular pH.
One thing many cancer patients struggle with is having enough energy for a good quality of life. Treatments and mood issues commonly cause loss of appetite, and this coupled with an imbalanced diet can lead to low protein consumption. Did you know that not having enough protein in your diet can be the primary cause of your fatigue?
Not only does protein provide the body with amino acids that are necessary for repair and rebuilding of cells and tissues, but protein is also a major source of lasting energy. Good quality protein is found in the same foods that are rich in fiber and healthy fats. Be sure to include protein in every meal you eat.
Where you live right now, you may not have access to all of the healing foods your ancestors ate. However, the easiest to find (or make yourself) also pack a big punch for your immune system – fermented foods. These probiotic-packed powerhouses are rich in vitamins and minerals, restore health and strength to your immune and digestive systems, balance the microbiome (healthy bacteria community in your body), and are steeped in centuries-old folklore for their healing powers.
Korean chefs make kimchi, Russians make kvass, Polish are famous for their pickles and vinegars, Scandinavians make a variety of yogurt-type dairy ferments, Europeans are known for their sauerkraut and sourdough, and the list goes on. There are even sourdough starters that have been passed from generation to generation and kept alive for more than 100 years. Can you imagine the wonderful bacterial diversity present in a substance that’s been nurtured and thriving for that many years?
Japanese culture has a tradition of starting the day with a bowl of miso soup to stimulate digestion, energize the body, and keep diseases at bay. Miso soup is a staple in the macrobiotic diet, and James Templeton started his day with it for many years – until he found unpasteurized sauerkraut. He still enjoys a good quality miso that’s been fermented for a few years, but a spoonful of sauerkraut (or a full helping) with each meal is an easy and convenient way to stimulate the digestive juices. To take full advantage of their healing properties, make sure your fermented foods haven’t been pasteurized or overheated before you eat them.
If you or a loved one is facing cancer, I encourage you to find hope and inspiration in James Templeton’s new book, I Used to Have Cancer.
And for a daily dose of tips and strategies, check out the Templeton Wellness Foundation’s “Health Tips for Fighting Cancer”