Functional Medicine knows it to be a metabolic, and therefore treatable and curable, disease
450 people die of cancer every day in the UK, accounting for more than quarter (28%) of deaths. Every 2 minutes in the UK, someone is diagnosed with cancer, and every 4 minutes someone dies of it. Breast, prostate, lung and bowel cancers account for over half (53%) of the cases in the UK.
In this article, we are going to debate the origins of cancer, the definition adopted by the mainstream medicine and how this has affected its treatment of it. I will also reflect on the Functional Medicine approach and see if the two systems can work together to slow cancer progress, and to improve outcomes and patients’ quality of life.
What is cancer? Everyone knows about cancer, but let me emphasise the science of cancer, as this will help you to understand the rationale behind various interventions, which seek to prevent cancer, slow its progression and prolong patients’ survival.
Cancer is a clinical condition characterised by the growth of abnormal cells in any part of the body. Cancer cells divide faster than normal cells, ignoring the usual biological rules. Cancer cells infiltrate the surrounding tissue or metastasise to distant parts of the body via the bloodstream or lymphatic system.
“Oooh, he’s lost weight. Do think it’s, you know, cancer?”
You may have heard people comment that this or that person has become listless and has lost a considerable amount of weight, and that he may be suffering with cancer!
A woman may be worried about a lump in her breast. For a man it may be difficulty passing urine: this usually progresses to frequency (particularly getting up several times at night), urgency (rushing for the toilet) and hesitancy (taking time and effort to pass water).
I have met many patients who are very worried that their prostate is slightly larger than normal, whilst their PSA is not high enough to diagnose cancer. The patient is asked to come back in six months for a repeat test. Imagine the level of worry the patient and his family experience over that time!
Interestingly, prostate cancer might progress from Benign Prosthetic Hypertrophy (BPH), which usually originates from a serious sugar problem, similar to polycystic ovary syndrome in women.
So, simple interventions like eating healthier food and reducing body fat mass would help many men and women to prevent prostate and breast cancers.
Is it a genetic mutation or metabolic disease?
There is a serious scientific debate going on about the origins of cancer. Mainstream medicine holds that cancer is a genetic mutation and hence little can be done to prevent or influence its progress. The approach is to cut, burn or poison the cancerous cells, using conventional treatments like surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
However, Functional Medicine considers cancer to be a metabolic disease, just like obesity, diabetes, vascular disease or dementia, and hence that there is a lot that we can do to prevent and control its progress.
We hold that metabolic processes damage the respiratory function of cells, making them switch from producing energy through the sophisticated oxygen-driven mitochondria, to the primitive process of fermenting sugar in the liquid part of the cell (cytoplasm), in the absence of oxygen.
The mitochondria can burn fat or sugar, while the primitive system follows unicellular organisms such as bacteria, by fermenting glucose or glutamine in an anaerobic environment, a process known as glycolysis.
Comparing the yield, one molecule of glucose in mitochondria produces 38 energy molecules (ATPs) while the same amount of sugar produce 2 energy molecules through fermentation. Therefore, cancer cells need 19 times more glucose and hence have 15 to 20 times more insulin receptors.
Translating this rocket science into simple lifestyle changes
We need to advise every cancer patient to avoid sugar (glucose and glutamine) to starve the cancer cells to death. Cancer can only consume sugar, whereas normal body cells can thrive on fat. If the patient can adopt a paleo or ketogenic diet, using fat as preferred fuel, this is going to encourage mitochondria to come back into service.
The patients also need to put more oxygen into their cells by practising deep diaphragmatic breathing and controlling their posture. Recent studies showed hyperbaric oxygen or ozone therapy were found to be great anti-cancer interventions.
In this way, we are not fighting cancer, we are building health. If we have health, disease will take care of itself, just as light will banish darkness. This is the Functional Medicine philosophy.
The ideal environment for cancer
The ideal environment for cancer is a high level of stress, lack of physical activity, a western diet, high inflammation, electronic devices and EMF, x-ray radiation, smoking and high blood sugar.
This is why they call sugar “the new smoking,” because it can cause any cancer, whereas tobacco can only really cause lung cancer.
Cancer happens every day in every person. On other words, there are 10,000 genetic mutations in everyone every day. A robust immune system destroys these cancerous initiatives and keeps us healthy. Correcting imbalances in our body empowers the immune system to fight challenges like cancer.
Functional Medicine (FM) also helps you to perform MOT-like testing to find out which systems are currently under strain or already broken, with imbalances that may prevent the immune system from doing a good job. Completing these checks, while supported by an FM practitioner, helps you to stay on top of any future health challenges.
Epigenetic’s says cancer is 5-10% due to genetic factors and 90-95% related to your environment, so most of it is under your control. Choosing a bad environment drives disease, while choosing a good one drives health. You may have heard of several women with BRCA genes, who chose to have bilateral mastectomy (surgical removal of breasts) in view of the high risk of developing breast cancer. This was misguided, as studies show that merely eating a plant-based diet and pursuing regular exercise lowers the rates of breast cancer in BRCA genes.
Food: there are good guys and bad guys
Baddies include processed food, microwave popcorn, artificial sweeteners, excessive cows’ milk, additives and preservatives. French fries increase bladder and lung cancer; soda is high in high fructose corn syrup (HFCS); farmed salmon is high in carcinogen pesticides.
The good guys include Willow Park, which is great for pain and inflammation, vegetables, fermented food, tomatoes, green tea, antioxidant cayenne pepper for your prostate, bell peppers, which increase vitamins, antibacterial onions, antioxidant vitamin C and vitamin A, cruciferous vegetables, garlic, wild salmon, EGCG from green tea, sprouts, broccoli, green drinks, and green and coloured vegetables, which feed the mitochondria.
Vitamin D is a key supplement, providing essential fatty acids. Fasting can promote the processing of fat.
“I’m not scared of cancer anymore”
Functional Medicine can give you hope. Most cancer patients think that cancer comes out of the blue, is unpredictable and difficult to control. They are afraid of dying. They say they just want to live longer and enjoy a good quality of life.
After a few months of treatment, they say: “I am feeling better, I’m enjoying my food, I am more mobile and confident. I am not really scared of cancer anymore, and I feel it is a condition that I can keep under control, like diabetes or high blood pressure.”
FM can improve your general wellbeing. We can find the underlying cause of the condition and reinstate system function, such as blood sugar control or gut health. We take a deep history to understand the medical issues and spend time getting to know the patient. We test, including a full biochemistry, inflammation and oxidative stress markers, insulin and blood sugar markers, full nutrition testing, test for toxicity, heavy metals and gut health, and genetic testing.
Changes revolve around getting the patient to think ‘healthy’ in every aspect of their life, including healthy food and supplements, movement, stress management and improving broken relationships.
FM reduces inflammation and oxidative stress. This is helped by the consumption of plant-based food and a ketogenic diet of healthy fats. Reduce your intake of animal proteins, avoid cheap vegetable cooking oils, and cook instead with saturated fat such as coconut or butter.
Anti-inflammatory agents such as omega 3 and curcumin are helpful in reducing inflammation levels. Antioxidants in the rainbow-coloured fruits and vegetables, vitamins A, C and E, Glutathione, the master antioxidant, and melatonin are very potent antioxidants, particularly for the brain. Patients could benefit from high doses of intravenous vitamin C and glutathione. High doses of oral or rectal melatonin are also of great benefit.
Lifestyles with positive impact on cancer
– Sunshine – increase vitamin D, a key element to support immune system.
– Juicing vegetables and fruits – celery, cucumber, avocado, carrots, beetroots, Ginger, apple, berries.
– infrared or steam sauna would help to sweat out toxins through the skin.
– Coffee enema – increases bile flow with positive impact on detoxification, also increases Glutathione (master antioxidant) production.
– Hyperbaric oxygen or Ozone therapy.
Cancer can only burn sugar, so sugar control is key
Cancer is a metabolic condition and blood sugar is the core of this problem. As we have seen, cancer processes only sugar as a fuel. Cutting sugar intake is going to shrink and kill off the cancer gradually.
How do you do this? Be wary of foods with a very high glycaemic index, such as white bread, white rice and pasta. Go for really low-sugar fruits and vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts.
Your normal body cells can consume fat as fuel while cancer cells cannot. This is why it is very important that you switch to a ketogenic diet. You can also go on intermittent; water fasts or fast mimicking diet as these encourage your body to burn fat as the main fuel.
Fasting helps the body to burn fat and also helps to reprogram the body’s control systems. Every cell has a definite age and must die and be replaced by a new cell, but the cancer cells don’t. Fasting reinstates this rule, telling the cancer cells to go when their service is over. It also promotes the generation of stem cells, which replace the dying cells.
I see biochemical test results every day that reflect gene damage (8OHdG). This is a warning that cancer is on the way, even though the patient is absolutely asymptomatic. We can help patients to deal with the underlying causes and clear the genetic damage through agents such as sulforaphane or DIM. We can also do the same testing in patients with established cancer to monitor their progress to see if their genetic damage is getting better.
This is a big issue in cancer, the best example being oestrogen dominance in breast and prostate cancer. This is mostly caused by a weakness in the detoxification of oestrogen. Interventions to support the detox process include an infrared sauna help to reinstate hormonal balance.
Angiogenesis is the proliferation of blood vessels to enable the cancer to grow faster. We can inhibit this process, for example by deploying the lycopene in tomatoes to reduce the risk of prostate cancer or stabilise patients suffering from it. You can get the best lycopene by heating tomatoes in olive oil, which makes the lycopene more readily absorbable.
Substances that modify immune response either stimulate or suppress to enhance the immune system to fight infection, allergy or cancer, these include monoclonal antibodies, low dose naltrexone (LDN), Bio bran.
Natural agents include omega 3, Boswellia, curcumin, liquorice, grapefruit extract, devils claw root, Ginkgo biloba, cayenne capsicum.
Treatment protocols I would love to see in the UK
- Intensive nutrition and detox support prior to major chemo or radiotherapy treatment.
- Insulin Potentiated Therapy (ITP): cancer identifies insulin faster than the rest of the body, so chemotherapy potentiated with insulin is immediately ambushed by cancer cells. ITP would help to reduce the dose of chemotherapy given, killing cancerous cells with minimal collateral damage.
- Local hyperthermia at temperatures between 40 and 45°C was found to be effective cancer treatment. Hyperthermia also reduces resistance to chemotherapy.
- A water fast, a couple of days before and one day after chemotherapy can improve the outcome and also help reduce the chemotherapy dose.
I have a lot of respect for my patients who present with cancer. They show great dedication and work really hard to produce some outstanding results. This is an area of medicine that can deliver great satisfaction for both patients and doctors.
I was surprised by the change in my own attitude. In the past, I used to limit my dealings with these patients to just managing their acute medical problems and then sending them back to the specialised cancer service. Now, after 40 years of doing that, I love working with them over the long term, offering Functional Medicinal support alongside their conventional treatment.
And now, my friends, I would love to hear your stories – your experience of success and failure – in relation to cancer. You may well help or encourages someone else suffering along the same lines.