What would you say if I told you that a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich with a kosher pickle increases cancer risk dramatically?
Would you believe me?
Actually, BLT with a kosher pickle is a mnemonic I learned in my medical training to help remember the types of cancers which have a predisposition to metastasize (spread) to bone:
However, I believe we can learn a lot from this sandwich about cancer risk and progression in general. Consider:
-The bread contains gluten, a known inflammatory agent that contributes to the inflammatory environment. We know that inflammation is needed for cancer to develop and thrive. The bread also contains high glycemic carbohydrates, which cancer cells view as sugar and thus use to make energy.
-The bacon, assuming it is full of nitrates and nitrites, increases risk of several cancers including colorectal and stomach.
-The lettuce, assuming it is non-organic, contains numerous pesticides which we know are not good for us. I believe these pesticides will soon be shown to cause cancer.
-The tomato, assuming it is also non-organic, contains pesticides. It is also a carbohydrate source which is fuel for cancer cells.
-The kosher pickle is likely to contribute to stomach cancer risk, based on some studies.
The aforementioned sandwich, or something very similar, is consumed by many people every day for lunch. Sadly, most of these people believe that they are eating a fairly healthy meal. Vegetables, protein, and some carbs are okay, right? Make the bread whole wheat and it’s a lot healthier, right? If we skip the potato chips and have pretzels instead it’s okay, right? Maybe a diet soda instead of regular soda?
Unfortunately, there is no way to make this a healthy meal. Your body deserves better if you want to effectively treat or prevent cancer. For treating most cancers, I recommend focusing on the following nutritional guidelines:
-Low carbohydrates. No more than 30 grams of carbohydrates per day (some people can get away with up to 50 grams of carbohydrates per day). This is essential for limiting the fuel which almost all cancers preferentially use to grow and spread.
-Moderate protein. No more than 1 gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. To determine this number, divide your bodyweight in pounds by 2.2, which gives you your kilograms of bodyweight. This is the number of grams of protein you should stay under per day. This limit on protein is important, since the absence of carbohydrates can stimulate the body to convert protein into carbohydrates, a process known as gluconeogenesis. Animal protein is fine, but prioritize natural source such as grass-fed beef, organic free range chicken, wild caught fish, etc.
-Plenty of organic vegetables. Be careful with carbohydrate-laden vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and even tomatoes and onions. These sugars add up.
-Plenty of fats. Fat is not bad for you. In fact, it is very good for you and provides an excellent source of energy which your healthy cells love and your cancer cells can typically not use for energy. Emphasize healthy fats from avocados, coconuts, eggs, grass-fed butter, nuts, and seeds. Adding medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil is also excellent.
-Little to no dairy. While I do not believe that dairy “causes cancer,” I do believe that the growth hormone in commercially-produced dairy is less than ideal.
-No gluten. We know that it is inflammatory, and inflammation is at the root of cancer development and progression.
The above is a sensible, science-based nutrition plan which is also doable for most people. You do not need a drastic diet to fight your cancer, but you do need one which gives you plenty of macro- and micronutrients while limiting the components which we know fuel cancer growth.
Of course, nutrition isn’t all that you need to be doing. While nutrition is a very important part of your cancer fighting strategy, it is not nearly enough by itself.