If I got cancer, I would do 3 things:
- Be really, really ticked off because I’ve spent so much time trying to be healthy that I’d feel like it was a personal insult. (I know there’s absolutely nothing we can do to bulletproof ourselves from disease and that bad things happen in a fallen world, and eventually I’d accept it as a cross to bear, but feelings don’t have to be rational all the time, right?!)
- Quit eating sugar 100%, immediately.
- Dive into research like a maniac to figure out exactly what else I should eat and do to live more years to parent my children!
That’s pretty much what I did 18 months ago when my dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer, and since there’s so much about cancer floating around this month, I was reading my posts from that time again to see what I wanted to re-share on my Facebook page.
It’s surreal, remembering the process of shock, denial, grief, acceptance, and then passionate pursuit of knowledge.
It seems like forever ago, another lifetime, another person even.
But the posts are packed with good information and good conversation, so I decided I should send them all back out again – because who knows which of my readers’ parents, spouses, siblings, children or loved ones (or selves) have gotten the C-word diagnosis in the last year. They need to see these posts.
Starting with sugar, because it’s so darn controversial.
I first discussed the idea of “sugar feeds cancer” – which is very prevalent in the natural health world – in this post about the Best Foods for Cancer Patients.
In that one you’ll read all the recommendations I made for my dad, including a free downloadable printable list, and how it went when I presented it to him and my mom.
Then I talked with the doctor – he pretty much disagreed with or poo-pooed everything I had to say, and I found myself disagreeing with him, as illogical as that might sound at first. You can read about what he says about cancer and sugar too:
“Cancer is like a blood-sucking parasite. It doesn’t care what it consumes and has no preferences one way or the other. Even if the patient is starving, the cancer will keep going.
If we could starve cancer by starving the patient, believe me, that would become the protocol – but it doesn’t work.”
I was reading this post the other day about the sugar-cancer connection, and when I shared it on Facebook, people had lots to say! From those who argued that all sweets, no matter the source (white sugar, natural sugars, fruit sugars) are equally evil, to those who just wanted to know what natural sweeteners to use, to those who disagreed that sugar feeds cancer at all, like this gal:
Cancer is an opportunist. It will steal from the body whatever nutrients come its way. It pirates healthy cells and has them build its own circulatory system, so, as my doctor told me when I asked “why–I have a great diet?” “Healthy diet, healthy cancer.”
Often these articles talk about sugar being used in Pet Scans as proof cancer is a sugar eater. The reason glucose is used is because the body absorbs glucose the fastest, which is why it causes weight gain.
Since cancer feeds itself first, slowly robbing the body of nutrients, it absorbs the glucose first. No doubt our lifestyle has changed over the last few centuries. Our thumbs do more work than our biceps these days.
Cancer can be fueled by higher estrogen levels found when people are overweight, a condition high sugar consumption often creates. The only way we will slay the cancer beast is by understanding the facts.
Good nutrition makes scientific sense. We don’t need to weaken the case with inaccurate facts. Nourish our bodies with good food and our minds with good information.
Some research rings in from various angles:
- Sweetened beverages definitely increase risk for weight gain, and THAT is an increased risk for some cancers. (source)
- Mole rats never get cancer – unless you mess with their large sugars (and small sugars can promote cancer) – says this National Geographic article. No wonder it’s so confusing!
- This professor tells the World Health Organization that sugar, added sugar, not fruit sugars, is under the gun – and that because it causes obesity, it is linked to certain cancers. But no one is confirming that sugar actually feeds cancer that is already there…
It’s tricky in my mind. Sugar may not directly feed cancer – but if it suppresses your immune system, causes weight gain, and does absolutely no good for your body – isn’t it better to cut it out if you’re fighting cancer? (And, um, all the time, except that dark chocolate just tastes so darn good?!?)
I certainly didn’t include any sweeteners in the two recipes I developed just for Dad based on my research, and they didn’t need it:
After I found out my dad had cancer, I did a lot of research to help him fight cancer with food. I collated all the information I found, the research-based and the slightly off-the-wall, into a few lists of foods to eat often, sometimes, hardly ever and hopefully never.
I printed out a list for my parents, and I’ve created a PDF for you to print, too.
Finally, I did buy organics for my dad as much as possible, and here’s why.
And we created a special regimen to help him weather the effects of chemo, and let me tell you – he kicked butt. He hardly slowed down one bit, and now, a year and four months cancer free (after bladder removal surgery), he is still working 6 days a week, going to church, volunteering at the local nursing home – and he’s 77 years old. Dang.
And seriously – anyone know someone who might want to buy a car dealership in northern Michigan? We’d all like him to be able to retire soon and enjoy his grandkids more often!
If you’re worried about cancer hitting your family, I’d love to say that you shouldn’t worry – and if you’re a believer in God, you shouldn’t. Worry, that is.
But it might be valid to be concerned, or to be realistic about the fact that predictions vary from 1 in 4 to 1 in 3 – that’s people who will get cancer in their lifetimes. That’s a lot of people.
If you’re curious about the risk factors in your own life, I thought this 13-question (super quick!) quiz was a valuable minute of my life: TAKE THE QUIZ HERE.
My results ended up very encouraging, even though I was honest about my sweet tooth!
Read all the Kitchen Stewardship posts related to cancer HERE.
Disclosure: There are affiliate links to The Truth About Cancer summit in this post.