Fighting cancer naturally – What are your options?

​Many natural health experts believe you can prevent and even eradicate cancer through diet, lifestyle and nutritional therapy. Here, naturopath Sally Mathrick looks at the alternatives

Chances are you know at least one person who has or has had cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, more than one in three people in the United Kingdom will develop a form of cancer throughout their lives. In America the statistic stands at one in two. Cancer is alarmingly common throughout the world today. But it’s certainly not a new scourge to the human race. The earliest records of this destructive disease are found in Egyptian and Peruvian Incan artefacts. However, why it strikes many more people now than in ancient times, is a worthy question.

Cancer describes more than 200 different diseases that share similar characteristics. Cancer is characterised by its ability to grow without limits, to spread around the body and to refuse to die. A cancer’s growth is to the detriment of the host, often causing dramatic weight loss, night sweats, pain and eventual death. Cancer cells become diverse in their genetic code, because they devise strategies to obtain nutrition and energy from healthy body cells for their survival and growth.

There are many uncertainties with cancer. No consensus on the precise causes of cancer has been established. Direct links do exist, which include genetic predisposition, lifestyle choices (including chemical exposures) and infectious agents. But, exactly why some people get cancer and others don’t, despite similar exposure or inheritance, is where the jury is still decidedly out.

Generally, a jury is swayed by solid, accepted evidence. When it comes to healthcare, scientific validation is the evidence of choice. This is acquired through double-blind placebo controlled clinical trails, which require substantial resource and are often directed by economic goals. Consequently the majority of gold standard scientific evidence in healthcare exists due to funding from companies that have vested interests; predominantly pharmaceutical and agrochemical companies. Evidence from traditional, empirical or anecdotal sources can often be devalued or dismissed by the jury, as circumstantial, superstitious or ‘unproven’. Adopting such parameters of evidence often results in missing effective healing supports for those suffering.


Rudolf Breuss was a healer from Austria born in 1899. He believed that cancer survived on proteins, and by reducing protein intake and supporting the body with nutrients, cancer could be healed. Protein metabolism creates uric acid waste that increases acidity within the body. Breuss developed a specific mixture of organically grown carrot, beetroot, celery, Chinese radish and potato that provided all of the minerals and vitamins required by the body in liquid form. His therapy involved a 42-day fast consuming this mixture, which allowed the body’s own defences to deal with the diseased tissue. Testimonial after testimonial confirmed that his treatment worked wonders.


Natural medicine considers that a build-up of toxins blocks the natural flow of healing vitality throughout the body and allows disease to proliferate. If the toxic load is low and the body’s self cleansing mechanisms are functioning well, the body’s vitality is high and the opportunity for disease to develop greatly reduced. This understanding is based upon traditional, empirical, anecdotal and, increasingly, scientific evidence collected over many years. Natural medicine takes a holistic approach to cancer prevention and treatment in individual people. Essentially, a wide variety and combination of factors contribute to cancer development in individuals. These include:

  • Lack of social connection
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Low level of physical activity
  • Psychological attitudes
  • Genetic patterning
  • Toxin exposure


In 1939 Swiss Scientist Paul Muller won a Nobel Prize for discovering the use of DDT as a seemingly miraculous pesticide. It was used to kill the lice on soldiers’, refugees’ and prisoners’ heads during World War Two. DDT, and a host of other chemicals, predominantly compounds known as the organophosphates and chlorinated hydrocarbons, were embraced by agriculture and sprayed liberally over the land for a number of decades. DDT was banned in the 1970s, after much outcry about the destructive wake of such chemicals. These chemicals are now called persistant organic pollutants, or POPs, due to their inability to break down, but rather linger in the environment and its inhabitants.

The book Silent Spring written by Rachel Carson is an environmental horror story detailing the long-term effects of these agricultural chemicals on various animals. It was shunned when first released in the 1960s, as it proposed that pesticides used to kill bugs didn’t stop working with the bug, but actually stayed in the eco-system and were found in the bodies of more complex life forms. This effect is understood as bioaccumulation. In the book, Rachel Carson proposes that due to this widespread pesticide use, as many as one in three people could develop cancer in the future. Sadly this is a prophesy which has come to being.

Somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 synthetic chemicals have been introduced to our environment since the end of World War Two. Many of these chemicals, in isolation, appear not to be harmful, or are generally recognised as safe (GRAS) for human use. However, chemicals do not exist in nature by themselves, but interact with other chemicals. The effects of these interactions in individuals are a complex area of uncertainty.


A pioneer in natural cancer treatments is German doctor Max Gerson. He came to realise that cancer developed because of faulty metabolism due to bad nutritional intake and ongoing exposure to various synthetic chemicals in foods, air, water and pollutants. Gerson’s understanding was that cancer changes the body’s normal sodium/potassium balance, a balance already disturbed by a modern diet full of processed, altered denatured foods.

Gerson’s therapy uses foods low in sodium, high in potassium and rich in vitamins A and C and other antioxidants. One vegetable juice is consumed an hour in Gerson therapy to increase antioxidants, increase potassium and live enzyme intake. Fats and dairy products are excluded for the first four to six weeks as they burden the digestive system too much. Gerson therapy ensures that patients eliminate excess sodium, which is responsible for altering cellular electrochemistry to favour cancerous growth. Gerson therapy also involves various cleansing practices, including coffee enemas.


  • Minimise your synthetic chemical intake and exposure – eat organic produce and whole foods, use synthetic-free personal care and cleaning products.
  • Double your fresh fruit and vegetable intake – ideally 60 to 80 per cent raw.
  • Move towards a plant protein-based diet rather than an animal protein diet.
  • Exercise at least four times a week – and sweat.
  • Involve yourself with other beings – stay connected with your community.
  • Take vitamin D3 supplements, particularly during winter.
  • Deep breathing – this is an alkalising act that just requires a moment of consciousness.
  • Drink the purest water you can find.
  • Undertake regular cleansing processes, including juice fasting, raw food fasting, colonic hydrotherapy and meditation retreats.


Natural healing methods rely on the inherent healing power to facilitate healing. This power is affected by foods and substances we consume, situations that we are exposed to and the way we manage these. According to the natural medicine tradition, a regime involving exercising, regular sunbaths, drinking good water, eating wholesome food and maintaining positive social connections and psychology, will by and large prevent diseases including cancer. Remember to always discuss your treatment with a qualified health professional.

Do regular cell maintenance

Free radicals are created through excessive toxin load within the body and can damage DNA. Without antioxidant action or without functional repair mechanisms then a mutated DNA strand can replicate and form cancer. Broccoli sprout powder contains sulforphane, a powerful intra cellular repairer. All Brassica or cruciferous vegetables, like Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower, have cancer prevention attributes.

Broccoli contains a compound called glucoraphanin which has excellent antioxiant properties that can help to prevent cancer. “Glucoraphanin recharges your protective antioxidant defence enzymes, giving them the power to keep working.” says Dr Paul Talalay, director of the Laboratory for Molecular Pharmacology at John Hopkins University School of Medicine. Try Comvita’s Broccoli Extract, £19.99 from

Keep the hormones in tune

Avoid xenoestrogens in the environment from products using plastics containing BisPhenolA. All substances that disrupt natural hormonal balance should be avoided. If you want to find out more visit

Keep positive and stay empowered

Don’t isolate yourself, maintain a positive, can-do attitude and keep connected within your community. Cancer is powerfully destructive and needs powerful medicine. Regaining a feeling of control, direction and belonging in life, whether through eating well, meditating, healthy socialising or any practice that gives a person this sense, is an important element of their healing.

Reduce your acidity

Many processed foodstuffs contain compounds that contribute to the toxic load in the body. For example trans-fatty acids, hydrolysed fats, deep fried foods, highly refined carbohydrates, fructose, smoked or charred meats, foreign synthetic preservatives, colour and flavour and residues of pesticides, synthetic hormones and ripening agents used in their production are all quite foreign to the digestive system and contribute to internal acidity. Additionally many of the vitamins, minerals, trace elements and phytochemicals, which often work as antioxidants in the body, are destroyed during the processing of the food.


In 1931 Otto Warburg won a Nobel Prize for discovering that cancer cells function only in an oxygen deprived environment. He also went on to show that cancer cells use fermentation to respire, unlike healthy cells that use oxygen to fuel their activities. Fermentation in the body produces a by-product called lactic acid, which shifts the pH slightly towards acidity. It generally involves a yeast-like catalyst to convert sugar into simpler substances like alcohol, as any beer brewer could testify. Warburg considered lack of oxygen to be the primary cause of all cancers, triggered by any number of secondary causes.

Keeping your 65 trillion body cells respiring using oxygen is the premise of many natural medicine approaches to cancer prevention and treatment. Raw food and nutrition expert and author David Wolfe suggested that coco leaves assist in cellular respiration more than any other substance. “The worse thing in the world is probably cocaine yet the best thing in the world is coco,” he says. “It increases cellular respiration, it increases lung capacity, increases your body’s capacity to be oxygenated by as much as 50 per cent.” The leaves of the coco plant are infused to make a tea. It is used extensively throughout the Andes to combat altitude sickness, by increasing oxygenation within the body. Another South American herb, the root of the Maca plant, also increases oxygenation according to Wolfe’s recently published book,Superfoods: The food and medicine of the future. Perhaps there is a place for coco and Maca in the future of mainstream cancer treatment.


Other pioneers in natural cancer treatment include Milton White, MD, who believed that cancer is a result of chronic, infectious fungal infestation. Robert Young developed the “pH Miracle” movement based along similar lines to Gerson’s theory. All around the world clinicians work today to treat cancer, aside from or in conjunction with the orthodox treatments of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. For example, in Australia the Ian Gawler Foundation and Petrea King’s Quest for Life Foundation provide wholistic approaches to cancer care and treatment. In the Himalayan foothills, The Ganga Prem Hospice is embarking on a spiritually led, integrative approach to cancer treatment. In Denmark Humlegaarden provides a raw food diet and therapy, lead by Dr Kristine Nolfi.

A new study at the University of Rochester has found that consuming ginger two to three days before chemotherapy treatment can reduce symptoms of nausea. Try The Ginger People chews, priced at £1.19 and available from Holland & Barrett and selected pharmacies



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