Nutritional Protocol for Cancer

By Rachel Oppitz, ND

The diagnosis of cancer is an extremely stressful event in anyone’s life.  The following information is meant to empower you and make you aware that you have a great deal of control in the choices you make every day to strengthen your body.  This information is gathered from the most recent literature and fully supports the old saying:  “you are what you eat”.  This list is basic and therefore not geared towards a specific type of cancer.

A WHOLE FOODS DIET with emphasis on the following foods:
VEGETABLES:  Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, cabbage, rutabaga, mustard greens, radishes, watercress, and horseradish are cruciferous vegetables that are high in indole-3 carbinol and diindyolylmethane (DIM) and have been shown to decrease tumor growth.  Cut into tiny pieces or puree to enhance absorption of desired substances.  Unlimited amounts of non-starchy veggies should be eaten at every meal (artichokes, arugula, asparagus, bamboo shoots, beet greens, bok choy, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, chive, collard greens, cucumber, dandelion greens, eggplant, endive, fennel, garlic, ginger, green beans, kale, horseradish, jicama, kelp, kohlrabi, kombu, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, mustard greens, okra, parsley, red and yellow bell peppers, pumpkin, radicchio, radishes, rhubarb, sauerkraut, scallions, shallots, snow peas, spaghetti squash, spinach, sprouts, summer squash, Swiss chard, turnip greens, water chestnuts, watercress, zucchini).  2-3 servings/day of starchy vegetables (carrots, beets, burdock, sweet potatoes, yams, peas, winter squash, white potatoes, rutabagas).
FRUIT/SPICES:  Lemons, oranges, grapefruit, caraway, dill, bergamot, peppermint, spearmint, and tomato all contain high amounts of monoterpenes (ex: limonene), which have been shown to decrease tumors in the body.  Berries (and cherries) are also excellent fruit sources and should be eaten daily.  At least 2 servings of fruit/day.  Turmeric has powerful anti-cancer properties.  Garlic, onions, cayenne, and curry powder contain powerful immune-stimulating compounds.  Limit dried fruit (raisins, prunes, apricots)—fresh is best.
PROTEIN:  Deep cold water wild fish from Alaska or Pacific (salmon, halibut, cod, chunk light tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel (avoid all farm-raised fish); organic/free-range eggs; wild game; grass-fed buffalo, beef, lamb; organic/free-range poultry; almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, Arrowhead Mills peanut butter (aflatoxin free); sunflower, pumpkin, ground flax seeds; legumes (split peas, lentils, garbanzo, etc.)
FATS/OILS:  expeller-pressed extra-virgin olive oil; sesame oil, olive oil/safflower mayonnaise, avocado, olives, coconut oil, organic butter (grass-fed optimal).
GRAINS:  2 servings/day; amaranth, teff, quinoa, basmati or other brown rice, wild rice, whole barley, buckwheat grouts, millet, whole oats, whole wheat/spelt/kamut berries; whole grain rye crackers; whole grain sprouted grain (Ezekiel); 100% whole rye (Log Cabin bakery); whole wheat or sprouted wheat tortilla or pita bread
OTHER:  green tea, shitake mushrooms, ginger, seaweed, live-culture plain yogurt, stevia (a natural sweetener), unrefined earth salt (ex: Earth Salt by Herb Pharm—earth salt should be pink, green, or gray in color, not white)

In other words, eat the foods the way the earth provides them (grows on a tree, can be picked fresh, caught alive, etc.)  Processed food is devoid of most nutrients.

Your dietary intake should consist of approximately 30-40% protein (especially if receiving chemotherapy), 30-40% carbohydrates (mostly in the form of vegetables, fruit, and some whole grains), 30% good fat as discussed above.

AVOID (this means none):  sugar, alcohol, refined carbohydrates, white salt, cold cereal, potato chips, pop, candy, margarine, juice, hydrogenated/trans-fats, deep fried foods, nitrates (found in hot dogs, smoked meats, burnt portion of grilled foods), coffee, Aspartame, Splenda, food coloring and additives, aluminum cookware, and foods to which you are allergic.  You must become a very good label reader.

WATER:  8 12-oz. glasses daily; use spring or filtered water only, distilled may be used occasionally, avoid chlorine and fluoride.

RELAXATION:  Stress increases cortisol levels in our body, which in turn decreases our immune system and increases inflammation.  Find ways to relax and enjoy life.  This may be a daily walk in the park, hot Epsom salt baths, meditation, prayer, reading, etc.

SUPPLEMENTS:  Supplementation is a complicated topic.  The type of nutrients and doses will vary greatly depending on the type of cancer you have and the type of treatment you are currently undergoing.  Each plan should be tailored to your specific needs.
Follow a supplement plan designed by your naturopathic physician.
AVOID:  supplements with iron and copper

Stop smoking (tobacco “is the single largest preventable cause of cancer. . .”)  National Cancer Control Programs:  Policies and Management Guidelines, WHO
No alcohol
Moderate daily exercise enhances the immune system.
Spiritual/religious practice
Visualization/guided imagery
Sunlight and fresh air
Proper sleep and rest
Music therapy

Eat small frequent meals (6 small meals rather than 3 bigger meals) with protein and vegetables at every meal.
Chew food well
Half of your plate should be vegetables
Eat organic (EPA experts ranked pesticide residues as one of the top 3 environmental cancer risks)
Eat hormone free
Do not heat or store food in plastics
Choose free-range meats/wild game
Do not use pesticides in your home or garden.
Eat whole foods; avoid all refined and processed foods.
Do not cook in a microwave

Remove from your house and garage (if it is attached to the house) all chemical based cleaners, air fresheners, carpet fresheners, etc.  Replace these with healthy choices (ex: Bon Ami, Citrasolve, Simple Green, baking soda, vinegar, Seventh Generation products, Sal’s Suds by Dr. Bronner).
Remove from your house all chemical based shampoo, conditioner, soap, body lotion, etc.  Replace with fragrance free natural options from your local health food store.
Visit for information on high pesticide content fruits and vegetables.

SOY:  Soybeans are another legume, but deserve their own special mention because of the extreme misperceptions of their supposed health value.  There are a large number of companies seeking to profit from the alleged health benefits of soy, such as soy milk, powders, cheese, breakfast bars, cereals, and nuts.  The truth of the matter is that these products largely do more harm than good.  “But what about the link between soy and the low rates of breast, colon, and prostate cancer among Asian people, whose diets tend to be high in soy?” you may ask.  Consider that Asians eat a diet that includes significantly higher quantities of vegetables and much lower quantities of processed foods, and a much better balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fat ratios.  Asians as a whole are consuming a far healthier diet overall, which provides relative protection from the harmful effects of soy.  It should also be noted that Asians eat a significant portion of soy in the recommended form such as NATTO, AMAKAZE, MISO, AND TEMPEH, which nullifies the negative effects of soy.  For more information, please read The Whole Soy Story by Dr. Kaayla Daniel, or visit or

Here are some essentials you should know:
Soybeans are high in natural toxins, also known as “antinutrients”.  This includes a large quantity of inhibitors that deter the enzymes needed for protein digestion.  Further, these enzyme inhibitors are not entirely disabled during ordinary cooking.  The result is extensive gastric distress and chronic deficiencies in amino acid uptake, which can result in pancreatic impairment and cancer.
Soybeans contain hemaglutinin, which causes red blood cells to clump together.  Soybeans also have growth depressant substances.  And while these substances are reduced in processing, they are not completely eliminated.
Soy contains goitrogens, which frequently lead to depressed thyroid function.
Most soybeans are genetically modified, and they contain one of the highest levels of pesticide contamination of all foods.
Soybeans are very high in phytates, which prevent the absorption of minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, all of which are co-factors for optimal biochemistry in the body.  Eating meat reduces the mineral-blocking effects of these phytates, and so it is helpful if you do eat soy to also eat meat.
Finally, in an effort to remove the antinutrients from soy, soybeans are taken through a series of chemical processes including acid washing in aluminum tanks, a toxic heavy metal, into the final soy products.  Many soy foods also have toxic levels of manganese.  Soy formula has up to 80 times higher manganese than is found in human breast milk.  Commercially processed soy foods (soy grits, textured soy protein, and soy oil) have been processed using hexane, a carcinogenic chemical used frequently as an extraction agent by the food-processing industry.

The bottom line is that the risks of processed/refined soy clearly outweigh any benefit.

People with cancer who are malnourished experience a reduced tolerance to chemotherapy, increased side effects, and a decreased quality of life.  Under these circumstances, it’s critical to ensure that the food you eat is as nutritionally rich as possible.  If you eat a healthy diet, you will be able to maintain your strength during treatment, prevent body tissue breakdown, rebuild tissue, and maintain your defenses against infection.  Studies show that cancer patients who maintain high quality nutrition fight off secondary infections, recover more quickly, and tolerate conventional therapy better.

A Patient’s Guide to Cancer Care:  Fighting Cancer Body, Mind, & Spirit  By Virginia B. Morris and Sophie Forrester
Beating Cancer with Nutrition by Patrick Quillin, PhD, RD, CNS
Cancer As a Turning Point
Herbal Medicine, Healing and Cancer:  A Comprehensive Program for Prevention and Treatment  By Donald R. Yance with Arlene Valentine.
How to Prevent and Treat Cancer with Natural Medicine by Michael Murray, Tim Birdsall, Joseph E. Pizzorno, and Paul Reilly
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig
The Journey Through Cancer:  Healing and Transforming the Whole Person by Jeremy Geffen, MD, FACP
Nutrition and Physical Degeneration  By Weston A. Price
Walking the Tiger by Peter Lavine

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