Cancer is a Metabolic Disease: What does that mean?

The Cancer Care Program at our Nature Cures Clinic is built on the idea that cancer is a metabolic disease. This is an idea that has gained a great deal of credibility even in the conventional treatment world. That credibility grew significantly with the publication of a book that is, oddly enough, titled Cancer as a Metabolic Disease by Dr. Thomas Seyfried.

So what does it mean to think of cancer as a metabolic disease? The answer to this question is crucial to understanding why we approach treatment the way that we do.

In the traditional view, cancer is a disease of “good cells gone bad.” In that model, normal cells accumulate some mutations in their DNA. Once enough of these mutations accrue, it causes the cell to “misbehave,” no longer playing by the rules that should tell it when to stop dividing and, most importantly, when to die.

Treatment, in this model, has two goals: first, kill cancer cells. The second and more recent goal is to develop genetic therapies that might repair the mutations that are thought to drive the cancer process.

The second of those goals, to develop genetic therapies that will “fix” the mutations of cancer cells, is a high tech, big profit adventure that has little chance of even trivial benefit to patients so I’m not going to spend time on it here.

The first of those goals is sensible enough in theory, but tragic in its consequences. There are no therapies that will kill cancer cells exclusively. Normal, healthy cells are always killed as well, the unfortunate collateral damage. Further, the therapies that are used to kill cells (chemotherapy and radiation, predominantly) are known to induce further mutations in healthy cells, thus leading to an increased risk of yet other cancers later in life.

On top of that, a comprehensive review of the impact of chemotherapy on survival of cancer patients (looking at all types of cancers collectively) found that the therapy has contributed a paltry 2.8% overall toward increased survival of cancer patients in the United States. The war on cancer is not faring well. Maybe a different approach is in order.

Another approach is to think of cancer cells not as simply broken, but as adapted. We typically think of adaptations as good and beneficial. However, that isn’t always the case. Being in shock, for example, is an adaptation to some set of circumstances, but it is also an adaptation that can lead to death.

How are cancer cells adapted? Cancer cells are extremely sophisticated, producing a complex set of hormones and other chemical mediators that have both local and systemic effects. Those are not the activities of cells that are broken. Cancer cells exhibit an amazing set of behaviors and adaptations that make them uniquely able to survive and multiply. They have gone through extensive metabolic “rewiring” in order to optimize their survival. Recognizing this about cancer cells opens up a whole new set of treatment strategies.

By analogy, think of another metabolic disease: diabetes. Diabetes happens when cells become resistant to the action of insulin, leading to elevations of sugar in the blood. While it is very unhealthy for the cells to resist insulin’s effects, no one is suggesting that a good therapy would be to kill the insulin resistant cells. Instead, therapies are done to correct the underlying defect. Drugs like metformin, and nutrients like chromium, are used to make cells more sensitive to insulin and thus to reduce blood sugar. Dietary therapies are also used to change metabolism, from low carbohydrate diets to incorporation of fish oil and other important nutrients.

With cancer, a metabolic approach uses therapies that correct the conditions that led to the initial adaptation in the cell. At the same time, other therapies take advantage of the cancer cells’ unique way of running its affairs. The great benefit of these kinds of therapies is that they have toxic effects on cancer cells, but little affect on healthy cells. They are therapies that work to “coax” the cancer cells out of their adapted state and back to their normal functioning.

A comprehensive cancer care program does not neglect the important goal of getting rid of cancer cells. However, it also does not focus on that to the exclusion of other goals that are just as important. Recognizing cancer as a metabolic disease opens up a whole new set of options for not just controlling its growth, but for preventing its recurrence once it’s first appearance has been successfully treated. We utilize a calorie-restricted ketogenic diet, metabolic and mitochondrial therapies, IV nutrients, pancreatic enzymes, Iscador (injectable mistletoe extract), and many others.

If your oncologist is not familiar with the idea of cancer as a metabolic disease, I encourage you to buy Dr. Seyfried’s book and give it to your oncologist to read. If you are interested in learning more about the program that we utilize in our clinic for all types and stages of cancer, you can call our clinic at 503-287-4970 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation. This can be either in the office or by phone. I would be happy to explain what we do and why we do it this way.



Cancer is Not a Genetic Disease

The headlines about it are a dime a dozen these days. “New Mutations Discovered Driving Malignant Melanoma,” so says Science Daily. Similar reports make it into the news continuously. This is no surprise, of course, since billions of dollars are now being spent on the search for genetic causes of cancer.

A genetic explanation for cancer has two very enticing characteristics for the conventional medical world. First, cancer explained by mutations takes treatment possibilities out of the hands of those diagnosed with cancer and places treatment squarely in the hands of high-tech medicine. Second, the genetic research programs, the genetic diagnostic tests and the genetic therapies that flow from all that are extremely lucrative financially for the medical industry.

It is unquestionable that the vast majority of cancers are not genetic in origin. They are caused by lifestyle factors. The data on this is abundantly clear. It is a fact that is tragically overlooked by a medical system incapable of embracing lifestyle changes as a central therapeutic program. The unspoken rationale goes something like this: Sure, lifestyle factors lead to the occurrence of most cancers. However, once cancer has occurred, it is driven by some set of genes that do the dirty work. Thus, therapies need to focus on the genes, because once cancer develops it’s too late to pay attention to lifestyle.

There are many problems with this kind of thinking, but let me address two of them.

The first problem is in thinking that the genes that get “mutated” and drive cancer growth are actually mutations. Mutations are random events. There is an equal probability of finding mutations at any location along the genome. But in fact, the mutations found in cancers are not random at all. Very specific genes are getting activated, while very specific other genes are getting turned off. This is happening in nonrandom ways. This is not just me saying it; studies have documented the nonrandom distribution of mutations in cancer cells.

By analogy, a researcher looking into the problem of traffic in Los Angeles might notice that all of the ignitions in the cars have mutated into the “on” position. Of course we know that ignitions being in the “on” position play a role in traffic problems, but obviously that mutation isn’t really a mutation; it’s on because people decide to go somewhere in their cars. Likewise, the set of genes that become active in cancers are active for specific reasons. Genes aren’t randomly turned on in cancer cells; specific genes are turned on to carry out activities that subsequently promote cancer. It’s a cart/horse issue.

The second problem with thinking cancers are driven by mutations is that a wide range of important therapies get cast aside in favor of high-tech interventions. Ironically, over 700 “genetic therapies” for cancer have now been developed, yet not a single one has been shown to significantly improve outcomes over non-genetic therapies. Even the widely used Oncotype testing for breast cancer, which is purported to tell the probability of recurrence based on a genetic profile of tumor mutations, has been found to give little more information than labs that were used previously. It does, however, cost over $4000 each time it is run. And always remember in the discussion about health care costs that money spent on health care is also money earned by someone else.

The expression of genes is regulated by specific molecules. Those molecules are not patented, not synthesized in a lab, not designed by chemists. They are supplied through the diet. One of these molecules is called butyrate and is produced by the healthy gut bacteria when they digest soluble fiber. This is one critical link between our digestive function, our genetic health and our cancer risk.

The second molecule is known by its chemical make-up, which is called a “methyl group.” Various nutrients in the diet serve as methyl donors, and these compounds get sprinkled over the DNA to regulate when genes are turned on and off. If butyrate and/or methyl groups are in short supply, then a primary regulator of genetic expression is lost. Correcting digestive health and function and supplying methyl groups in the diet are not stand-alone cures for cancer. Nothing is a stand-alone cure, alternative or conventional. However, it is silly not to supply these nutrients if the goal is long-term regulation of the genes that awaken to meet the needs of the cancerous cell.

High-tech medicine searches for high-tech causes and high-tech cures for cancer. This program has consumed billions of research dollars, employed tens of thousands of researchers, resulted in thousands of published papers, led to hundreds of patents and enormous profits, motivated perhaps millions to participate in fundraising walks, runs, jogs, bike races, swims, parades and other events. But the real results this genetic emphasis has produced in terms of cases prevented or successfully treated are dismal, and supremely so.

Headlines are notoriously deceptive. The promises of genetic cures for cancer are a mirage. And while the medical industry continues its unrelenting drive for high-tech remedies, cancer patients would be wise to learn more about the wide range of therapies available to them to help bring cancer under control. The high-tech therapies will employ a lot of people, but they are very unlikely to save many lives.


Vitamin D – We Can’t Say It Enough

We’ve told you before how sufficient levels of Vitamin D can help reduce your risk of many chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, depression and diabetes.

While these are all very serious conditions that deserve your attention, there’s another ailment that’s dominating the headlines right now. You’ve heard it blasted in big letters — the FLU. And guess what? Study after study is showing that Vitamin D can help you battle that cold-weather illness too. Continue reading “Vitamin D – We Can’t Say It Enough”

Kids, Health, and Vitamin D

If there were any easy way for tens of millions of people to reduce their risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, depression, osteoporosis and many other chronic diseases, shouldn’t that be in the headlines?

Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine discovered exactly that. In a large survey of the vitamin D status of children aged 1 to 21, they found that 7 out of 10 were deficient.

Did you know that if women maintain optimal vitamin D levels, their risk of breast cancer is cut in half? Did you know that maintaining optimal vitamin D levels also cuts the risk of colon cancer in half? In fact, getting this one single nutrient up to optimal levels would save untold lives and tens of billions of dollars annually in health care costs.

At Nature Cures Clinic we take this seriously. It’s why we test vitamin D levels on virtually every patient we see, and we make sure people get enough to get these protective effects. Continue reading “Kids, Health, and Vitamin D”

Nature Cures Clinic On TV!

Our clinic was recently featured in three segments on Portland Channel 12 KPTV. If you didn’t catch us on TV, you can check it out at these links:

Part One: IV Therapy and the Treatment of Fatigue

Part Two: Naturopathic Therapies for Cancer Patients

Part Three: Treating Migraines with Naturopathic Therapies

The Most Important Vitamin?

We’ve written before about the increasing amount of research on vitamin D. There are few nutrients that can claim the health benefits of this single vitamin.A study recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine adds even more weight to the importance of this vitamin. Low blood levels of vitamin D have been correlated with everything from depression and diabetes to osteoporosis and allergies.

When 18 studies involving over 57,000 people were analyzed, those individuals who took vitamin D supplements had a significantly lower mortality rate than those who did not take vitamin D. Continue reading “The Most Important Vitamin?”

Naturopathic Approach to Cancer

Listen to The Naturopathic Approach to Cancer

In this podcast, Portland naturopathic doctors, Dr. Greg Eckel  will give you a general overview of what exactly cancer is, and the politics that surround it.  They’ll explain to you the differences between how conventional medicine would approach cancer compared to the naturopathic approach.  Most importantly, they’ll arm you with ways to prevent cancer.

The Naturopathic Approach to Prostate Health

Listen to The Naturopathic Approach to Prostate Health

In this podcast, Dr. Eckel and Dr. Nigh talk about a subject that will affect almost every man at some point in his lifetime.  They will discuss some symptoms that could just be benign, as well as some symptoms that could alert you that you should seek out some medical care.   When it comes to prostate cancer, they will discuss how the conventional world will approach treatment, comparing it, of course, to the naturopathic approach to dealing with prostate cancer.  They’ll also arm you with some specific ways to protect your body from developing prostate issues.

Hormone Replacement Therapy and Strokes

Millions and millions of women who had been on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for years got some unfortunate news a few years ago: HRT leads to an increase risk of some serious health problems. While the vast majority of menopausal woman had been put on HRT to prevent everything from osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease and even dementia, a few bombshell studies came out which refuted the claim that HRT protects against these at all.

The hormones used in hormone replacement therapy are derived from animal sources, most commonly horses. Premarin, the most common replacement estrogen prescribed, is derived from PREgnant MARe urINe. This is the type of estrogen that has been studied and now found to be unsafe. In fact, a review of 28 clinical trials involving nearly 40,000 women on HRT confirmed the finding: HRT use raises risk of strokes by almost 30%, and the severity of stoke is increased as well.

It is unknown why HRT leads to this increase in strokes. But consider the following: women naturally produce three kinds of estrogen, each in different amounts. Each type of estrogen that is produced has a very different level of activity in the body, so the ratio of these types is very important for overall hormone balance. Continue reading “Hormone Replacement Therapy and Strokes”