It’s been known for centuries that the food you eat affects your health. In today’s world, the incidence of cancer and chronic disease is at an all-time high and continues to rise. No one knows this better than Dr. Nasha Winters, board-certified naturopathic oncologist, and Jess Higgins Kelley, master nutrition therapist.
These two Durango-based health professionals have combined their clinical experience with current research to co-author a book on how diet and lifestyle can prevent or heal chronic disease. The Metabolic Approach to Cancer: Integrating Deep Nutrition, the Ketogenic Diet, and Non-Toxic Bio-individualized Therapies, from Chelsea Green Publishing, was created as a guide for not only cancer patients and survivors but for anyone facing chronic disease.
Their approach emphasizes whole, natural foods to create deep healing on a cellular level.
“Now more than ever, it is critical to understand that cancer is about the way our bodies and our minds interact with the environment,” Kelley writes in the introduction. “There is a lot more happening in and to the body that provokes cancer than we are currently told ... you have a treatment (and prevention) option sitting right in your refrigerator or waiting to be harvested from your garden.”
Winters, owner of Optimal Terrain Consulting, said the book was born out of demand from her clients. She said that nutrition has historically been the least taught concept for cancer care.
In 2009, she began leading Soulful Living Retreats for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers. During the retreats, attendees were served homemade foods that thwarted cancer cells. She and her staff, including Kelley, taught participants how to eat and cultivate an inner terrain unwelcoming to cancer. Afterward, attendees inquired as to where they could get the information.
“Well, it’s in my head,” Winters said she replied. This is when people started requesting a book.
Jess Kelley, owner of Remission Nutrition, said that the book provides the “why” behind the food that they serve at retreats. “It’s helped so many people that we wanted to reach a bigger audience,” Kelley said.
Cancer and metabolismThe book looks at cancer as a metabolic disease. Metabolism is how the body converts food into energy and is a process that takes place inside the mitochondria in cells.
“Our metabolic, nutrition-focused protocol is really entrenched in low-glycemic, nutrient-dense foods,” Kelley said. “We recommend foods that have been identified with specific anti-cancer action ... We help people identify threats to their health that they can control, such as microbiome health and inflammation.”
“We’ve got to get ourselves back into the kitchen,” said Winters, herself a cancer “thriver” for 25 years. “We made convenience foods during a time when men went to World War II and women went back to work and got out of the kitchen.”
“Synthetic foods are foreign to our DNA,” Kelley said, such foods can damage our mitochondria, making us susceptible to cancer. “We emphasize whole, wild, local, organic, ketogenic and fermented foods.”
Over 25 years of clinical experience, Winters said she has identified 10 health factors known to affect the disease process, including immune system functioning, blood sugar and hormones, and stress and emotional health. The chapter on each element begins with a questionnaire designed to help readers assess whether they should address that element in their own lives.
Simple changesWinters said people don’t have to drop everything and embody all of the principles at once to begin revitalizing their health. “Start by getting rid of your plastic food containers,” she suggests. “You can go to T.J. Maxx and get glass containers that are really inexpensive. Or start by replacing your Teflon cookware,” she said.
She said shopping at a farmers market is also a good place to start.
“One in two people in our lifetime will end up with cancer in the United States,” Winters warns. Kelley knows this first hand, as her father lost his battle with an aggressive brain tumor before she finished writing the book. They have dedicated the book in his memory.
Stephanie Harris, DC, is a Durango chiropractor, former registered dietitian and mom of two. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.