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Guest Editor | Food as medicine - Breast cancer patients using nutrition to heal their body

Published:Tuesday | August 29, 2017 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris

She has been advised by her doctor to do chemotherapy, but Charmaine Williams has decided instead to change her diet in a bid to reverse breast cancer.

Charmaine is among a growing number of persons who are using food to heal their body after being diagnosed with the disease. Despite her doctor's recommendations, she believes that she has made the best decision and has been sticking to a mostly plant-based diet for the last few months.

"I don't use any form of oil other than coconut oil and olive oil, and I eat fruits and vegetables, water, green juice with kale, broccoli and parsley," she said.

Charmaine says that her new lifestyle requires a lot of discipline and admits that there are days when she is not 100 per cent vegan, however, she is already seeing a lot of changes in her body. She has lost more than 50 pounds and a terrible cough she had, which prevented her from communicating effectively with others, has since cleared up.

"I said, 'Let me pray and try and go this way and see what the turnout would be,'" said Williams, who was diagnosed with grade two breast cancer last year November.


Eliminated fast food


Charmaine has eliminated sugar, soda, fast foods, and meat. Now, it is not uncommon to see her having juice for a snack and vegetable-based soups for lunch or dinner. She generally kickstarts her mornings with a cup of room-temperature water flavoured with lemon or lime.

"Going out now and trying to get the things that I never used to eat, I realise it's healthier, but it costs more, and you have to dedicate yourself more," she admitted.

Medical missionary and cancer survivor Debra Williams (no relation) is a stark advocate of the use of the plant-based diet. In fact, she has committed her life to helping others reverse cancer with her NEW START programme. This programme places a lot of emphasis on nutrition, exercise, water, sunshine, temperance, air, rest, and trust.

"The food that we focus on if somebody is trying to prevent cancer is your fruits, your vegetables, your seeds, your nuts, your grains, and your legumes," she said.

Williams decided to forgo chemotherapy when she was initially diagnosed with breast cancer and became a vegan. She believes this change provided healing for her body.

All meat, sugar must go

Several of the persons who have consulted with medical missionary and cancer survivor Debra Williams were diagnosed with cancer, but she said that by changing their diets, they have been able to change their cancer status.

"I take out the meat first. So all the meat goes because the meat causes the body to be built up with uric acid, and then I take out all the sugar products," she explained.

"All the processed foods have in preservatives, additives, chemicals. It gives them a long shelf life, so those things have got to go. When you bombard the body with all those chemicals, you create a very toxic environment inside the body, and it becomes the perfect environment for cancer to proliferate and grow," she said.

Williams generally provides a structured programme for her clients. The first step in this programme is to detoxify the body, which can be done using a combination of foods and herbs.

"If somebody wants to start changing their diet, I always recommend a detox first. The Bible says you can't put new wine in old wineskin, so I put them on a seven-day detox to clean out the liver, kidney, lymphatic system, and flush the blood," she said.


Plant-based diet works


Williams, who is finishing up her doctoral programme in naturopathic medicine, said that she knows of many cancer patients who have died from chemotherapy. While she does not offer any guarantees that a plant-based diet is foolproof, she has witnessed how it has worked for her and many others.

"I am not God. I am not giving you any guarantee that if you go natural, you are going to live. You can go natural and die. You can go chemo and die," she said.

Many traditional doctors and others who provide cancer care are very sceptical of the use of a plant-based diet to treat cancer. Among them is head of the radiology department at the University Hospital of the West Indies, Dr Derria Cornwall.

"We are a predominantly black population, and blacks tend to get more aggressive cancers at an earlier age than whites. In our predominantly black population, anybody who has not accessed treatment for cancer, I have not seen them having a very good five years, or so, survival rate," she said.

"That does not discount the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Eating right, decreasing fatty foods, getting as much fruits and vegetables, getting your water in, exercise and rest, all these things are important," she explained.