The Power of Nutrition to Fight Cancer

Guest post by Loriann North

By utilizing proper nutrition and a plant based diet, it may be possible reduce the risk of many cancers and retard cancer recurrences. James “Rhio" O’Connor was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer that is typically considered incurable. You can learn more about mesothelioma by visiting the Cancer Monthly’s authoritative mesothelioma survivors website at www.survivingmesothelioma.com. Rhio did not believe in giving up, or relying on orthodox methods for treatment of his cancer alone. He opened his heart and his mind to all that the universe had to offer. Incorporating a holistic approach and alternative methods into his treatment regime, he found a way to think outside the box. This included using food as medicine, incorporating positive thought, and embracing spirituality. As a result Rhio outlived his prognosis by more than six years. 

What the plight of Rhio has taught us is that the human body and spirt are amazing and capable of much more than we understand. When given a diagnosis of a terminal cancer the first reaction of most patients would be to ask their physician what treatments are available. This is a good start, but by neglecting to consider “alternative therapies” you are only giving yourself half a chance. Anything that a person puts in their mouth has an affect on every cell in their body. This refers to of course the medications prescribed by your MD, but also herbs, vitamins, minerals, and food choices that we make. 

Eating for Health

Scientists have discovered thousands of healthy compounds in foods called antioxidants and phytochemicals that help our bodies fight diseases, including cancer. Plant foods are rich in dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, and hundreds of other naturally occurring plant chemicals which can protect the cells of the human body from becoming damaged by free radicals and even help repair them.1 


A diet rich in fruits and vegetables from all colors of the rainbow is essential to ensure that the largest variety of cancer fighting antioxidants are absorbed. For the best possible results it is important to maintain a diet low in fat and include lots of whole foods such as nuts, beans, lentils, whole grains, fruits and vegetables in their unprocessed form. Rhio himself was an example of the power of a plant based diet and its ability to improve the quality of life in individuals with cancer.

Until relatively recently in modern history, home remedies and medicinal medicine were the norm in our american culture. People didn't necessarily have the ability, or funds to receive traditional or standard medical treatment. They relied on alternative or holistic treatments because that was all that they had available to them. Eastern medicine still utilizes many holistic and medicinal techniques as a part of their normal treatment plan. There is a great deal of evidence that alternative or medicinal medical practices do in fact have an effect on cancer cells. For example, The American Cancer Society posted on their own website that supporters of cannabis “claim that marijuana has anti-bacterial properties, inhibits tumor growth, and enlarges the airways”.2

There is also a statement regarding an online study conducted in 2014  where reports allegedly suggested that medicinal marijuana can cure cancer. However, the American Cancer Society posted a disclaimer that this study was largely unsupportable. I believe this is evidence enough that people have experienced positive reactions to this form of therapy, that it was deemed worthy of posting on the societies webpage. I think that ultimately with a terminal diagnosis a patient needs to explore any and all treatment options that they feel comfortable with. 

An individual who is told that they have an incurable or life ending prognosis would likely be willing to do or try anything to change the outcome. If put in the same situation, I would want to exhaust all treatment options, and approval by the FDA would be irrelevant to me because if there was a chance any treatment modality would work, I would want to try it. It is my personal belief that there is relevancy to many of the the proposed alternative therapies and their efficacy. This essay is written for the James "Rhio" O'Connor Memorial Scholarship application, to help raise awareness for the deadly cancer mesothelioma, and promote the power of alternative cancer therapies such as cancer fighting nutrition and optimism of thought.

 1 Food is Medicine. Modified from the American Cancer Society Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Survivors. (2012) & ACS Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention.(2011). Kaiser Permanente.Thrive Class Handout(2013).Acquired from personal attendance of class on 2/3/15.

2 Marijuana. The American Cancer Society.(2014) Accessed from The American Cancer Society website On 2/15/14