- Optimizing your body’s ability to burn fat as its primary fuel by eating a ketogenic diet and/or fasting is a foundational aspect of cancer prevention and treatment. Detoxification is another crucial component
- Effective detoxification strategies include using a far-infrared sauna coupled with a near-infrared light, organic coffee enemas and taking regular baths with Epsom salt, baking soda and clay
- Several lab tests can now offer important information about your cancer risk, including blood tests that check for inflammation and insulin resistance, which are precursors and hallmarks of all disease
By Dr. Mercola
Half of all men and one-third of all women will experience cancer at some point in their lives. Fortunately, there are ways to significantly reduce your risk, as detailed in Dr. Leigh Erin Connealy’s book, “The Cancer Revolution: A Groundbreaking Program to Reverse and Prevent Cancer.” Connealy’s interest in cancer prevention and treatment grew out of her own, long personal health journey.
“[When] my mother was pregnant with me … she started bleeding. The doctor gave her a drug called DES (diethylstilbestrol). That was given to women in the ‘50s to prevent miscarriage. Approximately 16 years later, my parents received a letter … [saying] ‘This drug causes cancer, hormone problems and anatomical problems. You need to go to University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and get a full workup.’
At 16 years of age, I started getting pap smears, colposcopies and biopsies … [T]hey told me … I would need to be followed continuously for this problem. I went to University of Texas School of Public Health and did my Masters on DES … [learning] all about the complications …
I had many of them. Today, I still have many of them. My whole mission is [to avoid] cancer, because I was so high risk. Luckily, in my journey … I met practitioners who’d had cancer themselves and fought it and won. I always tell people, ‘You learn from those who have already been down that path and have become masters of healing themselves.’”
Key Anticancer Strategies: Diet and Detoxification
Optimizing your body’s ability to burn fat as its primary fuel by eating a ketogenic diet and/or fasting is a foundational aspect of cancer prevention and treatment. Detoxification is another crucial component. Connealy’s book contains a chapter focused on detoxification, as most of us are inundated with thousands of toxins each day, many of which have carcinogenic potential.
“Water, air and soil [are contaminated],” she says. “If you’re going to live in today’s world … the No. 1 thing you need to do is detox on a regular basis, somehow, some way. A lot of it you can do at home all by yourself …
We do heavy metal testing and toxic load testing for all patients … [Phthalates are] the next big thing. Phthalates are everywhere … [and] we know they cause cancer, heart disease and diabetes … Then [there are] the heavy metals — mercury, cadmium, lead, oxides, aluminum and arsenic.
Then [there’s] the benzene compounds … indoor air pollution, outdoor air pollution … toxic teeth. People don’t realize their teeth are connected to the rest of their body. There are toxins being produced by different infections and/or root canals …
Then you have [water pollution] … Even if you’re not taking a prescription by your doctor, you’re getting it in the water. Whether it’s blood pressure pills, chemo, birth control pills … it’s in the water supply. You’re getting it regardless of getting water purification.”
Simple Detox Strategies
When it comes to water filtration, remember that filtering your shower water may be more important than filtering your drinking water, as you actually absorb three times more chemicals through your skin than when taken orally. There are many ways to eliminate toxins. One of the simplest and perhaps safest ways is to use a low EMF, far-infrared sauna coupled with a near-infrared light, as your skin is a major organ of elimination.
Connealy has had a sauna in her office for nearly 18 years. “I tell people the single greatest investment they can make … is investing in an infrared sauna,” she says. Not only is it useful for detoxification, but cancer cells also do not fare well in extreme heat.
Adding ozone to your sauna is another potent anti-cancer strategy. Hooking the ozone generator up to an oxygen generator is ideal. Place the ozone generator in the sauna with a small fan to blow away the excess. Connealy also recommends using organic coffee enemas and taking regular baths with Epsom salt, baking soda and clay.
“The medicinal effects of Epsom salt are phenomenal,” she says. “It relaxes the nervous system. Magnesium’s involved in 400 chemical reactions in your body. It relaxes the entire muscular system. Then baking soda … It helps oxygenate. It’s antimicrobial. It alkalinizes the body. These are simple little things that we can do in the comfort of our home.”
She also uses zeolite as a daily detox, along with 10 ounces of fresh green juice each morning and vitamin C, the latter of which has potent antimicrobial, anti-chemical, anticancer, alkalinizing effects. “People sometimes say they can’t afford some of these things,” Connealy says. “Yes, you can afford it. You’ve got to put your priorities in place. Health is your most important asset.”
On Cancer Screening
Another section of her book addresses cancer screenings. While detecting cancer early is important, many screening tests have been shown to actually do more harm than good, necessitating taking both pros and cons into consideration.
For women, the most commonly used cancer tests are the Pap smear, mammograms and colonoscopies. While Connealy believes the Pap smear is a good tool, she’s less enthusiastic about mammograms, calling them “an inadequate, incomplete tool of investigation for cancer, especially if you have dense breasts.” In her practice, she recommends ultrasound and thermography instead. She explains her choice, saying:
“The standard of care is for a patient to get mammography. That’s what I’m supposed to tell patients. But I tell people, ‘Look. You’re not going to get all the answers.’ I’ve been doing thermography for a long time. I find most of the breast cancer on thermography, as opposed to mammography.”
For men, common cancer screens include the PSA test, which has been shown to be highly inaccurate and has the potential to cause physical harm.
Blood Tests That Help Reveal Your Cancer Risk
Rather than rely on these conventional cancer tests, Connealy uses standard blood tests to check for things like inflammation and insulin resistance, both of which are precursors and hallmarks of all disease, including cancer. One such test is the high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (CRP) test, which is a non-specific marker for inflammation. “It doesn’t tell me where the cancer is, but it tells me something is brewing,” she says. “We want to see C-reactive protein less than 1.”
The other blood test she uses on all patients is the hemoglobin A1C test, which reflects your blood sugar over the past 90 days. The reason for this test is because high blood sugar is a cancer-friendly environment. “Just those two tests … will tell us that you have an environment for cancer,” Connealy says. Other valuable blood tests Connealy routinely uses include:
•A cancer profile test (fasting blood and urine) from American Metabolic Laboratories, which checks for:
◦Quantitative human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)
◦Phosphohexose isomerase (PHI), the enzyme of hypoxia or low oxygen, which allows cancer to thrive
◦Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA), a stress hormone
◦Thyroid hormones, as low thyroid levels may predispose you to cancer
◦Gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), a liver marker and a sensitive screening tool for inflammation
◦Arachidonyl-2-chloroethylamide (ACEA), a non-specific marker for many cancers
•ONCOblot, which can identify up to 33 tissue types of cancer and has a 95 percent accuracy rate. It measures the ENOX2 protein
•Circulating tumor cell test by the Research Genetic Cancer Center (RGCC). The vast majority of people die not from the tumor itself but from circulating cancer stem cells, which allow the cancer to metastasize and spread throughout the body. This test is used after cancer treatment, to determine whether or not you might need to continue an anti-cancer program. Connealy explains:
“Even if you have surgery, chemo or radiation, it will not eradicate or eliminate circulating tumor cells … The biggest cause of reoccurrence is the circulating tumor cells and stem cells … Anybody who’s had cancer must have their circulating tumor cells [or] stem cells checked quantitatively.
RGCC is not the only lab that does it, but … they’re in 13 countries [and] have the highest laboratory international certification you can have. It is, to me, probably the most accurate …”
Cancer Prevention Is for Everyone
Connealy explains her core strategy when working with patients in her family practice:
“I try to … figure out where all their imbalances are, whether there are nutritional deficiencies, toxic substances, heavy metals, do they have the right antioxidants, are their mitochondria working or not working? Then I do all the hormone testing. I also look for cancer, because we all have to embrace this prevention …
Today we have this incredible laboratory testing … I do the nutritional testing, and it’s not just nutritional checking. It checks their gut. It checks their antioxidants. It checks everything. You know what you’re dealing with more specifically. Believe it or not, the insurance companies pay for all these tests. It’s not like it’s financially unaffordable because all the insurance companies pretty much pay for all of these, whether it’s blood testing and/or nutritional testing.”
She also employs nutritional supplements known to improve mitochondrial function and/or aid in the elimination of cancer stem cells. There are approximately 50 different agents with a known effect on circulating tumor cells and stem cells, including vitamin C, vitamin D, curcumin and agaricus, a type of mushroom.
In regard to vitamin C — which recently made headlines when researchers found intravenous (IV) vitamin C doubles the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation treatment — the vitamin works by producing hydrogen peroxide. This oxidative stress is what kills the cancer cells, while healthy cells have several pathways by which they can eliminate the hydrogen peroxide.
Combining IV vitamin C with nutritional ketosis and fasting for 14 to 48 hours before and during chemo has been shown to produce even more remarkable results, as detailed in a recent interview with Dr. Abdul Slocum.
In certain cases, Connealy will add vitamin K3 to her vitamin C protocol. K3 is a synthetic form of vitamin K2, designed for tumors that have high catalase. In addition to these natural agents, most of which are rotated, not given all at once, she uses supportive oligonucleotide technique (SOT) therapy.
SOT therapy involves taking circulating tumor cells and reverse engineering a messenger RNA (mRNA) to disrupt the DNA of the circulating tumor cells. That mRNA is then given back intravenously, and has a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week targeted killing effect that lasts for about four and a half months. While it cannot be used for masses (tumors), it attacks the circulating tumor cells, which are responsible for 95 percent of metastasis and death.
Treatment Alternatives: Cryotherapy, IPT Chemo and Hyperthermic Therapy
While surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are a standard part of conventional cancer care, Connealy does things a bit differently. For example, she recently started working with an interventional radiologist who does cryotherapy, which is where you freeze the cells.
“I had a patient with a very large grapefruit-sized tumor on her right chest wall, a neuroendocrine tumor. She had breast cancer on her left breast and a neuroendocrine tumor [on her right]. She’d already been treated by other doctors [who] said they could not do anything. She came to see me. The neuroendocrine tumor is now gone from the cryo procedure. The left [tumor] is partially gone …
If it’s something small that we can approach, I will recommend cryo because surgery is a very intrusive procedure … In some patients, you do everything [to] get rid of the tumor burden because the tumor burden is immunosuppressant. Patients may need chemo. If I have patients who have cancer in multiple locations in the body, I will recommend IPT chemo. That’s insulin potentiation therapy with chemo.
IPT chemo is using a low-dose chemo after I do the sensitivity testing with RGCC. It will tell me the ideal agents for these particular patients. We will make a cocktail. We give insulin. It lowers the blood sugar to a therapeutic moment. We give the chemo drugs … and then we drop a bag of sugar.
I also got a machine from France called iTherm. I’ve been using the iTherm machine on some cancers. When you get your RGCC testing, it tells me whether your cells respond to heat shock protein. It will tell me the three different proteins and the sensitivity.
Specific cancers, like breast cancer, [are] very easy to treat with the hyperthermia machine. We trained with the doctor in France who only allows integrative treatments if you have stage 3 or 4 cancer. He spent a lot of time with us in conference calls, elaborating us on this particular treatment protocol.
I will combine that with mistletoe, an immune-modulating natural substance. We combine all those things together. Because the first thing we have to do if we have lots of tumor burden is to … shrink it down to a manageable problem. Then if it’s easily accessible with a cryo or a surgical procedure, we will do that. I’ve had cases where a breast tumor of 9 centimeters with low-dose chemo and hypodermic mistletoe goes down to nothing in one month.”
“Optimize your eating, your detox, your hormones, inflammatory nutrient levels. Don’t go spend $10,000 or $20,000 on a procedure in a dirty body. Get your body prepared. I prepare my patients two weeks before they even have a surgical procedure. Don’t go have surgery when you don’t have good nutrient levels, when you don’t have a good immune system, when you have inflammation. Get the body ready. The outcome would be outrageously improved.”
One of the things virtually all of us can do is to make food choices that allow your body to burn fat as its primary fuel. I describe a modified ketogenic cyclical diet that accomplishes this in my book “Fat for Fuel.” Even if you’re choosing conventional therapy, nutritional ketosis can be tremendously helpful.
Intro to ketogenic dieting
Ketogenic (herein referred to as “keto”) dieting has been around for decades and garnered a somewhat strong following in bodybuilding subculture. In a nutshell, keto diets are simply diets that are high in fat and protein and very low in carbohydrate (usually <10% total macronutrient intake); given this the body is diverted to utilize fats for energy since glucose stores become depleted.
Keto diets can be effective for many individuals and tailored to suit their goals, whether it’s to build muscle, lose fat, develop strength, etc. While keto diets are often used mainly for health and fitness purposes, they are also implemented in medicine as treatment for epilepsy.
You may be asking, “What makes a keto diet different from any other low-carb diet?” The truth is not much, other than that some people believe keto diets are only effective when the body enters a state called ketosis and starts to produce ketones for energy (hence the name “ketogenic”), which requires extreme carbohydrate restriction. However, this supposition is shortsighted and will be touched on later in this guide.
In this guide we will take an in-depth look at the physiology behind keto dieting, the different types/variations of keto diets there are, how to setup your own keto diet, provide some sample recipes to whet your low-carb appetite, and finally answer some frequently asked questions.
What exactly is ketosis?
As aforementioned, ketogenic dieting is so-named because the inherent restriction of carbohydrate intake can induce a state of ketosis in the body—a condition in which ketone bodies are elevated.
Ketones bodies are organic, water-soluble biomolecules synthesized in the liver from fatty acids when food (and specifically carbohydrate) intake is limited. These biomolecules can be used for energy once transported to extrahepatic tissues.
Ketone bodies are regularly produced in small concentrations in normal individuals, and are undetectable in typical urine assays. However, when the concentration of ketone bodies in the blood increases (known as ketonemia) they start to be excreted through urination (referred to as ketonuria); ketonemia and ketonuria together constitute a state of ketosis.
Therefore, keto diets are a method of inducing nutritional ketosis (not to be confused with pathological ketosis), which ultimately diverts the body to rely on fatty acids and ketone bodies as primary sources of energy.
The three main types of keto diets
There are three primary variations of keto diets that we will cover in this guide—standard keto dieting (SKD), cyclical keto dieting (CKD), and targeted keto dieting (TKD). The type of diet you use will ultimately boil down to trial and error and your goals (more specifics on this below).
Standard Keto Dieting—This is the most simple, basic variation of keto dieting. SKD does not have periods of carbohydrate re-feeding like CKD and TKD do. This is simply a diet that has a static ketogenic diet nutrient intake (moderate-high protein, high fat, low carbohydrate).
Cyclical Keto Dieting—This variation of keto dieting implements recurring carbohydrate re-feeds to help restore muscle glycogen stores for a short period of time after stores have been completely depleted. The timeframe between carbohydrate loads will vary based on user preference and their training intensity and goals.
Targeted Keto Dieting—The final variation of keto dieting, TKD, utilizes intermittent periods of carbohydrate intake specifically around the workout timeframe. The goal here is to provide enough glucose to enhance athletic performance without inhibiting ketosis for extended periods of time.
So which variation should I use?
The type of keto diet you end up sticking to will vary based on several factors. It is generally recommended to start with a “break in” period of SKD for several weeks and see how your performance and overall energy levels feel. From there, you should have a better idea of which diet to utilize for longer-term purposes.
You may also be wondering which variation is best for fat loss and which is best for muscle building. Well, assuming your calorie intake is where it should be to reach your goal, the variation of keto diet you use won’t play too of a factor in your progress. Some people may make the argument that CKD and TKD are more suited to individuals looking to build muscle since carbohydrates are protein sparing and insulinogenic, while SKD is best for fat loss since insulin output will be relatively low. However, these short-term fluctuations in insulin secretion won’t play as much of a factor as total calorie intake will in the long run.
Below is a short synopsis of what you should consider when picking which variation of keto dieting to use:
SKD—This is best suited to individuals who are generally sedentary and find that their workout performance is not hindered when carbohydrates have been greatly restricted. This is also a good option for people who don’t train very intensely and/or are highly insulin resistant.
TKD—If you’re someone who trains intensely several times per week and finds that your performance is worsened by chronic low-carbohydrate dieting, it is wise to consider implementing short carbohydrate feedings before and possibly after training. This is also a good option for people who are advanced trainees who can benefit from the carbohydrate intake but don’t do well with large carbohydrate re-feeds.
CKD—This is generally considered the “most advanced” form of keto dieting since it will take some trial an error on the users part to optimize the time between their carbohydrate re-feeds and the amount of carbohydrates they eat on re-feed days. If you’re an advanced trainee who exercises intensely throughout the week and still finds performance to be lacking on SKD and TKD, then consider trying CKD and seeing if that helps bring your performance back up to speed.
Setting up your own keto diet
Below are the necessary steps to take to calculate your personal energy needs and macronutrient intake. This will give you your baseline SKD nutrient intake. CKD and TKD users will still use their SKD calculations but there are a few adjustments to be made that I will touch on below.
The general rule of thumb for people who are looking to lose fat is to aim for roughly a 500-calorie deficit each day while those looking to gain muscle aim for a 500-calorie surplus. However, this is a very raw generalization and may differ for some individuals depending on their physiological tendencies and other factors. Also, if you do decide to go the CKD route, it is likely that you will have altered calorie intake throughout the week.
Here’s an example of how you would calculate SKD macronutrient intake for someone with 150lbs of lean body mass on a 2000-calorie cutting diet:
- Determine your caloric needs using this M&S BMR calorie calculator
- Set protein intake at 1g/lb of lean body mass: 150g protein per day
- Set carbohydrate intake at .1-.2g/lb of lean body mass: 15-30g per day (we use 30g in the calculations below)
- Since carbohydrates and proteins contain 4 calories per gram, then we have (150+30) x 4: 720 calories from proteins and carbohydrates
Therefore, this individual’s fat intake will come from the leftover calories to reach 2000: 2000-720=1280 calories/9 calories per g of fat=~-142g of fat per day.
So in total, this person’s nutrient breakdown is: 150g protein/30g carbohydrate/142g fat.
Sample 3-Meal Per Day Breakdown
- Meal 1—50g protein/10g carbohydrate/48g fat
- Meal 2—50g protein/10g carbohydrate/47g fat
- Meal 3—50g protein/10g carbohydrate/47g fat
Sample 5-Meal Per Day Breakdown
- Meal 1—30g protein/10g carbohydrate/30g fat
- Meal 2—30g protein/5g carbohydrate/30g fat
- Meal 3—30g protein/5g carbohydrate/30g fat
- Meal 4—30g protein/5g carbohydrate/25g fat
- Meal 5—30g protein/5g carbohydrate/27g fat
Food selection on keto diets
There are no real strict rules on what foods are acceptable and what foods are a “no-go” while keto dieting. Some people will insist that no direct starch or sugar sources should be ingested as they will prevent ketosis but in minute amounts that is highly unlikely, especially for larger individuals.
That being said, during the SKD portion of one’s keto diet, due to the inherently low carbohydrate intake and high fat intake you’ll likely find that these foods are good options:
- Animal proteins (especially red meats)
- Eggs (whole and white only)
- Full-fat dairy products like cheese, cream, butter etc.
- Oils, preferably canola, peanut, flax, macadamia, olive, and coconut varieties
- Nuts and nut spreads
- Fibrous vegetables, especially greens like lettuce, broccoli, celery, etc.
During the carb-up portions of the diet feel free to incorporate more starches and sugar sources like fruits.
Alterations for CKD
Now we’ll take a look at how you would implement carbohydrates in a cyclical fashion on a keto diet.
For someone doing CKD, it is wise to start with a once weekly carbohydrate re-feed and adjust the time interval between re-feeds as necessary. This method will take a lot of personal experimentation, as you will have to gauge how many carbohydrates you ingest and how you feel in the days thereafter.
The main thing to consider when starting a carbohydrate re-feed is to limit fat intake; do not continue eating large amounts of fats while loading up on carbohydrates. However, protein intake should remain the same (or maybe even go up a touch for the calorie content).
Using the previously mentioned 150-lb (of lean body mass) individual’s SKD macronutrient breakdown, we’ll suggest some baseline recommendations on how they could setup CKD with a once-weekly carbohydrate re-feed based on insulin sensitivity/tolerance for carbohydrates:
- Set protein intake at 1g/lb of lean body mass: 150g protein per day
- Low insulin sensitivity—set carbohydrate intake between 1-1.5g/lb of lean body mass
- Moderate insulin sensitivity—set carbohydrate intake between 2-2.5g/lb of lean body mass
- High insulin sensitivity—set carbohydrate intake between 3-3.5g/lb of lean body mass
- Now, as before, just simply calculate the leftover calories and divide by 9 to figure out how many grams of fat you should eat on your carbohydrate re-feeds
*NOTE: If you’re on a cutting diet and moderately or highly insulin sensitive, raise your calorie intake back to maintenance levels (or maybe a even slight surplus) on carbohydrate re-feed days.
EXAMPLE CKD for moderately insulin sensitive individual with 150-lb of LBM on 2000-calorie cutting diet:
- Monday through Saturday—Follow SKD nutrient breakdown as outlined above
- Sunday (carbohydrate re-feed day, 2500 calories)—150g protein/300g carbohydrate/~78g fat
EXAMPLE CKD for highly insulin sensitive individual with 150-lb of LBM on a 3000- calorie bulking diet:
- Monday through Saturday—Follow SKD nutrient breakdown
- Sunday (carbohydrate re-feed day)—150g protein/450g carbohydrate/~67g fat
Alterations for TKD
Let’s take a look at how to implement carbohydrates in a targeted fashion on a keto diet (e.g. pre-/post-workout).
Similarly to CKD, when starting TKD it will take some time to figure out how your body responds to certain amounts of carbohydrates and the best way for you to time your intake. Remember, the point of TKD is to ingest a sufficient amount of carbohydrates to promote performance benefits without going overboard. CKD is meant to restore glycogen levels while TKD is more for short-term energy/performance enhancement.
Therefore, assuming the person in question is training intensely 5 days a week, they would take in carbohydrates in the meals prior to and/or after training on those days. The other 2 days they would follow their SKD nutrient breakdown.
The TKD nutrient breakdown is actually the same as SKD, but with the addition of carbohydrates peri-workout on training days. Let’s take a look at TKD nutrient breakdown recommendations using our aforementioned 150-lb of LBM individual on a 2000-calorie cutting diet and insulin sensitivity/carbohydrate tolerance as the parameter for gauging peri-workout carbohydrate intake:
- Set protein intake at 1g/lb of lean body mass: 150g protein
- Low insulin sensitivity—add .25g of carbohydrate/lb of lean body mass peri-workout
- Moderate insulin sensitivity—add .375g of carbohydrate/lb of lean body mass peri-workout
- High insulin sensitivity—add .5g of carbohydrate/lb of lean body mass peri-workout
Now, simply take into account the “extra” carbohydrate intake along with your protein intake and fill in the rest of your calories with fat (as we did before).
*NOTE: Peri-workout refers to the meals prior to and/or after training. Therefore, you can split up your “added” carbohydrates anyway you prefer as long as they are ingested around the training window. It is generally recommended to simply split your carbohydrates in half and eat them before and after training.
EXAMPLE TKD for low insulin sensitivity individual with 150-lb of LBM on 2000-calorie cutting diet:
- Training days—Follow SKD nutrient breakdown and add in 37-38g of carbohydrate peri-workout
- Rest days—Follow SKD nutrient breakdown
EXAMPLE TKD for highly insulin sensitive individual with 150-lb of LBM on a 3000-calorie bulking diet:
- Training days—Follow SKD nutrient breakdown and add in 75g of carbohydrate peri-workout
- Rest days—Follow SKD nutrient breakdown
Sample 5-Meal Per Day TKD Breakdown (Training Day)
*NOTE: Values based on 150-lb LBM individual with high insulin sensitivity on 3000-calorie bulking diet.
- Meal 1 (Pre-workout)—30g protein/40g carbohydrate/20g fat
- Meal 2 (Post-workout)—30g protein/35g carbohydrate/20g fat
- Meal 3—30g protein/10g carbohydrate/60g fat
- Meal 4—30g protein/10g carbohydrate/60g fat
- Meal 5—30g protein/10g carbohydrate/60g fat