Can Juicing Help Cancer Patients?
A little over 10 years ago Robert Rister (natural health specialist I have talked with) spent several weeks interviewing a world-renowned cardiologist who had accidentally discovered a treatment for pancreatic cancer. Although Dr. Demetrio Sodi-Pallares was no rigid disciple of any form of nutritional treatment—he had been a professor at three prestigious medical schools in the United States and had written 13 books, authored or co-authored 300 papers for the medical journals, and treated over a quarter of a million patients who came to his offices from all over the world – juicing was at the core of his nutritional recommendations for cancer.
Dr. Sodi and the Juicing Treatment
Demetrio Sodi-Pallares was born into a privileged family in Mexico City in 1913. He graduated from medical school in 1936, and rapidly became the go-to expert in the then relatively new technology of electrocardiography, also known as EKG. In just a few years he was offered a professorship at the medical school at the University of California at Los Angeles, and he began seeing patients from all over the world. But in 1945, his own mother had a heart attack.
In the 1940's, just about the only treatment medicine had for people who had had heart attacks was the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide. Dr. Sodi's mother was put on the diuretic to force her kidneys to remove water from blood plasma and to reduce the burden on her heart. The medication, however, made la abuela (the grandmother) Sodi sicker, not healthier.
The problem with hydrochlorothiazide then and with the more commonly prescribed furosemide (Lasix) now is that these diuretics don't just cause the kidneys to remove sodium from the bloodstream. They also cause the kidneys to remove potassium from the bloodstream. Despite the reduction in the amount of blood Mrs. Sodi's heart had to pump, the heart itself was getting weaker and weaker. In 1945, Dr. Sodi received a call from Mexico City that his mother was near death.
Dr. Sodi surmised that his mother in fact would die if she continued taking the diuretics available in her era. He also reasoned that it was ridiculous to (1) give a patient a diuretic to remove sodium from the bloodstream and (2) ask that patient to be sure to consume additional salt. Defying his mentors in Mexico City, Dr. Sodi took his mother off diuretics and told the family's kitchen staff to prepare her a diet almost totally sodium-free but rich in potassium from fruits and vegetables. She could have any meat or fat she wanted, including butter and eggs, if the food was free of salt.
Mrs. Sodi did not die. Instead, she made a strong recovery and resumed her previous life. She lived into her 80's, many years after her heart heart attack.
Dr. Sodi continued to be known as the master of EKG. He treated patients from all over the world in Los Angeles, and later at the University of Michigan and Baylor University in Houston, Texas. He entered practice with Dr. Michael DeBakey, the famed inventor of bypass surgery. And at that point, about 1975, Dr. Sodi ran into professional trouble. Dr. Sodi learned how to treat heart attack patients for $25. For each patient, Dr. DeBakey's new bypass procedure would generate about $25,000. Dr. Sodi was invited to retire.
And he did retire, building a free clinic for hopeless patients over his swimming pool, to his wife's considerable objection. He only saw patients the state clinics refused continuing care and he charged them nothing. He treated heart problems with a combination of glucose (dextrose) solution, insulin, and potassium. Then he told his patients to drink juice, eat fruits and vegetables, and avoid salt. Hundreds of hopeless heart attack patients regained their old vim and vigor. And one even went into remission from terminal cancer.
Dr. Sodi's Cancer Cure
Sodi set up his clinic to treat hopeless heart patients, not hopeless cancer patients. He actually had some reservations about helping a 72-year-old man who had both multiple cancerous tumors in his chest cavity and severe cardiomyopathy in his heart. But Sodi offered him the intravenous infusion of glucose, insulin, and potassium, and ordered him to follow a strict low-salt (less than 1500 mg per day), high-potassium (at least 6000 mg) per day diet and to come back in a month.
At the second visit, the tumors had disappeared.
The word quickly spread that Dr. Sodi was treating hopeless cancer patients for free, and he was soon dealing with breast cancer, lung cancer, anaplastic thyroid cancer, ovarian cancer, bone cancer, and pancreatic cancer. Some kinds of cancer responded better than others. He was not able to help one patient who had cancer of the heart muscle itself. But he had a very high rate of success with cancers originating in the bones and pancreas. Dr. Sodi conferred with his brother, an MIT-trained electrical engineer, and several dozen scientists from around the world, and developed a working theory of why his treatment worked.
Every cell maintains a slight negative electrical charge across its outer membrane. This negative charge “grabs” nutrients from the bloodstream and attracts hormones to their receptor sites on the outside of the cell. A cell has to have fewer positively charged particles inside than there are in the blood plasma outside.
Every time a cell absorbs a molecule of glucose sugar, it has to take three positively charged sodium ions in and push two positively charged potassium ions out. Especially in a high-sugar environment, the positive charge inside the cell increases while the negative charge on the outer membrane decreases. This makes it harder for the cell to connect to regulatory hormones. It becomes harder for the cell to absorb some of the amino acids it needs for repair. And the more sodium it absorbs, the more water is absorbs, to the point that DNA itself begins to unravel.
Dr. Sodi confirmed his theory with evidence from electron microscopy.
The reason the high-potassium diet worked so well for bone and pancreatic cancer, Sodi believed, was that bone and pancreatic cells normally have only a small negative electrical charge on their outer membranes, about -4 mV. It took less sodium restriction and less potassium supplementation to bring the charge on these kinds of cancer cells back to normal.
The reason Dr. Sodi's diet failed for that case of rare heart muscle cancer was that the heart has a strong negative electrical charge on every cell to make sure they get their nutrients. A heart cell has an electrical charge of -90 mV. And since Dr. Sodi only saw patients after other doctors had told them they were “hopeless,” he did not see that patient soon enough to be able to help.
Robert Rister told me that he met patients—and saw their labs and films—who had been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer as long as 11 years before our introduction. And when he worked with a pancreatic cancer patient who used this and other treatments, she lived in remission for five years—until she caught an antibiotic-resistant infection from the biopsy needle for the biopsy the doctor insisted would show she was not really in remission.
Juicing To Help Cure Cancer Was Not Sodi's Unique Idea
Juicing for this disease, of course, was not an idea unique to Demetrio Sodi-Pallares. It was also made popular by a German doctor named Max Gerson.
Sodi-Pallares believed it was best to make sure patients got the potassium they initially needed by intravenous drip. Gerson had been trained in the 1880's and made sure his patients got their “potash” from hourly glasses of organic juice.
Sodi-Pallares did not have a problem with his patients eating meat, eggs, or butter as long as they were prepared without salt. Gerson put his patients on a vegan diet.
Sodi-Pallares also used magnetic therapies (of a sort you really can't do at home) to stimulate electrostatic balance in cells. Gerson did not use magnetic therapies.
Sodi-Pallares offered complementary cancer treatment. He did not object to any medical therapies that worked. Gerson offered alternative cancer treatment. Practicing medicine in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, there were few medical treatments in his time.
Sodi-Pallares offered treatment for free. Gerson charged.
And Dr. Sodi's patients often got well, while Dr. Gerson's patients by and large did not. Of 18 patients in a clinical trial of the Gerson method, 17 were dead at the end of 5 years and the 18th was ill. Of dozens of people treated by Sodi personally, all but two lived more than 5 years—and they both abandoned the diet shortly before their deaths.
The medical establishment never accepted Sodi's treatments for cancer. It took 52 years for the American Heart Association to admit to the then 84-year-old Sodi that he had been right about diuretics. Tens of thousands of cancer patients in Latin America, however, have received Sodi-Pallares treatment. So many people died of Gerson therapy that his daughter was forced, ironically, to move her clinic to Mexico. But Gerson's failures do not mean that juicing to help cancer patients is without value. To the contrary, juicing can be of enormous benefit in recovering from cancer. It's just not limited to what either doctor believed.
Essential Cancer Nutrition
Robert Rister told me that he met exactly one person who went into remission from cancer (a 40-year-old woman who had pancreatic cancer) by juicing alone, However, ha also told me that he didn't recommend juicing as a primary treatment for cancer. As awful as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy can be, if you have already started them, you should not stop. If you don't have a physician with experience in treating cancer with nutrition—whose patients actually get well—you should work with your doctor about the least invasive and least expensive conventional cancer treatments you can find. Then use juicing to enhance recovery and extend remission.
Juicing is not an all or nothing proposition for treating cancer. You don't have to get all of your nutrients from juices to benefit from juicing.
One of the most important uses of juicing is helping bring taste back to food after cancer treatment has damaged taste buds, sense of smell, and the ability to salivate. Sips of juice before and during your meals can make it a lot easier to eat the food that contains the nutrients you have to have to beat cancer. The most important thing juicing can do for cancer patients is filling in the gaps destroyed in the sense of taste.
Juicing to Bring Back the Taste of Food After Cancer Treatment
Most people who die after developing cancer don't actually die of cancer. Most people who die after developing cancer die of malnutrition or of a wasting disease called cachexia. The simple fact is that if food does not have any taste, or tastes bad, or can't be held down, or it is rejected because it is impossible to pin down the source of an off taste, people who have had cancer cannot obtain the nutrients they need to beat cancer and go into remission.
Cancer itself can alter taste perception. Some people say everything tastes stronger after they have cancer. Some people say that everything tastes blander after they have cancer. The sense of taste is also modified by:
- Anesthesia. Every time you are put under for surgery your sense of taste is affected, usually for 60 to 90 days.
- Candida. Weakened immune systems allow overgrowth of yeast infections in the mouth called thrush. These infections can prevent contact between food and the taste buds and make the mechanical act of eating painful.
- Chemotherapy. Certain kinds of chemotherapy are notorious for stealing the sense of taste, especially daunorubicin, dactinomycin, Adriamycin (doxorubicin), Methotrex (methotrexate), Platinol (cis-platin), and the appropriately named 5-FU (5-fluorouracil).
- Radiation. Radiation of the head and neck can kill taste buds and the olfactory “bulb” that conveys the sensation of smell to the brain.
- Surgery. In addition anesthesia, changes in circulation and surgical removal of parts of the mouth or nose can cause permanent changes in the sense of taste.
Fortunately, it is unusual for someone who has cancer to completely lose the sense of taste. Usually it is just one component of the sense of taste that is severely affected. Some cancer treatments make everything taste bitter or metallic. Other cancer treatments wipe out the ability to sense salt, sweetness, acidity, or the savory taste known as umami.
Sense the sensation of taste occurs in the brain, not in the mouth and nose, emphasizing the flavors the mouth and nose can still sense restores taste to food. Juices are a great way to add flavors the mouth and nose can still sense to replace the flavors they can't.
Adding a small amount of salt to a juice helps bring out other flavors. It also increases the sensation of bitterness, so you don't want to add salt to juices made with kale, spinach, or, if you happen to live in a culture where the flavor is used in everyday cuisine, green papaya. Even Dr. Sodi recommended the use of at least 500 mg (about 1/4 teaspoon) of salt per day even on the very most salt-restricted diet.
Salt makes food literally mouthwatering. For people who still have productive salivary glands, salt stimulates the release of saliva which begins the digestion of carbohydrates while they are still in the mouth.
Sweetness disguises bitterness. While it's not a good idea to add white sugar to juice for cancer, when someone isn't getting enough calories to live, it's not necessarily a bad idea to add more real sweetener when it tastes good. A little maple syrup, honey, or agave can disguise the taste of spinach or kale (which should be eaten occasionally for their beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin).
Acid makes other flavors brighter and helps cancel out metallic taste. If someone has mouth sores or mucositis, you can't give any acidic juice. But if the lining of the mouth is intact, even a few drops of lemon juice will brighten other flavors. Bragg's vinegar with amino acids, up to a teaspoon (5 ml) or so, adds a tiny amount of pre-digested protein to the juice. Balsamic vinegar helps the nose sense the full range of flavors in leafy greens.
Umami is the flavor we associate with meat. “Meat juice” isn't on the menu, although there is absolutely no reason why a cancer survivor who eats meat can't eat meat while doing a juicing program. To give vegetable juice the sensation of umami, use a strip of seaweed (kombu or dulse) that you completely rehydrated or add tomato or miso to vegetable juices.
Cancer recovery is no time to be thinking of dieting. Every calorie, every gram of protein, every gram of carbohydrate, every vitamin and mineral and even every gram of sugar can make a difference. Got with what tastes good rather than with what makes textbook sense. But consider these basic rules for juicing success.
- Always let the patient decide which juice tastes best. Don't tell him or her “you should drink this ‘healthier' juice.” Take any comment about the taste and quality of the juice seriously. Their opinions, not your own, are what count.
- A “juice fast” can be useful in preventing certain kinds of cancer. Once cancer has occurred, however, juice fasts rob the body of essential nutrition. You cannot get enough nutrients for fighting cancer from juice alone. If juice is what someone can hold down, that is a different matter, but eating other nutritious foods should never be discouraged.
- On the other hand, don't mix flavors for the sake of mixing flavors. If someone has a heightened sense of bitterness or acidity, consider leaving those flavors out.
- Vitamins and trace minerals don't do any good when the cancer patient isn't getting enough protein, carbohydrate, and fat. Worry more about getting enough calories than about getting enough vitamins.
- Some people find the odor of cabbage family vegetables (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, mizuna, kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, turnips, and watercress) intensely unpleasant. This is usually because they have a gene that makes them “super-tasters” of a phytochemical called n-6-tropyluracil. About 20% of the population can't taste 6-tropyluracil at all. If you can't, you probably like these vegetables. If you are a super-taster, they may make you gag. And gagging is not conducive to recovery from cancer.
- Whole, raw foods can be too much for delicate digestion.
- If a juice makes a person feel ill it is defeating its purpose. Juices are intended to increase appetite, not decrease it, when used to treat cancer.
- Don't use rinds to make juice. Rough peels and rinds hold germs, and cancer patients have weakened immune systems
- It is a lot of hard work to keep a cancer patient healthy and comfortable. Use a power juicer rather than a hand juicer if at all possible. Macerating juicers are best.
- Many cancer patients develop problems with veins after repeated blood draws and chemotherapy. Red, purple, and dark blue berries and fruits contain anthocyanidins that help restore vascular health.
- Carrot juice is a much poorer source of antioxidants that berries, fruits, and almost all other vegetables. It is primarily a good source of alpha- and beta-carotene.
- Raw vegetables and fruits are always preferable to cooked for making juice. Wash them thoroughly before juicing, running water top and bottom. Do not use chemical disinfectants on raw produce for making juice.
- Tomato juice is fine if it is desired, but lycopene juicing recipes are more useful for preventing prostate cancer than treating it.
- Keep a log of responses to juices after chemotherapy or radiation treatment. (A notepad or computer file you can find later is adequate.) This helps you know what juices work best during various phases of recovery and recuperation if treatments are repeated.
- The newer medications used to prevent blood clots do not interact with vitamin K from leafy green vegetables. People taking older blood thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin) and Plavix (clopidrogel), however, should consult their doctors before using leafy green vegetables in juice.
- The “grape cure” causes more problems than it helps. Don't put grape seeds in juice. They can cause choking and they may not be fully digested, getting caught in the lining of the colon and causing colon pain. Use tiny amounts of grapeseed oil instead. Likewise, do not add grape peelings to juice, especially when there is a problem with constipation.
- Apple peels added to the juice contain quercetin. It's a great anti-inflammatory but it interferes with any medication that can't be taken with either white or pink grapefruit juice. Apple juice, yes, apple peels, no.
- Strawberries should be organic. Conventionally raised strawberries in the United States are treated with bromides. The bromides interfere with the thyroid's ability to absorb iodine. Since hypothyroidism is common after cancer treatment, conventionally raised strawberries can make the problem worse.
- Ice-cold juices sometimes reduce mouth pain—but cold acidic juices will aggravate mouth sores.
- Use sea salt instead of table salt. Sea salt has a richer flavor profile and is more likely to be tasted.
- A macerating juicer is more generally useful for making juices for cancer treatment. A juice extractor is not versatile enough for making juices for cancer. Neither is a food processor.
- Don't use salt substitutes, especially if there has been kidney damage. It's easy to dump to much. Potassium chloride salt substitutes have a bitter taste and can cause electrolyte disturbances if used in excess.
- Acid foods slow down the passage of food through the stomach. That is a good thing when there is a problem with diarrhea, but it's not a good thing when there is a problem with acid reflux.
- Don't feel bound to juicer recipes. Instead, limit yourself to what tastes good to the person drinking the juice. The best juicer recipe and the best juice is the juice that is actually consumed.
- Sweet sensations are greatest on the end of the tongue. Tiny sips of juice taste sweeter than big gulps.
- Use a variety of ingredients that have the same basic flavor. For instance, you might combine orange, tangerine, and yuzu for a sweetly acidic flavor rather than using one citrus fruit alone. When the sense of taste is impaired, the more ingredients you use, the higher the probability that at least one flavor will come through.
- Use liquid stevia in dropwise amounts. It's hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, and using the same amount of stevia as sugar syrup makes juices bitter.
- Be careful with powdered stevia. About 99% of powdered stevia is actually the bulking agent erythritol, which sometimes causes diarrhea.
- Honey adds sweetness and a complex flavor profile that is more likely to tickle the taste buds than sugar, stevia, or agave. It is also antiseptic and may help with oral infections.
- If adding is the only way a cancer patient can take juice, then add sugar. Small amounts (up to 1 tablespoon/15 grams three times per day) may not be as detrimental to health as the alternative.
- Add healthy plant oils such as flaxseed oil and pumpkin seed oil when you can. They coat the tongue, allowing other flavors to linger on the taste buds. They also help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E, and K.
- Add small amounts of pressed ginger to juices to help control nausea and vomiting, no more than 1 teaspoon (4 to 6 grams) in 2 cups (approximately 5 ml) of juice.
- Either cranberry juice or blueberry juice helps fight bladder infections.
- Whey powder has immune stimulant properties. Soy and rice powder do not.
- People who have or who have been treated for colorectal cancer often develop the attitude, because of the intense pain they go through, “I'm never ever going to eat anything again.” Don't try to lure them into eating with their favorite foods. Persuade them to take sips of juice (assuming the doctor has given the OK for food and drink) and then offer favorite foods when they are feeling better.
And never give anyone his or her favorite foods when he or she is feeling nauseous. The brain associates the food with nausea and the experience can ruin the enjoyment of that food for the rest of their lives.