Today’s featured guest is Dr. Nasha Winters, a nutrition expert from the “Food as Medicine” podcast. Dr. Winters is the founder of Food as Medicine and a founding member of the Institute for Functional Medicine. In this podcast, she discusses the pros and cons of the Paleo diet, how it differs from the “Caveman” diet, how to get into shape with food, and why you should be eating more meat.
The subject of this podcast is Dr. Nasha Winters. She is a physician and a dietitian. She is also the founder of the Healthy Lifestyle Coaching Institute, a company that offers health coaching services, personal training, nutrition counseling and a nutritional food plan. The interview was recorded at her office in Los Angeles.Now, over 20 years later, she has turned her life around and has not only survived cancer, but now helps people overcome their own cancer diagnosis through a lifestyle that includes a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet, as well as lots of self-reflection, self-education and self-care, and shows how this can help with cancer diagnosis and treatment.
In addition to using things like fasting, mistletoe, and so-called alternative therapies, but here’s one of the main things I appreciate about Dr. Nash: she understands the importance of bridging the gap between so-called alternative therapies and traditional therapies, so that we can refine our tools, so to speak.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy have their place and we can use them better in combination with these alternative therapies, and I think that is an excellent prospect. But also to see people as people and improve the overall experience, and if that improves longevity, all the better. But the most important thing is to improve the quality of life and the way people live.
I think she will give you an excellent perspective on this topic and I hope you enjoy this interview with Dr. Nasha Winters. Dr. Nasha Winters, thank you so much for joining us on this podcast.
Dr. Nash Winters: I’m glad to be back here with you.
Bret: You have such an amazing story that I’m sure you’ve told many times, but it’s worth telling again just for the power of it, for what it means to you, and for how you’ve helped change the lives of so many people. So if I can set the stage to start now,
They were 19, which is a time when most people don’t think about their health at all. You think about your life, everything that’s going on, your future, and then at 19 you’re diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer and you only have three months to live or something. My point is that you can’t overstate how it changes someone’s life and how it affects someone’s life. So tell us briefly, if you can, what happened to your consciousness then and what led you to the path you are on now.
Nyasha: I tell that story often, and it helps me break it down and remember, because like you said, most of us don’t think about our lives at that age – I mean, we think we’re immortal. We’re so carefree, we live in the moment and other things and breathe life deeply, but I was actually a little different than a lot of my peers back then.
I come from a pretty complicated background, I was the first in my family to go to college in my first year of college, and I had the burden of financial issues and problems, having to take out student loans and all that. But I knew what I wanted to do. …. I knew I was interested in medicine; I had always thought about it, even from a young age. But I’ve been sick my whole life without realizing it.
It’s like the concept of a lobster jumping into a pot of cold water and cooking on the stove, not realizing until it’s too late, oh my God, it’s taking over my life. And that was me; that was my background; a lot of health problems from a young age; digestive problems, a lot of skin problems, a lot of hormonal problems.
And so everything was normal for me. And when it started to seem unnaturally unhealthy, I even said it was part of my digestion, or that it was too much information for your audience, but my doctors told my mom it was normal to poop once a month because that was my norm.
Bret: Once a month?
Nyasha: Indeed! So I didn’t notice any of the digestive changes, although many of the symptoms of ovarian cancer begin with the digestive system. And so I felt an amplification of the same thing I’ve been experiencing my whole life. When I went to the emergency room for almost a year, for eight or nine months, they said it was IBS, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, or an ectopic pregnancy. I think that would be very difficult to do.
And all these things that they threw at me, and then they started treating me like a crazy patient with a histrionic disorder, and that it was all in my head, so they started taking more and more medications to treat me, and I had horrible side effects from every pharmaceutical infection and pain, and I was just a living pharmacy at that point.
And at that point I had a new doctor on staff who decided to take a better look at what was going on, maybe because he had a 19-year-old daughter, and he had a certain compassion that was missing from the other doctors who saw me week after week, month after month, which I think is very important for all doctors to remember.
Bret: Very important.
Nyasha: Yes. It’s big. Because we all certainly have our judgments in the medical profession. This man saw me with fresh eyes, did the tests and was in shock himself. He told me, and I felt I had to comfort him, that it was indeed too late and that I was in the final stages of organ failure, and that at that time, when I was in the hospital, I had a terrible oxygen level; my oxygen level was 70%.
I had kidney failure, liver failure, a heart attack, they weren’t sure if they could stabilize my electrolytes, I was terribly, terribly malnourished, I had severe ascites, and everyone was telling me to eat less in that area because they thought I was gaining weight, even though my legs and arms were sticks because I had terrible sarcopenia, muscle loss, all of that.
When they realized I was carrying an eight-liter water baby in my belly, they discovered I had nuts in my liver, peritoneal implants, lymph nodes everywhere, and a huge mass in my right ovary. And between that, the lab tests, taking fluids, sending a small piece for a biopsy, and many other tests, they realized this woman had ovarian cancer.
I was so sick, and they said: The treatment will kill you instantly, so if we treat you now, you will die this week, if we wait, you will die in three months. So that was my choice. And sometimes, when you can’t, you find a way.
Bret: Yeah, so with that kind of presentation and the way it was presented to you, I mean, how many people would give up and say: Is that so?
Nyasha: Yes! Well, I’ll tell you. I’ve talked about this in other interviews I’ve done. I had a period in my life where I really didn’t want to be here. I had attempted suicide a few years earlier and I was in such bad shape that the moment I was told I was going to die shook me up. And it lit a light in me that said: They tell you it’s not possible.
My stubbornness gene came out and I decided to change things. I honestly didn’t think I would be able to save my life, but I thought I would at least learn all I could in the process and learn from the process of the disease itself. What kind of message was he trying to send me? I had a strange instinct to know this book at such a young age, to know that there was a lot of good information in it.
Bret: It’s amazing because it’s such a difficult concept to grasp. For example: What has cancer taught you, what gift has cancer given you? I mean, at first glance it looks like cancer, how can it be a gift? But if you dig deeper, and the fact that you understand it at 19 is really impressive, it really shows… I hate to say it, but you are the person who can overcome this and change your life because of it.
Nyasha: People who knew me as a child have always called me an outsider in every way, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but I think because I have a little of that, I’m not really in the fold. It’s a gift, you know, and my mother has the same gift. She was in third grade, I think, and living in Coldwater, Kansas, a very small town, when she read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and decided to become a beatnik.
And the library in his town burned the book. So I guess it was ingrained in my epigenetics to beat women. My grandmother lost her husband in a shooting when my mother was seven, and in my family these women have overcome all kinds of crazy situations, so I was no different.
Bret: Yes. It’s very interesting how your genes are, so to speak.
Nyasha: Absolutely, and I love learning more about it. We have done many studies showing that past trauma or problems in previous generations alter epigenetic expression. And we didn’t know that in 1991. This concept had not yet been developed, but what we knew in 1991 was an emerging field called psychoneuroimmunology. At the time, I had a double major in biology and chemistry and was about to go into medicine.
And I changed my major, choosing psychology as my major and biology as a minor, because I knew my own psychology and how it affected my biology. At that time, the work of people like Candice Pert and Bruce Lipton came to light and we began to see scientific evidence that our thoughts, traumas and experiences were changing our immune system and physiology in profound ways.
Bret: Wow. Nyasha: Yes.
Bret: So this developing field says it’s not just biology, but the connection between the body and the brain, which is really interesting, and I want to know more, but … more about your timeline without telling your story too fast, because I know there’s been a lot. We can get over it, we can learn more, but we’re also starting to learn that cancer is a metabolic disease and not a genetic disease, or this two-headed theory.
So I would like you to define it in more detail, because the approach to what cancer is can determine what we can do about it, both in treatment and prevention. Explain the difference between genes, a metabolic disease or a combination of both.
Nyasha: So I really appreciate this question, because there are now two cAMPs. We have somatic cAMP, you know the people who say it’s just a game of Russian roulette, that it’s just bad luck, that if you have a disease process like cancer, you can’t do anything about it, that you’re just an easy target. In my opinion, this is a very dark way to exist on this planet. Moreover, the science shows that this is not the case, even though years later in 2017 this particular group at Harvard is still trying to publish papers claiming otherwise.
In another corridor of the same institution, there is a group of people who promote the concept of metabolic causes, things that happen in the energy processing plant in our body, the mitochondria. Many of us remember from sixth grade biology class that these are our mighty mitochondria, but this is where the magic happens. So really – if we’re talking about the fountain of youth, there’s no pill or exogenous potion to change that.
It’s an internal process that takes place at the cellular energy level in our mitochondria, and our mitochondria are really our fountain of youth. They are our mecca for long life, they tell us how to change it. So if you go one step further, you have a CPMA that says it’s genetic, it’s predestined, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
You have another cAMP that says genes have nothing to do with it; it’s just a metabolic process, and yet I think we have genes that can load the gun, but it’s our choices – our daily life choices that affect the health and behavior of those mitochondria that pull the trigger.
Bret: Yes, I think that’s a good way to put it, because if you support one cAMP and reject another cAMP, you can’t completely ignore the fact that there are genetic variations that make cancer much more likely.
But not everyone with these mutations has cancer, so something else is clearly influencing it. But also a genetic explanation for cancer that says it’s not your fault, which is nice to hear for people. On the one hand, the metabolic explanation says it’s your fault, which is a tough discussion, right?
Nyasha: Yeah, and that’s really when I had that conversation, I remember it very well because at that young age, at 19, I knew I came from a long line of wounded people….. to keep it simple. I knew I had what was called an ACE score, which is an adverse childhood event score. Since I also studied psychology, we looked at these 10 questions from the ACE questionnaire that your trainees can download online and fill out on their own.
These 10 questions are about your life experience before you turned 18. Each yes increases the risk of developing chronic diseases and cancer as an adult by 10%. So let’s say you have a score of four out of ten – yes, that means you are 40% more likely to get cancer or some other serious chronic disease in adulthood than those who have no score, a score of zero.
So, to make a long story short, I got a 10 out of 10. So of course, something that made me say that I also came into the world and experienced something that I hadn’t chosen. It wasn’t about my daily decisions, it was about other people around me and other situations. And I also knew, like you said, what drove you to fight and change the situation instead of just being a victim. I also often saw the victim card in my biological family, and I knew I would never fit into that picture.
And then I thought: So what can I do? This led me to ask myself questions for 28 years: What is in my power, what can I control? And there are things I’m still learning and can improve. And so it’s a learning process for me. Once you know something, frankly, it’s your fault. And it seems difficult.
But when we know that every time you take a puff of a cigarette, you’re robbing yourself of seven seconds of your life, you’re changing your glutathione status and completely destroying your antioxidants, reducing your immune function and increasing all those pro-inflammatory cytokines. You know the data is there, but people do it anyway. Yes, it is an addiction, but you can get help for your addiction. So it’s right up my alley.
For my part, I explored the processes that allowed me to understand the why and implement something to change the course of events. And that’s what I try to teach people – what you didn’t know. For example, I didn’t know that personal care products were endocrine disruptors. I didn’t know vitamin D was so important.
I didn’t know that being a vegetarian and eating junk food at fast food restaurants was actually bad for my health. I thought it was a really good thing for my health and for the planet. I learned so much in that time, it’s like it didn’t happen overnight. Like I said, I’m still learning, and I teach my patients that it’s a journey, not an event.
Bret: Yeah, that’s a good perspective, because when I ask that question, the metabolic approach makes it sound like it’s the person’s fault, but it’s really not, unless you know something else, and it’s our job to educate people about the risks. But when it comes to determining the risk, it’s difficult because the study you mentioned with the ACE assessment, these studies are not causal, they’re associative, but if there is an association, it certainly needs to be looked at.
And it’s hard, even for the average person, to connect all the dots. Why, for example, can bad events in childhood lead to an increased risk of developing cancer? On the face of it, this doesn’t make sense. But the study showed a correlation, which means it’s related to the lifestyle you lead, or that people in those situations tend to eat more junk food, and it can be different things, so you can’t turn a blind eye to the correlation.
But you didn’t understand that at 19, did you? How did you get through that first phase and onto the path you’re on now?
Nyasha: First of all, there are studies that show that the ACE score is more reliable than association, and we can test for HDAC inhibition, epigenetic expression, we can do these tests. We can look at physiological changes, we can look at changes in brain waves, so you can see that there are studies that have been done for decades, and you know we can see changes in the brain map in people who have experienced trauma.
And it got lower, so people like Candice Pert, who is no longer among us, was a physiologist who studied the physiological changes of these injuries and the pressures on our chemistry, which of course creates a playground for the disease process. And then people like Bruce Lipton study your microbiology and see what it does at that level.
We now have research on changes in the microbiome and changes in waves. So all areas of medicine have looked at these things and gone from associations to specific causal changes at the cellular level, which is pretty crazy.
Bret: It’s pretty wild.
Nyasha: That’s it.
Bret: Do you admit to still being on the edge of medical practice? Nyasha: Of course, of course, of course.
Bret: And why are they reluctant to accept it? Because it goes against the existing model, and people know what they know? Or why are you hesitating to make it more popular?
Nyasha: I think the first point is that the medical system doesn’t allow us to go deep into a person’s psychology and trauma. Similarly, in my book Metabolic Approach to Cancer, there are 10 main aspects that affect cancer, but the last chapter focuses on the mental-emotional aspect. Honestly, it should be the first approach, but by human nature it is the scariest and most difficult peak to conquer.
So it’s not worth it unless you’re really prepared and have a really good team supporting you. And it takes a lot more than the seven minutes our medical system allows our doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners to spend with their patients. There is a stigma, there are insurance bills, in many cases it can’t be coded. So there are many reasons why I believe. And there’s not much interest in research money because you don’t really want to give a cure. We strive for these situations, but they actually require awareness, changing trauma patterns, diet and lifestyle changes, and they are frankly not cost effective. So, yes.
Bret: So if you’ve had this traumatic experience, you can’t fix it. So what can you do to reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases?
Nyasha: It comes down to how you understood it when you were 19 and how you still understand it at 48. So it’s a constant learning process, and every time we learn something new, we apply it, and I wish I had done this 27 years ago, because it would have been much faster to test and evaluate someone then.
And they are small, easy to digest bites, if I do say so myself: Hey, it’s affected me, it’s genes, it’s like the loaded gun we talked about, it’s my life experience and I can’t change it, but I can change how I react, how I respond and how I go from there.
And these are things that can happen on a cellular level, through your food choices, through the people you hang out with, through the emotional support you get, whether it’s through faith or counseling or psychedelic experiences, all of these things can change that neural network and that life experience so that you have a different perception and perception of the world around you, that helps you inside to make different choices because your thoughts were pleasant.
You said earlier that the concept of nature and nurture, the chicken or the egg, applies: These people get sicker because of the choices they keep making or because of trauma. And it’s true. We get stuck in a rut, and all those times we thought we were learning, we can now help people learn new ways to do things.
Bret: Yes, it’s fascinating.
Nyasha: That’s it.
Bret: Fascinating and sometimes difficult to understand, but the other side of this metabolic approach to cancer seems to be much clearer regarding glucose, insulin and cancer growth. Tell us what we’ve learned.
Nyasha: I like to start conversations with people this way. It’s very tangible, they can see it, feel it. And what’s interesting is that the side effect of that is that it changes your own pathways, it changes the BDNF in the brain, which is the neurofactor in the brain, it changes the dopamine response, which is – there are only two things that make you feel good in the world, which are serotonin and dopamine; so it changes that balance and expression.
It strengthens your genetics, making you more resilient and stronger. It changes the way your immune system works. So even though they start with the most tangible elements, they touch on a lot of intangible things at the same time, and people then feel more ready to move forward at their own pace in the future.
So the metabolic changes are huge, which we see in all chronic diseases today. When I think about cancer, maybe autism, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, they all stem from the same dysfunctional metabolic fuel processing system. And as I told you in our previous conversations and in the book, we were all low-carb before 1850. Isn’t that so?
Bret: That’s right.
Nyasha: About 30% of our calories were carbs, and we worked very hard to get those carbs and eat them. Nowadays the average is 70-80%.
Bret: And we don’t have to do much to get them.
Nyasha: No. I mean, I love the movie Los Angeles Stories where they get in the car and drive two houses over to the neighbor’s house. That’s what we’re doing today. We have changed that energy system, the energy output, the energy input, and the kind of medium in which those energy systems are located. So when we immerse the body in GMOs, glyphosate, and other substances that people have never been exposed to before, it creates additional trauma and accelerates this process that didn’t exist 50 years ago, or 100 years ago, or 200 years ago.
Bret: Yes. This is an interesting area because when we talk about refined carbohydrates and sugar, do they cause cancer? Does this way of eating and living cause cancer? There’s a thought process behind it, then an evidence base, and they don’t always agree.
I mean, there’s not a lot of evidence for it, but we have evidence that insulin is a growth factor for breast cancer cells, and logically cancer cells need glucose to feed themselves, they can’t burn fatty acids to feed themselves, in general, so all of these things make sense and anything that increases glucose and insulin levels can increase cancer risk.
But that’s still a bit outside our current scientific consensus. If you have spent your entire life helping people in this field, how do you distinguish between what you recommend and what the scientific consensus considers evidence?
Nyasha: First, when I was diagnosed, I was in a very small four-year liberal arts school. I didn’t have a nice library, I didn’t have the latest textbooks. It was a gift to me because one of the first books I found after my diagnosis was a book by Otto Warburg and his many studies at the time on the metabolism and fuel of cancer cells.
And that was in 1991. Our dietary guidelines are very strict: low fat, high sugar, high carbohydrate, no protein, etc. It was just… Balls will kill you, salt is bad for you, I mean we were really on to something with that ideology. So I was a vegetarian for a few years before I was diagnosed. Of course vegetarianism has its spectrum, just as the ketogenic diet has its spectrum.
So I was iceberg lettuce and cucumber, Wonder Bread and Wonder Bread. It was my daily bread. There is no food in this mixture at all. And so you can do all these things with or without health benefits, depending on the spectrum. But what we have learned from research over the years is that there are studies that show sugar could be the cause, but even I don’t believe in that belief system.
I realized, and I’m going to talk about this a little bit today, that food is associated with a lot of emotions, a lot of traditions, a lot of cultural things. And often, under pressure, we don’t look for what we need, what’s best for us, we look for what will get us through.
It’s a coping mechanism, so there’s a lot of emotion involved, a lot of complacency in the food choices we make, and frankly, carbs are the bomb in some pretty stressful and tense times. That’s our goal, not Oh, I want a nice bowl of broccoli. At times like this, we’re on the wrong track.
Bret: I would kill for a lawyer.
Nyasha: In fact, I’m doing it now, so now I’m willing to make a killing for a lawyer. But I didn’t eat them then, I hated avocados then. So that’s one side of the coin, but what we’ve learned is and a lot – again, as I talked about the different cAMPs, the different specialties in medicine and science that look at the effects of injury on physiology, we’re now beginning to understand what high carbohydrates, high sugar, high insulin do in the different physiological components of our bodies.
We know that just one teaspoon of sugar lowers AGI levels and destroys natural killer cells for seven hours. We know that this glycosylated end product destroys our peripheral nervous system. So when people drag their feet, can’t feel their soles or get tingling in their hands and feet, it’s the sugar that destroys the nerve endings and fries them like butter in a pan.
Well, it’s more of a browning from the sugar than the butter. And we’re trying to figure out if it affects the brain more than we thought. Things like brain tumors, when scanned, show that they are very sensitive to glucose, they love sugar. And now we see Alzheimer’s disease, known as diabetes 3.
And again, all these little islands have their own experiences, and now, because of people like you and, and all these things, we talk to each other, and we show them at conferences like low carb and other places to see, wow, this person with Alzheimer’s, this matches what I’ve seen in the world of cardio or diabetes or obesity or cancer.
Bret: It’s funny how everything fits together.
Nyasha: 100 %. And I come to hear my colleagues talk about cardiology to learn how to treat cancer patients. And you know, that’s very important and in some ways it makes our job a lot easier. Much easier than 5 or 10 years ago.
Bret: It’s about giving people the best chance to live healthy lives, which includes diabetes, heart disease, neurological disorders and cancer. That doesn’t mean it will make you sick or prevent you from getting sick, but it does give you the best chance of living a healthy life, right?
Nyasha: And generally when we choose certain foods, they change our thought process, they change our physiology, they change our endocrine hormones, they change our neurotransmitters, which often leads to changes in how you feel, what you think, what you perceive. And that presents you with a lot of different options that are difficult to identify in a single RCT study. It’s just hard to do.
Bret: That’s right.
Bret: That’s a lot of moving targets.
Bret: It makes you think of cancer treatment. You can look at it in different ways, because there are people on the internet who say that chemotherapy is poison and terrible, that it shouldn’t be used, that radiation kills people, and that we should all be on a ketogenic diet, but …..
Nyasha: This is dangerous.
Bret: It’s dangerous, isn’t it? But that’s what I love about your articles: you try to bridge the gap between traditional cancer treatment, which in many ways miraculously cures cancer, and in others is a little less effective, but you try to find ways to make it more effective through your lifestyle. Tell us more about it.
Nyasha: One of my goals is to bridge that gap, to build that bridge, because the more I hear about standard treatment, the more problems it creates, and the more I hear about alternative, integrative treatment, the more problems it creates, and the way we use standard treatment can be radically improved, because we haven’t seen much change in the last 50 years. This doesn’t mean we have this tool….. Let’s try to adjust it to see how we can do better.
And that’s where the ketogenic diet and some of the other treatments I promote – and have learned along the way – are helpful. Let’s take the example of radiation. We understand now, and fortunately here at this conference and at previous conferences, that there are even radiation oncologists who have put all their patients on a ketogenic diet before radiation and for six months or a year after.
And the reason is that the studies, the literature has shown us — the studies have shown us that patients on high insulin and high blood sugar have essentially desensitized their cancer cells to radiation and increased the spread and damage to the healthy tissue around the tumor. So we’ve been showing this since the 80s.
Nyasha: And yet these conversations do not take place with patients, with the exception of a very small handful of radiation oncologists, which thankfully is growing. Because standard care should be to assess insulin, insulin growth factor, hemoglobin A1c in all of your patients before you start radiation therapy because, frankly, you’re wasting their time and yours, you’re increasing the increase in secondary cancers, you’re increasing the progressive recurrence of cancer, and you’re basically negating any positive effect of radiation therapy with insulin still racing through the system.
Bret: Interesting, and again it contradicts the evidence: We have no test results to prove it, but we have a mechanism that suggests it should work.
Nyasha: That’s right, and that’s true… to say that radiation is bad… but if you can use it in another way, you can channel it as… think of using the ketogenic diet as a Trojan horse that transports radiation to its intended target and a… We have studies that show that it has a much higher rate of tumor cell destruction and a much lower rate of recurrence and certainly a much lower rate of recurrence of new cancers because radiation is a known carcinogen, right?
Bret: Yeah, that’s why we use carcinogens to treat cancer.
Nyasha: Exactly, and this is where you can make standard treatments work much better, we see similar evidence with, let’s say, fasting in chemotherapy. And thank God for people like Walter Longo, because we’ve been talking about this since the 1920s, that this is the way to go. Nevertheless, in the second half of the 1920s, doctors began to go crazy with patients who were already starving, because they did not understand what cachexia was. That was not the case then and it is not the case now.
Bret: Give us a definition of cachexia, because that is very important.
Nyasha: So, cachexia is the concept of meta…. It is defined as metabolic muscle breakdown. It has nothing to do with calories and is powered by two things: Inflammation and sugar. Actually, the third, the second, but I think it’s more of a reaction – angiogenesis, which is the growth of new blood vessels. But ultimately, if we follow a high carbohydrate diet or even a normal carbohydrate diet, it can stimulate faster metabolic weight loss through muscle breakdown.
And this is what happens: Fat is mainly accumulated and muscle is broken down as the preferred fuel source. And the irony is that if you feed him more ho-ho, dingdong, smoothies and sugary milkshakes, which the American Cancer Society suggests you do. In fact, their number one recommendation is: Cookies, ice cream and angel cake. They have a list of the top 10 foods to eat and they are all high in sugar and carbs.
Bret: It sounds crazy at first, but you need strength, you need fuel and calories to get through this, because let’s face it, it’s a tough time and often people get sick, people don’t want to eat, so you put in what you can eat. But where does it fall apart?
Nyasha: I love it. People like Dr. Longo have said that chemotherapy makes people so sick they can’t eat.
Bret: That’s an interesting perspective.
Nyasha: I know. And I’ve seen him over and over again, and he’s been able to show that patients who fast two days before chemotherapy and two days after chemotherapy, so a total of five days around chemotherapy, they don’t need medication, they recover much faster. Yes, they lose weight during those five days, but they come back and stabilize better than patients who just keep going, keep going, keep going, and they also have a better response to the tumor burden.
In this population, the tumor burden decreases even faster and the patients feel better. And I’ve had the pleasure of working with thousands of patients who have undergone the Walter Longo method, the normal method and the very abnormal method, and let me tell you, the patients feel the difference immediately. They are terrified of the idea of fasting during chemotherapy, mostly because of the terrible misinformation and myths that their dietitians, their oncology office, and their oncologist tell them, so they are horrified, as are their families.
But if they have confidence in the process and begin to understand that it is a metabolic, non-caloric process stabilized by the right amounts of protein and fat and fewer carbs, or no food at all. It totally changes them, and when they experience it, feel it and experience it, they don’t want to go back, and then they say: Can I fast 3 to 5 days every month?
And people like Dr. Walter Longo say that six months after chemotherapy or radiation therapy, you should fast 3 to 5 days a month to get rid of the effects of standard treatment. Like others, he says that for people who have never had cancer, fasting once or twice a year for five to seven days can be a kind of gateway to a long life. He continues.
Bret: Yeah, I wonder how fasting affects that. And if you put yourself in the shoes of a patient recently diagnosed with cancer…. Yes, you’re overwhelmed, you’re scared, you don’t know what to do, you don’t know who to trust, and you have to trust the medical system and the doctor you see.
And if your doctor tells you that fasting is crazy and you read something on the other side that praises it, that will only make you more confused and depressed. What advice can you give people to get through this madness?
Nyasha: First, I always remind them to ask their doctor: How did you eat at school? I recently spoke at a large annual international conference on brain tumors and the ketogenic diet to a large group of neurologists and asked them: How many of you use the ketogenic diet with your patients? None of them raised their hands. How many patients are asking for it?
About 50% raised their hands. How many of you have tried or used a ketogenic diet? A man raised his hand. And I asked: How many of you studied dietetics in medical school? Not one person… And there were 175. 25% or fewer of medical schools even offer an elective course on nutrition.
Just like you shouldn’t ask me for advice on fixing a car, you don’t ask your doctor for advice on your diet. Or RD, unless the RD dietitian gets additional training, because they are trained by industry, they are usually trained by Big Pharma, and so they are not in a therapeutic state. That’s the first thing I tell patients right away. I’m a little out of shape, but after all these years, I can’t do it.
The second is that I remind patients that the biggest challenge with cancer is diagnosis. That’s what medical emergencies are all about, because how you respond and act can be critical to the outcome. So there are a few, a small percentage, maybe 0.1%, who have a medical emergency, who need something done immediately – surgery, radiation, and so on. Most of us know how to seize the moment.
It takes 7 to 10 years for the cancer to get so big that you don’t even know it exists. It doesn’t happen overnight. So you can take 7 to 10 days or 7 to 10 weeks to decide on your next course. And when you do, you begin to discover that there is a lot more information out there that your doctors don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to handle. They work insane hours and I have extreme sympathy for the medical community. That system is very broken right now.
It’s not because of the heart of the doctors or the belief system, but the system really doesn’t allow it. So that’s the second point. I sympathize with the practitioners. I encourage patients, I give them a few handfuls of literature, especially a lot from Dr. Longo, to start exploring the subject.
I make them read books about waste so they understand, I educate the family about it so they know what to give their loved ones – everyone wants to do the food thing….. You can give them recipes, you can give them ideas, here’s my shopping list, here’s what I can eat, because everyone wants to help. And we do it through the love of food, so you can teach them lessons. You don’t have to eat Aunt Betty’s cake, you know, the angel food cake. You could put her on a keto diet and give her a Maria Emmerich cookbook.
Bret: This is a great idea because many people want to rush to help. And how are they supposed to help? They bring lasagna, cookies, and …..
Nyasha: We can upgrade them. So you can do that, and the interesting thing is that when you do that, you start surprising the masses because they start thinking, why can’t they eat angel food cake? And it’s starting to seep into their homes. It’s actually a really crazy story – I just got back from Greece after a 10-day retreat for myself, and I love the Blue Zone Mediterranean diet, which promotes longevity and beyond, which is a whole other topic, but when I went through security, my name kept getting called, and I thought: Is my flight cancelled? What the hell is going on here?
They’ve called me a dozen times and I work my way to the line, it takes forever ….. I’ll go to the beginning of the line… I’m sure they’ll tell me I have no flight… and they will tell me… Are you the author? And I say: What the hell is going on here? I’m in Athens, for God’s sake. The pilot, he and his wife, both with cancer, received your book, read it, applied it and said you changed his life.
It makes me cry now, because it was just a change in their understanding and awareness, because all the advice they got, they knew it wasn’t quite right, but that’s all they got, that’s one way of looking at it. And then, somehow, they came across my book, read it, and everything changed. We’re both fine – he promoted me to first class.
I’ve never flown business class. So the international flight… The biggest challenge for me was asking her to help me sort through all the stuff in my little cubicle, because I didn’t know what to do with what. But the point is that once we know that, we can make different choices, and that’s what I’ve been doing for 28 years: learning how to mess with the biology and improve standard treatment, get better outcomes and quality of life, and make sure that people are no longer afraid of chemotherapy or radiation because they understand that I can improve outcomes.
I can have a much more comfortable experience. And if you talk to my patients who were getting standard treatment before you met me, you had a relapse, which is the case in 70% of the cases… Statistics from the American Cancer Society. And then say: I did it his way the first time, and now I’ll do it differently.
Some people go the other way, which can be just as dangerous. That’s why I love it when people find me and get between the pendulum and the question: How can I improve it? And then they say: I can’t believe how different I feel after chemo and radiation, how much more energetic I am….. People kept telling me I looked better….. You can’t believe I have cancer. We can do much more than that.
Bret: I think this is an excellent perspective to refine the tools for more targeted work. But we have to be honest, not everyone will react the way you did, not everyone will have that positive outcome, and I think it depends on what you just said how people feel about the process, because that’s important too.
The goal is to cure cancer and increase life expectancy, but also to improve quality of life, knowing that not everyone will get those results. So, as someone who has been through this and helps patients, how can you educate people and help them deal with it?
Nyasha: First of all, none of us get out of here alive, so one of the gifts of cancer is that your days are numbered. And so it changes, it distills things and it creates this laser-like clarity and sharpness of focus: I finally have so much time, what am I going to do with it? For many people… Other people get paralyzed by it, fall through and become a statistic: Hey, you’ll be dead in three months.
But there are a lot of people who are waking up and speaking out: How can I live my life differently? That’s the only thing that can make a difference. In fact, the target, they do a lot of research on the target, the people with the target have a longer… You know, better prognosis, longer survival compared to people who think I’m an easy target, I’m dead.
On the other hand, none of us knows how long we’ll be on this planet. None of us have an expiration date, so I always remind and tell patients: How can it be improved? How can we improve? And on the other hand, all the patients I interviewed with a very poor diagnosis and prognosis, even when I did my assessment….. I say we… I’m fine…
Anyone will tell me, and there are many studies on quality of life questionnaires, that people always prefer quality over quantity….. always. That’s why people say: If I have to go through two more months of this targeted therapy drug, it will ruin my quality of life….. I choose quality. I hear it 9 times, maybe 9.9 times out of 10.
Bret: Do you think there are not enough people discussing this topic?
Nyasha: That’s the way it is, and I also give ….. I have a question about how… In fact, these are questions you should ask your doctor. Because your doctors, I don’t know how they do it, but I don’t know how they announce that it can be so tragic. And yet, you can deliver it like this…. Delivery is essential.
So when I got my message: Hey, you’re dead. It was by a man wiping his eyes with a 19 year old who knew he was related because he had a daughter my age. And when I went to the oncologist after the official diagnosis, they basically said: You’re in trouble. You’re done.
Bret: Suitable for family holidays.
Nyasha: That was the essence of the message, and there was no hope, and it was almost like – I understand it now because this doctor and I have become friends again after all these years, and this doctor said that knowing me over the years had changed their experience. So that changed because they had already made a decision and their thought process influenced mine. But it woke me up, it’s going to kill more.
So, with this information, you are faced with a choice again. And then you tell people to take a breath. On my website, I have a free document with the five steps to take if you’ve been diagnosed for the first time or just recently, and it really helps people take their first breath. Second: Turn off Dr. Google and turn inward, don’t start talking to everyone because any well-intentioned advice can do more harm than good.
I guess I was lucky that in 1991 I didn’t have Dr. Google and didn’t have all the information we have now. It really helped me focus on what I needed, but everyone has….. these days My cousin did this and it cured him, and this guy did this and it cured him. …. there’s no one way.
We are all biochemical, epigenetic and emotional individuals and need different things at different times. For some people it may be a full standard treatment with no additional support, for others nothing at all, for others a totally alternative option, but in my experience the main point seems to be to combine the best of both worlds for the best results.
I don’t know where the research money will come from, but we’re working on it. Our next step is to build a large private hospital project that will be 100% owned by our research department.
Bret: Wow, what an ambition!
Nyasha: The little things on my end, that’s what I do. Of course, I have 28 bonus years, so I’m going to use those wisely to continue, because it takes research to say: We now know the epigenetics of this person, we know their tissue typing, we know the disease as a typical and statistical standard prognosis of their type of disease, we know the treatments that have proven to be effective, the treatments that have proven to be ineffective.
So, let’s put it all together and put all these big data points into a giant networked artificial intelligence system that starts talking: Hey, you had radiation with ketogenic and hyperbaric therapy, you got that result. If you add mistletoe to these immunotherapies to reduce all the side effects that these new therapies cause in percentage terms, you get a very different result.
When you start incorporating mindfulness, meditation or fasting into these activities, you get very different results. And here’s what makes me happy: The future of medicine in the next 50 years is promising.
Bret: It sounds incredible, I get goosebumps when I hear your words. And I wish you luck, because everybody needs it, I mean, how many people would benefit…. ? Which really speaks to your transition as a practitioner, which I will say because you have helped thousands of patients, worked with thousands of people individually, and now you seem to have transitioned into helping other practitioners.
You know the old saying: You can help one patient, but if you help one practitioner, you’ve helped thousands of patients. Tell me about this change, how it happened internally and what experiences you had.
Nyasha: For years I gave private one-on-one training, but then the demand became so great that I started giving retreats and I could have 20 or 30 people giving the message at a time, instead of just one. Then a book came out, which was sort of a summary of my message of 25 years, which I had put together up to that point, which was helpful and gave people a foundation.
Then I retired from practice to focus on the book and self-study, because there is so much happening in oncology these days that I needed to update my own toolbox, be prepared, and keep learning. I have also traveled to clinics and hospitals around the world.
They do things… I mean, frankly, the United States is at least 35 years behind Germany, we’re way behind Asia, Southeast Asia, in terms of radiation management. There are so many things where we are so far behind because we have a system that assumes, as in the study that came out in October 2018, the average.
For example, a study published in October 2018 found that the typical time it takes to learn any information of interest, even biotech devices, medical technology, from the time it leaves the cubicle and gets to the bedside to the time it gets to the citizens, people are literally waiting and dying waiting, is 17 years on average.
Bret: Wow, 17 years old… It’s incredible!
Nyasha: It’s like, and honestly, I have so many patients who say: I don’t want to wait. Just do it. Thanks to some laws passed in recent years, such as the Right to Research Act, people with stage IV disease who have exhausted all standard treatment options are now informed: Come on, try the hyperbaric oxygen.
So while these patients wait for data, many of them are now part of what this hospital will become. Because we’ve been doing this empirically for thousands of years, and now we’re starting to explore why Ayurvedic restrictions work, whether Chinese medicine applications work, whether fasting methods work.
We are now looking at what has been used successfully for thousands of years in some cases. And so we can do better, we can also change our research to say: Let’s do good medicine, let’s do evidence-based health care, not evidence-based, but evidence-based. So we rely on other things we’ve learned that we can say: Hey, that makes sense. Let’s see what they do together.
That’s what we want to do with this article. And I want to make sure I get back to what we were trying to say with this question before we were interrupted by the siren, but at the end of the day, people need help now, and there are ways to do it better, and there are ways for patients to do a lot of things themselves at home.
The cases where we’re now developing good standard tests, tissue testing, molecular profiling, things like liquid blood, blood biopsies, are starting to change the face of medicine as we know it, especially in the oncology world, because we don’t have to give everyone the standard treatment. We can move on to more specific treatments: You may have breast cancer, but your fingerprints are different than this person’s. So we can treat it differently and get a better result.
Bret: Your approach is wonderful, and it’s one thing to help individual patients, it’s another to want to expand outreach, it’s another to go further and help research. I want to say that you really succeeded on all three levels, which makes you an exceptional person. So I want to thank you for all the work you do and the impact you have on people, but I also want to bring you back to the rational side of things.
Let’s not overdo it, let’s not talk about what we know, but let’s use things in a sensible, safe and sensible way, and I think that’s a very important message.
Nyasha: This is huge, and I think now about how we were when the one-on-one was great….. The retreats had an impact on that, but what happened after those workshops was that 20 or 30 people came back to the field and said: I learned all this information and it helped me apply it to my practitioners, they said: I have no idea what you’re talking about. What is it?
As a result, the bottleneck began to run through the cultivators. Some would say: It’s absurd, it doesn’t exist, or I close my eyes, I can’t figure it out, I don’t have time, I don’t know what to do with this information – that’s where we are, at this crossroads where there are doctors, because you’re asking patients, saying I need to study this material.
So here’s my approach… these words are from my head….. My current approach is to educate physicians on how to test, evaluate, and treat each patient as an individual and how to improve standard treatment outcomes and help them manage side effects and prevent disease – relapse prevention, you know, and that’s where I’m focusing my help right now, but that’s also complementary. So now I’m starting to form large groups of doctors at once, like on an internet forum.
It will be ready by early 2020 and eventually we will have a hospital where doctors from all over the world can come in a research environment and a teaching hospital environment to learn in real time, talking to experts in all areas of medicine. Because in this hospital, the radiation will be better, the chemotherapy will be better, the targeted therapies will be better, because we’re going to test and evaluate every patient before we start treatment so that we know what the best treatment is and how to adjust it over time and then follow it for years to come.
Bret: I hope I never need it, but if I do, I want to be treated here. If a patient, a physician, or even a hospital administrator wants to know more, where can you direct them to get more information from you?
Nyasha: You can find me at drnasha.com, D-R-N-A-S-H-A.com. There’s a lot of information here, we have a lot of podcasts, in fact your original podcast is here, a lot of information, research, things I like to collect, my favorite things. You can also bring a free handout on the five steps to diagnosing Pfeiffer.
You can then follow me on all the usual social media: Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, all this crazy stuff called Drnasha or the metabolic approach to cancer, you can find that in my book and then for the hospital, check out the Believe Big Institute of Health. If you go to believebig.org, you’ll find a link to the Believe Big Institute of Health, which is becoming.
That’s our working title as we begin to fund the trial there, but these are the same people who started the mistletoe trial at Johns Hopkins.
They found money and philanthropic donations to fund a study that otherwise would never have gotten money from the NIH or other outside sources, and they’ve been using mistletoe for thirty years now with incredible success in treating cancer, in patients in late-stage cancer who had no other options, and they’re seeing some pretty extraordinary things now. I can’t wait for the data to be released.
Bret: Thank you for your passion, for all your hard work, and thank you for taking the time to talk to me in this podcast.
Nyasha: It was really great, thank you. I love that you made the switch and DietDoctor is a great resource.
Bret: I agree, thank you. I had a great day. Nyasha: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.
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