Chapter 7: Diet of Cancer Patients
The question is often asked by a cancer patient, “Doctor, what shall I eat?” Some of our doctors, who are never tired of theorizing about the cause of cancer, have claimed that certain kinds of food caused cancer. For many years pork was supposed to cause this disease. Now it is a well known fact that the Jews never eat pork; yet I have seen cases of cancer among that class of people. In certain States of our Union, the farmers live on pork the year round yet the disease is no more prevalent there than elsewhere; It has been claimed that tomatoes caused cancer. There is not a particle of reason for this belief. In New Jersey tomatoes are eaten in all ways the year round; yet there are many States that have more cancer victims than New Jersey. In England tomatoes are considered a luxury and only raised in hot houses. In spite of this cancer has been alarmingly on the increase in that country in the past fifty years. In the days of our grandfathers the Botanic physicians made a syrup from the ripe tomatoes and gave it as a “blood medicine” with good success for certain diseases of the skin. I am inclined to believe that the tomato will yet be found to have a curative effect upon cancer.
It is a point worth considering for some of our students of materia medica. It has been claimed that vegetables cause cancer. In India and those countries where the diet is entirely vegetable there is less cancer than anywhere else. Our vegetarian friends loudly proclaim to the world how healthy a purely vegetable diet really is. In my own practice I have met with many cases of genuine cancer where the victim of that disease had lived on a strictly vegetable diet for from fifteen to twenty years. In one case a lady had a cancer of the breast; she impressed it on my mind that she had followed a certain strict diet, and as a result of this she had the disease under control. When I saw the cancer it was open and discharging and in the very last stage. Another case I saw in consultation with a very fine physician in New York State. An old man who had lived on a strictly vegetarian diet for twenty years and it was about the worst case of cancer on the lip that I ever saw.
Now it is a well known fact that our American people eat too much and too fast. They eat until their stomachs are full and they are in too much of a hurry to chew their food. They bolt it down and depend upon the stomach to get rid of it in some way. In addition to that they drink strong tea that weakens the nerves and muscles of the stomach. As a result of all this abuse, the stomach “goes on a strike” and refuses to do duty. Then we have some form of indigestion, dyspepsia, ulcer of the stomach or cancer. Now the real fact of the case is this, in most cases, patients would do well on one-half the food they eat and that food should be chewed over and over again before it is swallowed. When we eat our regular meals, only a certain part of what we eat can be digested and assimilated. The rest becomes refuse matter. It may produce autointoxication and toxines in the blood. In these conditions we find a fruitful cause of cancer. Now good red blood depends upon pure air, pure food and pure drink, but if the food is not properly assimilated it will create toxines and not pure blood. To cure permanently any case of cancer we must have good digestion to make good blood, and when we can make good healthy blood we can fortify the system against the inroads of cancer.
Watch the tongue and see if your patients are digesting their food properly; this is just as important as any part of the treatment. When the tongue is coated either white or yellow on the base of the tongue your patient is not properly digesting his food. A clean moist tongue of a bright red color shows good digestion. A broad flabby tongue and foul breath show a torpid liver. A careful study of the eye and the tongue will tell you if the organs of the body are secreting properly. Remember the more advanced your case of cancer is the more obstinate the constipation. It is one of the peculiar symptoms of cancer and must be gradually overcome by proper remedies. When your patient, in any form of cancer, has a natural movement of the bowels every day it is a favorable symptom. Find out what agrees with your patients the best when they are well. That will be your guide now when they are sick. Let them have it in reasonable quantities, but eaten slowly and well chewed. Cut out tea in any form for it will in time create indigestion. If meat agrees with them they may have lean meat but no fat of any kind. Fresh fish is good as are most all kinds of sea food except lobsters, as these are hard to digest. All kinds of fruits and vegetables are good if they agree with the patients.
Study each case carefully and adapt your diet to each individual case. If you make out a long list of things which a patient must not eat it discourages them at the start. It tends to make them afraid to eat things which their system really demands. I have never had any cast-iron rules about the diet of my patients and now, after over forty years’ practice, l do not propose to be a “diet crank.” I always try to use a little common sense and do with my patients as I would be done by. I had an old physician prescribe for me once. He was a crank on the diet question. He gave me a list of things about as long as my arm that I should not eat, and what he thought I ought to eat I could have written on a visiting card. I am afraid I was like the boy who said “he always took his father’s advice, and then did as he was a mind to.”