December 17, 2014

Ketogenic diet helped reduce side effects of chemotherapy.

Season and Kicker Johnson fighting cancer.

This post was penned by Season Johnson, a NTP (Nutrional Therapy Practitioner), Paleo Treats® fan and the mother of Kicker, a 3 year old diagnosed with Type B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in 2013.  Season's determination and efforts to help her son are inspirational and encouraging, and we wanted to share what one mother is doing to help her child.

Today was one of those days that I was reminded again of the reality we are in. My 3 year-old son, Kicker, had just been accessed (the nurse had put a needle through his portacath to be able to take labs and administer chemo).

We were sent back out to the waiting room while we waited for his labs to come back. I just looked around the room that was filled with children. They were all bald. Their faces were grey, they looked exhausted and very sick.

Kicker drinking juice before chemo.

This sweet little baby who couldn't have been more than 7 months old was sitting in her car seat with an IV line hanging from her arm. She was bald. Not just baby bald, but no eyelashes or eyebrows bald.

The clinic door opened and in comes another family, with a bald toddler who was wearing a mask and holding his bottle of Zofran (anti-nauseous medication) with a death grip.

I quickly looked away, if I didn’t the tears would have spilled over and I would not have been able to stop it. Thankfully our nurse called us back shortly after, and we went to the infusion lab.

Picture a big, cold, stuffy office filled with cubicles but without the sophistication. Instead of short walls surrounding each desk space, you have curtains. Instead of emails and faxes, the occupants are receiving chemotherapy and Zofran.  

Instead of the sound of phones ringing and light mumbling you hear vomiting and crying. The nurse assigns you your "chair." Today we were number 9. Kicker knows his numbers, so one of his favorite things to do is find his chair.

Kicker and his cancer doc.

We walked by a sweet teenage girl who was laid back in her chair. Her face was so puffy from the steroids that you could barley see the whites in her eyes. She was wearing adorable skinny jeans and a new pair of Toms. Her mommy was rubbing her bald head and saying quietly "it is going to be ok honey, it’s going to be ok."

Kicker during cancer treatment keto diet

Knowing there is something that these kids can do to ease their pain, to help with their fight and to make them more comfortable is what makes me crazy. I know that we have been blessed with how amazing Kicker has done.

Kicker has not had one single side effect from over 150 rounds of chemo.  I strongly believe this is because of the alternative therapies we have implemented, the most important being his nutrient dense diet.

When your baby gets cancer, you begin racking your brain, thumbing through research documents, sleeping less, reading more. All of the sudden you feel like you lose complete control and you know nothing.

Kicker and his family.

As a nutritionist by trade, my initial instinct was to figure out what I would or would not be feeding my son during his treatment, to assist in getting the cancer out of his body.  As a mom, I wanted to know what I could do to kill the cancer cells. 

If I wanted to kill something, I would starve it. I would stop feeding it. I figure it's the least violent option. It isn’t rocket science that you could only go without food and water for so long, then eventually you would just shrivel up and die, right?

Kicker during cancer treatment with sister

For the most part, our body only has 2 fuels: sugar (glucose) and fat. Cancer is a disease of the genome or DNA of a cell, so understanding how cells are nourished to maintain good DNA is essential.

If the genetic material (DNA) of a cell becomes damaged or changed, it will then produce mutations that affect normal cell growth and division. When this happens, cells do not die when they should and new cells form when the body does not need them.

The extra cells may form a mass of tissue called a tumor, or in the case of Leukemia, you have a plethora of cancerous cells floating in the bloodstream, forming ‘liquid tumors’ and continually pumping out more mutated versions of themselves. 

Bear with me as I realize that is a very basic and simple explanation to cancer, but it should help you get the point that the end goal is to KILL the cancer cells in order to stop the multiplication of the damaged cells.

There have been numerous scientific studies done to prove that cancer cells feed on sugar (glucose). Dr. Otto Warbug won the Nobel Prize in 1931 for his research on cancer. He discovered that cancer cells have a fundamentally different energy metabolism compared to healthy cells, cancer cells tend to feed on sugar. More recently, Dr. Thomas Seyfried, has confirmed and proven Dr. Warbug's findings, through his tireless research.

Season and Kicker during cancer treatment keto diet

“When we’re dealing with glucose and [cancer] management, we know from a large number of studies that if respiration of the tumor is ineffective, in order to survive, the cells must use an alternative source of energy, which is fermentation. We know that glucose is the primary fuel for fermentation. Fermentation becomes a primary energy-generating process in the tumor cell. By targeting the fuel for that process, we then have the capability of potentially managing the disease.”

Dr.Seyfried’s work confirms that sugar (glucose) is the primary fuel for cancer cells, thus removing glucose from the diet and providing an alternate fuel, such as fat, you can dramatically reduce the rate of growth of cancer. My next question was why our healthy cells can survive on fat alone, but cancer cells cannot. In my research I found a great explanation by Dr. Dominic D’Agostino, PhD

"Your normal cells have the metabolic flexibility to adapt from using glucose to using ketone bodies (fat metabolized). But cancer cells lack this metabolic flexibility. So we can exploit that.” Cancers cells have a “fatal flaw.” They do not have the metabolic flexibility that your regular cells do, which means that they cannot adapt to using fat for fuel. Halle-freaking-luiah!

Season Johnson and Kicker during cancer treatment with the keto diet

If cancer cells need glucose to thrive, and carbohydrates turn into glucose in your body, then cutting out carbs literally starves the cancer cells and you turn your body into a “fat burning machine.” I can’t help but think of what could happen if conventional medicine began implementing a ketogenic dietary plan for all of their oncology patients!

Kicker Johnson keto diet for cancer

There have been studies done showing that by implementing a ketogenic diet, doctors have been able to reduce the amount of chemotherapy by at least 50% and still remove the cancer from the body just as effectively. That said, I do believe that chemotherapy and other conventional cancer drugs can be necessary and helpful in killing certain types of cancer and am grateful for the research that has gone into those treatments.

Kicker after chemo.  Still happy and healthy!

However, chemotherapy is a cytotoxic poison, and radiation is devastating to the human body. There are so many terrible side effects both short and long term from these treatments.  Let's work towards supplementing conventional cancer treatments with a more integrative and holistic approach, as more and more cancer centers have begun to do.

Here are a few additional resources to learn about the benefits of a Ketogenic Diet in regards to the treatment of cancer and disease: Article on keto & paleo diets for cancer patients.

The Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet

If you'd like to help support Kicker, please head on over to his Facebook page.


Paleo Treats® Notes:

This post was submitted by one of our readers who thought it might be of interest to our audience.

This post has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This post & information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

While Paleo Treats Inc believes strongly in the power of the Paleo diet, we're not scientists nor do we present this as anything other than a case study or anecdotal evidence.

We're heartened by recent evidence that these "alternative" therapies are no longer so alternative.  The NIH (National Institute of Health) budget bill recently approved by Congress included a re-naming of their complementary medicine institute to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.  The last two words used to be "Alternative Medicine". 

In the US and Europe, the Children’s Oncology groups that study childhood cancer encourage all children with cancer to enroll in clinical trials so they access the latest information and treatments for their cancer. 

Additional notes:

Good diets, exercise and hope all help build resilience during cancer treatment.  

Chemotherapy is treating a patient with agents that are toxic – more toxic to cancer cells than to healthy cells. Its effectiveness depends on many reactions beyond just nutrition.

The key point that good nutrition will help resilience and strengthen the body is good – it will not cure or prevent but it does toughen up the body to help it heal.  Cancer drugs are getting better than they were.

Because treatments target rapidly dividing cells, chemotherapy works for some, radiation for others – the principle is to use one of the treatments or surgery if possible, to reduce the size of the tumor, and then target the cancer cells left with medicines that target cancer proteins on the cells.

Because most treatments target dividing cells, they don’t catch the stem or sleeper reserve cancer cells that lie dormant and may activate e.g. after chemo, so cancer “recurs”.  This is the frontier of research.

Liked this article on ketogenic diets and chemotherapy?


Nik Hawks


Nik Hawks helps run the show at Paleo Treats. Fascinated by humans in all their strange glory, Nik is harnessed in and pulling hard in pursuit of excellence with the rest of the PT Crew. Enjoy!

Too much reading...
How about dessert?

Too Much Reading...How About Dessert?



December 28, 2014

So really anyone who has a thyroid issue should be gluten free. They also should be drinking pure and/or structured water.


December 19, 2014

Also, you’ll often find iodine deficiency in cancer patients. Read Dr. Brownstein’s “Iodine: why you need it”. Iodine helps kill cancer. When they replaced iodine with bromine as a dough conditioner in bread, that was Bad. So was using brominated flame retardants, watch Toxic Hot Seat. Fluoride, chlorine and bromine displace iodine.

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.