But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be observed in your presence and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king’s choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see.” So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food. So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables. (Daniel 1:11-16, NASB)
I was looking over various bottles of fruit and vegetable juices at Safeway and carefully examining labels, which, I guess, looked kind of odd for an old rough-neck like me. Finally this woman, who had been watching me, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I see you’re really spending a lot of time checking out the information. What’s the deal? Are you price shopping, looking for the best deal for the money, or what?”
To which I responded, “No, I’m checking out ingredients, sugar content, and, especially this”—as I pointed to a little green symbol that read: “USDA Organic.”
The gal got all “head up” and indignant, proudly declaring in a condescending sort of way, “Oh, right! Whatever! I’m too old to care about all that kind of stuff!”
I look at her and noted that she was about my age and appeared healthy, vibrant, and attractive. So I said, “You know, I was thinking pretty much that same way up until a couple of months ago. Now, I’m fighting cancer. So now I have to care about ‘all that kind of stuff’.”
The woman immediately dropped her ego, lowered her head, and quietly muttered, “Oh, oh, I’m sorry; God bless you!” as she pushed her shopping cart on by me.
I laughed to myself and thought, “She’s embarrassed, but I’m just like her.” Why are we all so stubborn? Why does it take such a drastic change of events in our lives just to get us to care about basic things like healthy eating, or adopting a lifestyle that nurtures vibrant living?” Granted, it’s not an easy choice. In fact, just a few minutes later, after my encounter with the woman, I was standing with Ne’ in the checkout line feeling frustrated, worrying that I was going to starve to death, and hopelessly throwing my hands up as I declared, rather loudly I’m afraid, “THIS STORE CANNOT FEED ME!”
So, the next day I was at our local “health food” store—Island Naturals. Now, there are few things funnier than an old cowboy in a health food store. I mean, of course, I’ve stepped in and out of a health food store or two over the course of my life; usually accompanied by someone else who was looking for something special that they just couldn’t find elsewhere. But this was, honestly, the first time I had ever walked into that place with a feeling of need, bordering on dependence; and it was frightening. Someone probably should have had a camera phone out, just for the comic relief. But it didn’t seem too funny to me at the time
I spent a couple of hours carefully canvassing row after row—all six or so of them—looking for things that appeared halfway edible. I couldn’t even pronounce the names of most of the items on the shelves. To make matters worse, I soon found myself surrounded by several zany, freaky—albeit beautiful—people who looked like they just tumbled off a Bob Marley toke wagon, dreadlocks and all. I thought, “Really, this is what I’ve now become? What next, a move to Puna?” – (well, you Big Islanders will get it). Anyway, fortunately, there are already more than a few people in my life who share that particular sub-culture, and who I love dearly, and thinking about some of them, and how proud they might be of me at that moment, kind of softened the overall impact of the whole experience and made me smile.
But another thing I began to note was how “old fashion” our health food store really is. It comforted me to see a lot of products that my grandpa would probably have been very familiar with—black strap molasses, malted barley, assorted whole grains, fresh organic vegetables, even homemade organic ice-cream. In fact, this place wasn’t too much unlike my grandmothers canning kitchen. It even smelled the same. I began to have visions of an older, simpler, more—dare I say it—“organic” way of life; you know, farm life.
I really started getting excited when I discovered a free-range, organic chicken. Then, when I finally found the free-range, organic, grass-fed beef, I thought to myself, “Yessssss… the cowboy can do this!” In fact, I actually bought a couple of things that very day: a bag of organic whole rolled oats, and a small, organic, underarm deodorant. Not much for a two hour expedition, perhaps, but it’s all I could bring myself to do on a first trip.
Of course, just because it’s in the “health food” store doesn’t automatically mean that it’s good for me. I noted that our “health food” store is stocked with all manner of highly processed foods containing sugars, glutens, dairy products, and all kinds of other things that should be avoided by a lot of cancer patients. While I don’t claim to understand much of it, my research consistently indicates that there are certain things I should be doing and eating, and other things that I should be avoiding.
For example, there seems to be a lot of evidence that cancer thrives in an acidic environment. Most people’s pH runs toward the acidic side—from 6.5 to 7. But to effectively fight cancer, to prevent cancer from reoccurring, or to help avoid cancer altogether, it is optimum to keep one’s pH slightly base—above 7, with 7.3 to 7.5 being optimum. So things that produce acidity in the bloodstream, not necessarily the digestive tract, should be avoided or, at least, limited. Animal protein is one of those things. Not only is it hard to digest and interferes with nutritional absorption, but, apparently, it contributes to an acidic environment within the body. So, “organic,” “free-range,” and “grass-fed” notwithstanding, still, I can only have my beef once or twice a month; same with chicken, and fish—which should only be cold-water fish like salmon or cod; or occasional pelagic fish, so long as they are well under 50 lbs. Apparently, large pelagic fish, like the bottom feeders, accumulate and concentrate all manner of toxins.
Also, it seems pretty obvious, from virtually every source I’ve consulted, that cancer cells thrive on sugar—they need their glucose. Therefore, all foods with a relatively high “glycemic index”—the measure of how quickly blood sugar levels (i.e. levels of glucose in the blood) rise after eating a particular type of food—should pretty much be avoided because they produce a “sugar spike,” flooding the body with glucose. Dangerous foods that should be limited would be those with a “GI” of 55 or greater.
Then, there’s gluten; which isn’t so much of a problem, perhaps, for most people; but I think it may well be for me. “Gluten is a protein found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye, malts, and triticale. It is used as a food additive in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing, or thickening agent, often as ‘dextrin’” (Kalmus, 2011, para. 2). When it comes to gluten, we should remember that our body’s first line of defense against mutating cancer cells is our immune system. According to the Livestrong website:
“Every person, regardless of health, produces periodic mutated cells that could potentially turn cancerous. In most healthy people, the immune system eradicates these problematic cells handily. But when the immune system is compromised in some way, these mutated cells are more likely to proliferate and cause cancer. Certain peptides in gluten called exorphins have been found to compromise immunity in just such a way, thereby elevating cancer risk and, in people who already have cancer, aiding its proliferation” (Kalmus, 2011).
Maximizing my own immune system to fight cancer is but one reason that I think I need to avoid gluten; there are many other associated reasons, ranging from alleviating digestive issues to dealing with various inflammations throughout the body. Havens (2008) reveals that “. . . gluten is inflammatory and inflammation has been linked to most chronic illnesses and pain syndromes . . . including heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, macular degeneration, systemic lupus, arthritis and many others” (para. 6). He goes on to note, “Clinically what we see is that if we get a patient off gluten 100%, they heal at a predictable rate; they stay well and they can get on with their lives in a pain-free way. Clinically what we see is that the clients who take in gluten don’t heal very well; they have significant ups and downs; they don’t have good outcomes” (para. 7).
So, I think, what I need to do is avoid foods that produce an acid environment within my body and gravitate toward those that will help me maintain a balanced pH, preferably a little toward the base. I think I need to avoid foods that have a high glycemic index and move toward those that release their carbohydrates gradually. I also think that I need higher concentrations of antioxidants in my diet to help manage those destructive free-radicals that tend to damage or kill healthy cells. And, I need my Omega-3 to help facilitate the healthy transfer of oxygen through cell walls and to assist metabolism.
Most of all, I just need to avoid poisoning my system with all manner of toxic chemicals, as if my body doesn’t have enough to do with just taking care of the natural ones. And I need to try to “beef up” with all the good vitamins and minerals that are necessary to maintaining a super-strong immune system. I don’t want my body overwhelmed with fighting all the continual little internal infections while, at the same time, trying to mop up any number of continually mutating miscreant cancer cells.
Well, anyway, all that is just the tip of the head-spinning iceberg. The big question is, when I get past all the processed foods, the sugars, glutens, toxins, hormones, GMOs, and the rest of the smorgasbord of bad food entrées being continually offered up on today’s modern menu, what am I left with? Just a bunch of organic greens and an occasional bite of old, scrawny, grass-fed cow? Well, that’s enough to keep many an old trail-hand alive and kickin, I suppose.
However, I’m joyfully discovering that it doesn’t have to stop there. In fact, believe it or not, there really is a big, wonderful world of healthy food choices still in existence on the planet. The whole world of agriculture hasn’t gone completely corporate, just yet. There are still enough local, organic farmers and ranchers to feed us—well some of us. Basically, with a few exceptions, it all comes down to this: “if God made it edible, then it’s fine to eat it; just try to eat it in the same form that God made it!” Now that sounds like something my grandpa would say.
By the way, I’m thinking “dreads”—if I could just get my hair to grow… doouugghhhhh!!!
Feel free to comment below; or write to me: firstname.lastname@example.org