A Raw Diet Won’t Cure Rare Disease: Understanding The Gap Between Diagnosis and Diet

September 12, 2013

It’s the question we see on the forums, in the magazine, and in the waiting room of every doctor’s office: will eating healthy foods CURE my disease?

Let me start by saying I stand behind the theory that what we eat can affect our body. And with that said, let me continue: there’s a big difference between eating to improve/maintain the state of your body—and actually “curing” a disease.

I do know that if we are ill and eat a poor diet, it will (or could, depending on the person and disease) exacerbate the symptoms. Diet can change a lot of things. Eating healthier foods can aid in feeling better versus feeling sluggish overall from eating, say, a giant cheeseburger with extra fries.

But logic should tell you that if there were a magic food to cure cancer, we probably wouldn’t have spent so much time and money inventing chemotherapy or radiation. If it’s feeling especially generous today, logic might even tell you why doctors don’t prescribe it for your run-of-the-mill head cold.

Can we treat these diseases with holistic alternatives or healthy diets? Some claim one can cure diseases like diabetes and Crohn’s disease with raw or vegan dieting—and I can respect that. I’m thrilled for them to be able to manage their symptoms this way. But managing a disease and curing a disease have a fine line between them.

I’m very careful to suggest diet or even medication to other patients. As the President and Founder for StopCAIDnow, I take this caution because I know that those with the same illness can respond differently to the same treatment. It would be irresponsible of me to suggest one for all.

Our bodies are all made up differently and many of the autoimmune or inflammatory diseases have a difference in suggested diet as well.

As someone who comes from the rare disease community, where illness is often so complicated that it takes decades to diagnose, where there are rarely treatments that aren’t off-label, and where there is rarely enough research to prove any sort of natural alternative—it blows my mind the arrogance assumed by some to say that, without a doubt—and with almost hostile judgment that “if they eat organic, healthy foods—they will be cured.”

How does one respond to that?

“You’re right. I should never have allowed my child to be put on medication. I should have just continued to feed him healthy foods and the problems would go away in their own good time?”

This is not a head-cold, here. Most diseases don’t work like that.

It’s not a bad idea to also remember that some foods labeled as healthy or organic can also have toxins. What about those allergic to vitamin C or green tea—or even cinnamon? These three ingredients have been noted to aid and heal.

If you have an illness and a certain regimen has helped you—sharing it is key because you never know who may benefit from it. It’s the issue of judgment—it’s the issue of assumption that pains me. It’s not knowing the difference of the meaning “curing a disease” and bringing your body to an optimum wellness while having a disease.

Healthy Diet advocates like Kathy Freston state things like, “Here’s the bottom line: animal protein seems to greatly contribute to diseases of nearly every type, including cancer—and a plant-based (vegan) diet is not only good insofar as prevention, but it could also be curative.”

To which eminent cancer specialist Professor Karol Sikora argues, “Sorry, but there’s no such thing as a diet that cures cancer.”

In fact, says Sikora, it may actually be detrimental.

“The concept of an alkaline diet starts with the premise that cancer cells thrive in acidic environments — possibly because this encourages cell mutation — and will shrink and die in an alkaline environment. The first [problem] is that the basic premise — that cancer cells thrive in acidic surroundings — is controversial. Yes, it can be shown in a laboratory, but it has never been shown in human patients.”

“In theory, the alkaline diet is quite a healthy diet, but not for the reasons you think— and it can’t claim to beat cancer. Unfortunately, there are more extreme versions of the alkaline diet which may cause health problems. There are also studies that show vitamin D can extend cancer survival rates, although it is not going to cure you if you have metastatic cancer which has spread to the bones already.”

“The link between diet and cancer is complicated,” says Sikora. “And scientists have not yet unraveled the exact mechanisms involved.”

I don’t think anyone could argue that eating healthier foods richer in vitamins and antioxidants can help one feel better, however when sick with cancer, autoimmune, auto inflammatory, mitochondrial disease, it hasn’t proven to CURE.

Also, when one is having a flare up in these diseases, the recommendation of eating healthy and exercising would be a suggestion that our society has learned to accept as the way to heal. However, it again depends on the patient. At times certain foods and exercise can actually make matters worse—especially for patients with diseases specific to the digestive tract.

So, is there hope? Yes, but the answer lies in each of us and seeing what works best for the individual.

About the Author

178958_509240919130561_304147106_nLisa Moreno-Dickinson is a mom of three wonderful and loving souls. She has two sons with different illnesses and started the first foundation to cover all Childhood Autoinflammatory Diseases. She coined CAID to help all children who suffer diseases such as her son, Brody. Her oldest is not fully diagnosed but has a connective tissue disease with mitochondrial findings. What melts her heart is a child’s laughter. What breaks her heart is anyone suffering, especially children or any child/person who feels limited.

DAME= Determined Ambitious Mom Endlessly working for a CURE and ways to help all children with CAID.

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