Have you heard about using ketosis as a therapeutic diet to conquer cancer? Curious to hear about clinical outcomes of a ketogenic diet as an adjuvant to chemotherapy? Tune in to hear Ali and Becki interview Oncology Keto Diet Coach Alison Gannett about her diagnosis of terminal malignant brain cancer and how she has used keto to not only survive but thrive and how you can too!
In this Episode, Ali and Becki interview Alison Gannet, a World Champion Extreme Skier, Self-sufficient organic farmer, Oncology Keto Diet Coach, and founder of multiple non-profits including Cooking to Conquer Cancer. Diagnosed with terminal malignant brain cancer in 2013, she chose to address the root causes of her cancer with Dr. Nasha Winter’s Metabolic Approach to Cancer. She since has trained with Dr. Nasha and now helps others to prevent and conquer cancer by creating personalized keto diets using blood chemistry, DNA, and client history. Learn about advanced testing for best outcomes, how Alison incorporates 9+ servings of vegetables per day into her keto diet and what she considers her superfoods for fighting cancer!
Also in this Episode:
- Connect with Alison at AlisonGannett.com
- Learn more about Dr. Nasha Winter’s Metabolic Approach to Cancer at OptimalTerrainConsulting.com
- The Role of Stress and HPA Axis Dysfunction in Cancer Pathology
- Episode 53: Coping with Chemo
- Tools for Tracking Your Ketosis Progress
- Resources to Learn More About Ketosis
Welcome to the Naturally Nourished Podcast, that delivers cutting edge food as medicine solutions for optimum health. Ali Miller is a nutrition expert sought out by the media and America’s top medical institutes for her revolutionary functional medicine interventions. From disease treatment to prevention, every episode will empower you with ways to put yourself back in control of your health. Please note, the topics discussed are for educational purposes only. Now welcome integrative dietitians Ali Miller and her co-host Becki Yoo.
A: Hey, welcome to episode 57 of the Naturally Nourished podcast, Ali Miller here along with my cohost Becki.
B: Hey everyone.
A: And today we have a special guest, Alison Gannett who I met at KetoCon a couple months back and she talked during KetoCon about her story of her recovery from terminal brain cancer, how she used food as medicine, and it was just absolutely jaw dropping and inspirational so I’m so grateful that she took her time to be a guest on our episode and we broke through a lot of information today from her farming background and getting up to 9 cups of vegetables a day every day, 2+ cups of fat in her diet and how she makes it all come together as well as the connection of stress on disease in the body.
B: Yes I think this is going to be a really awesome and jam packed episode as usual, just about Alison’s approach to keto as an adjuvant to cancer treatment and how she’s really come full circle form her own journey to working with patients.
A: Absolutely and I think one of the biggest take homes that we talk about so much on our show is the individualized approach, Alison used the same term that we use often of this kind of layering onion, if you will, of all of the layers of the individual that when stacked together can create imbalance and we delve into her own personal experience of how she unlayered the intricacies of imbalance and how she’s using alternative therapies to heal her body and really thrive in her body. So Becki, let’s go into her official bio and do all that stuff so we can get her on the show now.
B: Alright. So Alison Gannett is a world champion extreme skier, self-sufficient organic farmer, an oncology keto diet coach, and the founder of multiple nonprofits including Cooking to Conquer Cancer. Diagnosed with terminal malignant brain cancer in 2013, she chose to address the root causes of her cancer with Dr. Nisha Winter’s metabolic approach to cancer. She since has trained with Dr. Nisha and now helps other to prevent and conquer cancer by creating personalized keto diet using blood chemistry, DNA, and client history. You can find more information at AlisonGannett.com.
A: And we will definitely be sure to post her website and other helpful links as well as an awesome image which really illustrates her pathology, diagnosis, and some of the outcomes that she’s seen including scans of her body of changes from polycystic ovarian syndrome, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and the shift with her brain chemistry. So with no further ado, let’s welcome on Alison. So hey Alison, welcome to the show.
AG: Great to be here. Thanks for having me.
A: Oh we’re so grateful and excited to have you on here and to share your amazing story with our listeners, both of your personal journey and your successes with other food as medicine warriors. So let’s go ahead and if you can share with us, let’s take the listeners back to 2013 when you were first diagnosed or how the diagnosis even came about with your terminal malignant brain cancer.
AG: Well, you know, it was interesting because I was behaving really strangely according to my husband but I actually didn’t know it myself. That I was doing very strange things, I forgot to go speak at a conference for Microsoft, one of the probably biggest presentations I’d done with my professional extreme skiing, motivational speaking, I forgot to get on the plane, I forgot to go. One day I was cooking bacon and the flames were literally licking the ceiling and my husband walks in and was like “What are you doing?” and I was sitting there just mesmerized by the flames, you know, I didn’t even realize anything was wrong.
At that point he took me to the ER, I don’t even remember being there, there’s almost like 2 years of my life I don’t remember actually even though I was walking, and talking, and mountain biking, and skiing. I’ve literally was like I was not occupying my brain and my body were not communication. And they found an over baseball sized tumor in my head, literally If you look at the picture on my website, it took up almost my entire skull and a few days later we found a good brain surgeon or they did, because I don’t remember anything, and got most of the cancer out and literally they didn’t tell me anything. They were like “successful surgery, this is awesome” it was only when I used Dr. Google that I realized that I had one year left to live.
B: And then how long was it, Alison until you found keto and how long into keto until it kind of- tell us your journey with keto until you felt well enough and started to see results.
AG: Well it was kind of lucky for me on so many fronts that I found Dr. Nasha Winters. She’s optimal trained consulting.com. I found her really early on in my journey because after Dr. Google told me that with surgery, chemo, and radiation, that I had less than a year to live, I knew that I – first of all I wanted to live and second of all I wanted to live well, and return to skiing and biking and living and, you know, living out my days until I was old and Dr. Nasha would – she appealed to me on so many levels because I think a lot of thing is found on the internet were kind of hippy dippy oovy groovy you know, like we’re going to do this therapy or this therapy and Nasha was like, you know every single person’s different every single cancer’s different we’re going to use 60-75 blood markers to figure out why you gut cancer, we’re going to look at your DNA and figure it out how that contributed to cancer, we’re going to look at your thyroid and hour hormones and I really liked her scientific approach and it was interesting at the same time, she also really dives into stress emotions, and how those can play into the cancering process as well.
A: And so interesting enough as far as the individualized and more functional medicine approaches and I mean, for listeners, my understanding Alison, was that you were already kind of farming at that time and being an elite athlete, you weren’t coming from a standard American diet is this right tor where was the transition that occurs with your perspective with food and the role it played.
AG: Well I’d say I definitely came from my childhood of standard American diet and then when I became a professional athlete, I would say my diet got a lot worse not knowing but you know, those of us that are racing, mountain bikes or competing you realize how many of those gels and bars eat you know. All of that sugar that you’re ingesting, 24/7 and then your overtraining 24/7 and every time you’re sore you have lactic acid and lactic acid converts to sugar so I think being a professional athlete I was inherently a giant carbohydrate sugar bomb and then so I actually found like decided to take charge of my food in 2009 I was a climate change consultant or am, and I felt that the elephant in the living room for food security and inherently solution to the climate change process was looking at where your food came from and how it was raised and so I started with my husband a vegetable delivery business from 50 organic farms to the mountain we were living at CrestedViewed at 9000 feet and that was fantastic, we started eating better then I realized it doesn’t make sense to drive your food around and so we actually bought an organic farm in 2010 but you know what I’ve been at the time before my cancer diagnosis, we were raising a lot of grains and legumes and we have a very big orchard with 200 fruit trees so again, even though I thought I was eating really healthy, I would say I was still like pretty much low saturated fat, high emphasis on wholesome organic grains that I grew myself.
A: And your diagnosis as far as the brain tumor, this wasn’t the first sign of health imbalance in the body is that right as far as hormones and other markers of stress in your system?
AG: Yeah you know it was interesting I feel like it’s peeling layers on an onion, once Dr. Sasha showed me my history and what it all meant, I found some old lab work from 1996 and I had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis it was undiagnosed way back then. I can remember when it happened I had shingles as a child, I had a lot of autoimmune problems, I had Epstein bare or mono. Yeah I mean all these things that are, it’s crazy how common they are in cancer patients like myself.
A: The survival and the surveillance system isn’t working properly.
AG: Yeah and as my good friend said whose an epileptologist, she says “the check engine light was on” probably my whole life and I just kept putting a sticker over the check engine light. I would get bronchitis again I would just take another round of antibiotics and keep on going and overtraining and travelling and competing, I just never took care of my body but I also never knew how to take care of myself because I would look at my lab work, I’d go to the health fair and everything was “normal.” And what they never told me is that when they say “in range” it’s statistical average, so let’s say you live in Colorado and almost everybody has prediabetes which is kind of what I see today, if you have prediabetes you’re going to be in range, you know, which is horrifying that’s scary and Dr. Nasha first she taught me how to deal with my own blood work and then I went back to school with her and now I’ve seen thousands of peoples’ bloodwork and you know, there’s no reason that we aren’t testing people for their DNA and their blood chemistry when they’re 1 year old and doing prevention for cancer at a very young age.
A: Sure absolutely.
B: Awesome and I listened to your talk and Dr. Nasha’s talk at the low carb USA and you talked a lot about the Terrain 10 and kind of why people get cancer and getting into the underlying mechanisms, if you will, and so let’s talk a little bit about that.
AG: Sounds good. Being a farmer is kind of ironic that Dr. Nasha’s whole kind of paradigm is that we are the terrain, she calls the terrain our body, and basically if we nourish our body elements then basically just in the same way as a farmer, I’m going to post on the soil and make, if I have healthy soil then I’ll have healthy vegetables. If we’re going to have a healthy body, then cancer, we have floating cancer cells in our body that are produced by our bone marrow every day, so how are we going to, how is our body going to deal with viruses and hormones and imbalances if the terrain or the soil is really healthy then our body is going to be able to deal with all those problems.
A: I love that. We always talk about I love that connection about the soil not being a dead anchor that we just in such large scale farming and it’s a very cool connecting to the body and the biome and all of the different layering influences absolutely.
A: And so how about when we’re talking about some of these, that you mentioned, some of these DNA testing and testing that can be done even in babies as far as preventative measures and how we can use information advanced medical interventions to not just work as treatment modalities, but as preventative elements to support the body’s optimal function. What would be 2 or 3 labs that you find to be the most influential and I’m sure they change based on the patient’s need and where we’re going but Justas a kind of general thumb, what are 2 or 3 rocks that you really like to pick up that you feel are not looked at amply in the American medical model?
AG: Well think that most people can go to a health fair every year and get the standard array that they do is pretty darn helpful, but the problem is that how do you read that in a helpful way? Like for example, they’ll say 5.7 for hemoglobin aA1c which is marker of blood sugar over time, that’s something we look at a lot in a standard health fair you might get a number of like 5.7 or 5.6 and we’ll say it’s elevated but it’s in range. Doctor Nasha would want that number to be all the way down at 5.0 so I think blood sugars in general is one really good category. The first place I look with my friends and family is how are you doing with blood sugar and I look at hemoglobin A1c. Fasting insulin is very interesting for people because really we don’t care as much about blood sugar as well do with insulin resistance and then I’m sure you guys are very familiar with that. And the other markers are inflammation markers, but sugar is also inflammatory so the first inflammation marker I would look at is sugar, then I would look at other markers like lactate dehydrogenase which is a marker of inflammation.
Sedimentation range ESR is another great marker of inflammation and HSCRP which is a common test c-reactive protein for heart disease and that is also another really good inflammation marker and if everybody’ s been following the cholesterol calamity you can say that HSCRP or c-reactive protein is the new go to marker for heart disease, it’s also a very good go to marker for cancer.
A: Sure absolutely and that silent killer being one of inflammation can drive so many different mechanisms of destruction in the body for certain. And how about as far as toxicity, what types of testing do you guys work with for environmental toxins or heavy metal assessments?
AG: We first look at kind of the standard blood chemistry panel to give us some kind of ideas of where the person’s terrain might be off, like for example if people have high elevated liver enzymes, that’s pretty good indication if they’re ALT and the AST is above 20, that they’ve got some kind of toxic water non-organic food, process that they might have an environmental toxin from their job or it could be mold, you know, those type of things. Eosinophils are another really good marker if those are above too, that means those could be an environmental allergy going on or a food allergy going on. High monocytes also can mean toxicity, could be heavy metals-
A: So these are white blood cells that we would be seeing that are off in a CDC even in a cheap marker of assessment?
AG: Yes it’s a cheap marker so instead of running out and getting all these expensive tests to look at the basic blood chemistry first, for example if acenophils, it might mean that you’re allergic to hay, but if that eosinophil is high in January it might mean you’re allergic to a food, so then we’d want to go onto kind of a standard healthy diet let’s say the person is either preventing cancer or trying to conquer cancer, let’s say we put them on an ketogenic diet because either inflammation is very high, usually the eosinophil will go down to a normal range in 3 months, but if they don’t then it would indicate that there’s kind of a bigger picture allergy that’s either genetic or something more permanent that you might have been born with.
A: And then you’d want to do more advanced levels of immunological food sensitivities testing or that-
G: Yeah you’d want to do, if it’s related to leaky gut then we’re going to treat leaky gut first as often times if you resolve leaky gut problem and the food allergies go away and so leaky gut’s always the first go to try to figure out what’s going on there with the biome, etc. I mean, you hardly see anybody these days with a healthy microbiome.
AG: And so you know, it’s just like peeling layer of an onion, if the hormones are off, first of all we’re going to do some hormone balancing with blood sugar, mitochondria inflammation and if that doesn’t take care of things then you might want to do the Dutch hormone test. If there’s some heavy metal s that appear to be going on then we’d want to do some heavy metal testing or like Cyrex Array 10 is really good food sensitivity test. The layers just keep going.
B: Awesome so that sounds a lot like what we do clinically in functional medicine really getting to that root cause and kind of going below the surface to see what is causing dysfunction in the individual’s’ body. So I want to talk about why keto can be used as an adjuvant to conventional treatment, why it works for cancer, what types of cancer, and let’s get nerdy here if you want to and talk a little bit about the mechanisms as well.
AG: Boy well I wish I had- I wish we all knew exactly the mechanisms that are going on with keto I mean I go to these conferences and the scientists are producing paper after paper after paper about cellular signaling that’s going on, mitochondrial repair, you know, energy production in the cell, I mean we could geek out forever on what’s happening at a cellular level for DNA and for cellular repair. It’s interesting because either scientists are still arguing about exactly what’s going on. And there are actually showing the latest reports are that high ketones are important and that would be beta hydroxyl butyrate and also acetoacetate but what I think people forget that the most important component of the ketogenic diet is lowering insulin.
AG: And I think that’s why a lot of people are like “oh well I’m just going to go take supplemental ketones” well the body is doing a very complex process when it goes into ketosis, and when we go into therapeutic ketosis, for example someone like myself with terminal malignant cancer, we’re going to want our ketone somewhere between 3 and 7 so a higher level of ketosis then say someone who has maybe a low level of breast cancer for example. So everybody’s different and, but I think a long story short, what we’re really seeing is the mitochondrial repair and the lowering of inflammation. I mean those are the 2 things that we just see so steadily on the labs that improve for either someone with cancer or without cancer and I think a lot of people are thinking “well I’m just lowering blood sugar and cancer feeds on sugar” well that is true, and we do know that cancer is metabolically inflexible it can only basically ferment glucose which either comes from glucose, sucrose, fructose, or carbohydrates so cancer is a damaged cell and so when you do not provide it with its preferred fuel, cancer cells can wither, they can die, they’ve actually also shown cancer cells reverting back to normal cells in the presence of ketones and of low insulin.
I think in one year, 2 years, 10 years, we’re going to know a whole lot more about the intricacies of the diet and what’s actually happening, but what I notice in my own labs is that all of these conditions that my doctor told me where irreversible, such as polycystic ovarian disease or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or terminal malignant brain cancer, you know, I went on a ketogenic diet and those things disappeared so it’s pretty mind-blowing and I really geek out on the biochemistry about what’s actually happening but I’m sure you guys can throw in some gold nuggets there and be up yourself. It’s a complex proves that’s going on.
A: Sure absolutely and have you yourself, Alison, with phases since, well this is now, what year are we in now- 4 5, years about sine diagnosis and going into this journey, do you kind of recalibrate, titrate, adjust fasting, adjust macros, I see that you used the ketonic breath meter, what types of things are you monitoring on a daily basis and kind of are you changing with season as far as what, how you address your diet, specifically?
AG: Well my diet’s very seasonal because I grow my own foods, so diet changes literally daily, huge emphasis on leafy vegetables. I basically pick almost every day like a giant bag of stir-frying leafy greens, of all different colors and shapes and sizes and species and then another whole bag is like my salad greens because, you know, to get 6-9 cups of vegetables in in a day and not exceed 20g of total carbohydrates is difficult for sure for anybody. I have found that the one thing I monitor every day is my blood ketones which I take someone between 6-8 pm every day. And so that’s really going to give me a good handle on how I did for lunch as far as what I ate or didn’t eat, so I’m always kind of testing my own personal metabolism to see how I’m doing with some kind of new food like last week I switched up the types of chocolate that I’ve been sing and I got my ketones like 2 points higher just by changing the type of chocolate that I was using in my fat bombs.
AG: So I’m always experimenting and changing. I do use blood glucose to test foods as well. And ketonic less and less lately because you can eat carbohydrates with the ketonics and you can get a false positive as far – so that was goofind some of my clients up because they weren’t knowing that carbohydrates could throw off ketonics. But there’s a new device called Level that’s coming out and I’m supposedly getting one this week and that way I’ll be able to eat just one food and immediately blow into that device and see how my body is metabolizing that food. And I know for me like coconut throws me out of ketosis like no other food.
A: Ok even pure coconut oil?
AG: You know, MCT oil, no, but I have a problem with coconut oil, I always have. And then when I got my genetic test back, I’m APO-E4 so I realized like, here’s a reason the coconut oil was always a problem for me and I didn’t know it until I got my genetic test back.
A: And for people that don’t – have financial constraints with some of these, I know Level is quite a pricey meter. And other you know, we talk about things like – we know that urine strips aren’t necessarily very accurate and it’s a solute and of course the body stops spilling urinary ketones, but changes in breath as far as like the cardboard or metal breath, any indicators that you experience yourself or with clients as far as either like an “oops” influence of cross contamination or kicking yourself out to more of a lower level than the therapeutic range you’re looking at like, a pinky finger that gives you inflammation or any other particular or do you get a cognitive shift with blood sugar or a crashing influence? Any physiological responses that are your kind of personal metric or that you’ve seen as trends?
AG: You know it’s interesting, I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed with my personal body testing which I’m always doing is that how I feel is 0 indication of how my blood chemistry is going. Because I test my blood so often, a lot of time is go in an I’m like “oh I’m feeling really terrible I’m sure my inflammation is going to be through the roof” and it’s perfect so what I have noticed is I just switched to ketmojo for blood ketone testing and for serum glucose testing. And the nice thing about that, in the past for me, the ketone strips are just so prohibitively expensive that I would test my ketones twice a week. Now, I am testing every day because those strips are only 99 cents, and by testing 6 hours after my mid-day meal, I am able to test how I metabolized my mid-day meal every day so whenever I do my experimenting with certain foods, I try to do it in the mid-day and then that 99 cent test at night is giving me a really good indication of how my metabolism is doing that day. And I can also use the really cheap urine blood glucose strips.
AG: And I’ll do those 2 hours after I eat something. So if I create a new recipe like I created a new recipe for my APO-E ice cream I call it, my dairy free ice cream, and so I would test my ketones fasting in the morning let’s say they were 69. 2 hours after eating some type of ne recipe or whatever I’m’ eating, 2 hours after I can test my blood glucose and for me if I am less that 20 points higher than my fasting, then ideally more like 10 points higher than I’m metabolizing that food as fat and not as sugar or carbs.
A: Ok. Yeah I think that’s a great resource too.
G: It’s going a lot less expensive that’s for sure.
A: Absolutely. And I know a lot of people when I was looking at some of the recipes on your blog, and I love that you are so produce-centric and I think it’s a little difficult especially when people are first getting in, we often say to clients that they sometimes to have to snack into ketosis until they truly become fat adapted and really stick to just the leafy greens and then they can expand their vegetable repertoire because it can even be difficult for some people in the first weeks to eat things like Brussels sprouts and stay keto and so working up their fats and you know, teaching the body that there’s this alternative fuel source and getting that insulin down. But I was super excited to see you be able to use things like pumpkin in moderate amounts.
Can you share how that works with listeners and you know, whether it’s just ensuring that particular recipe has ample amounts of fats or – I know that there’s definitely a Brick’s influence with a heirloom variety versus a store bought sugar pumpkin, share a little bit of that.
AG: Oh you nailed it it’s funny because I had a client this morning and her was like “you have a recipe that you sent me for pumpkin French fries and, you know, those according to chormameter are going to throw my carbs through the roof” and I said “well, first of all there’s a big difference” what you just said is so nailing the nail on the head is that when people are first going on ketosis they’re much more sensitive to carbs and so we try to get down all the way down to 20 total carbs probably for the first 3-6 months so their insulin comes all the way below 3 and their GHA hopefully comes all the way down to below 5.0. At that point when their labs are more stable and let’s say their tumor markers and their inflammation is down, then we can start experimenting with either serum glucose testing or serum ketone testing.
Let’s say I make my ketopancakes for lunch and they have pumpkin in them and eggs in them, and so I have to balance them out with tons and tons of fat, I literally make like almost butter sandwiches with the pumpkin pancakes and then I will test them with the either the serum glucose or the serum ketones 6 hours after eating that meal so maybe on prometer it’s showing that the carbs are going to be off according to that meal but then I actually eat it as a very keto adapted person, my blood ketones will still say High even though that was likely more carby than was indicated that I could eat for that meal. And it is really balanced out with the sufficient amount of fat. I mean I eat somewhere around 300 grams of fat a day which is somewhere around 2.5 cups of fat a day and that is the key for me to keep high ketones.
AG: And I think a lot of people, I have yet to have a client come to me that was actually in ketosis when they were eating the ketogenic diet even for a year or two because a lot of times they’re not measuring and testing.
A: Awesome. And how about, I know you mention in your talk at KetoCon- I think you said there is that small part that was left remaining of the tumor, our said you named it Junior is that right?
A: Tell us – I like that perspective as far as making lemonade of a situation and this visual motivator or would you kind of share what that is or how that perspective affects your daily decision making process?
AG: Yep and I think this should influence everybody’s daily decision making process. I was reading a scientific paper a few weeks ago that said our bone marrow produced between 500-2000 new cancer cells every day and this is a healthy noncancering person. So if our body’s producing cancer cells every day and they’re in there, they’re just waiting for an opportunity and this little tumor that they missed in my head that I named Junior, we don’t know if it’s a collection of live cancer cells or dead cancer cells or even what it is because I’m not going to have brain surgery again yet.
That was a horrible experience and a lot of people almost died from that so I think of those cancer cells being very opportunistic, and they’re sitting there like little pacmen and they’re just waiting to be fed glucose so any time I want to cheat I think of those pacmen in my body and that I don’t want to give them that opportunity.
B: That’s definitely a good motivator. For sure. So let’s talk a little bit more about your work with clients kind of how you fell into that and how you used your experience to start making this your career.
AG: Yeah and, you know, I initially wanted to go back to my extreme skiing career and I really loved it and Nasha said Dr. Nasha was like “just because you love your job doesn’t mean it’s not killing you.” And I do think it was a very good lesson for me. Stress has been one of the hardest things to reduce in my life so I did end up selling that business and boy, you know, when my stress level goes down my cortisol goes down and my insulin goes down and my HGA1c goes down and it’s just amazing. It’s amazing how the body can manufacture sugar.
A: Yes. Yes.
AG: So yeah we could do a whole chapter on stress. Anyway back to the client thing, so Nasha was teaching me how to read my own labs and how to track them in the spreadsheet and I just- I’m just such a science girl I was really geeking out on it and she was like “hey, do you want to train with me and do you want to learn how to do this for other people?” and I was like – I really wasn’t ready to add more stress to my life with clients, but I really felt it was an awesome opportunity to heal myself so that’s how I started with this journey is that training with her, learning to read labs, and I definitely peeled layers and layers of my own onion while I was under training with her. And I think now it’s tough balancing you know, because it’s a life or death job that I have kind of now.
If people work with Dr. Nasha and they work with myself and they do the program, they live, and if they choose to not monitor and test or not turn over some difficult stones in their terrain, you know, often times they don’t make it so it is- adding meditation to my life has been key to separate what I can do for my own life and my own healing and how I can help others in the best way that I can but the – in the same way I can’t solve climate change on my own, I can’t solve cancer on my own but the little steps of helping people that were put out to pasture by their doctors and seeing them make it and seeing them live a long, healthy life, it’s a beautiful blessing to see that.
A: That’s awesome and such a full circle journey I think it’s interesting how you can acknowledge and illicit for listeners that passion and that career and even things that can make us happy can be stressors or even our Achilles’ heel and kind of having to redefine that sometimes can be very difficult to do and especially when it’s a joyful stress that’s causing imbalance in our system. When you mentioned meditation, do you have any resource s r what got you started with that because I know that’s a huge piece of the puzzle we do so much work with HPA axis and breath and cortisol and epinephrine and that’s always something that we’re looking to find beyond doing the 4,7,8 breath and other techniques. What got you into meditation was there a particular book or anything that you listened to or any particular coursework?
AG: Well I started with EFT because I had some emotional demons and if anybody has read Dr. Nasha’s book the Metabolic Approach to Cancer, she has each of the 10 chapters devoted to a trained item and so one of them is emotions, the other one is stress, and I was just noticing a huge pattern with my ketones were very good on the days that I was eating well and then the next day I was eating well, and my ketones would be terrible. And Nasha was like “it’s stress driving cortisol and cortisol’s upping insulin” and so I started really tracking my cortisol. I asked my doctor to track it monthly along with my other markers that I track monthly and I really noticed an extreme pattern of high cortisol.
And so mine was somewhere between 18-20 on average and this was after I sold my business and I really thought that you know, when you get this cancer diagnosis I’m sure people out there who have been in my shoes, you want to go back to normal like that’s your craving is to go back to normal before cancer. And Nasha has another great quote she’s like “normal gave you cancer Alison. There’s nothing about normal that you want to go back to.” You know you really need to redefine every single area of your life from your food to your mental health to your HPA axis, you know, and so I got stuck on this cortisol thing and I was – I decided to use an experiment and finally when my HGA1c even though my ketones were super high, my HGA1c was climbing and this was after being on the ketogenic diet for over 3.5 years.
And so my HGA1c went all the way down to 5.0 and its started climbing climbing climbing and it was all due to stress. And this was stress that I did not perceive. I was really trying to take care of my wo body, I had sold my business, I was really focusing on my health and so Nasha was like, when are you going to look the elephant in the eye and start doing meditation?” so I signed up for 2 classes, one for Monday nights and 8 o’clock and one for Tuesdays at 5:30 and I started going diligently and I also, in that period, it was just the first month of just going to those 2 classes, my cortisol went from 18 to 20 all the way down to 11.
A: Wow. That’s incredible.
AG: And that was just from- that was being brand new to I call it the sport because of the work, you know, training for meditation it’s like a toolbox in a way that I learned to mountain bike or I learned to surf, or I learned to ski learning to meditate is not what I thought it was. I really though “how hard can this be” and it is really challenging. And it’s really good to have instruction and I think in the same way that I had a hard time finding a yoga teacher that I like, it’s hard to find someone that you really click with as far as teacher goes for meditation. And so since I don’t use a cell phone I really didn’t want to use an app, I wanted to be away from my computer so I wanted the human experience of going to learn techniques. I’m still going to those classes, I’ve added in my carbon dioxide was also quite high and that’s an easy standard blood test, but when that’s high it means that you’re not doing good belly breathing in my opening. You’re breathing kind of in the top part of your lung, and so I added heartmath.com if you guys ever tried that? The inner balance?
A: No, no.
B: Haven’t tried it but I’ve heard about it.
AG: It’s a little thing that you can use on your phone in airplane mode or you can buy the device and it clips onto your ear, and it measures heartrate variability along with your breathing together and I really like it because it makes me focus on the deep belly breathing nice and slow, it has different challenge levels from like easy to extra hard and as soon as your mind wanders towards like “oh, I’ve got to do that e-mail I forgot to e-mail so and so” the thing will go, like, to red and it’ll make a bad noise. When you’re doing, like thinking, nothing which is a very hard thing to learn, when you’re thinking about nothing and you’re focusing on your breathing and you’re really just focusing on chilling out, your heart rate gets very very smooth and the colors get, the noise gets happy and the colors get happy and it gives you a score at the very end and you can do 1 minute, 15 minutes, it’s a great thing you can set your timer to do just 1 minute every hour.
A: That’s incredible because I think a lot of people are in in that mindset of “am I doing it? Am I meditation?” the wild stallion of the brain takes over again and it’s like “ah, harness!” and it’s so synergistic to have you on today Alison because we last week just had our third class of our virtual ketosis program and there’s just over 100 members in it and our session was on the HPA axis and adrenal fatigue and that fight or flight mechanism preventing you from successful ketogenic lifestyle and we had like fireworks going off after that class I think of a lot of people that were like, “ahh this is me, this is the what is going on” and we have supplements that we had recommended like adaptogenic herbal blends and nervines and amino acids compounds like L-threonine but the reality is – and these are all tools and I think they’re very successful to help to harness the wild stallion and especially if you’re in this super human lifestyle you may need the nutraceuticals to get you above water, but we were really emphasizing it’s the extraneous elements and the interpersonal mental space and the lifestyle that you can’t out supplement you have to create some resolution life change to create harmony with all of that and I think that’s a huge huge huge overlooked Achilles’ heel because our culture is so high demand, stress-obsessed that it’s almost seen as like a weakness if we admit it. So it’s something I-
AG: You are so right on because all my life, I have been told “oh you’re such a great multitasker” “you’re so successful at what you’re doing, you can do a million things at once and run all these businesses and nonprofits” like that’s a good thing.
AG: I’ve had to learn how to undo all of that and be ok with someone saying “hey what have you been up to?” I would love to have my answer to be “nothing “ I don’t think I’m there yet but I really understand the importance of the nothing part and my Achilles’ heel is definitely my HPA axis and my thyroid and I think when I look back at this I think that was a tipping point for me 20 years ago with my competing extreme skiing and taking too many antibiotics and eating poorly and travelling, I basically go epstein barre which you know, of course almost everybody has “mono” but it will only express itself if you trash your body and your immune system falls apart.
I think my immune system fell apart and my thyroid fell apart all at the same time and it was interesting I had a gluten exposure this week by mistake and Nasha’s always said “one molecule of gluten will set off certain people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis” it’s absolutely the case for me and I had 1 exposure in February when I was in New Zealand and it was interesting to watch my labs that one molecule of one bite of fish when I realized that it had gluten in it, it took 5 months to heal on my labs.
A: Wow. Wow.
AG: And, you know, that’s – I always thought Nasha was exaggerating, but “sorry Nasha” you were right again.
B: Oh my gosh so we’ve talked about the HPA axis and, Alii, and I think can both relate to that one for sure a kind of our Achilles’ heel as well, maybe, yes?
A: The work I’m doing in- I have a book out in Spring – on the antianxiety diet, I’m like “this landed in my lap for a good reason” “ this is why this is happening, universe I get you, funny joke.”
B: And we talked a lot about keto today and I want to get to Alison, in our last couple of minutes, what about a couple of superfoods for cancer beyond the 9 cups of veggies, 9-10, or say 8-9, the high veggie intake, what else have you seen as superfoods that you use with clients?
AG: Well you know of course nobody’s eating enough fat. When I say I’m eating a lot of fat like people l think “oh yeah you put, 2 tablespoons in with your eggs in the morning and I’m like “no I put an entire stick of butter in the pan” and the other day I was cooking one pan of broccoli, one pan of spinach, and another steak in another pan and I was making salad in another pan and so one of the things I try to do is I try to get 3 different fats in every meal so let’s say I’m cooking my protein in one fat, let’s say I’m cooking the protein in beef talo, then maybe I’m cooking the broccoli in MCT oil and then maybe I’m dressing my salad with a really high quality olive oil so there’s 3 different fats in the meal and I try to rotate those fats around a lot because the building blocks for the essential fatty acids are different for every single one.
And then the other thing for me is since I’m APOE4 I have to focus more and more on short chain fatty acids because of my genetics so APOE4 folks like myself, we’re going to want to focus on things like olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, I also use a lot of MCT but I use specifically C8 caprylic acid because it’s a short – it’s the shortest chain MCT oil that we can currently buy right now.
So that has really changed the – my labs by changing the fats that I eat but people who are not APOE4, we’re about 25% of the population, really trying to mix up the short chain fatty acids with the long chain fatty acids. I think Bullock and Finny they talk about our adipose tissues being made of 50% short chain fatty acids and 50% long chain so if we eat about in that ratio, we’re going to replace that tissue the best and that made a lot of sense to me.
A: Especially for brain, yeah.
AG: Yeah especially for brain. Really using some kind of system to monitor your fat intake to see if it’s high enough like chronometer and if you’re aiming for like ketones about 3, you’re probably not going to be able to squish in more than 6 cups of leafy vegetables. If you’re trying to get your ketones between 1-3 which is a nice level if you’re trying to prevent cancer or you have a lower grade, less sugar hungry cancer, then you could probably get away with 9 cups of vegetables. The biggest trick I have, and this is my farmer trick I’m going to put my farmer hat on, is ask at a local farmer’s market who grows a variety of greens year round.
Find out who those farmers are and ask them if you could get one bag of stir-fry greens that are mixed and seasonal delivered to your house once a week or you could pick them up once a week and one bag of salad greens and that they can pick whatever seasonal mix they have available so I have those, I pick them myself and put them in the fridge. Each bag probably has over 10-12 different varieties of leafy veggies and so I don’t have to think about getting variety of vegetables in my diet because those greens mixes have such a wide variety of color and species.
A: Yeah and you’re getting brassica greens and greens, I assume.
AG: So you’re eating the rainbow without venturing into the higher carb world of vegetables.
A: I love that. Love that. Awesome well we’ve covered so many bases today and learned so much this is really helpful we’ll make sure to put a lot of detailed links in the show notes and links to your site and your work and I just want to close with finally, this is our question to all guest sand you kind of started off with your salad and stir-fry green and steak, but can you give us what we can as dietitians 24 hour recall? So yesterday from when you woke up to when you went to bed just a little bit of a snapshot of a day in the life of what you had to eat and timing.
AG: Such a great question. So I fasted in the morning with just my homemade chai with nothing in it and that’s to help with my APOE4 as well as you guys know, the whole benefits of intermittent fasting. My first meal was around 12 or 1 and it was a hydraulic sunflower oil with MCT oil and butter cooking chunks of our homemade bacon in the pan so lot’s of different fast and then I sautéed a couple cups of Swiss chard, spinach, and kale along with that bacon , a little bit of shallot and garlic and then I made a frittata out of that and then I had my, what I call my APOE ice cream, which is a high fat ice cream that I make out of homemade eggs and some type of fat and a little bit of salt and then I do 100% organic chocolate chips in there.
I also made a resee’s peanut butter cup out of peely nuts, it’s the stuffing and some dark chocolate on the outside and I was curious to see if I ate both of those desserts, how my ketones and they were 3.8 and then for dinner I had a big salad with lots of different leafy greens with an olive oil, cilantro, ginger salad dressing and I had sautéed broccoli and cauliflower cooked in MCT oil and with a little bit of homemade goat cheese and a hamburger cooked in butter that was from our cows, raised on our property with a little bit of shallot and lots of salt and pepper with homemade mayonnaise on top of that.
A: That sounds divine, dreamy. I can feel it in my skin.
AG: It has to be delicious and I think you can have high fat and delicious and if someone told me tomorrow that “hey you didn’t have cancer, you didn’t have polycystic ovarian disease or Hashimoto’s or that fibroids” if none of this stuff had ever happened to me and I could choose what to eat, I would eat ketogenic I feel so good, the mental clarity’s so good I mean, you guys know this so well, it becomes addictive it feels good and it’s not about cancer anymore it’s about having a lovely life.
A: Yeah, thriving in the body I think that’s an awesome thing. So good.
AG: Cancer’s the best thing that ever happened to me.
A: Wow that’s incredible and so empowering Alison thank you so much for being on our show today. We will, like I said a link to the resources that you provide and listeners I hope you go to her website to learn more about her journey and her work with clients and thank you thank you thank you I’m sure you’ll be such an inspiration to our listener.
AG: Well thank you for being out there and giving so many tools to so many people that need assistance it’s awesome having you.
A: Great alright tune in next time thanks for listening.
AG: Alright, bye.
Thank you for listening to the Naturally Nourished Podcast. Visit our blog at Alimillerrd.com for recipes, wellness tips, and food as medicine meal plans. Connect with Ali at Becki at AliMillerRD on InstaGram or Twitter and Facebook. Until next time, stay nourished and be well.