Last month, the world lost a great visionary and technological genius. Steve Jobs, of Apple fame, died way before his time, at the age of 56, of complications due to pancreatic cancer.
This tragic story has of course been floating around media sources of all sorts, however, in our sphere of holistic nutrition and alternative health, it’s making a particularly significant appearance due to rumors that Steve turned to nutritional therapy to heal his cancer, and it “failed.”
It is true that Jobs used an alternative, diet-based cancer treatment. For the first nine months of his diagnosis, he refused all western medical approaches and strictly utilized a specific “anti-cancer” diet, before breaking down and allowing himself to have surgery to remove the primary tumor from which his cancer originated. He then continued to adhere to this special diet, while (wisely) refusing further conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, for several years after.
Here’s the thing, though.
Steve’s “natural” diet, rather than his avoidance of medical treatments, was actually more than likely contributing to and hastening his demise.
A doctor’s dangerous advice
Steve’s special “anti-cancer” diet, was one which would be dangerous for any person to follow, let alone someone attempting to beat cancer.
Steve Jobs followed the nutritional protocol of Dr. Dean Ornish, who is a proponent of one of the least healthy, nontraditional (in the Weston A. Price sense) diets imaginable. The Dean Ornish cancer diet consists of the following guidelines and traits:
NO saturated fat: Despite the fact that every cell of your body is largely comprised of this substance, Dr. Ornish believes a diet devoid of this critical nutrient is healthy, and will even help to fight cancer. Saturated fat is needed for virtually every function of the body, including fending off illness.
- As low-fat as possible: All fats are demonized by Dr. Ornish. Again, despite scientific evidence that the body needs fats to assimilate vitamins and other nutrients found in whole, natural foods, this diet simply shuns them entirely.
- Vegetarian: The Ornish cancer diet avoids even lean meats, simply because they might contain trace amounts of saturated fat. There is virtually no natural protein from healthy animal sources allowed. A very small amount of fish is permissible for the intake of Omega-3 fatty acids. Except, Ornish — don’t you know that your body needs saturated fat to even absorb and assimilate Omega-3′s?
- High-carbohydrate: Dr. Ornish advises a diet that consists of over 70% carbohydrates. Ornish, like many misguided medical professionals, wants much of those carbs to come in the form of improperly-prepared, gut-damaging whole grains. A diet too high in carbs can lower immune functioning and potentially cause an overproduction of insulin, a very cancer-friendly hormone (and by that I mean, cancer feeds off of it). Oh and, guess what’s responsible for churning out all that insulin, by the way? The PANCREAS. In which Jobs had cancer.
- Soy-rich: Dr. Ornish wants his patients to get their protein from genetically-modified, Monsanto-created soy. Unfermented soy is a highly toxic substance, filled with endocrine-disrupting and carcinogenic phytoestrogens. If this is news to you, please read The Whole Soy Story, by Dr. Kaayla T. Daniel. (I’ll explain more in a bit why the inclusion of soy was an especially deadly aspect to Steve’s diet, given the specific type of cancer he faced.)
- Fake foods: Ornish is perfectly fine with recommending such freakishly unnatural fare as fake meats (Tofurkey, anyone?) and processed, frozen meals containing partially hydrogenated oils. I’m not kidding.
All of these things are extremely unhealthy and dangerous to a cancer patient (with the exception of vegetarianism — it is possible to have a nourishing vegetarian, not vegan, diet).
But, being that it excludes many aspects of the Standard American Diet, a diet such as this would lead to an initial healthy response, just as a vegan diet (which is temporarily cleansing and not at all nourishing) will illicit a similar, superficial benefit to one’s health.
So why didn’t this horribly unhealthy diet cause Steve’s untimely death to occur even sooner?
Steve Job’s cancer was not as deadly as the media portrays.
There are multiple forms of pancreatic cancer. Because of its deadly reputation, you may be familiar with the extremely aggressive, pancreatic adenocarcinoma that makes up about 95% of all pancreatic cancer cases. It comes with terrifyingly grim prognoses, and can kill in a matter of months — just like it did with actor Patrick Swayze.
Steve Jobs did not have this type of cancer.
Steve had what is known as an islet-cell, or neuroendocrine tumor form. Specifically, he had a gastroenterological neuroendocrine tumor (GEP-NET), originating in his pancreas. This is a commonly benign, mild type of cancer.
As many as one in ten autopsies of the general population show the presence of this type of cancer, without the persons ever having been diagnosed or showing symptoms. The survival rate of a GEP-NET has reportedly been as high as 100% over a 10-year period.
This was a cancer that most people survive, even those eating the Standard American Diet! This type of cancer should not have killed Steve Jobs. But with the horrifyingly misguided dietary advice he followed, his neuroendocrine-tumor-type cancer was able to spread uncontrollably.
Given that the GEP-NET type of cancer causes a significant disruption in the endocrine system, by producing too much of the hormones related to the endocrinological system it attacks, it comes as no surprise to me that the endocrine-disrupting, phytoestrogenic soy Steve was consuming at the advice of Dr. Ornish would cause a neuroendocrine tumor to spread beyond a manageable growth. Additionally, the endocrine system relies on saturated fat and cholesterol — both of which Jobs was completely deprived of — to properly function. His cancer “treatment” was enabling his tumor to wreak absolute havoc on this vital system.
Steve Job’s tumor was caught early. Most GEP-NET tumors are resolved by a simple surgery to remove them. But in the nine months he waited to have his surgery, Job’s well-fed tumor had already caused such damage to his pancreas, that doctors felt it necessary to surgically remove the entire head of the organ, plus his gallbladder, bile duct, and first part of his small intestine. As if all this wasn’t damaging enough, Steve underwent additional medical treatments later on that put his cancer over the edge.
The Last Straws
Steve Jobs was trying to do everything right, even bucking mainstream medicine when he could bear to, but unfortunately, he went about it all wrong. Sadly, Steve Jobs did succumb to pressure to resort to conventional cancer treatments as his condition worsened. While Jobs declined the standard medical treatments for most of his battle, he did seek radiotherapy at a Swiss clinic in 2009.
Worse yet, just months before his death, Steve underwent chemotherapy at the Stanford Cancer Center in California.
Additionally, in 2008, it was reported that Jobs underwent a round of antibiotics to treat a “bug” he was ill with. If you’re at all familiar with the importance of gut health as it relates to the functioning of your immune system (and thus, your entire body) — you know how devastating the effects of antibiotics can be to crucial gut flora.
The other major part of this story is that Steve had a liver transplant two years before his death, and had to take immuno-suppressing drugs as a result. Try fighting cancer with a chemically-suppressed immune system, and zero saturated fat in your diet!
“Let Food Be Thy Medicine”
While these additional factors obviously had a hugely negative impact on Steve’s health and his ability to fight off his cancer, it’s my belief that had he at least avoided the chemo and radiation, he would have survived a much more appropriate length of time if he ate a healthful, traditional diet, as opposed to the deadly one prescribed to him by Dr. Ornish.
Steve’s less-aggressive, neuroendocrine form of pancreatic cancer would never have killed him this fast. He would have been able to handle the liver transplant and pancreatectomy much more successfully, and he may not have even felt the need to resort to the conventional cancer treatments at all.
Food heals, but only when it’s real, traditional, and healthy. And Steve Jobs lost not only his life, but his chance to experience that, as did the world by his example. That’s the real tragedy of the story to me.
What do you think about the choices Steve Jobs made regarding his cancer treatment? Do you also believe he would still be alive today had he not been recommended such a dangerous diet by Dr. Ornish? Or can you simply not blame him for first seeking out what he thought to be the best alternative therapy, then resorting to conventional medicine?