If you have your own success story and would like to share it with me and the Mark’s Daily Apple community please contact me here. I’ll continue to publish these as long as they keep coming in. Thank you for reading!
Folks, I have been grateful for every story that has come my way over the years. It’s an incredible privilege being on the receiving end of your reflections and evolutions, and they are why I’ve kept at it all these years—knowing the message and information have made a difference in people’s lives. I appreciate every single one. This success story comes from Registered Dietician, Primal Health Coach, and cancer survivor Martha Tettenborn. She takes us through her journey from learning to advise a low-fat, high-carb lifestyle to beating cancer using Primal principles. Enjoy! —Mark
It has become my passion to share the power of nutritional interventions for improving health overall, but especially in the treatment of cancer. I have come to this from personal experience…
I studied at University in the early 1980’s to become a dietitian, because I had an overwhelming interest in nutrition and wanted to be in a helping profession. At that time, the cholesterol and saturated fat theory of heart disease and overall health was considered cutting edge science and we were fully indoctrinated into the low-fat approach to almost all health issues. The only exception was using a high calorie, high protein approach to under-nutrition (such as with failure-to-thrive or cancer patients), and in that situation, we recommended using sugar or honey, butter or cream, and other added fats and simple carbs to increase the caloric density of foods.
I have been a Registered Dietitian for over 30 years, basing my practice for most of that time on the standard paradigm of low fat foods, heavily carb-based meals, fruits and vegetables, lower fat meats. Personally, our family spent many years eating no red meats, using turkey “bacon,” ground chicken and other processed foods, but avoiding beef and pork – and feeling virtuous while doing that.
Professionally, I have spent the last 20 years working in geriatrics, contracting my services to long term care facilities. I care for many residents with the end stage consequences of the Standard American (and Canadian) Diet – diabetes, strokes and of course, dementia, both vascular and Alzheimer’s. It is rare that a resident has simple osteoarthritis or other simple wearing out of old age. Most of them are younger and slowly dying for years with the chronic “diseases of civilization.”
About 10 years ago, I started down the path of alternative nutrition, starting with Seth Robert’s ideas, called the Shangri La Diet, using flavourless oil shots to impact on appetite control in the brain. I was successful in losing about 18 lbs that had been quite stubborn prior to that time. Shortly after that, I found Mark’s Daily Apple and the concept of the Primal Diet, eating an Ancestral pattern that suited our physiology. It resonated so strongly with me that this was correct, although it went against all of my training. The strength of the science won me over; however, I spent hours on the MDA forums, reading scientific discussions, success stories, recipe and meal planning ideas and journals from the MDA community.
About 3 years ago, I decided that I wanted to take my interest in low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) and start up a private practice. In order to update my knowledge, I completed the Primal Health Coach certification – an excellently presented and in-depth course. As an RD and member of a Registered Health Profession, with a regulatory college, I had to establish a private practice that met with the regulatory guidelines of my
profession, so I started Primal RD in July 2017. Because of my counter-conventional approach, I have had no support from local doctors and getting my practice going in my small Ontario community has been slow.
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Last summer, I discovered the presence of a large ovarian cyst in my abdomen and had it surgically removed in late September. The cyst was a simple fluid-filled balloon, but huge, holding 1.5 litres of fluid (over 50 oz – 6 cups!). Despite nobody expecting it, it turned out to be Stage 1 high grade serous carcinoma – ovarian cancer. It had been intentionally ruptured to make laparoscopic removal possible, so that was considered a “spill” and a second surgery for hysterectomy and chemotherapy were highly recommended.
I was 58 years old and in stellar health prior to this diagnosis. In fact, a great deal of my self-identity was wrapped up in being “super-healthy” and this sudden change to “cancer patient” was a huge crisis for me. However, as a naturally optimistic and curious person, I headed down the rabbit hole of research to determine what I could do for myself to impact on my health journey and return myself to my formerly stellar good health.
What I discovered was startling. That cancer is no longer considered by some to be a genetic disease, but rather a disease of disordered metabolism. That this information was first discovered and described by Otto Warburg in the 1920’s, for which he received a Nobel Prize. That this scientific information was then lost by virtue of it being of German origin, and the Germans lost the Second World War. And that this critical understanding of the metabolic nature of cancer has only been brought back to light in the past 10 years through the work of dedicated researchers who are working outside of the medical establishment.
Cancer, although it is thought of as a genetic disease, and that it is thought of as many different diseases, has one almost universal underlying common characteristic. Almost all cancers have damaged and malfunctioning mitochondria, the fuel-processing organelles that create the energy for all cellular life. Instead, they produce energy by the ancient process of fermentation in the cytoplasm of the cell, an inefficient process that is entirely dependent on glucose or glutamine for substrate. Cancer cells have no ability to burn fatty acids or ketone bodies. That’s their Achilles heel.
By using a ketogenic diet throughout my chemotherapy, I was able to deprive any remaining cancer cells from having access to elevated circulating insulin or glucose. And by producing ketones through the diet and through fasting for 72 hours each chemo administration, I was able to starve the cancer cells of their preferred fuel, while putting my body further into ketosis, thus supplying my healthy cells with adequate fuel. My healthy cells down-regulated their metabolism in response to the fasting, going into “stealth mode” and escaping notice by the chemo drugs (essentially poisons aimed at fast-metabolizing cells). This turned out to be powerfully protective in preventing most side effects. I had no nausea, emesis (vomiting0, gastrointestinal damage, nerve damage, tingling or neuropathy, no joint or muscle pains. I did experience hair loss and bone marrow suppression, the 2nd week effects of the chemo, but these were moderate, not requiring any additional medication. Overall, I sailed through chemo with a few “low energy” days, but mostly it was life as normal, just with no hair. This was decidedly NOT the expected course for this type of chemo.
A friend said to me when I was starting down the cancer path that it appeared that everything in my life to this point (becoming a low carb dietitian, the PHC certification, and my passion for researching health) had prepared me for this day – that I would be the “Keto Cancer Dietitian.” The idea stuck, and a passion for sharing what I had learned about how powerful nutrition can be in the cancer journey was born.
As I went through chemo, I started blogging about my experiences and my journey so that others could read my story and gain hope and understand the power that we each have to impact on our own health, even in the face of daunting obstacles like a cancer diagnosis. I write about my experiences at my website, Powerful Beyond Measure, at www.marthatettenborn.com.
I feel very blessed for so many reasons. Firstly, that I had found the low carb Primal way of eating and had a solid basis of good health prior to starting this cancer journey. Secondly, that I had the knowledge and skills to research the metabolic nature of cancer and implement specific nutritional interventions (namely ketogenic diet and therapeutic fasting) for impacting on the chemotherapy experience. And thirdly, that I am now able to share that knowledge with others so that we can change the cancer and cancer treatment experience for the better. I was not a helpless “victim” of cancer and I was not fighting a war against my cancer. I was an empowered and effective partner in my own healthcare, positively impacting my response to conventional treatment.
That’s what I wish to share with others.
Mark has been so generous to share his knowledge with the goal of changing lives and that’s what I hope to do as well, from the perspective of a Registered Dietitian, a Primal Health Coach, a lifelong “healthy eater” and a cancer
survivor thriver. I’m just at the beginning of that journey.
Martha Tettenborn, RD
Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada