Caring for Cancer: Food That Provides Deep Nourishment For Body & Mind


by Rylen Feeney, Diplomate Chinese Herbs & Asian Bodywork Therapy (NCCAOM), Whole food Nutritionist and Amma Therapist

This article was published by Sun and Moon, Maryland’s Acupuncture Society, where Rylen taught Caring for Cancer: A Wholistic Approach to 65 acupuncturists last fall.

“The difference between venom and a cure is not the substance, it’s the dose.” – Anonymous

According to a 2015 cancer fact sheet created by the World Health Organization, an estimated one-third of annual cancer diagnoses in the U.S. can be linked to five behavioral & dietary factors; weight, low fruit and vegetable intake, lack of physical activity and alcohol & tobacco use. If you add that to our exposure to carcinogenic toxins found in our environment and foods, and those produced by stress, the number would be even higher. 

How do we as complementary healthcare providers offer deep nourishment to our patients diagnosed with cancer? One way is through providing sound dietary guidance in addition to our therapies. There are many “Cancer Diets” from raw, macrobiotic and ketogenic, but none of these have truly withstood rigorous studies, or proven to make a reliable difference. A cancer diagnosis is one of the most overwhelming news a patient can hear. In my experience, adding overly complicated and rigid diet protocols is hardly a nourishing supportive approach, and in many cases can be actually harmful. Diets with big promises (cures cancer!) and a lot of rules are often guilt producing and burden the patient, who then blames themselves for not being able to follow to the tee.

The following nutritional considerations are implicated in preventing and slowing down cancer, and provide an excellent way to support our patients with nutrition. These changes still require substantial changes for many of our patients but can be introduced over the course of several treatments. Overall, this is more doable, without being overwhelming with a dogmatic rigid approach. These recommendations include:


1. eat real (whole) foods – nutrient dense whole carbs, real fats, clean proteins, fiber and produce
2. double to quadruple your vegetable intake and maybe of fruits as well
3. make sure your carbohydrates are complex and fiber-full
4. reduce processed foods, and animal-based foods, particularly cured, charred and processed red & pork meat products
5. hydrate well and with sugar-free & chemical free liquids
6. don’t overeat
7. keep blood sugar managed
8. reduce all processed refined flour, sweets, and high sodium foods
9. minimize or eliminate refined oils and trans fats
10. minimize or eliminate chemicals & hormones in diet
11. minimize or eliminate food intolerances and sensitivities
12. greatly minimize or eliminate alcohol
13. support healthy assimilation & excretion


In addition to the above, our patients will be in different phases of their disease and treatment and may require specific nutrition support, i.e. nausea, immune compromised, transient taste changes, mouth sores, etc.

Chinese medicine teaches us that each patient is different. We have an adage worth remembering, no matter what the


Western diagnosis is, “Same disease, different treatment, different treatment, same disease.” I could theorize that one of the reasons that the popular “Cancer diets” fail to work across the board is for the very reason that cancer is a multifaceted condition that affects individuals. Tailoring the patient’s diet according to their presenting pattern is absolutely appropriate and effective. For example, foods that are damp producing or too cloying may exacerbate tumors. Vegan based or raw food and juicing protocols work best when the patient is of an excess type with a lot of heat and inflammation, whereas macrobiotic and/or Mediterranean cooked food approaches work better for those with extreme deficiency.


Photo Feb 03, 5 58 29 PM

Foods that have a high Qi value (fresh, clean, and not overworked) are vital to feeding and nourishing the body. This includes how foods are prepared, eaten and the thoughts of the preparer and the eater! Assimilation of foods begin with the CPDR (Cephalic Phase Digestive Response) phase of digestion this is the initial phase of digestion. Cephalic means “head,” so it is not surprising that this initial phase of digestion starts in the brain, it is initiated by seeing, smelling, and anticipating food. In this phase, the brain talks to the stomach and tells it to begin to prepare for food by initiated several digestive actions, i.e. producing saliva, stomach acids, and pancreatic enzymes as well as releasing insulin. Stress and distraction ( a form of stress to the body) increase cortisol and decreases metabolism and absorption of nutrients. In The Slow Down Diet, Marc David says “It is estimated that as much as 30 to 40 percent of the total digestive response to any meal is due to the cephalic phase.


Essentially, in treating our patients with cancer through food, it is important to help them make smart healthy choices but they must be attainable. We are more effective if we guide them and empower them to make food changes that are within reach so that they can succeed. This success feeds them more deeply than specific food choices alone.


It’s not too late to register for this amazing class! 

Join Michael Guida and Rylen Feeney as they share what they’ve learned in 27 years of treating clients holistically with Chinese Medicine, Amma Therapy, Nutrition, Qigong, herbs and supplements.

book now

Saturday & Sunday, April 8-9 from 9:00am-5:00pm

Cost: $350 (10% discount available for WSHA Students & Grads, AOBTA members, NCCAOM Members, OCOM Alumni Association Members)

* If you have taken this class before, you can retake it for 50% off full price, by entering the Promotion Code “RETAKE” when registering.

This workshop has been pre-approved for 14 Acupuncturist NCCAOM PDA’s and is eligible for 14 CEU credits for most other healthcare providers, including LMT’s and Nutritionists.  


“I really appreciated the unique combination of the nutrition, bodywork protocol, and qigong in this workshop. The instructors were great. Lots of fantastic info!” -CJ

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