Throughout this fight, however, I have marveled at the power of nutrition. I put down my prescription pad and fine-tuned dietary recommendations that seemed to be the magic bullet my patients had sought when they first filled that antidepressant prescription. I didn’t fully know why my nutritional program worked the way it did. Was it decreasing inflammation? Balancing blood sugar? Eliminating food antigens? Maybe it was just the placebo effect of my passion for this work?
I didn’t understand the truth about healing, about the body’s synergy with its own environment until I met Dr. Nick Gonzalez in January 2015.
A soft-spoken, well put together gentlemanly type, Nick’s energetic presence is so intense that I imagine few can tolerate it. When he would speak, his encyclopedic knowledge poured out like a golden river. I knew, almost instantly, that this man represented the single most powerful threat to the pillars of belief upholding the rotting temple of cancer treatment and chronic disease management. His integrity, his honesty, his compassion, his lighting-rod-like intuition, his passion all packaged in a man who could deliver a 4 hour lecture without a single note, a man with an impeccable pedigree, and one who fought, quietly, daily to uphold the truth.
Hearing a single case report of his – a woman presenting with biopsy-confirmed metastatic breast cancer, progressed on chemo, alive and thriving in his practice 34 years later – should have been grounds for international press conferences. And there wasn’t just one such patient. There were hundreds. He is responsible for not just prolonging lives of the condemned, but shepherding them to a state of vitality that would have otherwise never been even a consideration. He did this work, every day.
He did it because there was no one else who could.
The Making of the Healer
His path to greatness was so unusual, that one can only assume he was called to this mission of healing. Of being the first stop for those who know that the conventional system overpromises and under delivers, and the last stop for those who could not be helped by all of the great “experts” out there.
He was an accomplished journalist in the 70s before attending my alma mater – Cornell – for medical school. Through his investigative journalism, he had developed an interest in the creative geniuses in the nutrition realm at the time, like two-timeNobel Laureate Linus Pauling, and he went to Cornell (yes, he just decided to go and went, unlike the rest of us who had to toil, beg, and pray to be considered for admission) so that he could work with the then president of Memorial Sloan Kettering, Dr. Robert Good, a transplant pioneer with an expressed interest in nutrition. It was under Good’s wing that Nick was able to pursue the work of William Donald Kelley, dentist and clinical genius. He lived in his house and told me about being woken up at 4 in the morning to discuss science with this most unusual specimen of humanity. He writes:
“As part of my project, I eventually interviewed and evaluated more than 1000 of Kelley’s patients, concentrating on a group of some 455 patients diagnosed with cancer who had done well under his care. From this population, I wrote up in detail 50 cases, representing 26 different types of cancer. Even today, nearly 30 years later, I am still impressed by Kelley’s achievement.”
Kelley synthesized the works of neurophysiologists like Francis Pottenger and Ernst Gellhorn MD PhD who both elucidated the relevance of the autonomic nervous system to disease, with nutritional anthropologists like Weston A Price. He expanded and explored the relationship between ecological niches, ancestral nervous system dominance, the vulnerability to disease, and the role of specific diets for healing. Through Kelley’s own cancer recovery and self-experimentation, he intuited the work of Dr .John Beard around the relevance of pancreatic enzymes to cancer treatment and also developed an appreciation for the role of detox and the infamous coffee enema.
He treated and saved thousands of lives before he closed his practice, potentially withering into obscurity.
Nick’s analysis of Kelley’s cases allowed for a better understanding of the optimal manufacturing of pancreatic enzymes for anti-cancer effect. He describes this journey in his article, The History of the Enzyme Treatment of Cancer, complete with two poignantly moving cases of successful long-term treatment of stage IV lung cancer and Burkitt’s lymphoma. He greatly admired the work of Dr. Beard (and was known to give 3 hour lectures on the subject) who first claimed that pancreatic enzymes (trypsin) have anticancer activity based on the trophoblast theory of cancer. This theory has been substantiated by others such as Dr. Wicha whose work has confirmed that cancer does not arise from rogue mature cells, but from stem cells that lose regulatory control in a hostile, toxic environment.
In 1987, Nick started out on his own, despite being asked to work with Dr. Bob Atkins, the famed weight loss doctor. He knew he had his own work to do.
Metabolic Type Diet
We have, as people, evolved in different ecological niches, with different relationships to the environment. The late microbiologist, Rene Dubos was also an intellectual hero of Nick’s, who among many brilliant quotes, stated:
“man himself has emerged from a line descent that began with microbial life, a line common to all plant and animal species…[he] is dependent not only on other human beings and on the physical world but also on other creatures—animals, plants, microbes—that have evolved together with him. Man will ultimately destroy himself if he thoughtlessly eliminates the organisms that constitute essential links in the complex and delicate web of life of which he is a part.”
In these different niches, our nervous systems adapted to survive. Our ancestors interacted with the available food, the climate, and the microbes, and their bodies met and yielded to these forces like stone erodes from the waves. Those that survived, over time, had to be designed to complement the environment. From the Eskimos to the Amazonians, the alkaline vs acidic nature of available foods selectively stimulated arms of the autonomic nervous system to perfectly balance a system’s native dominance.
What an elegant truth.
There are those who thrive on a low meat, high leafy green and citrus diet, and those who thrive on a high-fat, meat three times a day regimen. And it turns out that your temperament and bodily habits can tell us a lot about where you fit in this spectrum. Kelley elucidated 10 dietary types on a map and also personally and clinically tested hundreds of nutrients for their properties in stimulating the para and sympathetic arms.
The reason that my dietary template has worked for so many years is because the patients who come to see me, are almost without exception, of a certain autonomic dominance in the parasympathetic arm. These patients require a broad diet, but one specifically inclusive of red meat and natural fats. My patients get well without eating boatloads of kale – in fact, I’ve been criticized for promoting a smoothie recipe without a single green in it!
All alternative practitioners know that food matters. But we are subject to the latest guru, some poorly designed study, or the lens of our own personal experience. Nick’s approach offers patients a personalization of diet for top-down regulation of all systems from immune to gut to endocrine.
My native inspiration from Price and Pottenger was given the most beautiful scaffolding in Nick’s work. Everything began to make perfect sense.
A New Paradigm
When I began working with Nick, I had to let go of what I understood about nutrients. About folic acid and calcium. I had to let it all go, all of the alternative medicine dogma (yes, there’s lots of it). I had to learn that certain nutrients, even synthetic, in low dose synergy have nervous system balancing effects that render more targeted use of herbs, fancy fatty acids, and antioxidants, unnecessary. As he said, whole books have been written about single nutrients, but for whatever each nutrient did, it stimulated the nervous system in a very specific and precise way. This nervous system is what controlled digestion, cardiovascular health, respiration, and immunity. It was the master controller – only second to the mind.
I asked him once, where does inflammation – a subject to which I have devoted about 8 years of research – fit into your worldview? He said, the five most important health-determining parameters were: autonomic nervous system, autonomic nervous system, autonomic nervous system, autonomic nervous system, autonomic nervous system. He was always crisp and clear in his messaging!
No, Nick didn’t use curcumin in his practice. No he didn’t treat the effects of chronic stress on adrenal function with adaptogens.
He didn’t need to. He divined a methodology that worked, and he stuck to it for 30 years. Not subject to the latest fad, the hottest new study, or a conference that he was so relieved to have gone to. He used a three-tiered approach of a personalized diet, detox, and supplementation, much of which was glandulars tailored for growth factor stimulation of deficient areas in a given patient.
And no, Nick didn’t just treat cancer. He wasn’t just responsible for keeping stage 4 patients alive – thriving – under his care for years and even decades beyond their death sentence. He also resolved Lyme, chronic fatigue, and even a case I plan to publish for him, of end-stage diabetes treated to vitalism with a high-carbohydrate whole foods diet.
I would sit in awe, my jaw literally agape, in his office reviewing his charts of cure after cure after cure.
I spent 7 months mentored by Nick and I count it as the most formative window of intellectual growth in my life. To be in his presence, to hear him speak was to tap into a wisdom that I can only attempt to transmit in my time as a clinician. Suffice it to say that his clinical outcomes are unmatched the world over, that his knowledge base spanned the esoteric arts, to biochemistry, to conventional cancer practice, and there has not been a clinican yet who is as able to synthesize this material with the level of meticulous, journalistic study he brought to each and every patient’s journey. He had the gift of inhabiting the role of the healer, of materializing a path to lasting wellness for his patients, while also being a true intellectual and a visionary. Most of us never merit one of these designations.
Nick was an activist and a deep supporter of health freedom. He had amassed an important and powerfully undermining knowledge of the flaws in conventional research designed to support the use of cancer diagnostics and associated chemical treatments. Of course, a trial of his own work was systematically sabotaged, about which he has written a book and articles, his detailed vindication recently published by a colleague, Colin Ross, MD.
A quick study, my intensive apprenticeship under Nick has inspired me anew. I dare say that my entire life has taken on a new meaning since knowing this man. His untimely and inexplicable death have forced me and his loved ones to bow down in surrender to the greater wisdom of our shared journeys.
For this moment, I am so deeply grateful to have stood in his light. To have heard the truth he channeled – it’s a sound so sweet, I hope to continue to share it with the world.
Shared with me by my dear partner, Louise Kuo Habakus:
When your eyes are tired the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark where the night has eyes to recognize its own.
There you can be sure you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb tonight.
The night will give you a horizon further than you can see.
You must learn one thing. The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn
anything or anyone that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
— David Whyte from The House of Belonging