Interview with Ann Fonfa of the Annie Appleseed Project


Interview with Ann Fonfa of the Annie Appleseed Project


Ann Fonfa is a hero of ours! She works to educate and agitate to get better, more comprehensive, integrated quality of care for all types of cancer.  Her website is a great resource for research on alternatives to conventional treatments and complementary medicine.   We caught up with her recently at a conference and she gave us a quick interview.

BHP:  What about the evidence for taking vitamins and using nutritional therapies during cancer treatment?

Ann:  Most oncologists are reading the journal of clinical of clinical oncology or other cancer journals that may not have published studies in them.  There are many studies actually.  There are over 20,000 on vitamin C alone in the past ten or fifteen years.  A way to access them is to go to the site I run, or and search on any topic you are interested in.  For example, you could search on vitamin C, Vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin D. 

There is a lot of research coming out lately on vitamin D.  Even in the oncology community is beginning to understand that it is important to get sunlight and to enhance that with supplemental vitamin D.  I think there is a lot more research than most people realize.  Not just oncologists, but physicians in general.

We know that medical school gives about a half hour on nutrition.

BHP:  Yeah we have heard that they do that class during a barbeque!

Ann:  Speaking of which, we know that PAH,  polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines (HCAs), are dangerous chemicals generated by charcoal grilling meat.  But that is another issue. There are many studies available on vitamins, and nutrition published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals.

BHP:  How can you look at a research article and translate that into action?  How can you tell doses, etc?  What do you recommend?

Ann:  If someone is in treatment or just finished treatment, they should use the help of a professional; a nutritionist, a naturopath, an acupuncturist.  Someone who works with these issues a lot who can look at the alternatives to complement chemo and radiation and surgery. 

We really don’t have a way to specialize and decide who gets what dosage.  Currently everyone gets a dose of chemotherapy calibrated by weight even though many pharmacologists believe this is not necessarily the best method.

 Everyone who gets radiation gets the same dose.  We don't yet have any good way to tell who should really get what dose.

Regardless of age, size, or stage of disease, with most cancers everyone gets just about the same radiation treatment.

 This is also true with vitamins right now.  It is a one size fits all.  For example if you were going to take vitamin C.  The standard conventional dose is about 90 - 250 milligrams a day.  Some of us take as much as 5 – 10 grams a day!

BHP:  What is the biggest gap right now in how we are going about treating this disease?

Ann:  I think putting things together is the biggest problem, we are always looking for one cause instead of causes.  We are always looking for one treatment instead of looking to a holistic/inclusive approach.  I think the best way is to focus on prevention -  preventing occurrence, preventing recurrence.  We can act on this by avoiding known pollutants and triggers for illness

Also we need to move in a positive direction, eating vegetables, clean air and water, a small to moderate amount of exercise, detoxification.  (There are other references on the website for detoxification.)  Combining that with a mind/body spirit relaxation is the best approach overall. 

When we just look at research, focusing only on one thing at a time, bringing everything down to the smallest common denominator – it is a good way to do research, but it is not practical in terms of our everyday living.

BHP:  What do you think about detoxification and the state of the evidence for it?

Ann:  There is no need to hold the burden of these chemicals in our bodies if we can reduce it.  There is an interesting study that shows that children who had organic food for just 5 days were able to reduce two known toxic chemicals out of their body.  Children react faster than adults, but that it a good measure to look at what is possible.  There is some other references on the website to detoxification.

BHP:  Women are becoming more aware of the gap between the standard medical treatment and what is actually available.  As women start to understand the environmental causes of breast cancer, what do you recommend that they do?

Ann:  I really lean toward detoxification.  The reason that I think it is, because we know from testing, using body burden studies, that there are a LOT of chemicals in our bodies.  Things we clearly don’t need to have in our bodies.  We reach a point where too much of these chemicals will create health problems.  You can detox in many different ways. 

  • Hot cold showers. 
  • Bath with baking soda and sea salt
  • Homeopathic remedies
  • Acupuncture to strengthen the immune system
  • Eating organic foods
  • Going vegetarian
  • Herbal cleanses

There are a lot of ways to detox.  I think it is a really good idea.  There is no value to having these chemicals in your body.

BHP:  What is the evidence that these things actually work?

Ann:  The pharmaceutical industry has publicly stated that they have no interest in CAM because they cannot patent the substances.  Therefore we don't have a lot of studies, especially not at the 'highest' level of evidence - but we do have some and efficacy (or usefulness) can and has been shown.  It is sort of a Catch 22.  Doctors want the high level evidence but patients do not conduct studies - we just use our own bodies as the laboratory.  Crazy huh?  

We need support from the National Cancer Institute to study what people are actually doing.  I have called this the Patient Track.  It takes nothing away from already existing methods but adds a new one that examines the reality of our lives.

Like I mentioned the study on children who ate organic.  For adults it would be slower but obviously there is a value.  Switching to an organic diet and cleansing is a great idea to which there is no down side.

I’ve done herbal detox, I’ve done everything that I mentioned.  I’ve seen a difference in how I feel.  We have gotten so used to the chemicals in our environment that we don’t notice it.  Once you start to detox, sometimes you will become more sensitive.  So something that didn’t bother you before might cause a headache.  As these chemicals leave your body, often times you can feel worse. 

I remember one time my doctor told me that I was allergic to wheat.  I thought that was ridiculous.  He said don’t have wheat for a week and then we will talk.  During that week, I had every possible known symptom.  Mucous, flatulence, stomachache.  I called him up and said “what the hell did you do to me?!?”  He said you are detoxing from the wheat poisoning you.  So I do know that it can be rough detoxing.

BHP:  What do you think about using medicinal mushrooms?

Ann:  In Japan there are many studies using mushrooms for many different types of illness, I’m mostly aware of cancer work.  Unfortunately we don’t translate the Japanese or Chinese research.  The ones that we do have on the site in English all seem to indicate really good value in using mushrooms.  The mushrooms have an aromatase inhibitor function in them, which offers even more value around women with breast cancer. Even white button mushrooms.   I would recommend eating them if not taking mushroom supplements.

BHP:  What else can people do?

Ann:  Take care of ourselves.  Make sure you speak to your representatives on a local and federal level.  The issue of global warming and pollution effect us on a macro level while the environmental issues also affect us in our bodies.  It is helpful to realize how connected all of this is.   Let your legislators know you are concerned about the environment.  Check out the web to see how many organizations are working to help with these issues.  You can join those groups.

Become active in your community.  Volunteer your time or start an organization if you want.  Talk to parents groups because this is a big problem for the next generation.

BHP:  Anything else

Ann:  Get proactive, we can’t just sit back and hope that things get better.  This western diet is causing more diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and cancer.  One in three American women will have cancer in their lifetime and one in two American men.  We absolutely have to take action now to stay healthy.  The five most important things we can do are:

Good nutrition – clean water, NO junk food, lots of fruits and vegetables, NO soda, reduce salt, sugar and fried foods

Moderate exercise – at little something every day

Detoxification – as mentioned above

Do one thing a day that makes you happy and relaxes you.

Supplements – vitamins and nutrients for the immune system.

BHP:  Other websites recommended by Ann Fonfa <>  (National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) (studies from many publications)
  (Archived discussions by women w/breast cancer using CAM) (online support community for CAM)
 Cancer Project  a collaborative effort of physicians, researchers, and nutritionists who have joined together to educate individuals, families, and the public on the benefits of a healthy diet for cancer prevention and survival)

We have many links on our site covering support groups all over the country and worldwide.





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