At age 22, Nicolette Richer braced for devastation. Her best friend’s father, then 72, was diagnosed with stage-4 cancer, given just months to live.
“He said no to chemo, radiation, and surgery, believing that it would kill him,” Richer says. He went instead for an unconventional diet-based treatment called the Gerson Therapy.
Developed in the late 1800s by German doctor Max Gerson, the treatment is aggressive, aiming to activate the body’s own ability to heal itself.
It claims to do this through diet by eliminating most foods except organic whole plant foods, mainly lots of vegetable juices.
According to Gerson, sodium is tied to diseased cells. Flooding the body with potassium-rich low-sodium vegetables instead, helps the detoxification process.
Participants in the therapy drink as many as 13 fresh-pressed vegetable and fruit juices a day. Gerson claimed to have tested the treatment on himself for his own chronic migraines. He then tested it on tuberculosis patients and those afflicted with cancer.
The treatment helped Richer’s friend’s father. He beat the cancer and lived two more decades.
“This experience didn’t move me to action right away,” Richer says. “But it did make me curious – why does it have to be low sodium, high potassium, low fat, high nutrients and high carb? Why low protein but all plant-based cooked and raw food?”
For Richer, the connection between a diet optimal for reversing cancer and preventing it in the first place eventually became abundantly clear. “I assumed that lifestyle would probably keep me healthy too,” she said.
It’s what led her to her life’s calling.
Over the past two decades she’s dedicated herself to research and education about the benefits of a plant-based diet “and the connection between cancer and chronic disease and the food we eat.”
She’s now a regenerative medicine educator and author, as well as the CEO of plant-based food chain Green Moustache which has locations in the popular ski town Whistler in British Colombia (where Richer is based) and North Vancouver.
22 Million Strong
Richer is currently in training for the 22 Million Strong Tour, a milestone feat in which she’ll hit the road in June 2021, as part of the 22 Million Strong Campaign.
She chose the number 22 million because it represents 10% of all North American people who suffer with a chronic degenerative disease. “We know that when we work with one client and they use food as medicine to reverse their disease they inspire 10 of their friends and family to do the same. We only have to go after 10% to achieve 100% of the goal,” says Richer.
The tour will see Richer running and cycling 7,120 kilometers in 75 days across Canada. She’ll alternate between running and riding daily, including the equivalent of completing a half-marathon every other day.
Richer says the physical part of this journey comes from a workaholic mentality. But that work ethic had her stuck behind a desk all day. She was too sedentary, “something needed to shift,” and although she already had a healthy diet she knew she needed to incorporate movement.
Richer, the author of Eat Real to Heal: Using Food As Medicine to Reverse Chronic Diseases from Diabetes, Arthritis, Cancer and More, says you can “dare to dream big and change your situation,” which she hopes to show people with how she went from zero movement to a cross-country trek.
She will be consuming only whole, plant-based foods throughout the tour. A sample menu shows two daily breakfasts, one a smoothie and the other oats with fruit and almond butter, spaced out by dates stuffed with cashews during ride time; lunch is sweet potato noodles and crispy chickpeas; there are energy ball snacks in between dates during the ride, and for dinner, tempeh with rice, greens, and tahini dressing.
“My mission is to raise awareness that food is medicine and that chronic lifestyle diseases can be reversed, not just managed,” she says.
It’s all part of Richer’s PhD research through Royal Roads University. This will include stops across Canada where she can connect with IBPOC communities in remote areas.
She’ll connect with physicians to learn about the challenges, such as the barriers to increasing food security and healthy food access, as well as meeting with researchers and experts about healthy soil and how to grow the best food.
Richer is also looking forward to connecting with children in these communities to dialogue about staying fit and developing healthy eating habits.
The journey and conversations will be detailed in a forthcoming featured documentary.
For Richer this is all a culmination of her life’s work, “of sharing these stories and educating people so they have the knowledge to make choices that support themselves, their families, and their communities.”
Jill Ettinger is a writer, editor, and business development consultant focused on vegan and sustainable industries. She lives in Los Angeles with her daughter and their two rescue cats.