The UK’s integrative cancer care charityHelpline 0870 163 2990
True to Type
Show #296 - Date: 7 Feb 2021

Dr Xandria Williams talks about metabolic typing and the need for personalised protocols

References from the show:

Categories: Author, Functional Medicine, Lifestyle Medicine, Metabolic, Nutrition, Supportive Therapies
Keywords: Nutritional biochemistry, natural medicine, metabolic types, fast vs slow oxidisation dominant, parasympathetic nervous system dominant PNS, sympathetic nervous system dominant SNS, metabolic types, efficient vs inefficient metabolisers, metabolic approach to cancer

Leave Your Thoughts Here...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Robin Daly: Hello and welcome to the Yes To Life Show on UK Health Radio. My name is Robin Daly, regular host for the show and founder of the UK charity Yes To Life. We champion the introduction of integrative medicine into cancer care in the UK, a more holistic approach that encompasses support for body, mind, and spirit.

My guest this week is someone with an enormous passion for natural medicine and a singular focus on helping people with cancer.

She studied chemistry, geochemistry, nutritional biochemistry, naturopathy, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, and more. Her investigations into cancer and health have led her to write more than 20 books and she’s still writing and she is busier than ever, directly supporting people with cancer in her eighties.

I’m delighted to welcome back the enormously energetic and enthusiastic doctor Xandria Williams. I’m talking to her over the internet at her London practice. Xandria, welcome back to the Yes To Life Show.

Dr. Xandria Williams: Thank you Robin. Lovely to be back.

Robin Daly: It’s always a pleasure to talk. Today we’re going to be talking about the concept of metabolic types. This is an area that is not widely known about or appreciated, but a very important element of your own work I believe.
My first question is this: how much is this a concept or working model and how much could it be considered as fact, established through research?

Dr. Xandria Williams: A lot of it is fact. We know the autonomic nervous system goes from parasympathetic dominant to sympathetic dominant, and that’s based on physiological functions. There are other differentiations as well.

I first came across it in 1980 something, and we had people divided into catabolic and anabolic, but that’s rather gone. The key chap that set some of this up was William Kelly who had cancer and is fairly well-known and often criticized by the medical profession. When he had cancer, he found that a diet of nearly all fruits and vegetables (to help the listener, he was a type one sympathetic dominant), then his health improved enormously. If he ate any animal flesh, fish, I think he had an egg occasionally, and yogurt, then his health improved enormously.

Word got out in the 1960s in that part of Texas, that this chap helped you if you had cancer and everybody got put on to his diet. Then somebody came to him and got less and less well on his diet, and so he then said there were other types, and it’s all built from there.

It’s all built on experience of case histories. Then after that, I’ll make a jump, he was dividing people into sympathetic dominant and parasympathetic dominant. He found that some people with cancer actually did better on the parasympathetic dominant type of diet are physiologically different. Then somebody else came along and explored the biochemistry of fast oxidisers and slow oxidisers.

There is the physiological understanding of the way the body works for the autonomic nervous system dominant. It’s built on the experience of Kelly and his 20 or 30 years of working in this field.

Robin Daly: Right. So maybe we should cover a bit of terminology, if you can just give us some sort of explanation about fast and slow oxidisers and about the parasympathetic nervous system?

Dr. Xandria Williams: Your nervous system is divided in a number of different ways, but what concerns us is some people are the get up and go, fight or flight, really active people, sympathetic nervous system dominant. Other people, what you often think of the slow solid people with a dominant physiology looking after the internal housekeeping of the body—the digestive system, the urinary system, and all sorts of other aspects of it.

Now you can’t have them both on at once. If your body is fired up for the sympathetic system, then all the blood and everything else is working on that half of your body. Like people say to you, “sit down and eat, don’t eat while you’re rushing around,” while you’re rushing around your digestive system can’t work properly.

Some people are very good at their internal housekeeping with the parasympathetic nervous system while other people don’t have very efficient digestion. They don’t give the digestive system a chance. So they are the sympathetic ones, the ones who have good external housekeeping, if you like.

Robin Daly: I understand. How about fast and slow oxidizing. What does that refer to?

Dr. Xandria Williams: That’s based on the biochemistry of what’s going on in the cells. This was the work of William Walcott. He thought that the Kelly was missing a trick. He was looking at mitochondria. Now mitochondria, the little organelles within the cells, help you to burn up and release the energy from fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

This is a very non-technical explanation. If you imagine a merry-go-round of chemical reactions and then another pathway coming off that: some people have a better merry-go-round and other people have a better straight pathway than others. If you’re very quick at doing the merry-go-round, then you’ve got to change what you’re eating so that you balance it with the second pathway. If you’re very good at the second pathway, then you have to change what you’re eating to encourage the first merry-go-round pathway.
I don’t think I could make that easier for general consumption, but it means that what we are doing is simply trying to bring the human body into balance at the same time as recognizing that you can’t ignore it.

I think everybody in healthcare should understand this concept, it’s a foundation. If I can give you an example of that and why I think it’s absolutely important. A chap I met when I first came back from Australia called Simon was fifties or sixties, overweight, high blood pressure, diabetic, high triglycerides, and no energy. Doctors said to him “you’ve got to give up meat, eggs, butter and use margarine instead” and all the things that a doctor would normally tell people to do. He’d been doing that for two years when I met up with him and he was feeling rotten, he was gaining weight, everything was getting worse.

I said “let’s do this test, a simple questionnaire to see what metabolic type you are.” We did it. We got the printout and it said he should be eating meat and fish and eggs and cheese and maybe root vegetables, but not too much fruit or all other green leafy vegetables.

He looked at me and he said, “that’s the food I love!” I said, well, that’s great. Go back on it. He said “if I do that, my doctor will kill me. And my wife.” I nearly said, well, if you don’t swap, I’ll kill you. So we agreed for six weeks to go back to this other diet. He came back after a month. He’d lost weight. He’d been to the doctor and got the results. His weight was down, his triglycerides were down, his cholesterol was down, his blood sugar level was down. He had vastly cut down on his diabetic medication. I don’t think I mentioned he was a diabetic. He was a new man full of energy, full of beans. If he’d gone on like that he would have died early. The doctors would probably said, well, it’s good we got him when we did, to give him the extra life he presumably had, not realizing that it had the reverse effect.

Robin Daly: You’ve broadly divided people into two types. Is that how many metabolic types there are?

Dr. Xandria Williams: No. To my mind, they’re the two most important and the autonomic nervous system is the most important, but we should be more flexible than that. I run a questionnaire that gives me another scale from efficient metabolizers to inefficient.
The people who are inefficient metabolisers do need to have more cooked food and who are very efficient at it do better on more raw food. It’s more of a minor, functional problem than the first two.

Robin Daly: So this is sort of frontline division and a second line division. In terms of identifying your own personal situation, this is a spectrum rather than one box or another, right?

Dr. Xandria Williams: Absolutely. If you imagine two axes, horizontal X axis and the vertical Y axis, let’s say you’ll be somewhere along this linear length.

You could be extreme one type of sympathetic dominant. You could be a moderate sympathetic dominant. You could be more like a balanced, autonomic nervous system dominant, or you could be an extreme meat-eating carnivore parasympathetic dominant, or a moderate, and increasingly more moderate and more balanced parasympathetic dominant until you come to the midpoint. It’s the same with slow and fast oxidisers.

Robin Daly: Okay. So you’ve given one example of why this matters and what type we are and the consequences are likely to be for our lives and particularly for our health and wellbeing. Do you want to say anything else about that?

Dr. Xandria Williams: It’s critical for your life. I had for instance, a chap in Sydney who was determined to be a vegan for spiritual reasons or whatever. He was thin and had no energy and his health was deteriorating.

I finally said, look, I really think you should eat some animal protein. In other words, I really think you are more parasympathetic than you’re treating yourself. We got to a point where he would have three servings of fish a week, and he got a bit more energy and put weight on.

Worse than that, Kelly that I mentioned earlier, finally had a client that came to him for her cancer. He put her on his sympathetic dominant vegetable-rich diet, and she just got worse and worse. She lost weight and she was heading downhill. Kelly said “you’ve got to change your diet, not do the one I’ve put you on—I can’t afford to have you die because I’m a dentist, not a doctor. I don’t have a license.” He persuaded her and she started eating dairy and animal protein three times a day and her health blossomed.

Robin Daly: Very interesting. Well lifestyle choices, where people decide to be vegan for reasons which aren’t necessarily to do health at all, then needs careful consideration?

Dr. Xandria Williams: It needs a lot of careful considering. There were some dentists from America who were looking at food and diet and the state of teeth. They went all around the world looking at the traditional diets back in the early 1900s. For example, a Polynesian diet, a Himalayan diet, a South American diet, a Greenland, Iceland, the diets of equatorial people, et cetera. Back a hundred years ago people didn’t move around as much, so they ate a local diet. None of them thought intellectually “should I be a vegetarian or not?” Nowhere in the world did they find a traditional diet that was vegetarian, never mind vegan. Vegetarian diets that they did find had interesting ways of getting more animal protein into it their diets.

Robin Daly: Okay. Next I’m going to ask you to see if we could just scratch the surface about each metabolic type?

Dr. Xandria Williams: Right. It’s not so much each type because you’ve got a long scale to slide along and then, of course, people like to put numbers on it. I think for the average person, it would help if to think about this being on a sliding scale, just using the sympathetic and parasympathetic scale because the others modify it somewhat so we can leave them to one side.

The extreme sympathetic diet, based on a few people who have done really well on, it would be a lot of fruit. For people with cancer, which is one of my real specialties, they might want to cut down on some of the fruit. If they don’t have cancer, sugar is not a problem, they could have it as a main meal. One of my staff in Sydney, I had a guy talking about what we are having for dinner tonight—a fruit salad or a vegetable salad? I said “Jimmy, you’re just having fruit salad for a meal?” He said “yes, food salad and some yogurt, you know, that’s a big meal.” Now that’s a sympathetic dominant extreme. They had very little animal products at all. They didn’t think about it building it into a meal.

I had another chap here in London since I’ve worked with cancer and in one of the group sessions we did he said that he had five eggs for breakfast, and if he went out for lunch, a business lunch, a prawn cocktail and leave the lettuce behind because, after all, that was just for looks. Then he might have a steak with butter on with a bit of salad. Then he would have cheese, a few biscuits and a few vegetables, but not much. It sounds a bit like a ketogenic diet too, which does suit the sort of person. That’s the other extreme, the parasympathetic dominant extreme, and he was very healthy on it.

Robin Daly: It’s interesting, that description is kind of what you think of as a “man’s diet,” where you ignore all the green stuff and you just get to the meat and the cheese. Interestingly it actually is suits some people and it actually works with them as a healthy way to live.

Dr. Xandria Williams: Yes. You’re quite right about the man diet. I belong to one of these sort of Mayfair clubs where you get whole table of food and men pick their favorite diet and they’re free to choose. One of them, he would literally eat meat. He would have a sort of meat or fish to start and then he’d asked for the trolley and he’d have five or six slabs of nearly semi-raw, red beef. Then the waiter would come around with the vegetables and I said “come on Brian you’ve got to have some vegetables” and he would say “put that stuff away.” That’s the other extreme. He was 80 plus, you know, he was doing well.

Robin Daly: How about that? It’s so drilled into us that you must eat your greens and maybe it’s not always true. That’s very interesting.

Dr. Xandria Williams: This is why I say that everybody should study health and nutrition in healthcare as the foundation.
The thing that is really unfortunate, somebody comes up with this new ketogenetic data and all the people that they talked to feel better, then they make the mistake. They say everybody should be on that diet.

You know, even Seyfried, who’s written a brilliant book on the cause of cancer built on the work of pre-assessing biochemistry and so forth. Great book. I read it and at the end he says, this is a ketogenic diet, everybody must be on that. I’ve had people go on that diet and feel terrible. In wider healthcare, it’s so important to suit the person. You have a diet for a person not a diet for a disease.
Robin Daly: Well, the way you can make sense of this is if you think of human beings starting out as very distinct races in very distinctly different circumstances and diets of available food, the temperature they’re living in, all these things are very different conditions. Then it makes sense that they would have evolved to suit those conditions and have fundamentally different digestion.

Dr. Xandria Williams: Take the Eskimos, right. That eat about 90% fish and blubber.

Robin Daly: Not too much green there!

Dr. Xandria Williams: Yes. Suits some perfectly.

Robin Daly: So I wanted to know whether there’s anything fundamentally better or worse about any particular metabolic types, is it like being dealt a bad hand if you have a particular metabolic type?

Dr. Xandria Williams: No. An American male who’s born to grow to six-foot six and is very athletic will be a brilliant basketball player. Somebody who grows up and wants to be small, well he becomes a petite ballet dancer, he will be suited to that. So it’s neither better to be a basketball player nor a ballet dancer. It’s to find, a career in this example, that suits your body type and function. You can’t make a little chap to basketball player and the great big six-foot to dance ballet.

Robin Daly: Good illustration. So you’ve spoken a little bit about how you go about finding out your own status in regards to metabolic type. Do you want to just say a bit more about what’s involved?

Dr. Xandria Williams: Yes. You can do some very clever physiological tests to find out, but I don’t find that terribly satisfactory. It’s very time-consuming. Personally, I’d have to have a separate office, a separate staff member and to spend a couple of hours.
What I do find works really well is questionnaires. There is one questionnaire that is available on the internet. It’s not my first choice, but I’m giving it to you because people can access it and be completely independent while they use it. That is You fill out the questionnaire, you pay your money, within minutes it spits it out back at you the foods that are good for you, foods that you want and you are this type or that type. They give you whether your parasympathetic, sympathetic, or a fast oxidiser or a slow oxidiser, or balance between.

The second questionnaire is one that I have developed, from the work of Kelly, the first dentist that I mentioned which is very hard to get hold of, and we’ve got it now on a more comprehensive spreadsheet. All my clients answer all the questions, takes them about an hour and more if they’re talking. Two of the students that did my advanced cancer care course have converted that into an Excel spreadsheet-type program. I get the results of the questionnaire back, and that’s all free, it will come up with a type four, type six, or whatever comes up then we can work with that. Then we have to figure out what a type six should eat.

There is a book but it’s been out of print for a long time. It’s easy for me and for my patients, because I simply look at their numbers and say, oh, you should be eating this and that. In actual fact, you can drill down more deeply and to precisely what they should eat.
I am thinking of ways that I can bring this up to a level where it can become more public, but in the meantime, anybody can send in that wants a questionnaire file, I can send that out, and then we can take it from there.

And that I think is much more reliable than the internet ones. I do a cancer career course for post-graduates occasionally here and one of the women had done both of them and she said “it says that I’m a fast oxidiser and I should meat and all that sort of thing—it’s ridiculous. I’ve never eaten meat. I don’t like meat. I hate eating meat. I don’t feel good if I try to eat anything like that. I only feel good if I eat a near vegetarian diet.” She hadn’t done the sympathetic parasympathetic one. I said to do that questionnaire and it came out that she was quite strongly sympathetic and she should eat a pescatarian diet.

I don’t know why it was so different, but if anything clashes, I always go back to the autonomic nervous system. I had one woman on my free Zoom sessions which I do daily, it’s an open house to anybody who wants them on any subject like this. They simply have to come to my website and ask or email me. One woman on that had cancer. She’d been put on a vegetarian diet, which wasn’t right for her. Her health had gone down and when we next got together on the next Zoom she said, “god, this saved my life.”
Robin Daly: So you’ve told us about how you go about finding it out and thanks for that, for your own service they would contact through the website, which is

Dr. Xandria Williams: Yes. Better than that, they can email and ask for the file and they’ll get it straight away. Then they can contact me and I can help put them in the right direction. I’ll keep them up to date or they can join a mailing list.

If they send an email to, Kelly will field that and tell them where they can listen to the Zoom talks, where they can learn more about the metabolic types, how they can talk to me, all of that.

Robin Daly: Great. So I haven’t been talking that much about cancer yet, but I do want to tie this all in back to cancer.
There’s a been a lot of talk on this show over the years about the metabolic theory of cancer, which underpins many of the integrative approaches to supporting people with cancer. I wonder if you could summarise what that theory says about cancer?

Dr. Xandria Williams: Well there are two theories of cancer. The medical approach is to say that it’s a genetic disorder and that if we can figure out the genes then we can get remedies or drugs to work on those genes, then that will be fine. They’ve said this for nearly a hundred years now, and so far, it’s not impressive.

The metabolic approach to cancer really started about 1924 by Warberg, who was a brilliant biochemist. He won a Nobel prize for his work and he would have had another one, but Hitler said no you can’t have it.

He was very good biochemist, he proposed that cancer started in the cell. Each cell, on average has about a thousand mitochondria. These release the energy from food. Warburg said that’s true, but he said cancer happens when your mitochondria stop functioning and the cells and start to ferment.

It’s got nothing to do with your genes at the first level, it does at the second level.

Look at the way the mitochondria are changing—mitochondria are producing, say protein, I think called P53 or backs or BCL-2 or different compounds, that make sure that every time your DNA splits open to two strands, multiplies and makes two new strands and then two new cells and so on and so forth that those every single step along the way is perfect.

If it’s not perfect, you get damaged cells producing more damaged cells and more damaged cells. There’s a lot behind that, I mentioned Seyfried earlier on, who’s taken Warburg’s work and written a brilliant book Cancer is a Metabolic Disease. I mean, it’s not for the fainthearted, it’s a lot of biochemistry. I’ve had quite a lot of patients who’ve read it, really not understanding lots of it. You have, haven’t you?

Robin Daly: I’ve tried. There’s another book for the lay person, which is much more my cup of tea.

Dr. Xandria Williams: Yeah. But the point is that when Warburg started, we didn’t know what the mitochondria did precisely. We didn’t know the Krebs cycle. We had no idea about the electron transport chain and yet it’s all fitting in—the more we learn about what causes cancer, it just slots in perfectly.

Then you get a genetic problem. You’ve got your genes in your nucleus, which you get from mom and dad, you’ve got genes and the mitochondria, which you only get from mum. Those genes have a lot to do with preventing cancer. Because you’ve got so many thousands of mitochondria, it’s not surprising to find that when you look at the genetic makeup of a tumor, you might have literally 180 different mitochondrial genetic lines, you can’t beat that with a drug. You can only beat that by restoring homeostasis, which is a key thing I’m trying to talk about in a couple of weeks’ time, for part of your group. You’ve got to restore normal function.

The people who I have, I don’t say I can cure cancer. Nobody can cure a cancer. But, you can help do a lot towards it. You can’t cure dying of old age. That’s ridiculous. If you can give the person what their body needs, according to their unique metabolic needs, they can better restore the balance what is going on in the mitochondria, the circular Krebs cycle and the linear fatty acid breakdown, then you can help to prevent cancer and restore their health.

The real struggle in the metabolic approach to cancer, we have a biochemical mechanism for understanding what triggers the cancer, the lack of oxygen and proper function of the mitochondria. We know how to make the mitochondria function better—it won’t happen with the drug, but it’ll happen if you feed the cells what their mitochondria need.

Once a mitochondria is damaged, your P53 is maybe mutated, which is something we test for in a metabolic analysis for clients. Then you get some damaged genes. You will then get second level, as I’ve mentioned, the genetic problems that medicine loves to find and then try to deal with.

But if you ask the doctor or the medical scientist in the conventional medical field, how cigarette smoking or this drug or this carcinogen, what’s the mechanism by which that converts to cancer—they don’t have it. We do, because we know that that’s changing these chemicals along these pathways until your mitochondria stops functioning.

Robin Daly: Okay. We’ve been talking about metabolic types and why they’re important, you started to tie back to this metabolic underpinning of cancer—back to the lifestyle choices that emanate from knowing your metabolic type.

Dr. Xandria Williams: That’s where we come from, the start. People saying that if you’ve got cancer, you are acidic and you should eat a very alkaline residue diet, which is more or less a vegan or vegetarian diet. But if you’re already too alkaline, like the parasympathetic dominants, and you make them eat vegetables and become more alkaline, you’re going to make them sicker.

It’s so fundamental, whether you’ve got Parkinson’s disease or ingrown toenails, that you get your basic needs met. You don’t put petrol in a diesel car and you don’t put diesel in a petrol car. You figure out which it is and feed the car accordingly. It’s that basic. You don’t take your car to the garage to find out why your engine is skipping beats and things, you got the wrong fuel, put it right, bingo.

Robin Daly: One of the reasons that this is such a modern day curse is because we all live in places where the diet and the conditions are quite different to those of our ancestors.

Dr. Xandria Williams: That may be, but we also do things in a way now where it’s considered perfectly normal to eat while walking along the streets and never mind your digestive system. Most people are fairly balanced. It’s the extremes that are really important and most of us eat a fairly balanced diet, but in terms of cancer and the metabolic theory, most of us eat a diet that cripples our mitochondria, and that needs to be put right.

It’s finding out your metabolic type, if you have cancer or not. Then with that diet, taking the things that will work best for you to restore homeostasis, restore normal health.

The that’s not just making sure you get all the vitamins and minerals you need, you probably would need two or 300 different things. You can’t do that by taking bottles off the shelf and putting them all together, you need to get the diet that has the right emphasis for you, and suits you as an individual, and build it up from there.

Robin Daly: Well that makes sense. We’re about out of time. You are clearly really invested in this view of health and disease, really passionate about it, particularly when it comes to people with cancer, but I wondered if you could give us your elevator pitch? A summary to make the case for the importance of metabolic typing and metabolic theory and approaching cancer.

Dr. Xandria Williams: A bit like layers of an onion. I would say if you’re going to restore normal health, you won’t do it with drugs and medications. You won’t do it with fast processed foods.

It’s essential to build a solid foundation on the type of diet that is right for you. Then after that, the real key things that are going to help you through cancer. You know, you wouldn’t eat a lot of sugar, even if the sympathetic dominant could do it.

It’s really important to get the foundation, right? Otherwise you you’ll only build a shaky house. You build a solid foundation by knowing the metabolic type and eating towards that, restoring homeostasis and improving the function and looking after your mitochondria.

Robin Daly: All right. Thanks very much for that. Thanks so much for coming on the show today Andrea, you are always such a mine of information. Your passion for helping people with cancer leads you to all sorts of inspirational initiatives and efforts at a time in life that most people have long since forgotten what work even looks like. Amazing. Hats off to you for still delivering amazing things and inspiring so many people.

Dr. Xandria Williams: Thank you. It’s been a real pleasure talking with you. I just, I can’t imagine retiring. I just love the research of what I do. I love knowing that whatever egregious things I might seem to be saying to people, I’ve got the biochemistry understanding from my four degrees to be sure of what we’re saying and to be able to help people and see them blossoming under my care. It’s not just me, it’s all the scientists and researchers that have gone before. I’ve simply managed to bring it all together to make a consistent program and then encourage people to do it.

By having these open Zooms every day, helping all the details when they come along and enquire about cooking this or preparing that. It’s a fabulous way to work with people and my training in all aspects of it psychotherapy

Robin Daly: You clearly love it all. So a huge, huge, thanks to Xandria.

Dr. Xandria Williams: Thank you for having me on Robin. It’s always a pleasure to talk with you. You do such good work with the Yes to Life initiative. It’s a privilege to be helping and part of it with you.

Robin Daly: The enormous wealth of resources available on Dr. Williams’ website:

UK early bird tickets are on sale for Yes to Life Spring Congress Nutritional Science and Cancer. A two-day online event on the 27th and 28th of March.

On the Saturday, I’ll be hosting a fantastic lineup of specialists and the Sunday will be focused around two workshops, offering ample opportunity to engage with us experts. If you want to find out more or to book, just click the link on the banner as soon as you arrive at the Yes to Life homepage which will take you to the dedicated event website.

I’d like to tell you about a couple of new features that we’ve just launched for the show. If you go to the radio show page on the Yes to Life website.

Firstly, you can now comment on individual shows. Tell us what you liked, what you didn’t like. Secondly, you can also contact me directly from the show page, with suggestions for the show: new guests, new topics you want to hear more about. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and it will be a big help in planning future shows.

Thanks so much for listening today. I hope you found the discussion interesting and helpful. I have another expert guest lined up for you next week. So join me again for another Yes to Life Show here on UK Health Radio. Goodbye.



Kindly written by Literary & Transcript Editor Amy MacLennan