Right now hospital's and doctor's waiting rooms are overloaded with sufferers of acute illnesses and degenerative diseases. Heavily processed foods, refined sugar, high salt, old food, pollution, stress, fatigue -- we are getting sicker.

There are things we know, but what about the unknowns? "The things that really go into our food -- pesticides, poisons, colourings, food additives unknown in human history, into the human diet - it's poisons in the environment and they are every where", said author of "Good

Health in the 21st Century", Medical Practitioner, Dr Carole Hungerford.

The Australian pharmaceutical industry is now worth $17 billion a year - It's a business phenomenon with multinationals growing rich from our illnesses. Via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme alone, the taxpayer paid $6.45 billion of that sum. Last year, another 119 drugs were added to the Scheme's comprehensive list of over 2,600 drugs. "We are a health system that keeps sick people alive and we do very little in reversing the problem", says Prof. Ian Brighthope.

Cancer rates are soaring -- around 40,000 are dying from it each year -- that's one in every three of us dying of cancer. But the biggest killer is cardiovascular disease -- that's heart attacks and strokes - 50,000 people a year equates to almost 40% of all deaths -- in spite of major medical advances.

Other leading illnesses are depression, asthma, chronic pulmonary disease, kidney disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and obesity in all ages, increasingly striking young kids.

The good news is, everything we need to know and do, is right in front us. First in our "Live 20 Years Longer Series" is the fight to ward off cancer.

Shock statistics reveal the battle is being lost. In 1986, 53,000 people were diagnosed with the most common forms of cancer. Within 20 years that doubled to over 100,000 and by 2011, around 115,000 people will get the bad news.

We are what we eat, yet our shopping aisles are full of preserved and coloured foods, fed daily to our children -- and they're getting cancers younger and younger. "We are giving them the most nutrient deplete diet in the history of human kind. They've got much greater immunological challenges and against that they've got the weakest immune defence", said Dr Hungerford.

"Our body is repairing it all the time. If we are repairing it with cream doughnuts we are not going to get the same as if we are repairing our body with organic fruit and veg are we?", she added.

And Dr Hungerford says Australian soils are so depleted from a mixture of age and farming techniques, that our food simply doesn't contain enough key micro-nutrients. Just five of these vital nutrients are put back into our commercially farmed soils -- carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and calcium. "In the soil we need to get selenium, magnesium, zinc, boron, iodine -- these are all anti-cancer nutrients, they are also anti-allergy nutrients. We know that we need to have those things to get into the soil to get into the food -- f they are not in the soil they are not in the food chain", Dr. Hungerford said.

The more expensive answer is to do all of your shopping in the rapidly growing list of organic stores. Otherwise, Dr Hungerford recommends you buy these minerals like selenium, magnesium and zinc in supplement form.

"100 yrs ago if you had cancer you'd probably die of it. Increasingly in the last 20 years our results have improved a lot, but we need to improve further", said Concorde Hospital Oncologist Professor Stephen Clarke.

Professor Clarke says mainstream medicine has had success with cancer vaccines and improvements in radiation therapies, but some of the most exciting work is being done with natural therapies -- like Chinese herbs -- to see if they can help chemotherapy patients avoid nasty side effects. "I am sure there are some that are beneficial. The Chinese have been using many of these treatments for thousands of years with efficacy", he said.

Working with Professor Clarke, is fourth generation Chinese herbalist Maria Wu. Maria is convinced herbs like agrimoniae, patrimiae, hedyotis, ganoderma spore (mushroom) and diffusa, have reduced deadly inflammation in cancer patients and assisted in recovery, in concentrated doses. "Building energy and building the immune system, then go through to doing the chemotherapy, people didn't have side effect. Hair no falling down, no vomiting, no tired, no diarrhoea -- all gone", Maria said.

It's also proved that meditation and relaxation can add years to our lives. "I'm sure the state of your mind plays a huge role in the ability to cope with diagnosis of cancer and ability to cope with the treatment", Professor Clarke said.

On her third bout of breast cancer, Jane McLean changed her life. "The first thing I did was change my diet -- stopped eating dairy, stopped eating meat, started introducing vegie juices, however many I could manage, then I came down, I still have one a day, I also have certain supplements, vitamins and minerals particularly selenium", Jane said.

Jane either runs or swims six times a week and daily meditation has reduced the anxiety and stress she believes contributed to her cancers. "I make sure I have sun - I get down in my undies to not shock the neighbours -- to get as much sun as possible to increase my Vitamin D level and the main thing I do is try to have more fun in my life", Jane said.

"We are so paranoid about melanoma that we all are avoiding the sun, slip slop, slapping, that one of the greatest problems we have in Australian medicine is Vitamin D deficiency -- D efficiency is one of the best protections against cancer, so it is ironic isn't it?", Dr. Hungerford said.

Global health statistics are revealing. Japanese people live longest and have a low incidence of common cancers including breast and bowel. Scientists are now convinced it's because of the Japanese lifestyle -- meditation, plenty of green tea full of antioxidants, rice and fish with plenty of Omega 3 fatty acids, up to three times a day. "Within one generation of migrating to Hawaii or U.S., countries where they have an western lifestyle, they develop the same incidence of bowel cancer as the normal American population" Professor Clarke said.

Dr Carol Hungerford's best advice for treatment of cancer. "The best thing about cancer is to not get it in the first place. In that you can read diabetes, heart disease, immune disorders, allergies etc, but let's just focus for a second on cancer…you don't want to get it in the first place.