Three case studies

So many people think that the work of a nutritional therapist involves a looped recording telling people to eat more broccoli and oily fish. Although that advice invariably figures somewhere in the diet plan, the work I do is much more interesting  than that. Here are three examples which explain in more detail that sort of conditions that can benefit from nutritional therapy and coaching:

Breast Cancer

Gemma came to see me after a routine mammogram picked up an aggressive form of breast cancer. She wanted help to cope to stay healthy during radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and was anxious to do everything she could to avoid a recurrence. Gemma had no family history of breast cancer and her own medical history was excellent, except for occasional bouts of acute anxiety, so this diagnosis had really come out of the blue. How had cancer happened?

With so few clues as to what was going on we agreed to commission two functional tests to look at oestrogen metabolism and nutrient status. Although, Gemma’s diet was now supercharged, we also looked at what she used to eat to try and discover what might have happened. Piecing the information together it became clear that Gemma’s lifestyle before diagnosis included a high pressure career, busy family life and an intensive, almost punishing, exercise regime. This was combined with high alcohol, poor sleep, and a frugal diet that had been very high in ‘not-so-healthy’ carbohydrates and very low in fat.

Tests revealed poor oestrogen clearance linked to breast cancer, and an unusually high requirement for vitamin B1 which may have been behind the anxiety and was probably exacerbated by intensive exercise and a high carbohydrate diet. Low B1 can lead to a build up of lactic acid and higher levels of oxidative stress which have, in turn, been linked to cancer.

The diet plan we devised took the test results into account with a view to supporting key biochemical pathways and improving Gemma’s chances of staying well. I also showed Gemma how to eat a healthy balance of carbohydrates and fats, and encouraged her to modify her exercise regime to respect her body’s need for oxygen and nutrients. Finally, we used coaching techniques to understand and moderate Gemma’s strong work ethic to allow her to take better care of herself despite her busy life.

Family history of illness

Meera came to see me following discovery of a breast lump which turned out to be benign. However, a significant family history of breast cancer was a background worry, and she also wanted help to manage her symptoms of anxiety, constipation and chronic stress-related dermatitis. Although still young, Meera had medical problems linked to hormonal imbalances, and felt she had an addictive personality which didn’t help when it came to choosing the right foods.

While DNA testing is not always a good choice for anxious people (you need to be sure you can live with any risk factors that are discovered) we talked it through and Meera felt that she would rather know what her risks were so that she could take a positive approach to dealing with them. When the results arrived, she was relieved to find that she didn’t carry the classic high-penetrance genes for breast cancer, but we did discover a range of mutations that were potentially contributing to hormonal imbalances and unusually high levels of inflammation, along with a couple of polymorphisms like to dopamine neurotransmitter function, which helped to explain her symptoms of anxiety and addictive behaviour. These pathways were capable of being influenced by diet and supplements so we put a personalised protocol in place. Reducing sugar and grains has helped to restore gut regularity too.

At the time of writing Meera’s day to day symptoms are much improved, her anxiety is ameliorated by both her dopamine-supporting diet and her positive attitude. By reducing blood sugar levels and supporting key metabolic pathways, it is likely that she has significantly reduced her risk of future disease.

Type 2 Diabetes

Rick consulted me for help with Type 2 Diabetes as the medical regime he was following, which included a range of drugs and two different kinds of insulin, was no longer able to keep his blood sugars under control. He had a history of heart disease and obesity and the diabetes was taking its toll with symptoms of neuropathy, retinopathy and a loss of kidney function. He was permanently tired, often anxious and desperately wanted to come off medication and feel in control again. I explained that I couldn’t give any advice about his diabetes or medication but that we could work together to try to improve the underlying system imbalances. The diet he was following was adding to his health difficulties by creating permanently raised blood sugar levels that fluctuated between 4 and 20 most days, and his HbA1c levels were high.

I recommended a new eating plan and provided a shopping list and recipes to help him manage the transition.  He was on a limited budget so we agreed a food based plan with no supplements. The first evidence that the new protocol was more suitable for Rick came with dramatic weight loss that allowed him to recommence regular exercise;  within a couple of weeks his blood sugar levels were halved and far more stable. I encouraged him to stay in close contact with his GP and, with medical advice, Rick was able to reduce his medication.

At his next diabetic review the HbA1c reading was significantly improved and, over time, his kidney function has stabilised and begun to reverse itself. I must say that none of this would have been possible without Rick’s remarkable dedication but he is an excellent example of how correcting underlying systems imbalances can help the body to return to health.

I hope the case studies I’ve shared help to illustrate the exciting results that can be achieve with nutritional therapy. If you’d like to learn more about the way you can work with me please visit my consult page.