Understanding the importance of nutrition and lifestyle for cancer has been a decades long quest for me, ever since my own diagnosis of aggressive breast cancer in 1997, at the age of 33. When I came across the research of Professor Michael Fenech I found the answer. Professor Fenech is a world renowned scientist who has spent his life studying how nutrition impacts DNA, and he has shown that micronutrient deficiencies are ten times more damaging than X-rays for the genome. Which tells us that nutrition is not peripheral, it’s fundamental. His research has given birth to the concept of the ‘nutriome’ – the precise set of nutrients that each individual needs to function optimally, and the foundation of good health.
DNA seems a good place to start in managing a disease that is so closely associated with aberrant genetic behaviour. We know that DNA mutations found in tumours, and the target of so much medical research, are not normally the first manifestations of cancer. The disease starts long before we can detect a tumour with metabolic disruption created by ‘the way we live now’.
But even these metabolic origins are impacted by our genes: everything is! The science of epigenetics has shown us that our chosen diet, lifestyle and environment affect gene expression, minute by minute, meal by meal. Even if your genes are ‘wild type’, which is the name given to the ‘normal’ or most prevalent form of any gene. Understanding the gene pathways involved in breast cancer informs my practice and helps me formulate effective programmes for clients, it can help us understand receptor status and provide important clues for rebalancing hormonal metabolism.
I’ve been working with nutrigenetics at the core of my practice since 2015 and believe it is by far the most powerful way to understand individual health. Although we all have the same genes, tiny individual differences in the structure of those genes (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, or SNPs) make a big difference to our health. Your SNPs affect the way you absorb and process nutrients, the way you make and breakdown hormones, the way you protect yourself from environmental damage, and the way your neurotransmitters impact your mood and stress levels; they affect your appetite, your food choices, your sleep, your digestion, your allergies – even the way you tolerate caffeine and alcohol. Our SNPs explain why some people seem to be able to withstand 21st century life better than others. The difference is genetic. And it’s personal. Analysing your health can help us to see what systems are out of balance; understanding your SNPs tells us the best way to restore order. It can also help us predict reactions and responses to treatment. In short, it can help us to understand why you got cancer, and how you can make the best choices to stay healthy in future.
Getting into your genes
Nutrigenetics is the science of gene/diet interactions, a fascinating area of research that shows how we can support optimal gene expression with simple choices. To be fair, it’s nothing your great-grandmother didn’t know – it’s simply that we now understand how it works. By analysing your genes we can understand your innate metabolic weaknesses, and do our best to correct them. This is not just natural health. Arguably, it’s supernatural health – supporting you to function better than nature intended. In my view it’s the best theory available to support breast cancer prevention and avoid recurrence.
Most of us know instinctively that we could and should make diet and lifestyle changes after a cancer diagnosis, even if we don’t know where to start. When dealing with something as elusive as cancer it makes sense to measure anything we can, but cancer is a dynamic disease and many of the things we can measure are subject to change. Chemical sensitivity testing is likely to be out of date within months, hormone levels change with time, and nutrient testing can offer little more than a snapshot. After more than 20 years of studying the subject, nutrigenetics seems to offer a degree of accuracy, consistency and personalisation that many other approaches can’t match, which is why I’ve put it at the heart of my practice.
DNA testing can shed light on many of the pathways associated with increased breast cancer risk: hormone production and detoxification, DNA protection and repair, antioxidant status, inflammation control, energy management, blood glucose regulation and stress response. It can also tell us how your neurotransmitters function allowing us to support your psychological ability to deal with the diagnosis
As with everything in life the quality of DNA testing varies from one provider to another. If you are going to base major health decisions on one test result, you need to be confident about the quality of the testing, the depth of research, and level of rigour applied to your results, which is why I’ve chosen Lifecode Gx as my test provider. I then take the results and add a further level of analysis based on my research and clinical experience, together with your health history and diagnosis to produce a personalised breast cancer protocol tailored to your genes, lifestyle and receptor status.
Promoting innate healing
In my view, understanding your personal health vulnerabilities and supporting your body’s natural healing ability is the best way to recover from cancer and stay well. The more we understand the complexity of cancer behaviour the more clear it becomes that only a highly intelligent system is capable of beating it – and the only system with that level of sensitivity and adaptability is the human body. Medical treatments are helpful in de-bulking the tumour burden but long-term survival depends on correcting the underlying metabolic dysfunction, removing the source of the cell damage, and restoring the cellular microenvironment.
It is based on this understanding that I offer a clinical nutrition programme for breast cancer clients with a focus on nutrigenetics. Underpinning our work is the assumption that there is something about the way you were living and eating before diagnosis that was undermining healthy gene expression and creating the conditions for cancer to thrive. It might have been the way you were living or eating, or it may have been environmental or genetic. Whatever the reason nutritional therapy can help you to manage the situation for better health outcomes in future.
A truly personal protocol
My Power Through Breast Cancer programme is a personalised blueprint for improved gene expression based on recognised breast cancer pathways. It is tailored to your diagnosis, treatment and receptor status and designed to fit with your lifestyle. In my view it’s easier to make life changes when we understand why as well as what, so I will take the time to explain the theory as well as the practice, with a comprehensive personalised report to support and expand on our consultation.
As well as supporting your ‘nutriome’ the programme will address the wider aspects of anti-cancer nutrition, looking at the metabolics of energy management, macronutrient balance, and fasting patterns and the biochemistry of the the known nutrients and phytonutrients that may be effective against your cancer and receptor status.
My clients tell me that the Power Through Breast Cancer experience transforms their view of cancer and their ability to return to health – supporting an informed understanding of their diagnosis, overturning many of the popular myths that have grown up around the disease, helping them see beyond the limitations of the medical perspective, and supporting them at a deeper level than the ‘one-size-fits’ all cancer programmes that are found in celebrity cancer books and websites.
It’s a great privilege to work with the clients who choose me and I am getting used to hearing the phrase, ‘my oncologist can’t believe how well I’m doing’. In my experience, tackling cancer in this way attracts exceptional people and it can bring exceptional results. It’s not unusual for the people I work with to have strong instincts and convictions about the path they want to take. My practice is firmly evidence-based but I always encourage clients to tune into their inner voices and intuitions as I have found them to be a powerful guide.
Details of all the services I offer are listed under the Consult tab, you can clarify any questions you have using the Contact form and then, when you’re ready, please click on the Booking link above to arrange your first consultation.
“All of your literature – your meal plan, your supplement plan, your website etc, are so beautifully designed and put together. And they also exude a real warmth and sense of thoughtfulness. They must have taken a long time to get right, but having worked with quite a few people in the health industry, I can tell you that it makes a HUGE difference.”Joy, London
Everyone, no matter what your diagnosis or stage of disease, can benefit from a nutritional protocol aimed at supporting metabolism, hormones, immune, digestion and detoxification – to improve general health and create a more cancer hostile microenvironment.
Since almost all of my clients are having treatment at the same time as working with me, it’s impossible – and disingenuous – to make any claims about the effectiveness of my work. However, my experience is that people find treatment easier to tolerate and I’ve continued working with many Stage IV clients long after their prognosis has run out. In my view it’s the whole combination – carefully considered medical treatment, a personalised and synergistic diet and lifestyle plan, and most importantly your own drive and determination – that drives recovery. No single thing is enough to beat this multi-factorial condition. It’s a win-win-win combination that makes all the difference.
You can access the Power Through Breast Cancer programme in one condensed consultation, or you can take it step by step.
- If you’re an ‘all or nothing’ sort of person, I recommend booking the Power Through Breast Cancer consultation.
- If you are someone who prefers to make change gradually then I suggest booking first the Eat Right for Your Receptor Type and then scheduling the Getting into Your Genes appointment later on.
- The Hormones for Life consultation is an important way to keep track of your health as you progress beyond treatment and want to monitor recovery.
For patients who have been through conventional treatment and have no detectable disease the Power Through Breast Cancer programme provides a blueprint for recovery and may be all the support you need. I offer a follow-up consultation service to support you through the different phases of treatment and recovery. Most clients have 2 or 3 appointments with me; some clients come back year after year to stay up to date.
For patients dealing with active cancer, nutritional therapy can help treatment work better and allow you to withstand more treatment, but it’s important to say that I’m not equipped to deal with emergencies or acute care. Nutritional and nutrigenetic therapy is a long term approach designed to get your body back in balance to support complete recovery and help you function better in future. I limit my new client intake to between 6 people per month so there is normally a short wait before working with me.
However, it’s a demanding approach that may be overwhelming for some, and requires a deep level of commitment and a form of belief. For that reason I will only work with people who contact me directly. Please don’t contact me to ask me to help your mother, or your best friend: it’s their drive that matters, not yours. No matter how much you love them if they are not fully on board and driving the process this is not the path for them.
Sometimes, despite excellent medical care and monumental personal effort, cancer remains unstoppable; it’s something that we just don’t understand. While nutrition can help at all stages of the process, it is important not to see this as any sort of personal failure. It’s something we just don’t understand.
Details of the services I offer are listed under the Consult tab, you can clarify any questions you have using the Contact form and then, when you’re ready, please click on the Booking link above to arrange your first consultation.
Picture: Artwork by Tracey Emin from a photograph by Dawn Waldron