There is always something you can do

Finding a cure for cancer has been the holy grail of medical research for well over a century. Cancer has outsmarted some of the brightest and best researchers we have ever known, with the result that we tend to invest this disease with almost supernatural properties, believing cancer cells to be invincible except with the most toxic and radical medical treatments known to man.

But a healthy human body deals with cancer cell elimination as a normal part of every day life. You were born with anti-cancer ‘superpowers’ and there is no reason why you can’t regain that ability. Your recovery starts with the realisation that you already have everything you need to beat this disease.

Cancer has such a fearsome reputation that it’s hard to believe something as ordinary as diet and lifestyle can make a difference. And yet there is mounting clinical evidence and hundreds of anecdotal stories (gathered by people like Chris Wark and sites like Radical Remission) to show that even advanced disease can be reversed with determined change.

For over half a century cancer has been viewed primarily as a genetic disease, and all the research has focussed on this area. But, while genetic abnormalities are a feature of most cancers, we haven’t been able to find a cure or make a significant dent in the increasing rate of cancer cases reported each year. During the last few years our understanding of cancer cell behaviour has grown enormously and some new areas of research have emerged:

  1. Cancer cells have altered metabolism in response to their abnormal growth and energy needs.
  2. Tumours recruit local ‘healthy’ cells to provide extra raw materials for growth and survival.
  3. Blood and tissue fluid composition around the tumour promotes carcinogenesis with low oxygen, growth factors, and inflammatory molecules.
  4. Special cells, called cancer stem cells, are primary cause of metastases
  5. When cancer cells move to new locations in the body they can adapt their energy requirements and behaviour to the new environment

Our new understanding makes it possible for us to hit cancer from more directions. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy are still important for reducing the tumour burden but diet and lifestyle changes can help to restore faulty metabolism, correct the tumour microenvironment, and target cancer stem cells. By taking sensible steps to reduce the number of cancer cells in the body without causing too much harm, and then correcting oxygen, blood sugar and pH balance, by correcting growth signals, calming inflammation and reducing oxidative stress, we can create a cancer-hostile environment that makes it more difficult for cancer to thrive.

Power Through Breast Cancer is designed as a nutritional and lifestyle programme to complement your medical treatment to improve outcomes and enhance recovery. It’s based on the principle that there is always something you can do to improve your health. The programme focusses on seven critical areas of health that I call your Seven Superpowers, a tongue-in-cheek reminder that even small diet and lifestyle changes can create a powerful shift in the quest to restore your health after a cancer diagnosis. The different areas are interrelated but each one offers a good starting point and – for you – some will offer more potential for improvement than others. The starting point for such a profound transformation in health is always a sense of personal empowerment and it’s this quality, more than any other, that I aim to cultivate in our work together.

1. Metabolic Mastery

According to Otto Warburg, the origins of cancer can be traced back to faulty energy pathways (caused by toxic exposure, lack of oxygen and poor diet and lifestyle choices) that cause damage inside the cell. Restoring healthy metabolic flexibility is possibly the most powerful step you can take to reverse the pro-cancer microenvironment. It will be a key focus of our work, and we may use metabolic approaches like fasting and ketosis to kick start your mitochondria (metabolic power houses) into functioning optimally again, exploiting the different benefits of ‘fed’ and ‘fasting’ metabolic states to restore blood sugar balance and insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, encourage cell repair and renewal, support cell breakdown via autophagy, turn on important survival enzymes and help you maintain a healthy weight.

2. Hormonal Harmony

Oestrogen management is important for breast cancer survival. While conventional treatment sees oestrogen as something to be eradicated, nutrition professionals take a more nuanced view. Oestrogen is not a carcinogen. It becomes dangerous only when we make too much, respond too strongly or fail to detoxify and eliminate spent hormones. We will look your personal hormone patterns and explore natural ways to restore a safe and healthy balance. Nutrigenetic and functional testing can uncover oestrogen processing problems that haven’t come to light during conventional treatment. Since this area is so closely related to liver function we will also consider dietary and environmental exposure. Understanding your personal hormonal fingerprint can also help you choose the correct treatment and  improve your quality of life after diagnosis.

3. Digestion Correction

Your digestive tract is a delicate and highly technical processing plant designed to break down food into tiny molecules, deliver nourishment to your cells and support optimal immunity and elimination. Few people enjoy perfect digestion and the stress of diagnosis and treatment normally makes it worse. Good digestion is at the root of good nutrition and the gut wall is one of the most important immune structures in the body. Optimal enzyme activity is vital for digestion, breakdown and cell signalling and your digestive organs (pancreas, gallbladder, liver) are vital for absorption and detoxification. Last but not least, your microbiota is a vast army of health-promoting organisms that have been shown to predict your response to treatment, linked to local and distal malignancy, and play a key role in activating anti-cancer phytochemicals. We will focus on restoring healthy digestion and microbial balance as the foundation of recovery and future health.

4. Damage Limitation

Bodies go wrong when the rate of damage exceeds the rate of repair. In this respect, the modern world presents a huge challenge, and those of us with faulty repair genes (BRCA is one of these) or chronic high exposure, are at increased risk of cancer. The damage can come from many directions: alcohol and smoking, stress and insomnia, sugar and starch, inflammation and malnutrition, digestive disorders, sun, radiation and toxin exposure, unresolved injuries, and even over-exercise. Resulting inflammation and oxidative stress is clearly linked to cancer and underpins the ‘random’ theory of cancer development. But a well-nourished body is designed to withstand the damage. For example, the sun doesn’t cause cancer but undernourished and stressed out bodies are prone to sun damage. Avoiding exposure is a sensible precaution, but you can also increase your ability to deal with the toxins before further damage occurs. We will focus on promoting repair mechanisms, supporting detoxification, calming inflammation and improving elimination of toxins.

5. Circadian Sensibility

Learning how to ‘live within your means’ on a physical and psychological level is a key survival skill. A cancer diagnosis doesn’t help because it’s comes with a great incentive to make the most of life. But most of us need how to live life to the full without creating quite so much collateral damage. Our daily ‘circadian rhythm’ impacts many key cancer pathways, including hormone balance, cell repair, blood sugar, Vitamin D levels. Sleep is the body’s ultimate repair mechanism, while prolonged stress reduces immune response, raises inflammation, inhibits healing and depletes bones and nutrient status. Most of my clients have a history of pushing their bodies to the limit and ignoring the inner voices telling us to slow down. We need to acknowledge that survival of the fittest doesn’t always mean survival of the fastest! Understanding how to maintain a healthy balance, and learning to control the personality drivers that leave you depleted and exhausted is one of the most important elements of survival.

6. Nutrigenetic Knowledge

Every single thing that happens in your body is a result of gene expression, and healthy gene expression is profoundly influenced by diet and lifestyle. I used to think that genetic behaviour was set in stone: something we were born with and would – sooner or later – die with. Not so! While your genes never change, they express themselves  differently according to how much sleep, sunshine and spring greens you get. The healthy reputation of broccoli, for example, is linked to its ability to stimulate genes involved in liver detoxification and support safe oestrogen breakdown. Our increasing understanding of cancer metabolism has identified many genetic pathways involved in cancer development. We can commission DNA tests to help us understand the way your genes control hormone production and elimination, liver detoxification, antioxidant defences, and DNA repair and protection in response to different foods. DNA testing is not included in the introductory package but my initial analysis will tell us if you are likely to benefit from this information.

7. Personal Empowerment

Cancer occurrence is widely thought to be a random event, and survival statistics seem to echo that. But cancer survival appears to be random because the only intervention we track is medical treatment. Once you start to track other factors like diet, lifestyle, supplements, yoga, gardening, stress… you discover that the vast majority of exceptional survivors have made radical changes to their lives that are far from random. Radical Remission – a site dedicated to documenting stories of exceptional survivors who beat the odds – lists the top survival factors as

  • radically changing your diet
  • taking control of your health
  • following your intuition
  • using herbs and supplements
  • releasing suppressed emotions
  • increasing positive emotions
  • embracing social support
  • deepening your spiritual connection
  • having strong reasons for living

It’s a list that I personally find deeply confirming and inspiring. It helps me to see, in retrospect, why I’m still here despite a 30% chance of survival. I hope it helps you too to believe that you are not just a number on your recurrence score. Every single thing you do to improve your health has the potential to change your odds for the better.

The total lack of information and support around natural health for breast cancer patients is the main reason I re-trained after my own diagnosis. I didn’t need clinical trials and cast-iron proof: I ‘knew’ with every cell of my body that I had to change my life if I wanted to survive. I believe that the most damaging  phrase anyone can utter is, “There’s nothing you can do”. Even when there’s nothing more that medicine can do, we must remember that our bodies are more powerful, intricate and intelligent than the whole of the NHS put together. I encourage clients to put themselves in pole position: to see themselves as CEO of their own survival plan. There is ALWAYS something you can do. Taking control of your cancer experience is the first important step in changing your biochemistry for the better, so reading this means you’re already heading in the right direction. We can build on that in our work together so that your mind and body can work together for healing.

After reading about your Seven Superpowers I hope you’re feeling much more positive about your situation and ready to do some serious work together to transform your health.

I look forward to meeting you!

Next Steps

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References

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Toledo, E. et al., 2015. Mediterranean Diet and Invasive Breast Cancer Risk Among Women at High Cardiovascular Risk in the PREDIMED Trial. JAMA Internal Medicine, 175(11), p.1. (Erratum registered.)