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Weight Loss and Cancer April 28, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in Cancer, cancer therapy, Cancer Treatment, Healing, immunity, integrative cancer care, Naturopathic Doctor, Naturopathic Medicine, Naturopathy, nutrition.
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Written By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, BSc (Hons)

Everyone has seen a cancer patient who has lost a significant amount of weight as the disease progressed. It is a scary experience to see someone that you love waste away as the cancer deprives their body of the nutrients that they so desperately need. In the chaos of going from one appointment to the next, patients often do not realize how malnourished they have become.

The significant wasting that late stage cancer patients experience is known as cachexia. To understand why this happens it is helpful to look at the molecular pathways relevant to cachexia. The exact mechanism is not well defined but inflammatory cytokines are thought to play a major role. Cancer is a condition that creates significant systemic inflammation and this dramatically increases the concentration of inflammatory cytokines through out the body. The most prominent inflammatory cytokines during cachexia are often TNF-a and IL6 5.

The good news is that there are a number of natural tools which can help to significantly reduce these inflammatory cytokines. Of course there are cases where the disease has progressed to the point where it is not possible to reverse the effects of cachexia. However, in my clinical practice I have seen many patients reverse the effects of cachexia rather quickly when the correct natural supports are used. When we take the time to look at how these natural supports work it is immediately obvious why they can be so effective.

Omega-3’s are potent natural anti-inflammatories and specifically they reduce TNF-a and IL6 levels in the body1,2,3. In order to have the desired therapeutic effect from supplementation with omega-3’s it is critical that the proper dose is used. Many supplements (especially pill forms) containing omega-3’s do not have the appropriate dose of eicosapentaenoic acid(EPA) and this will not have any impact on an extreme case such as cachexia. When the appropriate dosing is used sometimes patients can see significant improvements in cachexia from supplementing with omega-3’s 4.

Cancer loves L-glutamine and it uses it in high amounts to support its metabolic needs. Some patients upon hearing this falsely assume that removing glutamine from the diet would then starve cancer cells. This is the wrong approach to take. Cancer cells will get glutamine whether you have it in your diet or not. If it is not in your diet then the cancer cells will cause the muscles to break down so that the glutamine can be extracted from the muscles. This will rapidly worsen the cachexia. The simplistic view that if cancer uses a substance then it should be avoided is not always correct in these complex clinical cases. When patients are supported with adequate amounts of glutamine this can help to slow down muscle breakdown and give healthy cells the glutamine that they also need to function6. The glutamine is also necessary for your immune system to function properly and this need far outweighs any concerns of “feeding” cancer cells glutamine in cases of cachexia.

In my experience the combination of L-glutamine and omega-3’s can help to heal the gut and this allows cancer patients to absorb nutrients more effectively from their food. A major challenge for advanced cancer patients is that even if they eat enough food, they struggle to adequately absorb nutrients from their food. By supporting gut health with adequate amounts of these simple remedies, this can help to enhance the absorption of nutrients at a time when patients are extremely malnourished.

There are many other natural therapies which can also be applied in cachexia to help improve the patients quality of life. For example, cannabinoids can be used to help stimulate appetite while reducing the sensation of nausea that many of these patients have. In other cases, the use of a Myers IV is indicated to bypass any concerns with absorption and get nutrients directly into the blood. Patients generally feel better when the inflammation is reduced following the application of these various naturopathic supports. It is critical that patients have professional guidance from a qualified naturopathic physician when utilizing these supports. Cachexia is a unique metabolic circumstance that requires the appropriate doses if you expect to see any benefit.

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

References:

1) Kang, Jing X., and Karsten H. Weylandt. “Modulation of inflammatory cytokines by omega-3 fatty acids.” Lipids in Health and Disease. Springer Netherlands, 2008. 133-143.

2) De Caterina, Raffaele, et al. “The omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoate reduces cytokine-induced expression of proatherogenic and proinflammatory proteins in human endothelial cells.” Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology 14.11 (1994): 1829-1836.

3) Nelson, Tracy L., and Matthew S. Hickey. “Acute changes in dietary omega-3 fatty acid intake lowers soluble interleukin-6 receptor in healthy adult normal weight and overweight males.” Cytokine 26.5 (2004): 195-201.

4) Radbruch, L., F. Elsner, and P. Trottenberg. “Clinical practice guidelines on cancer cachexia in advanced cancer patients. European Palliative Care Research Collaborative.” (2011).

5) Yeh, Shing-Shing, Kimathi Blackwood, and Michael W. Schuster. “The cytokine basis of cachexia and its treatment: are they ready for prime time?.”Journal of the American Medical Directors Association 9.4 (2008): 219-236.

6) May, Patricia Eubanks, et al. “Reversal of cancer-related wasting using oral supplementation with a combination of β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate, arginine, and glutamine.” The American journal of surgery 183.4 (2002): 471-479.

Spring Cleaning Starts with the Liver April 25, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in best vancouver naturopath, Healing, Health, organic, stress, stress reduction.
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Written by: Dr. Natalie Rahr

Spring has sprung. As you clear through old clothing and items in the attic or garage, shaking off the general heaviness of winter, it’s also the perfect time to move any stagnation of energy in the liver. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), spring is liver time and it’s the perfect time to support its many complex functions.

What to expect if we support the liver well?

  • Allergies improve
  • Sleep better and through the night
  • Clearer skin
  • Smooth digestion
  • Energy and mood improves
  • Hormones are in better balance

Here are some of my favourite ways to support liver function:

Avoid over-consumption of alcohol

The liver is a detoxing organ. Alcohol increases the demand on the liver and can slow its function, especially in large amounts. If you’ve avoided that hangover, your liver is free to do other things for you!

Castor oil

This is Grandma’s oldest remedy! And I’m not talking about taking it internally. Castor oil is a fantastic way to improve circulation when used topically over joints, muscles AND over the liver. An easy way to do this is rub a thick layer of castor oil over the lower ribs on the right side (where the liver is), cover with an old towel and apply a hot water bottle for about 20-30 minutes a few times per week. This draws circulation to the area and flushes the liver, improving digestion and detoxing the body of anything that is in excess.

Lemon water

Generally this is a great way to start the day, particularly hot water and lemon because this allows priming of the digestive tract for the day. I love it also before EVERY meal because this sends a signal to the gut and the brain that digestion is needed and liver function is best when the gut is not backed up, but flowing freely.

Organic fresh fruits and veggies, particularly cruciferous

Eat your broccoli, eat your cabbage, eat your kale, eat your cauliflower, eat your brussel sprouts, eat your bok choy, etc. Cruciferous vegetables provide the liver detox pathways with essential phytochemicals to help clear waste from the body. Organic is important because, like alcohol and some medications, pesticides and herbicides wreak havoc on the gut and burden the kidneys and the liver, because they need these organs to show them the way out.

Stress reduction

This is always a good idea. According to TCM, stress, anger and frustration cause and are a sign of Liver Qi (energy) stagnation, which in turn contributes to irritability, muscle tension, hormone imbalances and other health concerns. Think of a traffic jam in the city. We want the energy flowing freely through the whole body and not stuck unhappily in one place.

Get the blood flowing

Getting the blood flowing through the whole body gets it moving through the liver. Get a good sweat going everyday to prevent stagnation of energy and help things flow. Things like yoga, tai chi and Qigong can help move the Liver Qi gently and powerfully.

Liver supportive herbs such as turmeric, milk thistle and dandelion root

Talk to your naturopathic or herbal healthcare practitioner about some of my favourite herbs, and others that may be right for you. Herbs such as these support the liver detox pathways in regulating inflammation and clearing toxins from the body.

TLC

Always my favourite prescription!

Particularly for supporting the liver, here are a few ideas to give your liver some tender loving care:

  • Abdominal massage can be very powerful because it can help move waste out of the body more effectively and help bring essential circulation to the organs
  • Acupuncture is very effective for moving Liver Qi
  • Meditation (remember in “Eat, Pray Love”, when she’s told by the guru to meditate and smile to her liver:). Do that.
  • Laughter and joyful activities

A joyful spring to you and your families, and lots of smiles to your liver!

Dr. Natalie Rahr practices at the Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic in Vancouver, BC and has a strong focus on complex pediatric conditions such as Autism, Women’s Health, Autoimmunity and Gut-Brain Health, as well as Integrative Mental Health. To book an appointment contact 604-235-8068or appointments@yaletownnaturopathic.com

Positive Period. April 21, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, best vancouver naturopath, best vancouver nutritionist, Emotion, exercise, Healing, Health.
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“Women complain about premenstrual syndrome (PMS), but I think of it as the only time of the month that I can be myself.”
Roseanne Barr

The Monthlies, Aunt Flo, TOM, The Crimson Curse, Shark Week! We all have our own euphemism for our “monthly visitor”. I won’t bore you or insult your intelligence by explaining what happens in your body to bring about your monthly friend (though if you are interested here is a link to short informative video http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-menstruation-works-emma-bryce). Instead, my intention is to maybe tell you some interesting and hopefully useful facts that you may not already know and hopefully open up a dialogue about this topic that takes up so much of our lives but that we are still a little shy about. For instance did you know that humans, monkeys, apes and bats are almost the only species known to go through a menstrual cycle like ours? Or that during the three to seven days you have your period, you lose about 30-40mLs of blood? This is only about 2-3 tablespoons, although up to 80mLs (5.4 tablespoons) is still considered normal. A lot less then you thought right? Well, we actually loose four to six tablespoons of menstrual fluid but only some of this is blood. The rest is made up of cervical mucus, vaginal secretions and flora and endometrial tissue and uterine lining- sorry if you find that gross but that’s the human body for you!

Let’s get serious for a second now though. Worldwide up to 90% of women use a homemade device in the place of a sanitary pad or tampon because they are too expensive to buy every month. In parts of the world girls miss 20% of school days (4.5 days per month) due to their periods. This is not simply crying off school due to PMS, but because schools lack the basic hygiene facilities for a girl to keep herself clean during her period. Another reason is the stigma and taboo that surround menstruation. In different cultures around the globe women are segregated from their own society during this time. In some cultures they are not allowed to even drink from the same water source as the rest of their village. Apart from being oppressive this practice of isolating women from society during their period (which incidentally makes up about 7% of your life) is damaging to women psychologically and to society as a whole. When women are isolated like this they cannot contribute to society in the ways they normally would through work etc. “Well that’s a shame but it doesn’t effect me” you might be saying to yourself. Well actually, it does. The stigma surrounding menstruation is not confined to developing countries. Naturally those of us lucky enough to live in the Western world enjoy a whole lot more privilege than our counterparts in different parts of the globe, but how many times have you lowered your voice when talking about your cycle? Or hidden your sanitary pad or tampon in your pocket when going out  to the washroom? We are taught from a young age that periods are shameful and we share a learned embarrassment about periods with women everywhere. So what can we do to counteract this? Of course education is key. Educating both boys and girls about menstruation from an early age is the first step in removing the misconceptions and stigma surrounding the topic. We can also contribute in our attitude towards the issue. Try to change your thinking and do not shy away from talking openly about your period. Perhaps use less of the hushed tones and circumlocution around the subject- although I will admit, some of those euphemisms are pretty funny.

The menstrual cycle which gives rise to your period is 28-35 days for most women. It begins for most women around 12-14 years of age and ends somewhere between the ages of 48-55. The average woman has about 450 periods in her lifetime and there are about 300 million women having theirs right now. One key thing to note about your period is that it does not just affect you the week you are menstruating. It’s not even just the week before when your suffering from the dreaded PMS. Your menstrual cycle, or rather the organs and hormones that control it, are at work constantly throughout the month to create the correct conditions within the body for follicular development, ovulation, implantation or menstruation. That is not to say that between the ages of 12 and 55 all women are on a hormonal rollercoaster that they have no control of. Looking at it in a different way we can see the positives associated with each phase of our cycle. At different times throughout the month our body is doing everything it can to get us in the perfect state for pregnancy- and this affects our brain too. Rather than surrendering to the unstoppable force that is nature/evolution/your own body there is no reason why we can’t ride the wave (so to speak) and harness all this power.

Follicular Phase- This is when the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH) are secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain. Neurochemically this is the time of the month that women have the most access to creative energy. It’s the perfect time to begin new projects. So as your body begins it’s new phase, so can you!

Ovulatory Phase- This is when when we have the most energy and highest communication skills. Try channeling this by having important talks with loved ones or professional colleagues during this time.

Leutial Phase- This is when the lining of your uterus is thickening. This is the time when our minds become most detail orientated. Use this time to organize! Your desk, your house, your mind, your life.

Menstruation- This is when there is the most communication between the right and left side of your brain. It’s a time to evaluate. Rather than harbour negative feeling about this time I like to use my period as my time to hibernate and give myself some TLC. This can be different for everyone. To some it might be slobbing it on the couch in PJs, to others its the time when they allow themselves those treats that they avoid the rest of the month. I like to think of it as my body physically reminding me that it’s there and it needs to be taken care of. It’s a good time to check in with yourself, in every sense. Here are some ways that I found helpful to “check in” with myself during my period (or anytime).

Step 1. Exercise!

Don’t get me wrong I’m the least motivated person in the world when it comes to getting myself to the gym. But if you can muster the willpower you know it will feel great. It doesn’t have to be a 10k run or a power turbo max blast crossfit workout (that’s not a real thing but you get my drift). Do a relaxed restorative yoga class -or youtube video if you don’t feel like leaving the house.  Take an evening stroll in the park. When have you ever exercised and thought afterwards “Well I would have been so much better off sitting at home eating a cookie”?. That’s right, never. And you can still have the cookie after if you really want it. You are on your period after all.

Step 2. Alone time

There is so much to be said for, closing your door and just being with your own thoughts and feelings. Hibernate. For some people this can be meditation or prayer. Some people like to go for a walk. Some like to light some candles and have a bath. Personally I like to listen to my favourite music and clean the house, because cleaning the house helps me to clear my mind too (but that’s just me). Whatever it is you like to do when you are totally by yourself- make some time and do that. And yes, you do have to switch your phone off for this one.

Step 3. Eating

You betcha! Every girl’s all time favourite thing to do when the reds are playing downtown. In keeping with the theme of self care during my period it’s a good time to try out some new healthy recipes that are also gonna be delicious. Taking the time to cook something yummy for yourself is a great way to be kind to you. If you’re not into that- get someone else to do it for you. Remember, red letter days are our excuse to make the rest of the world pick up the slack! Just try to give your body some wholesome, nutritious fuel during this time. No one is saying you can’t have chocolate AND kale.

Step 4. Think positive!

If you dread your period it’s going to be dreadful. Try and change any negative feelings you have around your period and think of it as your body’s automatic reset. Out with the old and in with the new! Consider this your time to reconnect, reevaluate and reassess. Of course not everyone has the best time during their period and there are physical and emotional hurdles to be overcome. You might feel like your body is your enemy during this time but it’s not, it’s the closest friend you’ll ever have – awh! So if you’re not feeling the best during this time find something that always cheers you up and make some time for that. Maybe catching up with friends you haven’t seen in a while or seeing that movie you wanted to watch. If you really can’t face being social then at least make plans to do something nice next week so you can feel happy about that.

References

https://www.ted.com/talks/robyn_stein_deluca_the_good_news_about_pms?language=en#t-120387

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vKRj9yV8pI

To learn more on how to balance hormone or treat yourself with natural remedies contact us today at 604-235-8068 or by email at info@yaletownnaturopathic.com.

How Can Integrative Oncology Prevent Cancer? April 14, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in best vancouver naturopath, Cancer, cancer therapy, Cancer Treatment, Healing.
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Written By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, BSc (Hons)

It seems that every week there is another headline talking about the importance of preventative medicine. These articles often focus on how much money governments could save if people were adequately screened to treat disease before it manifests into a complex clinical pathology. Clearly improved screening is important in the context of preventative medicine but this approach only allows us to detect disease at an earlier stage. What is frequently neglected is the fact that much can be done to modify your risks so that the disease will not develop in the first place. This is particularly relevant in the context of cancer.

Every day I see patients who were treated by the cancer agency before being declared cancer free. Upon being declared cancer free they are quickly discharged from the cancer agency and they are given no tools or information about how to prevent the recurrence of cancer. In fact, when patients inquire about what they can do to prevent future cancers they are directly told “nothing”. This could not be further from the truth and [the scientific literature does not support] this bizarre statement. Any doctor who claims to be practicing evidence based medicine must stop telling patients that there is nothing that they can do because this is not what the scientific literature says on the subject. There are many things that can be done to prevent the recurrence of cancer and often the proper application of only a few simple natural therapies can substantially reduce the risk of recurrence.

In this article I will break down a few simple lifestyle modifications and natural therapies which when used appropriately can help to prevent the recurrence of cancer. There are of course additional strategies that can be used to reduce the risk of recurrence and this article only discusses a couple of approaches. You must have professional guidance when implementing these therapies as they must be used in the proper clinical context. Not all cancers are the same and completely different strategies are used with different forms of cancer.

Reducing your intake of simple sugars

Study after study has demonstrated a direct connection between sugar intake and cancer risk14,15,16,17,18. Cancer cells often have significantly more insulin receptors than normal cells. Therefore they respond rapidly to insulin and they will always be more effective at grabbing sugar from the blood stream and utilizing it as an energy source.

Patients often get confused about what this information means and how it can be integrated appropriately into their diet. There is a big difference in the metabolism of a food rich in simple sugars compared to a food that contains complex carbohydrates. When you eat a food rich in simple sugars such as candy, the body rapidly absorbs the sugar. This causes a rapid and significant elevation of the sugar concentration in your blood. In response to this sugar spike, the pancreas secretes insulin, which circulates through the entire body in an effort to bring the sugar levels back to normal.

Insulin interacts with the receptors on the surface of both normal and cancerous cells. Upon interacting with the cells, it triggers them to pull sugar in from the blood until the blood sugar level drops back to a normal level. Cancer cells have more insulin receptors, so they will always take advantage of this insulin spike more effectively than normal cells. It is this spike in insulin and insulin-like growth factors that stimulate the growth of cancerous cells15. In other words, it is not the sugar content that is stimulating growth; it is the response to sudden increases in sugar levels.

Complex carbohydrates are metabolized very differently in the body. They do not cause a sudden spike in blood sugar levels. The sugar in complex carbohydrates is slowly released as the food passes through the gastrointestinal tract. As a result, it is not necessary for the pancreas to secrete as much insulin because there is no spike in blood sugar that needs to be controlled. Often by making just a few simple dietary changes it is possible to dramatically reduce these sugar spikes and eliminate hidden sources of these simple sugars.

The correlation between high glycemic diets and cancer risk is well established. It is essential that patients looking to prevent recurrence of cancer adhere to a low glycemic diet. In one study researchers looked for a connection between fasting blood glucose levels and risk of cancer recurrence. There was a strong correlation between high fasting blood glucose levels and cancer recurrence20. In other words, the women who consistently had high levels of sugar in their blood had a higher risk of developing cancer. This is not surprising given what we know about the relationship between sugar and cancer.

Supporting the Immune System

After removing cancer it is critical that your immune system remains strong to patrol the body and attack any residual cells prior to them manifesting into a clinical disease. There are many naturopathic therapies which can be used to effectively support the immune system. The first year following the removal of cancer is the most important time to stimulate the immune system.

It is absolutely essential that you have professional guidance when developing a treatment plan to support the immune system. Every cancer is different and in some cancers this is completely contraindicated. You do not have to be on many different supplements to stimulate the immune system. In fact, less is more when it comes to natural immune supports.

I always recommend that patients keep their treatment plan dynamic and simple when trying to stimulate the immune system. The reason I say this is due to the biochemistry behind these natural immune supports. Essentially we are throwing a molecule at the immune system which it does not recognize and as a result the immune system gets excited. In the process of getting excited in response to these new supplements, it also gets excited against any cancer cells that remain. The problem is that if you keep using the same supplement repeatedly for a long period of time (ie. years) then your immune system simply stops reacting to it. If you throw everything at your immune system right away then your immune system will eventually stop reacting to everything.

Natural therapies such as astragalus, coriolus versicolor and mistletoe have a long history of safe and effective use for immune stimulation. They work very well to stimulate the immune system and when used appropriately it can give your body the tools that it needs to fight of any residual remains of the disease.

Exercise and Cancer

Everyone has heard that exercise is good for your well-being. Exercise has been shown to elevate your mood and increase energy levels. Patients who regularly exercise are statistically less likely to develop a number of serious health conditions. The effectiveness of exercise is not questioned in the medical community; yet when it comes to cancer care, patients often forget about the benefits of exercise. Instead, they focus their attention on more exotic treatment plans. Exercise is an important part of any integrative cancer program.

There are several reasons why exercise has such a positive impact on cancer patients3. The immune system becomes more active during exercise as the monocytes increase the concentration of specific receptors on their surface1. Exercise also significantly helps patients with their sleep and it is well known that the majority of healing takes place during sleep. When you get better quality sleep, your cells will be less stressed and this will significantly boost the strength of your immune system.

Not only is exercise important during cancer therapies, it is also effective at preventing cancer recurrence7. Although some researchers dispute the significance of recurrence prevention, no one disputes that regular exercise decreases overall mortality in cancer survivors5,6. Women with estrogen positive breast cancer after a successful surgery will be put on tamoxifen for a minimum of five years to reduce the risk of recurrence by only a few percentage points in some cases8. In one large study of women with a history of breast cancer, it showed that women who walked three to five hours per week were 43% less likely to develop recurrent breast cancer and 50% less likely to die from breast cancer. This exercise group was compared to women who engaged in less than one hour of physical activity per week9. This study clearly demonstrates the importance of exercise in the context of cancer prevention. I find it amazing that some patients will readily comply with taking a drug for five to ten years, yet are resistant to regular exercise.

The exercise program does not need to be an extreme and rigorous routine, nor does it have to be a specific activity to prevent recurrence. All that matters is that your cardiovascular system gets a good workout from regular aerobic activity. Even a moderate cardio workout for less than 30 minutes, five days per week, can be very helpful. Make the time for this activity because it can make a significant difference in your response to treatment.

At every phase in cancer treatment, regular exercise is a powerful adjunctive therapy. Regular exercise helps to prevent the development of cancer and it also helps patients to get through the aggressive cancer therapies necessary to kill cancer. More cancer patients need to be aware of the simple fact that regular exercise makes a significant difference when fighting cancer. This is a simple yet effective adjunctive therapy that should be actively encouraged in every patient capable of regular exercise.

Meditation

You can help your body fight cancer by reducing stress and focusing your intentions on healing. One of the most comprehensive intervention studies in cancer research evaluated the effects of stress management techniques, such as relaxation on cancer recurrence following removal of malignant melanoma11. Not only did the relaxed group experience reduced psychological distress, they also had more active immune systems than the control group not practicing relaxation. A six-year follow up of these patients showed a trend toward greater recurrence and higher mortality rates in the control group, compared to the relaxed group. The bottom line is that patients who focus on reducing stress and focus their minds on healing not only have a better prognosis, they also have lower rates of developing cancer in the first place10. Given what we know about the connection between immune function and stress, this conclusion is not surprising.

If there was a drug which had a similar effect on reducing cancer recurrence, you can bet that every patient who had a melanoma surgically removed would be on that medication. The great thing about this is that you don’t even need a pill, you can make a measurable difference by reducing stress and focusing your intentions. When fighting cancer it is essential that the patient use every tool at their disposal to increase the chances of a successful recovery. The immune system must be strong to fight off any serious disease. Our minds can dramatically influence how our cells respond to stress and this is intimately connected to the function of the immune system13. We all need to take control of our health and use this mind-body connection to our advantage. By reducing stress and focusing our minds on healing we will live longer and happier lives12. This is a powerful tool that we can all use to our advantage.

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

References:

1) Peters, C., et al. “Exercise, cancer and the immune response of monocytes.” Anticancer research 15.1 (1994): 175-179.

2) Mock, Victoria, et al. “Effects of exercise on fatigue, physical functioning, and emotional distress during radiation therapy for breast cancer.” Oncology nursing forum. Vol. 24. No. 6. 1997.

3) Burnham, Timothy R., and Anthony Wilcox. “Effects of exercise on physiological and psychological variables in cancer survivors.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2002).

4) Courneya, KERRY S. “Exercise in cancer survivors: an overview of research.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 35.11 (2003): 1846-1852.

5) Irwin, Melinda L., et al. “Randomized controlled trial of aerobic exercise on insulin and insulin-like growth factors in breast cancer survivors: the Yale Exercise and Survivorship study.” Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention 18.1 (2009): 306-313.

6) Irwin, Melinda L., et al. “Influence of pre-and postdiagnosis physical activity on mortality in breast cancer survivors: the health, eating, activity, and lifestyle study.” Journal of clinical oncology 26.24 (2008): 3958-3964.

7) Loprinzi, Paul D., et al. “Physical activity and the risk of breast cancer recurrence: a literature review.” Oncology nursing forum. Vol. 39. No. 3. Oncology Nursing Society, 2012.

8) Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group. “Relevance of breast cancer hormone receptors and other factors to the efficacy of adjuvant tamoxifen: patient-level meta-analysis of randomised trials.” The lancet 378.9793 (2011): 771-784.

9) Holmes, Michelle D., et al. “Physical activity and survival after breast cancer diagnosis.” Jama 293.20 (2005): 2479-2486.

10) Bovbjerg, Dana H. “Psychoneuroimmunology. Implications for oncology?.” Cancer 67.S3 (1991): 828-832.

11) Fawzy, Fawzy I., et al. “Malignant melanoma: effects of an early structured psychiatric intervention, coping, and affective state on recurrence and survival 6 years later.” Archives of General Psychiatry 50.9 (1993): 681-689.

12) Fawzy, Fawzy I., et al. “A structured psychiatric intervention for cancer patients: I. Changes over time in methods of coping and affective disturbance.” Archives of General Psychiatry 47.8 (1990): 720-725.

13) Veenhoven, Ruut. “Healthy happiness: Effects of happiness on physical health and the consequences for preventive health care.” Journal of happiness studies 9.3 (2008): 449-469.

14) Augustin, L. S. A., et al. “Dietary glycemic index and glycemic load, and breast cancer risk: a case-control study.”Annals of Oncology 12.11 (2001): 1533-1538.

15) Franceschi, S., et al. “Dietary glycemic load and colorectal cancer risk.” Annals of Oncology 12.2 (2001): 173-178.

16) Michaud, Dominique S., et al. “Dietary sugar, glycemic load, and pancreatic cancer risk in a prospective study.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 94.17 (2002): 1293-1300.

17) Gnagnarella, Patrizia, et al. “Glycemic index, glycemic load, and cancer risk: a meta-analysis.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 87.6 (2008): 1793-1801.

18) Qi, Lu, and Frank B. Hu. “Dietary glycemic load, whole grains, and systemic inflammation in diabetes: the epidemiological evidence.” Current opinion in lipidology 18.1 (2007): 3-8.

19) Turina, Matthias, Donald E. Fry, and Hiram C. Polk Jr. “Acute hyperglycemia and the innate immune system: clinical, cellular, and molecular aspects.” Critical care medicine 33.7 (2005): 1624-1633.

20) Belle, Fabiën N., et al. “Dietary fiber, carbohydrates, glycemic index, and glycemic load in relation to breast cancer prognosis in the HEAL cohort.” Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention 20.5 (2011): 890-899.

21) Kroenke, Candyce H., et al. “Dietary patterns and survival after breast cancer diagnosis.” Journal of clinical oncology23.36 (2005): 9295-9303.

22) Contiero, Paolo, et al. “Fasting blood glucose and long-term prognosis of non-metastatic breast cancer: a cohort study.”Breast cancer research and treatment 138.3 (2013): 951-959.

5 Foods You Should Eat More of in 2016 April 7, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in best vancouver naturopath, best vancouver nutritionist, Healing, nutrition, Nutritionist.
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Written by: Breanne Dunlop, RHN

Looking to improve your health through diet? Here are five foods you should eat more of in 2016:

  1. Free-Range Organic Eggs

One of the most wholesome foods you can eat is an egg in its whole form. Eggs are a great way to start the day, providing the body with a nice balance of protein and fat to fuel you until lunchtime. As a complete protein, eggs contain all nine essential amino acids that we must obtain through our diet as our bodies can not make them. Eggs are extremely easy to incorporate into your diet as they are easy and quick to make in the morning scrambled into an omelet or simply poached on toast – hard boiled eggs also make a good protein rich snack for on the go. If you don’t have much time in the mornings, try making up ahead of time a frittata or egg cups for a grab and go breakfast you can enjoy throughout the week.

For those of you on the egg white bandwagon.. stop throwing out those yolks!  The yolk is the tastiest part when enjoyed over-easy or poached and is the nutrition powerhouse of the egg. Separating the egg yolk from the egg white disrupts the synergy of the egg and removes all of the healthy fat (which is satiating and curbs your appetite) and lots of other nutrients.

Many people avoid egg yolks and other sources of fat due to the former belief that fat = high cholesterol; we now know this isn’t true.  Though dietary cholesterol shouldn’t be ignored, it is important to note that much of our cholesterol is produced by the liver which is why those on plant-based diets may still have issues with managing their cholesterol.  Unless you are eating copious amount of eggs every day, enjoying the yolk is not something to stress over. Bottom line – don’t mess with nature and eat your yolk! 

2.  Leafy Greens

Many people believe that we need to eat meat to get iron and drink milk for calcium but we should be paying more attention to our leafy greens which are great sources of both these important minerals. Green veggies are also great for detoxification as they are rich in fibre which not only helps to rid your body of toxins but also aids in weight management by keeping you feeling fuller for longer.

Even if you aren’t one for having a raw salad every day (which actually isn’t beneficial in Vancouver’s winter season), leafy greens are still very easy to incorporate into your diet.  Add your favourite greens to your morning smoothie in the summertime or roast up some seasonal squash, root veggies and top with sautéed greens for a hearty winter salad.  You can play it safe by sticking to common greens like lettuce, romaine, spinach or kale or get adventurous with mustard greens, endive and radicchio. I strongly recommend to buy your greens organic as most conventional alternatives are heavily sprayed with pesticides.

Right now my favourite way to enjoy greens is sautéing black kale in my cast iron pan (added benefit for those who need a boost in iron) along with fresh crushed garlic and lemon juice and topped with fresh avocado and sea salt.

3.  Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are another source of complete protein but are vegan friendly. Though small in size, chia seeds pack a punch and are high in healthy fat and fibre. Chia seeds have 10 grams of fibre per two tablespoons, with most of it being soluble fibre.  When mixed with water it forms a gel-like substance, similar to ‘flax eggs’, and this is why it is very important to drink lots of water when eating foods high in soluble fibre.

Chia seeds are highly concentrated with the omega-3 Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) which is important to combat the high amounts of omega 6 we see in westernized diets.  While both types of omega fats are essential in our diet, it is the ratio (and quality) of our omegas that we need to pay attention to. Omega-6 is found in high amounts in processed seed and vegetable oils and so it is best to avoid these whenever possible. Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory while omega-3 is anti-inflammatory.  Sources vary but most agree that having a ratio of 4:1 omega 6: omega 3. Those eating a westernized diet are having much more omega 6 with a ratio as high as 25:1 or even 40:1.  When you understand the health implications of chronic inflammation, it is no surprise that we are seeing exponentially more cases of inflammatory conditions from GI disturbances, such as IBD, Crohn’s Disease to asthma, arthritis and even cancer.

Again, rather than relying on dairy products that are often heavily processed and hard for many of us to properly digest, look to chia seeds to help you meet your calcium requirement – a two tablespoon serving offers 15% of your daily need.  This along with chia’s high phosphorous content contribute to optimal bone and oral health.

Due to their size and neutral flavour, chia seeds can be easily incorporated to any meal. Sprinkle them on your salad, in with your homemade granola or smoothie, as a binding agent replacement for eggs in baked goods, or make a chia seed pudding by blending with almond milk, honey and top with berries for a grab and go breakfast.

4.  Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is all the rage these days and it is no surprise why when you look at all the benefits this superfood has to offer.  Coconut oil is a healthy saturated fat that is both practical and flavourful. Coconut oil is primarily made up of medium-chain triglycerides which makes it an easy fat to digest and gives it many of its favourable properties. Coconut oil is a thermogenic food which means it helps to boost and support our metabolism while acting as an instant energy source by helping to burn fat for energy. For these reasons, coconut oil is big in the fitness world. With high amounts of lauric acid, coconut oil has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties and when ingested can help support our immune systems by fighting off the bad bacteria and keeping our gut health in line.  It’s high smoke point makes coconut oil ideal for cooking in comparison to olive oil which has a low smoke point and is better suited for salad dressings as it easily turns rancid when exposed to heat.

On top of it’s internal benefits coconut oil has many external uses. Enjoy it as a natural body moisturizer or as hair serum to tame dry ends. If you really want to get creative and take control of your personal care products, coconut oil can be used to make homemade products like toothpaste and deodorant. Some sources say that to reap all the benefits of coconut oil it is best to consume about three tablespoons per day of organic cold-pressed oil. 

Whether you get on board with the trend of bulletproofing your coffee or simply stir a tablespoon of coconut oil into your morning bowl of oats, make sure you’re taking advantage of this tasty superfood that’s at our fingertips.

5.  Avocado

If you’re like me, avocados added to just about anything can add insta-enjoyment to just about any dish.  Enjoy it on the side of your morning omelette, for lunch sliced into your sandwich or soup, for dinner on top of your salad or even for dessert made into a decadent avocado chocolate mousse (trust me on this one). Not only is avocado rich in healthy fat, it is high in fibre and water – both critical in keeping our digestive systems moving, Vitamin B5 which is important for energy production, and Vitamin K which supports bone health and blood clotting.

*Wild Fish

While I enjoy fish and choose to have them as a regular part of my diet, this recommendation may be seen as controversial due to the problems that can arise from fish farming and overfishing. The choices we make can have a big impact on marine life. For guidance on healthier options, look for the Ocean Wise symbol or click here for a list of sustainable choices.

Breanne Dunlop is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (R.H.N.) practicing out of Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic. To learn more about other foods that support your health and wellbeing or new ways on how to incorporate these foods into your diet, contact Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic to book your appointment today at 604-235-8068 or by email at info@yaletownnaturopathic.com.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome March 31, 2016

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Written by: Breanne Dunlop, RHN

An issue that is beginning to affect more and more women and their reproductive cycle is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is an endocrine disorder that disrupts the natural course of a woman’s reproductive cycle. Often this is experienced when a woman’s level of sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, are out of balance and the ovaries produce irregular amounts of androgens (male hormones). The imbalance of hormones seen in PCOS can result in the presence of irregular (but benign) ovarian cysts. Due to the nature of this disorder having PCOS can greatly impact a woman’s fertility.

Health conditions classified as a ‘syndrome’ means that experts cannot identify what is causing this disorder. Since the exact cause of PCOS is unknown it is considered a challenging disorder to treat by some or even deemed as incurable by others.

Some symptoms of PCOS include:

  • Weight gain, often in the abdomen
  • Increased body and facial hair
  • Mood imbalances, such as anxiety and depression
  • Hormonal acne
  • Changes to reproductive cycle: irregular periods, absence of periods altogether
  • Abnormal numbers of cysts on the ovaries
  • Painful periods, heavy bleeding and immense discomfort and cramping
  • Irregular blood sugar

PCOS and other female hormonal imbalances are so frequent that is a common stereotype that all women are, ‘crazy, hormonal, emotional wrecks’ at their time of the month. We are lead to believe that pre-menstrual stress is a normal part of the female reproductive cycle and it’s something we must learn to live with on a monthly basis. Ladies, did you know that you actually don’t need to suffer from PMS? (say what?) That’s right. The reason that not every woman suffers from it and that there are a multitude of symptoms is that PMS symptoms to that extreme are not ‘normal’ and is a cry from your hormones for help!

Wondering why your hormones are so out of whack?

Of course we naturally produce estrogen in our bodies – primarily in the ovaries. The issue occurs when external sources come in and manipulate our body’s level of estrogen; these include environmental disruptors, diet and lifestyle choices.

Environmental estrogens come from chemicals that occur in the environment that mimic estrogen in the body. Our body cannot tell the difference from these chemicals or the estrogen produced internally and these chemicals bind to the estrogen receptors manipulating estrogen levels. Environmental estrogens can be found in personal care products, in makeup and especially in plastics containing BPA such as food containers, baby bottles where the chemicals leak into the products we consume.

Estrogen levels can also be manipulated by particular foods we eat, as well as herbs we ingest in our supplements – these are known as phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens block receptor sites against estrogen causing either an estrogenic or anti-estrogenic effect.

What’s the solution?

The current ‘solution’ is to put women with PCOS on the birth control pill as a means to regulate their menstrual cycle and help lower elevated hormones. One of the issues with this is that it does not address the root cause, meaning the hormones will likely become imbalanced again once the pill is stopped. Along with this comes the many side effects that the birth control pill can have on women – mood imbalances, irritability, elevated levels of copper, weight gain, blood clots and again, issues with fertility when coming off of the pill. Instead of looking for a ‘quick fix bandage solution’ there are natural remedies that can be used in the form of diet and herbal supplements that can help regulate women’s hormones and menstrual cycle.

Eat the right foods for happy hormones!

The foods we consume can play a big part on our endocrine system. Hormones are responsible for every reaction in our body. They control the way we feel, how we sleep, our energy levels, our mood, our libido, our weight and our overall metabolism. Hormones are made from amino acids, the building blocks of protein, and so it makes sense that diet plays a very critical role on keeping our hormones in check. What we eat, when we eat it, quality and how much we have of it can make a huge difference on how our hormones respond in our bodies.

Breanne Dunlop is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (R.H.N.) practicing out of Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic. To learn how to support hormone balancing through diet, contact Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic at 604-235-8068 or by email at info@yaletownnaturopathic.com to book an appointment today!

Turning up the Heat on Colorectal Cancer March 17, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine, best vancouver naturopath, cancer therapy, Cancer Treatment, Healing, Health, integrative cancer care, Naturopathic Doctor, Naturopathic Medicine.
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Written By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, BSc (Hons)

Loco-regional hyperthermia is an advanced adjunctive cancer therapy which involves heating the tumour immediately after chemotherapy or radiation. Hyperthermia is characterized as the fourth pillar in treating cancer, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. This therapy is commonly used in hospitals and clinics across Europe and Asia but it is oddly not used regularly in North America. There are only a few advanced devices which actually have the capacity to significantly heat a tumour located deep within the body1,2. Recently there has been exciting research on a device called Celsius TCS and its use in colorectal cancer.

A recent clinical study in Greece investigated hyperthermia in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer when used in combination with chemotherapy1. In this clinical trial 32 patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer were divided into a control group who just received chemotherapy and the treatment group who received hyperthermia immediately following their chemotherapy infusion. When compared to the control group, the hyperthermia group showed a shrinkage of metastatic spots derived from colon cancer. This is in contrast to the control group which on average showed an increase of size during this time interval. The conclusion of the study was “the beneficial effects of hyperthermia are undeniable. The consolidation of the application of hyperthermia cancer treatment, is now a matter of time.”

I have personally observed the positive benefits of loco-regional hyperthermia many times in my practice with colorectal cancer. In some of these cases the cancer was progressing everywhere except for the specific masses that were being targeted by the hyperthermia. Upon shifting the treatment focus to a different metastasis, these new masses then started to also respond to the therapy as well. The heat that is applied to the tumour adds additional stress to the tumour cells when they are being treated with chemotherapy or radiation.

There are several naturopathic therapies which can be used to potentially help enhance the effectiveness of hyperthermia. Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that is safe to use in conjunction with some chemotherapies. This commonly used remedy is not safe with all chemotherapies and you must have professional guidance before using it. Quercetin has been shown to be a potent inhibitor of heat shock proteins. In other words, it inhibits the proteins that cancer cells use to resist the effects of the heat and thus makes colon cancer cells more vulnerable to hyperthermia3. There is also research to suggest that the diabetes medication metformin may be helpful to enhance the effects of hyperthermia by killing cancer stem cells4. These are just a few of many natural therapies which as starting to show promise as useful adjuncts to hyperthermia.

It is important to point out that hyperthermia is very different from an infrared sauna or the application of a heat pack. A loco-regional hyperthermia device is an advanced medical device that significantly heats the tissues surrounding a tumour2. You will not heat any tumour effectively without these advanced devices, especially if it is a deeper tumour. These are state of the art devices where the patient must be medically monitored during the procedure.

When looking at the evidence there is a clear and consistent trend. Localized hyperthermia has significant potential as an adjunctive cancer therapy. The application of heat using these advanced medical devices increases the effectiveness or chemotherapy and radiation. Hyperthermia reduces the risk of the cancer developing resistance to chemotherapy or radiation5,6,7. At the end of the day the goal is to use every tool at our disposal to increase the effectiveness of conventional therapies and destroy the cancerous cells. Hyperthermia is a potent adjunctive therapy that can help to accomplish that goal.

References:

1) Mandraveli, E., et al. “The action of hyperthermia in metastatic colorectal cancer in combination with chemotherapy.” Progress in Health Sciences 5.1 (2015): 69.

2) Noh, Jae Myoung, et al. “In vivo verification of regional hyperthermia in the liver.” Radiation oncology journal 32.4 (2014): 256-261.

3) Koishi, Mototsugu, et al. “Quercetin, an inhibitor of heat shock protein synthesis, inhibits the acquisition of thermotolerance in a human colon carcinoma cell line.” Japanese journal of cancer research83.11 (1992): 1216-1222.

4) Lee, Hyemi, et al. “Response of breast cancer cells and cancer stem cells to metformin and hyperthermia alone or combined.” PLoS One9.2 (2014): e87979.

5) Group, International Collaborative Hyperthermia, et al. “Radiotherapy with or without hyperthermia in the treatment of superficial localized breast cancer: Results from five randomized controlled trials.” International Journal of Radiation Oncology* Biology* Physics35.4 (1996): 731-744.

6) Uckun, Fatih M., et al. “Radiation and heat sensitivity of human T-lineage acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloblastic leukemia (AML) clones displaying multiple drug resistance (MDR).”International Journal of Radiation Oncology* Biology* Physics23.1 (1992): 115-125.

7) Souslova, Tatiana, and Diana A. Averill-Bates. “Multidrug-resistant hela cells overexpressing MRP1 exhibit sensitivity to cell killing by hyperthermia: interactions with etoposide.”International Journal of Radiation Oncology* Biology* Physics 60.5 (2004): 1538-1551.

Presentation at BC Therapeutic Touch Retreat 2016 March 15, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in Dreamhealer, Energy Healing, Healing.
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I am very excited to announce I will be presenting at the BC Therapeutic Touch Retreat 2016 on Saturday, April 23, 2016 in Springbrooke Retreat & Conference Centre located at 22778 72nd Avenue in Langley, British Columbia.

At this presentation I will provide information on practical tools that can be used to enhance daily self-care and how you can incorporate your intuition into your healing practice. I will also share some of my healing experiences and how plans can be customized for individual patients.

There is no group healing session at this presentation.

Please note, this event is not organized by Dreamhealer. To register for the event or if you have any questions about the event please contact Susan Rutherford at srutherf@gmail.com or 604-218-7707.

Click here to register.

See you all there!

Seasonal Allergies March 14, 2016

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Seasonal Allergies

Seasonal Allergies

Written by: Dr. Reuben Dinsmore

Spring is when Vancouver comes back to life. The days are noticeably longer, the crocuses and daffodils have been around for a little while now, and the plum and cherry blossoms are starting their annual show that transforms our city streets. Unfortunately, for the approximately 1 in 6 of us that suffer from seasonal allergies, or allergic rhinitis – this spring beauty can be associated with a feeling of dread.

Allergic rhinitis is a hypersensitivity mediated by your IgE antibodies, the same ones responsible for true food allergies (like life-threatening anaphylaxis caused by exposure to peanuts). Allergens (in this case, pollen) bind to these antibodies, causing the release of histamine and other inflammatory molecules stored in mast cells.

The severity of your symptoms depends on a lot of factors outside your control – the type of plants in your area, your particular sensitivities, how early and how long they bloom. Another thing about living in a city – particularly Vancouver – is that city planners typically plant only male flowering trees, to avoid the inevitable fruit and the resultant mess. But the male trees are the ones that produce all the pollen that causes your allergies.

All that aside though, there are also lots of factors that you CAN control, to help minimize your suffering.

  1. Determine what you are actually allergic to. This can be done by a skin-prick test, where small amounts of different allergens are injected just under the skin. This is very accurate, but it’s limited in how many different substances are available, and how much space you have on your forearm. Another, more complete option is getting a blood test done that measures IgE levels in the blood to allergens. This allows dozens or even hundreds of potential allergens to be assessed with a few milliliters of blood – at Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic, we offer allergy panels specific to the most common species in your area.
  2. Minimize exposure to the offending substance. As much as you might be tempted to call in sick for the next few months, that’s just not practical. But if you know what you’re sensitive to, the next step is finding out what time of year it’s at its worst, so you can step up your avoidance strategies. Also, pollen counts for most species are highest between 5 and 10 am, so stay indoors if possible during that time. If you have to go outside, face masks can be a very effective (if not the sexiest) option.
  3. Keep it out of your house. If you have to go out, try not to bring it home with you. Take outer clothes off at the door and put them in the laundry – even running them through a dryer cycle can blow off much of the pollen. Rinse your face well, gargle often, and consider using a neti pot to flush out your sinuses. And be especially careful to keep it out of the bedroom, where you probably spend most of your time when you’re at home. Rinsing your hair before going to bed will keep a lot of the pollen off your pillow.
  4. Get a good air purifier, with a HEPA filter. At the very least, get a small one for the bedroom.

Even after doing all this, you will probably still experience the symptoms of allergies. But as you know, these symptoms are not all or nothing – sometimes they’re bad, sometimes they’re quite tolerable. So what else might be contributing?

Allergies are a form of inflammation – and if you already have a lot of underlying inflammation, then it doesn’t take much more to push your symptoms over the tipping point. Diet and lifestyle can have a lot to do with it. Smoking, undiagnosed food sensitivities and a diet high in processed foods, refined carbohydrates and trans fats are all major causes of inflammation. In particular, certain foods are high in histamine (that inflammatory molecule at the center of seasonal allergies). Ways to reduce inflammation include moderate aerobic exercise and a diet high in organic fruits and vegetables.

And if after all that you’re still experiencing symptoms, it’s time to sit down with a naturopathic doctor for a personalized treatment plan. This will involve all of the above suggestions, as well as things to support your body’s elimination of the allergens and reduce the severity of the reaction.

Finally – look into long-term treatments to desensitize your allergies. It’s too late to do it for this year, but there are various treatment techniques that act to train your body not to react as violently in the future when it’s exposed to the same species that have tormented you all these years. These treatments include SLIT (Sub-Lingual Immunotherapy), NAET (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique), and LDA (Low Dose Allergen) Therapy.

Make an appointment with one of the naturopathic doctors at Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic today, and make this the year you can stop and actually smell the roses!

How to Protect Your Nerves During Chemotherapy March 10, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in best vancouver naturopath, Cancer, Healing.
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By: Dr. Adam McLeod, ND, BSc (Hons)

A common side effect from chemotherapy is peripheral neuropathy which manifests as painful or uncomfortable symptoms in the peripheral nerves. It often manifests as pain, burning, tingling, loss of sensation, balance problems or sensitivity to temperature and touch. The significance of the symptoms varies depending on how badly the nerves were damaged from the drug. Usually the feet and hands are affected first but technically these concerns can manifest anywhere in the body. If left untreated this damage can be permanent.

There are some drugs such as paclitaxel which are well known to cause this uncomfortable side effect. When the oncology team discusses the different side effects of therapy, patients are often left with the impression that peripheral neuropathy is a normal side effect of chemotherapy. As a consequence when it starts happening, patients do not recognize it as a serious concern. What more patients need to be aware of is that if you are experiencing neuropathy then you must inform your oncologist and your oncology nurse so that the dose can be modified accordingly. Do not wait for them to tell you that you have neuropathy, you must take the initiative and inform them as soon as you experience these symptoms.

Many oncologists have this belief that the only way to prevent peripheral neuropathy is to reduce the dose of the drug causing this symptom. Of course modifying the dose is important to prevent damage to the nerves but there are many natural therapies which can help support nerve health as well. What is interesting about these natural supports is that they are well documented to make a substantial difference in some major studies published in the most mainstream oncology scientific journals.

These natural therapies help to support the health of nerves during and after chemotherapy and the sooner that these supports are implemented the better. There are many different nerve supports available but the ones that I will talk about in this article are L-glutamine, B-vitamins and ALA. Another therapy that I will discuss is cryotherapy to the extremities.

L-Glutamine:

Glutamine is an amino acid that can be used to help support the health of nerves during and after chemotherapy1,2,3. In my experience this is particularly helpful with some of the intense chemotherapy regimens given to patients battling colon cancer. I have also found it to be more helpful when it is used to prevent neuropathy rather than waiting until the neuropathy has developed and then deciding to use it.

There is currently a controversy about the use of glutamine in cancer patients. Cancer cells uptake glutamine and it is metabolized by the cancer for a number of different pathways. Some people look at this information and jump to the conclusion that glutamine feeds the cancer. Yes, glutamine does feed cancer but glutamine also feeds every cell in the body. If the cancer does not get glutamine from the blood stream then it will cause muscles to waste away and get the amino acid from those tissues. The cancer will always find a way to get glutamine whether you supplement with it or not. The simplistic point of view that we should avoid everything that has potential to “feed cancer” is seriously flawed because our immune system desperately needs these same molecules as well. When it comes to the use of glutamine during chemotherapy, the benefits certainly outweigh the risks and this is particularly evident when we consider the health of the nerves.

B-Vitamins:

During chemotherapy the body often becomes rapidly depleted in water soluble B-vitamins11. It is critical to make sure that you are adequately supplied with B-Vitamins prior to and during chemotherapy to adequately support the nerves. The vitamins that are most critical to prevent neuropathy are B1 (Benfotiamine) and B12 (Methylcobalamin)4,5. The dosage of these nutrients makes a big difference and many of the low quality brands have completely insufficient doses. I have no idea why many of the popular low quality brands decided to put the same dose of all B-Vitamins (eg. 50mg of each B-Vitamin). Just because they share the letter “B” in their name does not mean that the metabolic requirement for each one is the same. Each B vitamin has a completely different function in the body so clearly some will be needed in greater quantities than others.

In my practice I regularly give B12 injections to patients who are undergoing any taxol chemotherapy. B12 is not an antioxidant and there are no realistic concerns about giving these shots regularly. Often the absorption of B-vitamins are impaired in cancer patients so oral supplementation is insufficient to achieve the desired doses. I have found that when given weekly these shots can dramatically support the health of the nerves. It is important to point out that you do not have to have a blood test which shows low B12 levels to justify the use of B12 injections. Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin so if your levels are high then the excess will just be excreted in your urine. It is not uncommon for me to give these injections to patients who actually have high levels in their blood and their symptoms improve as a result. A test that demonstrates adequate amounts of B12 floating in your blood in no way indicates how effectively your body is actually utilizing the B12. It seems that many people during chemotherapy have a functional deficiency of B12 during chemotherapy, even if the actual concentration in the blood is normal or high.

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA):

This natural support has been shown to be a helpful nerve support with certain chemotherapies5. It is critical to recognize that ALA is not safe with all chemotherapies. You must have professional guidance when implementing any of these neurological supports into a cancer treatment plan. ALA helps to prevent neurological damage by supporting the health of the mitochondria. Every cell in the body has mitochondria which are responsible for generating energy and these delicate structures are often damaged by chemotherapy. The ALA helps to directly protect these components within nerve cells which can help to prevent neurological damage.

I have found ALA to be particularly helpful in cases where patients had diabetic neuropathy prior to starting chemotherapy. Clearly in these cases additional supports are needed because the nerves will be inherently vulnerable to any additional stressors. ALA has been extensively studied in the context of diabetic neuropathy and has consistently demonstrated a positive effect  in numerous studies6. This is an example of a natural therapy where the quality of the supplement makes a big difference. It can be administered orally or through an IV. If it is given orally then it must be the pure R form to be effective. If it is a racemic mixture then it will not be effective. When it is administered through an IV it must not be mixed with anything else and the entire line and bag must be completely protected from UV rays. Often the bag and line is wrapped in tin foil to prevent UV degradation of the ALA.

Cryotherapy on hands and feet during chemotherapy:

One of the most basic physiological concepts is how blood flow changes when the body is exposed to extreme temperatures. When our tissues are exposed to cold temperatures the blood vessels in the periphery (arms, hands, legs and feet) constrict dramatically to reduce blood flow to the peripheral regions of the body. The blood is shunted to the internal organs so that your core body temperature is preserved and this allows vital organs to continue to function optimally in cold temperatures. When the body is exposed to very warm temperatures then the opposite happens. The blood vessels in the periphery open up and blood is drawn away from the internal organs to the periphery of the body. This prevents vital organs from overheating and it allows heat to escape on the periphery of the body in the form of sweat.

The concept behind cryotherapy during chemotherapy is that if cold is applied to peripheral tissues then there will be less blood flow to the nerve endings that are vulnerable to the effects of chemotherapy. By this same logic it should also deliver more chemotherapy to the cancer (which is more often located in these internal organs rather than on the hands/toes) by fundamentally changing the flow of blood in the body. This concept makes perfect sense on the physiological level and I would recommend this to anyone who is particularly concerned about neuropathy developing in their hands or feet. There is an abundance of research that supports the use of this therapy on the hands or feet to prevent nail toxicity and peripheral neuropathy7,8,9. In circumstances where patients wish to also preserve taste while reducing the risk of oral mucositis, it can be helpful to chew ice cubes during the infusion10. Of course this should not be done in cases of oral cancers but it is a helpful way to preserve taste by reduce blood flow to the tongue and mouth. This is a simple approach that in my opinion every patient should consider adding to their treatment plan.

Summary:

When used appropriately these neurological supports can be used in a synergistic manner to powerfully support nerve health. The sooner that these supports are used, the better chance of nerve recovery. The therapies that were discussed in detail here are only a fraction of the available therapies. Acupuncture, phosphatidyl-serine, acetyl-L-carnitine and glutathione are also used in specific circumstances to support nerve health. All of these supports must be used properly if you expect to have any positive results. In order to develop an effective nerve support protocol you must have professional guidance from a Naturopathic doctor who has experience supporting patients through chemotherapy.

Dr. Adam McLeod is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), BSc. (Hon) Molecular biology, Motivational Speaker and International Best Selling Author. He currently practices at his clinic in Vancouver, British Columbia where he focuses on integrative oncology. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com

References:

1) Wang, Wei-Shu, et al. “Oral glutamine is effective for preventing oxaliplatin-induced neuropathy in colorectal cancer patients.” The Oncologist 12.3 (2007): 312-319.

2) Savarese, Diane MF, et al. “Prevention of chemotherapy and radiation toxicity with glutamine.” Cancer treatment reviews 29.6 (2003): 501-513.

3) Vahdat, Linda, et al. “Reduction of paclitaxel-induced peripheral neuropathy with glutamine.” Clinical Cancer Research 7.5 (2001): 1192-1197.

4) Dizaye, Kawa F., and Chro Y. Qadir. “Effects of Benfotiamine and Methylcobalamin on Paclitaxel induced Peripheral neuropathy.” Middle East Journal of Internal Medicine 7.1 (2014).

5) Mondal, S., et al. “Comparative study among glutamine, acetyl-L-carnitine, vitamin-E and methylcobalamine for treatment of paclitaxel-induced peripheral neuropathy.” Clinical Cancer Investigation Journal 3.3 (2014): 213.

6) Foster, Tricia Stewart. “Efficacy and safety of α-lipoic acid supplementation in the treatment of symptomatic diabetic neuropathy.” The Diabetes Educator 33.1 (2007): 111-117.

7) Scotté, Florian, et al. “Multicenter study of a frozen glove to prevent docetaxel-induced onycholysis and cutaneous toxicity of the hand.” Journal of clinical oncology 23.19 (2005): 4424-4429.

8) Scotté, Florian, et al. “Matched case‐control phase 2 study to evaluate the use of a frozen sock to prevent docetaxel‐induced onycholysis and cutaneous toxicity of the foot.” Cancer 112.7 (2008): 1625-1631.

9) Eckhoff, L., et al. “Risk of docetaxel-induced peripheral neuropathy among 1,725 Danish patients with early stage breast cancer.” Breast cancer research and treatment 142.1 (2013): 109-118.

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