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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.


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 cancer treatments. http://www.yaletownnaturopathic.com


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.

Prepare for Flu Season with these Immune Boosting Foods January 21, 2016

Posted by Dreamhealer in best vancouver naturopath, Healing, Health, immunity.
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Written by: Breanne Dunlop

Once again, it’s almost time to kiss the sunblock goodbye and pack away the bikinis for another year. As the cold weather sets in, our immune systems begin to struggle, providing opportunity for bugs and bacteria to take over. For this reason, it is important to give our immune systems some extra TLC; one way to do this is through our diet.

It’s pretty amazing to think that 80% of our immunity lies in our gut, and so it makes perfect sense that in order to build our immune systems, we must protect and bring into balance the healthy bacteria in our gut. Supplementing with a high quality probiotic is always a good idea and there are also certain foods that can be added to our diet to give our immune systems a boost.

Consume more Fermented Foods

One area of focus should be on incorporating fermented foods. Our ancestors traditionally enjoyed fermented foods in abundance as it was and is a great way to preserve food. The real benefit, and why these foods are so encouraged, is that fermentation results in food that is alive with enzymes, B-vitamins and even strains of probiotics! Examples of fermented foods include sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, miso, apple cider vinegar and yogurt (preferably a high quality organic and grass-fed).

Eat your Antioxidants

Antioxidants are also important for strengthening our immune systems. Antioxidant nutrients include vitamins A, C, E, Selenium and Zinc. Foods high in these nutrients include your dark leafy greens, orange fruits and vegetables, citrus fruits, nuts and seeds.

Next time you go to the grocery store be sure to pick up some of these immune supporting foods:

  • Fruits – papaya and strawberries
  • Vegetables – red bell pepper, broccoli, brussels, tomatoes, sweet potato, carrots
  • Butternut squash
  • Dark leafy greens – swiss chard, spinach and kale
  • Seeds and nuts: sunflower, pumpkin, almonds and cashews
  • Mushrooms (shiitake, maitake and reishi are the most potent!)
  • Spices: cinnamon, cloves, rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme and turmeric
  • Onion and garlic
  • Ginger
  • Honey

Here’s how to work some immune boosting foods into your daily regime!

  • For breakfast try adding organic berries, yogurt, honey and cinnamon to your favourite smoothie or on top of your oatmeal.
  • Swap a glass of kombucha for your mid-morning coffee.
  • Add a spoon of sauerkraut or kimchi to your salad or with your protein.
  • Replace white vinegar with apple cider vinegar in homemade salad dressings.
  • Use honey to sweeten tea rather than table sugar or stevia.
  • Enhance casseroles or rice/quinoa dishes with miso instead of salt.
  • End your day with a comforting cup of tea that will not only give your immune system some TLC, but will also promote a deep and restful night’s sleep.

For more information on how to boost your immune system or book an appointment to prepare for fall and flu season contact Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic at info@yaletownnaturopathic.com.

What You Need to Know About Your Immune System November 30, 2015

Posted by Dreamhealer in Healing, immunity, Naturopathic Doctor, Naturopathic Medicine.
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Days are getting shorter and we have all noticed the drop in temperature even on sunny days. Fall is here! Thanksgiving, pumpkins and beautiful foliage are all part and parcel of the coming season. Autumn is historically a time for harvest, taking stock and preparing for the coming hardships of winter. This principal can also be applied to your health. Now is an ideal time to take stock of your body and help set yourself up to fight off that winter virus or even avoid it completely. In order for you to help maintain and improve your body’s defence system it may be helpful for you to have a better understanding of how it works.

Your body is constantly bombarded by bacteria, fungi and viruses, amongst other things. They are in your home, on your skin and even in the air you breathe. While quite a number of these are harmless, many of them are potentially dangerous to us. The name given to these infectious agents (including bacteria, virus, prion, fungus, or parasites) is pathogen. If you think about it, the human body is a perfect home for these pathogens. A warm moist environment such as that found in the human respiratory tract is exactly what they need to grow and multiply . Luckily for us, the human body has evolved a number of ways to protect us from an invasion. As with all parts of the human body and its inner workings, the immune system is incredibly complex. For the purposes of this article we will try to keep things as simple as possible.

The immune system is not a combination of organs such as the digestive system or the nervous system. Rather is it functional system that involves a number of organs, molecules and immune cells. Many of the organs involved in the immune system have other functions too. The immune cells (of which there are trillions) live in the lymphatic system and the blood and other body fluid.

Skin and Mucosa – Innate Physical Defence

The skin is the largest organ of the human body. It provides a physical barrier between the outside world and your body. The epidermis or outermost layer of the skin is made up of highly keratinized cells. This layer is resistant to most bacteria enzymes and toxins. Mucous membranes line all body cavities that open to the exterior. Examples of these are the digestive system and the respiratory system, reproductive tracts and urinary tracts. The lining inside your mouth is an example of a mucous membrane. Apart from physical barriers these organs also produce secretions such as sebum on skin, hydrochloric acid in the stomach, saliva in the mouth and tears in the eyes, which contain enzymes and chemicals to inhibit or destroy bacteria. The skin and vaginal mucosa maintain their PH at a level that also makes it difficult for pathogens to survive. Sticky mucous at the body’s orifices traps pathogens and prevents them from entering the body. Along the upper respiratory tract you will find tiny hair like structures known as cilla which sweep dust and mucus towards the mouth thus preventing it from traveling further into the body.


These are a type of white blood cell that essentially guard and patrol every border of the body. If the skin and mucosa are breached these cells are usually the first to come upon the pathogen. They work by engulfing the pathogen and secreting enzymes, free radicals and even hydrogen peroxide (bleach) in some cases. Sometimes the chemicals secreted depend on the type of pathogen. If the pathogen is too big for the macrophage to engulf it will secrete it’s chemicals into the area surrounding the pathogen in order to kill it. Often macrophages can handle the pathogen on their own as they are capable of engulfing up to 100 pathogens each. Macrophages will also communicate to other immune cells to bring them to the area. They can also cause the cells of the surrounding blood vessels to flood the area with fluid making it easier for the immune cells to work in the area. This is part of what causes swelling and inflammation in an area where the immune system is at work.


Neutrophils are another type of white blood cell very similar to macrophages, these cells are found in the blood. Once alerted to the presence of an intruder (usually by a macrophage) neutrophils will travel to the area. They are very aggressive and will often kill healthy cells and themselves while in the process of removing a pathogen. They engulf and kill in a similar way to macrophages and they also create barriers around pathogens to prevent it spreading. They will also trigger the next line of defence. Neutrophils will commit suicide after 5 days to prevent them becoming too prolific and causing damage within the body.

Natural Killer Cells

Once the pathogen has managed to infect a healthy cell, the healthy cells send out a stress signal. The natural killer cells, found in the blood and lymph, recognize that this cell is infected and kill it. Unlike the previous cells they do not engulf the cell but attach to it to induce apoptosis (cell suicide). The infected cell dies and takes the pathogen along with it. Natural killer cells also act to enhance the inflammatory response first triggered by the macrophage.

Inflammatory Response

This response is activated when any trauma occurs to the body e.g. a blow, a burn, a cut or an infection. The signs of inflammation are redness, heat, swelling and pain. This is a normal part of the healing process and not always indicative of an infection. Heat and redness are caused by increase blood flow to the area which brings more immune cells to fight any potential infection. There is also an increase in fluid surrounding the cells in this area, leading to swelling. This fluid contains chemicals to promote inflammation and draw more immune cells to the area. It also contains interferon and complement which kill virus infected cells, and helps the healthy cells resist infection and intensifies the body’s response. The build up of fluid causes swelling which presses on nerve endings in the area and can cause pain. Pain may also be caused by the pathogen itself releasing toxins. The increase in fluid in the area helps to dilute any harmful chemicals a potential pathogen may produce and the fluid also contains important chemicals such as clotting factors which help to form a protective barrier and contain the area. The pain and swelling also restrict movement in the area forcing us to rest it and allow for healing to occur.
All these factors can occur before the body has even worked out what it is defending itself against. These responses happen regardless of the pathogen and are known as the nonspecific immune response.

B-Cells, T- Cells and Dendritic Cells- Adaptive immunity

Antibodies found on B-cells (another white blood cell) activate the complement that in turn interferes with the pathogens ability to function. The antibodies are made by the B-cell from pieces of the pathogen. The dendritic cell, sometimes known as the brain of the immune system, eats part of the pathogen and decides what kind of cells are needed to fight the infection. It then calls on the appropriate cells to the area.

Helper T cells release chemicals which aid antibodies and call more macrophages and neutrophils to the scene.

Cytotoxic T cells also receive the signal and secrete chemicals to get the infected cell to die and take the pathogen with it.

Regulatory T Cells are the cells which slow the immune response by releasing chemicals. These are the cells responsible for calming down the immune response once a threat has been overcome. These cells also play an important role in preventing autoimmune reactions.

Memory Cells (which can be made from B-cells or T-cells) are produced by the body during the course of an attack on the immune system.

They can remain in the body for years after the infection and enable our bodies to mount an even faster response in the event of another attack by the same pathogen. Often they will enable the body to react so quickly that you will never even know your body is under attack.
Other areas of the body involved in our immunity include the bone marrow where blood cells including those discussed are made, the thymus gland which produces hormones involved in the immune response, and the lymphatic system which is closely related to the circulatory systems and drains into it. Many white blood cells are found in the lymphatic system and during an immune response they travel from here to the site of infection. This is why during an infection you may notice swelling in the areas where lymph nodes are present such as neck and underarms.


Part of the body’s immune response may include a fever. It was previously thought that a rise in temperature simply aided the body to defend itself by making it difficult for bacteria to replicate and grow. However, new research is now showing that an increase in body temperature may actually help the cytotoxic T-cells (which kill infected and cancerous cells) to carry out their work more effectively. Some experts now believe that allowing the body to go through a mild fever may actually enhance the immune systems response and we should reevaluate how we treat mild fevers in the future. It is important to note that while a mild fever may be helpful, a very high body temperature can be dangerous. The normal range for your body temperature should be between 97.8 and 99.0F (36.5-37.2 C).

Your immune system can be a good indictor of your overall health. Contrary to popular belief, getting cold when wet will not make you more likely to catch a cold or flu this winter. However, things like stress, lack of sleep, poor diet and generally being run down could contribute to a less effective immune system. As such, maintaining a healthy happy lifestyle can help you to avoid becoming unwell this winter. Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor at Yaletown Naturopathic Clinic for advice on optimizing and boosting your health and immunity.

Human anatomy and physiology 7th ed. 2007. E. N. Marieb and K. Hoehn.
Fever Plays Vital Role in Immune Response. Infection Control Today. Nov 2nd 2011. Accessed on September 7th 2015.http://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/news/2011/11/fever-plays-vital-role-in-immune-response.aspx

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