As an Integrated Wellness Specialist, I was very pleased to be invited to the Yes to Life conference in November. The theme was Starting the conversation and the aim of the conference was to explore ways in which integrating cancer care and lifestyle medicine can improve client outcomes.
Robin Daly, Founder and Chairman of Yes to Life set up the charity 14 years ago. They empower people with cancer and have helped huge numbers of people to obtain support and access to integrated medicine along their cancer journey. The aim of my article here is to share the key messages from the conference and to highlight some of the powerful initiatives and latest advancements in the field of integrated medicine for cancer.
Where are we now?
Although many people, including Robin Daly and Dr Patricia Peat, who co-hosted the conference have been working tirelessly for many years, there’s a long way to go in this important subject. However, as Robin Daly said “Change is at last afoot, it’s beginning to happen.”
Why is there a long way to go?
Cancer is complicated and it is very individual. The treatment and wellness options available for cancer are endless. These facts make it understandably confusing for cancer sufferers. Cancer Options run by Dr Patricia Peat, who has worked in this field for over 20 years, takes this overwhelm away. She makes it simple by narrowing down all the options and delivering personalised, expert information relevant to the patient enabling them to make the right choices for their unique situation. Dr Peat highlighted the two main problems with cancer -
1. It can be resistant to treatment
2. It can keep coming back
She stated that the reason for these two problems is due to the environment of the cells. If you support the body, create and maintain a cellular environment that is healthy, the cancer loses it strength and you are more able to stop the continuous process. If you don’t support the body, the cancer takes what it needs from the body to survive, including blood supply, cells and creates inflammation which blocks the immune cells from working. This can then block the chemotherapy, radiotherapy and stop cancer drugs from working effectively.
How do you improve the cell environment?
Dr Peat explained it focuses around optimising metabolism, pH of the body, gut health, hydration, diet, oxygen levels, plus mind, body and spirit support. When asked the question, “What’s the most important element when dealing with cancer?” Dr Peat’s reply is “All of it, it’s a method not an element and balance is key”.
Physical, emotional, environmental and spiritual health all need to be supported to achieve the best, long term outcomes. The more integrated support the body has, the more power it has to fight the cancer. For this reason, Dr Peat works closely with the Chemothermia clinic in Istanbul. They offer a novel and effective therapeutic strategy to clients using a protocol that focuses on 5 areas;
1. Metabolically supported chemotherapy (improved metabolism = improved effectiveness of chemotherapy)
2. Hyperthermia (which exploits heat sensitivity of cancer and improves effectiveness of radiotherapy and chemotherapy)
3. Hyberbaric oxygen therapy (more oxygen = more efficient chemotherapy and radiotherapy) cancer)
4. Ketogenic diet (reduce acidity of body to improve outcomes)
5. Oral medications (re-purposed drugs and supplements)
As Dr Slocum of Chemothermia explained “Cancer is a metabolic disease and this approach works synergistically by targeting several overlapping metabolic pathways and vulnerabilities of cancer cells”. He showed the outstanding successes of this treatment which improves the client’s cell environment so they need less chemotherapy, have more immune support and get less side effects.
The move towards Integrated Health
Dr Ashwin Mehta, Medical Director of the Memorial Division of Integrative Medicine at Memorial Hospital, Florida spoke of the Integrative and Lifestyle medicine in the USA, which is way ahead of the UK. He had a great analogy for cancer care; “If the body is the garden, and cancer is the weed, it’s the oncologist’s job to eradicate the weed. Once the weed is gone, it is our job is to support the soil to stop the weed from coming back.” At his hospital, once the client is diagnosed, they are able to follow a patient-centred model where they ask the client to “measure yourself – your concerns and wellbeing”. With the results they provide integrated health support such as -
Emotional support and mindfulness
Yoga, pain and inflammation support
Touch therapies and
This approach, which I continue to use in my work, is to meet the client to see where they are, explain the ideal solution, break it down into individual steps and support them to integrate it into their lives, knowing that different people will have different levels of engagement.
The importance of Social Prescribing
This tailored patient-centred approach is becoming more prevalent in the UK and was reiterated by Dr Marie Polley, co-chair of the Social Prescribing network and lecturer at the University of Westminster. Social Prescribing is about meeting a person at their point of need with appropriate advice. This may be social, emotional, financial or health related. The social prescribing network is aimed at complex needs or long term physical and mental health conditions.
Doctors’ workloads only permit them to have 10 minutes so this additional NHS service, provided by a link worker, gives patients the time to be listened to, to feel heard and to really play a role in their own health which can motivate them to do more to support their wellness. As she commented and I fully support this view -“there is always something that can be done”.
Robin Daly reminded us that anyone who has a NHS Continuing Health care plan (CHC) is entitled top extra support through a personal health budget. Patients, together with their local NHS team, create a personalised care and support plan identifying their health and wellbeing goals. The plan sets out how the budget will be spent to reach their goals, including expenditure on healthcare and support, treatments, equipment and personal care.
Sharing lifestyle medicine is key
Patients look to the Doctors for advice, however, when it comes to sharing nutritional advice as a lifestyle medicine, doctors often don’t feel confident sharing this information. Ally Jaffee and Iain Broadway, two medical students from Bristol University have a mission to get doctors appropriately trained to confidently deliver this information; “We would like to gain confirmation from each UK based medical school that they will commit to increasing nutrition and lifestyle education within their medical school curricula as soon as possible or by the end of 2019.”
They stated that 80% of patient walk-ins to GP’s have conditions related to poor diet or lifestyle choices. So you can see how our next generations of GPs desperately need this training to be able to share this valuable lifestyle medicine knowledge, allowing the amazing NHS to focus key resources on non-lifestyle related issues.
Continuing the conversation
The Yes to Life conference definitely got the conversation going and showcased integrative, innovative and effective ways of dealing with cancer. So as the conversation has definitely started, now it’s the job of all of us is to keep talking about it, support the integrated health causes and charities and keep sharing the messages, especially that message of hope. There are always ways to support the body and the more integrated support we can give it, the more power the body has to help us to get the best out of life.
Please see Yes to Life for more details about the excellent work of the charity, empowering people with cancer.
Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Integrated Wellness Specialist