Few know what integrative oncology or an integrative cancer coach is, even though it has been practiced for over 25 years, but with statistics showing that 1 in every 2 men and 1 in every 3 women will get cancer, and as these statistics are rising, integrative cancer coaching and care is becoming an appreciated field of support for those suffering with this dread disease.
In 2017 integrative oncology (integrative cancer care) was defined as:
Integrative oncology is a patient centered, evidence informed field of cancer care that utilizes mind and body practices, natural products, and/or lifestyle modifications alongside conventional cancer treatments. Integrative oncology aims to optimize health, quality of life and clinical outcomes across the cancer care continuum, and to empower people to prevent cancer and become active participants before, during and beyond cancer treatment.
From: A comprehensive definition for integrative oncology J natl cancer inst Monogr. 2017.1017(52) doi.10.1093/
What integrative cancer care does is to provide a health plan for you, in cooperation with your oncologist, complementing his disease management plan. The two work hand in hand to help people not only survive, but thrive after treatment.
Another way an integrative cancer coach can help, is to reduce the risk in people concerned that they may get this terrible disease.
Having first-hand experience of the horror of a cancer diagnosis and the effect it can have on a person, their family, and friends, my greatest wish is to spare everyone the trauma caused by this awful disease.
REDUCE YOUR RISK
My mother died of breast cancer when I was 21. It had spread to her lungs and watching her die, gasping for breath, left an indelible mark on my life.
I lived in fear of going the same way for most of my life, until I was forced to study cancer to try to save my husband’s life, this is when I found there were ways to avoid what our ancestors potentially give us.
Genetics, toxicity and chronic inflammation are major drivers of disease, including cancer, but what can we do about them?
We often hear that cancer runs in the family, but, does it?
Genes are only a 2.5 to 15% of the risk of getting cancer, depending on the type of cancer, and do not necessarily cause cancer as they depend on lifestyle, diet, and environmental factors to turn the genes on or off.
Much of the risk comes from family habits that turn on the genes we are given.
By making the right choices these genes are less likely to switch themselves on and the risk of your genetics causing cancer are greatly reduced.
Your Cancer Coach can help you understand how to reduce this risk.
“Genes are your tendency, not your destiny” is the phrase most commonly used and fields of Epigenetics and Nutrigenomics have shown that food and lifestyle affect the way genes express themselves.
There is a helpful form of inflammation – acute inflammation happens when our bodies need repair. Our repair mechanisms are called by the inflammation to come and repair the damage and leave after they have done the job. This is a good form of inflammation.
Chronic inflammation occurs when the body is damaged and our repair mechanisms are called to the site but cannot repair the damage and do not leave, leaving the area inflamed. This is a harmful process and leads to disease.
Your cancer coach can help you find and eliminate the causes of chronic inflammation.
Environment plays a large part in our chance of getting cancer. There are over 100,000 chemicals in our world today, increasing by about 2000 a year.
Only one percent of them have been tested to see if they affect our health in any way and none have been tested in combination with each other.
Every day, we are exposed to a ‘soup’ of chemicals, most of which are sold to us as harmless. In truth many that are used in our house cleaning and personal care products are known to disrupt hormones, cause inflammation, disease, cancer and disrupt our health in many ways.
Our food is not safe either; many food additives used to preserve food, make it look good and tantalize our taste buds are known to be harmful.
You will notice in pictures of crops being sprayed with fungicide, herbicide, insecticide, and pesticides, those doing it are all in protective clothing. Substances are also put in the sprays to stop the rain washing them off, they stay on our food after we wash it.
Some toxins are taken up into the plant and are impossible to remove.
The question needs to be asked “When does a hazardous, toxic substance become safe to eat”?
The answer is that it can never be safe to eat.
3. Does our digestion work?
We are all different, there is no ‘one size fits all’. Our ancestral diet plays a big part in how we should eat. People across the world have different foods available and have lived healthy lives on those foods for centuries. The difference was mostly dictated by climate. The Inuit had very few plants available and those they did eat were only available for short periods in summer, as opposed to the tropical people who had fruit and vegetables in abundance. It is interesting to note that no ancestral diet was extreme, all ate some form of plant and animal product.
We need to consider where we live and what food is available to ensure we do not have any nutrient deficiencies.
Our ability to digest our food is a very important factor, it is no good eating good food if we are not absorbing it.
In an ideal world we would all eat organic/pasture fed meats and home-grown organic vegetables and fruit, but we can only do the best we can with what is available to us.
If our digestive tract is damaged and not working as it should, we will be unable to absorb the nutrients from our food and may allow undigested food and pathogens to enter our blood stream, which will upset our immune system leading to inflammation and toxicity.
Your cancer coach is able to guide you in healing your digestion so you obtain optimal health.
4. Nutrient deficiencies
Eating nutrient poor food and/or having a digestive system that does not work properly leads to nutrient deficiencies.
Our bodies continually repair but if the right building blocks are not found our bodies use a substance that resembles what it needs, the repair will be sub-standard and lead to chronic inflammation.
Our bodies have many processes which keep us functioning and these need components which we get from our food. Proteins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins are all needed daily to build neurotransmitters, hormones, enzymes, muscle and repair our organs. If we do not have the required nutrients our body does not function as it should and will become inflamed.
With the guidance of your cancer coach you can ensure you always have the nutritional building blocks you need
There are many potential imbalances.
The balance between the good and bad microbes in our gut is the most important as it causes leaky gut and improper digestion which leads to the other imbalances.
Hormone imbalances lead to many illnesses and cancers, we need to be able to get them back in balance as soon as possible.
Neurotransmitter imbalance leads to depressions, problems with anxiety and other neurological issues.
We are electrical beings, our body works on electricity. In today’s world, we are constantly bombarded with electrical fields which have been shown to interfere with how our body works. We need to reduce our exposure and to earth our bodies by walking barefoot regularly to neutralize the harmful electrical fields affecting our bodies.
This is a complicated minefield where your cancer coach can guide you to be balanced in all areas of your life
Parasites, fungi, moulds, bacteria, viruses can all wreak havoc and damage our bodies, causing inflammation. If not dealt with they will cause chronic inflammation, leading to further disease.
They in themselves cause disease and many are very difficult to detect and get rid of. The Lyme spirochete being one example. It hides in a biofilm where antibiotics cannot find it.
Pasteur was the scientist who promoted the germ theory of disease, and is accused of getting his theories from others, and although germs do cause disease his rival Béchamp, more accurately, promoted the terrain theory. It is the terrain that the pathogen tries to inhabit which is the most important.
We cannot hide from germs, be they virus, bacteria, fungus, mould or other pathogens, they are everywhere and many harmful ones reside happily in our bodies or gut without affecting us until our gut flora is out of balance and immune system is compromised.
There are viruses, bacteria and parasites that cause cancer, mould weakens the immune system.
A cancer coach is able to help you eliminate these possible sources and keep your body and immune system as strong as possible as it is most important and only way to keep healthy.
7. Stress, trauma, and negative emotions
Our bodies react to all stressors in the same way, be it chemical, physical, psychological, or perceived.
When our body perceives a stress trigger it gets us ready to run away from the threat as that is what our ancestors did in the hunter/gatherer days.
Our stress hormones are triggered, and they shut down our digestive system, which is not needed, raising our blood sugar, heart rate and blood pressure to power our muscles and brain for that quick escape.
Once the threat passes our body goes back into a more relaxed state and our digestion starts up once more.
In the present world we are often under continual stress from chemicals, psychological and perceived threats which does not allow us to digest our food properly.
A cancer diagnosis or the fear of getting cancer is extremely stressful, many do not know who to turn to or where to go for guidance and care. This is where your integrative cancer coach comes in, the person who can explain your options so you can make an educated choice based on fact and not emotion, find a way and treatment that suits you, and be a shoulder to cry on when needed.
“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality” ― Lucius Annaeus Seneca
We need to be able to relax, especially when eating.
If we cannot remove our stressors, we need to learn how to cope with them, to relax and stop the stress response.
Trauma can play a role in disease and cancer. Many people with cancer have had a traumatic experience before being diagnosed and so we need to work through any past traumas.
Negative emotions change the chemistry of every cell in our bodies, making them more susceptible to disease and cancer.
Laughter is the best medicine.
Lifestyle an important part of why we get ill and can open the door to cancer.
Habits like late nights, shift work, smoking, drinking alcohol, not exercising, and worrying all play a part in our cancer risk.
We need to evaluate which risks we are prepared to take and which ones we are happy to remove.
Your coach can guide you and help you to make good lifestyle choices.
WHEN WE HAVE CANCER
Once diagnosed with cancer, support and guidance is needed to help you take all the above steps and to go through treatment – your integrative cancer coach will be there to reassure, help and guide – you will not be alone in your walk.
The medical profession lacks the time and resources to reassure and inform their patients and rarely know how nutrition and lifestyle changes can help.
9. Health plan
An integrative cancer coach can help a person with cancer by formulating a health plan to work alongside the disease management plan provided by their oncologist, according to available products and preferences. Chemotherapy can be enhanced by some supplements or inhibited by others.
There are supplements and foods that have anticancer actions which differ depending on the type of cancer and type of treatment.
There are steps that can be taken before surgery, during Radiation treatment and chemotherapy to enhance the efficacy of the treatment, reduce the side effects and to help recovery.
10. Side effects
Integrative cancer coaches know ways to lessen side effects of each treatment to make it an easier journey and to be there for you when you have questions or difficulties.
There are supplements that have been shown to enhance the efficacy of the treatments or to help prevent resistance to them, each plan is different, depending on the treatment, type of cancer and person. Your integrative cancer coach is there to help you navigate your way through all the confusing information.
Some foods are natural cancer fighters; researchers have found certain foods have compounds that are anti-inflammatory and have cancer fighting properties which help our immune system fight cancer every day. These need to be included in your diet.
All herbs, spices, vegetables and fruit have healthy properties but, as they could not run away from predators, they also have compounds designed to prevent being eaten. They also produce substances to stop fungal, bacterial and viral attacks.
Some people may be sensitive to one of more of these compounds, leading to less than optimum health and sometimes disease because of their inflammatory action.
Animal foods are high in essential nutrients and easily absorbed and are needed to build the body.
The role of an integrative cancer coach is to help you find any issues you may have and to advise you which are the best cancer fighting foods for you.
13. Stem cells
Research has shown compounds found in certain plant foods kill cancer stem cells. We need to use as many of these as we can as cancer stem cells and circulating cancer cells are responsible for recurrence. A cancer coach will be able help you with the foods available to you.
14. Muscle Wasting (Cachexia)
Cachexia kills about 20% of cancer patients. Your integrative cancer coach can teach you how to optimize nutrition, especially good quality protein, to stop Cachexia (muscle wasting), how to tantalize your damaged taste buds into enjoying nutritious food and supply delicious recipes for the ingredients you can find in your area.
Cachexia is avoidable, you cancer coach can help you avoid it.
15. Trauma and Stress
A cancer diagnosis is possibly the most traumatic and stressful situation you will face in your life.
Learning to deal with the trauma and stress of the diagnosis (or previous trauma and stress) may need support and mechanisms to cope with them. Your integrative cancer coach is there to provide any support and coaching on techniques you may need. This will be tailored to suit your situation.
16. Helping your family
Your diagnosis is as stressful for your family and friends who often feel helpless.
Supporting your family and helping them understand where they can help and support you is a very important part of integrative cancer care.
Having an exercise program which you can do and enjoy is a very important part of fighting cancer. Exercise has shown to increase the life expectancy of those with cancer. You can formulate one with the guidance of your integrative cancer coach.
WHEN IN REMISSION
The happiest day or your life will be when you are told you are now tumour free, but you will also be warned that there is a chance of recurrence. This unpleasant thought and living with this sword of Damocles over your head is not the way anyone would like to live. Your cancer coach knows that cancer does not have to recur and with the correct guidance and help you and your family can be saved from this additional trauma.
Cancer and the conventional treatments damage our body and immune system, helping it to rebuild is the most important part of the recovery process. Your integrative cancer coach can show you the best way to do this, tailoring the protocol to suit your individual needs.
Making sure your environment is not able to give cancer a gateway into your life is very important. The greatest contributor to cancer comes from environmental and dietary choices. Between 90 and 95% of our risk is environmental.
This is where knowing what to do will make a big difference.
Your integrative cancer coach has been trained to help you avoid the many pitfalls in our modern environment.
Lifestyle factors, like shift work, sleep habits, alcohol, smoking and diet are all cancer and disease risks – ensuring your lifestyle and routine is preventative and will deter the cancer returning is something to embrace with joy. Appreciating life and nature, being able to relax and having time to take care of yourself is an essential part of staying in remission.
Once more your cancer coach is trained to help guide you to make the best choices for you and to give you ways to break the cancer causing habits and give you alternatives and ways to cope so you do not feel deprived of the things you enjoyed.
21. The Terrain
Using Béchamp’s now proven observation that it is the terrain and not the microbe or disease that causes ill health, an integrative cancer coach can guide you in cultivating a body in which cancer will find it difficult to grow.
Research has shown that having a good support team, including medical, integrative care modalities, spiritual and family support enhances ones chance of survival.
By working with your support team, a program can be formulated to help you, no matter what your needs are or where on your cancer walk you are.
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