Nutrition -  How a nutritional therapist can help and time for a resolution

Tuesday 08 May 2018

The New Year a time of resolutions, taking stock and looking forward. I really hope that you all have a good New Year one of positive news and renewed energy.

It is also a time for me to take stock and perhaps spend some time reflecting on my work and how I can best serve all of my readers and people that I meet affected by cancer. I am always looking out for new research and information about nutrition and cancer which I can pass on.

I am reminded of when I did my post graduate course on cancer and nutrition. In fact I still have all the notes and handouts from the lecturers. I was looking through them over the Christmas break and came across this. It outlines the role of a nutritional therapist. I thought that you may find it interesting and hopefully renew your interest in good nutrition because I feel that there is no doubt, that eating as well as you can helps both physically and emotionally. I have added a brief explanation after each point which should help with your understanding and explain the importance of each aim.

The lecture title was called ‘Transforming Attitudes to Cancer’, and these were outlined as the key aims of a nutritional therapist.

To improve digestive health, including support of the gut microflora.
We know that treatment, particularly chemotherapy has a negative impact on the digestive system this is because the treatment is aimed at destroying rapidly dividing cells i.e. cancer cells but, the cells that line the digestive tract are also rapidly dividing so will also be affected.

Correct nutritional imbalances particularly potassium/sodium levels and essential fatty acid balance.
Ideally we should be eating a lot of foods that are rich in potassium and low in sodium. This is because potassium is alkaline forming and sodium encourages an acid environment. Many books and research into cancer and nutrition emphasise the importance of having a more alkaline body as cancer does not thrive as well in an alkaline environment. The alkaline forming foods are all the fresh fruits and vegetables that I am always encouraging people to eat. Ideally 8-10 portions a day!!! For more on this visit my  earlier blog on Acid v alkaline

The essential fatty acids are often low in most people’s diets because they come in such few foods particularly omega 3 to read more about this visit the blog 4/6/12.

Improve overall metabolic function e.g re oxygenation.
This is quite a complex subject. Basically oxygen is needed by the cell to support energy production via the mitochondria (energy centre in the cell). When this is working well it not only produces energy but also helps the cell to cause apoptosis (known also called cell death) when something is wrong. Many cancer experts have focused on this principle including Warburg and the famous Warburg effect and Linus Pauling who believed that vitamin C given intravenously would do the same. (It is worth noting that these have their sceptics and not that I would particularly advocate these methods as science has moved on). Whether this is the case or not we do know that fruits and vegetables have many other benefits including an abundance of vitamins and minerals and phytochemicals which have huge health benefits.

Enhance detoxification and elimination by supporting particular organs and body systems e.g. the liver and digestive tract.
This is where we would probably get most of our criticism particularly from more conventional practitioners simply because the word detoxification may conjure up water fasts and weird concoctions to be taken regularly, but this is so far from the truth. The aim here is to simply support the main organs that deal with toxins that accumulate in the body as a result of treatment or poor diet. This can be done by simply following a diet containing foods as natural as possible avoiding the heavily processed convenience foods. The Mediterranean type of diet is favoured and a blog on this will soon follow.

Rehydrate the body.
Basically make sure that people drink enough fluid including sufficient water. We are 80% water and even with a 10% fall in hydration we can experience everything from a 50% fall in energy levels to our ability to concentrate. Water is also vital, it helps to flush toxins out of the body and to re-energise the cells.

Alkalise the system.
Similar to point 2 above.

Encourage stable blood sugar.
As we know when we have erratic blood sugar due to eating sweet sugary and processed foods this can have many negative effects.

  • Firstly with a sugar rush we will also experience an insulin rush. Insulin is the hormone responsible for rebalancing our blood sugar by bringing it down to normal when it goes high. The problem with insulin is that when it is circulating in the body it encourages cell growth and fat accumulation which as you will have guessed is best avoided.
  • Also when blood sugar fluctuates to extremes of highs and lows, which happens when we eat sweet or processed foods, this creates internal stress on the body. When we are stressed for whatever reason the body will produce stress hormones to help our bodies adjust to the stressful condition. Continual stress will flood the body with the stress hormone cortisol which has been shown to supress the immune function.
  • Lastly insulin can interfere with the liver’s ability to detox excess hormones including oestrogen. So considering all of that we can see that sugar is not such a good deal. I must stress that it is so important to read food labels because sugar is used a great deal by the food industry particularly in low fat foods which are designed to help us get healthy!!!. The problem is that the fat has been replaced by sugar and as we know sugar is best avoided.

Support the immune function.
This is so important because treatment for cancer can suppress the immune system and many scientific research papers conclude that eating well will in turn support the immune system. Many people undergoing chemo can become neutropenic and have their treatment delayed until the immune system picks up.

Promote hormone balance.
Again hugely important particularly for those with hormone driven cancers. Having said that all hormones of the body need balancing including insulin, thyroxine, digestive hormones to name a few.

Nutrition and cancer
Years of research and observational studies have been carried out and written on the subject of the effect of food and nutrition on cancer and the evidence is very strong. It shows that eating well and paying attention to your diet can have a huge positive impact on your overall wellness. Many report that when they eat well cope with treatment better, experience less side effects and recover better after treatment. This understanding is gathering momentum to the point that many cancer care specialists are adopting nutrition as part of their treatment making it a truly complementary therapy which I think is very exciting and very right.

Not only does food have a positive impact on how well the body functions but also it is very empowering by creating a feeling of control which in turn breeds a positive mind. Being positive has a very real impact on the immune system and how well it functions so eating well is a win win situation.

The best you can do is good enough
Having said all that I am very conscious that we live in the real world and preparing a healthy meal or making a proper shopping list is not always top priority which is very understandable. I do know that treatment can do all sorts to the taste buds and appetite and flatten enthusiasm. With that in mind I always encourage the people that I talk to, to do the best that they can and that is always good enough.

 See also:

 Acid v alkaline blog link (June 2012)

Fats part 2  blog link Feb 2012

Blog originally written by Caroline Jan 2014

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