My partner and I were walking our dog recently. Our neighborhood has many folks who've lived her for over 30 years, and we're a close knit bunch. We hadn't seen one of our neighbors for a while so we stopped and chatted a bit. She mentioned that her relative had been diagnosed with cancer recently and was undergoing some surveillance rather than treatment. I, of course mentioned that this would be an excellent time for him to see someone with expertise in safe and effective alternative therapies (not as an alternative for conventional medicine, but while under surveillance, to boast his immune system), and an excellent time make specific changes to his diet. She responded that he's already looked on the internet, and had made changes to his diet already. 'That's great', I said. I meant it, and I also walked away knowing that he could be doing much more than getting some general information from the internet. Food is vital for good treatment outcomes.
I want to explain what I do, and why my expertise is specifically vital to cancer patients during treatment.
It starts with my academic and professional background. Prior to becoming a Naturopathic Physician, I completed graduate (MS) work in Biochemistry and Microbiology, and had several years professional experience as a research scientist in those fields. I have always been interested in how things work, thus science has always been a perfect fit for me. In fact, one of my first research projects out of graduate school was isolating Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and looking at its affects on stress.
When I 'discovered' naturopathic medicine in the early 1990's, I was intrigued yet skeptical: do these therapies work, or is it just a bunch of snake oil? I entered Bastyr University in 1994 and completed my studies in 1998, thinking that I'd get a grant which would answer my question, but that didn't happen until 2005. In the mean time, as I practiced at private and public health centers, I passionately checked PubMed and other credible repositories for scientific studies on natural products.
In 2005 I was awarded a National Institute of Health Research Fellowship which utilized my experience as a laboratory researcher, as well as a clinician. For the next five years, I was driven to answer the question: do medicinal mushrooms have an affect on healthy immune systems and ones burdened by breast cancer; if so what are the effects.
After my grant ended in 2011, I was asked to join a specialty practice. The practice we delivered complementary cancer care in oncology centers. During that time I realized that patient wanted and needed information regarding not just nutrition, but specific nutrition during cancer treatment. This was something that the practice didn't offer, but as usual I began to research and apply my experience as a biochemist, knowledge of how, at a physiological level these conventional therapies acted, and what deficiencies they caused and related side effects, and outcomes.
So what do I do that is different from the information found on the internet, or suggestions from nutrition buffs, nutritionists or dietitians? Applying biochemistry, using my experience, knowledge of conventional therapy mechanism of actions, contraindications:
- I assess individual existing deficiencies
- I recommend specific dietary changes based on existing illnesses or conditions
- I assess potential (likely) deficiencies based on specific treatment
- I recommend dietary changes based on affects to the immune system of treatment
Most nutritionists and dietitians only recommend general plans that are non specific and don't take into account specific treatments (e.g. Taxol causes a different nutrient losses than Cytoxan; they have different mechanisms of action).
The internet often times offers information that is wildly flamboyant and can be misguiding, some dangerous. Some of the information is correct but not specific thus not as helpful as it can be for cancer patients.
There are nutritionists and dietitians that have specialty training in oncology. These are the folks that you would want to work with.
Because of the importance of nutrition to outcome, it is vital while going through therapy to use correct food and nutrition.