Towards the Future of Medicine and Personalized Healthcare
Creating Your Personalized Nutritional Plan: supporting paths to remission during chronic disease using comprehensive genetic analysis
Have you done Ancestory or 23 and Me? You might be sitting on a pot of gold containing information affecting your optimal health. Read on.
Over a decade or so ago, while a National Institute of Health (NIH) fellow studying immunology and cancer, I was intrigued by the phenomena of spontaneous remission in patients with cancer and other chronic illnesses. Statistically spontaneous remissions in cancer, also known as St. Peregrine’s tumors, are estimated to occur in 1 out of 100,000 patients and is thought to be the result of an activated immune system. I wondered what was the key to the powerful impact the immune system.
Around the same time, I was introduced to Dan Buettner and others’ work on Blue Zones. Blue Zones are five identified areas in the world where the incidence of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic illnesses are low to zero, and longevity is the norm. While there are several aspects that contribute to excellent quality of life in Blue Zones, diet was most intriguing to me. Diets are mostly plant-based, hyper local and comprised of seasonal crops.
As my NIH research on the immunological effects of Turkey tail (Coriolus versicolor) continued and then transitioned into clinical practice, my observation that nutrition plays an important role in decreasing side effects during treatment, increasing quality of life, and playing a role in outcomes including remission strengthened. Many peer reviewed studies continue to support these findings. However, keys to answering what specific factors optimally affect individual patients’ immune systems during cancer, and chronic illness have not been completely worked out. But we are getting closer.
Most of my work now focuses on the use of food/nutrition to support cancer patients during treatment through remission, as well as patients with chronic disease. My objective continues to be to support an optimally functioning immune system, in addition to resolving symptoms or side effects. More recently, I have been in search of nutritional treatment plans that are unique for, and therefore more individually supportive for my patients.
Initially, most of my patients were prescribed a Good diet. I define Good diets defined as those that you would obtain from a nutritionist. Focus is on macronutrients, but not specific foods and frequencies. These recommendations do not consider the dynamics of shifting treatment therapies and may or may not take into consideration co-morbidities. Good diets from my office include menus that are anti-inflammatory and plant-based. Strong evidence indicates that plant-based and anti-inflammatory diets are connected to lower incidence of cancer and other chronic disease.
My work shifted several years ago to creating dynamic diets that include plant-based which meet the needs of individuals during treatment. Cancer therapies, and other conventional treatment protocols, create predicted nutrient alterations, and side effects. These effects can be decreased or prevented using specific diets. I call these Great diets. Great diets are included in a book I co-authored Cooking through Cancer Treatment to Recovery, and two books that I solo authored Prostate Cancer: Thriving though Treatment to Recovery, and Breast Cancer: Thriving through Treatment to Recovery (Demos Health Publishing, Inc; New York City).
No two people are alike however, thus Good and Great diets have limitations.
Recently my focus has turned to including diets that are guided by personal genetic information plus the protocols I use for Good and Great diets. These fall into the category of what is classified as Nutrigenomics. Genetically guided assessment uses patient’s unique blue-print to personalize a plan, thus creating a more precise and dynamic diet which can be powerful. I want to note that this type of analysis is far more complex and beyond an analysis for the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). Everyone who has had an analysis of your DNA by Ancestory or 23andMe has awesome and extensive raw data that can be used.
Let me further explain.
Our DNA contains genes that code for proteins our bodies uses for essential functions such as metabolism, detoxification, growth etc. Genes can mutate, or mutations can be passed down. When mutations occur, the proteins that the genes code for can have decreased or abnormal function and can result in disease processes including cancer. Currently, some oncologists use this genetic information to determine if chemotherapies will be appropriate and effective for patients.
An important revelation is that mutations can be affected, that is, their function can be improved, or exacerbated.
Personal genetic information can also be used to assess immune function. This is especially important in nutritional cancer care, and this is where my interest lays.
There are many proteins that are essential to a robust and correctly functioning immune response. Many of those proteins have been identified. Many studies include how specific nutrients can have upstream or downstream effects on optimizing function of those mutated proteins.
This information is dynamic and powerful. I have combined information from my NIH research to genetic analysis as guidance to creating powerful diets for my cancer patients through therapy and beyond. I call these Precise diets in my practice.
Additionally, I use this genetic information for my more complex patients too – those with chronic health conditions or those with complex cases that seem to be unsolvable. I have had success with patients suffering from depression, migraines and lack of weight loss (related to health), thus far.
In optimizing the immune system response during chronic disease, it is important to take a multifactorial integrated approach. Diet is an integral component to wellness and remission. Good, Great diets are helpful, but I believe that Precise diets may be of powerful use to patients regarding outcomes.
As a certified expert in OPUS23, a dynamic genetic analytical tool, I offer these reports to my patients. Most patients have found them to be very useful in helping to support wellness and resolve some health issues.