Finding the Positive in a Cancer Diagnosis

 

power of positive


If I told you that it’s possible to be well and have cancer, what would you say? In fact, some of the healthiest, most vibrant, enthusiastic, and energetic people I know have cancer.

With a cancer diagnosis there comes fear. Overwhelming, suffocating, blinding fear. And that’s ok. It’s normal. But after some time to digest the news – it’s important to move thru the fear and turn your attention to what you can do to improve your situation and live the life you want.

I have had the pleasure of meeting brave and stunning souls. Many of whom have faced the life they were given (and sometimes the death) with courage beyond what I thought humanly possibly.

One of the most powerful statements I have heard was from an inspiring 35 year old female patient who was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a devastating diagnosis and would require aggressive treatment. After a few weeks of working together, she said the following, and it has stuck with me ever since:

“Cancer has given me permission to be the person I want to be.”

In an otherwise awful situation, she found opportunity. She started to create the life she had always wanted. (She is now 1 year cancer free and has started her own business doing the work she loves).

For some people it takes a life threatening diagnosis to make big changes.

There’s a lot of evidence to support the benefits of mindfulness, of being present. If nothing else, a cancer diagnosis can catapult a person into the present moment. Things that once seemed important become trivial and things we might have once ignored come clear into focus.

I think there are worse things then getting a shove towards being your authentic self.

When a person with cancer chooses to live in a way that reflects their highest self, healing will always happen. It may or may not mean cure, but healing is where the real magic is.

 

i lost my fear

 

 

Mistletoe Therapy

What is mistletoe therapy?
The liquid extract of the mistletoe plant has been used as an alternative method to treat cancer for close to a century! Mistletoe injections are currently among the most widely used unconventional cancer treatments in Europe. Estimated 80% of German and Swiss medical doctors advise cancer patients to use it as part of their protocol.

Primary actions: toxic to cancer cells, DNA protective, anti-inflammatory, immune modulation.

Syringe.jpg

Is mistletoe effective for my type of cancer?

Mistletoe (sold as Iscador or Helixor) can be used in malignant and not-malignant tumors to stimulate immune function. When combined alongside conventional treatments, mistletoe has been shown to offset the side affects of chemotherapy/radiation like nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite. It can also be used to diminish tumor-related pain and to reduce the risk of tumor recurrence.

Why are mistletoe treatments not available at cancer institutions in North America?

Even though it is used all over the world and proven effective in treating cancer, a clinical trial has not yet been done in North America. Until this happens, oncologists cannot offer this treatment as standard of care. Mistletoe can be prescribed by licensed naturopathic physicians who are trained in integrative oncology.

What does a mistletoe treatment look like?

Mistletoe is given as a subcutaneous injection (like an insulin shot, just below the skin) every 2-3 days. These injections can be done at home, making it a very cost effective treatment option.

Cost is dependant on personal response and required maintenance dose.

The ideal reaction to a mistletoe injection is a red flare or welt at the site – which indicated an immune system response. The welt may get red and itchy but should not exceed 2 inches in diameter and should vanish within 48 hrs. A good indication that the mistletoe is working is a slight increase in body temperature (1 C) within a few hrs of the injection and lasting no longer than 12 hrs after.

What benefits can I expect?

It is common to see tumour progression slow or stop, improved health, and reduced pain. Increased survival time is well documented. Quality of life is nearly always improved, including reduction in pain level, improved appetite, and general wellness.

What are the risks?

Negative side effects to mistletoe therapy are rare and minimized with the appropriate dose schedule. However, bruising as well as inflammatory reactions (which are desired and expected but can sometimes become problematic such as fever, flu-like symptoms, and headache) are possible.

*Notes: Deepest gratitude for Dr Neil McKinney, a naturopathic oncologist in Victoria, BC has over 30 years of experience working with cancer patients. He is a trusted source for mistletoe information and has seen a good response (improved quality of life, extended survival) in cases of advanced cancers.

Contact us for more information about the benefits and options of integrative cancer care.

IV room
Our beautiful IV room. 

Thinking outside of the (lunch) box

This fall a big change is happening for my family. My daughter starts kindergarten in September. Although she has attended day care on occasion, most of her care to this point has been at home with the help of our extended family. Having a child in school presents a couple of challenges that make me exceptionally grateful for naturopathic medicine and my awareness around the importance of wholesome food.

eat-real-food

So, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that healthy meals are always a big focus in my life.

With the first day of school around the corner I’ve had to do some outside of the box thinking as to how I can pack a kid-friendly, healthy meal that travels.

Let’s begin with a few general tips about healthy meal planning.

1) Involve the entire family in meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal prep. Kids who engage in the kitchen activities are more likely to eat the meals that are prepared and have better long-term eating habits!

2) Set time aside to prep and batch cook so there’s less to do throughout the week. I like chopping all my veggies into sticks for snacking or grating a few cups of purple cabbage, carrots, and celery to easily toss into salads, wraps, or stir fry. Things like quinoa, hummus, energy balls, salad dressing, overnight oats, yogurt bowls, soups, chilli, sauces, etc. can all be made several days in advance or even frozen for long-term storage.

3) Plan ahead. This is THE KEY to healthy eating. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Live by it. If you have time and are making a lovely, nourishing meal think about ways the leftovers could be incorporated into the next day’s lunch or supper. Make a plan for a week or at least 2-3 days in advance (and stick to it).

kids lunchbox 1

Here are some great ideas I hope will help inspire healthy, creative, and most importantly delicious lunch boxes!

Overnight chilli or pasta sauce
– Place all chilli ingredients in slow cooker overnight and in the morning, simply fill a thermos with the goodness. Send with toasted spelt pita chips.
Note: My daughter has turned against the texture of some of the veggies we put in sauce and chilli, so I do appease her by using a hand immersion blender or our Vitamix to create a consistent texture. When making chilli, I simply add the beans after blending.

Boost your Sandwich
– Add sprouts
– Use lots of veggies such as shredded cabbage, carrots, and celery
– Include “real” meat (ideally high quality, local/grass-fed/free-range) or wild fish
– Try using mashed avocado or hummus instead of mayo
– Be choosy with your bread, go for ancient grains like spelt and kamut. Many local bakeries offer options like this OR wrap it up with lettuce or a sheet of seaweed!

Super Salads
– Get creative! Anything goes when it comes to salad (aka Goddess Bowls!)
– Add lentils, chickpeas, or beans for protein
– Vary the greens (and use more than one kind at once!)
– Toss in fruit and veggies!
– Pump up the volume with seeds, sprouted grains, or sprouts
– Modify the ingredients for less sophisticated palates and wrap them up in a spelt pita or brown rice wrap

Pack a punch with pasta
– Switch up the noodles for black bean or lentil varieties for added protein and fibre
– Try a veggie noodle using a spiraler (zucchini and spaghetti squash are naturals for this!)
– Make your own sauce (we load ours with veggies and then blend it to please our daughter’s texture preference)
– Take every opportunity to add in veggies, like in this Mac and Cheese

Snacks
– Hummus and veggie sticks
– Energy seed balls (of course being mindful of no-nut policies)
– Cheese and crackers
– Smoothies to go-go
Popcorn!
– Wholegrain rice cake with pumpkin seed butter, hummus, or avocado
– Plain, full fat yogurt with chia or ground flaxseeds, topped with berries, cinnamon, and a splash of honey or maple syrup
mason-jar-recipes-main
Water
– We’ve all heard about the dark side of fruit juice and I recommend avoiding it. In my experience, when juice is not available kids will drink water! Send them to school with a cool, stainless steel canister and encourage them to refill throughout the day!

Let’s face it, eating clean, wholesome foods takes preparation. But I think you and your kids are worth it. I hope you do too!

Happy lunchbox packing!

What You May Not Know About Naturopathic Medicine

After reading a great article by fellow naturopathic doctor Talia Marcheggiani, “Destroying Myths About Naturopathic Medicine” I was inspired to put my own spin on some common misconceptions.

Naturopathic Medicine is not scientific. FALSE
There is a growing body of scientific evidence that supports naturopathic therapies. Along with, of course centuries of history proving both safety and efficacy.

Visits to naturopathic doctors are covered under many insurance plans. TRUE
Most insurance carriers offer coverage for naturopathic consultations! Be sure to check what your insurance covers to get the most out of your plan.

Naturopathic doctors are anti-pharmaceutical, anti-surgery and anti-vaccine. FALSE
Naturopathic doctors implement treatment plans that are safe and effective and are well aware of situations that require interventions outside of the naturopathic scope. In my practice, my focus is on providing resources and information as to what the options are (both naturopathic as well as conventional), and supporting patient choices.

Naturopathic Doctors have a minimum of 7 years postsecondary education. TRUE
NDs are highly educated primary care providers who integrate standard medical diagnostics with a broad range of natural therapies. I first received my Bachelor degree in Science at Dalhousie University prior to completing the 4 year, full time naturopathic medicine program at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.

Naturopathic medicine takes a long time to work and isn’t as effective as conventional drugs. FALSE
Lifestyle changes are often part of a naturopathic plan and do require commitment. Other naturopathic strategies, such as castor oil packs and lemon water, are gentle and supportive and may not be targeted enough to address more severe underlying causes. However, many naturopathic modalities including herbal medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy, nutraceuticals, and IV therapy are extremely effective and can produce immediate, lasting results.

Patients need to choose between naturopathic and conventional medicine. FALSE
Numerous studies that show that, when practiced together, naturopathic medicine and conventional medicine achieve better outcomes than conventional medicine alone. Considering the benefits, an integrative approach to healthcare is becoming more & more common.

Naturopathic Doctors understand drug-supplement interactions. TRUE
A naturopathic doctor is a doctor and only makes recommendations after reviewing the details of your health history during the initial consultation. Natural does not always mean safe, especially when combining natural health products with pharmaceuticals. Get expert advice you can trust and avoid interactions between natural health products and medications by consulting with an ND.

Supplements and other naturopathic remedies never cause side effects. FALSE
Supplements, herbal remedies, and homeopathic are potent natural substances that have the potential to cause harm when used inappropriately. Get expert advice you can trust and avoid potential side effects by consulting with an ND.

Naturopathic doctors can treat more than gas and bloating. TRUE
A naturopathic doctor is a highly educated doctor. In my practice, which is a general family practice, I work with people of all ages in the prevention and treatment of anything and everything related to your health; mind, body, and spirit.

Happiness Begins In the Gut

The gut and the brain are connected. Maybe that sounds odd to you but in recent years the gut-brain connection has become a hot research topic. Studies like this one highlight the importance of a healthy gut flora and the benefits of probiotics on mood and brain function. There’s evidence to suggest healthy gut flora levels improves our ability to cope with stress and are an effective option to treat depression and anxiety.

In this clip the role of the gut and probiotics is discussed and it becomes pretty clear why the gastrointestinal system is commonly referred to as our second brain.

Guest Post – Postpartum Depression

Pregnancy, child birth, and the postpartum period place high demands on a woman’s physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Although welcoming a new life into the world comes with strong feelings of happiness, the postpartum period is a fragile time during which many women struggle with depression.

In this article, naturopathic doctor and CCNM clinic resident, Lauren Quinn, looks at the difference between postpartum ‘baby blues’ and postpartum depression, and ways to prevent postpartum depression.

There are ups and downs during the postpartum period. Lack of sleep, initiation of breastfeeding, variable support networks, hormonal changes, and physical symptoms after birth can all take a toll on a mother’s mood.

Postpartum blues
During the postpartum period there is a shift in hormones; estrogen & progesterone levels drop and prolactin levels rise. Postpartum blues can affect up to 75% of mothers, and the onset is usually within the first 3-5 days postpartum and can last for 24-48 hours. Symptoms include: anxiety, mood swings, fatigue, and feeling tearful and overwhelmed. There is no treatment required for the baby blues; however, support, nutrition, and rest will assist with coping with these changes.1

Postpartum depression (PPD)
In Canada, the prevalence of major postpartum depression is 8.69%, while that of minor/major (moderate) PPD is 8.49%. Symptoms typically appear by 2-4 weeks postpartum, and are longer lasting and more severe than the baby blues. Symptoms can be the same as any other depressive episode and can include: anxiety about infant, guilt, insomnia, severe fatigue, and inability to care for self or family. Some risk factors for developing PPD are a prior history of depression, lack of social support, adolescent mothers, and mothers who experience high levels of stress during pregnancy.1

Stress and Inflammation:
Preventing and treating postpartum depression should include decreasing stress and inflammation. Research in the area of psychoneuroimmunology is investigating the relationship between stress, inflammation, and depression; mental and/or physical stress can lead to increased inflammation which is a major underlying risk factor for depression. Pro-inflammatory cytokines increase during the final trimester of pregnancy, and they increase even more when affected by sleep disturbances, pain, and other stressors in the postpartum period.2

Lifestyle support:
1) Breastfeeding
Successful breastfeeding has been shown to be associated with more positive mood and decreased stress.3 Initiation of lactation and having infants properly latch can be very a challenging for new mothers. Seeking out some of the following resources during pregnancy could be a helpful way to prepare for breastfeeding:
-Dr. Jack Neman- Dr. Newman is a medical doctor who runs the International Breastfeeding Clinic in Toronto. He has a book called Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding, handouts and resources on the website http://www.nbci.ca, as well as a Facebook group (Dr. Jack Newman) for online support.
-Lactation Consultant- Find a board certified lactation consultant for hands-on clinical support with breastfeeding, and any breastfeeding-related problems.
-La Leche League- A mother-to-mother support group set up in cities all around the world. Visit http://www.groups.LLLC.ca to find one close to you.

2) Exercise
Exercise can be a helpful way to decrease depressive symptoms postpartum.4 Meeting up with other mothers to walk while pushing a stroller, or finding a mom-and-baby yoga class can be ways for new mom’s to get out, socialize, and get some exercise with baby in-tow.

3) Infant massage classes
Postpartum depression can negatively impact the mother-infant relationship. Infant massage classes have been shown to facilitate mother-infant interaction, and decrease depression scores in mother’s with postpartum depression.5 Infant massages are not only great for bonding, but can be a calming addition to bed-time routine.

Nutritional support:
The link between nutrient deficiencies and mood has been reported for folate, vitamin B12, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. Several studies have reported inadequate intake of omega-3s, folate, B vitamins, iron, and calcium in pregnant women.6 Combine that with the fact that pregnancy and lactation are major nutritional stressors on the body, it makes sense to utilize nutrition in the prevention of postpartum depression.7
1) Fish oil
Omega-3 fatty acids, including intake during the perinatal period, can help decrease pro-inflammatory cytokines, thus decreasing the risk for depression.2,8 A combined EPA/DHA supplement (with at least 400mg/day DHA) is best to help support mom’s mood, and also ensure baby is getting the proper fatty acids for brain and vision development.

2) Vitamin D
Low vitamin D levels during pregnancy can increase the risk for developing low mood and depressive symptoms during the postpartum period.9 Supplementing with at least 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day during pregnancy and the postpartum period can help in achieving adequate levels.

3) Tryptophan
The amino acid tryptophan is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin, and decreased serotonin levels are associated with depression. There is a transient decrease in tryptophan during the postpartum period which could contribute to low mood.10 The most common sources of tryptophan are protein-based foods such as nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, beans, lentils, and eggs. A whole foods diet with lots of veggies and fruit, along with plentiful intake of these protein-rich foods, can help support mood.

4) Iron
A combination of increased need for iron during pregnancy and blood-loss during birth can put new mother’s at risk for anemia. The recommended daily allowance of iron for pregnant women is 27mg/day, and that for breastfeeding women is 9mg/day. It is important to have iron levels checked because postpartum anemia is associated with increased fatigue, emotional instability, and depression.11,12

Thyroid
Testing thyroid function and treating accordingly is something that should not be overlooked in new mom’s, as there is a positive association between decreased thyroid function at delivery and depressive symptoms at 6 months postpartum.13

Additional naturopathic therapies can be used to address the cause of the issue, as well as to help alleviate the symptoms associated with low mood and depression. These include, but are not limited to the following modalities: lifestyle and nutritional support, nutraceutical supplement, botanical medicine, and acupuncture.14 It is important to have a thorough assessment done by your healthcare provider, and this article should not replace the advice of your naturopathic doctor or family physician.

References:
1. Lanes et al. Prevalence and characteristics of Postpartum Depression symptomatology among Canadian women: a cross-sectional study. BMC Public Health. (2011); 11: 302.
2. Kendall- Tackett, Kathleen. A new paradigm for depression in new mothers: the central role of inflammation and how breastfeeding and anti-inflammatory treatments protect maternal mental health. International Breastfeeding Journal. 2007; 2: 6.
3. Groer MW. Differences between exclusive breastfeeders, formula-feeders, and controls: a study of stress, mood, and endocrine variables. Biol Res Nurs. 2005; 7(2): 106-17.
4. Armstrong and Edwards. The effects of exercise and social support on mothers reporting depressive symptoms: A pilot randomized controlled trial. International journal of mental health nursing. 2003; 12: 130-138.
5. Onozawa K et al. Infant massage improves mother-infant interaction for mothers with postnatal depression. J Affect Disord. 2001; 63(1-3): 201-207.
6. Leung BM and Kaplan BJ. Perinatal depression: prevalence, risks, and the nutrition link–a review of the literature. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2009; 109(9): 1566-1575.
7. Bodnar and Wisner. Nutrition and Depression: Implications for Improving Mental Health Among Childbearing-Aged Women. Biologyical Psychiatry. 2005; 58(9): 679-685.
8. De Vriese et al. Lowered serum n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) levels predict the occurrence of postpartum depression: further evidence that lowered n-PUFAs are related to major depression. Life Sciences. 2003; 73(25): 31831-3187.
9. Robinson et al. Low maternal serum vitamin D during pregnancy and the risk for postpartum depression symptoms. Archives Women’s mental health. 2014; 17(3): 213-219.
10. Bailara et al. Decreased brain tryptophan availability as a partial determinant of post-partum blues. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2006; 31(3): 407-413.
11. Milman N. Postpartum anemia I: definition, prevalence, causes, and consequences. Annals of Hematology. 2011; 90(11): 1247-1253.
12. Albacar et al. An association between plasma ferritin concentrations measured 48 h after delivery and postpartum depression. Journal of affective disorders. 2011; 131(1-3): 136-142.
13. Sylven et al. Thyroid function tests at delivery and risk for postpartum depressive symptoms. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013; 38(7): 1007-1013.
14. Manber et al. Acupuncture: a promising treatment for depression during pregnancy. Journal of affective disorders. (2004)l 83(1): 89-95.