Friday, 14 December 2018

Genuine cause for optimism - Robin Daly

Our founder, Robin Daly, shares his thoughts following ‘Starting the Conversation’, the Yes to Life annual conference…

For well over a decade, Yes to Life has been working to give direct support to people in the UK with cancer who want to know what they can do to help themselves, how they can improve their odds and their wellbeing. This work is central to the charity and it includes operating our helpline of trained volunteers, commissioning thousands of personalised reports to deliver information on good treatment choices, giving small grants to support the purchase of integrative therapies, as well as the broader outreach of workshops and seminars to empower individuals.
Lifestyle Medicine, as it is now called, has come in from the cold. When Yes to Life was first established, any and all approaches outside of the orthodox methods of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery were derided and often met with outright hostility. While this is still sadly true to some extent, a new wave of thinking is emerging within healthcare that places Lifestyle Medicine, and therefore Yes to Life, firmly at the centre of health agendas that are focused around patient choice, patient-centred care and self-management. Fourteen years after Yes to Life’s founding, our mission is beginning to find a wider audience, and our commitment to Integrative Medicine is at last receiving the validation it deserves.
Another important facet of the work of the charity is to drive the agenda for integration forward. Our key vehicle for this is our annual conference, which this year showcased some of the most inspiring examples of new developments in healthcare. Speaker after speaker built the ground for optimism about the future of medicine. By the end of the day, there was simply no escaping the fact that we are at the start of a new era, in which the narrow attitudes within the NHS that we have become so inured to, are at last showing the first signs of losing their ubiquitous hold, as a new generation picks up the banner of Lifestyle Medicine.
In the past, the NHS has maintained its credibility through insularity. Its record for acute care is justifiably high, but the balance in healthcare has swung massively towards the management of chronic conditions. In this, its performance has been lacklustre at best. Up until recently, unsupported statements about ‘the best healthcare system in the world’ were sufficient to win the approval of the masses, but increasingly, as the NHS’ performance has been set on the world stage, its shortcomings have become unavoidable.
The morning sessions of our conference were dedicated to bringing in some international perspective: what is working elsewhere, what can we learn from it? After ‘setting the scene’ for the day, Patricia Peat, Director of our partners Cancer Options, introduced Ashwin Mehta MD who leads the Integrative Medicine department of a large hospitals group in Florida. Amongst many interesting insights and comparisons, Dr Mehta was able to tell us how, simply by having the right professionals on site, readily to hand, a ‘third way’ opens up for ‘at risk’ patients. The ‘black and white’ rigidity that currently exists in the UK where you either ‘do nothing’ (aka ‘watchful waiting’, ‘active surveillance’) or you get treated in ways that are often highly damaging, physically, mentally, socially and in many other ways. It’s a brutal system that operates like an on/off switch, offering many people the choice of too little (the agony of waiting to get a diagnosis of cancer) or too much (prostate cancer treatment for example can often result in incontinence and impotence). Before being thrown into the nightmare of cancer treatment, those seen to be at risk are given the option to avoid or at least contain the development of cancer, by engaging in a range of non-toxic, healthy lifestyle approaches, whilst receiving the assurance of being carefully monitored. This is an enormous step forward that can avert many diagnoses completely, a win for both the public and the healthcare service.
Dr Abdul Slocum, from the ChemoThermia Clinic in Istanbul, gave us his perspective on the logic of adding relatively cheap integrative approaches to standard protocols. The striking results the clinic is achieving with hard to treat cancers are a testament to the validity of this approach, which relies on known techniques that massively undercut the astronomically expensive new products of the pharmaceutical industry, whilst challenging their best achievements.
The afternoon sessions were entirely focused on some of the most exciting developments and initiatives by individuals, organisations and the government, to overhaul our healthcare. Student doctors Ally Jaffee and Iain Broadley, dismayed by the lack of nutrition and lifestyle content in their training, set up Nutritank to remedy the situation. It has taken hold right across the UK, clearly meeting a much broader dissatisfaction with the direction of medicine. Their enthusiastic endorsement of Lifestyle Medicine brought spontaneous applause from our delighted audience, who have long been used to a tragic lack of support from the medical world for their lifestyle successes. 
Dr Marie Polley of Westminster University, a powerhouse for change and Chair of the Social Prescribing Network, spelled out the rapid development and take-up of Social Prescribing, and what this means to people on the ground: how it is creating genuinely helpful lifestyle options for the 20% of doctor visits for which the only resource previously available has been the completely unsuitable option of medication with drugs. 
In tandem with Social Prescribing, I was delighted to be able to present the very significant news concerning the evolution of Personal Health Budgets. It has been a very long time coming, but PHBs represent one of the first manifestations of genuine choice and patient-centred care. Through a jointly agreed budget, patients with long-term conditions get the freedom to spend in a way that generates the most benefit for them, and PHBs are already proving their merit both for patients and by reducing costs.
The event reached a high-energy conclusion as our inspired final presenter, Jon Liebling, spoke about the recent change in the law concerning cannabis as a medicine that he and the United Patients Alliance had worked so hard for, as well as their plans to move the agenda much further in the coming months.
Up until recently, the biggest drive for change towards integration came from the public and campaigning groups such as Yes to Life. This movement is now starting to meet the most forward-looking elements within our NHS in a shared vision for a future in which healthcare looks very different, a future in which much more than lip service is given to patient choice and patient-centred care. The coming year will see Yes to Life ramping up the pressure for change as well as building on the foundations already established for collaboration with other campaigners, with health professionals from all sectors, and with the NHS. It is truly heartening that we are beginning at last to see the fruits of our efforts to modernise healthcare, but this is no time for complacency - rather it’s the time to ‘step on the gas’.

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Friday, 7 December 2018

Review of the Yes to Life annual conference 2018 - Gill Smith

This week Gill Smith, author and blogger of Because You Can, shares her review of our annual conference which took place on 1st December…

I over-reached myself last Saturday to attend the Yes to Life annual conference 'Starting the conversation - Exploring the potential of Integrative Medicine' in London. I was utterly exhausted, but glad I went.
As their website says, Yes to Life empowers people with cancer to make informed decisions about their cancer care options. We provide information to guide people through the confusing options for care and lifestyle choices.
They don’t recommend foregoing NHS treatment and drug regimes, but want to increase knowledge of what complementary tests, treatments and supplements are available which may make conditions harder for cancer cells to thrive. This is very close to my heart as I soon realised that as a Stage 4 patient the NHS protocols were only expected to keep me alive for a very limited period. 
While there are many excellent books, charities and other organisations imparting this knowledge my frustration is that they seem to plough their own furrows rather than working collaboratively to bring greater awareness into public knowledge and trying to affect medical opinion. It is hard for cancer patients to get the knowledge they need, and complementary therapies are certainly not endorsed by GPs and oncologists and often their use is discouraged.
Other advanced countries take a different view and have better survival rates than the UK.
The Yes to Life conference brought several different perspectives into the room.
The morning session was chaired by Patricia Peat, Founder of Cancer Options and whose book The Cancer Revolution provides information about treatments and therapies available in the UK and around the world. 

Dr Ashwin Mehta updated us on developments in the US in integrative medicine, and the work of the Society for Integrative Oncology. From a country where doctors are financially incentivised to refer patients for chemotherapy, and “heads in beds” is seen as a healthy bottom line, this was welcome news.

Dr Abdul Slocum of the Chemo Thermia Oncology Centre www.chemothermia.comin Istanbul told us about the results they obtain with their combination of therapies. They use Metabolically Supported Chemotherapy which means they can use lower doses of chemotherapy to improve treatment results and reduce side effects. Additionally, they use other treatments tailored to the patient’s metabolism, including hyperthermia, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, off-label drugs and supplements and diet. Dr Slocum showed many examples of patients they had treated successfully. For anyone with cancer who has the financial resources and can travel to Istanbul this would be worth looking into.

The afternoon session focused on developments in the UK.
Ally Jaffee and Iain Broadley were so shocked at the tiny amount of nutrition and lifestyle education on the syllabus of medical schools that they were motivated to found Nutritank, www.nutritank.coman information and innovation hub for food, nutrition and lifestyle. They work at grassroots and interprofessional levels. There are currently over 15 Nutritank Societies in medical schools increasing the knowledge of nutrition and lifestyle amongst medical students, the student population and the wider community, and increasingly in schools. 

Dr Marie Polley told us exactly what Social Prescribing is, and progress being made to enable GPs and other frontline healthcare professionals to refer to a local link worker who can make referrals to support organisations, often in the voluntary and social sectors.

One of the themes for the day running through several presentations was meeting the patient where they are, often using motivational interviewing, so that they can devise a treatment plan which will work for their individual needs.
Robin Daly’s session on developments in Personal Health Budgets showed an example of how this can work in practice for people with continuing healthcare needs.

The final presentation was from the very lively Jonathan Liebling. Political director of the United Patients Alliance Deliberately not using the c word (cannabis) in its title, the Alliance advocates for medical cannabis to be legal, and works closely with the Centre for Medical Cannabis Jonathan claims that there are currently 1.1m medical cannabis users in the UK, and that GPs on the frontline are supportive but can’t say so. With the increased prominence of the issue and the recent legalisation of medical cannabis he says that influential people now come to him, where previously he had been rejected. Jonathan was understandably very upbeat about recent changes, but it seems to me that progress towards patients actually being able to access medical cannabis is disappointingly slow and it is unclear when or if it will be licensed for use by cancer patients. But encouragingly Jonathan seems to have the ear of the right people.

Another theme for the day was that our health service needs to be more about health than treatment. In cancer that means the focus should be on healing the person, not just killing the cancer. This conference gave me hope that progress is at last being made towards this happening.

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You can purchase a copy of Gill’s book here.

Friday, 30 November 2018

8 top tips for looking after your genes - Igennus

Today's post is by Igennus Healthcare Nutrition with some sound advice about how you can take care of your genes for better health…

Our genes contain the complex code that programmes every single function of our cells and body but, despite what you may have been led to believe, our genetic instructions are not set in stone. Throughout our lives, the way our genes are ‘read’ can change as a result of environmental, emotional and nutritional ‘edits’ made to how our genes are accessed and translated.

Along our strings of genetic code are a number of tags that act as signposts, guiding the cellular processes responsible for reading our genes to focus their efforts on the right sections. Much like you might highlight or add a coloured post-it note to a page of a book, these tags allow for quick and easy access to the right sections of our genetic code, so that they can be easily read and activated.

Until relatively recently, it was assumed that we were all born with our genes fixed, with all the right tags in the right places; however, over the past decade or so, Epigenetic research (Epi meaning upon or above)- the study of changes to cellular and physical traits caused by external or environmental factors that lead to switching genes ‘on’ and ‘off’ and how cells read genes - has increased exponentially. Today we know that everything - how stressed you are during pregnancy, whether you were bullied as a child, what’s in the air you breathe, how often and in what way you move, the foods you choose to eat - has the power to alter these genetic tags and subsequently the way our genes are activated. Far from our fate being ‘written in our genes’, epigenetic changes with the potential to alter our genetic expression, occur throughout our lives and can even be passed down through the generations.

It is now understood that the risk of diseases such as cancer, mental illness, neurodegeneration and even cardiovascular disease all increase with certain epigenetic changes and so, more than ever, we need to understand which factors in our environment have the power to alter these genetic tags, for better or worse, and what can be done to manipulate this for personal gain.

If you want to find out more about epigenetic mechanisms this is a good place to start. 

What can we do to safeguard our genes and reduce the potential for negative health outcomes associated with epigenetic changes? 

Here are my top tips for supporting healthy genes and preventing activation of unwanted, rogue tags:

1. Avoid stress and deal with historical trauma

Recent advances in the field of epigenetics show that stress, throughout our lives, can lead to significant epigenetic changes and increase our risk for numerous negative health outcomes. Daily stress management such as mindfulness, spending time in nature and deep breathing exercises can be really helpful to combat stress and overwrite detrimental epigenetic changes with beneficial ones that seek to promote and improve our long-term health. Addressing and dealing with historical emotional and physical trauma is also important to reduce the impact this can have on our genetic tags, as well as our likelihood of passing these on to our children.

Check out these links for more information and support:

2. Check your fatty acid levels and consume healthy fats

The foods we eat have a huge impact on how our genes are tagged and, when it comes to fats, it’s important to include enough of the right fats in our diets. Research consistently links high total fat and saturated fat intake with adverse genetic alterations. Consuming healthy fats such as those from nuts, seeds, coconut, oily fish, olives and their oil and free range organic eggs, whilst avoiding vegetable oils, margarine, intensively farmed animal fat and dairy, is the best way to ensure you have a healthy balance. Ideally, fats should be consumed with most meals and snacks in moderate quantities (approx. 10-20g at a time). Testing cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as red blood cell fatty acids, can help you determine if you have a good level of healthy fats in your body.

The Igennus Opti-O-3 is a convenient home test kit and comes with a free consultation to help you interpret your results.

3. Measure homocysteine and supplement with B Vitamins

Homocysteine is the by-product of our methylation cycle, a process vital for looking after our DNA and where the tags are placed. If we over or under methylate, this can be problematic and leaves us susceptible to a range of health issues such as fatigue, poor cognitive function, reduced detoxification and diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular conditions. The B vitamins, in particular folate, vitamins B12 and 6, with the help of B2 and 3, are the most important when it comes to a healthy methylation cycle and high homocysteine levels may indicate low levels of these nutrients, or a block somewhere in the process. Eating a range of leafy greens, beans, pulses and good quality animal proteins will help keep these nutrient levels topped up. If you feel you need a little extra support, choosing a good B vitamin complex that does not contain very high levels of each ingredient can help provide gentle support for healthy DNA methylation.

4. STOP taking folic acid – opt for 5-MTHF instead

Those of us with issues throughout our methylation pathways often struggle to use folic acid, the most commonly used form of folate in supplements. Recent research now links folic acid use with a range of adverse effects from increased cancer risk to autism. Folic acidis the synthetic form of folate and people with certain alterations in their genetic code tags are less able to absorb and process folic acid, which can lead to accumulation, causing toxicity. Without testing, switching your folic acid for folate-rich foods and supplements containing Quatrefolic (such as the products mentioned above) is the safest way to avoid the risks of folic acid use and provide gentle support for healthy methylation.

5. Support your SIRT genes

Our sirtuins, controlled by SIRT genes, are superstars when it comes to epigenetic regulation and play an important role in promoting the health of not only our DNA but of the whole body. Many plant-based whole foods are packed with polyphenols that help activate SIRTgenes, so these foods are a safe and exciting addition to any gene nourishing diet. Commonly available and delicious, adding just a few ‘SIRT foods’ to your meals and snacks can help support optimal genetic tagging and healthy cell activities. Examples you might like to try include: cocoa, kale, buckwheat, red onions, parsley, red grapes and matcha green tea. Find out more here. 

6. Remove toxins

When we are thinking about healthy genes it’s important to also consider what can contribute to unhealthy tagging. We are regularly exposed to dietary and environmental factors that have the potential to change our epigenetic markers and even encourage DNA breaks. Certain chemicals can also mimic or block natural compounds that would otherwise promote health. Removing chemicals and toxins from your environment is an important step in protecting your genetic health. Swapping to natural cleaning and cosmetic brands (such as Method and Green People) can help reduce your exposure to numerous DNA damaging chemical. It’s also important to keep fatty food away from plastics and aluminium foil, especially when hot. Choosing organic products, or growing your own where possible, will also help reduce the amount of toxins in your food.

7. Control inflammation

High levels of inflammation can not only lead to epigenetic changes but also increase the risk of subsequent disease developing. It can be hard to tell if you are ‘inflamed’ as many of us walk around with no symptoms. Whilst swelling, pain and allergies suggest a higher than normal inflammatory load, any form of mental or physical stress, cell damage or infection can lead to inflammation being triggered. Without adequate cellular capacity to resolve inflammation, or in the presence of persistent inflammatory triggers such as regular exposure to foods you might be sensitive to, your body may fail to switch inflammation off and this can lead to long-term health issues as well as unwanted DNA tagging. Consuming lots of anti-inflammatory foods such as omega-3 fats, herbs and spices including turmeric, brightly coloured vegetables, fresh berries, pineapple and green tea can be really helpful in controlling inflammation.


Exercise is a very powerful therapy and even better when conducted outside in nature. Studies show that exercise elicits many of its health-enhancing benefits (beyond getting fitter and leaner) via epigenetic mechanisms, many of which are linked to improved cellular processes, enhanced metabolism and longevity. A lifestyle that incorporates movement as often as possible is associated with better health, longevity and quality of life. Find out more about how to get active here. 

Read more top tips from Igennus here.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Cancer fighting teas and tinctures - Sara Davenport

This week Sara Davenport of Reboot Health shares her top herbal teas that could be beneficial for people with cancer…

Around the world, certain herbal teas and tinctures are repeatedly being shown to have significant effects on the growth of cancer tumours. Interestingly, many of them contain a variation of the same ingredients; and equally interestingly, most of them have a ‘story’ attached - of an initial remarkable discovery and then full recovery from the disease. Side effects are rarely reported and most of them boost immunity and purify your blood in the process, so adding them into your daily routine sounds a no-brainer. Swop your daily mint and camomile for a more potent brew....
Jason Winters was a US stunt man, who in 1977 was diagnosed with an aggressive terminal cancer and given just three months to live. He decided to take matters into his own hands, turned down surgery and all conventional treatment and instead travelled the world in search of a cure. He found it in a particular combination of herbs, healed himself successfully, and developed a proprietary herbal tea blend which is now marketed globally. He wrote a book about his experiences, ‘Killing Cancer’ and has won many awards for his contribution to health.
Made from the leaves of the soursop plant, this is also known as graviola or pawpaw tea and there are many claims that drinking it has powerful anti-cancer effects. The tea contains a combination of potent natural antibiotics called acetogenins, alongside other immune boosting substances - alkaloids, antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, calcium, iron, potassium, gentisic acid, and anonol - all of which fight tumour growth and development and boost apoptosis, the self-destruction of cancer cells. One site I saw claims it to be 1,000 times more powerful than chemotherapy.
The slightly strange sounding ‘Essiac’ tea is, in fact, simply a reversal of the surname of the woman who made it famous. In 1922, a young Canadian nurse, Rene Caisse, was given certain herbs by an old woman who had cured herself of breast cancer and had been handed down the recipe by the Ojibawa Native Americans who had used it for generations.
When Rene’s aunt was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer and given just months to live, she remembered the information, brewed up the tea, and gave it to her. The aunt recovered completely. Rene treated more cancer cases in the years that followed, and those that drank the tea successfully healed too. Word spread and it became more and more popular with those who were sick. In 1926, supported by 9 senior doctors, Rene Caisse petitioned the Canadian government for funds to carry out formal research into the tea. Instead, they tried to arrest her for treating cancer patients without a medical license and in an official investigation concluded that not one of the people diagnosed had been suffering from cancer after all.
Essiac tea is made from burdock root, the inner bark of the slippery elm, sheep sorrel, cats claw bark and Turkish or Indian rhubarb. Kelp, red clover blossom, watercress herb and blessed thistle herb are often added into the commercial teas, and it is sold under the names of Tea of Life, Flor-essence and various other brands as well as Essiac. There is also a cannabis oil and essiac tea combination available - Canessiac.
Rene Caisse never charged for her tea and the precise recipe died with her. It is still not authorised as an official cancer treatment.
In 1840, the favourite horse of a farmer named John Hoxsey developed cancer and grew a large tumour on its skin. He turned it out to grass, not expecting it to survive the summer. He noticed, however, that it always fed in the same area of the field, and when one day the growth fell off, and the horse recovered, he went to inspect and collect the herbs and grasses it had been eating. He developed a formula that years later, his grandson, Harry Hoxsey, would use in the chain of cancer clinics he opened throughout the USA.
Hoxsey’s herbal tincture consists of a mixture of burdock root, red clover, liquorice, cascara sagrada, Oregon grape root, buckthorn, poke root, prickly ash, chaparral and wild indigo with potassium iodide.
The bark of the Pau D’Arco tree contains a combination of chemicals with tumour shrinking properties; tannins, triterpines and quinones. Different species of the trees have different medicinal properties which have been identified in scientific studies on animals.
The cancer curing properties of this tea were discovered in Brazil in 1967, when a young girl was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Praying for a cure for hours each and every day, she was sent a vision of a monk, who told her that if she drank a tea made from the bark of the Pau D’Arco tree she would be healed. In a second vision, the same monk re-appeared and told her exactly which species of the tree to use. She searched, found it, and drinking it over a period of months, was cured.
It is the bark that is powerful. Look for a brand that contains lapachol, the most potent of the quinones in the bark and a strong immune system stimulator. To make it yourself, place six tablespoons of the bark in a saucepan with a litre (4 cups) of boiling water. Boil for a further 5 minutes until the water is reduced to 3/4 litre (3 cups) and then cool down and strain. Drink around 5-8 cups of the tea a day, sipping it slowly. It’s very bitter. If you develop a slight skin rash, reduce the amount you are drinking until it fades. There are no other reported side effects.
This, I am afraid, I know little about, except that a visitor at The Haven raved about it to me and it has so odd a name I have remembered it for years. It contains many of the ingredients of the other teas and is a combination of distilled water, red clover, chaparral, inkberry, bloodroot, taheebo bark, galangal root, arrowroot, zinc chloride, unrefined honey and glycerine. It also contains a small amount of alcohol. If you google it on the internet, there are both hugely positive and also negative reviews, but the FDA has now prohibited it from sale in the USA.
You can google for independent suppliers in countries all over the world but these are reputable U.K. shops with a wide variety of herbs and tonics for sale.
Baldwins - - this is a brilliant online shop that stocks many of the teas as well as the unusual ingredients of the teas if you decide to make your own.
The Herbal Apothecary -
Jason winters tea is available from his own website –

You can purchase Sara’s book, Reboot Your Health, which is currently on special offer from Amazon here.

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