Friday, 18 January 2019

Linking integrative wellness and cancer treatment - Lou Tassell

This week Integrated Wellness Specialist of Optimal Vitality, Lou Tassell, shares a roundup of our annual conference in case you weren't able to attend…

As an Integrated Wellness Specialist, I was very pleased to be invited to the Yes to Life conference in November 2018. The title was ‘Starting the Conversation’and the aim of the conference was to explore ways in which integrating cancer care and lifestyle medicine can improve client outcomes. 

Robin Daly, Founder and Chairman of Yes to Life set up the charity 14 years ago. They empower people with cancer and have helped huge numbers of people to obtain support and access to integrated medicine along their cancer journey. The aim of my article here is to share the key messages from the conference and to highlight some of the powerful initiatives and latest advancements in the field of integrated medicine for cancer. 

Where are we now?

Although many people, including Robin Daly and Dr Patricia Peat, who co-hosted the conference have been working tirelessly for many years, there’s a long way to go in this important subject. However, as Robin Daly said “Change is at last afoot, it’s beginning to happen.” 

Why is there a long way to go?

Cancer is complicated and it is very individual. The treatment and wellness options available for cancer are endless. These facts make it understandably confusing for cancer sufferers. Cancer Options run by Dr Patricia Peat, who has worked in this field for over 20 years, takes this overwhelm away. She makes it simple by narrowing down all the options and delivering personalised, expert information relevant to the patient enabling them to make the right choices for their unique situation. Dr Peat highlighted the two main problems with cancer:

1.       It can be resistant to treatment
2.       It can keep coming back 

She stated that the reason for these two problems is due to the environment of the cells. If you support the body, create and maintain a cellular environment that is healthy, the cancer loses it strength and you are more able to stop the continuous process. If you don’t support the body, the cancer takes what it needs from the body to survive, including blood supply, cells and creates inflammation which blocks the immune cells from working. This can then block the chemotherapy, radiotherapy and stop cancer drugs from working effectively. 
How do you improve the cell environment?

Dr Peat explained it focuses around optimising metabolism, pH of the body, gut health, hydration, diet, oxygen levels, plus mind, body and spirit support. When asked the question, “What’s the most important element when dealing with cancer?”Dr Peat’s reply is “All of it, it’s a method not an element and balance is key”

Physical, emotional, environmental and spiritual health all need to be supported to achieve the best, long term outcomes.  The more integrated support the body has, the more power it has to fight the cancer. For this reason, Dr Peat works closely with the ChemoThermia clinic in Istanbul. They offer a novel and effective therapeutic strategy to clients using a protocol that focuses on 5 areas;

1.       Metabolically supported chemotherapy (improved metabolism = improved effectiveness of chemotherapy) 
2.       Hyperthermia (which exploits heat sensitivity of cancer and improves effectiveness of radiotherapy and chemotherapy)
3.       Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (more oxygen = more efficient chemotherapy and radiotherapy) cancer)
4.       Ketogenic diet (reduce acidity of body to improve outcomes)
5.       Oral medications (re-purposed drugs and supplements) 

As Dr Slocum of ChemoThermia explained “Cancer is a metabolic disease and this approach works synergistically by targeting several overlapping metabolic pathways and vulnerabilities of cancer cells”.  He showed the outstanding successes of this treatment which improves the client’s cell environment so they need less chemotherapy, have more immune support and get less side effects. 

The move towards Integrated Health 

Dr Ashwin Mehta, Medical Director of the Memorial Division of Integrative Medicine at Memorial Hospital, Florida spoke of the Integrative and Lifestyle medicine in the USA, which is way ahead of the UK. He had a great analogy for cancer care; “If the body is the garden, and cancer is the weed, it’s the oncologist’s job to eradicate the weed. Once the weed is gone, it is our job is to support the soil to stop the weed from coming back.” At his hospital, once the client is diagnosed, they are able to follow a patient-centred model where they ask the client to “measure yourself – your concerns and wellbeing”. With the results they provide integrated health support such as:

  • Emotional support and mindfulness
  • Physical exercise
  • Nutrition advice
  • Sleep advice
  • Yoga, pain and inflammation support 
  • Touch therapies and 
  • Supplement advice 

This approach, which I continue to use in my work, is to meet the client to see where they are, explain the ideal solution, break it down into individual steps and support them to integrate it into their lives, knowing that different people will have different levels of engagement. 

The importance of Social Prescribing

This tailored patient-centred approach is becoming more prevalent in the UK and was reiterated by Dr Marie Polley, co-chair of the Social Prescribing network and lecturer at the University of Westminster. Social Prescribing is about meeting a person at their point of need with appropriate advice. This may be social, emotional, financial or health related. The social prescribing network is aimed at complex needs or long term physical and mental health conditions. 

Doctors’ workloads only permit them to have 10 minutes so this additional NHS service, provided by a link worker, gives patients the time to be listened to, to feel heard and to really play a role in their own health which can motivate them to do more to support their wellness. As she commented and I fully support this view -“there is always something that can be done”.

Robin Daly reminded us that anyone who has a NHS Continuing Health care plan (CHC) is entitled top extra support through a personal health budget. Patients, together with their local NHS team, create a personalised care and support plan identifying their health and wellbeing goals. The plan sets out how the budget will be spent to reach their goals, including expenditure on healthcare and support, treatments, equipment and personal care. 

Sharing lifestyle medicine is key

Patients look to the Doctors for advice, however, when it comes to sharing nutritional advice as a lifestyle medicine, doctors often don’t feel confident sharing this information. Ally Jaffee and Iain Broadway, two medical students from Bristol University have a mission to get doctors appropriately trained to confidently deliver this information; “We would like to gain confirmation from each UK based medical school that they will commit to increasing nutrition and lifestyle education within their medical school curricula as soon as possible or by the end of 2019.”

They stated that 80% of patient walk-ins to GP’s have conditions related to poor diet or lifestyle choices. So you can see how our next generations of GPs desperately need this training to be able to share this valuable lifestyle medicine knowledge, allowing the amazing NHS to focus key resources on non-lifestyle related issues. 

Continuing the conversation

The Yes to Life conference definitely got the conversation going and showcased integrative, innovative and effective ways of dealing with cancer. So as the conversation has definitely started, now it’s the job of all of us is to keep talking about it, support the integrated health causes and charities and keep sharing the messages, especially that message of hope. There are always ways to support the body and the more integrated support we can give it, the more power the body has to help us to get the best out of life. 

Please see Yes to Life for more details about the excellent work of the charity, empowering people with cancer.

Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Lou Tassell, Integrated Wellness Specialist

Want come to next this year’s conference? Sign up to our mailing list here and be the first to know.

Friday, 11 January 2019

New beginnings - Clare McLusky

Another year has begun and we can put a lot of pressure on ourselves around this time. Mindfulness teacher, Clare McLusky, invites us to take a step back and contemplate what brings us joy…

January is traditionally a time when we set ourselves New Year Resolutions. The media is full of advice to help us address our fitness level, nutrition, love life, work or whatever goals we may have. We may already be on an alcohol-free month or trying out Veganuary. But what if we paused a while from all this doing, improving ourselvesand being conditioned by societal expectations of how we should be. What if we sat down in silence and contemplated what is it that really brings us joy, wakes us up excited in the morning, really matters to us in our lives? Or as Joseph Campbell puts it what is it that makes us feel the rapture of being alive?

“I don’t think people are really seeking a meaning for life. I think we’re seeking an experience of being alive…we want to feel the rapture of being alive”
It is all too easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and forget what is important to us.  Being plunged into a cancer diagnosis and treatment maybe a wakeup call but is just as likely, particularly with long and debilitating treatments, to be so all consuming that we forget even the small things we enjoyed in the past.  

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

~ William Stafford ~

I love this poem. We all have our own thread, our own way of staying connected to ourselves, those around us and the world. Reconnecting with our thread can help us through the most difficult and challenging times of our lives guiding us to courageously take one step after the other on this journey through life.  

So, I invite you to spend some time contemplating this over the next few weeks, perhaps following some of the ideas below: -

Create space. Carve out some regular time to be with yourself and do something you find nourishing.  Walking is a wonderful way to allow the mind to settle and focus as is a long, relaxing bath or listening to music. If possible, allow the next few weeks to be quieter, both in terms of activities and technology. Turn off the radio and TV, unplug the devices.  

Be curious. Take time to notice what effect the things you do and consume have on you.  This not only includes what you eat and drink but what you read, listen to and watch and the people you spend time with. Notice how you feel in your body, mind and emotions.  Notice what nourishes you and what drains or depletes you. You may choose to spend a few moments before going to sleep reflecting on the day.

Remember gratitude. Don’t forget to bring gratitude in. Have a look at my previous blog on gratitude and choose to do a daily gratitude practice, simply recalling the things you are grateful for at the end of each day. This can be enormously powerful in difficult times, moving us from despair to hopefulness, as we begin to see again that there are always things to be grateful for.

Care for yourself. Having spent some time being curious about how activities effect you, it will be clearer what self-care means for you. It may be turning the TV off earlier and getting a good night’s sleep, preparing healthy, delicious food or meeting friends regularly. Don’t confuse self-care with self-indulgence. Caring for ourselves requires time and effort and not only helps us but those around us.  

You know what’s best for you. You might like to spend some time contemplating the following questions: - 

  • What is most important to me in my life, what really matters? What brings me joy?
  • What helps me with the above and what am I willing to do?

Write your answers down, to remind yourself as time goes by.

So, Happy New Year to you and hold onto your thread!

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Chickpea soup recipe – Kirsten Chick

This week Nutritional Therapist, Kirsten Chick, shares her absolutely divine chickpea soup recipe to warm your cockles and give your body a boost during these colder months…

This delicious chickpea soup mostly comprises things beginning with C:

Chickpeas – 200g cooked weight
Carrots – 2 medium sized or 1 large, finely sliced
Cabbage – large handful, finely shredded
Cumin seeds – 2-3tsp
Coriander, fresh – large handful, roughly chopped, for garnish
Coriander powder – 2tsp
Coconut oil – 1-2tbsp


Onion – 1 medium-sized, finely chopped
Garlic – 1 clove, finely chopped
Turmeric powder – 1-2tsp
Black pepper – 1/2tsp
Tamari or sea salt to taste

Chickpea soup recipe:

1. Gently fry the onions and spices in the coconut oil till soft – chop the garlic, but don’t add just yet

2. Add the vegetables, then the chickpeas, and add enough stock or water to just cover them; then bring to the boil and simmer with the lid on

3. When the vegetables are almost soft, add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes

4. Blend, season and serve with a garnish of fresh coriander leaves

This is another tasty veggie soup that gives you both protein (in the form of chickpeas) and vegetables with some earthy, anti-inflammatory spices. That means that it should help sustain your energy levels while giving you a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and more.

Cooking carrots releases more beta-carotene and other carotenoids that help to keep your cells and tissue healthy and protect them from damage. Potentially your skin and other tissues may be harmed by the sun, by pollution and by aspects of your diet, especially if you eat a lot of processed foods, non-organic foods and sugars. Phytonutrients such as carotenoids may make a real difference to how your body protects itself and recovers.
Garlic also has highly protective qualities throughout your body, and is often cited for helping to keep your blood vessels – and so cardiovascular system – in tip top condition. The key substance here is allicin. The reason I advise you to chop the garlic at the start of the recipe, but add it towards the end, is that this will give the allicin enough time to be activated by exposure to the air.

Chickpeas are an excellent source of folate, also great for cardiovascular health, and crucial in pregnancy. They are also mineral rich, particularly in manganese, which is needed for bone health, certain detoxification enzymes, tissue health and much more.
I’ve also made sure my favourite anti-inflammatory trio are there: turmeric, plus black pepper and coconut oil to help you absorb the golden goodness in turmeric.
The whole cumin seeds combine with the chickpeas and carrots to give an earthy sweetness to help nourish your digestive energy and keep you feeling grounded and gently supported.

And it tastes so good!

You can find more of Kirsten's awesome recipes here.