Johns Hopkins Advocates Integrated Cancer Care
For those who were not able to attend the webinar put on by Johns Hopkins Medicine on December 17th, following please find my notes and ramblings from that webinar. I hope you find them useful.
The webinar was titled Integrative Medicine: How Acupuncture, The Mind/Body Connection, Holistic Eating and Chinese Medicine and Other Modalities Can Help Survivors During and After Treatment. Which is kind of a long-winded title, but they wanted to tell you exactly what they’d be covering and that title does the trick
The webinar was presented by Dr Linda Lee and Mr Jeff Gould and it ran for about an hour. Dr Lee spoke about how the Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine Center viewed integrative medicine as being the best of scientific medicine with a broader understanding of the nature of illness, that integrative medicine enhanced conventional medicine rather than replacing it. They preferred the term “integrative” rather than “alternative” or “complementary” because alternative seeks an “alternate” approach to conventional medicine, it connotes a turning away, while the term complementary was too broad.
The Johns Hopkins website further defines integrative medicine: “Integrative medicine encompasses a broad range of therapeutic approaches to achieve optimal health and wellness for those who are ill or those who are concerned about disease prevention. It is a powerful resource for those seeking to participate actively in their healthcare.”
A Holistic Diet for Cancer Patients
Dr Lee spoke first and discussed holistic eating quite simply – she quoted author Michael Pollan, whose advice was to “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” I loved that – it says so much so succintly!
Dr Lee warned us against eating highly processed foods and too many food additives. She said we should try not to eat too much meat, especially beef, and that we should strive for a balanced approach in our food choices. Volumes could be written (and have been) about the best nutrition for cancer patients – for more definitive information, see my page Diet and Cancer.
Dr Lee addressed the concerns of those going through chemotherapy, she had some good advice for what to eat when you don’t feel like eating, for those taste bud issues and digestive problems. She advised using a blender or food processor (I would say JUICER) and put your food into that.
She had no real recommendations about WHAT to put in the blender – other than you wouldn’t put a spaghetti dinner in there, for instance. She just said it’s easier to process liquid foods like smoothies and shakes. She recommended having multiple small meals, rather than 3 bigger meals per day. Dr Lee recommended the book One Bite At A Time – Nourishing Recipes for Cancer Survivors and Their Friends by Rebecca Katz, which I’ve added to my Recommended Reading list.
I’ll go a little farther than these recommendations and direct you to my article Do You Know The Benefits of Juicers For Cancer Patients.
Dietary Myths in Cancer
Dr Lee discussed some of the dietary myths she had encountered from her patients – we’ll start with the myth, then Dr Lee’s refutal:
- Avoid sugar because it feeds cancer – this one surprised me because I do advocate avoiding sugar if you have active cancer in your body. Dr Lee disagreed, saying a moderate amount of sugar is okay, it won’t cause your cancer to get bigger. So, I’ve softened my stance on this a little bit and found a good article for you that discusses moderation.
- Eat whatever foods you want and as much of them as you like – eating as much as you like of something isn’t advisable if you’re undergoing chemotherapy and having digestive issues, smaller meals are better.
- Eat fried foods because they will give you more calories if you’ve lost weight during cancer treatment – Dr Lee advised fried foods are NOT a good idea because they increase nausea.
- Being overweight is better than being underweight – Not true for breast cancer, Dr Lee says. Fat cells create estrogen and if you had/have estrogen receptor positive tumor(s) being overweight can actually cause more problems for you.
Dr Lee advised caution when taking vitamins – because adverse affects are not always known and they may have interactions with some of the drugs you are on. She did not have anything against taking vitamins, she merely advised caution, suggesting a person see an herbalist or dietician for guidance (I’d say see a trained naturopath) and always let your oncologist know what you are doing. Dr Lee suggested referring to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine website.
My favorite part of the webinar was the discussion of how using mind/body medicine can help cancer patients. Dr Lee went out on a limb and said that STRESS CAN AFFECT CANCER GROWTH. I’ve been saying this for years and I was so glad to hear someone from the medical world acknowledge and affirm this.
Dr Lee advised that chronic emotional stress can have a negative impact on cancer, and she discussed how the hormones released during stressful periods affect inflammation, cellular immune response and other key factors and that getting stress treated was really important. She advocated the use of one or more of the following therapies (all of which I also recommend on this site and in my newsletters):
- tai chi
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy
- guided imagery
- support groups
I found a good article for you from the Mayo Clinic which discusses exactly how stress hormones wreak havoc on our body.
Mr Jeff Gould On The Chinese Medicine Approach
The second part of the webinar was handed over to Jeff Gould, a Chinese medicine practitioner at the Johns Hopkins Integrative Medicine Center. Mr Gould discussed many aspects of Chinese medicine, I will highlight the most interesting points he made:
- Chinese medicine is what he termed individualized medicine. He might see 10 patients with breast cancer, but each patient may get a different treatment protocol based on the symptoms they present with on that day.
- Chinese medicine is very holistic – practitioners don’t just treat physical symptoms (such as cancer), but also the emotional and spiritual aspects of a person. He said one of his patients, in an effort to describe what they felt like after an acupuncture treatment, called it “a lightness of being”. I thought that was a very good description.
- Mr Gould called Chinese medicine a highly effective adjunct to Western medicine, it has been utilized quite effectively for over 3,000 years.
- Mr Gould mentioned that the Chinese also use diet as a therapy – that Chinese medicine looks at the energetics of food vs the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. They use food to promote health AND also to treat illness. I was quite interested to find out that certain restaurants in China will have doctors who will greet you at the door, take a look at your vital signs (which are quite different to Western medicine – they are more likely to look at your tongue and take your pulses than to check your blood pressure, etc.) and then recommend certain things on the menu to assist with your current signs/symptoms.
- When using Chinese herbs, your herbalist will tailor make a formula for you based on your unique constellation of symptoms and these are modified each week as symptoms change.
- Mr Gould specifically mentioned chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, saying that the best time to treat that is BEFORE symptoms begin – he said it’s much easier to keep it from happening than to treat it after it has already happened.
- We were reminded that herbs are drugs and as such, can have side effects and interactions with other drugs. He also warned to use a trained herbalist when using herbs for any illness.
- Mr Gould also did not recommend using Chinese medicine alone to treat cancer, but as an adjunct.
All in all, I thought it a very good webinar, well presented, and with good, concise information. If you have any specific questions, please contact me.
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