Entries in the ‘Cancer’ Category

March 28th, 2010

Meditation on the Subway?

Meditation on the Subway

I travel a lot and I have time to think when I am sitting, and waiting to get where I am going.

In this world where stress and timelines seem to be in the driver’s seat of our life experiences, it occurs to me that we have to find ways to find centeredness and mindfulness “on the go”.

Stress goes hand in hand with cancer.  Why do I say this?  What do the studies show?  What is it about your biology that leads you from chronic stress to cancer?  How can you find release from stress in the midst, in the very center of LIFE?

So…Stress and Cancer…this is what we DO know:

  1. Stress dampens certain portions of the immune system that are surveillance “police” within your system that find and act to destroy cancerous cells.
  2. Stress encourages the over-production of Cortisol.  Cortisol acts to slow inflammatory responses by the body.  When we have a cell that is cancerous we actually NEED inflammation to kill off the rogue cells.  Chronically high levels of cortisol prevent the destruction of cancerous cells.
  3. Stress creates internal tensions that can create truly toxic beliefs about your self, your family and the community at large.

How do we deal with this?  Our lives are busy.  Our lives are full of expectations and responsibilities.

I have not entirely found a way to get out of my responsibilities, have you?

Since I cannot stop the pace I am going on most days, then I would like to suggest that there are steps one can take to find ways to “de-stress” while you live your life.

Be where you are.  Often my stress is due to forward or backwards “projection”.  Do you find that you are not “present” right now, where you are?  Are you thinking about regrets?  Or, are you worried about what will happen tomorrow?  When you feel stressed, take ten seconds to mentally “come back to now”.  Breathe intentionally –note your breath coming in and out.  Become aware of the fact that right now, you are alive, you are breathing, and you are okay.  Be present as much as possible today.
Meditate “on the subway” of your life.  I spend a lot of time in New York City and I take the F Train from Brooklyn to Manhattan.  The trip is around 35 minutes or so.  Sometimes I read, but, just as often I actually meditate.  Meditate on the subway??  Yes, actually, I find it quite rewarding.  I mean, I suppose anyone could meditate in a totally quiet, peaceful yoga studio in the woods next to a gently bubbling creek…right?  But what about the rest of your life?  What about the people that really don’t have the luxury of going to the yoga studio because they are working two jobs?

Meditation shouldn’t be a class-oriented privilege.  Just because your life is not filled with hours that you can relax and “go to meditate” somewhere doesn’t mean that you, too can’t bring meditation into your life in a meaningful way.  Here is how I do it:

  1. No matter what is going on around you, take a 2-minute-“vacation”.  I owe this thought to E. Martene Craig, a wonderful musical director and friend. Close your eyes, if you can, breathe in and out several times, really pay attention to the breath coming into your lungs and then how the air goes back out.  Direct your thoughts to a place or time when you really were relaxed, or having a wonderful time.  Be in that place for a minute, then come back and keep going in your day.
  2. On “the subway” I use the same techniques you will hear in yoga class.  Focus on your breathing, in and out, let your mind be blank — don’t concentrate on anything.  When a thought or a sound comes into your mind, notice that you have a thought, then let it go with no judgement on yourself.  Return to your breath awareness and your mental freedom.  On the subway there are constant noises, movements and a cacophony of interruptions.  I breathe, I let my mind go in and out of focus and I find that when I arrive at my destination I have a greater capacity for life, for work, for openness to the world around me.
  3. When you can, DO find an exercise class, or yoga teacher, or attend church and sing and worship, or go for a walk in a park.  Busy lives are enriched and made more efficacious when there are breaks and pauses.

Be well.  Breathe. Be PRESENT. Do good work.  Repeat.

Can I work with you to help you be cancer-free?  Contact me and let’s see what is going on in your life.

July 14th, 2008

Sleep and the Cancer Patient

Often, a complaint by patients currently undergoing treatment is that they are suffering from insomnia.  Insomnia, or restless sleeping has two broad categories:  problems with sleep onset or with sleep maintenance.  If you have trouble getting to sleep you probably have a different set of problems versus the person who goes to sleep well, but wakes frequently in the night.

Of all the issues facing patients, sleep can be the hardest to treat, even without cancer meds on board.

A few possibilities from the natural perspective include:

  1. Exercise — studies have shown that mild to moderate exercise earlier in the day can improve sleep quality later.
  2. Blood sugar maintenance — if your blood sugar drops too low in the night it can cause you to wake.  To prevent this, you may want to have small snack an hour before bed with protein and carbs.  For example, a “Nut Thins” cracker with a little hummus, or goat cheese;  or an apple and almond butter.
  3. Improving your “sleep hygiene” — keep the room completely dark or wear eye cover; remove electronic equipment that may be near your bed or near your head; make sure your pets don’t sleep with you…they may be waking you; reduce activity an hour before bed – try to read calming material, or listen to calming music, take a warm bath with lavender oil.
  4. Caffeine and alcohol can induce insomnia.  So, no caffeine after 4 pm and no more than one drink in the evenings.
  5. Try yoga…a study at MD Anderson in Houston found that women undergoing radiation therapy had less insomnia if they participated in yoga classes.
  6. Eating a well balanced diet can help by providing adequate proteins to help form serotonin and other neurotransmitters necessary for healthy levels of sleep.  Good fats such as avocados, fish oils, nut butters can help by providing essential fatty acids that generate healthy brain activity.  Eating whole grains and fresh veggies and fruit provide carbohydrates that provide fuel for your brain.  If you can, avoid sugary foods and those with many chemical additives…these can add to the unhealthy stimulation of your brain and trouble your sleep.

Spend time relaxing.  Spend time with those you love.  Breathe.  Live to your fullest.  Get a good night’s sleep.  Call your naturopathic physician for other ideas that can help you get the sleep you need.

May 24th, 2008

Cancer patients can benefit from L-Carnitine

L-Carnitine, a supplement that is commonly sold in the U.S. to increase energy and to help build muscles in weight lifters has been shown to decrease fatigue in cancer patients treated with chemo agents Cisplatin and Ifosfamide.  50 patients received 4 grams of L-Carnitine a day for seven days.  At the end of this time 45 of these patients reported less fatigue.  The effect of just seven days of L-Carnitine lasted in these patients until their next round of chemo. (Grazino, et al., British Journal of Cancer, 2002.)

Studies have shown that many advanced cancer patients are actually deficient in L-Carnitine.  (Cruciani, et al, Journal of Pain Symptom Management, 2006)

L-Carnitine can help reduce sleeplessness, fatigue and depression in cancer patients.

The recommended dose is 4 grams a day.

As with all the content on my blog I am hoping to be very clear.  Nothing written here is to be taken as a prescription, or a promise of cure.  These studies provide clues to how L-Carnitine may help the cancer patient, however, you must work directly with a medical school trained Naturopathic Physician or other medical practitioner before using any herbal or other supplemental program, especially if you are on chemo or radiation.  You are welcome to contact me for additional info.

April 16th, 2008

Natural Doctors and Breast Cancer

Do Naturopathic Doctors have a role to play in the care of Breast Cancer patients?

I am asked on occasion to talk at large gatherings. Sometimes this public speaking happens among people who already have a great deal of information about natural medicine and how it helps provide holistic medicine for a wide variety of medical conditions. Other times I may be at a corporate speaking engagement where the audience has limited knowledge of naturopathic medicine and holistic strategies for wellness.At both kinds of events, since I often speak on integrative breast cancer care, I am asked how a natural doctor can impact such a serious disease as cancer.

I am so glad to be able to answer with great enthusiasm that the naturopathic physician is able to provide support for women with breast cancer in several key ways:

First, overturning breast cancer requires a rigorous immune system. Naturopathic medicine is very good at helping to promote a stronger “cancer surveillance system” so that cancer cells can more easily be killed off by the body’s own defense system.

Second, treating breast cancer with oncological tools such as surgery, chemo and radiation have great successes in cancer treatment, but also do a great job at damaging healthy tissues. Medical-school trained Naturopathic Physicians can help reduce side effects from standard oncological treatments with herbs and nutrients that do not interfere with your chemo/radiation. Thirdly, cachexia, or muscle wasting is a major problem with cancer patients.

Naturopathic physicians are ideal in this capacity as they are required in their four year medical school experience to take many, many hours of diet and nutrition courses. Most medical schools require NO diet and nutrition classes for the MDs that graduate. This is remarkably bad for patient wellness as the general practitioner is likely to be the only care giver most people will be able to see. It has been proven over and over that if a physician encourages a lifestyle change the patient is more likely to do it than if anyone else in their life tells them the same info. MDs need to catch up and learn about nutrition’s importance in patient care.

There are so many techniques that Naturopathic Physicians are specialized in using that can help the cancer patient live a healthier, more productive, cancer free life. If you know of someone who is facing a cancer diagnosis, contact me. Let’s talk about options.

March 29th, 2008

Today in Cancer News – Appropriate Medicine™ Outlook

Meta-Analysis Shows Increased BMI Linked to Several Types of Cancer. A meta-analysis in Lancet finds a strong link between increased body mass index and cancer risk. Examining some 140 publications comprising data on over 280,000 incident cases, the researchers found strong links between a five-unit increase in BMI and the risk, in men, for esophageal, thyroid, colon, and renal cancers. In women, the strongest associations were with endometrial, gallbladder, esophageal, and renal cancers. Editorialists, praising the study’s strict selection criteria, say the link between BMI and cancer “might be mediated by changes in circulating concentrations of endogenous hormones,” and cite other possibilities. They write that several other questions remain unanswered, including whether weight loss can reduce risks or influence prognosis. Lancet article is here.

Dr. Galloway’s Response to This Article

Although meta-analysis techniques are best at showing trends rather than proving hard science, I agree with this view. It makes sense that what goes into the body and how the body processes it will determine the health of cell populations within the body. Garbage in, Garbage Out — to coin a phrase from the computer industry. Cancer has been shown again and again to be a misfire in the cell cycle. When a cell no longer has the message to die it will continue living and reproducing repeatedly…this is the modus operandi of cancer. Foods that are harmful to the body include processed sugars, red meats, alcohol, high fat foods, saturated fats, deep fried foods. The Standard American Diet that is full of processed foods, red meats and refined grains is turning our population into a land of large, starving, craving people. It is no wonder that the inflammatory, oxidating quality of these foods damages cells and leads to the formation of cancer. Let’s make a point of losing weight, eating well and eating to live, not living to eat. Print out Doctor Galloway’s Shopping List to Prevent Cancer Handout for free. It gives you a great list of foods you need in your shopping cart every week. Call or come see me to talk specifically about how you can have a cancer preventive diet.