BY LAINE BERGESON | NOVEMBER 2017
Why lifestyle-based therapies — including nutrition, exercise, acupuncture, and other alternative practices — are becoming essential components of traditional cancer treatment.
While most medical protocols for curing cancer are still based on the timeworn theory that the disease is a genetic mutation, Gerencser says, that theory is no longer supported by contemporary research.
There are plenty of reasons to question the genetic hypothesis: Cancer can be triggered by smoking or viruses like human papillomavirus (HPV) and Epstein-Barr. Conversely, the damaged nucleus from a cancer cell can be injected into a healthy cell and not turn the healthy cell cancerous. Genes may play a role, but they don’t tell the whole story.
So what does?
Almost all cancer experts agree on one factor: inflammation.
“Inflammation is fertilizer for cancer,” says Colin Champ, MD, a radiation oncologist and assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute. He notes that pathologists often find inflammatory cells near cancerous sites on pathology slides. “The more inflammation people have, the more likely they are to get certain cancers.”
Many factors fuel inflammation, including toxic exposures and chronic stress. But one of the biggest drivers is imbalanced nutrition — consuming too much nutritionally bankrupt food and not enough whole, unprocessed fare.
Researchers have also examined other potential triggers for cancer: mitochondrial function, microbial DNA, even the effect of our thoughts and beliefs on the immune system.
We still don’t know if cancer is the result of one, some, or all these things. We do know, however, that it’s a condition that involves multiple changes in health over time, and that the environment and our daily habits and behaviors are important factors.
As such, there’s good reason to think that the nutrition and lifestyle choices we make can improve our chances of avoiding the disease — and minimize its progress if it does take hold.
Better TogetherSignificant research in recent years has shown that lifestyle interventions and complementary therapies can help prevent and heal cancer. Most practitioners, however, insist that these are not replacements for conventional therapies — the two approaches are often most powerful when used together.
“There are plenty of lifestyle approaches that show promise,” says Champ, who’s a strong advocate for paleo-style nutrition to support cancer patients. But he’s firm about employing a multipronged plan. He dreads hearing from patients who had a treatable cancer a year earlier but refused standard treatment in favor of a ketogenic or vegan diet — and have recently learned the cancer has spread.
Acknowledging that cancer has environmental and lifestyle components does have a downside: a temptation to blame the victim. “We’re a society that likes to assign guilt,” says Cheryl Johnson, an oncology massage therapist and president of the National Alliance of Medical Massage and Bodywork. “We want to say that patients ‘did something wrong’ or ‘made bad lifestyle choices.’ But illness is not a punishment.”
For my part, I was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and was shocked at how quickly I slipped into self-blame. Was cancer brewing because I hadn’t meditated or exercised enough? Was I doomed because of my genes? No, no, and no. But it took time to realize this — as well as to wrestle back the frightening idea that torrents of stressful thoughts might make me even sicker.
Rather than continuing to accuse myself, I soon started to focus on the degree to which I controlled my situation. I fell back on my health-journalist training and set out to learn about everything I could do to prevent cancer’s recurrence. I’ve kept up the high-risk screenings that I get for PJS, while researching every other means of cancer prevention and support, much of which I’ve integrated into my daily life. Here are some of the practices with the strongest research backing.
Exercise: Keep MovingA wide body of research shows that movement has a powerful, positive impact on cancer prevention and treatment. The National Institutes of Health is especially laudatory of exercise’s positive effects, highlighting studies that show exercise can lower insulin and estrogen, both of which have been linked to cancer development and progression. Exercise also can reduce inflammation, improve immunity, and alter how the body handles bile acids that have been linked to gastrointestinal cancers.
A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine found that qigong improved symptoms, side effects, and quality of life for cancer patients. And studies show that regular exercise of any kind lowers breast-cancer risk in women by up to 20 percent, while decreasing breast-cancer-specific mortality risk.
“The improvement in the quality of life that exercise provides is well known. For some reason, we often forget that exercise can provide the same benefits for the cancer patient,” writes Champ on his website, CaveManDoctor.com. “Living longer is great, but living longer and feeling better is a whole different level of happiness.
“Cancer treatment is no walk in the park. It is clearly a physically and emotionally taxing time,” he continues. “However, whether it is during treatment or after, maybe we should take more walks in the park — and vigorous ones at that.”
Nutrition: Eat Your PlantsWith the recent surge of research on nutrition and cancer, it’s tempting to believe in magic-bullet foods and miracle diets — but paths that lead to cancer are multiple and overlapping, and every body, and every cancer, is different. There’s no one “right” anticancer diet.
“Don’t listen to anticancer claims that tell you what to eat,” says Gerencser. The right nutritional approach will be based on an individual’s specific needs, she adds, not on “one study, or on doing what someone else did.”
Although there’s no one magic diet, some approaches are more effective than others. While no integrative oncologist encourages consuming crates of doughnuts, most will emphasize the need to eat more plants. The antioxidants, phytonutrients, and fiber in dark leafy greens, vegetables, and deeply hued berries are unmatched in their capacity to fight inflammation and support overall health. (For more on this, see “Cancer-Fighting Diets,” below.)
Experts also tend to agree on a couple of other tenets for cancer prevention and support during treatment:
• Ditch the sugar. Low-glycemic dietary protocols help keep insulin and inflammation in check. These protocols emphasize proteins and fats — avocados, extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, seeds, and grassfed meats — and steer clear of foods that spike blood sugar, including processed grains and sweet fruits.
Still, experts note that even blood-sugar regulation is highly individual.
“I have clients with perfectly low blood sugar who eat white rice three times a day,” says Gerencser. “Then I have other clients who seem to become prediabetic from just looking at a sweet potato.”
She encourages experimentation with starches and fruits to test your tolerance, rather than blindly following any one protocol. Pay attention to whether certain foods tank your energy, and, above all, monitor your efforts with blood work. Regardless, cutting out high-sugar processed foods and beverages is key.
• Fast intermittently. A 2016 meta-analysis found that periodic fasting — even brief fasts of 16 to 18 hours — improves insulin resistance and supports mitochondrial health. (For more on fasting, see “The Insulin Connection,” next page, and “The Case of Intermittent Fasting“.)
“Fasting isn’t fun,” says Thomas Seyfried, PhD, professor of biology at Boston College. “But it works really well.” Fasting stimulates a cellular process called autophagy, which destroys junk cells and clears their debris, he explains. Researchers theorize that this process helps eliminate malfunctioning cells that might otherwise become cancerous.
Acupuncture: Go With the Flow
Many hospitals now offer alternative or complementary treatment options for battling cancer. Chief among them is acupuncture.
Research backs its effectiveness in relieving cancer-treatment side effects, including radiation-related hot flashes, dry mouth, peripheral neuropathy, and fatigue. A 2017 report published in Current Oncology found that acupuncture significantly reduced gastrointestinal symptoms from chemotherapy.
“It’s not a magic bullet and it doesn’t work for everyone,” says M. Kay Garcia, DrPH, LAc, associate professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “But for many patients, it works when nothing else does.”
Acupuncture tends to be inexpensive, especially compared with pharmaceutical options. And for some patients, it can provide as much pain relief as opioids do, with fewer side effects.
Studies emphasize acupuncture’s utility in relieving side effects of treatment, but show it can be part of a preventive strategy, as well.
“Cancer is usually the result of a lot of imbalance that has been going on for a while,” says Tomás Flesher, LAc, owner of Three Treasures Natural Healing in Minneapolis.
“We often hear people say, ‘It just came out of nowhere,’ but it didn’t really.”
The body is a collection of dynamic energies, Flesher explains. Acupuncture practitioners often compare these energies, called chi (pronounced “chee”), to a river in the body: When it’s high, everything flows as it should; when it’s low, debris gets stuck, causing illness.
Acupuncture works to balance those energies before disease sets in.
“What’s interesting about acupuncture and other energy medicine,” Flesher says, “is that they seek to influence the changes that are happening in the body way before they manifest symptomatically.” (For more, go to “Acupuncture: Getting to the Point“.)
The Best of the RestAcupuncture is one of the most common alternative interventions, but it’s not the only one. While clinical evidence for other therapies lags behind public demand, the anecdotal evidence that they work is strong.
The following are a few less-studied, but often effective, therapies.
• Oncology massage: Cancer patients are like the athletes of the medical world — their treatment schedule is physically taxing, and massage can mitigate the side effects. It helps reduce anxiety, support relaxation, and boost immunity.
“After a medical massage, cancer patients often express appreciation for being reminded that they still can feel good in their body,” says Johnson. “I don’t know if it’s a physical response or a psychosomatic effect, but if they feel better, that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?”
Oncology massage may feel a lot like conventional massage, but therapists are specially trained to work around active treatment sites and modify touch for each client’s needs. They also help patients tap into their bodies’ intrinsic self-healing wisdom.
“I don’t interpret what I do as ‘me healing someone,’” says Nissa Valdez, a holistic and oncology massage therapist in Minneapolis. “The person’s body is already set up to do that on its own. I’m there to help them be closer to parts of themselves, so they can heal themselves.”
Patients in active treatment should check with their oncologists first to make sure massage is safe. (If they’re in the middle of a course of radiation, for example, it could feel miserable.) They should seek only certified therapists.
“The bottom line is to find someone experienced to work with,” says Valdez. “Even if someone has been your massage therapist for 15 years, if he or she hasn’t worked with someone with cancer, I’d think twice about continuing.” (The Society for Oncology Massage website, www.s4om.org, offers a list of certified practitioners.)
• Music therapy: Now used at most integrative cancer centers around the country, music therapy may help reduce acute, cancer-related pain, according to a 2017 study published in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing. A 2017 survey of integrative interventions during breast-cancer treatment found that many doctors recommended music therapy — which typically involves listening, singing, and improvisational dancing — for anxiety and depression during treatment. In addition to boosting mood and relieving pain, singing and movement often help cancer patients express difficult emotions.
Board-certified music therapist Sara Fisher works in three Denver-area hospitals. She doesn’t need research findings to know that music therapy works. She relies on the feedback of those who work most closely with the patients: nurses.
“A nurse will grab me and say, ‘You need to go work your magic on so-and-so. They just got a tough diagnosis and they won’t talk to anybody, but they’ll talk to you,’” she says.
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Laine Bergeson , FMCHC, is a health journalist and functional and integrative health coach in Minneapolis.
Completing our Fall Immersion with deeper insights and renewed spirits!
Haven Acupuncture & Wellness facilitated a small group excursion to Sedona Arizona where we gathered with local traditional healers for our fall immersion.
We designed this Sedona retreat to deeply immerse you in the spiritual energy of Sedona vortexes, alongside yoga, acupuncture treatments and meditation to help fully ground into the energy fields.
The boost of Sedona vortex energy helps you to let go of stuck energy in your life and bring your body-mind into realignment. Followed by an acupuncture treatment out under the juniper trees and - WOW - defiantly feeling the shift and integration this immersion brought forth!
Fall Immersion Itinerary
Wednesday, October 25th
12:00 – Montezuma Castle National Monument
2:00 – Sedona arrival
3:00 - Hike to Devils Bridge
6:00 – Dinner
7:30 - Opening Ceremony at Medicine wheel
Thursday, October 26th
8:00 – Breakfast
9:00 - Amitabha Stupa Peace Park Meditation
11:00 - Acupuncture treatments
12:00 - Lunch
1:00 – 5:30 - Vortex hike at Cathedral Hill / Red Rock Crossing
6:00 - Dinner
7:30 - Drumming Ceremony
Friday, October 27th
8:00 - Breakfast
9:00 – Meditation at Amitabha Stupa
10:00 - Acupuncture treatments
12:30 – Lunch & Free time
2:30-5:00 – Vortex hike & meditation at Bell Rock
6:00 - Dinner
7:00 - Closing Ceremony at Medicine wheel
Saturday, October 28th
8:00 - Breakfast
9:00 - Acupuncture Treatments & Free Time
Interested in attending our spring immersion? Contact Haven Acupuncture & Wellness for more information!
Some of the best results of modern healthcare can be reached with an integrative approach, utilizing both Western and traditional Chinese medicine. A good example of this is how acupuncture can be used to relieve the side-effects of chemotherapy treatments. Long-term fatigue is one common side-effect of chemotherapy. In a recent study by the University of Manchester, acupuncture reduces fatigue by over a third, and radically improves patients’ quality of life.
In the University of Manchester’s latest study, 47 patients suffering from moderate to severe fatigue were enrolled in a randomized placebo controlled trial at Manchester’s Christie Hospital. The patients were randomly seeded into one of three groups to receive either acupuncture, acupressure or sham acupressure.
The acupuncture group received six 20-minute sessions spread over three weeks. During these sessions, the characteristic thin needles were inserted about two centimeters into the patients’ skin at three points. The points were selected for their alleged propensity to boost energy levels and reduce fatigue.
Patients in the acupressure group were taught to massage the same acupuncture points for one minute a day for two weeks. The sham acupressure group was taught the same technique but told to massage different points on the body not associated with energy and fatigue.
Wellbeing and energy levels were assessed using the standard Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory. Patients in the acupuncture group reported a 36 percent improvement in fatigue levels whilst those in the acupressure group improved by 19 percent. Those in the sham acupressure group reported a 0.6 percent improvement.
Acupuncture has been found to relieve not only fatigue but also nausea after chemotherapy. The US National Institutes of Health says that acupuncture is an effective treatment for nausea caused by anaesthesia and cancer chemotherapy as well as dental pain following surgery. Hot flashes are another negative chemotherapy side-effect that acupuncture can alleviate.
A Yale University/University of Pittsburg study of women with hot flashes due to conventional breast cancer treatment reveals that women receiving acupuncture will have less hot flashes. This randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial collected data in the National Institutes of Health-funded General Clinical Research Center (GCRC) associated with Yale School of Medicine and Yale New Haven Hospital (YNHH). The study was approved by the Yale University Institutional Review Board (IRB). The researchers measured a 30 percent reduction of hot flashes for women receiving acupuncture. The women received traditional acupuncture points indicated for hot flashes and menopausal symptoms including acupuncture points for sleep disturbances, loss of concentration, pain, headaches, and anxiety. They received a total of eight, 20-30 minute, acupuncture treatments over a period of 12 weeks. The first four acupuncture visits were administered once per week and then once every other week following.
As these studies show, acupuncture can reduce fatigue, anxiety, and even pain caused by chemotherapy cancer treatments. The scientists at the University of Manchester, UK say their preliminary results are so promising that further research needs to be carried out to study the effect in more detail.
National Cancer Institute
http://www.newsmonster.co.uk/health/acupuncture-relieves-side-effects-of... - NewsMonster: Health
Prebiotics are just as important as probiotics when it comes to maintaining good gut health. They’re essentially the food for the good bacteria in your gut—and if you don’t feed your good bacteria, all of the supplements and fermented foods in the world won’t help them thrive. This soup, excerpted from Dale Pinnock’s Eat Your Way to a Healthy Gut: Tackle Digestive Complaints by Changing the Way You Eat, in 50 Recipes, is a prebiotic bomb, although it comes with a warning. “When you first try this soup you may think I have played an evil prank on you. Because initially it may feel like digestive warfare has unfolded and you will feel bloated and gassy afterward,” explains Dale. “But what you are experiencing is a massive feeding of the good bacteria which will cause the bacterial colony to grow and strengthen. The long-term benefit of this is that bloating will ease and many aspects of digestion and digestive health will improve.”
Prebiotic Jerusalem Artichoke SoupServes 1 to 2
Based on excerpts from Eat Your Way to a Healthy Gut: Tackle Digestive Complaints by Changing the Way You Eat, in 50 Recipes by Dale Pinnock, with the permission of Quadrille Publishing. Copyright © 2017.
If you think you only have to be concerned with your blood sugar if you're a diabetic, think again. As a type 1 diabetic of 17 years and a diabetic health coach, I can tell you that yes—keeping your blood sugar in check as a diabetic is crucial for overall health. But what you might not know is how important balancing blood sugar is for everyone, regardless of whether or not you're a diabetic.
If you’ve ever experienced sugar cravings, energy slumps, brain fog, or trouble with losing weight, the solution might be looking at how to better balance your blood sugar.
Most blood sugar problems we see are a result of insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas whose job is to help cells take in glucose to be used for energy. If we’re insulin-resistant, we’re left with blood sugar building up and excess insulin production, and both can subsequently lead to the symptoms I mentioned above.
I test my blood sugar between seven and eight times per day and know exactly which habits keep my blood sugar stable. It’s fascinating to me that on the days when I make room for outdoor exercise, it significantly affects my blood sugar in a positive way for the next 24 hours and has a positive impact on my hormone regulation.
In case you need a little convincing, here are three ways that working outside helps to balance your blood sugar:
1. Outdoor exercise reduces cortisol.
So many of us are inside working for the majority of the day. As human beings, we were created to be outside and be one with our environment. When we’re sitting in front of the computer for hours on end or rushing back and forth between meetings in our car, the body can be easily stressed out, resulting in the production of cortisol and adrenaline.
When this happens, the blood sugar in the body rises in order to supply energy for that "fight or flight" mode. The problem, though, is that if the body doesn’t actually need that extra energy, cells might become resistant to insulin. Outdoor exercise gives the body the opportunity to lower stress levels, which ultimately allows for increased insulin sensitivity, or your body's ability to transport sugar out of your blood more efficiently.
2. Outdoor exercise produces extra endorphins.
When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, or what many of us think of as feel-good hormones. Pair this with fresh air and scenery, and your body is doing a complete happy dance. Whenever you’re able to create more happiness in one area of your life, it will often trickle into another area.
Think about it: After spending half an hour outside moving and feeling great, it's pretty unlikely that you'll go home and impulsively decide to eat sugar-filled food. You’re able to make better food decisions by choosing low-glycemic carbs, healthy fats, and a fiber-filled meal with lean protein rather than simple sugars, fried foods, or takeout.
More light exposure results in better sleep. Poor sleep can directly affect hormone levels in your body, which results in decreasing insulin sensitivity and increasing your sugar cravings the next day. A study that focused on the sleep quality of 49 day-shift office workers (27 in windowless workplaces and 22 in workplaces with windows) showed that the workers with windows slept on average 46 minutes more per night. The natural light from outdoors can help you have a better night's sleep, which in turn can help you balance your blood sugar levels.
Need inspiration? Here's a 20-minute outdoor workout for you to try this week. On days when I know I’ll be inside for most hours, I make time to get outside. Here's an example of a simple workout I did just last week:
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, and it’s certainly having a moment in the wellness world. Noted for its range of health benefits, you’ve likely noticed collagen cropping up on tons of different food, beverage, and supplement labels—but it can be hard to find easy and delicious ways to make it part of your everyday routine so you can actually reap all those great benefits!
What is collagen, anyway?
Collagen is the protein exclusively found in animals—including humans—that holds everything in the body together (think of it as the "glue"). It has a smooth, gel-like consistency and covers and holds your bones in place. Basically, it’s what allows us to move without pain from our bones rubbing against one other or against joints. Collagen makes up about 30 to 40 percent of all of the protein in the human body, and it’s found in bones, tendons, ligaments, connective tissues, and skin. It’s also a crucial element of skin’s elasticity.
Speaking of skin….
Ingesting collagen has been touted for providing major hair, skin, and nail benefits. It’s often recommended to improve skin elasticity and firmness, and research has shown that collagen supplementation also has potential as a treatment for individuals with osteoarthritis and other joint conditions. Collagen has also been noted for its role in supporting strong nails, skin, and teeth because of its high-protein and amino acid content, and it even plays a vital role in supporting muscle building and maintenance of muscle mass, which is key for keeping your metabolism fired up.
It keeps the gut happy.
Collagen has also been studied for its potential in healing a compromised digestive tract. It’s been shown, for example, that collagen levels are low in individuals with inflammatory bowel disease, so many integrative practitioners encourage supplementing with collagen-containing foods or products to help heal the gut. On a simpler note, supplementing with collagen is also a great way to increase your protein intake.
Why do we need to supplement with collagen?
We know the amazing benefits of having collagen in the body for everything from youthful skin to prime gut health. But because collagen production naturally declines as we age, reducing the structural integrity of the skin and instigating the weakening of cartilage in joints, it’s important to supplement with this vital protein. Other factors like sun exposure, diet (high intake of refined sugar and nutrient deficiencies, for example, have been shown to impair collagen production), digestive problems that interfere with collagen production, and diseases that impact collagen may lead to reduced levels. Supplementing helps you boost your collagen levels to keep your body functioning optimally.
The weather is cooling down, cozy coats re-emerge, and you may be shutting those windows and start cranking up the heat. With a new season on the horizon, unwanted guests will be popping up.
The sniffles and sneezes, or worse, are coming. But don’t head for the cold medicine just yet; there’s plenty you can do to prepare yourself. It's important, however, that you start supporting your immune system and inflammatory response now in order to stay healthy thought the fall, winter, and spring.
And so, in preparation for the changing season, here are a few ways to support your body:
A healthy gut equals a healthy immune system.Seventy percent of the immune system lives in your intestinal lining, so it’s no surprise that the key to a well-balanced immune system is making sure the bacteria inhabiting your gut are healthy and thriving. Adding in a daily probiotic is a great place to start, but for many, you’ll need to go a step further, addressing the root cause of any gut issues, reducing inflammation, and supporting healthy digestion.
2. Take herbs or supplements that reduce inflammation.
When we think of allergies, we’re often thinking of the symptoms associated with allergies—running nose, itchy eyes, headaches—but at the core, we’re really experiencing an inflammatory response to foreign particles. Herbs and supplements can help reduce inflammation and give you some relief. Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, as well as herbal blends such as Natural DHist or Histaeze, can all be used to control and prevent symptoms.
3. Leverage diet to reduce allergy symptoms.
Even if you don’t have food allergies, eating a healthy diet supports the immune system and makes you less prone to an allergy attack. I recommend choosing foods that fight inflammation, like organic plants and foods high in fiber and healthy fats, while avoiding refined sugars, processed white flour, dairy products, and red meats. If you’ve ever heard of the Mediterranean diet, that’s a great plan that offers many benefits—even beyond allergies.
4. Ease your stressors.
Like the foods we eat, stress can also trigger an inflammatory response (are you noticing a trend?), which makes it even more important that you manage anxiety and any chronic stressors. I like to incorporate some mind-body healing into my daily routine, like guided meditation, long walks, yoga, and deep breathing.
5. Reduce your exposure to harmful toxins.
As obvious as it sounds, harmful toxins are sometimes lurking where you’d least expect them, like in personal care and cleaning products. Toxins can damage the immune system and trigger inflammation. To reduce exposure, you might consider buying water filters, replacing toxic household products with natural alternatives, and installing air filters to cleanse your environment. Remember, if you don’t recognize an ingredient, your body probably won’t either.
It isn't uncommon to hear coworkers complaining about how tired they are — because we are.
Most of us spend our adult life struggling with compromised immune function, infertility, and sleepless nights, using stimulants like caffeine and sugar to make it through the day. When you consider the fact that more than 21 million Americans drink six or more cups of coffee a day, referred to as the "most commonly used mood altering drug in the world" by Johns Hopkins with the potential to induce anxiety and disrupt sleep, the modern-day exhaustion epidemic makes sense.1,2 Add to that the fact that the average American eats more sugar than ever, at an estimated 160 pounds a year, and we have created the perfect storm.
The signs of PMS and menopause that women experience today are not normal.By the time that retirement is an option, many of us are on at least two to three pharmaceutical medications — if not more. As of 2014, close to 50 percent of Americans took one or more medications, with prescription drug use more likely to increase with age.
Dr. Shiao-Ting Jing, a sixth generation physician at the Traditional Chinese Medicine Healing Center in Los Angeles specializing in hard-to-treat disorders and women's health, believes that natural medicine such as acupuncture and herbology creates an opportunity for people to live long and full lives.
What many women consider to be normal symptoms of PMS, like breast tenderness, headaches, low energy, and irritability, could be caused by an underlying hormonal imbalance. A ready-made probiotic like Dong Quaican help to strengthen digestion, balance hormones, and ease symptoms of menopause and PMS.
Dr. Jing was on her way to becoming a surgeon in China, until she began her internship working in an emergency room. There, she realized that Western medicine focused on disease care, rather than on prevention and sustaining quality of life. Changing her specialty to obstetrics and gynecology, Dr. Jing became a teacher and a chief physician at Beijing Immunology Hospital. She has been practicing medicine for the last 28 years.
DO YOU HAVE A HORMONE IMBALANCE DURING PMS?
It is now more common than ever to see both men and women in their 20s struggling with infection, fluctuations in hormones, and declining libido.
While disease can have many faces, in traditional Chinese medicine all things, including disease, are an expression of yin and yang. Yin and yang are two fundamental and opposing forces that come together in the creation of the natural world. The Classics of Traditional Chinese Medicine exhibit held at the National Library of Medicine described how this delicate relationship is thought to affect the health of the body, "Good health is believed to come from a balance of Yin (negative, dark, and feminine) and Yang (positive, bright, and masculine)."
Dr. Jing tells us that to achieve radiant health, "We are looking for yin and yang balance."
Such imbalances of the two are found in PMS and menopause. Dr. Jing believes the signs of PMS and menopause that women experience today are not normal. The profound shift in hormones suggests an underlying imbalance.
Imbalances that women should be aware of include:
BALANCED HORMONES REST ON STRONG DIGESTION
Around the age of 35, a woman usually begins her transition into menopause. While she may not notice this shift until she reaches her fortieth year, there may be small clues indicating the rise and fall of certain key hormones. Up to 75 percent of menopausal women in the U.S. experience hot flashes and night sweats — lasting as long as seven years for many women, according to 2015 research published JAMA Internal Medicine.6 And anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of women approaching menopause turn to non-hormonal therapy to treat these hormonal symptoms, often because of the dangers associated with hormone replacement during menopause.7 Effectively addressing these hormonal changes during menopause is critical. Because we are living longer, a woman could spend 40 percent of her life in a postmenopausal state.
Early hormonal indicators of menopause include:
In Chinese medicine, there is a focus on what are known as The Five Elements: Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire. These five elements are used to explain how the body progresses from one state into another. The Earth element, or our digestive force, is the foundation of The Five Element system. According to Dr. Jing, in order to have a healthy reproductive system and well-balanced hormones, it is essential to first take care of digestive function.
To improve digestive function, we must strengthen the Earth element.
10 STEPS TO STRENGTHEN THE EARTH ELEMENT AND YOUR DIGESTION
Besides weak digestion, people with a weak Earth element often overwork, worry, crave sweets, and have a proclivity to gain weight. Exercise and seated meditation are also said to be beneficial in strengthening the Earth element.
What To Remember Most About This Article:Research confirms that many adults continually struggle with a compromised immune system, infertility, and lack of sleep, relying on stimulants like caffeine and sugar to make it through the day. This chronic exhaustion can lead to the use of multiple medications by the time we reach retirement age.
Today, it's more common than ever to see young men and women in their 20s experiencing fluctuating hormones, declining libido, and infection. But according to traditional Chinese medicine, all diseases and disorders are an expression of Yin and Yang — caused by an inner imbalance.
Balancing hormones begins by strengthening digestion. In Chinese medicine, the Earth element is related to digestive force and can support healthy reproduction and balanced hormones.
To strengthen your digestion and Earth element, use these helpful steps:
In the quest for new treatments, U.S. researchers are looking to traditional Chinese medicines, some of the oldest remedies in the world.
A recent discovery resulted in a better treatment for a type of leukemia that strikes about 1 in 250,000 people in the U.S. Another study found a potential new painkiller in China's medicine chest. Other researchers are studying a traditional medicinal plant called "thunder god vine" for its anti-cancer properties.
The approach has already had some success. The Chinese herbal medicine artemisinin, for instance, has gone on to become the most potent anti-malarial drug available.
Not all the leads have panned out, of course. But the old field has shown enough potential to keep interest high.
A better leukemia treatment drawn from an ancient medicine should give us hope for developing anti-cancer drugs, says Dr. Samuel Waxman, a co-author of the report and professor of medicine and cancer specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital. "It gives a lot of optimism of seeking other types of cancer medicines in the Chinese pharmacopedia, which many people are looking into," Waxman says.
The treatment uses arsenic trioxide, which has traditionally been used in Chinese medicine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved arsenic trioxide (sold as Trisenox here) as a treatment in 2000, and later research showed that patients who received standard chemotherapy followed by arsenic trioxide did better than patients who just received standard chemotherapy.
But a big clinical test recently found that the drug, in combination with all-trans retinoic acid — another drug commonly used to treat acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) — turned out to be more effective than the usual chemotherapy.
That results means arsenic trioxide should become the new standard for patients that can use it, says Dr. Richard Stone, director of the adult acute leukemia program at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
"So this was a cure for leukemia without chemotherapy, really for the first time in a large randomized trial," says Stone. "We've got a patient in the hospital right now who's receiving that very therapy."
He says there are still side effects from the new regimen affecting the skin and heart, but for most people they're less of a problem than the hair loss, vomiting and diarrhea that can come with chemotherapy.
The arsenic trioxide treatment was developed by a Chinese doctor working in northern China during the Cultural Revolution, according to Mount Sinai's Waxman. This doctor couldn't use much Western medicine, so to treat his APL patients, he started giving them arsenic trioxide intravenously. He kept a journal for 10 years and noticed that it worked remarkably well. He eventually published his findings in 2001 with other collaborators.
"That was one of the first examples of a targeted treatment in all of cancer," Waxman says.
Other researchers are also studying triptolide, a natural product of a traditional Chinese medicinal plant called lei gong teng or "thunder god vine" as a possible anti-cancer drug. The product was effective against cancer in animal models and scientists in the West are now studying exactly how it works, says Jun Liu, one of the researchers and a professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences at Johns Hopkins University.
"Traditional medicine will always remain a useful source of new drugs. The question is, to what extent?" Liu says. "Drug discovery and development is a very lengthy and costly process and there are always failures."
Research into Chinese medicine is no different. Cancer reseachers at the University of Minnesota recently started an early clinical trial to study a drug that was developed from triptolide for treating pancreatic cancer, says Edward Greeno, associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota. He points out it took millions of dollars just to get to this point.
"It's easy to think, and normal to think, that if people are using it already then it shouldn't require a lot to develop it into a useful product. The problem is that our standard for what is safe and effective is very high, appropriately," Greeno says. "It looks like a pretty straight path but what you don't see are all the false starts and wrong turns that we make along the way."
Studying Chinese medicine for new treatments has had its share of wrong turns. Western scientists previously looked into treatments for the prevention of dementia, eczema, and bacteria that cause most types of stomach ulcers, but concluded they weren't particularly effective.
But the failures don't mean we should give up, says Brian Berman, a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland who served as the principal investigator of two Chinese medicine research initiatives funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Chinese medicine is one lead to consider, especially for chronic diseases that have yet to be cured. "The advantage you have when you look at some of the Chinese medicine therapies is that by and large, they are safe, as long as what you're getting doesn't have added ingredients," Berman says. "We need to look at what other cultures have to offer and then we need to put them through a scientifically rigorous test."
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This year's Nobel Prize went to three Chinese scientists. It was the first time China won a Nobel in science. The committee emphasized it was not giving the award to traditional Chinese medicine, just the scientist who applied her knowledge of it to her research.
While the award legitimates Chinese medicine in the eyes of some who have long believed in its benefits, others worry that the award dismisses the cultural heritage of Chinese medicine, instead rewarding the very narrow aspects of the work that satisfy a Western definition of what medicine should - and can be. It raises the question of how we judge the legitimacy of medicine.
Some people use Chinese medicine to alleviate chronic conditions that have not responded to mainstream medical treatment, such as pain. But it's not easy to prove effectiveness of these treatments, so many insurance policies won't cover it. Does the lack of research-based proof mean these treatments don't work or that we need a new way to measure success?
Hear SAR Board Co-President Vitaly Napadow in an NPR radio show about Chinese medicine:
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Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.
M.Om., Dipl. Acu (NCCAOM) L.Ac.
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