Equal Parts Naturopathy, Love, and Determination: Cancer Prevention and Treatment
Satya Ambrose, L. AC, ND
I have so many extraordinary stories that have come out of working with cancer patients. Most of them have survived. A few have not, but each of their lives touched me greatly. Each has been my teacher, showing me the preciousness of our time here on earth and the gifts of appreciating every moment, difficult and easy. As well, they taught me the benefits of prevention.
After a brief introduction to treating cancer naturopathically, I will share the miraculous story of Ms. J and her successful battle with ductal carcinoma of the breast.
First, I work from the premise that environmental endocrine disruptors combined with poor dietary support and emotional stress patterns primarily cause cancer. Second, the best way to treat cancer is to prevent it.
Unfortunately we don’t often think about prevention until after a problem arises. Thus, part of the job of the great physician is to help patients reduce their risk. In China it is said that the highest-level physician teaches wellness. To teach this we could offer:
- scare tactics (i.e. One in four people get cancer unless they eat well.)
- education about diet, stress reduction, exercise, immune support and detoxification
- unconditional love
- support of good gene expression through the SERM (selective estrogen response modification) pathways
- their homeopathic remedy
- importance of self-love, help them shift self-destructive paradigms
Teaching them how to use love as their motivating force may be the most powerful. I include all but the scare tactics. They usually live with enough fear. I then help each individual to identify the cause of their illness and support them to shift.
Naturopathic physicians have many modality choices. Although this wide range of therapeutic techniques can be confusing as a student, it offers a lot to choose from when treating a complex individual with a unique cause of illness. I have developed my own methods (some say to my madness), these I’ll share with you here. Note: We must not cling to established protocols, remembering that individually crafted treatments are most effective when helping individuals.
Naturopathic modalities for effectively treating cancer include:
- Phyto-medicines: stimulate immunity, reduce inflammation, enhance detoxification, kill cancer cells
- Emotional counseling: shift paradigm of beliefs, emotional patterns, regulate blood sugar, and normalize serotonin, cortisol and other neurotransmitters
- Exercise therapies: stimulate immunity, reduce toxins and cortisol, normalize blood sugar and IGF-1
- Bodywork: reduce pain, inflammation and side effects of therapies; stimulate immunity, normalize neurotransmitters
- Nutritional supplements: potentiate body’s ability to recover from therapies (B6, Magnesium, Selenium)
- Help patient coordinate, understand and communicate with other health care providers
Breast Cancer Case:
Ms. J, a 38-year-old woman and mother of four children, was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma of the breast. After discovering positive lymph nodes, she underwent a mastectomy and several rounds of chemotherapy. She came in to see me when the veins in her arms were burning out from IV chemotherapy; she was so nauseous she did not want to live, despite her love for and devotion to her children.
Considering her situation, I could not see how she could make it. Her husband had recently abandoned her; she had no financial or parenting support and informed me that during her childhood she had to run away from home because of abuse and lived on the streets for many years. If I were going to be her doctor, I would be her primary support and need to rally for her cause. It was necessary to find a place of faith within myself that she could heal. I told her “everything would be better than fine” and later she told me she believed me. My words became her anchor, as well as mine.
She decided she would need a career, so she entered a MSW program while undergoing chemotherapy and caring for her children. She imagined her white blood cells as white doves effortlessly eating cancer cells for their food. Although maybe not logical, she chose to love her husband unconditionally, regardless of his lack.
She lost her hair, but her spirit stayed strong. Eventually her hair grew back more beautiful than before it fell out. She began clowning training and laughed through her treatments. Her chemotherapy eventually stopped hurting when it was administered. She changed her diet and grew a new way of seeing the world. Life (and the cancer) became an opportunity instead of an adversary that would abandon her.
Ms. J would enter my office looking green, but after receiving an acupuncture treatment, dietary advice, and her supplements, she would leave with a determination to survive, looking almost cheerful. She taught me about hope.
Integrative Biological Assessment
Understanding an integrative biological assessment (which details the biochemical imbalances that may precede the onset of cancer) is essential for creating an effective treatment and prevention plan for a cancer patient.
Imbalanced Female Hormones
There are several reasons we end up with excess estrogen. Our estrogen detoxification pathways can be weakened by toxins using up detoxifying nutrients (glutathione of the cytochrome P450 system), by essential dietary deficiencies (B6 and Mg++, etc.) and detrimental excesses (sugar, alcohol, trans-fats and omega 6 fats), and by hormonal stress with chronic up-regulation of cortisol and norepinephrine. This reduces progesterone production through the aromatase pathway. Progesterone counters estrogenic effects and when it is low, the elevated estrogen effect creates cascades into reduction of normal immune function, inflammatory cytokines, and estrogen breakdown disruption in the liver. Reduction in fiber affects the binding and removal of estrogen through the intestines. Abnormal probiotic organisms in the gut affect estrogen breakdown. As a result abnormal estrogen levels stimulate tissue proliferation in estrogen sensitive tissues, like the breast.
Symptoms may include PMS with depression (low serotonin) and irritability (high epinephrine and norepinephrine), menstrual cramps, clots with menses, (fibroids, endometriosis, headaches with periods, fibrocystic breasts, cravings for sugar). High estrogen and prolactin are proliferative of cancer cell growth. High estrogen induces hyperinsulinemia and instigates excess IGF, which is inflammatory and also proliferative of breast and other carcinomas. High blood sugar levels were the primary predictor of mortality in breast cancers.
High cortisol and low DHEA cause reduced melatonin production, low growth hormone and insulin dysregulation, nighttime ATP production and cellular repair functions, glucocorticoid receptor sites, and cortical receptor sites. Symptoms are irritability, fatigue and anxiety, difficulty sleeping, worry about small things. Chronic stress reduces progesterone.
Imbalance must be ruled out. Immune function depends on a normally functioning metabolism, including detoxification pathways and bodily repair.
Runs high normal to diabetic levels in breast and other cancer patients. Ms J’s levels were high normal fasting (98 and 102; glucose of 100 and more increases homocysteine, which is a positive modulator for cancer; IGF instigates cancer growth).
Environmental estrogen exposure (ubiquitous). Reactions depend on individual detoxification pathways, antioxidant levels, high blood sugar (reduces Cytochrome P450 detoxification of steroid hormones), emotional stress, and patterns of coping with stress.
Poor Nutritional Status
Sugar, poor quality fats, processed, fried foods, chemicals, overeating, non-vital, non-organic foods.
Breast cancer in the family. James Frieze MD, at Stanford, showed that humans are pleomorphic in gene expression. Our genes can express differently depending on environmental input.
Underlying Emotional Issues
Those with cancer tend to be hopeless in nature. Loss of a loved one has a dramatic affect on breast cancer incidence. Ms. J had a lifetime of abuse and sense of hopeless abandonment. This needed to change for her to heal.
Immune Function Deficit with Active Inflammatory Pathways
Caused by toxins, estrogen imbalance, low DHEA and high cortisol, high blood sugar, poor nutrient status, and liver detoxification pathways not being fully effective. A factor in Ms. J’s case evidenced by her cancer and allergies: TH1 deficient and TH2 dominant. TH1- IL2, 12, INFg, fights infections and cancer via T lymphs and PGE3. CTLymphs, stimulates NK cells. Stress, toxins, bad fats and sugar, high E2 suppresses TH1, TH2- IL1, 6,TNFa via B lymphs and PGE2 fights spirochetes and parasites. TH3- IL10, TGFb, sIGA induces tolerance and can suppress TH1.
Lack of enzymes allows induction of trophoblastic stem cells. These cells have undifferentiated cellular growth and are central to all tumors. (sub-subhMitochondrial DNA Damaged and Deficient mDNA levels are low in areas where cells show toxins and glycosylation due to damage by free radicals. MDNA is damaged and low in areas of organ failure like diabetes, and cancer.)
Night owl tendencies, exercise deficiency (exercise increases glutathione levels and DHEA).
Kill cancer cells
Chemotherapy (Adriamyacin and Cytoxin), radiation and surgery (oncologist and patient decision for reducing tumor burden). The side effects were treated with acupuncture, Vitamine E (reducing Cardiovascular SE with Adriamyacin) and Essiac. (If she did not do conventional medicine to bring down the tumor burden, I would have suggested that she use PolyMVA, Haelan, Artemesin, saunas or other therapies that kill cancer.) Five elements acupuncture treatments combined with Miriam Lee type treatments—St36, Sp6, Liver3, Li4, Lu7, Li11, CV6, PC6, CV12, and wherever it hurt.
Modified citrus pectin (MCP), –6gm tid, turmeric (flavonoids).
Normalize nutrient status and blood sugar
Organic, fresh, local food. Cruciferous vegetables, garlic, onions, sea vegetables, clean fish, wild game, real eggs, nuts, yogurt, green tea, whole grains, nuts, seeds and olive oil, (no omega 6 oils). Clean water in glass containers or non-toxic plastic containers.
Stimulate immune function and stop inflammation
Mushrooms like PSK (Coriolus versicolor) and IP6. These mushrooms have adaptogenic effects on HPA axis helping the body move away from the stress patterns that created the cancer. These patterns must be changed to be successful.
Protection from radiation
Shark liver oil—potentiates the effects of radiation, while reducing side effects.
Reduced estrogen, prolactin, cortisol, and insulin, with-flax, I-3-C, cruciferous foods (calcium-D-glucarate), acupuncture (Spleen 6 and Shengmai powder to increase glucocorticoid receptor sites, Cordyceps to help normalize adrenals. White peony with other Chinese herbs reduces estrogen and prolactin.
Increase melatonin and DHEA using acupuncture, sunshine and exercise along with reducing stress. Walk up to 12 miles per week. (Outside exercising outside increases endorphins and lowers CRP more than inside aerobics.) When stress hormones are balanced, estrogen and progesterone fall into proper levels.
Enzymes containing chymotrypsin. Enzymes specifically stop embryonic stem cell growth, which is the basis of cancer growth. Stress impacting the HPA axis disrupts the body’s normal enzyme production, playing, I believe, a definitive role in the initiation of cancers.
Acupuncture, quercetin/flavonoids, fish oil, and antioxidants. These stop the cancer growth and spread via reduction of the inflammatory cycle (PGE2, TGFb, and IL10 are inflammatory and tolerance-inducing cytokines released by cancer cells).
Visualization to shift attitude regarding hopelessness, helplessness, self-disgust and self- attack, embrace self-loving attitude.
Assessment and removal of toxins – saunas, heavy metal evaluation, solvent and pesticide toxicity evaluation and removal.
Mitochondrial DNA is low in cancer patients. Co Q10, (increases mitochondrial DNA—found in sulfur rich foods—eggs, onions, garlic and cruciferous foods), glutathione and a-Lipoic acid (ALA) support normal cellular metabolism.
Increase melatonin, DHEA
Acupuncture, sunshine, exercise, and stress reduction.
Twelve years later Ms. J lives a healthy, full life. She runs a cancer counseling program in a hospital and a stress reduction program. Her husband returned and is loving and supportive of her again. She has no sign of breast cancer. While miraculous, this turn around did not occur spontaneously, it required hard work, work that reignited a life worth living.
There are no studies that show what is going to work for any single patient. As Bernie Seigel, MD says in Love Medicine and Miracles “none of us are a statistic”, and the people who do not do everything they are told to do because it matches a statistic survive better. Those that do what they feel is right for them are “the extraordinary” patients. As naturopaths, we do not have any guarantee that one way will work better than another. It is best to be humble and support the patient in their choices with respect and love.
Satya Ambrose, L.AC, ND graduated from New England School of acupuncture in 1977 and NCNM in 1989. She co-founded The Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (OCOM) in 1982. At both OCOM and NCNM, she has taught many courses including oncology, immunology, neurology, and student clinic shifts. In her practice she uses many modalities including acupuncture, exercise, diet, herbs,music, love and anything that works without doing harm.When not practicing and teaching she works on her 24-acre organic farm in Damascus, Oregon.