This Week On The Health Hub…Addressing The Tangibles & Intangibles of Integrative Cancer Care With Dr. Francisco Contreras

Dr. Francisco Contreras is a cancer specialist renowned for integrating alternative therapies with conventional cancer treatment. For the last 38 years, he has treated tens of thousands of patients who have come from more than 60 countries seeking alternative cancer treatment at his Oasis of Hope Hospital in Mexico. He has spoken around the world and appeared on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox & Friends. He is the author of twelve books including his new release “The Art & Science of Undermining Cancer.”
Learning point:
  • Why is it important to address the emotions of a cancer diagnosis?
  • How does treating the whole person influence outcomes?
  • What is the difference between integrative & alternative cancer care?

Social Media:
 

 

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Every Tuesday from 11am -12pm I host The Health Hub, an interactive, forward thinking talk show on Radio Maria Canada.   Call, tweet or email your questions as together we explore health issues that are relevant to you from new and innovative points of view.


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How Do I Keep My Blood Sugar Stable?

Oh, the words “blood sugar.”

Does it conjure up visions of restrictive eating, diabetes medications, or insulin injections?

Blood sugar is the measure of the amount of sugar in your blood. You need the right balance of sugar in your blood to fuel your brain and muscles.

The thing is, it can fluctuate. A lot.

This fluctuation is the natural balance between things that increase it; and things that decrease it. When you eat food with sugars or starches (“carbs”), then your digestive system absorbs sugar into your blood. When carbs are ingested and broken down into simple sugars, your body keeps blood sugar levels stable by secreting insulin. Insulin allows excess sugar to get it out of your bloodstream and into your muscle cells and other tissues for energy

Why keep my blood sugar stable?

Your body wants your blood sugar to be at an optimal level. It should be high enough, so you’re not light-headed, fatigued, and irritable. It should be low enough that your body isn’t scrambling to remove excess from the blood.

When blood sugar is too low, this is referred to as “hypoglycemia.”

When blood sugar is too high, it is referred to as hyperglycemia.  Prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar levels (chronic hyperglycemia) can lead to “insulin resistance.”

Insulin resistance is when your cells are just so bored of the excess insulin that they start ignoring (resisting) it, and that keeps your blood sugar levels too high.

Insulin resistance and chronic hyperglycemia can lead to inflammation.  And inflammation is a contributing factor in the development of cancer.

So let’s look at how you can optimize your food and lifestyle to keep your blood sugar stable.

Food for stable blood sugar

The simplest thing to do to balance your blood sugar is to reduce the number of refined sugars and starches you eat.  To do this, you can start by dumping sweet drinks and having smaller portions of dessert.

Eating more fiber is helpful too. Fiber helps to slow down the amount of sugar absorbed from your meal; it reduces the “spike” in your blood sugar level.  Fiber is found in plant-based foods (as long as they are eaten in their natural state, processing foods removed fiber).  Eating nuts, seeds and whole fruits and veggies (not juiced) is a great way to increase your fiber intake.

FUN FACT: Cinnamon has been shown to help cells increase insulin sensitivity. Not to mention it’s a delicious spice that can be used in place of sugar. (HINT: It’s in the recipe below)

Lifestyle for stable blood sugar

Exercise also helps to improve your insulin sensitivity; this means that your cells don’t ignore insulin’s call to get excess sugar out of the blood.  Not to mention, when you exercise, your muscles are using up that sugar they absorbed from your blood. But you already knew that exercise is healthy, didn’t you?

Would you believe that stress affects your blood sugar levels? Yup! Stress hormones increase your blood sugar levels. If you think about the “fight or flight” stress response, what fuel do your brain and muscles need to “fight” or “flee”? Sugar! When you are stressed signals are sent to release stored forms of sugar back into the bloodstream, increasing blood sugar levels.  So, try to reduce the stress you’re under and manage it more effectively. Simple tips are meditation, deep breathing, or gentle movement.

Sleep goes hand-in-hand with stress. When you don’t get enough quality sleep, you tend to release stress hormones, have a higher appetite, and even get sugar cravings. Sleep is crucial, often overlooked, factor when it comes to keeping your blood sugar stable. Make sleep more of a priority – it will do your blood sugar (and the rest of your physical and mental health) good.

Conclusion

Your body is on a constant 24-hour quest to keep your blood sugar stable. The body has mechanisms in place to do this, but those mechanisms can get tired (resistant).  Long-term blood sugar issues can spell trouble.

There are many nutrition and lifestyle approaches you can take to help keep your blood sugar stable. Minimizing excessive carbs, and eating more fiber, exercising, reducing stress, and improving sleep are all key to having stable blood sugar (and overall good health).

Recipe (blood sugar balancing): Cinnamon Apples 

Serves 4

  • 2 apples, chopped
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract

Place chopped apples into a small saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes the apples will become slightly soft, and water will be absorbed.

Add 1 tbsp coconut oil. Stir apples and oil together.

Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so.

Add cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Stir well.

Cook for another few minutes, stirring until the apples reach your desired softness!

Serve and enjoy!

Tip: Keeping the peel on increases the fiber, which is even better for stabilizing your blood sugar.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/15-ways-to-lower-blood-sugar/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-review-blood-sugar

 

Are You A Dipper?

If you were to regularly take your blood pressure when you wake up each day and just before you go to bed at night you should notice a pattern of variance between the 2 readings.

This is because our blood pressure has a circadian rhythm.

Blood pressure is normally lower at night and then starts to rise a few hours before you wake up. It continues to rise during the day, usually peaking in the middle of the afternoon. Then in the late afternoon and evening, your blood pressure begins dropping again.

This is a healthy dipping pattern and denotes a healthy blood pressure circadian rhythm.

So, what happens if this is not the case?  What if you don’t dip?

There are many studies suggesting that people who do not show an appropriate nocturnal dip in blood pressure, called non-dippers, are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular complications and disease. 

We can greatly impact our blood pressure, both negatively and positively, by our sleeping pattern.

Research has found that those who sleep less than 4 hours a night are at a higher risk of hypertension, which is high blood pressure, than those who sleep 7 hours each night.

And here’s a kicker. Even one bad night’s sleep can have an impact by causing a spike in blood pressure that night!

Home Monitoring Of Your Blood Pressure 

Taking your blood pressure reading regularly is a simple habit to develop.  It will give you a day to day snapshot of your reading and over time give you a pattern of your blood pressure. This will help you to identify irregularities or changes.

And this is important both for cancer prevention and for those going through treatment.

Hypertension is associated with a higher risk for not only developing cancer but dying from it as well.

In one large study that included 289,454 men and 288,345 women, the results showed that higher than normal blood pressure was statistically significantly associated with a 10-20% higher risk of developing cancer in men, and a higher risk of dying from the disease in both men and women.

And for those in active care, there is a known association between chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment and the development or worsening of hypertension. 

There is a known association between chemotherapy and radiotherapy for treatment of cancer patients and development or worsening of hypertension…Morbidity and mortality increased in patients with cancer and hypertension without proper antihypertensive treatment. We concluded that there is need for early diagnosis, effective monitoring and treatment strategies for hypertension in cancer patients in order to reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality

As well, other medications used to treat cancer can cause a rapid onset of elevated blood pressure. 

So, in both cancer prevention and in active care, monitoring your blood pressure is a simple yet powerful tool to include in your own health protocol.

If you have early warning signs of a change in your blood pressure, whether in active cancer care or in prevention, you can bring this to the attention of your physician and get ahead of potential issues.


References

Sleep and Hypertension

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2913764/

High blood pressure is linked to increased risk of developing or dying from cancer

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110926182618.htm

Association between blood pressure and risk of cancer development: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-45014-4#:~:text=Over%20the%20past%20few%20decades,to%20men%20(63%25%20vs.

Hypertension in Patients with Cancer

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4386854/

Hypertension and cancer treatment

https://siteman.wustl.edu/treatment/cardio-oncology/high-blood-pressure/#:~:text=Hypertension%20and%20cancer%20treatment,pressure%20are%20anti%2DVEGF%20medications.

 

Diabetes, Mitochondria & Cancer

Type 2 Diabetes is a known precursor for many different cancers.

Type 2 Diabetes also appears to confer a significantly greater risk in women than men for cancers of the mouth, stomach, kidney and for leukaemia.

With the knowledge that chronic inflammation fuels complications of Type 2 Diabetes, including cardiovascular and kidney issues, determining the underlying causes of inflammation in Type 2 Diabetes is very important for the development of treatments.  The prevailing assumption has held glucose to be the main determinant.

However, new research from scientists at the University of Kentucky has shown that changes to mitochondria drive chronic inflammation from cells exposed to certain types of fats.  This new finding does not disprove glucose as a mechanism for inflammation but it does shed light on the puzzling situation of people with tight glucose control still seeing disease progression.

What Are Mitochondria?

Mitochondria are organelles found in every human cell except for red blood cells. The more energy a cell needs the more mitochondria it will have.  Mitochondria take in nutrients, break them down and create energy for a vast number of cellular functions.

Improving Mitochondrial Health

With the results of this study in mind, improving the health mitochondria is a logical piece of the puzzle for cancer prevention.

Let’s look at some ways to do this.

Exercise

Mitochondria are essential providers of energy for cellular survival.  They are also key to the function of apoptosis, or programmed cellular death.  Exercise is key to increasing mitochondrial health and biogenesis.

Intermittent Fasting

 Intermittent fasting has been shown to remove damaged mitochondria from the body through a process known as mitophagy. It also improves mitochondria homeostasis leading to more optimal functioning.

As well, by avoiding over consumption you reduce the amount of fuel that your mitochondria is required to burn.  This serves to limit free radicals, a by-product of mitochondrial function.

Toxins

The deleterious effects of environmental toxins on mitochondrial function has been studied extensively in humans.  Doing your best to avoid environmental toxins, improving the environmental health of your home and workplace and supporting your natural detoxification pathways to aid your system in the elimination of acquired toxins are vital for supporting your mitochondrial health.

Diet

Poor diet can lead to excessive free radicals and inflammation.  Your mitochondria also produce free radicals.  Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables provides needed antioxidants to counteract harmful effects of these free radicals.

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References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2890380/

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-018-4664-5

https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(19)30377-8?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS1550413119303778%3Fshowall%3Dtrue

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31674658

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19448716

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6078194/

 

 

 

 

 

Neutropenia: A Common Side Effect of Cancer

Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell and an extremely important part of our immune system as they help our body to fight infection.

Neutropenia is a condition where a person has an abnormally low concentration of neutrophils.

People who have neutropenia have a higher risk of getting serious infections because they do not have enough neutrophils to fight off invading and harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Cancer patients who are receiving treatment can be at risk of neutropenia. Neutrophils are made in the bone marrow and cancer treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy can affect a patient’s bone health thus impacting neutrophil production. Neutropenia is also a common side effect in people with leukemia and can also be caused by solid tumour malignancies if they infiltrate the bone marrow.

Neutropenia is diagnosed by a routine complete blood count (CBC).

Symptoms of Neutropenia

The following are common signs of neutropenia:

  • A fever
  • Chills or sweating
  • Sore throat, sores in the mouth
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pain near the anus
  • Pain or burning when urinating, or urinating often
  • A cough or shortness of breath
  • Any redness, swelling, or pain (especially around a cut, wound, or catheter)
  • Unusual vaginal discharge or itching

Allopathic Management of Neutropenia

The treatment of neutropenia depends on its cause and severity. In some cases cancer treatment may be suspended until neutrophil count rises to an adequate level.

Patients may be given medication to help bone marrow regenerate new neutrophils.

And in cases where a disease has caused the drop in neutrophils, treatment of the disease will occur.

How Can You Support Your Immune System If You Are At Risk of Neutropenia?

Eat a healthy diet

  • Protein is the building block for the immune system. Foods such as eggs, quinoa and

       lean white meat are good sources

  • Zinc is a strong immune booster. Foods rich in zinc include pumpkin seeds, shellfish and

       beans

  • Omega‐3 fatty acids increase phagocyte activity. Phagocytes are white blood cells that

        consume bacteria. Foods include flax seeds, wild caught salmon and chia seeds

  • Folate increases neutrophil count. Foods high in folate include leafy green vegetables,

        beans, and lentils.

  • Stay well hydrated drinking at least 8 glasses of water per day

Wash your hands frequently

Washing your hands helps to prevent the spread of germs to your nose, eyes and mouth.  All entry points to your body

Stay away from large groups

You are at greater risk of infection when your immune system is compromised.  During this time avoid large groups to help reduce your risk of coming in to contact with potentially harmful germs

Get lots of sleep

Proper sleep is a key piece of a healthy immune system.  Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night

Neutropenia can be serious.  Be aware of the symptoms and contact your doctor if you begin to experience any of them.


References:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4059501/

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/physical-emotional-and-social-effects-cancer/managing-physical-side-effects/neutropenia

Chemotherapy, Radiation, Surgery Natural Strategies for Preparation & Dealing with Side Effects of Cancer Treatments by Cathy Biase BSc., RHN, CPCC