A few weeks ago I had the privilege of spending 4 days in training with Dr Kate James, an Integrative Medical Doctor who specialises in Cancer support. Like so many people working in holistic therapies, Kate has her own story, as do I. Dr James was an A&E Doctor when her second child, a daughter called Grace, was diagnosed with Leukaemia at just 18 months old. She was given a ‘middling chance’ of cure, and this set her mother off on a path to optimising her odds and doing everything possible to support little Grace’s ability to heal . She is now a vibrant and happy 8 year old girl, and her recovery is testimony to the power of supporting the body with complimentary therapies including nutrition, in conjunction with medical treatment.

What really attracted me about the courses that Dr James runs is that they are practical and firmly based in the kitchen. This is tremendously important for a cancer patient, as the realities of how to eat well can be difficult when your health and energy levels are compromised. However if we think about cancer as being a systemic disease, where there is a compromise of underlying functions in the body, ensuring sufficient nutrients to optimise those functions is vital for success. Dr James’ key principles are to 1) alkalise the body 2) support the immune system and 3) use the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approach of understanding weaknesses in the body, and enable nutritional strategies to be prioritised. TCM describes 5 elements, which are believed to relate to the following organ systems:

– Earth – spleen, stomach

– Metal – lungs, large intestine

– Water – kidneys, bladder

– Wood – Liver, gallbladder

– Fire – Heart, Small intestine.

For example, where imbalances in the Earth element are detected (ie: weak digestive capacity) Dr James tonifies this element with warming foods, including well-cooked rice, oats, spelt, starchy vegetables and pulses (squash, carrot, parsnip, blackbeans, sweet potato), pungent vegetables (onions, garlic, leek, ginger, fennel) and cooked fruits (apple, cherries). Hence specific foods are considered appropriate for the patient as an individual, as part of their healing journey.

Supplements are also an important aspect of recovery from illness, because they enable the body to benefit immediately from higher concentration of nutrients in addition to food. Dr James favours super green powders and juices, blue green algae and bee products (bee pollen and royal jelly). Prescriptions are of course tailored to the individual needs of the patient.

I consider myself fortunate in that I was introduced to complementary therapies when diagnosed with cancer 9 years ago. The net result is that I am still alive (yay!) but am also fitter, healthier and have considerably more energy than I did a decade ago. I would urge anybody facing such a diagnosis to seek Nutritional advice and optimise their own chances of a happy and healthy future.

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