It’s the New Year, 2019, and I know you’re thinking about your resolutions. Maybe you’re planning a trip you’ve wanted to go on for a while, or you’d like to spend more time with family and old friends, or really invest time and money in your health this year? I can’t think of a better pursuit for cancer survivors. After all, you know how sacred your health and life are. This is your year!
I talk to cancer survivors every day who are pumped on getting well. And every day they ask me questions about the latest wellness trends they’ve heard about in a corner of the internet. Some of these trends are totally off base and I’ll be honest - there are times I’m dismayed at the money survivors spend on snake oil, gimmicks with no basis in scientific fact. The peddlers of medical lies are making a vast karmic mistake at the expense of a vulnerable group of people.
But is it helpful to sit in an ivory tower and look down on people who are interested in taking care of their health? Of course not. Clinical snobbishness sets up an “us vs. them” dichotomy you don’t need. There’s no better way to end a conversation than to give advice from a position of power. I think it’s important though, to give facts, and trust you’re smart and make good decisions for yourself.
So indulge my need to give the facts. I may not make friends here because people are passionate about what they believe, but I hope you can appreciate my obligation to set the wellness record straight.
There Is No Data That CBD Oil Is Effective In Treating Or Preventing Cancer In Humans.
CBD Oil and other marijuana derived products do not effectively treat cancer and they do not protect you from cancer recurrence in survivorship.
I am aware of the “studies” that certain purveyors of these products use. I am aware of the miraculous case studies. The fact is: there are not rigorous, reproducible studies that support their claims in humans with cancer.
I’m not saying there’s no potential there. Who knows, right? I am in favor of medical scientific research in this area because that’s how humanity moves civilization forward. But right now there are no rigorous scientific facts that support the use of marijuana derivatives in the treatment of cancer.
CBD oil and related products can help with nausea, vomiting, and pain. They have been proven to help HIV patients with appetite but this has not been scientifically shown in cancer patients. They can help with certain types of seizures. CBD oil and related products should not be used without the knowledge and direction of a licensed health care provider.
Read what the American Cancer Society says on the topic. They’ve got a great summary and I agree with them wholeheartedly.
The Need for Dietary Supplements Is A Myth
Some people with actual nutritional deficiencies need supplements. Generally, people, including cancer survivors, do not.
I know cancer survivors who take 20 different supplements and often times they’re herbs or plants or mushrooms that I’ve never heard of! These survivors take supplements because they read somewhere the supplements might-maybe-probably help with cancer.
If your doctor wants you to take supplements because you’re deficient in a certain vitamin or mineral due to poor absorption, a medical condition, or a physiologic change, then you need the supplement. But don’t spend money on random supplements because a marketer tells you to.
Supplements are not regulated. We have no idea what’s actually in those capsules, tablets, and elixirs. You might be taking a filler substance or worse.
I had a patient who’s sister gave him supplements she purchased while travelling. He was poisoned by them, went into kidney failure, and died. It was excruciating. I’ll never forget him.
Get your nutrients from real food. Eat colorful vegetables. Eat fiber. Eat high quality organic dairy and lean animal protein like organic fish and chicken. Eat healthy fats. Eat nuts. Eat whole grains. It’s what you need and what your body is programmed to lovingly exploit.
Don’t let the supplement industry exploit you.
Adrenal Fatigue Is A Myth. Adrenal Insufficiency Is Real.
I have a Pinterest page where I post images linking to Brio’s blog posts. Because I’m posting about cancer survivor wellness topics, I get all sorts of wellness pins in my Pinterest feed. That’s where I became aware of this myth of “Adrenal Fatigue.”
What on earth is that?
It’s nothing. It’s not a thing. It’s a made-up phenomenon.
Your adrenal glands sit on your kidneys and are part of your hormonal balancing system. They help you deal with stress. They don’t get fatigued. They help you “deal with” fatigue. I don’t even want to justify the theory by trying to summarize it because it doesn’t make sense. There are people promoting programs and products however, based on this non-theory.
The American Endocrine society has a great article on the myth of adrenal fatigue. You can read it HERE.
Speaking of the adrenal glands, I do want to make a distinction that’s very important here: People with cancer who receive immunotherapy as treatment do have risk of having adrenal insufficiency. Adrenal insufficiency is a serious medical disorder and can be a life threatening side effect of certain cancer treatments. The gist of the story is that if you don’t feel well, always call a trusted medical provider who will really listen to what you have to say.
Alkaline Water and Alkalizing Your Body Is A Gimmick
Remember pH from general chemistry? Acid base balance ring a bell? Well, the human body keeps itself at a certain pH level because the molecules that make up our cells are conditioned to function at just the right pH.
Our bodies have mechanisms to maintain our pH in a healthy range because if we get too acidic or too alkaline, our cells break down and we can’t survive. Much of the medical work in the hospital, particularly in critical care, is keeping people at the right pH through illness. It’s what keeps their cells alive.
There are companies and people in the market making consumable products that are alkaline in composition. They claim you’ll benefit from consuming them, that you’ll have improved digestion, youth, better mineral content and bone health. None of this has been tested and is just not true.
One of my patients was drinking alkaline water excessively. He didn’t tell me.
One day he called and wasn’t feeling well. He ended up in the hospital with severe bleeding in his stomach because of the alkaline environment the water created. It wasn’t right for his cells and his stomach lining became irritated.
For your body, sometimes less is more. And if it’s too good to be true, it’s too good to be true.
Eating No Sugar Makes No Sense
Too much sugar is bad for you - that is clear. It causes obesity, inflammation, and high insulin levels. These things all contribute to an increased risk of cancer. But be smart: you can’t prevent cancer or recurrence from not eating sugar at all.
Your body will make sugar out of the nutrients you do consume because sugars are your energy molecules. You need some sugar to function and think.
I have patients coming to the clinic who have subscribed to a “no sugar diet” hoping to prevent recurrence and they feel absolutely terrible. Eating no sugar exacerbates brain fog and fatigue, two things cancer survivors need help with.
So, eat a well balanced diet that includes healthy sources of carbs like whole grains and fresh fruit. Give your cells permission to metabolize efficiently by exercising and getting plenty of rest. Give yourself the energy you need to thrive.
What To Spend Your Money On Instead
If you want to invest in your health, I’m all for it! Need some ideas what to do for yourself in the new year that might be better for you than investing in a myth?
Donate to cancer research
Go on a wellness retreat
Invest in a private trainer
Buy real, local, whole foods
Take an active vacation
Get a massage
Take dancing lessons
Learn a language
Join a gym
Buy a new mattress for luxurious sleeping
Buy a lifetime subscription to a mindfulness app
Learn a new sport
Buy a great book
Take an art class
Join a yoga class
Buy some new walking shoes
Subscribe to a healthy meal delivery service
There are so many great alternatives!
We all want the natural cure, the natural remedy that will keep us safe from cancer and make us feel great at the same time. I want it too. I wish that pill existed.
Miracles are more appealing than the slow trajectory of recovery ahead, that’s for sure. Our hearts believe certain facts and our minds find reasons for what we believe. That’s human nature and if I fight too hard against it, I’ll be on the other side of a debate with you that I can’t win, the side that will alienate you. But I do want to make sure you have accurate information about health and wellness so you’re well armed against the sea of false health information out there. You deserve at least that much.
The mistake health care providers make is simple: it’s their (our!) propensity to stand in ivory towers and look down on people who need their help. Your doctor should speak to you with compassion and passion for the facts to effectively message the glory of the data, the real miracle of science. That’s what I’m trying to do here and I’m asking you as the Brio community to help me in my quest. I am asking you to be Cancer Survivor Wellness Fact Evangelists. We can make a difference if we get on our soapboxes and sing the praises of the data for all to hear.
If you’re interested in Brio’s upcoming FREE Online Workshop that’s all about using data to help cancer survivors derailed by fatigue find vitality after cancer, sign up by clicking the button below.
Happy New Year, Survivor.