Mind-Body Support for Cancer

September 16, 2021

Author: Angela Trotter, M.S., CNS, AFMCP, Clinical Functional Nutritionist

We are learning that implementing integrative therapies alongside conventional treatment can increase healing benefits and treatment outcomes for cancer patients. Although each individual will have a unique presentation, the main goal of supporting individuals undergoing conventional cancer treatment is to ultimately support the tissue environment and create a resilient body to optimize recovery, decrease the risk of recurrence and support overall wellness.

This tissue environment is impacted by underlying imbalances such as overall inflammation, blood sugar, insulin resistance, and hormonal imbalances. There are various ways we can address these imbalances specifically, but our initial goal would be to lay a foundation of support through lifestyle ways that have been shown to be impactful.

 In the field of psychoneuroimmunology, we are seeing how impactful chronic stress is on our overall health. I heard the statement once, “stress unravels health”, to me, this one statement precisely states our need to first address stress so that additional interventions can be fully effective. Stress is pervasive in our world, so much so that we need to be mindful of actively implementing ways to decrease our stress. Two lifestyle factors that we can address to reduce our stress are through exercise, and implementing a dietary approach that addresses underlying health concerns that can be greatly impacted via dietary intake. 

Below I will briefly outline the 3 most impactful ways we can support the mind-body to prevent, or reduce cancer expression alongside conventional treatment: 

1. Stress Management – the goal would be to become more aware of how much stress we have in our day-to-day lives. Then actively start shifting our relationship to stress and implementing specific mind-body tools to reduce our chronic stress. Obtaining support through therapy for stress management, healing trauma, and relational support would be a great avenue for reducing chronic stress. Other mind-body supports for stress include yoga and massage.

 2. Exercise – exercise can be a powerful tool for preventing cancer, and also supporting those undergoing cancer treatment. Exercise is also effective at reducing stress, reducing inflammation, increases insulin sensitivity, and supporting the body in more effectively utilizing blood glucose. The recommendation is 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3x per week, and 30 minutes of weight training 2x per week.

 3. Dietary Intervention – dietary intervention can be another powerful tool, shown to reduce the risk by 30%, while also playing a role in reducing the risk of reoccurrence. Below I will provide a few dietary suggestions that are the most evidenced-based approaches that are foundational in most dietary interventions when it comes to supporting cancer. 

a. Caloric Intake – during treatment we want to ensure that individuals are getting adequate nutrient intake since appetite can be affected during treatment. So the goal for individuals undergoing treatment and experiencing a loss of appetite would be to ensure they are getting adequate dietary intake. However, for those wanting to prevent cancer, it is suggested that a reduction in caloric intake, without malnutrition, can play a role in proper weight maintenance to reduce the risk of cancer.

 b. Increased Consumption of Plant-Based Foods – ultimately we see that an increase in foods found in a plant-based diet like nuts, seeds, legumes, healthy oils, fruits, and an abundance of vegetables has been shown most effective for controlling inflammation and regulating blood sugar. So getting more plant-based protein can be a good start.

 c. Decrease Intake of Ultra Processed Foods – Being mindful of foods that are high in refined sugars like high fructose corn syrup, and foods high in processed fats like hydrogenated fats and oils. These ingredients are commonly found in our processed junk foods. These foods are devoid of nutrition and will therefore create more inflammation in the body. 

It is powerful how we can influence our bodies toward healing. These dietary and lifestyle interventions can have a powerful epigenetic influence, where those with a predisposed genetic risk can greatly influence their genetic expression with these interventions.

Author: Angela Trotter, M.S., CNS, AFMCP, Clinical Functional Nutritionist

*Please Note: The information provided on or through this website or blog is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use. Engaging with this material does not constitute a client/therapist relationship*



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