Thursday, 6 August 2020

Getting the basics right

I have been prompted to write this blog by doing Sam and Holly Watts' week-long Ayurvedic Challenge. They concentrated on several key practices that don’t seem to get a mention often enough - maybe they are seen as too mundane by some? Anyway I so appreciated the opportunity to get back to these basics - and realise that by putting my attention on them it can lead to me doing more of them more intentionally. So what am I talking about? 

Well there were five aspects to their Challenge and two of them are new but make lots of sense. Interestingly a healer I see regularly says this week that she senses that my energy is better; could it be these practices - I think they have had a big part to play. The practices also came with a meal plan that was very wonderful to compliment the week; you will need to sign up to Sam’s Mentor programme if you want access to that - or get access if he does another Ayurvedic Challenge.

One of the aspects I’ve appreciated most in Sam’s work is his vision to bring healing to many more people by raising awareness of practices, herbs, nutrition and more; in effect restoring our long lost knowledge to heal ourselves. Anyway to the five practices:

1. Rhythm.
First is getting the rhythm right in terms of getting up and meal times and I’m already into that - see my recent blog here (i) - I have lapsed a couple of times with the going to bed by 10pm bit of the rhythm and sometimes the meal times have gone astray. However the rhythm makes sense and I have sort of intuitively known that I should be going to bed earlier - in the past I’ve usually got up 6.30 or 6.45 on work days but now that is every day - the extra time in the morning has been a real gift.

Sesame oil
2. Self-massage.
Or in Ayurvedic talk, ‘Abhyanga’. This is a simple 3-5 minute oil massage on ourselves. The oil can be sesame (not toasted), olive oil or coconut, or there are specific Ayurvedic medicated herbal oils you can use. Oil is best warmed before use. In the Challenge Sam took us through how to massage our whole body, one limb at a time, feet first then working up each leg, then abdomen (only ever in a clockwise direction), then both hands and arms and finishing with shoulders, neck and face. Always work the strokes towards the heart - and apparently deep “pulling” stokes that stretch the skin of the face can help clear wrinkles. In terms of benefits this is what Sam says:

"You want to try and make your massage strokes rhythmic and to perform the massage as mindfully as possible; really try to connect with it rather than viewing it as 'just another thing to tick off.' Five minutes is all you need, but trust me the physical, aesthetical and emotional benefits this practice can induce are profound, and I have seen my patients benefit from this ritual time and time again. Some of the benefits include:
• Stimulating immunity (very topical at the moment)
• Reducing stress hormones
• Flooding the body with our feel-good endorphins
• Increasing circulation
• Mobilising the lymphatics
• Reducing the visual signs of ageing by increasing skin elasticity
• Increasing energy and vitality
• Inducing a sense of calmness"

This can be done anytime of day but I’ve slotted it in after my shower very easily.

I'm helping publicise this and will join on Tuesday
3. Me-Time. This is Sam's version of meditation or mindfulness. In Ayurveda meditation is a key daily practice that has lots of clinically proven benefits like improved mood, enhanced immunity, reduced inflammation that causes disease and protection against stress. I will no doubt be doing a separate blog on this as it is something I have struggled with but continue to do regularly. 

What I liked about Sam’s approach is, that by calling it Me-Time, he is hoping to open the door to those who find practicing meditation difficult. Indeed he says while doing a research project with cancer patients even the word meditation had a strange effect on people’s adherence, whereas Me-Time is about focusing on the end result. So can we find 10-15 minutes of “Me Time” every day? Sam suggests this could be sitting quietly in the garden listening to the wind in the trees, sitting on a park bench, looking at a view or perhaps a silent walk? Does that make it easier?

I joined this last week - it was brilliant - still places for Monday

4. Movement.
We need to do something to get the heart racing and to stretch us. Brisk walking, rebounding, cycling and more are all good but it is yoga that ticks lots of boxes as you can combine the Me-Time with it, but also the benefits are huge. Again this is another blog but you can see various other blogs about the power of exercise here (ii).

One site to help with exercise that Sam recommenced was 'Yoga with Adriene’ (iii) - she has over 7 million viewers but I hadn’t come cross her. In the past I have done a fair bit of yoga but not managed recently  in my weekly routines. I’ve tried a few of Adrienes’ YouTube and have enjoyed so maybe I will see how that might fit into my week.

5. Rest.
Quality sleep is critical to sustain optimal health. Too many of us forget this and live lives that burn candles at both ends and ignore the huge value of restorative sleep. Sleep is the way we repair and rejuvenate our minds and bodies. Indeed without good sleep we are at risk of various chronic diseases including cancer, more likely to be involved in road traffic accidents, less able to think straight, less sex drive….you get the picture….but if not here is an article (iv).

Sleep is key in Ayurveda and is considered to be as important as nutrition in terms of maintaining health and wellbeing. When there are ‘sleep imbalances’ this is linked to the doshas - or constitutions of vata, pitta and kappa - and when balanced they maintain the systems of the body. It is interesting to see how different types of sleep disturbances are linked to different causes (v). But hey that is a whole another book. There are also dozens of approaches to getting good sleep which I won’t cover here. 


Friday, 31 July 2020

Getting in the Rhythm

Dusk; time to slow down
Back in June I heard Sam Watts talk about circadian rhythms as part of the Trew Health talks (i). The talk had a big impact on me. I have been aware of the importance of sleep and eating at certain times
 but many times life seems to get in the way so I often eat late, snack lots or go to bed too late. I sort of instinctively knew this wasn’t quite right. What Sam shared was some of the science about why rhythm is important.

Circadian rhythms are present in most if not all animals, plants, and even some species of fungi, and have evolved to help adapt their behaviors to the 24-hr change in the external environment due to the Earth's rotation. It was only recently that the Nobel Prize was award to scientists who started to understand how ‘clock genes’ work. Michael Rosbash in the Nobel Lecture (Dec 2017) (ii) writes of our biological clocks that: "Clocks function to allow organisms to anticipate daily changes in their environment. When something happens every day at the same time, organisms “learn” that the event will occur. This anticipation, preparing for what is going to happen, is a superior strategy to merely reacting to that change. Animals use their clocks to maximize or minimize their encounters with what I like to call the big 3: finding food, finding mates, and avoiding predators”.

So clocks serve our internal processes by providing order. ‘Jet lag’ or shift work are good examples of when there is a challenge between our external environment and our internal biological clock. However it can also happen when our lifestyle is misaligned to our inner clock.

It turns out that a large proportion of our genes are regulated by the biological clock and our circadian rhythm effectively adapting our physiology to the different phases of the day. We now understand much more how our biological clock helps to regulate sleep, meal times, hormone releases, blood pressure, and even body temperature. See image below taken from the press release about the Nobel Prize (iii). 

Sam Watts practices Ayurveda medicine and Ayurveda has been aware of rhythms for forever….well it’s been around 5,000 plus years. Dinacharya is a Sanskrit word made up of ‘dina,’ meaning day, and ‘acharya,’ meaning activity. Dinacharya is a daily routine that is about connecting us to our internal body clocks. Key is getting up at the right time each morning so that our bodies get that flood of ‘get up and go hormones’ to take us through the day at our most vital and best. It is the cortisol that is released between 5 and 7am in the morning that is critical; if we don’t get up with that ‘rush’ then we are trying to get up as that hormone drops off. 

What is also fascinating is that “when” we eat is turning out to be just as important as “what” we eat. Our body has times of day when it is best to digest to get the most in terms of nutrition from the food. Wow just read those two sentences again; how many of us are trying to eat well but then not mnaking the most of the nutrition by eating at the 'wrong' times?

Ayurveda has lots more to say about the bodies rhythms but what I liked about Sam’s talk was that he simplified it for those of us just getting started - I guess if you find this useful then going into more detail would no doubt be fun and bring even more benefits. Here our his recommendations:

Kick start your digestion with a warm drink, first thing.
Steer clear of devices, screens and phones until after breakfast.
Aim to wake in the morning and be out of bed between 6am - 7am.

To optimise digestion aim to eat at the following times; 
Breakfast 7am - 8am 
Lunch - 12 - 1:30pm
Dinner 5:30 - 7pm

Get a proper alarm clock, and keep your bedroom a phone free zone.
Aim to get to sleep between 10-10:30

Time to get up
Sam suggests that maybe 10% of people might not benefit from following this rhythm but that most people adopting it see big improvements in their wellbeing. One blog I read that was looking at fatigue commented: "until your body is following that natural circadian rhythm that was built into its design, you’ll never get your fatigue under control. That’s because the very presence of any level of dysregulation will always indicate some sort of problem with your adrenals. The good news, however, is that you can utilize your new understanding of the proper cortisol circadian rhythm as a tool to monitor your progress during your recovery efforts”(iv).

Plus of course we need to to be aware of day light saving - maybe that means getting up a wee bit later? Similarly intermittent fasting might mean looking carefully at the times to ensure 13 hours without eating - this is something I've not really done but a blog sometime in the future as it is something I want to look at a bit more closely.

No doubt as the clock genes are studied more we will have new revelations - and certainly Ayurveda has lots more to say - some of their other stuff that I found interesting was the best times for various activities:

6-10am - best time for exercise or physical activity
10-2pm - best time of the day to eat your largest meal
2-6pm - best time for mental and creative energy 
6-10pm - best time to begin settling down for sleep.
10-2am - best time to be sleeping 
2-6am - best time to sleep deeply and naturally wake up before sunrise

I’m not sure I can do big meal at lunch time (unless I have one also in the eveningšŸ˜ƒ) and also I am often more alert in the morning for mental activity, but some food for thought! Anyway this whole discussion has helped me get a better daily rhythm or routine that does seem to sit with the natural circadian cycles. I guess it is about being more balanced and it does seem less stressful and more vital - going with the flow rather than against it.

Lastly I just wanted to note thanks to Sam - his style of presentation and the way he makes important stuff accessible is really powerful. I have since signed up on his website to learn more; there are courses, meal plans, herbs, remedies and more. See:


Saturday, 25 July 2020

Hyperthermia at home?

Local hyperthermia in Germany
I first started to learn about hyperthermia during my treatment in Germany in Nov/Dec 2017 (see here my blog on transurethral hyperthermia) (i). I have since then researched lots more - including speakers like Alexander Herzog (ii) and a great series of videos from Truly Heal  - some of these videos are still available on their Hyperthermia Academy website along with an excellent downloadable guide and a couple of brilliant Webinars (iii). So I’ve already shared about getting a dome infrared sauna and using that regularly (see here) (iv), in this blog I want to look at my experiences of hyperthermia at home.

There is lots online suggesting hyperthermia is one of the most effective therapies for a wide range of diseases and can be helpful with cancer. However one of the first oncologists I met said he had looked into it in a lot of detail many years ago and he was very dismissive of the approach. Certainly I have read that some cancers like acute leukaemia are contraindicated. Yet there are an estimated half a million people travelling to Germany (like me) each year to treat infectious diseases and cancers. Sadly the UK doesn’t seem to have clinics here although I can imagine that will change (do let me know if anywhere is opening in UK).

Hyperthermia has also been named by some as the fourth pillar beside the standard  treatments of chemo, radiation and surgery - see PubMed article here that concludes (v): "Hyperthermia is an important treatment modality in cancer treatment and its results are strongly supported by criteria of evidence-based medicine.”  
Dome ready for hyperthermia
It is also possibly the only agent to treat cancer that does not itself appear to be oncogenic (cancer-inducing). Dr. Clare Vernon of the Hammersmith Hospital says in The Lancet; "I think every major cancer centre should have a hyperthermia unit. Hyperthermia was used at the hospital for around 25 years, but it is not currently available for a variety of reasons, none to do with its efficacy….Hyperthermia is very effective even when other treatments have failed. It’s also relatively cheap and well tolerated."

We know that fever is a healing response that is key in infectious diseases - strangely many of us have been so indoctrinated by modern medicine that we can see fever as disease. My mum, for example, finds it particularly hard to see that creating a fever could actually be helpful - she will reach for the paracetamol while I will try and avoid the medication. Indeed a number of doctors now advise parents not to medicate immediately as fever trains the immune system to fight illness.

My understanding is that during a fever the immune system is stimulated and the growth of bacteria and viruses are made to slow down. The production of white blood cells - the main agent of the immune system - are massively increased and flooded into the blood stream; more antibodies and more of the anti-viral cancer-fighting protein, interferon. As the immune system is activated heat shock proteins are created on the surface of malignant cells. The cancer cells become visible to the flood of immune cells who can then target them. While the increased blood flow and oxygenation all helps to detoxify the body.

In some Clinics, Viral therapy is used where patients are infected with flu. Indeed back in 1891 Memorial Sloan-Kettering Doctor William Coley famoulsy published a paper on how inducing a fever in the body of a cancer patient might stimulate the immune response and cause cancer remission. This again is not what I had, but basically it is still used in some places where over four days the body is brought to a natural fever - not exactly a scientific approach but it seems some have had very good results. 
Hyperthermia also has a longer heritage than even Coley - Egyptians are known to use heat treatments and Parminides, a Greek Physician in 500BC said "Give me a chance to create a fever, and I will cure any disease". Many of the Clinics also offer Whole Body Hyperthermia which can be done under anaesthetic/sedation - again this is not what I had.

Using Hyperthermia with other treatments

My oncologist may have been partly right as the evidence of success of Hyperthermia on its own is not huge, but it does show successes when used with other treatments. For example in Germany I talked to people who were being treated with Hyperthermia to increase white blood cell count after their chemo therapy; some clinics can reduce the chemo agent by 40% and still have better effects if combined with fever. However again research is lacking and almost none when looking at home treatment hyperthermia that I will come to in a moment.

We know that tumours tend to have oxygen-deprived (hypoxic) cells which are resistant to radiation, but they are sensitive to heat. So hyperthermia can also be useful when treating cancers with radiation. Radiation kills the oxygenated cells and the hyperthermia acts on the inner low oxygen cells making them more susceptible to radiation knocking them out. When I was having radiation treatment I considered hyperthermia at home but felt unable to add it into my protocol for a number of reasons including not feeling up to it (vi).

However I have now read that there are some extraordinary results with hyperthermia. Chris Woollams in a Canceractive article quotes the six year research from March 2000 in The Lancet looking at the use of hyperthermia and radiation compared with radiation treatment alone. He writes (vii): "Although the study showed promise for the treatment of advanced cervical, bladder and colorectal cancer, the most remarkable results were obtained with advanced cervical cancer. Complete disappearance of the tumour was obtained in 83% of those who received the combined treatment, compared to 57% who were treated with radiation alone. In addition, the three-year survival rate for those who received the combined treatments nearly doubled (improved 89%), compared with those who just received radiation. The study was well-received in the Netherlands where it was conducted, and the treatment has received government approval. The other advantage noted in the report was the fact that there was none of the nausea often experienced with radiation, and hospitalisation was not required”. 

Chris Woollams quotes other research showing the significant impact of hyperthermia on cancers. One particular multi-paper review in the Lancet showed that response rates for chemo and hyperthermia combined are 70%. Hyperthermia alone gives a response rate of 15% and chemotherapy alone can give results of 5 - 60% depending upon the drug, while radiotherapy alone was about 35%. Why the heck is it not part of UK treatment?

It is worth noting that a lot of the research into hyperthermia shows it is effective is in a narrow temperature range of between 42°C and 45°C. Above this range, healthy cells would suffer, and below this range, cancer cells will survive - but more on temperatures in a moment....

My experience - hyperthermia at home

So home use is about immune boosting and increasing while blood cells and oxygenation. It was Marcus from Truly Heal that first introduced me to using the dome for home hyperthermia. You can see his 10 minute video describing his own experience - in conclusion "Not joyful!” I had thought he might be a bit wimpy as I can manage certain pain fairly well - but oh no this was tough....

So how to do it? Well I set up the dome with two layers of towels - yes you seriously sweat! Another rolled towel for a headrest. Turn onto maximum temperature/full power and let it warm for 5-10 mins. Dress in long sleeve T-shirt and Long Johns or long pyjamas. I also wear socks to stop feet burning and some men put a towel across their groin to protect the sensitive areas. Of course turn heat down if burning feeling....burning is not good!

Insert the thermometer in the rectum - yes this is where you will get the most accurate measurements. Marcus recommends the iCelsius thermometer (at just under £100) which pairs with an iPhone and gives you continuous updates and a graph; apparently most other ‘cheaper’ thermometers are not accurate enough and we are talking differences of 0.3 to 0.5 degrees being very important indeed in thsi treatment. One point to bear in mind is to take care with the lead from the the thermometer to the device outside the dome; on one occasion it was between me and the mat and led to a very slight burn on me. Take care!

A pulse and oximeter is also useful to monitor your situation. I note that oxygen levels can go up if you do some breathing exercises while in the dome; some recommend some of this but take care and find what works for you.

You must have a support person once you start getting beyond the normal sauna 20 mins or so. It really does get very uncomfortable as the body desperately tries to balance itself and stay around normal 37.5. Support is wonderful for iced flannels on keeping the head cool (important) and helping drink - I will get through some one and half to two litres during the whole session - using a metal straw as angle is not great for sipping from a bottle. Marcus recommends a vitamin C product but I have some questions about oral Vitamin C so have not done that. In a previous blog I note those questions raised by Jane McLelland (viii) - I still need to do some research on this aspect. Some have recommended taking a urinal bottle in so that you can go if needed without having to get out of the dome.

As noted in my previous blog re saunas this is not for everyone - do check out medical advice before embarking on this. The Truly Heal site has a list of things to consider and be wary about. 
It is also really important to not got above 39 in the first few treatments. It can be very dangerous. Indeed 38.5 might be right for the first treatment. I have now, after eight or nine treatments got to 39 when I turn it off - but that really is the limit. It often takes me around 40 mins to get to the 39 degrees - then when you switch off you want to see the body core temperature rising on its own - that is an indication of the fever kicking in. Sometimes I will put the dome on low; say the number 4 setting to maintain the temperature. As Marcus shows in the video he puts a towel in between the two dome sections to create a gap for some air to come out and even with that the body temperature rises. This is good but you also need to keep an eye on that temperature so that it doesn’t go too high; allow more air in if it is still going up too much. 

I’ve not gone above 39.6 with the fever - temperatures over 40 can be dangerous. Some have argued that it needs to be 40 plus to kill cancer cells but there are different views and Marcus argues the effects are also dependent on the causes of your cancer. For example some cancers will have a significant viral component and he argues all cancers have bacterial and viral overgrowth which will be impacted by hypertthermia. The hyperthermia is about marking the cancers so that our immune system can target them.
Marcus comments on the temperatures re the dome use for Lyme patients: "The problem is that above 42.8 you risk coagulation of proteins which is dangerous. That's why we only heat to 39.5 C and let the body do the rest. After a few treatments your body learns how to respond properly with fever and will go as high as needed. Most lyme patients easily get up to 40C or 41C.” 
He goes onto comment on the Clinic that I attended (and the Doctor who oversaw my treatment) (ix) "Dr. Douwes offers intense hyperthermia. That's a clinical therapy which requires EKG and other emergency medicine at hand. I don't suggest you try this at home. The intense hyperthermia was used in many clinics at first but slowly has reduced to only a few clinics. All others have started to do the moderate hyperthermia which we share with you on this page. The reason for this is that the results were the same or even better while being far less exhausting and expensive. Almost all clinics ran tests parallel with 50 patients on moderate and 50 in intense and the moderate group did far better. Their immune response was stronger and the healing effect was better over time. I assume the idea was to eradicate all virus in a couple of treatment and this did not work out. It’s always a long process to change the inner milieu of the body".

At about 25 mins after switching off I am often at 38.6 or so - and what is most strange, is that when the body is in a fever nearly all the discomfort goes. It is almost as if the body enjoys the rush of white blood cells? Again some say they can feel floaty which is why it is essential to have support around and ensure the dome automatically cuts out after a time. At this point I usually try and visualise white blood cells targeting the cancer and other nasties (x). 

Try and stay in the dome for a minimum of one hour total time. The temperature slowly comes down. The idea is to keep the 'fever' going for a while. Marcus suggests that at 39.2 you could get out for a shower; not too hot but not cool. I usually wait a little longer in the dome. I guess this is not an exact science?
Do take care getting up; make sure your support person is on hands many get dizzy. I often feel completely exhausted - as Marcus says in his video it is like doing a marathon (xi). Best now is wrapping up warmly and going to bed - your skin can feel prickly - I guess sign of blood flow going out into the extremities. Two hours later after a snooze, Marcus still has his temperature at 38.5 and slowly descending. Mine is usually getting back to normal. He will often then go to bed. He notes that some describe euphoria then or the next day - certainly I feel enlivened sometimes a couple of days later.

While saunas can be done every second day hyperthermia are only recommended once a week to start with then reduced to every three weeks. I did them once a month but stopped before my radiotherapy. I am partly writing this as I will be starting them again; writing the blog is a good way to refamiliarise myself with the routine. For those in late stage cancers it is recommended once a week.

I feel very fortunate to have a dome - it is worthj noting that it is key to get a proper far infrared dome - many products like some of the bio mats are not far infrared but just electric cables heating crystals. It is also worth noting concerns re EMF (Electro Magnetic Fields) that can be harmful when we are exposed to them on a regular basis. Some of the domes have gone to great lengths to cancel out the vast majority of the EMF produced. 
So I'm now set to start hyperthermias again later this week. 

(x) See my blog re David Hamilton's visualisations that I continue to use: 

Monday, 20 July 2020

Fi Munro

Fi; still photo from my Trew Fields film
Fi Munro has passed. As Sophie Trew of Trew Fields Festival said: "Anyone who's been to the fest over the past 3 years will likely have been touched by Fi's magic at some point.” I was. I was touched deeply by her wonderful insights for living and her huge zest and energy for life. As she says on her website: "Choosing to live like you are dying is about embracing the fact that we all have only one life and deciding to make the choice to start truly living for today. 

Fi was diagnosed with Stage 4 Ovarian cancer in 2016 when she was only 30 and has become a best selling author, speaker, yoga teacher, shaman and campaigner for more random acts of kindness. It was Fi a few weeks ago who posted the idea for Random Acts of Kindness Monday but she has done so much more than just that - indeed has been leading a small revolution which has included many random acts of kindness including getting many more folk involved and handing out £20(i). 

In one of her blogs (ii), Fi asks; "What if cancer has a stage five after stage four? What if Stage Five is finding out what you are about. What if Stage Five is about LIVING? Fi certainly walked her talk. Her book, 'How Long Have I Got?’ Is full of her life-giving philosophy (iii) and I have listed it amongst the best books to read about cancerHer inspiring talk, 'Live like you are Dying’ at Trew Fields last year is well worth a watch - it is available at:

See also my blog:

Getting the basics right

I have been prompted to write this blog by doing Sam and Holly Watts' week-long Ayurvedic Challenge. They concentrated on several key pr...