Saturday, 2 February 2019

The mystery of fats and oils

Cartoon by Russ
Wow, this is an area that I have found so hard to understand and not sure this blog will shed much more light on it. Indeed whether it be margarine, butter, coconut or olive oil we have been told at various times they are bad and good for us. There are whole books dedicated to this topic….there is so much conflicting information out there - well isn’t that true for lots of this health stuff! Anyway, where to begin? 

Well, last week I had the results of a comprehensive blood test with my integrative doctor looking at my ‘Ethythrocyte Essential Fatty Acids’. It gave numbers for a bewildering thirty plus different Fatty Acids. On top of that there seem to be so many generalizations about saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, but each fat is unique and I understand that even the smallest variation can have significant effects in the body.

I’ve learnt that prostate cancer likes fat as well as sugar (see previous blog with Jane McLelland here). Last year research confirmed that fat contained within the Western diet, in combination with genetic factors, can cause prostate cancer tumors to spread (i). Previously there had also been research showing saturated fat, Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and Eicosatetraenoic acid (EPA) intakes were related to the risk of advanced or fatal prostate cancer, but not to non-advanced prostate cancer (ii). However there are still some significant question marks over the research. For example could those saturated fats contain more pesticides - and what do we mean by ‘fats’ in the research. Nevertheless some scientists argue that diets high in omega-6 fatty acids relative to omega-3 fatty acids may be associated with the increased prevalence of chronic diseases, like certain cancers.

Dr Geo Espinosa (iii) for example writes: "There is no conclusive association between eating fat, including saturated fat and prostate cancer. However, there are two possible exceptions, too much Omega 6-fatty acids and consumption of trans-fatty acids. Omega 6 fats are good for the body but only when in the balance with Omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in the standard American (heart attack) diet is 20 or 30:1, omega 6 to omega 3. The healthier ratio is 2 or 1:1, respectively.”

I like how Chris Woollams of CANCER Active (iv) summarises it: “Omega-3 is far more beneficial than 6 and 9. And the omega-3 from fish has completely different benefits (anti-inflammatory, longevity, brain health, cachexia minimisation) to that of flaxseed (toxin elimination, antioxidant, anti-oestrogen). And there is little conversion between the two - you need to eat both."

Interestingly my Omega 6 was the higher end of normal and my omega 3 was the lower end of normal. This is one area I can clearly take action; the suggestion being to balance this is by having 2gms of Cleanmarine supplement per day and increase eating walnuts and pumpkin seeds. I’ve already started this. It is also worth noting I am avoiding fish oils as there are a lot of mixed messages about them even particularly the cheaper ones.

Two mysteries and two delights

There were a couple of other mysteries in my results. One was raised levels of trans-fats. These are the partially hydrogenated oils; basically an industrially created unsaturated fat. Since trans structured fats are unnatural, eating them causes chaos in the body including hardening of blood vessels and increased inflammation. I’ve looked several times at what I am eating and can find no foods with trans fats. The second mystery was that my Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) reading was low and should indicate a low Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) reading and it didn’t? Of course blood cells live for around 120 days so could this reading have something left over from a while ago? I don’t think so.

In my recent NHS blood tests I was delighted to see my cholesterol level, that in previous years had been just over the top end of normal, had come down. I was also delighted to see my triglyceride levels were at the lower end of normal. Chris Woollams writes (v): "A number of studies have shown that high levels of triglycerides in the blood are linked to lower survival times. We have covered research, for example, on the link between blood triglyceride levels and prostate cancer resurgence. Some oncologists in London have already been using complementary treatment statins in small doses to reduce plasma levels of bad fats.” This of course links again to Jane McLelland work re starving cancer.

Stearic and oleic acid

Another area of interest in my blood test results was the relation between stearic and oleic acid. The body converts excess stearic acid to oleic acid. In fact it can also convert the other way; the body has its own ideas about the various fatty acids it needs, and can create most of them. The exceptions are the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, mentioned above, where we do have control.

It is argued by some scientists that in many cancers, the ratio of oleic:stearic acid increases with the severity of the cancer (vi). This seems to indicate that oleic acid is not a useful addition to the diet when one has prostate cancer; it can help make blood cells pliable but in that process could help cancer cells migrate. Some research from 1990 concluded (vii): 'The red cell membrane stearic acid to oleic acid ratio was analysed in 34 men with histologically proven carcinoma of the prostate and distant metastases. This ratio was expressed as the saturation index (SI). A mean SI of 0.97 was found in control patients without evidence of any malignancy whereas all patients with advanced prostatic cancer showed a reduced stearic to oleic acid ratio (mean SI 0.466). Untreated patients had a significantly lower SI (mean 0.36) than those who had responded to hormonal therapy (mean 0.547; P less than 0.0001). A drop in SI correlated well with more advanced disease as judged by radiological findings and serum PSA. It is suggested that red cell membrane SI correlates well with radiological and biochemical markers of advanced prostatic carcinoma and may be used as a marker to assess progress and response to treatment.'

Calculating my SI meant taking the stearic acid result and dividing it by the oleic acid ie in my case 0.87; but how much store should I place in this? Confusion for me multiplied when I realised that oleic acid is found in wonderful oils like olive oil, extolled for its health-giving properties and in less good oils like the vegetable oils. While stearic acid is a fat found in red meat and has been vilified for many years. Before I panicked it is also argued that an oleic-dominant ratio is seemingly an artifact of the cancer and probably unrelated to diet. 

So I will continue with some minimal olive oil, add more omega 3, maybe very occasionally have a bit of butter from grass-fed cattle and place my trust in the research that shows a Rainbow (viii) or Mediterranean Diet (ix) can play a key role in tackling cancer. More of my nutrition in another blog. 

Coconut oil

To finish I wanted to look at coconut oil as it was once feted as an oil to include in diets and is also a key oil in the Keto Diets that claim to help tackle cancer (x). Well more on Keto in another post but alot of what I’ve read to date raises concerns for me about that approach for prostate cancer (although there maybe some exceptions depending on the type of Keto Diet). Anyway June 2017 saw a report saying coconut oil increases LDL, or “bad” cholesterol - but the news was confusing as it also can raise HDL, or “good” cholesterol levels (xi). For me, on balance, there is still not enough research showing impacts of this oil and there is enough evidence with it being a saturated fat to raise concerns for those of us with breast or prostate cancers (xii). I will sadly be cutting this largely from my diet.

So loads more I could write on this but must stop now.



Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Meeting Jan Beute: Hydrogen, Auto-Haemotherapy and PEMF

Well I had a fascinating hour in Bristol yesterday with Jan Beute; you can catch my 3 minute interview below. Among the treatments he uses to support immune systems are Hydrogen and Auto-Haemotherapy (which he mentions in the film) plus Pulsed Electromagnetic Field Therapy (PEMF). All of these I had read about but not experienced. Jan recommends these treatments every week so I now need to consider if this is a route I want to explore further.

I found Jan to be a man passionate about healing and finding ways to support people with chronic illnesses. I like how he is trying to find cheaper ways to enable the treatments he uses to be more readily available to people. Apparently he ran a workshop last summer for Back2Health at Penny Brohn where he demonstrated how to make inexpensive molecular hydrogen 'shots'. Jan also has had a controversial history of challenging the medical establishment over the best ways to treat patients; in particular his use of DMSO in the past. The medical establishment say there is little or no benefit using this drug while others have seen benefits when used, for example, with chemotherapy drugs (i).

Hydrogen is the mainstay of Jan’s treatments. Molecular hydrogen which has the ability to repair the mitochondria also provides impressive anti-oxidant potential to the body, massively reduces inflammation and allows cellular repair. Jan sees ’the struggle for life is to saturate our bodies with hydrogen’ and that this will then tackle any disease ‘ravaging up to 90% of all your free radicals.’ And there are indeed quite a number of papers indicating hydrogen’s promising impact on cancer (ii); suppressing cancer cell growth, inducing cancer cell apoptosis (but not normal cell apoptosis), preventing genetic mutations and protecting healthy cells from anticancer drugs.

The second treatment was Auto-Haemotherapy (stem cells), used since 1912, which involves taking about 20cl of blood and then injecting it back into the patient’s muscle tissue a short time after. The muscle could be buttocks or even facial muscles. I understand that the body sees the incoming blood as a substance that needs to be got rid of and tells the bone marrow to increase its production of macrophages. These macrophages are a type of white blood cells that are every day responsible for destroying bacteria, viruses and even cancer cells. The blood usually contains 5% macrophages, but after a treatment, this quadruples to 22% and remains at that level for the next few days. This significant immune boost attacks most foreign bodies in the blood and can be powerful intervention to tackle an illness. 

The third treatment I tried, at the same time as the others, was PEMF; this is non-invasive, safe and can be used with other treatments with no risk of toxicity. There are quite a number of animal studies and some studies with people but more work is needed (iii). PEMF uses pulsed electromagnetic fields which are delivered to the body with the aim to increase energy in the cells (iv). I sat on a plastic circular cable that gave out pulsed, almost mini-electric shocks, that were not uncomfortable - but not pleasurable! 

I will no doubt return to some of these treatments in this blog if I pursue them. One Wigwam colleague is already a regular user and her initial experience has been very positive, but as we’ve said before one persons’ experience should not be what we base our choices on!

You can read more from Jan about hydrogen and PEMF at:

Jan's number is 0784 890580 and you can contact Fiona who set up the treatment sessions in Bristol on info(at)


Sunday, 20 January 2019

Current supplement protocol for prostate cancer

Local artist Russ
I should start by saying supplements support healing and can be an important part but (for me) they need to be part of a wider approach that includes for example nutrition, exercise and mindfulness - and possibly other treatments depending on circumstances.

This whole area of supplementation is a minefield and it is only recently I feel I am starting to get to grips with some of it. I’m very happy to have folk comment or question this as I’m still very much learning. There are so many issues to be aware of, not least;
  • lots of hard sell with many websites suggesting that a particular supplement is the answer,
  • lots of poor quality supplements which can be synthetic, deficient and not readily absorbed,
  • some supplements can be dangerous with some conditions, like iron (and possibly in some case oral Vitamin C) that may help cancer thrive,
  • some that affect other drugs,
  • some with considerable side-effects,
  • some that will be dangerous to some folks,
  • some ‘food state’ or supplements with good bioavailability that lead to increased absorption ,
  • lots of supplements that show promise in tests but haven’t yet been fully trialled


How on earth can we choose?

In this blog I have been asked to share which supplements I am taking. This is certainly not a recommendation for others to follow but could be a guide for folks to research more. For me, it has been interesting writing and reminding myself of why I am taking certain supplements - it is a very personal account with some of the research but by no means all.

As with much of cancer you can find very varying reports - go to sites like Cancer Research UK for a very conservative, cautious view about complimentary/alternative treatments and to other sites like the Life Extension Magazine or Canceractive for a more hopeful view about possible benefits. A huge part of the challenge is that it is very expensive and difficult to do trials; there are so many factors to take into account and clearly checking out supplements would not make financial sense to pharmaceuticals who want to find drugs that can make money.

The list changes regularly and is not a complete list of supplements I’ve used and I want to stress that I am not taking all of these at once. Indeed I just did a rough check and found that if I had been taking all these supplements below it would be costing me up to £200.00 per month! I have tried to keep expenses to £40.00 but this has gone up and down over the last eighteen months since diagnosis. The protocol has also been influenced strongly by advice from a naturopath, an Integrative Health Doctor and my own research.

I should also perhaps note that there is some evidence that it is useful to change the herbal supplements you are using as they can become less effective and cancer cells learn to adapt and get around any attack on them. This advice doesn’t include tonic herbs like ashwagandha nor is this about vitamin supplements which are filling a gap. Although my gut feeling is that if we are eating really well we should not have the need for much vitamin supplementation. See more here about taking a break or not from supplements:

I can see that in some cases it will be important to have tests to see whether we are absorbing nutrients - more about that from me another time - and I wont cover food in this blog post which of course is key in terms of getting nutrition right, nor will I look at CBD, probiotics or oils in this blog - those can also all be for another time. So here are the supplements I will talk about below:

Vitamin D
Milk Thistle
Green tea
Holy Basil
Indole 3 Carbinol
Other supplements

The supplements

1. Vitamin D

Chris Woollams writes (i): “The number 1 supplement. If you cannot get a couple of hours in the sunshine every day, you should consider supplementation of 5000IUs, as recommended by Harvard medical School. This vitamin is actually a hormone and has been shown to activate the immune system, reduce the risk of cancer and even correct cancer cells in research studies.”

There is evidence in the medical literature to suggest low levels may be associated with getting certain cancers, including prostate. There is also one study of 44 men that showed vitamin D might have an impact on progression of prostate cancer; some benefit may be attained from vitamin D supplementation in men with prostate cancer, but a larger randomized, double-blind clinical trial would be required to confirm these results (ii).

I had a series of blood tests done recently and they showed I was very low in Vitamin D, so much so that it has been recommended I take 10,000IUs. I am aware that Magnesium is also important for D3 absorption. Magnesium deficiency shuts down the vitamin D synthesis and metabolism pathway (iii). Interestingly I was low in that as well. It is worth noting Vitamin D3 is probably much more effective than vitamin D2. Also Vitamin D is fat-soluble so many practitioners recommend that you buy it in an oil or spray for better absorption.

See also 45min film from 2015 showing the benefits of Vitamin D and prostate cancer:

2. Boron

This one was recommended by my German doctors along with Green tea and Selenium. A number of studies have concluded that boron could have specific therapeutic potential in the treatment of prostate cancer and protect bones. Bone is the initial and main site for about 80% of all prostate cancer metastases so any extra support is most welcomed!

A useful paper on the Life Extension Magazine website concludes: “In addition to its potent support for healthy bones and joints, boron is emerging as a highly targeted inhibitor of prostate cancer cells and their metastases. It can kill these cancerous cells without harming healthy prostate cells. Scientists have demonstrated that boron lowers prostate-specific antigen, or PSA—and may help prevent or control the spread of prostate cancer. Other evidence links boron to reduced cognitive decline. Boron levels in foods are low, but supplementing with this trace mineral may be the little-known missing link for those seeking a mechanism of defense against prostate cancer, bone loss—as well as overall support for optimum health (iv)”.

I was originally taking 2x3mg per day, but now I have been recommended 3x3mg per day. I have heard two stories (and I so know we can’t take this for evidence) of men with prostate cancer significantly reducing their PSA after introducing boron. I’m keeping fingers crossed on that!

3. Curcumin

Curcumin is anti-inflammatory and has antibiotic properties - it is the polyphenol that gives the yellow color to turmeric and apparently makes up about 3% of the tumeric. Over 4,500 published studies describe the anti-cancer effects of curcumin. Basically researchers have found curcumin selectively starves tumor cells to death. Wow, wow, wow! Why on earth are doctors not telling us to take this stuff?

Life Extension Magazine website writes: “Curcumin has multiple actions against prostate cancer. It defends prostate cells against the dysfunctional proteins produced during cancer progression. It also slows invasion of nearby healthy tissue by the cancer, which helps to keep the tumor at a lower grade (meaning it grows more slowly and has a better prognosis) (vi)”.

It appears most research studies utilize a dose of 500-1000mg of curcumin per day. However I have recently seen recommendations for much higher doses like 3.2 gms. See also for example the Tumeric for Health website where they recommend 8 intensive weeks; building up to 8 gms per day in the first 4 weeks then continuing with 8gms for the next 4 weeks (vii). I’ve not tried this but have recently increased dosage to 2 gms per day.

It is worth noting to check curcumin supplements; they need to have piperine or other compounds to improve their bioavailability. If not, then you can take the capsules just after taking fats such as olive oil mixed with grounded black pepper.

Update 3/2/19: Reading Michael Greger's excellent book 'How Not To Die' I see there is a section on tumeric. In that, he argues that while curcumin is the active ingredient of tumeric, it maybe only an active ingredient. He quotes research that shows components otherthan curcumin contribute to anticancer activities and maybe even more effective. He argues everyone should be taking daily a quarter of a teaspoon of tumeric, powdered or root (well actually those with gallbladder problems and some others should avoid). In his words "Tumeric is potent stuff."

4. Milk Thistle

This herb is good for your liver and has proven epigenetic properties and has been known for over 2,000 years as a liver protector. Research shows that silymarin, the active substance in milk thistle, works on cancer in 7 different ways (viii). Milk thistle has been shown in some studies to suppress the growth and runaway proliferation of human prostate cancer cells (ix).

I’ve used it on and off over the years when in need of a detox but have had a couple of stints with it again to hopefully help tackle the cancer.

5. Echineacea

Where poss I prefer to use local herbalists for tinctures
Cancer Research UK says ‘there is no evidence that echinacea can help with cancer’, however some studies in mice have indicated it might be helpful possibly with Melatonin (xi). Certainly there is no robust evidence to support re cancer. However I have used this herb many times to ward off colds and infections; whether this is placebo effect or not I consider, like many others, that it does have abilities to boost my immune system. My main use now is still for giving that extra boost to my immunes system when needed.

6. Boswellia

Frankincense is a sap derived from the tree Boswellia Sacra and has been sold in Oman for nearly 10,000 years. But it is the boswellic acid that contains the antitumoral ingredient; lab studies have shown it can separate the nucleus of a cancer cell from its surrounding cytoplasm. This basically stops the cancer cell reproducing and dividing but has no effect on a healthy cell. Some people have misunderstood the differences and take the frankincense oil instead - which may have some benefits but these are not tested yet (xii). Boswellia serrata is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine and readily available as a supplement.

7. Ashwaganda

Ashwagandha is another Ayurvedic medicine and has been found to balance or lower cortisol and lower inflammation in the body (xiii). I like this as cortisol is the stress hormone and there is no doubt that at times living with cancer is very stressful - let alone other stuff in life!

Research has also shown it can give rise to renewed energy in people possibly as it rebalances thyroid hormone - another reason for me to take it after the 6 months of hormones I took following my treatment in Germany. They certainly messed with lots of me so anything that can help balance, is most welcomed. It is likely also to be very beneficial after operations due to it’s anti-inflammatory properties.

Lastly it has been hypothesized that the flavonoids, alkaloids, and lactones in Ashwagandha could make it an anti-carcinogen. One study also has shown that Ashwagandha treatment “significantly inhibited cell proliferation in a dose-dependent manner.”

I take this in powder form - much cheaper but certainly an acquired taste!

8. Selenium

Increased levels of blood selenium lower cancer risk. Chris Woollams at Canceractive writes: ‘Selenium is a trace element, nutritionally essential for humans. Selenium deficiency causes serious problems. It is a constituent of more than two dozen selenoproteins that play critical roles in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, and protection from oxidative damage and infection (Sundee et al Modern nutrition in Health and Disease 11th Ed. Philadelphia PA Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins 2012:225-37). In an often mis-quoted meta-review by the Nordic Cochrane Institute in 2011, the conclusions were clear: "Epidemiological studies have suggested an inverse association between selenium status and the risk of colorectal, prostate, lung, bladder, skin, esophageal, and gastric cancer.’

It seems that selenium doesn’t just help prevent cancers, it also possesses the ability to fight them. A key cancer trial was undertaken by the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Study Group using high-selenium brewers yeast tablet providing 200 mcg of selenium per day with 1312 patients. This study showed reductions in cancer mortality rates, with in terms of prostate cancer a whopping 63 per cent reduction in incidence.

The official Recommended Daily Dose is about 55 micrograms; but I am on 200 micrograms which is thought to be beneficial; above that there is concern. It’s worth noting that the inorganic forms of selenium are less bioavailable than organic forms; selenium yeast maybe an option for some if not concerned by yeast overgrowth.

9. Magnesium

I had thought magnesium was to help with hearts and our bones, but I have learnt it plays many roles, not least as an electrolyte helping to balance he body’s functions. It also helps with muscle strength; something I need to build up after having 6 months of hormone treatments that impact so negatively on muscles.

Low blood Magnesium levels and a high Calcium/Magnesium ratio have been shown to be significantly associated with high-grade prostate cancer. This suggests Magnesium affects prostate cancer risk perhaps through interacting with Calcium (x). I understand some 60% of Americans (and no doubt many Brits) are deficient in magnesium and epidemiologic studies suggest that magnesium intake may reduce the risk of certain cancers like colorectal and pancreatic cancer (xi).

I was very low in magnesium in recent blood tests despite lots of leafy veg, nuts and other stuff high in magnesium.  I am taking supplementation and also the occasional Epsom salt bath (more of that another time). Baths can be with 2 cups of epsom salts and apparently are a great way to increase intake of Magnesium as it absorbs well through the skin. There are also magnesium sprays which I have never got on so well with as they cause my skin to itch/sting.

10. Zinc

Prostate cells accumulate more zinc than do cells in any other human tissue and it has been shown that the presence of zinc in the body helps suppress tumor growth, especially in the prostate. There are also strong indications that zinc protects against prostate cancer. However it is hard to consider this aspect as blood levels of zinc may not accurately reflect the levels of zinc in prostate tissue.

One study showed that men who supplemented daily with over 15 mg of zinc had a 66% reduction in the risk of having advanced prostate cancer. Another study showed that higher dietary zinc intake was associated with a 36% reduction in the risk of dying from prostate cancer; the degree of protection was even stronger, a 76% risk reduction in men with localized/earlier tumors. Amazingly low-zinc geographic areas of the country often have higher-than-average rates of prostate cancer  (xii).

My own blood tests showed low zinc; this was again despite a diet of zinc rich foods. However bearing all this in mind I’m supplementing with zinc.

11. Green tea

When I had treatment in Germany, Green Tea was one of there supplements they recommended. Chris Woollams of Canceractive writes: ‘Green tea has a large number of research studies behind it supporting claims that it can prevent cancer. And increasingly there is a growing volume of research showing it can help fight cancer too. Studies show it can reduce the spread of cancer; and it also seems to have benefits specifically against leukaemia, prostate cancer, breast cancer and others….There is no doubt in my mind that green tea affords a real plus in the fight against cancer.’ (xiii).

There are over 1,000 studies relating to green tea and cancer. In two key trials on men with a high risk of prostate cancer, those taking green tea developed significantly less disease than those on the placebo (ix). There are all sorts of other benefits like such as the polyphenols, called catechins are known to be up to five times more potent as antioxidants than Vitamin E and can stop the uptake of glucose by fat cells. In other words play a small role in starving cancer. Indeed clinical trials show clear benefits, not just for prevention, but in terms of stopping growth and spread of cancer.

The suggestion is 5 or 6 cups per day would be great but the more the better! Even one cup a day was shown to reduce prostate cancer risk by 33 per cent. I drink green tea but am also taking a green tea supplement.

12. Berberine

This is a part of many medicinal herbs and seems quite extraordinary. I would strongly urge reading Chris Woollams’ article at Canceractive (xx) where he sets out the many benefits including how it is stronger than some antibiotics, increases immune response, is as powerful as the drugs metformin and glibenclamide, reduces blood sugar levels and inhibits cancer growth. It can also increase effectiveness of radiation therapy and chemo.

There are over 500 studies of berberine, a number look specifically at the benefits to prostate cancer (xxi). I only came across this supplement after reading Jane McLelland book ‘How to Starve Cancer’ last year and started taking it just before Christmas. It is important to note that because Berberine is as powerful as pharmaceutical drugs there are concerns about long-term usage causing metabolic changes; some suggest 8 weeks at a time. It can also lower blood pressure so again caution (particularly for me who has low blood pressure). I have also read (but only on one website) that it can, in low micro-doses possibly add to cancer (xxii). It is also worth mentioning as some brands, like the one I bought first, have missed guidelines that suggest taking it 15 minutes before food will maximise the impact re glucose levels. These are just some of the warnings; do your research!

13. Chromium

My supplement mandela!
This one is controversial. It has been used, by many as a protection against Type 2 diabetes; nick-named the ‘sugar balance’ pill. Research (not with animals or people), a couple of years ago suggest it could over the long term be a cancer causing chemical (xxiii).  However others suggest that cancer has access to sugars because we don’t have the chromium necessary to bind it and help deliver it so the cancer cells can’t get it (xxiv). More research is needed to see if it can alter cancer risk.

I have taken this supplement in liquid form as in the early days of my no sugar diet I would get sugar cravings. I think it helped balance and I may well use it again, but I also try and maximise my dietary chromium; whole grains, nuts, broccoli, and green beans are all good.

14. Holy Basil

This was strongly recommended by Chris Woollams who writes on the Canceractive website: ‘Various studies have shown their epigenetic effects with cancers like lung, pancreatic, breast, prostate, oral and skin cancer. They have been shown to perform a variety of anti-cancer functions – for example, they increase antioxidant activity, alter gene expression, induce apoptosis, and inhibit angiogenesis and metastasis…..there is research that suggests Holy Basil could be a really effective agent in protecting healthy cells during chemo- and radiotherapy’ (xxv)

I’ve not started taking this yet but plan to make it part of my regime.

15. Iodine

Correct iodine levels are important and it is well documented that a shortage can lead to fatigue and poor thyroid function. Breast cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer patients have clear and recorded benefits from the supplementation of iodine but there are also some risks if deficiency is not proved first (xxvi).

Research has been shown that prostate cancer cells take up iodine easily and it can cause apoptosis.  There also seems to be a particularly large amount of stories online claiming iodine cures cancer but much less in the way of actual evidence. Chris Woollams from Canceractive says: ‘Iodine deficiency, thyroid performance and cancer -  there is something here, definitely. But quality research is often circumstantial, and mainly with animals and/or in vitro.’

One surprise in my recent tests was that I have a very low iodine level. There are very clear disagreements among scientists about what are correct levels. I have been advised and am now taking Lugol’s solution; this has the two types of iodine that the body uses and it was used with people around Chernobyl after the disaster. Of course this supplementation will need careful reviewing and the thyroid monitored. I could also look at the foods I’m eating; a wee sprinkle of kelp for example can be wonderful in soups.

Another factor is that many consider it important to take other nutrients like selenium and unrefined salt alongside the iodine. One doctor, Michael B. Schachter, says, “Iodine may be needed in individualized doses to improve thyroid function, immune function, and the optimal functioning of all the cells in the body; several associated nutrients need to be given including vitamin C, selenium, magnesium, unrefined salt, and sufficient water; these help to prevent strong detoxification reactions as a result of the release of bromine from the tissues when iodine is given in milligram quantities. These higher milligram doses rather than microgram doses help to enhance anti-cancer functions in most if not all cancers, but certainly in cancers of the thyroid, breast, ovary, and prostate.”

16. Indole 3 Carbinol

Indole 3 Carbinol (I3C) is found in cruciferous vegetables (cabbage family) but actually that is Indole 3 glucosinolate (I3G). I3G isn’t really so much anti-cancer but when you cut, chew or cook lightly, an enzyme is released and this changes the I3G into I3C - and there is lots re it’s anti-cancer properties - indeed over 120 peer-reviewed scientific studies.

I understand that I3C is pretty unstable and most of it converts in the intestine to its metabolites Diindolymethane (DIM) and indole carbazole (ICZ). Chris Woollams writes (xxvii): ‘I3C, DIM and ICZ are all absorbed into the bloodstream and any or all could be active, separately or in conjunction, in the real world….Most of the current research data is linked to the prevention and even treatment of hormonally-driven cancers, like prostate and breast cancer, but there is research with other cancers and the lowering of cardiovascular, diabetes and obesity risk.’

It has been shown to be so effective that some have dubbed it a ‘safer Tamoxifen’. So there is loads of evidence to support eating lots of cruciferous vegetables. Chris Woollams comments that we should ‘also take probiotics or your body will be unable to fully release the bioactive natural goodness, especially if you have been taking drugs, antibiotics or had recent surgery’.

Well I’m doing well with kale, broccoli and all but am also currently supplementing with I3C. This is in part because I understand that IC3 has been helpful to lower estrogen levels - my levels are too high - no doubt a result of taking those hormones for 6 months. Interestingly as I write this I hear about a newer Chinese herb called Myomin that is apparently even more beneficial because it lowers estrogen further up the pathway.

17. Other supplements

Oh my the list is endless but others I’ve used or will consider include PomiT, Beta Glucan, Artemisinin, Melatonin, Colloidal Silver, Laetrile, Horsetail and Modified Citrus Pectin.

The charity Yes to Life have kindly posted this blog on their website here.


(xiii) Genomic Analysis Highlights the Role of the JAK-STAT Signaling in the Anti-proliferative Effects of Dietary Flavonoid—‘Ashwagandha’ in Prostate Cancer Cells
(ixx) And
(xxvi) and

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Stroud Wigwam launched!

Wigwam is a cancer support group with a difference. It is a community of people living with cancer coming together to explore and share information and experiences. It is about exploring orthodox, complimentary and alternative approaches, and about empowering ourselves and gaining more control over our lives.

Wigwams are supported by Yes to Life, the UK’s integrative cancer care charity - and it looks like Stroud is amongst one of the first places in the UK to establish a group. We’ve met a couple of times - but really we are just starting out - and there is room for more Wigwamers!

Some of our Wigwamers are happy to share some of their knowledge and skills about fermenting or infrared saunas. What ideas have you? Understanding nutrition? Ways to relax? A walk? Sharing a book?

Join us for a chat 2pm on the first Friday of the month. For details and more info contact Philip on 01453 755451 or Sharon on 07887 487050.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Dangers of a single story

One of my favourite TEDx talks is by the Novelist Chimamanda Adichie, who beautifully shared how, if we only hear a single story about another person, community or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding (i). One example she gives is of Africa being seen as only about poverty, HIV/AIDS and wild animals. Even when we know there are many more perspectives, many of us welcome a single story rather than embrace and explore complex, muddy, grey areas.

We see this 'single story' occurring in many aspects of our lives and not least in the world of cancer. Since Richard Nixon declared ‘war on cancer’ in 1971 we have seen the language around cancer become consumed by the language of war; 'she is bravely battling her cancer’, ‘he lost his fight with cancer’, ‘one day we will beat cancer' and ’she conquered cancer’. The implications are that in order to ‘win’ the battle with cancer we have to fight hard enough, smart enough and for long enough. This is a nasty implication that suggests if we die, we didn’t fight enough - not that our scientific understanding, genetics or even finances and access to treatments can play a role.

This military language is in our media, charities and everyday life - and indeed may help some, but it can also hide different ways of seeing this disease.

I am not sure I am a warrior! Like many I do what I think is right to heal - and make mistakes along the way. So much of it is unknowable. Will this treatment work? How fast is the cancer growing? What else should I do? I don’t see any of this as being brave. In contrast someone who risks their life for another is brave.

The military language and its expectations to fight can be more than hard to live with. It doesn’t feel like a fight to me. I live with it - and at times it seems to get the upper hand and I’m filled with fear - but at other times I am thriving on it. As I’ve noted before cancer has become a ‘guide’, alongside me, prodding me this way and that as I learn to prod it back. The people I am meeting, the learning about healing, my improved diet, the increased immediacy of life and more, are all part of that thriving.

I've mentioned before that I am grateful for the insights in Sophie Sabbage's inspiring book, ‘The Cancer Whisperer’, with the wonderful subtitle 'Finding Courage, Direction and the Unlikely Gifts of Cancer’.  She wrote about how she had cancer, but cancer did not have her; how cancer brings us an invitation to look within ourselves and decide who we are and how we wish to live. So rather than seeing cancer as the enemy we can see it as a teacher or a guide. 

Cancer has come out of my own cells; to fight it feels like going to war with myself. Cancer is in us - and rather than a war, it is a chance to work at putting things right. Sophie Sabbage asks: ‘What if cancer is the body’s last attempt to save its own life? What if its purpose is not to extinguish us but to heal?’ If this is so, and it feels intuitively right for me, then cancer can be a guide to our healing.

Kate Granger writing in The Guardian said in 2014 (ii): "As a cancer patient who will die in the relatively near future, I believe rather that instead of reaching for the traditional battle language, [life] is about living as well as possible, coping, acceptance, gentle positivity, setting short-term, achievable goals, and drawing on support from those closest to you".

So it seems to me, and indeed a growing number of others, that medicine, media and public should be careful in choosing their language, particularly around cancer. It is great to see that both Marie Curie and MacMillan are beginning to question this language, but we all need to go further. There are many ways of talking about cancer. As Adichie says when we reject the single story, when we realise that there is never a single story, 'we regain a kind of paradise’.

To finish here is a short draft film looking at narrative around cancer; my cousin and I had a fun evening throwing it together. How can we make it better?


(i) See:

(ii) See:

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Talking to the Cancer Journeyman

Nick Parker
A journeyman is a skilled worker who has successfully completed an official apprenticeship qualification in a building trade or craft; they are allowed to work as employees but not yet as a self-employed 'master craftsman'. 'The Cancer Journeyman’ is the title of a blog by Nick Parker and describes well the ‘journey’ many of us go on with cancer; the huge amount of knowledge we gain about our ‘craft’ of wellness. In my own current ‘research’ about my next steps, I was fortunate to have a long phone call with him.

Nick was clear that what had worked for him, with his terminal diagnosis, may not work for everyone; it is about finding your own way. He also talked about how he filled himself with hope, had lots of set backs but found ways forward, solutions that worked for him. I loved a line he said, when thinking about treatments, that he sought all avenues that were kindest to the body. Our bodies are at dis-ease with themselves, we can find a way to bring more balance and health.

A lot of what Nick writes about on his website is about how we can change our attitudes, beliefs and actions and 'live the best years of our life'. His website shares his journey and some of his treatment protocol including nutrition and exercise. One of his tentative questions to me was about why I had cancer. I have had a number of thoughts around that and have been working on a blog on that very topic for a while (ready soon). When I started to share my answers with Nick, it was when I got to talking about the impacts of stress and life purpose, that Nick warmed more. Indeed, like him, I consider that a key route to our health is through the mind. 

Nick shared some of his own work around redefining his life purpose, using visualisations and meditations - the latter he credited for having a significant impact on reducing his PSA. On his website he writes: "I am no different to anyone: my minds tells me constantly that it is tough; that I don't want to do it. My mind questions me as to whether I really want to sacrifice other short-term pleasures in order to devote time to my long-term health.  However, i have realised that there is no other way. My history tells me that I have been a lazy & shortsighted fool. There is nothing more important than my health. I have learnt that, how ever hard, I have to control my mind, or else be a victim of it."

All this is a powerful reminder to me about what I wrote in an earlier blog about how changing thoughts can change behaviours, which change your biochemistry. There is lots more to wellness than following NHS treatments - and lots of it is not so easy! In the ‘About this blog’ section, when I started this blog, I quoted Sophie Sabbage talking about how cancer brings us an invitation to look within ourselves and decide who we are and how we wish to live. This feels even more true now and I can start to see, like Nick, that this cancer journey can be a gift - and part of that gift for me has been to connect with inspirational people like Nick (click on tag below for more inspiring people).

See more about Nick at:

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Next steps: conventional, complimentary or alternative?

Another NHS letter
Time for an update (see here for background info)….it’s been a busy year learning to live with cancer and my father being ill then dying. My PSA does seem to have responded to the transurethral hyperthermia, hormone treatment and significant lifestyle changes; it was originally 18.96 ng/ml and is now 5.5. However this, as my oncologist warned me two weeks ago, is still in the ‘red zone’ (and could lead to metastasis if it has not already done so). He made an ‘urgent’ referral to the surgeon for me to consider an operation. It seems, Glos NHS though is stretched, so already my 20th Dec appointment has been cancelled twice and is now on 14th January. 

It is strangely unnerving when one of those NHS letters arrive, not being quite sure what it contains. Certainly at the moment I am swinging from hope to despair and back again. I am weighing what course of action to take. It is so hard with such little info (or is that too much information?) and so many questions... 

Jo Lawrance cartoon
PSA is notoriously unreliable as a test; how much do I rely on this and my previous tests and scans from well over a year ago to make a decision?

Other tests/scans all have their challenges regarding what they can show about cancer; MRI for example has no ionising radiation but can’t tell if the growth is cancerous. What would be the best test/scan to gain a clearer picture?

What are the risks of metastasis?

Radical prostatectomy or radiation treatment are standard NHS treatments with what they say are the 'best outcomes’ for prostate cancer, but they often come with some dire side-effects and are not full proof in terms of tackling cancer. How can I try and reduce such side effects if I go down this route?

There are many other possible treatments, but many of these have less long term research regarding their outcomes; that goes for both the newer conventional treatments like proton beam and the complimentary ones. What choices are realistic?

Conventional, complimentary or alternative medicine?

One area I have been exploring is around the evidence for different approaches. There is a paucity of evidence regarding whether the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) compared to conventional therapy has an adverse effect on cancer survival. However, many folk have strong views. For example David Gorski writing in the Science-Based Medicine website (2017) (i), known for it’s challenges to alternative approaches to medicine, concludes: "Use of alternative medicine alone to treat cancer is likely to be a death sentence, or at least to cause delays that make ultimate cancer treatment with conventional medicine more difficult and less likely to be successful”.

There are indeed several studies that raise some concerns regarding alternative medicine. However, it seems to me that little of use can be gleaned from a lot of this comparison research as the label ‘alternative medicine’ includes too many approaches to enable a study to come up with much that is meaningful. There are also different views about what constitutes complimentary and what is alternative - and for that matter there can also be wide differences between countries about what treatments are common. For example Mistletoe injections are rare in this country and not recognised by UK or US for cancer treatment yet they are common in Germany. Indeed The Ecologist reported in 2006 (ii) that: "More than 50 per cent of cancer patients in Germany are given 'mistletoe therapy' during their treatment and it is often considered a part of the oncologist's repertoire."

One recent study by Skyler et al (2017)(iii), concluded; 'we found that cancer patients who initially chose treatment with alternative medicine without conventional cancer treatment were more likely to die’. Scary for those choosing alternative treatments alone, but when you start unpicking this it is not so straightforward. For example they found no statistically significant association between alternative medicine use and survival for patients with prostate cancer.

It seems to me that different approaches have much to learn from each other. Certainly there is far too much nonsense and over-sell in some alternative medicine approaches. The number of wacky treatments available is huge and growing. It seems to me we need to be better able to assess ourselves whether they might be useful. There is a useful TED talk (iv) that looks at this - in particular explores confirmation bias - that is the tendency to only accept information that supports your personal beliefs. Such bias can lead us astray on social media, in politics and indeed in treatment choices and the way we look at our health. The talk offers three practical tools for finding evidence you can actually trust.

I don’t agree with the approach by Pinterest to websites discussing alternative treatments - they have just shut down accounts for,, the Truth About Cancer, Health Impact News,, and many more for “violating community guidelines” (v). Earlier this year Google were also found to be suppressing medical information and other content that the company deems unfit for readers (vi). This is surely limiting free speech and will just confirm views of anyone who thinks Big Pharma and others don’t want us to get well without buying their treatments? 

Quote from presentation by Grant Hatch
And what of the nonsense in conventional medicine like doctors who do not give advice about the importance of exercise, or dismiss healthier diets as 'not necessary' or 'useful’? Or ignore the impact the mind can have on the body? And why in the UK are treatments like high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) for prostate cancer (that has been around mainland Europe for over fifteen years), only just seeing clinical trials in the UK? And conventional seems way too wedded to big Pharma and completely ignoring approaches like using curcumin (turmeric) - there is loads of research about its benefits to those of us with cancer.

Anyway I should conclude this blog….this is certainly not the end of this discussion...lots of food for thought as I plan my next steps on my journey to wellness. Seasonal greetings to all readers and here’s to a healthy 2019!


The mystery of fats and oils

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