Monday, May 26, 2014

Fight the power

Here's the difference between holistic and traditional in a nutshell... If you have indigestion, the holistic approach says "try x, x, and x and use the method that works for you." The traditional approach says "take this drug."

I know: duh. But it's amusing how self-indulgent traditional medicine is. Pound your symptoms with a hammer until the side effects or the ineffectiveness of the drugs bring you back in here and take zero responsibility for your own health. It's lulling, actually. Take care of me. Solve this. Tell me I play no role in this. Let me continue to do exactly what I've been doing but fix me. It's paternal. And maddening.

Every three weeks I'm obligated to visit a nurse and an oncologist so they can tick some boxes and give me the green light for the next cycle. On the one hand, they're worried I have the movie-size foreshadowings of a cough or shortness of breath, but when I tell them I'm managing, except for the indigestion, heartburn and general bloaty bad guts, they pounce on that like a bad boyfriend who just wants you to shut up about your bloody day already.

"LET ME WRITE YOU A PRESCRIPTION!!" they shout at me, but I tell them I'm trying to eat smaller portions, eat lots of fibre, less food, more frequently, take apple cider vinegar before meals, a probiotic after and I'm suddenly speaking a language they're neither familiar with nor interested in.

The only reason I have these homemade solutions to throw in their faces is because I'm ignoring Google like a good girl and went to see a nutritionist at Inspire Health last Friday. It was glorious. I had kept a food diary for a week, so managed to forgo cravings for Doritos or Texas carnivals selling deep fried butter for fear I'd have to include it on the list. On paper, my diet looked wonderfully varied and followed the 80/20 rule of eating clean/whole foods 80% of the time and doing whatever the fuck I wanted (save deep fried butter) the other 20%. I mapped my bowels, my exercise, my times of relaxation, and my liquid intake, including the 16 oz of green juice every week day. Ding, ding ding!

But the smugness was momentary and the glory wasn't really in the "you're doing very well" tut tuts of the nutritionist. It was in the tips and oh-so-rational recommendations she gave me for everything I was wondering about, including where to get grass-fed beef that didn't require a full tank of gas (Village Butcher, Oak Bay Avenue).

She solved my internal debate of butter vs. Earth Balance (butter won, but get grass-fed, like the brand below, which doesn't actually say it but is):

Probiotic vs. yogurt to increase my good gut flora (probiotic won because it causes less congestion, inflammation and general stomach upset than dairy). She said this Udo's brand was excellent, so I bought it:

And which eggs to buy, because it's getting ridonculous out there (free-range so the chickens eat grass and bugs and other normal chicken things, and organic so they don't ingest pesticides):

She also recommended dealing with my heartburn, which is a result of too little acid, not too much (I'm clearly an idiot for not knowing that) by adding a teaspoon of raw apple cider vinegar into a 1/4 cup of water and drinking it before dinner. Unpasteurized is essential here, and this one is a good, trusted brand I already have. PS - apple cider has a shitload of other health benefits and uses. Look here:

On the subject of oils, I was almost there and she confirmed a few things for me: extra-virgin olive oil for salads or low-heat cooking. Coconut oil for high heat cooking. Moderate amounts of organic butter for flavour, etc.

It's important that the butter is grass-fed and organic because in cows (even though in Canada we don't feed dairy cows growth hormones) any antibiotic use and stress hormones from living a shitty factory life settles in the fatty parts, which includes milk ducts. If the cows are happy and grass-fed, your butter is happy and your cells are less inflamed and able to fight off illness.

Try to steer clear of Soybean (in many processed foods), Corn, Sunflower and Grapeseed oils when you can. They're full of Omega-6 fats instead of Omega-3 fats, and we get such a disproportionate amount of 6 in our Western diet today that many docs believe the tipped ratio is the biggest culprit of modern diseases.

I've learned or relearned a shitload of other things, but the conversation I was most interested in was the one about soy. Despite the use of soy in many Asian diets, the role that it plays in cancer is still relatively unproven. For now, the experts say that eating fermented soy, or soy that's as closest to the bean in form is best, and even beneficial. The phytoestrogens in soy take up the spaces on cells that would otherwise go to estrogen, thus blocking estrogen's effects and mimicking drugs like Tamoxifen. This is a good thing for estrogen-receptive cancer like mine. But the studies are not terribly conclusive or agreed upon and are often based on subjects that began consuming large amounts of soy from adolescence, so I'll continue to stay away from soy milk and fake meats but enjoy miso in moderation.

After an unadvised getaway with Pete this past weekend that left me fighting a cold (do NOT say I told you so), I saw my regular onc again today to get my pre-cycle three check in. She was very impressed with the effect the chemo was having on my chest rash (pretty much gone) and my collar bone node (almost unpalpable), but when I told her I had indigestion and heartburn and was doing a bunch of things to try to control it myself she said, "I CAN WRITE YOU A PRESCRIPTION!"


  1. I like that you are doing ALL the right things. Traditional medicine started out as holistic way back in the far, far away days, so it has proven its effectiveness e.g. vaccinations etc. But you are also working the holistic approach which could eventually be the"new traditional" method! A round about way of me saying keep up with what you are doing ... it is working! My pride in you knows no bounds!

  2. Wow, again, I learned so much from your post; you are a freakin' encyclopedia girl! Thanks for all the info. Can't believe the last sentence. Sheesh! My brother, too, feels/thinks like you...."stop with the freakin' prescriptions!" He visits naturpaths, nutritionists etc and always comes away with a wealth of information; and tries them and passes on to me/our family. I realize it's hard to change; he's been trying to change our parents for years to use more natural ways instead of Rx's. Hopefully for our generation and the next, natural will win over, or at least be equal to traditional. You know those gd pharmaceutical companies.......don't get me started on those! xo to you.