Ep29: How Integrative Oncology Can Help After a Cancer Diagnosis with Dr Nasha Winters
In today’s interview I get to speak with naturopathic doctor, Dr Nasha Winters, about how she survived a terminal cancer diagnosis (stage 4 ovarian cancer) and the role of integrative oncology in helping treat cancer.
Nasha is very passionate about understanding what causes people to suffer with metabolic disorders and how that relates to promoting cancer growth in their bodies. She is also a big fan of using the ketogenic diet during cancer treatment.
She is has personally had a cancer diagnosis so she relates to others who are in the same situation. It is also a major reason why she has such a keen interest in how to approach cancer treatment as she has had to do the same for herself.
We not only talk about her personal journey, but also what she learnt from consulting with so many cancer patients and then taking a metabolic approach to cancer treatment.
If you know someone who has been given a cancer diagnosis and is looking for alternative treatment options other than just chemo or radiotherapy then this episode is for them!
I enjoyed this interview as Nasha has such a great well rounded approach at looking at what each person can do to improve their foundational health and then giving them actionable guidance that can help both in the short and long-term.
After speaking with Dr Winters I have a better understanding of what the metabolic approach to cancer involves and how it is just good general health advise that even “healthy” people can do on themselves. At the time this was recorded the midwife who birthed our first child has just passed away soon after a brain cancer diagnosis, which is very sad for me and I send my condolences to her family.
Special thanks to Nasha for joining me on the show. Enjoy the episode!
Show Notes with Timestamp Links
Highlights of what we talk about during the interview:
Click on one of the timestamp links in the brackets to jump to that point in the interview audio.[0:20] – Introducing Dr Nasha Winters; she is a board certified naturopathic doctor, she is licenced in acupuncture and oriental medicine and is the co-author of The Metabolic Approach to Cancer book available on Amazon. [0:43] – In our earlier episode Alison Gannett talked highly of Dr Winters and her approach to cancer treatment. Dr Winters helps guide her patients through their individual situation by giving them some reference points and tools they need. She believes with the right information anyone can biohack themselves and do this. [2:11] – Nasha’s keen interest in cancer came from her own experience with it in the past. She tells us how growing up she was often sick and became used to feeling unwell until one day at 19 years old she received a cancer diagnosis. She also explains how a person’s response to this diagnosis is key, as it can have an acute effect on the physiology and psychology. [5:07] – It has been 26 years since Nasha was given her 3-month terminal diagnosis. She explains how, even though she continually asked for help and support due to having felt so unwell, she felt unheard, unseen and unsupported. This made Nasha feel angry; she explains how in Chinese medicine anger is the will to become and is seen as a positive energy. [7:49] – The anger Nasha felt, inspired her to start seeking solutions. She explains how back then there was no information on the internet so she started by trying to understand the physiology, biochemistry and pathology of this process. Once she began to understand the disease she began asking question about herself– which is just as important to understanding the disease. To get to the root cause and figure out treatment four our particular situation we first need to address ourselves. [09:53] – Nasha explains how our bodies have mechanisms that keep a balance within our body which is continually making new cells and cleaning up old cells. It is when this mechanism is thrown out of balance that we see problems arise and why it is important to look at our own physiologies rather than focus entirely on attacking the cancer as something that came from ‘outside of ourselves’. [11:16] – What is psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) also known as psychoendocrinology? In the early 90s Nasha came across Deepak Chopra’s Quantum Healing which talked about how our childhood experiences as well as the traumas of our parents, grandparents and so on, imprint on our epigenetic expression and impact our health. It changed her life and she created her own education around this concept. Today ACEs, Adverse Childhood Experiences scores, are used to assess the risk of health issues. The higher the score, the higher the incidence of cancer and other health issues. The take away is that we cannot separate our emotional self from our physical self – our mind and the body. [15:31] – In Chinese medicine there are organ patterns that associate with disease and emotional patterns, for example, problems with lungs and large intestines indicate issues with grief and loss; problems with liver and gall bladder indicate anger, rage, depression and suppressed emotion; problems with cardiovascular health indicate lack of joy in life; problems with kidney health indicate the presence of fear and anxiety. For thousands of years holistic and vitalistic medical practices acknowledged this connection and haven’t discounted the effect of emotion on health. [17:12] – Nasha explains how having a starting point is helpful in what can be an overwhelming process. There are 10 patterns that Nasha commonly sees in people that she calls the ‘Terrain 10’. She explains how in the book there is a questionnaire to help people determine which aspect they score the highest at and to help them know where to start. In her experience the emotional trigger is always present and always comes up. This is a disease that is riddled in loss of connection with the self and other, as well as loss of intercellular connection, that results from a big event that is overwhelming to our psychology. Gary illustrates this point with the example of situations where extreme grief or stress results in a person turning grey instantly. [20:05] – Our immune system as a three R system: it recognises, responds and remembers. A breakdown anywhere in this system means a loss of initial defence that responds and clears things from your system. [20:59] – Nasha uses the Little House on the Prairie analogy to discuss circadian rhythms and the effect of blue light exposure on our system. Our retinas and the light receptors on the surface cells of our skin sense what is happening around us; what season we are in and whether it is night or day. The constant exposure to blue light and access to carbohydrates throughout the year can be very damaging as it confuses our body and causes stress to our system, affects growth factors and the ability to rest and restore our body. Insulin growth factor – which is huge in cancer process – is not only stimulated by eating sugar rich food but also spikes after two nights of bad sleep. Obesity, diabetes, neurological disease, increased oestrogen and cortisol are all affected too. [25:13] – Nasha talks about a new client of hers who was confused as to what could have caused her breast cancer because there is nothing in her genetics or family history. However, upon closer inspection of her lifestyle she scores high in all the terrain 10. There seems to be a lack of understanding among the general population about the things that are affecting our health negatively. Nasha says it is these types of clients, who have experienced a lifetime of struggling with ill health, that she really enjoys working with and biohacking them to help them tune back into their own chemistry to feel healthier than ever. [29:26] – In a previous episode, Elyse van Spyk, talked about how eating late at night can predispose us to skin cancer and skin aging; this suggests that the timing of meals is just as important as the timing of sleep. Nasha agrees, the key digestive, detoxification time of our body happens between 11-3, so by being awake at this time we are interfering with this clean-up process; she recommends getting to sleep by 11pm. She also mentions how she started learning about how graveyard shifts were impacting health in the early 90s, in fact, nightshift workers have the highest incidence of diabetes and cancer. [33:42] – It is important to realise that taking a look at your environment is important in the healing process: sometimes a job-ectomy, husband-ectomy, best-friend-ectomy, etc. may be necessary. Nasha shares a story about a client who after almost giving up, started to improve when she finally left her toxic job environment. We need to keep exploring and digging deeper in order to find what makes us thrive and what makes us ill so that we can adjust accordingly. [35:57] – As we mentioned before, it can be very overwhelming knowing where to start to make changes, but tackling one thing at a time and hitting it hard – starting with the biggest issue from your terrain 10 first – we can start to see positive changes that can encourage and inspire us to work on other aspects. [38:00] – Nasha shares how finally dealing with a failed root canal made a huge shift in her mitochondrial function and she saw a myriad of positive changes. We don’t know what is going to make that difference, we have to keep exploring. [39:25] – We talk about holistic dentistry. Nasha is a big fan of this approach and explains how we have long known the connection between dental health and to the rest of the body. Mercury is a mitochondrial poison and stimulates oestrogen but we do need to consider the risk benefit ratio to removing the mercury fillings. Dr Christopher Shade, who specialises in mercury, has a company called Quicksilver where they can look at blood, hair and urine and are then able to assess what type of mercury is present and where it came from as well as how the body detoxifies it. After running this test, you are able to see if the mercury is coming from the fillings and if they are a problem or not. [43:26] – Every year more technologies and tools such as epigenetics, tumour analysis etc. are becoming available to us so there is no need for guess work with regards to treatment. We can tailor treatments to individuals. Nasha explains how the biohacking/paleo community have led the way in true precision medicine by being inquisitive and experimenting with the next thing; this is where she has seen the biggest changes in moving things forward. [46:27] – Some of the information that Nasha has been touting for years is now becoming more commonly accepted and becoming coming knowledge; this year circadian biologists won a Nobel Prize! She hopes this trend continues and some of the stuff we are talking about now becomes common knowledge five years from now. [48:34] – Talking about diet! Is a ketogenic diet the best option for cancer patients? Nasha explains that even RD nutritionists, who aren’t therapeutic nutritionist, say we should not be eating more than 100g of sugar a day but most Americans are consuming three days’ worth at breakfast alone. She explains that the fastest way to restore the rhythm of someone’s metabolic flexibility is with a ketogenic diet. There are many variations of this diet but Nasha’s version is plant based diet rich in fat; it is not a meat based diet. It is of course, adjusted accordingly based on a person’s labs, epigenetics and the state of their health at the time. [52:21] – Keto diet is the best diet that treats all the terrain 10 hallmarks of cancer; research work of Dr Adrienne Scheck’s that Nasha mentions, showed that beta-hydroxybutyrate directly impacts all of the 10 hallmarks of cancer. It also acts as an inhibitor and acts on critical targets; billions of dollars are spent trying to find drugs that work the same way. What’s more is that a ketogenic diet will enhance the effects of the conventional therapies. For example, radiation won’t be effective on high glucose/high insulin growth factor. [54:47] – A large majority (about 99%) of oncologists does not broach the topic of ketogenic diet and its potential to amplify the treatment choice. Nasha does have hope that this is starting to change, as she is seeing more and more research and discussion at conferences around this topic. While doctors are not allowed to discuss beyond the standard of care, many of them know that the ketogenic diet works and will provide patients with this information off the record. [55:56] – There are more and more individuals and big institutions that are coming out with supporting evidence for this, e.g., radio-oncologist Colin Champ is educating people on the importance of being low-glycaemic on the impact of radiation therapy and MD Anderson has put out multiple studies on glucose and breast cancer. But we also see how at one institution we have groups saying different things and both unaware of what the other is up to. Nasha explains how the 200+ million dollars gone to the Cancer Moonshot Precision Medicine programme created by Joe Biden, was hoping to create more transparency and communication between researchers but it does not appear to have had the desired impact yet. The research that is coming out is still not accepted in common practice and individuals that are attempting to do this seem to be shunned. [58:00] – First weekend of November, Hopkins and Travis Christofferson’s Tripping Over The Truth group will be putting on Tripping Over The Truth Retreat in Baltimore at Hopkins. There will be 50 clinicians and researchers from all over the world sharing information about the metabolic approach to cancer. Nasha hopes this will be one of the events that pushes this conversation into the spotlight. [58:38] – Gary and Nasha discuss how people should get together more to socialise, have parties and share information. It is a time where, thanks to technology, we are more connected than ever but at the same time we feel more isolated and lonely. Nasha believes we can take the best of technology and also bring true connection and human interaction back into reality. Just make sure to wear blue light blockers! [1:01:10] – To find out more, the book Nasha co-wrote with Jess Higgins Kelley, The Metabolic Approach to Cancer, is a great place to start. This book is a great guide for anyone that wants to find out ways to address any niggles and biohack their way to optimal health. In fact it has been suggested the more apt title should be The Metabolic Approach to Health!
There is also a Facebook page: @TheMetabolicApproachToCancer
Jess Higgins Kelley also runs www.remissionnutrition.com for those people who want help/advice with regard to nutrition.
To hire Nasha Winters (even though she is currently pretty booked out) for consulting you can find out more on her webpage: optimalterrainconsulting.com. There is also a Facebook page where she shares newest interesting research.
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