Question: I am hearing more than ever about cancer these days from our higher rates to links to things like pesticides, overexposure to electromagnetic radiation and vitamin D deficiency. So, since we are not getting rid of pesticides or cell phones any time soon what should we be doing to protect ourselves other than correcting vitamin D deficiency?
Answer: I was very pleased recently to see the results of a survey that was circulated by the Canadian Cancer Society, P.E.I. division that very pointedly wanted to find out about people's attitudes towards cancer and a link to pesticides, obesity, tobacco and so on. I think speaking out through surveys such as these and raising your concerns with those who have the power to evaluate our cancer situation on P.E.I., such as our newly elected government, is each of our responsibility.
From my perspective as a naturopathic doctor, I believe minimizing our exposure to carcinogens is the first step, while boosting our natural defenses that recognize cancerous cells and either repairing the DNA damage or destroying the cell(s) to stop their replication.
We are in a unique time where we still have the pesticide and tobacco exposure unfortunately, but now we have higher emotional stress levels and unprecedented exposure to non-ionizing radiation. In addition, one in three Islanders is obese, and we exposed to a plethora of other chemicals not part of our biochemical makeup. We need to educate ourselves and realize there is no great institution protecting us looking at the combination of all of these factors and their health implications.
I would only agree to a CT or PET scan only if it could not be replaced by non-radiating diagnostic imaging such as ultrasound or MRI. CT and PET scans are equivalent to at least 400 chest X-rays. There are differences in medical attitudes towards the overuse of ionizing radiation for diagnostic purposes.
There is little discussion of the role of our own immune systems in cancer prevention or reoccurrence, yet any oncologist would acknowledge that when cancer occurs it is due to the overwhelming of your immune system.
Naturopathic medicine assesses your nutritional and hormonal status to ensure the immune system has what it needs to perform optimally.
There are several nutritional deficiencies that contribute to weakened immunity. Ask your doctor for available testing such as iron deficiency through ferritin if your hemoglobin is low normal, B12 deficiency and vitamin D deficiency. Supplement with vitamin D (1000iu daily for at least three months before testing). In my experience, vitamin D deficiency still occurs among those supplementing with this dose so it is important to establish a dose through a blood test. Maintaining optimal vitamin D levels has been found to confer a protective effect against many cancers. Ensuring Islanders get enough of this dirt-cheap vitamin should be made a public policy.
There are medications that suppress immune function and there may be changes you can make that can reduce or eliminate your dependency on such medications.
This, of course, needs supervision from your ND and MD.
Do not underestimate chronic emotional stress that leads to an elevated cortisol which also suppresses immunity.
Early detection of cancers through screening is much better than late detection, but preventing detection of any cancer is even better.
These are just some basic suggestions. For an individualized approach, consult a licensed ND found on cand.ca
Kali Simmonds, ND is a doctor of naturopathic medicine who practices in Charlottetown. The information provided is not intended to diagnose or substitute the advice of your healthcare professional. Please consult with your healthcare provider before making any changes. She welcomes questions for this column, which is published the first Tuesday of every month in The Guardian. She can be reached by mail at 34 Queen St., Charlottetown, C1A 4A3 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org