“The key approach to dealing with cancer will always be with prevention," explained Dr Anna-Maria Pouchet, a licensed naturopathic physician with the Hope and Wellness Clinic, "and it starts with the things that many women and men overlook in their everyday life. They don’t realise how seemingly little things impact them and make them susceptible to cancer.
“We need to be more aware how our cell phones, the lotions containing parabens, nail polishes, birth control tablets, laundry detergent, fabric softeners, bleach, and even the plastic bottles we drink from every day are impacting on our life as much as the antibiotics and pesticides in our foods are too.”
The cancer-environment connection
Pouchet's view of the world we live in is echoed by dozens of documentaries and hundreds of research papers. Human beings are destroying the planet in a way that it is also in turn destroying us.
“We are aware of the oestrogen hormone, but what people fail to recognise is that the amount of hormones produced in our bodies is so minimal – but we absorb additives to our beauty products and our food, (and) in particular oral contraceptives, that contain milligrams of synthetic hormones – milligrams – when our bodies don’t even need these amounts,” she pointed out.
“The result is that our kidneys and liver are overburdened by the detoxification of all (these) toxic chemicals, including excess hormones, and eventually we become nutrient-depleted by the process of eliminating and begin to store many of these in our fatty tissue – which for women often means in the breasts and other areas like the hips, butt and thighs.
"Toxins also cause damage to our DNA and as a result our cells are not able to regulate and eventually mutate and become malignant,” she elaborated.
Pouchet focuses on helping the body to function in the right way – with proper diet, nutrition, detoxification, and supplementation, as needed.
“Our hormonal balances are dependent on having proper functioning of our liver, kidney and a good gut flora so that we process and eliminate toxins. To achieve that you want to ensure you have sufficient intake of fibre and basic nutrients such as zinc, B vitamins, magnesium, etc.
"I highly recommend flaxseed or chia seeds daily along with lots of water. When it comes to water you also want to filter your water as best as you can. Flaxseed contains Omega-3 fatty acids and is especially important, in that it binds to excess oestrogen in the GI tract and gets it out the body.”
According to LiveStrong.com, “lignan by-products are known to bind to the oestrogen receptors found in body tissues, shifting oestrogen production to weaker forms which do not enhance cancer cell growth. The lignans found in flax may also inhibit aromatase, an enzyme which produces oestrogen.
Pouchet also advises everyone to invest in their health with good quality daily vitamin and mineral supplements to avoid nutritional deficiencies, even if they think they eat well.
And what if you are diagnosed?
Depending on the stage of the cancer and the size of the tumour as well as the course of treatment chosen, there is a lot that you can do for yourself to help you beat cancer.
Pouchet says, “Research shows that there are herbs that work with the chemotherapy synergistically, which help to protect your healthy cells while they go through the process. There are also natural herbs that fight cancer and should be used for prevention of tumours, like turmeric, green tea, aloes, ginger, for example.”
People living with cancer also struggle to get the daily intake of nutrients needed to fight the disease. Pouchet suggested supplementing as needed, and avoiding sugar, refined carbohydrates and, as far as possible, to turn to steamed cruciferous vegetables and probiotics to fuel and feed the gut lining, which is damaged by chemotherapy.
The emotional connection
In addition to diet and exercise, there is one key area Ikeen to learn Pouchet’ insights on – cancer and its emotional roots. There are areas of research that link the onset of cancer to emotional disturbances or upheavals in people’s lives.
“There is absolutely a connection. Many natural oncologists point out that cancer starts with the collapse of the nervous system or the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems in our bodies. The autonomic nervous system regulates many bodily functions, and they have links to every organ, especially our digestion.
"From my own work I have seen patients that point out that there was a divorce or some form of recent conflict in their lives prior to their diagnosis. Negative emotions are involved in the breaking down of how the body protects itself and can create openings for the emergence of cancer,” she said.
Given the emotional disturbances brought on by the covid19 pandemic, keeping positive eating habits and healthy exercise regimens should be an area of focus for everyone.
Though covid19 dominates our headlines, lifestyle diseases are still the leading causes of preventable death in TT.
Dr Anna Maria Pouchet is a licensed as a naturopathic physician by the State of Washington who practises in Trinidad. Education and medical training was at Bastyr University, which is one of four accredited naturopathic programmes in the US and internationally recognised as a pioneer in the natural sciences. Always consult a medical doctor or nutritionist before starting major diet changes.