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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

An Herbalist’s Approach to Cancer

Jul 24, 2013 03:35AM
Supporting the health of a person diagnosed with cancer, using both modern and traditional medicine, is a touchy subject requiring us to rethink cancer. As an herbalist and nutritionist, my own hesitations were abandoned when I learned my aunt was diagnosed with stage four cancer. I immediately began researching her specific cancer and how medicinal herbs and foods might help. When she asked for guidance to get her through conventional treatment more smoothly, I was confident about the therapeutic plan I designed for this special person in my life.
There was a real concern as to how my aunt would respond to treatment, given that she is a small-framed woman in her golden years. At first, her doctors were cautious about including integrative approaches. Now, nearly eight months later, her doctors and nurses often comment on how well her treatments have gone. Progress such as this can change ingrained beliefs about cancer, and our approach.
Our bodies are miracles of life working diligently for our everyday survival.  Cancer, in a broad sense, is an imbalance in the body. Think of it as a summer cold; a time when our body’s impressive defense mechanisms fail us for some reason, although the potentially serious consequences of cancer make it quite unlike a summer cold. A cancer diagnosis can trigger fear and dread, affecting one’s ability to maintain a hopeful attitude especially when side effects, such as fatigue, nausea, weight-loss and pain are also present. This is the very time when supporting our body’s natural strengths and abilities will impact not only daily quality of life, but our overall ability to heal. 
When faced with a cancer diagnosis, consider empowering the patient and care-takers. We often feel helpless against such a formidable disease, but there is so much we can do. Knowledge and compassion go a long way in the healing process. Cancer is not a sedentary illness. During treatment, the body is working 24/7 to repair and return to health. Even if lying down, the body is working as diligently as a marathon runner in this race to heal and repair.  Use food as medicine to ensure your body receives proper nutrition. Small, frequent meals, brimming with nutrient-dense foods, along with gentle herbal teas, can ease common side effects of chemotherapy. Practice frequent deep breathing, it not only provides oxygen to our cells, it also helps us relax and refocus.
A cancer diagnosis can amplify uncertainty, depression and pain.  Laughter changes the body’s physiology and frees it from tension, so indulge in it often.  Though medical intervention and support are essential, the body plays a huge role in our ability to return to a state of health. Focusing on a positive outcome and cultivating a sense of gratitude for your body and its role in getting you back to a healthy state can enhance day-to-day experience and overall outcome. The road ahead is filled with peaks and valleys, remember to be gentle with yourself.
Krista Noelle is a clinical herbalist and nutritionist, specializing in working with the whole person to evoke positive and lasting change and can be reached at [email protected]  
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