Functional medicine oncology is a “root cause” approach to prevent and treat disease and health imbalances of all sorts, in terms of cancer.
Whereas conventional medicine may focus solely treating and mitigating cancer with drugs, chemotherapy and radiation; functional medicine is a complimentary, holistic approach that aims to empower cancer patients to identify the root causes of their cancer diagnosis (such as toxins in the environment, food, water; poor gut health; liver and gallbladder congestion; hormone imbalances, etc.) and then help them address the root causes, using a blend of nutrition, lifestyle strategies, supplements and in some cases, pharmaceutical and conventional therapies, to help patients take their health back into their own hands.
The core belief of functional medicine? When given the right tools, the body innately wants to heal itself.
Check out these 10 Functional Medicine Oncology Strategies to Help Kick Cancer.
10 Functional Medicine Oncology Strategies to Help Kick Cancer
#1. Let Food Be Thy Medicine
Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said it, not me. But it couldn’t be further from the truth—food is medicine, especially polyphenols and antioxidant rich veggies and some fresh fruits.
While you’re at it, ditch sugar and most starchy carbohydrates (pasta, gluten, breads, rice, ancient grains, cereals, crackers). Sugar feeds cancer. Sugar is not just found in Hershey’s candy bars either—glucose (sugar) is present in all carbs, and most ‘potent’ in refined, processed and grain or starch based foods. Cancer cells use more glucose (found in carbs) than normal cells to maintain their growth.
A modified ketogenic diet has been suggested more recently as a potential therapeutic treatment of cancer patients. The goal of a keto diet is to put the body into “ketosis”—a state wherein the body doesn’t get enough glucose from carbohydrates, so it burns stored fat to create molecules called ketones that will provide the energy the body’s cells and tissues require. Since the ketogenic diet depletes the body of glucose, researches believe it may keep cancer cells from getting the energy they need to grow.
A “modified keto-tarian” diet is essentially a low starch, moderately higher fat, moderate protein and high non-starchy, color-rich veggie diet—no cheese, grains, legumes (peanuts or beans), sugar or artificial sweeteners included.
Fiber (found in vegetables, cooked and cooled potatoes and winter squashes, and fresh fruits) feeds beneficial microbes, aids in waste elimination and supports overall digestion. These reasons are why studies (here and here) show that fiber has a protective effect against cancer.
Aim for at least 6 to 10 servings of vegetables per day. For a power-packed punch, you can also toss a bunch of organic veggies into a smoothie like my green smoothie:
1 celery stalk
1/2 cucumber, chopped
2 handfuls spinach or other green (chard, kale, etc.)
Handful parsley or cilantro
Spirulina, 1 scoop
Pinch Himalayan sea salt
1 cup crushed ice
1 cup unsweetened additive-free almond milk, coconut milk or filtered water
Optional Color: 1 lime or lemon or 1/2 grapefruit or 1/2 green apple or 1/2 cup blueberries or 1 steamed beet
Optional Fruit Alternative: Pinch of 100% pure monk fruit + vanilla extract (if no fruit)
#2. Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting promotes cellular autophogy (ie. Cellular death). Fasting for a 12-16 hour window (such as finishing dinner at 8 p.m. and eating breakfast at 10 a.m.) can help give your digestive system a break so your detox organs can go to work!
#3. Love Your Gut
Seventy to 80% of your immune system is in the gut. Hence, a healthier gut equals a healthier you. Add in probiotics, short chain fatty acids and fiber into your supplement routine to support a healthier inner ecosystem.
My favorite practitioner-grade formulas can be found HERE on the Fullscript store and include:
- Soil Based Formula: Orthospore Biotic (Orthomolecular)
- Saccharomyces Boulardii: RestorFlora (Microbiome Labs)
- Lactic Acid & Bifidobacteria Formula: Therbiotic Complete (Klaire Labs) or Seed Probiotic (sold here)
- Fiber (Recommendation: Paleo Fiber)
- Butyrate (Recommendation: Tributyrin; find here)
Also, consider conducting gut microbiome testing with a functional medicine practitioner to rule out dysbiosis, SIBO, fungal overgrowth or any pathogens at play.
#4. Open Up Elimination Pathways
Help your lymph and liver clear out wastes instead of dumping them into your kidneys, liver and gallbladder.
- Drainage Supplements
- Lymph Drainage (Recommendation: homeopathic remedies: order through a practitioner)
- Support Detox Organs: N-Aceytl Cysteine + glutathione + liposomal curcumin + resveratrol (find on the Fullscript Store)
- Daily celery juice & green juice in morning with water
- Drink half bodyweight in ounces of water daily + add trace minerals
- Sauna sweat sessions + cold plunge (optional)
- Dry brushing skin: 1 to 2 times per day
#5. Make Sure You’re Pooping
Speaking of elimination…if you’re not pooping daily, Houston, we have a problem! Poo is your body’s daily “report card” for a healthier gut and waste clearance. Whatever it takes, but here are some suggestions:
- Take digestive bitters with meals and/or at night before you sleep (Like these or these or these)
- Supplemental magnesium (like Upgraded Formulas)
- Smooth Move Tea
- Coffee enemas (if needed)
- 1 cup organic coffee daily (natural digestive bitter; like Kicking Horse or Purity)
- Walk or gentle movement after meals
#6. Boost Your Mitochondria
Mitochondria are a cool word for “cellular energy.” Mitochondria are what run your cells and help your body fight free radicals and oxidative stress. Cancer depletes natural (healthy) mitochondrial; hence why supporting healthy mitochondria holds great potential for anticancer strategy with high therapeutic opportunities.
I often create a high potency, compounded mitochondria formula for my patients with all the nutrients a healthy cell needs, power packed into one support including ingredients like L-Carnitine, taurine, CoQ10, R Lipoic Acid, B Vitamins, Manganese and Vitamine E to help eliminate free radicals and protect cells from oxidative damage.
However, if you don’t work with a practitioner or compounding supplement pharmacy you can also find several of my top recommended practitioner-grade individual supports HERE on the Fullscript store, including:
- CarniClear (Designs for Health)
- B-Supreme (Designs for Health)
- Resvero Active (Apex Energetics)
- CoQnol (Designs for Health)
- MitoPQQ (Designs for Health)
- Magnesium (by Upgraded Formulas)
I prefer individual doses of each, as you get a higher potency; however, for convenience you can also check out something like Mitochondrial NRG once you’ve established a baseline.
#7. Optimize Sleep
Sleep is when your body repairs and detox pathways go into high gear. Ideally 6 to 9 hours per night (unbroken, deep sleep) is the goal. If you’re not sleeping, this becomes priority numero uno!
Whatever it takes. Try the following hacks:
- Sleep cool (68 degrees or below)—as your bod heats up overnight. Try ChiliPad if you can’t control your temp well.
- Sleep dark—pitch black. No lights on electronics, night lights, screens
- Shut off the WiFi and turn your phone into ‘airplane mode’ at night (EMF detoxing is a game changer)
- Take a hot shower before bed—heat up before you cool down
- Sip chamomile or Sleepy Time tea
- Morning routine: Eat protein, such as a quality protein powder in a shake (like this one), bone broth, pastured eggs, meat or fish, within the first 1-2 hours of waking each day and get morning sun exposure with “sun gazing” (looking at sun within an hour of sunrise)—this sets the tone for your blood glucose and melatonin levels for optimal circadian function
#8. Detox Your Environment
There are over 80,000 toxic chemicals in our environment—the majority of which are not regulated. In short: we live in a toxic world. In functional medicine, there is mounting evidence that a plethora toxins may very well be considered the cigarettes and sugar of modern day—drivers of disease, from cancer to obesity, diabetes and autoimmunity.
These toxins include everything from mycotoxins and mold in the environment, to your personal care products, makeup, shampoo, cleaning supplies and cooking pans.
Gradually overhaul your products with non-toxic alternatives. Think Dirty is a great app to start. This helps you have a better understanding of functional medicine oncology.
Some simple swaps include:
View this post on Instagram
- Most Nonstick pans—>Always Pan
- Most Conventional Makeup Brands —>W3ll People, Ilia
- Conventional Shampoos & Conditioners—>Jason’s, Acure
- Soaps & All Purpose Cleaners—> Bronner’s
- Colgate & conventional Toothpaste —> Bronner’s, Primal Life Organics, Tom’s Fluoride Free
- Aluminum-based Deoderants—> Pretty Frank
- Conventional Produce —>Organic veggies and fruits
- “Natural” Meat—>Grass-fed, grass-finished beef, pastured chicken and eggs, wild caught small cold-water fatty fish (especially salmon)
Warning: “Greenwashing” is a huge problem in the holistic body care, makeup and cleaning industry. The words “natural” mean nothing. Look for fragrance free (or essential oil) based formulas with as few ingredients as possible.
#9. Mitigate Chemotherapy & Radiation Symptoms Naturally
Going through chemo or radiation? Here are some functional medicine strategies to support the symptoms, especially nausea.
- Acupuncture & Frequency specific micro-current (FSM) therapy – 1-2x week of each
- Anti-nausea homeopathic remedies such as Arsenic album, Ipecac/ Ipecacuanha (30c), Nux vomica, Phosphorus, Tabacum, Cocculine. A complex of these remedies (often used for nausea and vomiting in travel sickness), were trialed for the nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy treatment of breast cancer. It relieved sufferer’s symptoms better than placebo.
- For energy and stamina supplement with medicinal mushrooms like Cordyceps (as needed, 1-2 times per day)
- Intermittent fast regularly. Additionally, eat an extra serving of protein the day before, the day of and the day after. (Low carb, higher protein)
- Sea Bands which stimulate pericardium 6 acupressure point has been shown in research to prevent and treat radiation induced nausea.
- Also, 1 gram of ginger to your diet 3 times per day, the day before, the day if, and the day after.
- Supplement with VitaminB6, often depleted by chemo and linked to nausea
#10. Don’t Go It Alone
Looking for an adjunctive nutrition and lifestyle approach to support your cancer healing? Connect with our clinic HERE to apply for and schedule an initial Health Strategy Session today.
We will create a personalized “game plan” for you and your healing journey.