Health & Fitness

Choosing treatment for cancer

A major dilemma I've heard from friends who have cancer is how to choose the types of treatment and care they will have.

They know conventional cancer treatments - chemotherapy, radiation and surgery - sometimes are necessary to wipe out tumors, especially if cancer cells are growing rapidly and invading other areas of the body.

On the other hand, friends say they w ould prefer, when possible, to also experience other therapies - such as nutrition and diet counseling, natural supplements protocols, exercise, meditation, guided imagery, acupuncture or massage - for support in maintaining a healthful lifestyle while undergoing more radical treatments.

According to Lise Alschuler, a naturopathic physician, and Karolyn Gazella, a health writer and researcher, people with cancer should be able to have both.

Alschuler and Gazella are co-authors of "Alternative Medicine Magazine's Definitive Guide to Cancer: An integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment and Healing," out this year from Celestial Arts.

"One of the things Karolyn and I tried to advocate is giving permission for cancer patients to demand more from their oncologists," said Alschuler, who is president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

"It's not OK to discount evidence-based holistic therapies," she added.

Alschuler, who was in Seattle this month to meet with prospective participants in a naturopathic oncol ogy specialization program, said patients should be assertive about getting holistic care.

"If they're not getting what they want (from their oncologist), they should shop around," Alschuler said.

Her reference work is a guidebook for choosing the best of both conventional and complementary therapies.

"If I had cancer, I would read this book," said Dr. Mehmet Oz, high-profile author of "You: The Owner's Manual," and a frequent medical expert on television shows such as the "Oprah Winfrey Show."

With the growing interest in integrative cancer care at both major South Sound hospitals - Providence St. Peter Hospital and Capital Medical Center - the "Definitive Guide to Cancer" is destined to be a much-consulted resource.

Enlightened diet, part II

Last month, I promised to relay a few tips on how you can start to change seven eating styles that can cause obesity. These are the seven eating patterns identified as fat-creators by Tacoma authors Deborah Kesten and Larry Scherwitz in their new book, "The Enlightened Diet: 7 Weight-Loss solutions that Nourish Body, Mind and Soul."

If you're not sure which of these seven eating styles applies to you, take the quiz starting on page 22 of the book, or go to for instructions. For the rest of us, you know who you are. ...

Here are the seven patterns and tips:

1. Food fretting - or obsessing about calories, fat grams or getting fat.

Rx: Perceive food and the experience of eating as a social, ceremonial and sensual pleasure. Don't diet, stop counting calories, halt judgment and give up guilt-tripping. Try meditating for 15 or 20 minutes, seeing yourself exhaling and releasing obsessive thoughts.

2. Task snacking - or eating while doing other things such as typing on a computer or driving.

Rx: Bring moment-to-moment non-judgmental awareness to each aspect of the meal. Practice eating one raisin with full consciousness, attention and enjoyment. Make a point to savor flavors and to focus on your food when you're eating.

3. Emotional eating - or mindlessly eating to soothe negative emotions or stop yourself from feeling whatever's happening in the moment.

Rx: Eat only for pleasure and when you're feeling good. Learn to discern whether it is physical or symbolic hunger, give yourself permission to eat and transform cravings. Try guided visualizations, take nutritional supplements, exercise, eat whole foods and avoid sugar, caffeine and alcohol.

4. Fast foodism - or eating mostly processed or fast food.

Rx: Choose fresh whole food in its natural state as often as possible. Eat more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, dairy, eggs and fish, for example, and less burgers with bacon.

5. Solo dining - or eating alone in an isolated setting.

Rx: Share food-related experiences with others. Invite family or friends over to share recipes, start a cooking club, and place photos of family or friends at the table if eating alone.

6. Unappetizing atmosphere - or eating amid noise, clutter or negativity.

Rx: Dine in psychologically and aesthetically pleasing surroundings. Limit lighting, take the food out and walk to a different location, use good quality dishes, have relaxing conversations with soothing music in the background, release thinking about emotional topics while eating, and eat outside.

7. Sensory disregard - or not appreciating the taste of food, not being grateful for the care taken to prepare it.

Rx: Savor flavors when you eat. Engage your senses, savor s ix tastes, create a spiritual con nection with the food, make each meal meaningful, and grow your own food.

Keri Brenner writes for The Olympian. She is the author of "Sleep Disorders: An Alternative Guide" and a contributing editor to "Alternative Guide to Women's Health, Vols. I and II." She can be reached at 360-754-5435.