Here’s a “Sneak Peak” to our NEW video series for patients that will officially be released January 1, 2023. We wanted to make sure patients have access as soon as they were completed. These videos, our podcast and all the free resources are made possible and available due to the generous donations we receive throughout the year. We created this video series as a solution to the overwhelm patients feel once diagnosed.
This video series will help walk patients and their families through an easy step-by-step process on what to do once diagnosed. There are five short lessons with downloadable resources attached to each one.
1. Overcoming The Shock
2. Build Your Treatment Team
3. Build Your Support Team
4. Tools for A Strong Mindset and Emotions
5. A Healthy Soul
Hear what Bob Olson has to say about helping Believe Big meet our year end budgetary needs. We need you. Please help.
Another version of a low carbohydrate ketogenic hummus. Similar to a Cauliflower Hummus recipe, the high carbohydrate garbanzo beans are replaced with keto friendly ingredients. This version is rich and delicious. You can blend this completely smooth or leave it a little on the crunch side. So easy you can’t go wrong!
Today you will hear from my dear friend and colleague Stacy Fritz on how EFT (emotional freedom techniques) or tapping can help reduce stress and negative emotions.
Stacy Fritz is not only one of Believe Big’s amazing patient advocates and oversees our Food For Thought webinars, but she is also the president and CEO of FIT2order. Fit2order specializes in at-work wellness solutions for our sedentary workforce and serves local, regional, and national clients. Through research driven strategies, compelling stories, and actionable takeaways, Stacy delivers energetic virtual and in-person keynotes, workshops and trainings that will inspire better health and wellbeing in the workplace. She is an amazing person, and I am so excited for you to hear from her today.
5 Practical Steps to Manage Stress & Your Health During the Holidays
Functional medicine expert, Dr. Jill Carnahan, MD shares that having some stress in life is unavoidable, but there are positive, healthy strategies to help you manage it. And while there’s no such thing as a stress-free life, building habits that support you can go a long way in keeping your stress levels in check. Regularly practicing these techniques can prevent stressful times from interfering with your life. Even if you can’t rid yourself of the source of your stress, you can learn to manage it and prevent it from affecting your health. Dr. Kelly Turner shares that stress can keep the body in fight or flight mode, instead of rest and repair mode.
What can you do this holiday season to manage stress? How can you make this year different? Here are our favorite tips.
Practice Gratitude – It isn’t always possible to change your circumstances, but you can change where you focus your mind, heart, and soul. The words we speak can set the course for your future. Need a tool to help you? Our new Gratitude Journal will encourage you to speak God’s promises over your daily life, affirm his blessings, and help you to pray from a place of victory.
Plan Ahead & Set Boundaries – Be intentional with your time. Get adequate consistent sleep by setting an alarm on your phone for the same time each night to turn technology off and get ready for bed. Planning ahead by simply taking the time to write out a daily or weekly to-do list can work wonders for keeping stress at bay. “It’s ok to say “no”. You are not obligated to accept every invitation, request, or opportunity that comes your way. Especially if you know saying “yes” will make you anxious or doesn’t align with how you really want to be spending your time.”
Learn New Ways to Relax – We love the NEW One Minute Pause app or learning a new hobby like photography or painting.
Make Time for Exercise – Exercise not only decreases stress hormones but also boosts energy levels and the feel-good chemicals in the brain. You don’t have to join a gym. A short, brisk walk outside can do wonders for your mood. There are also several apps you can use at home to help keep you motivated like Sworkit, 7-min workout, or the Peloton app.
Know What You Can (and Can’t) Control – For some people, the holidays can trigger stress and anxiety because of past experiences. Many have family members that can be difficult, leaving us with a lot of negative emotions. Set an intention to create a different way of navigating challenging relationships. Acknowledge the triggers and set an intention to approach that person with a positive outlook. Keep conversations light and don’t get drawn into their drama or debate. You don’t have control over what others say and how they act, but you DO have control over whether you allow others to affect your mood and stress level.
** Photo by Nathan Dumlao @ Unsplash
Grateful to be alive. Message from Ivelisse
This was me during the holidays in 2008. I remember being filled with fear at the thought of not seeing my four kids grow up or growing old with Jimmy. Some people say that God won’t give us anything we can’t handle, but I believe that He often allows situations that are too much for us to handle – alone. It’s in these times that we realize how much we need each other and most importantly, our need for God becomes obvious.
As we reflect on all the things we are thankful for leading up to Thanksgiving, I am sure that your health is at the top of that list. I know for me I am forever grateful to all of you who gave of your time and resources to help my family all those years ago. I know that God spared my life so that I could work for Him. And, to breathe hope into the lives of those I meet who are feeling hopeless. You were that for me and I can’t thank you enough.
Will you join me this holiday season to help more children and adults struggling with cancer by helping Believe Big reach our end-of-year goal?
You can help by:
Making a one-time donation by December 31st. You can donate HERE or text the word BELIEVE to 80888.
Becoming one of our Monthly Partners (or increasing your monthly giving)
We have heard great things about adding these two options to your thanksgiving this year. Maybe try them out yourself first and then WOW your friends and loved ones. A cranberry kale salad brings some much needed greens to the table and then some low carb cauliflower mash. Save the calories for the dessert 🙂 See if anyone even notices the difference with the ‘potatoes’.
1⁄3 cup fresh organic cranberries or pomegranate seeds
1⁄3 oz. (11⁄5 tbsp) pumpkin seeds, roasted and salted
Add the kale, salt, and 1/3 of the olive oil to a large bowl. Use your fingers to massage the salt and the oil into the kale. Set aside.
In a small bowl, use a whisk to mix the dressing ingredients; mayonnaise, olive oil, orange juice, and zest until creamy and smooth.
Approximately 5-10 minutes before serving, add the onion, cranberries, and pumpkin seeds to the bowl with the kale and toss with the salad dressing to combine.
This salad is equally delicious using lemon juice and lemon zest or 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar in place of the orange juice and orange zest.
If you prefer, use toasted pecans instead of pumpkin seeds for a deep, harvest flavor.
And if you’re not a fan of kale, substitute fresh spinach or other crisp greens.
General tips for luscious raw kale salads
Chop the kale in small bite-sized pieces to make eating the salad easier.
Reserve the tougher rib portions from the kale to stir into a pot of soup or to sauté. Use the outer, softer pieces for the raw salad.
Rub or massage the kale with a small amount of salt or olive oil before dressing. The oil wilts the kale a bit and makes it more tender and removes some of the bitterness as well.
Dress the salad 5-10 minutes before serving to let the flavors permeate the kale.
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Low Carb Cauliflower Mash
2 (8 oz.) organic yellow onions, finely chopped
3 tbsp butter or Ghee, for frying
3 lbs organic cauliflower
1½ cups heavy whipping cream (Cottage cheese alone can be a good substitute for heavy cream)
2½ cups (10 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese, or dairy free cheese alternative
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
4 oz. (½ cup) unsalted butter or Ghee, for browning
In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, fry the onions in the butter or Ghee, until soft and golden. Set aside in a bowl to cool.
Shred the cauliflower with the coarse side of a grater or divide into smaller florets and chop in a food processor until rice sized. Process a few florets at a time.
Pour heavy whipping cream (or cottage cheese) in a pan. Stir in the cauliflower rice and boil on medium heat. Let simmer for 10–15 minutes or more, until the cauliflower is thoroughly cooked, and the cream has reduced. This will give the mash a more neutral flavor.
Salt and pepper to taste. Add fried onion and shredded cheese. Mix well and keep warm.
Melt butter on medium heat in a skillet until amber-colored for a nice nutty taste. Serve the butter with the mash.
You don’t have to remove all the leafy parts—use the entire cauliflower head for making mash! Just be sure to take off the outside leaves. You can also use ready-made cauliflower rice from the grocery store, fresh or frozen. Two pounds will be enough.
Sports bras sold by Athleta, PINK, Asics, The North Face, Brooks, All in Motion, Nike, and FILA were all tested for BPA in the past six months, and the results showed the clothing could expose wearers to up to 22 times the safe limit of BPA, based on standards set in California,according to the Center for Environmental Health. The CEH, which conducted the testing, is a non-profit consumer advocacy group focused on exposing the presence of toxic chemicals in consumer products.
The group also tested athletic shirts from brands that included The North Face, Brooks, Mizuno, Athleta, New Balance, and Reebok and found similar results.
The CEH said Wednesday it has sent legal notices to the companies, which will have 60 days to work with the center to remedy the violations before the group files a complaint in California state court requiring them to do so.
To date, the watchdog said its investigations have found BPA only in polyester-based clothing containing spandex. “We want brands to reformulate their products to remove all bisphenols including BPA. In the interim, we recommend limiting the time you spend in your activewear by changing after your workout,” the group said.
Athleta, Nike, Reebok, The North Face and Victoria’s Secret (which owns PINK) did not immediately provide a comment.
BPA (Bisphenol A) is found in a large number of everyday products, from water bottles and canned foods to toys and flooring. In adults, exposure to BPA has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity and erectile dysfunction.
“People are exposed to BPA through ingestion, from eating food or drinking water from containers that have leached BPA, or by absorption through skin,” Kaya Allan Sugerman, CEH’s illegal toxic threats program director, said in a statement.
“Studies have shown that BPA can be absorbed through skin and end up in the bloodstream after handling receipt paper for seconds or a few minutes at a time. Sports bras and athletic shirts are worn for hours at a time, and you are meant to sweat in them, so it is concerning to be finding such high levels of BPA in our clothing,” Allan Sugerman said.
Over the past year, the group has asked more than 90 companies, including Walgreens and socks and sleepwear brand Hypnotic Hats, to reformulate their products to remove all bisphenols, including BPA. Some have already agreed to do so.
Your emotions will impact how you decide to behave and they can end up controlling you and impacting your relationships if you don’t learn how to regulate them and express them in healthy ways. You can start doing this by:
Embracing and accepting the fact that you feel a certain way.
Don’t suppress your emotions or feel guilty for them. Recognize that these emotions will pass. They don’t have to define you!
Asking yourself questions in the moment, such as “What am I feeling? Where does this emotion come from?”. When the thought is recalled, the informational memory (what happened, or the facts), emotions (feelings), and physical sensations (flu-like symptoms, sore stomach, and so on) come flooding back. What is all this data telling you about yourself, or about what is going on in your life?
When you can grasp your own emotions and their root(s), you can understand more fully what you are trying to communicate or express to the other people in your life. Indeed, we are often so confused about our emotions and may not be able to put a name on what we are feeling. Sometimes, we may even need to speak to someone we trust or a mental health professional to begin to understand how we feel and why. But the key is asking ourselves these kinds of questions and trying to grasp a way of conceptualizing our feelings before just unloading them onto the people in our lives.
Remembering your body language.What we think and feel in our minds is often communicated in what we say AND our body language. In fact, it is estimated that non-verbal communication accounts for around 50% of our communication as humans. This means that expressing emotions doesn’t just happen verbally—you also need to be aware of how your emotions affect your body language, such as avoiding eye contact, moving away from someone, crossing our arms, and so on, and how this can impact the people in your life.
Working on the way you talk to yourself.One way to improve your emotional expression is to work on your positive self-talk. If we are constantly thinking in negative patterns and expressing how we feel with negative self -talk, the way we communicate our emotions to others can also have a negative impact on our relationships.
Checking your state of mind before you share how you feel.One of the biggest ways to avoid impacting others in a negative way when expressing your emotions is to make sure you are in a good state of mind when you communicate how you feel. For example, if you haven’t slept the whole night and feel emotional, you might say things you don’t actually mean, and they will probably be pretty hurtful to the person you are communicating with, so it may be a good idea to rest before you open up to someone.
This also means understanding your triggers! If you are in a space where you feel triggered, expressing your emotions can sometimes lead to more pain; you might be so triggered that your emotions come out in anger, sadness or aggression. Learn your triggers by paying attention to how different people and places affect your emotions. This can be done by keeping track of your emotions and the reasons why you feel the way you do in certain situations. (The Neurocycle is a great way to do this, as it only requires a few minutes a day to make emotional awareness a habit!)
Having empathy and compassion and recognizing that everyone is struggling. Knowing that some of the feelings we have are felt by others as well can help us to share those feelings in a way that won’t trigger others. For example, you may be struggling with self-hate, and if you talk for ages about how you hate yourself to someone else, that may trigger their feelings of self-hate in a negative way. However, if you recognize that they too may be struggling with these feelings, then you may adjust how to communicate your emotions in a way that helps them feel like they can also share what they have been going through. Recognizing that all humans struggle will help you express how you feel in a productive way.
Listening. One of best ways to have more compassion and empathy is by listening to other people. Taking time to listen to and try to help others can completely transform the way you feel and express your emotions. First, you won’t feel so alone in your struggles. By listening more, you are bound to recognize some of the feelings you struggle with are also things other people in your life struggle with. You may also find that by helping others, you will feel better yourself. There is a lot of research out there that shows how when we help others, we also improve our own chances of healing.
Practicing forgiveness. If you are angry at someone or even yourself, the way that you express your emotions can be clouded by that anger or pain. As a result, everything that you express or share may be a lot more negative, and most likely make your relationships worse.
Bieler’s broth was invented by a doctor named Henry Beiler as a medicinal soup to help promote healing and detoxification in the body. Dr. Bieler claimed that this soup would help restore the correct acid/alkaline balance in the body. He speculated that it also helped balance the sodium/potassium levels in the body.
Benefits of Bieler’s Vegetable Broth
The benefits of this vegetable broth are in its nourishing qualities and not its taste. This broth is used in many cleanses and detox protocols. Cancer patients often use it for an easy source of nourishment that is easy on the stomach. You can also use it to calm down allergies (see tips for an add-ins below).
I also turn to this recipe during illness. The high vitamin C and K content make it great for supporting the immune system.
This Broth Traditionally Contains
Zucchini – A natural source of potassium and sodium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6
String beans – Also a good source of sodium and potassium, as well as chromium, phosphorus, and choline
Celery – Excellent source of vitamin K, potassium, folate, and pantothenic acid (B vitamins)
Parsley – A multivitamin in a single plant! Parsley is a great source of vitamin K, vitamin C, antioxidants, and beneficial volatile oils. It is said to be cleansing and nourishing to the body.
The true “Bieler’s Broth” recipe contains only the ingredients above and it is wonderful just like that. When allergies hit, you can a few extra ingredients to help calm them down. These are all optional but add flavor and additional nutrients.
Nettle – A natural remedy for allergies. Add a few leaves of wild harvested nettle to this broth. It is easy to find during the warmer months. You can also harvest and freeze some for winter months.
Dandelion – Known as a liver cleansing herb. Dandelion greens seem to help allergies and are great for the skin. Harvest these from your yard too and freeze some in ice cube trays for winter months.
Garlic – Adds great flavor, but also benefits the body in many ways.
How to Make Bieler’s Vegetable Broth
This broth is quick and easy to make. Gather the ingredients above and you can make it in under half an hour. Here’s how:
3medium zucchinis (roughly chopped)
4stalks celery (roughly chopped)
1 string beans
1bunch parsley (stems removed)
¼cup nettle leaf (optional)
¼cup dandelion greens (optional)
1-2cloves garlic (optional)
Place water, celery, zucchini, string beans, and nettle, dandelion, and garlic if using in a large pot and bring to a boil.
Boil for about 10 minutes or until all vegetables are bright green and tender.
Remove from heat and add parsley.
Use an immersion blender or food processor to blend until smooth. A Believe Big favorite is the Vitamix blender.
For a more nourishing and filling soup, use broth instead of water. Feel free to add any desired spices, though for illness and allergies, I find that the bland and basic soup seems most calming.
Q: So from your clinical perspective of working with oncology patients over the years, what would you say are the most common patterns of those that get diagnosed with cancer?
I thought about this a lot because I know so many people are familiar with Dr. Nasha’s Terrain Ten, those Terrain Ten are big and important in clinical practice.
We see about five patterns that are the most important.
Stress, metabolic imbalance, inflammation and inflammation is just a cornerstone for everything because everything ties into inflammation, I think environmental toxins. And then I also think about immune function in the microbiome. So those are the five patterns that I tend to see the most in clinical practice.
The top most common patterns of those that get diagnosed with cancer:
1. Stress (includes trauma)
2. Metabolic Imbalance
4. Environmental Toxins
5. Immune Function (microbiome)
Top Five Ways to Prevent Cancer
Dr. West: There’s so much more to this than just breathing. And the thing is, is that, first of all, breathing gets us in our body, right? It helps to root us again, but it also helps us to be in our true nature. And I think that we’re so, like I said, heady or busy doing other things that we. We get out of that, we forget what our true nature really is. And there’s other things that we’re defining ourselves by. And there’s something so special and sacred about just being with ourselves. And so breathing enables that to happen. Meditation is another avenue there. And then, you know, not only being in our true nature, but also being in nature. Nature, nature, nature, breathing and nature. There’s been studies showing that trees actually improve our immune function. And that’s why in Japan, so many people go forest bathing. And forest bathing means that they’re just essentially out in the trees. Study examples >
Dr. West: We do need to be moving and I’m sure that you’ve heard this and I’m sure a number of people have heard this, but sitting is considered the new cigarette or smoking. So we need to be getting up, I would say, every 45 minutes, get up and move for even if it’s two or 3 minutes, you’re moving your body, you’re getting your blood flowing, you’re getting your lymphatic system flowing. It’s important. We need to be doing that and we’re meant to be moving again, going back to ancestors. We weren’t sitting at a desk all day. We were hunting, we were gathering food, we were hunting, we were migrating. So we need to be moving. I do think that at least 20 to 30 minutes a day of some form of routine exercise where you’re devoting to that. That movement is important, but we can’t think, oh, well, we did the 20 to 30 minutes this morning, so now it’s fine for us to sit all day so we don’t have to keep exercising, but it’s important to move. So I think movement is important.
Dr. West: Getting at least 13 hours a night away from food and having the key to that’s going to be 3 hours between finishing dinner and going to bed.
4. Eating an Anti-inflammatory Diet
Dr. West: It’s so easy for us to have processed foods now. And then the other thing that happens is people get away from peanuts or get away from gluten as almonds tend to become a big part of our diet. And those are super high in omega six and the American diet. And I know you had Jess Kelly on and she talked quite a bit to this. I love Jess. But the thing about the American diet is that we tend to be so overloaded in omega sixes and we don’t have enough omega three and omega three are anti-inflammatory foods. And if we know that inflammation is one of the largest drivers of cancer, then the first thing we can do is be aware of what we’re putting in our mouth. And I think one of my favorite things that I always recommend to my patients is fish oil, olive oil. I think we have some really therapeutic oils out there that can be helpful. And then really trying to stay away from unprocessed foods and eating whole foods, kind of going back to being social creatures. We were also meant to eat whole foods. We weren’t meant to have processed things.
5. Cultivating Community
Dr. West: I will never forget when I got out of medical school, someone said, you know, medical school teaches you how to be a safe doctor, but it doesn’t teach you how to be a good doctor. And so it really is the practice of medicine. And as I’ve worked with oncology patients over the years, I have discovered how important community is. And I think that we have gotten away from that in our social media world and we are social creatures, but it’s not that we aren’t meant to be social on the computer, we’re meant to be with other people. And so I think cultivating community is a really large aspect of that. And they have actually done studies on ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and women who have a strong social network specifically with other women, sorry guys, but it’s been with women that they have significantly improved overall survival rates. So there’s something there for that.
Listen to the complete podcast with Dr. West and Ivelisse Page below, it is full of additional tips and details:
Hi, I’m Ivelisse Page and thanks for listening to the Believe Big Podcast. The show where we take deep dive into your healing with health experts, integrative practitioners, biblical faith leaders, and cancer thrivers from around the globe. Welcome to today’s episode on the Believe Big podcast. My name is Ivelisse Page. Today’s episode is all about navigating conventional oncology and how to find the best oncologist for your care. My guest today is oncologist Dr. Sarah Ali. Dr. Sarah Ali is a triple board certified hematologist and oncologist, currently undergoing another fellowship in integrative medicine. She was honored with a 2018 top doctor award and is passionate about educating her patients about wellness and vitality as they go through traditional cancer treatments. Currently, Dr. Ali is practicing at Ventura County Medical Center in Ventura, California. Welcome Dr. Ali to the show.
Dr. Sarah Ali:
I am honored. Thank you so much Ivelisse.
It was so wonderful to meet you at the Society of Integrative Oncology and you’re just such a delight to speak to. I’m so thankful that you took the time to speak with us today. Our listeners are always interested in discovering what our guests’ favorite health tip is. Do you have one that you can share with us?
Dr. Sarah Ali:
I thought this question was going to come really easy for me because all day, every day, we’re giving our patients advice on what to do to be healthier and live better lives. I finally came down to the message of: just chill and relax. So many of our patients that come in with a cancer diagnosis absolutely warranted to be scared and frightened. But unfortunately when we take on that kind of energy long-term, it creates the state of anxiety and even on a biologic level. It can create inflammation in our bodies. And we know that inflammation can be detrimental to cancer treatments and overall health. If we’re not relaxed, then we might not sleep well. And then that leads to us not eating well and thinking well and moving well. So I do think that being relaxed in a state of joy is my advice for all my patients. And if you spend enough time around me for my family and friends, that’s my advice. Find your joy.
That’s incredible. It’s so true. I think that once patients are on this road, it is so overwhelming and they are stressed and trying to make sure they’re researching all their options and to take a moment to breathe and to relax to really see things from a different perspective is so good. What that’s really great advice. Is there a tool that you would suggest?
Dr. Sarah Ali:
I think your question really encompasses what integrative medicine is all about. There are so many different aspects of integrative medicine, and one of them is relaxation coming into your body again and getting out of your head. There is one example I can share with you. He was a young gentleman with a new diagnosis of a blood type cancer. And he had shared with me on prior visits his tendency to drink and to do other recreational drugs, to cope with his life. And I knew that once I had this diagnosis for him, that I was going to share with him something that was going to change his life. I needed him to hear me. I wanted him to settle down and just listen to me, and this Ivelisse this is the first time I had ever tried this technique. I wanted him to breathe with me. So I asked him to sit up, put his shoulders back, close his eyes, and I took him through this breathing exercise. And it’s something that Dr. Andrew Weil, our mentor and program director for integrative medicine taught us. It’s called 4, 7, 8. And with counts four you inhale, hold for seven, and then you release the eight counts. You do this 4 times. And I did this technique with him. it was something that changed my practice, actually, something as simple as breathing and I saw what it did to him and our relationship within that office visit and thereafter that I took a minute to just breathe. And he was able to really relax and really listened to me and get on board with the next steps. What it does, it taps into our autonomic nervous system. And our parasympathetic system takes over to fully relax. And this is no side effects. It’s completely free. I taught him how to do it on his own, and it was just one of those examples of integrative medicine, just breath work. That can be so life changing.
Yes, definitely. My husband works with Navy seals and they shared with him that’s a technique that out on the field when they’re in a stressful situation that they use to kind of help to calm them, I love that no matter where you are, you can use that technique. Thanks for sharing that. Oncology is such a difficult field emotionally. What made you decide to be an oncologist?
Dr. Sarah Ali:
Oh, that is an amazing question. It was a multitude of things and to be completely honest I love to share this, that I never really wanted to be a doctor. It was something that was within our family. So many people were doctors and it was just almost expected that we were going to be on this path of medicine. And it was through a very unfortunate series of events in my family. I had lost my brother and sister in a car accident, all of a sudden. And my older sister who is going through a medical school four months after losing my brother and sister, she puts her hand on her neck and feels the lymph node. Ultimately biopsied, and she’s got Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. And my younger sister who was in the same car accident, she is really just putting pieces back together for herself. She spent weeks in the ICU and she was healing. So here I am in the late years of maybe junior year of college, I considered myself, Ivelisse, out of five of us, I was the last man standing. Somebody had to do it. It was with that mindset that I said, okay, I’ll go to medical school. I realized so late in my third year of medical school, that the oncology rotation was where I loved the patients. I loved the science behind oncology. And I felt like that was something that was just really exciting me and energizing me. It was probably a year or two later that I realized that within oncology, we do so many amazing things for healing and we have amazing outcomes, but for the people who don’t have an opportunity and do have to come to terms with the ultimate reality of death, that they could have a chance to say goodbye in ways that I didn’t with my brother and sister. So I felt like I was on this journey with everybody to prepare, to give them hope and to just be with them in connection. That was so meaningful for me. What
incredible story I’m tearing up, just thinking about that. What an incredible physician that makes you to be. And I think because you can understand what a family is going through in the midst of crisis, and that compassion definitely comes through when anyone speaks to you. That’s an incredible story. And what a legacy you’re leaving behind for your family.
Dr. Sarah Ali:
Thank you. We are so blessed. We’ve got so much happiness. My, both of my sisters are doing amazing and awesome. We have so many things to celebrate with their children now. It’s incredible. So a big story on hope as well.
Yes, definitely. What is your best advice for someone who finds out that they have cancer?
Dr. Sarah Ali:
So I feel that the initial consult that we have with a new diagnosis, we have so many things to cover in terms of: this is what the pathology report showed; this is what the scans showed; the blood tests. Now we’ve got treatment, side effects, potential toxicities. I can spend easily 45 minutes, one hour and still not have enough time. But at the end of the visit, I’ll ask my patients, okay, what are your questions? And it was: what should I eat? That was the question that was 95% of the time they wanted to know. And it really isn’t about what should they eat? It was more about what do they have control over and what can they start to do to help this experience go more favorable to have the best outcome as possible. So I think that’s where integrative oncology really comes in, is we’re going to do our work with the traditional treatments with whether it be chemotherapy, manipulating hormones and immunotherapy, surgery, radiation. What are we going to do in the office versus what is everybody going to do at home? And integrative medicine is there’s so many aspects of really what that means. The challenge we have currently is, can we put it all under one roof or are patients going to have to seek individually what’s important to them? And we can talk about the financial aspects of that later on, but the integrative medicine aspect it involves having, I think, first and foremost, a really strong dietician. Knowing what nutrients are important for us during treatments. How much protein is good enough. There is such thing as too much. And as, as patients go through and seek guidance, my hope for the future of integrative oncology is that oncologists can be that source of information for them. Yes there’s a lot of fear. There’s so much top five and top 10 lists going around of what to avoid and what to do. It’s overwhelming. And I think it’s incredibly confusing for patients. There’s so many discussions about sugar, and I do believe that consumption of overly processed foods and really sugary foods can be detrimental. But I also think that there is a balance. That as humans we can withstand a little bit of sugar from time to time. I think it’s our attitude about the sugar. That’s almost more important than the sugar itself. If we have a concept or an ease about what we’re doing in life, I think that’s ultimately, what’s going to work for everybody and it’s forgiving yourself being moderate in your lifestyle, not going extreme. I think ultimately those are the principles that are going to enhance treatments and longevity.
I agree. And that’s one of the things that is so important is avoiding the white flours, the sugars, but it can take over your life as well. There is a direct correlation, as we know from the studies that showing that, the sugar does not help your healing process, whether you have cancer or whether you have the flu. It’s really important to avoid that. But, my integrative doctor gave me some great advice once and he said, if your whole day is spent on treating the cancer and what you’re not able to do and what you’re removing, then the cancer is winning. So there has to be that humanity side of balancing, what is best for your case, doing what’s best for your body, but then also having great quality of life through a very traumatic and difficult time. Did you have nutrition training in medical school?
Dr. Sarah Ali:
I will say that when I was in medical school, if we did have a nutrition module, It wasn’t substantial. I don’t remember much. And it’s shocking that we didn’t, and I know of medical school programs now that are incorporating nutrition labs and cooking courses, classes for wellness. So that’s promising. The medical school curriculums are taking nutrition more seriously. We have really awesome dieticians in a lot of our cancer centers that can guide patients. But I think there’s always room to, to boost that and make it better. If we think of our diet as part of our healing then I think we would take it a lot more seriously. And what integrative medicine in general could do for us is disease prevention is catching all of this inflammation and cancer even before it starts to manifest in our bodies. And to do that with diet, that would be incredible.
When I was at the waiting rooms, my oncology, appointments, here are individuals whose bodies are broken down and trying to heal. And I see carts being rolled with potato chips and soda and candy bars. I know that in their eyes, they’re just trying to encourage, and I was told by my oncologist that their main concern is that patients are going to lose so much weight that they aren’t going to be able to continue treatment so they tell them to eat whatever they want. But, if you think about a child who is sick with the flu, are we going to give them a soda and hamburger, French fries? Or, are we going to give them orange juice and chicken noodle soup and things that are healing to the body? It’ll be great to one day have those messages merged into this area where there is so much confusion. So what does the nutrition aspect look for you now that you’ve been through this integrative training?
Dr. Sarah Ali:
I think the most exciting aspect of nutrition is really one in particular, the Mediterranean diet. There’s anti-inflammatory properties within the food options. I think the Mediterranean diet also is more forgiving. There’s so many more options. It’s not as restrictive. And I like that. When we have patients going through their cancer treatments, there’s a lot of do’s and don’ts, but with the Mediterranean diet, they can have lean proteins. They can have fish, fruits, vegetables, healthy grains. I like the Mediterranean diet. Another aspect of nutrition that is so fascinating is the world of mushrooms. To learn more about the properties within a specific mushrooms, I would say what I’ve learned is to avoid the white button mushrooms that we find raw in our salad bars. Stay away from those. But more of the Asian mushrooms, maitake, shiitake, reishi mushrooms, turkey tail, lion’s mane they have properties when cooked properly. They have anti-inflammatory effects through the cell wall, the beta glucans. Once we ingest them, our body can recognize them, enhance an inflammatory response that is actually favorable for fighting cancer. The studies and the data that we have, I think it’s emerging. But we can actually start to heal with something as simple as mushrooms.
A hundred percent. And that’s something that I actually incorporated into my healing journey all those years ago. And even to today, I take host defense, which is a supplement that you can take either via spray, through veggie capsule and it’s phenomenal to help keep your immune system strong. Going into another area that we get asked a lot is, how to bring up wanting a more integrative approach to treatment with their oncologists. What would your advice be to patients who want to pursue a more natural approach, but are concerned that their oncologists won’t support them?
Dr. Sarah Ali:
Oh, that’s a great question. I think what I’ve noticed with patients is they’re scared to bring it up. They think we’re not going to support them. And one of the questions that I like to ask from the get-go in the very beginning is I get to know my patients is what are your values? What’s important to you, and can we work on this together? And the answer is always, yes, we can work on this together, but it’s really, I just want to know what’s important to them and something I would discourage for majority of my patients is something alternative. Because I am a conventional oncologist, I see great value in chemotherapy, and then that the treatments that we do, but I feel passionately that we can integrate the other modalities and we can work together. So with whatever patients have in mind I try to encourage a very open and honest communication in the office. What are they doing? What are they curious about? And is this going to have a negative impact on treatments? What are some things that we need to look out for? Do I need to monitor them with blood work a little bit more carefully? If I see something that is going to be obviously harmful, then that’s the discussion we’re going to have, but if there are other modalities of treatments, then I try to make them feel as comfortable about it, and so we can work together. That’s the fun of integration is that we don’t have to do one or the other. We can do both.
That’s such great advice. And I really believe that it’s important to have this team approach to your care. When we, at Believe Big, were talking to individuals who were sharing how, like you said, it’s really important to find an oncologist like yourself that is open and humble enough to listen to a patient’s desire for a more integrative approach, and to make sure you have that person on your team who is willing to listen and that’s just so valuable to a patient. So I’m really grateful that you are one of those who listens to their patients.
Dr. Sarah Ali:
Thank you. We don’t know everything. We have so much more access to information now than ever before. And just to, to have that collaboration with our patients, if they have something that they want to try, or if there’s emerging data that doesn’t look like conventional FDA approval just yet, then first do no harm, but let’s see what we can do. I feel integrated medicine can give our patients an opportunity for better outcomes, even less toxicity, have longer remissions and even higher cure rates. If we can start to incorporate all of these modalities of diet, nutrition, exercise, energy, medicine, acupuncture, even spirituality. What we feed our minds, and the human potential, when we start to believe in a positive outcome, what our bodies can do and how we can respond and align ourselves with wellness and health during a time that is pretty scary. We have great potential.
Yeah, definitely. One aspect Dr. Ali that isn’t spoken about in conventional medicine is that watchful waiting period when the patient has had their labs and most oncologists say everything looks good. Let’s wait and see for three months. And we’re always sharing with patients. Don’t wait and see. This is really a time to continue with healing, to continue to move forward in, in your nutrition and the other aspects of your health. How has your perspective on that watchful waiting period with your patient?
Dr. Sarah Ali:
You’re asking me a question that I have never considered, but the message that I have in these in-between times is don’t give up, don’t slow down. If you are eating well, continue to do so and decreasing the stress in your life. It’s really simple. I do encourage eating well, sleeping well, moving well, speaking well, believing well and just this visualization of a positive outcome for yourself. These are all things that is really encompassing of a healthy lifestyle. What happened before the diagnosis of cancer? What was happening in life that allowed cancer to happen? There’s things that we’re never going to be able to control, but let’s focus on the things that we can. And even to the point of genetics, there are genetic mutations that are responsible for cancer. What I’ve come to see in my practice is that’s a rare situation. Occupational exposures, something within the environment that could trigger tumor development or even emotional that has not been addressed in healthy ways. Those are things that can lead to sickness, inflammation, cancer. So in these three month visits and three month follow-ups, what can we do is continue to heal. We’re going to do therapeutic things to kill the cancer, but it’s on the patients to really take that and heal within themselves. And so your question has helped me think about how to frame my visits with these follow-up three months, six month followup visits, a little bit more directed. There’s work to do. There’s a lot of work to do.
That’s great. What can we do as individuals, and Believe Big in general as an organization, to continue to help bridge this gap, that’s right now between this conventional world of oncology and the integrative complimentary medicine world. What would you say would be something that we could do to bridge that?
Dr. Sarah Ali:
I am so appreciative of what your organization is doing bringing it about the awareness of what integrative therapies are like and generating enthusiasm, bringing knowledge and financially giving people hope about what they can do. I think just giving us a chance to speak and for me to share my message is incredibly amazing for me to do and for you to give me that opportunity. Exerting political pressure is also I think something important that we can come together with not just state by state, but nationwide. And how can we get integrative therapies to be covered by insurance? We’re not thinking about wellness in terms of the way we should. We’re not being compensated for wellness. It’s more for prescribing medications and being sick. So I feel that your organization is something that is so vital and it’s a voice for patients. I came to know something just this morning and you probably mentioned it during your keynote speech at the Society of Integrative Oncology conference, where I met you. It was about mistletoe therapy. And how important you were in bringing that as an awareness to people in America. In November of last year, I was invited to Switzerland and I was able to tour the Arlasign Clinic in Switzerland and they are just leading the way on what mistletoe extract can do for cancer patients. It was so incredible to me. I came back so energized and wanting to do mistletoe therapy for more of our patients. You’ve been so instrumental in Hopkins doing phase one clinical trials and getting the data so we can look at mistletoe extract more seriously, but this is just one example. In Europe, we have a therapy that can reduce side effects of treatments, have even anti-tumor properties if given IV versus subcutaneous, and looking at what natural plant medicine can do for us. Mistletoe has a host plant and they found that the the life span, the lifecycle of mistletoe is offset of the host tree in the somewhat of a semi parasitic fashion. We can manipulate those properties in our advantage when it comes to tumors and how to treat. Patients undergoing mistletoe therapy, in my experience, they looked better. They didn’t look as worn down and tired and fatigued. They’ve been doing this for generations to the point where, it’s covered by insurance.
And that is our goal here. We hope that one day as the trials go through that, it will be covered by insurance and it can become a part of standard-of-care, so that conventional oncologists like yourself can prescribe it.
Dr. Sarah Ali:
And this doesn’t have to be an alternative therapy if we can prove that it has benefit and and where Europe has already done. But if we can get our data and offer that in conjunction to traditional therapy, I think this is going to be just really exciting. So Ivelisse you’re doing it. You’re already doing it. Thank you.
Thank you for being a part of this podcast, really just so grateful for your insight and for your time. And in closing, could you share what would be your advice for a patient in selecting the best oncologist for their care?
Dr. Sarah Ali:
Ah, I love this question. It’s relationship, and as with any relationship we have with our life partners, our family, our friends, it’s communication. So it’s almost like you got to get a vibe with your oncologist, get a sense.. Are you going to be able to talk to them? Are they going to listen to you? I think that’s really the most important thing is developing a trusting relationship with your oncologist. And if it doesn’t feel like a good fit, then move on. Find somebody that is going to listen to you in the way that you want to be heard. And it’s really just finding that relationship. I think that’s the advice that I would give in finding that care team that is going to look at you as an individual, listen to you, guide you and I think that’s where you’re going to have the best outcomes when that relationship is nurtured.
Yep. I agree. And for those listening, who would like our free questions to ask oncologists our resource, please email us at email@example.com. And we can send you the free PDF that you can take along to your appointments to discover, as you’re interviewing oncologist, if this is the person that’s going to be best for my care. Dr. Ali, thank you so much for joining us today and for all that you do for the patients that we serve.
Dr. Sarah Ali:
It’s my pleasure. And thank you again for giving me this opportunity to chat and to share. It means so much. Thank you.
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