Most cancer rates are on the increase. In part this is because industrialised nations have populations that survive childhood and live longer. Longevity and age increase the likelihood of any disease developing and affect statistics. However, there is absolute agreement that the increase is also due to lifestyle factors that positively promote cancer development. This can be seen with smoking. Finally in Britain the death rate from lung cancer is falling as public health campaigns have encouraged and supported people to successfully quit smoking, so that greater numbers of people are now quitting than are starting.
Thirty years ago there was widespread optimism that science would cure cancer. Billions of pounds later there is still no overall cure for a deeply complex series of events that lead to widely varying diseases. Some types of cancer are now better understood and treatments are constantly being designed and modified, but a cure is no longer expected by scientific and medical researchers at the cutting edge of cancer technology. Instead there is cautious optimism that some cancers will respond best to small doses of drugs taken over a long period of time. Some cancers such as breast cancer will be treated in the future as more chronic conditions that respond better to lifetime treatment in much the same way as diabetes is now managed. We are in alignment with this method. In herbal medicine we also like daily but very small doses of herbs. An example is vitex agnus castus taken daily after the menopause so that oestrogen receptor cells in the breast are locked and are not open to oestrogen-mimicking chemicals that may harm them. Early detection lies at the heart of any treatment and people who react promptly to their health concerns do best: cervical, colon cancer and prostate cancer are examples where prompt action can be a lifesaver. But many cancers such as ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer are silent and insidious, and signs are not noticed until later and more invasive stages are reached.
A natural healing lifestyle is naturally anti-ageing and anti-cancer. All the principles of natural healing are now embraced by agencies that promote information and advice to prevent cancer. For example the emphasis on fresh brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, high-fibre whole grains, weight management, very low sugar and alcohol intake and more exercise have always been fundamental to the principles of natural healing.
The treatment of cancer is in its avoidance. As individuals we may not feel that we have much influence over events that have led to the pollution of air, land and water. But we are all able to intervene in our own lives to minimise the effects on ourselves and our family. And there is so much we can do that positively supports the surveillance and repair systems of our bodies so that all aspects of our health and energy are improved. Feeling powerless is not a health-inducing frame of mind. As natural healers we accept and promote the health benefits that accompany unity and equilibrium between our body and our environment, between our body and our emotions and in the relationships we have with each other, as well as spiritual energy or life force. Techniques have developed throughout every great healing tradition which promote our interconnectedness to all living systems, and the western system of traditional medicine is no different. Here are a few of the principles that will guide us away from disease and move us forward towards maintaining health.
Principles of natural healing
Do no harm
It’s a high ideal and the world would be an entirely different place if this was honoured. But in the context of natural healing we think of health as a gift that is positively nurtured. We do not put cigarettes into the mouths of babies because we love and treasure them but we put them in our own mouths and never deeply examine the reasons why we persist in this self-harm. Modest budgets are just as easily spent on wise, healthy and loving food choices as are spent on foods that damage our cells and stress our immune systems. Celebration with alcohol does not lead to daily drinking if we are truly in celebratory mode and expressing gratitude for the health, energy, mobility and mental clarity that we already experience.
Health professionals recognise that belonging to social groups and community is vital for mental and physical well-being and especially so in younger and later years. In natural healing we also honour the connections of nature and all living systems. There is a strong ecological foundation based on traditional systems of maintaining the health of land and water supplies. That is why we promote organic foods and low consumption of animal products as well as physical activity in natural environments. Finally, connection is about harmony between all parts of ourselves so that we find inner peace in whatever way we can. It is healthy to create space for a period of quiet contemplative time that allows us to bond again to our deep inner intuitive nature.
Cleansing & detoxification
Cleansing and detoxification form a foundation of natural healing with a strong European tradition. All systems need to rest. Genetically we have evolved to cope with variation in food supply as well as abundance and lack. Harvest festivals celebrate abundance and the winter equinox gives us a short break from lower yields that have been stored for winter consumption. Spring cleaning is internal (detox programmes) and external (our environment and homes). These rituals have continued to be honoured for thousands of years and it is very recent history that has supplied us with so much food that we have forgotten the beauty and power of saying no to food for a day, to allow our body and digestive system to rest. We hold many free resources on this website for you to more deeply explore the benefits of cleansing and detoxification programmes.
Herbs form another foundation of natural healing. Many beneficial herbs are freely available, easy to grow, extensively researched and provide many health benefits. Others of a medicinal nature remain available from specialist sources such as Herbs Hands Healing. Yet others of a more dynamic nature can be prescribed by trained practitioners after a consultation process. If you have cancer we strongly encourage you to work with a trained and experienced practitioner as there can be conflicts between the rigorous treatment you may be receiving and some readily available herbs. Some cancer clinics and doctors now recognise the benefit of combining active cancer treatments with complementary therapies, but herbal medicine is rarely one of them. Other doctors offer an integrated medical approach. Dr Kate James is a GP with a clinic in Newcastle that specialises in integrative medicine for cancer and you may like to discuss your care with her.
New types of breast cancer screening such as thermal imaging may reassure women who are nervous of traditional mammograms.
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