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ER nurse turned ND student discusses naturopathic approaches to cancer

As an emergency room nurse for the last 15 years, Jill Jennings has seen the amount of cancer patients who come into the hospital skyrocket. While there are more cancer survivors today, she found many have a poor quality of life. "Along with conventional medical care, I wanted to offer another approach to improving their health," Jennings said. 

Grand Rounds1Now a naturopathic medicine student at National University, Jennings is helping cancer patients both at the hospital and as an intern the NUHS Whole Health Center. During a Grand Rounds presentation Monday, Jennings discussed how naturopathic medicine can help treat cancer.

She noted a study that found that in addition to genetic predisposition, lifestyle or environment can be significant contributors to cancer. Because naturopathic doctors (ND) are specifically trained to help patients improve overall health through individualized dietary and lifestyle changes, they can be an important addition to traditional medical care. In fact, many health care facilities including the Cancer Treatment Centers of America currently employ naturopathic physicians.

According to Jennings, some patients who receive chemotherapy are not given any dietary suggestions, but are told to continue eating whatever they like.  However, one dietary change an ND might recommend is reducing sugar intake. Recent research shows sugar may help cancer cells prosper.

Another ND approach is addressing unresolved mental or emotional issues. NDs may suggest a change in thinking patterns or herbal remedies that can help with relaxation and brain function. "This is equally important in improving a patient's overall health," she added. "The mind can be very powerful."

An ND can also work with patients to identify potential toxins in their environment and to ensure their body's natural detoxification pathways are functioning properly. Other natural therapies include homeopathy, botanicals, essentials oils, high dose vitamin C and spinal manipulation.

"Rather than 'fighting cancer' we should focus on keeping the patient in optimal health and addressing the underlying problem that might have caused the cancer in the first place," she said.

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