Caloric Restriction: Is it Good for Your Health?

Vegetables mix on wooden table

The holiday season is over and you may find yourself thinking about how you can become healthier, have a higher quality of life and live well in the upcoming year.

In the Naturopathic world, optimal health and prevention take a leading seat in our approach to health. Over the past few decades we have a heard a great deal about dieting and caloric restriction to decrease weight and avoid things like obesity, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation and cancer to name a few. Is caloric restriction a good idea?

Mechanisms Behind Calorie Restriction

Yes, however this new scientific name makes me want to run in the other direction. Traditionally it has been referred to as fasting or detoxifying. Ancient societies as well as religious groups including Christianity, Muslim (Ramadan), Ayurveda and Native American Indian fast for spiritual or health reasons on a regular basis. Fasting or caloric restriction means avoiding solid foods completely or lowering your caloric intake for a given number of days.

Why is fasting so important? Fasting has the ability to decrease the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic illness and some research shows the aging process. It accomplishes this by decreasing fat, cholesterol, blood pressure, obesity and the effects of stress. It also lowers IGF-1 and inflammatory molecules, increases BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor) leading to repair of the brain and rest for the other organs in your body (think liver, gall bladder, kidneys, heart).

Which Fast is Best for You?

This is a difficult question, and as you know, naturopathic doctors treat the individual and situation at hand. If you are over 70 years, pregnant, seriously underweight, have anorexia, have kidney disease or severe hypoglycemia you should not fast or only do so under the guidance of your doctor.

For others, it depends on your current diet, liver health, co-morbidities and experience with fasting. It is also important to prepare yourself for a fast and reintroduce food carefully. One to three weeks of healthy whole foods eating prior to a fast is always recommended. If you have a standard American diet and choose to do a 3-day water fast it could be a shock to your system and the release of toxins from the organs could make you feel quit sick including nausea, headaches, fatigue, skin rashes and/or achiness. After a fast, you should introduce whole foods for a few days and gradually return to your full diet.

Some common fasts you can find out about on line include:

  • 5-Day Fasting Mimicking Diet (FMD) by Dr. Longo. 700-1100 calories (Strict guidelines) for 5 days. Recommends 5 days out of every 3 months if healthy, every month if in a disease state.
  • One- to three-day water only fasts.
  • Time specific eating. Examples include no food after 8pm at night, food only for 8 hours per day (typically between 8am-4pm) or Ramadan where you fast from dawn until sunset for 29 days out of the year.

At The Bodhi Clinic, we offer a 3-week whole foods-based detox each year where we practice many of these techniques during the second week based on your situation. The results from fasts like this can be quite amazing if done appropriately.

It is important to assure healthy phase I/II/III detoxification pathways in your liver and utilization of techniques to improve the organs of elimination. You will release toxins during a detox/fast and as long as you are moving them out, it will be an enjoyable and life changing experience.

In Health,

Dr. Porter.

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When the Holidays Aren’t So Jolly – Tips for Coping

We all have a unique experience of the holidays and for some, many in fact, this can be a challenging time. Many of us working in the cancer world see the holidays come and go without any stop in treatment or suffering for our patients. Others have suffered a loss, are caring for an ill loved one, struggle with depression, or have experienced other major changes in life. All of these factors can make the December holidays less…jolly.

Tips for Coping

Here are some tips for how to cope in a healthy way:

  • Prepare yourself by adjusting your expectation – for yourself, others and the holiday traditions. Allow all emotions to emote – to move through you and pass. It’s ok to not be ok. Don’t judge yourself for any of those emotions and don’t feel obligated to attend every party and event; instead, choose a few that you think you might enjoy the most. Adjusting your expectation also includes how others will react – don’t expect them to understand how you feel but know they have their own unique experience of the holidays.
  • Surround yourself with people you trust for support and utilize them. Be vulnerable and allow others to care for you and connect at a place of healing. Explain to those you trust how you feel and lean into their love and support. Express to others what you want or need during the holidays; they likely want to help, but don’t know how.
  • Do something different; just because your family has had the same traditions for many years, does not mean that you can’t make changes and adapt to them. Sometimes we feel a pressure to “do” the holidays, the way we have always done them but it is absolutely okay to do things differently—it might be just for this year or it might not. For example, plan a trip somewhere warm and tropical or escape to a little cabin in the woods, or schedule a self-care day full of movies, massages, or fun fitness classes.
  • Make a self-care plan. This is the hardest time of the year to make healthy choices – in every way; we are most likely to let our nutrition, exercise regimens, and sleep patterns go haywire during the holidays. All of these lifestyle practices, as well as alcohol consumption and stress management habits, have a profound effect on our emotional well-being. Write down your plan for managing your self-care during the holidays and schedule in healthy food, events, and exercise and encourage others around you to do the same; make healthy substitutions to some not-so-healthy traditions. I allow one guilt-free day during December where nothing is off limits, knowing that I make healthy choices the other 364 days of the year.

Self-Compassion

Coping with the holidays starts with self-compassion. Here are five ideas to accept and remember during this month:

  • I can’t escape the holidays, so I may as well plan for them.
  • It’s okay if the holidays can’t be what they once were.
  • There is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays.
  • I don’t have to do this all by myself.
  • Taking care of myself must be a priority.

Visit the Bodhi Clinic

Come visit us at the Bodhi Clinic for a free info session the last Saturday every month – beginning February 24, 2018 – Check out flyer

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Cannabis and Cancer

Medical Cannabis Available in Maryland

Cannabis is a known and effective treatment for cancer and naturopathic practitioners are exploring its benefits, especially now that Maryland’s full rollout of its medical marijuana program started this year, after passage of House Bill 881 in April, 2014. This past July is when the first dispensary opened in the state and, we at The Bodhi Clinic, where we treat a great deal of cancer patients, are excited that The Crossroads Building here in Ellicott City has opened a dispensary (greenhousewellnes.com). This is an exciting time for this herb, yet there is still much confusion and controversy over its use.

Different Cannabinoids and Their Effects

Cannabinoids are the main active constituents of the Cannabis species plants and there are at least 100 constituents. There are also about 400 non-cannabinoids compounds that also contribute to Cannabinoid’s biological activity. Cannabinoids activate receptors called CB1 and CB2 in the body, mimicking our body’ own endocannabinoids, which function to modulate mood, memory, appetite, and pain sensation. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, often simply referred to as THC, is the primary active ingredient in cannabis and its main psychoactive one. Cannabidiol, also called CBD, is one of the major secondary cannabinoids and may modulate THC. CBD has anxiolytic, antipsychotic, as well as anticonvulsive effects. Patients often confuse CBD and THC and refer to them interchangeably but they are not the same thing.

Cannabis

Cannabis is referring to the whole plant, whereas CBD and THC are referring to constituents (cannabinoids) of the plant, just like turmeric to curcumin or fish oil to EPA. All Cannabis species plants contain cannabinoids in the form of THC and CBD, but in varying amounts. Plants are now bred to have specific concentrations of THC and CBD molecules so their use can be customized for medicine. Hemp, for example, is a species of Cannabis that has naturally low amounts of THC, relative to CBD; hemp-derived CBD is a legal, safe product that is now sold more widely.

CBD

When patients refer to CBD, they are usually referring to hemp-derived CBD. Most of the CBD studies are still pre-clinical, meaning that they are in animals or cell models. These studies have shown a range of useful effects including anti-seizure, antioxidant, neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-tumor, anti-psychotic, and anti-anxiety properties. The anti-tumor action may be related to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. We need more research to understand the short and long-term benefits. And to also understand what doses to give people for the different conditions, even though CBD is generally thought to be safe.

THC

The bottom line for medical cannabis is that THC (the illegal, psychoactive component) and CBD need to be combined – the “whole plant approach” – as there is a synergy between the cannabinoids.  The variances caused by different relative ratios of THC to the other cannabinoids (and other active molecules) is an active area of study to discover more areas for therapeutic use.

Medical Cannabis in Cancer Care

Medical cannabis has both THC and CBD, among other active components, and the dosage and relative ratios will depend on the patient’s symptoms and disease. When we are discussing medical cannabis in cancer care, it is necessary to point out that this could be used for symptom management and/or for anti-cancer effects. Naturopathic doctors cannot legally prescribe this herb in Maryland at this time, however this is likely to change in the coming year. Naturopathic doctors at The Bodhi Clinic are trained in herbal medicine and the safe and effective use of cannabis.

Symptom Relief

In terms of cancer care symptom management, there are human studies showing relief for chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting, pain, anxiety and appetite/weight loss. Cannabis has been found to benefit these conditions for patients with cancer, although the studies do generally call for additional research to illuminate differences in strains and dosing. Current qualifying medical conditions according to the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission include: cachexia, anorexia, wasting syndrome, severe pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe or persistent muscle spasms, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.

Anti-Cancer Effects

The anti-cancer and anti-tumor effects of cannabis represents newer research and we are waiting on human studies to further elucidate its effects. These cell and test-tube studies have been very exciting however research is limited in the US by its classification as a Schedule 1 drug. Naturopathic doctors at The Bodhi Clinic rely on European research for guidance with this herb, as drug-herb and nutrient-herb interactions are important to consider, especially in cancer care. Future studies will give us guidance on dosing, form, safety profile and expected outcomes. One last important note is that the medical use of this herb, for cancer or otherwise, will not involve smoking as the high heat combusts many of the medicinal ingredients and has possible implications in longer term lung damage.

If you are interested in medical cannabis, please check out the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission mmcc.maryland.gov to get more information on how to become a patient.

By Dr. Elise Benczkowski, ND

Resources:

  • Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission mmcc.maryland.gov
  • The Use of Medical Marijuana in Cancer. Shauna M. Birdsall & Timothy C. Birdsall & Lucas A. Tims. Current Oncology Reports. 2016 Jul;18(7):40. doi: 10.1007/s11912-016-0530-0.
  • Cannabis and Cancer: Cannabis In Context (The Thinking Patient’s Guide Series Book 1). Jonathan Treasure. Oncoherbs Press. 2016.
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