Itziar Morate Nutrition: Managing health via DNA testing
Itziar from Itziar Morate Nutrition shares how valuable information from DNA tests and integrative oncology can be used to help a patient on a cancer journey and how up to a staggering 50% of breast cancer cases could be avoided by modifying our diet and lifestyle. >>
Managing the side effects of cancer with nutrition and lifestyle interventions
While working in the NHS supporting cancer patients, I visited them when they were having chemotherapy treatment to help them manage the side effects of their treatment with nutrition and lifestyle interventions. Also, I ran a weight management clinic where I saw mainly breast and prostate cancer patients, after they have finished their active cancer treatment. Unlike other types of cancers, breast and prostate cancer patients are likely to put on weight during their treatment. In this clinic, I saw patients, around 6 times over a period of 6 to 9 months. The aim of these consultations was to support patients, to optimise their health, and to decrease the risk of recurrence. We worked on small healthy habits to introduce into their diet, as well as looking at the possible barriers to achieving this.
Fatigue and low mood are very common at this time of the cancer journey. It is, therefore, very difficult to cook or to do physical exercise. Also, many found it difficult to introduce these new healthy habits into their family life and needed support to do this.
Using DNA testing to create personalised nutrition and lifestyle advice
These DNA tests provide us with immensely valuable information which will remain relevant for life. We are born with certain genes and that can’t be changed. However, our lifestyle and diet, can influence their expression. DNA tests can give us information about how we metabolise or absorb certain nutrients, foods, or hormones such as vitamin D, oestrogen, coffee, alcohol, lactose, or gluten, for example. Also, they will give us an insight on how well we get rid of toxins or hormones from the body as to avoid re-circulation of them, and therefore, minimising inflammation in the body. Then by increasing or decreasing certain foods and nutrients in our diet, we can support the optimisation of these detoxification pathways.
What I love most about these DNA tests, is the fact that all the information is actionable and that the test results come with easy-to-follow action plans.
I’d recommended these DNA tests to anybody looking to optimise their health, to those that are looking to decrease the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, and to those that, are already suffering with an illness or condition.
The reason multiple DNA tests may be recommended
I advise my clients on different DNA tests depending on their current health and their health goals or concerns. There are more than eight different DNA tests. Each of them gives information in different biological areas. For example, DNA Health which can be viewed as a ‘foundation to health test’, looks into different aspects of health such as methylation (the process of DNA repair which stops the body accumulating damage from the wear and tear of daily life on our cells); detoxification (the ability to eliminate toxins or hormones, decreasing the risk of DNA damage); oxidative stress (looks at our antioxidant status to counteract free radicals caused by essential metabolic processes in the human body and from external sources such as smoking, air pollutants, and industrial chemicals), bone health, inflammation, insulin sensitivity, lipid metabolism and much more.
Other DNA tests – DNA Oestrogen, DNA Skin, DNA Mind…and so on, are great for those who are looking for ways to improve a particular area of their health such as skin health, oral health, mental health, sport performance or family planning.
Lifestyle interventions that help to regain health after breast cancer treatment
Achieving a healthy body weight with an anti-inflammatory plant-based diet, decreasing toxins in the diet and environment, optimising sleep quality, practicing relaxation techniques, incorporating a daily physical exercise routine, oral supplementation, social engagement, and developing a life purpose, are some of the most common recommendations that I make to help clients to regain health after breast cancer treatment.
A cancer prevention diet
I strongly advise everyone I see in my clinic to follow an anti-cancer diet for the following reasons. It is estimated that one in two individuals will suffer with some form of cancer during their lifetime. A cancer prevention diet can also help to reduce other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, and help to reduce inflammation in the body which is one of the main root causes of all chronic diseases. Finally, an anti-cancer diet may also benefit people who have had cancer, for secondary prevention.
Some of the most well-known and studied protective foods against cancer are plants, hence, the popularity today of a ‘plant-based diet‘. Plants are full of fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals which help our bodies to defend from free radicals and oxidation. The cruciferous and allium families, both raw and fermented as well as cooked, are packed with potent cancer-fighting properties. Unfortunately, not everyone enjoys their bitter taste! However, when my clients do the DNA Health test, I can see if they have a particular genotype in the bitter taste gene, indicating a possible tendency to dislike them and therefore not having enough in their diets. To help increase the protective phytochemicals present in these vegetables, I suggest oral supplements with these compounds in their nutritional and lifestyle plan.
Sadly, not many cancer patients are given nutritional support or advice during their cancer treatment in the NHS. Some patients are given conflicted information, where as others are told that nutrition would not help them to a better outcome. Unfortunately, patients are often told to eat anything they want or fancy to prevent weight loss.
I believe this is the wrong approach. Eating empty-nutritional-calorie foods is not going to support them through their treatment. I recommend foods that enhance the efficacy of their treatment and help them with their side effects.
Nutritional Therapy sees the patient in a holistic way, not just as a cancer patient. If you do have cancer, attacking the tumour is only part of the answer. It is essential that you also reverse the process that led to its formation. Nutritional Therapy is not a substitute for conventional treatment, but works alongside conventional medicine. This is what we call ‘Integrative Oncology‘, the use of complementary, or integrative, therapies alongside conventional medicine.
The importance of nutritional support after breast cancer treatment and to help decrease the risk of cancer recurrence
Breast cancer treatment comes with an array of different side effects and produce a lot of toxicity and inflammation in the body. It is therefore imperative to restore intestinal health, support the immune system, and to decrease inflammation with an anti-inflammatory diet, oral supplementation, and certain restorative therapies.
After breast cancer treatment, it is crucial to change the internal terrain of the body where the cancer has grown in the first place. Nutritional therapy uses functional tests to check levels of important vitamins and minerals that act as co-factors to the main biochemical process in the body to optimise health. This can be done through diet and lifestyle factors.
Several diet and lifestyle-related factors have been positively associated with risk of breast cancer.
“Existing evidence suggests that up to 50% of breast cancer cases may be preventable by adherence to healthy lifestyle practices.” Rhonda S Arthur PhD and others, Genetic Factors, Adherence to Healthy Lifestyle Behaviour, and Risk of Invasive Breast Cancer Among Women in the UK Biobank
There are slightly different nutritional and lifestyle recommendations depending on the stage and type of cancer. Overall, the aim for all types of cancer is to preserve and protect healthy tissue, to reduce known cancer drivers, and to support resilience and immunity.
Helping clients heal with wellbeing coaching
Training as a wellbeing coach has given me a crucial set of tools to support my clients in this emotional journey. Behavioural changes need to be supported. Clients need to have a space where they can talk freely about how their cancer has affected them and their family. Wellbeing coaching aims to help the client to find their own solutions and empowers them to find their own answers.
A final note from Itziar…
DNA Testing is a powerful tool to help prevent life threatening diseases and to improve quality of life. These tests are easy to do in the comfort of your own home, and will be applicable for the rest of your life.