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  • October 2014
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Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer cause

Complementary Therapies in Cancer Care

This information is not designed to replace conventional cancer treatment, but to complement it. Always consult a professional complementary therapist before embarking on adjacent treatment. Also inform your consultant, GP or oncologist.

Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a system of healing which has been practiced in China and other Eastern countries for thousands of years. Although often described as a means of pain relief, it is also used to treat a wide range of illnesses with the focus on improving the overall wellbeing of the patient, rather than the isolated treatment of specific symptoms.

Adjunctive therapies: Adjunctive therapies are used in conjunction with others including:

  • Detoxification, the removal of toxins from the body. A variety of approaches are used, including colon cleansing, fasting, chelation, water therapy, heat therapy, and nutritional, herbal, and homeopathic methods. Increasing your water intake may be one of the best ways to get rid of toxins in the body.
  • Nutritional therapy: Two approaches are emerging. One is a specialized combination of nutrients used as a targeted cancer therapy, depending on the individual needs of the patient. The other, which also depends on the needs of the patient, is a more general approach seeking to boost health and strength.
  • Counselling. Counselling and support groups make up an important aspect of therapy in the world’s most successful cancer treatment centres. Music, meditation, relaxation techniques, and stress reduction have proven to significantly enhance the power of the immune system.

Antioxidants: Cancer begins in the cell. Toxins, alcohol, smoke, free radicals, and the aging process bring about cellular changes. Antioxidants help turn these free radicals and their precursors (the toxins) into harmless chemicals. Vitamins C, D, A, E, and selenium are antioxidants.

Aromatherapy massage – Modem aromatherapy began in Germany in the 16th century. There are about 300 essential oils in general use today by professional aromatherapists. Essential oils are extracted from varieties of shrubs, trees, herbs, grasses and flowers. Gentle massage using essential oils helps cancer patients to relax, which often eases their physical pain. The reasons for this are in part due to the release of certain mood-enhancing neuro-chemicals in the brain and body. One of these neuro-chemicals, noradrenalin is triggered by stimulating oils e.g. rosemary, and another, serotonin is triggered by sedative oils e.g. camomile. Others, the endorphins and enkephalins are partly what make us feel good after a treatment.

Homeopathy is the introduction of small amounts of medicine into the body, a medicine chosen to be similar in nature to the problem the patient is having. Proven to be a popular and inexpensive treatment worldwide, it causes a “vaccination-like” response in the body.

Mind/body approaches: Guided imagery or visualisation, relaxation training and mediation can focus the mind with positive images and thoughts and so affect the body’s healing potential.

Reflexology – Reflexology is an ancient, holistic healing method involving the use of pressure and massage on reflex points found on the feet. Vital energy or life force, known as Chi in Chinese, Ki in Japanese or Prana in Sanskrit, flows between the body organs. Freely flowing energy promotes good physical and mental health. When the energy is blocked, the corresponding parts of the body are affected. The objective of a reflexology treatment is to unblock and free the passage of energy throughout the body. Reflexology can be used with cancer patients to help relax, promote recovery following surgery and relieve side effects of cancer treatments.

Reiki – Reiki is thought to have originated thousands of years ago in Tibet and was rediscovered by Dr Mikao Usui, a Japanese Buddhist monk in the 1800′s. This system of natural healing, with roots in ancient Tendai/Shingon Buddhist and Tibetan Sanskrit healing practices, is increasingly becoming an established complementary therapy, working hand-in-hand with conventional Western medical practice. Reiki can be used with cancer patients to help relax, comfort and reassure.

girl with teddy

Sleep Well for Children

When your child is in bed with their favourite animal hottie, guide them through any of these exercises.

Breathing for sleep

  • Lie on your back and relax your arms by your side. Start by taking a slow, deep breath from the stomach. Now, when you feel that you have raised your stomach as far as possible, inflate your ribs and allow more air to move into this section. When your ribs cannot expand any further, raise the collarbones to allow a little more air to enter. Now exhale slowly through your mouth like you’re blowing out a candle. Try and complete three more breathes like this.
  • Ask your child to stay still for a few moments and as they breathe in say to themselves ‘I am peaceful’ or ‘I am confident’ and as they breath out, they say to themselves ‘Safe’ or ‘Calm’. As they practice this, stroke your child’s face or circle their palm in a clockwise direction with your thumb.

Imagery for sleep

Bubble breaths
Imagine you are blowing bubbles of peace or happiness or love into the room. Take in a breath and imagine you have a pot of bubble liquid. Slowly and gently blow bubbles into the room. As you blow out the bubbles, imagine they are filled with peace and the whole room is filling up with peace.

Big balloon
Close your eyes, be very still and imagine that you are holding a big balloon. It is very light. It feels very smooth. The balloon is in your favourite colour. Now hold the bottom of your balloon, and feel the balloon gently rising into the sky. Each time you breathe in and out, you gently glide further and further into the warm summer sky. The deeper your breath is, the further you can travel. Enjoy this feeling of weightlessness. Enjoy the feeling of being completely free. Your body feels weightless and free and your mind feels totally free. (extract from Nature CD and Relax and Dream DVD, Relax for Kids)

Sleepy starfish
Lie down on your back with your legs and arms apart. Stay very still and imagine you are a sleepy starfish resting at the bottom of the ocean. Breathe in and as you breathe out, relax your arms. Breathe in and as you breathe out, relax your legs, breathe in and as you breathe out, relax your head. See how still you can be at the bottom of the ocean, resting like a sleepy starfish. Repeat to yourself ‘I am silent, I am silent’.

Resources

www.relaxkids.com (loads of resources plus CDs).

Make up a Bach Flower Remedy for your child. The child is to have 4 drops x 3 times daily under the tongue. They can take the remedy during the night if necessary. Fill up a 10 or 20ml dropper bottle which you can buy from the chemist with cold tap water, leaving a little space at the top. Choose up to 4 remedies from the following and put 2 drops of each into the dropper bottle:

  • Mimulus (fear of being alone)
  • Walnut (change e.g. starting nursery or school)
  • Rock Rose (nightmares)
  • White Chestnut (constant thoughts)
  • Aspen (night terrors)
  • Chicory (demanding attention)
Active retired seniors, two old men playing chess at park

Memory Tricks – How to Nourish Your Brain

Here’s how to protect and nourish your brain – and boost your memory.

Nutritional Guidelines

Eat Mediterranean: Enjoy a diet low in fat, sugar and processed food but high in protein, fibre and anti-oxidants.

Berry nice: Dark coloured fruits such as strawberries and blueberries contain high levels of antioxidant molecules which fight free radicals which can harm brain cells.

Eat fish: The fatty acids in fish will help maintain brain cells and build better connections.

Snack on pumpkin seeds: Get your recommended daily amount of zinc, essential for enhancing your memory and thinking, from a small handful of seeds.

Feast on folic acid: Found in wholegrain food, broccoli and peas, folic acid can help the brain to recall information.

B vitamins, especially B6, B12, and folic acid, protect neurons by breaking down homocysteine, an amino acid toxic to nerve cells. They’re also involved in making red blood cells, which carry oxygen. Best sources: spinach and other dark leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, strawberries, melons, black beans and other legumes, citrus fruits, soybeans.

Antioxidants like vitamins C and E, and beta carotene, fight free radicals, which are highly reactive and can damage cells. Antioxidants can interact and neutralize them. Antioxidants also improve the flow of oxygen through the body and brain. Best sources: blueberries and other berries, sweet potatoes, red tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, green tea, nuts and seeds, citrus fruits, liver.

Omega-3 fatty acids are concentrated in the brain and are associated with cognitive function. They count as “healthy” fats, as opposed to saturated fats and trans fats. Best sources are cold-water fish such as salmon, herring, tuna, halibut, and mackerel; walnuts and walnut oil; flaxseed and flaxseed oil.

General Guidelines

Do a brain training game: The more you use it, the faster it will work.

Avoid information overload: Too much mental demand, such as information overload, triggers stress which over long periods may cause the release of brain chemicals which can temporarily impair your memory.

Pay attention. You can’t remember something if you never learned it, and you can’t learn something if you don’t pay enough attention to it. It takes about eight seconds of intent focus to process a piece of information through your hippocampus and into the appropriate memory center. So, NO multitasking when you need to concentrate!

Tailor information acquisition to your learning style. Most people are visual learners; they learn best by reading or otherwise seeing what it is they have to know. But some are auditory learners who learn better by listening. They might benefit by recording information they need and listening to it until they remember it.

Involve as many senses as possible. Even if you’re a visual learner, read out loud what you want to remember. If you can recite it rhythmically, even better. Try to relate information to colours, textures, smells and tastes. The physical act of rewriting information can help imprint it onto your brain.

Relate information to what you already know. Connect new data to information you already remember, whether it’s new material that builds on previous knowledge, or something as simple as an address of someone who lives on a street where you already know someone.

Organize information. Write things down in address books and datebooks and on calendars; take notes on more complex material and reorganize the notes into categories later. Use both words and pictures in learning information.

Be motivated and keep a positive attitude. Telling yourself you have a bad memory actually hampers the ability of your brain to remember, while positive mental feedback sets up an expectation of success.

mother feeding her baby in nature outdoors in the park

Engorgement and Mastitis

The breasts of women play a crucial role in life – it nourishes the infant shortly after birth and can make a difference in the growth, development and health of a baby. It is known that breastfeeding is the best means to nourish a newborn and today breastfeeding is once again becoming the preferred option among new mothers. However, there are two fairly common breast problems that can arise during lactation.

Firstly there is the situation where the breasts become overfilled with milk and painful. This is known as breast engorgement. The other problem that may be seen among breastfeeding women is an infection of a breast or even both breasts simultaneously. This is known as mastitis. Although both involve the breast during lactation, it is two very different conditions. However, engorgement may lead to mastitis.

Breast Overfilling

Breast milk production is a normal process that occurs shortly before giving birth and continues for as long as the infant is feeding. It can sometimes occur abnormally without pregnancy but milk production is usually very moderate in these cases. Some women produce more milk than others but the quantity of milk production is largely based on how frequently a baby feeds.

Milk production is fairly constant during lactation and regularly emptied by the feeding infant. Therefore the more a baby feeds, the more milk the breast produces. Milk production can occur indefinitely in this way. In breast engorgement the milk collects in the breast until it begins to exceed the maximum storage capacity of the breast. It leads to swollen and painful breasts.

Engorgement of the breasts is mainly due to a women stopping breastfeeding suddenly. Blockage of the milk ducts that carry milk out of the breast can worsen the condition but is usually not the sole cause. Contrary to popular belief, engorgement is unlikely to arise because the breasts are abnormally overactive in milk production.

Basically, if a lactating women expresses the milk regularly or allows the infant to feed more frequently, the breasts will not become overfilled. As the baby feeds less with supplementation of solid foods, the breast starts producing less milk and the chances of engorgement is unlikely. It is possible for engorgement to progress further and complicate into mastitis.

Breast Infection

Mastitis, in the true sense of the word, means inflammation of the breast. However, since the majority of cases are due to an infection, the term mastitis has become synonymous with a breast infection. Although mastitis can occur in any woman, it is more common during breastfeeding. Therefore the condition is more correctly known as lactation mastitis.

Breastfeeding is a time in a woman’s life when the breasts experience extensive trauma. However, breastfeeding is a natural process and the breasts are equipped to deal with it to a certain degree. The bacteria that cause mastitis exist naturally on the skin and within the baby’s mouth where it is not harmful. But when the bacteria enter the breast tissue, it can cause a serious infection.

Normally the breast can prevent bacteria from entering the breast tissue. However, when the nipples become chapped with breastfeeding, the bacteria may take the opportunity to infect the
breast. Mastitis can also occur when the milk ducts become blocked. This can lead to engorgement of the breasts as the milk is trapped but bacteria may also enter and infect the breast tissue.

Hand massage

Hand Massage

A hand massage can help:

  • Pain relief: The most common forms of arthritis in the hand are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. If you suffer from chronic arthritis in your hand, regular hand and wrist massage can reduce your pain and improve your grip strength.
  • RSI: If you use your hands for repetitive tasks, such as typing, and you regularly experience pain or cramping, a hand massage could relax your muscles.
  • Improve circulation: Stimulating circulation in your hands is important, especially if you suffer from a condition such as Raynaud’s disease, a painful condition of the fingers, toes and other areas, which is believed to be caused by a sharp and persistent contraction of a blood vessel, causing a marked reduction in blood flow to the fingers.
  • Surgery and injury: Improving circulation in your hand is also important following surgery or after an injury, such as ligament sprains and muscle strains. Improved circulation to your injured tissues helps speed your healing by bringing more nutrients to the area of injury and removing the harmful metabolic byproducts that tend to accumulate in your tissues following trauma.
  • Improve hand mobility: Hand massage helps loosen tight hand muscles, reduces scar tissue and adhesions that cause decreased finger and wrist mobility, and improves your hand’s various ranges of motion and flexibility.

The Hand Massage

You could put a flower essences mixture in the center of your palms before giving yourself a hand massage. Or mix a little essential oil in with some hand cream and rub into your hands before giving yourself the treatment. Not too much, otherwise your fingers will skid everywhere! Use the following steps:

  1. Begin your treatment by sitting quietly and closing your eyes. Take a few deep breaths as you still your body and focus your mind.
  2. Begin your hand massage by pinching the tips of each finger of your left hand (nail to back). Reverse and repeat this process on your right hand. The pressure applied to your fingers should be firm, but not painful. A few seconds for each fingertip will do.
  3. After pinching the tops your fingertips go back to each tip and pinch them again, this time squeezing from side to side.
  4. Vigorously rub from base to tip of each finger of your left hand, front and back plus sides. Reverse and repeat this process on your right hand.
  5. Tug each finger and thumb firmly.
  6. Using your right thumb and forefinger, firmly grasp the webbed area between your thumb and forefinger of your left hand. Keeping a firm hold, tug at the skin gently until the fleshy web snaps away from your grasp. Repeat this process for the areas between all your fingers. Reverse and repeat this process on your right hand.
  7. Turn your left hand palm down. Use your right thumb to massage the back of your hand. Massage the knuckles and in-between knuckle area first. Continue thumb massaging each area on the back of the hand. Reverse and repeat this process on your right hand.
  8. Cradle your left wrist (palm up) inside your right hand. Use your thumb to massage your inner wrist. This is an especially soothing massage for anyone who routinely uses their wrists in repetitive movements, such as computer work. Reverse and repeat this process on your right hand.
  9. Massage the palm of your left hand with your right thumb, knuckle or the blunt end of a crystal wand. Massage the fleshier mound areas more deeply. Reverse and repeat this process on your right hand.
  10. At the end of the session press your right thumb or the blunt end of a crystal wand
    deeply in the center of your left palm. Reverse and repeat this process on your right hand. Take a few deep breaths and center yourself.

If you are a Reiki practitioner, activate your hand chakras before giving yourself a hand massage.