Living Integrative: The Best Of All Worlds
An integrative approach to health means combining the benefits of conventional medicine and natural therapies. It also includes using natural therapies to prevent lifestyle diseases and maintain our overall wellness. Experts believe this combination fights cancer on multiple levels.
We spoke with Dr Binu Kuruvilla, an expert in clinical research and new drug development. The assistant general manager of R&D at Curegarden Bioactive Botanics in India, he works internationally with oncological, cardiovascular, metabolic, inflammatory and neurodegenerative disorders. Kuruvilla is researching BCM-95, a curcumin extract, and its natural anti- inflammatory qualities. We also chatted to Prof Dan Burke, head of research for Nature’s Defence (UK) in Leicester, England. Burke is devoted to working with cancer, anti-cancer drugs and integrative therapies. This led him to the co-discovery of salvestrols, which are a significant breakthrough in nutrition.
Why should you live an integrative lifestyle?
According to Kuruvilla, herbal treatments contain potent phytochemicals with immune-stimulating, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on the body. Lifestyle diseases such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, depression and anxiety are all increasing because of our poor diets, sedentary lifestyles and polluted environments. These diseases require long-term treatments with nasty side-effects. Therefore, we should opt for complementary treatments. He adds: “Modern anti-cancer drugs target and kill cancer cells. In the process, normal cells are also destroyed, leading to reduced immunity and severe, long-term side-effects.” Complementary therapies help to manage these side-effects, if they’re taken with the standard cancer treatment. They also help to promote the benefits of anti-cancer drugs, when used in combination with them.
Complementary therapies also allow for a more active role in the treatment process, because integrative therapists establish close relationships with their patients. Burke is impressed by the growth of integrative health in South Africa. (Integrative therapy is virtually non-existent in the UK, because of the factual nature of the medical profession.) He describes it as the “best of all possible health approaches for the benefit of the individual patient”. We respond to things differently based on our genetics, he adds, and natural remedies can easily be individualized. Interestingly, Burke told us that, during medical research, the doses are individualized to the animal they’re being tested on, usually to their weight. This is not the case with humans, so the majority of patients receive the incorrect dose. Integrative treatments require the therapist to spend time with patients, making these adjustments possible.
What is the link between the environment, diet and cancer?
Our environment is saturated with carcinogens such as pollution, tobacco, radiation and bacteria, which can be huge cancer-causing factors, says Kuruvilla. These carcinogens are damaging to our DNA and may turn our premalignant cells into malignant cells. “The food we eat contains a lot of potent phytochemicals which can keep us healthy. Unfortunately, much of our fresh produce has been replaced by processed foods, synthetic preservatives, and artificial flavors and colorants,” he adds. These unhealthy foods may also lead to obesity, which Kuruvilla believes will likely overtake tobacco as the number one cause of cancer worldwide.
Burke puts it simply: “A healthy diet replete [with] organically grown fruits and vegetables provides us with a high number of natural anti-cancer molecules.” He also suggests that we should all “eat a good diet, exercise and be a good person”. “If you’re a good person,” he says, “you’ll find inner peace and balance.”
What integrative treatments are available?
New developments such as Kuruvilla’s curcumin extract are revolutionary in treating cancer. Kuruvilla explains that these strong antioxidant phytochemicals are called “bioactives”. He has discovered how to extract their benefits and standardize them into capsules, tablets, sachets and liquids for both the nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries.
What is curcumin and how does it work?
Curcumin is the yellow pigment in turmeric and the most active compound in the spice. Kuruvilla explains that even though chronic inflammation may initiate cancer, the process is slow and allows ample time for prevention. Curcumin accomplishes this by regulating various pathways associated with cancer and acting as an anti-inflammatory. It is safe and well tolerated at high doses, and even controls the side-effects of anti-cancer drugs, improving your quality of life.
Does this mean we should pile on the turmeric?
No, not necessarily. Kuruvilla tells us that a fresh turmeric rhizome contains 0.2%-0.8% curcumin. When you dry 100kg of fresh turmeric rhizome, you get only 10kg of it (now containing 2%- 8% curcumin). It takes 25kg of dried turmeric to provide 1kg of turmeric extract with 95% curcumin. He adds that consuming this orally isn’t practical, because most of the extract is left unabsorbed by the gut. To date, the most successful way to ingest curcumin is by combining it with turmeric essential oil, the second “bioactive” ingredient in turmeric. Studies are showing that this will significantly improve our oral intake by seven times, and increase the body’s ability to retain curcumin. Research has found that conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are showing anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effects with the formulation. The good news is that Bio-curcumin is available in South African pharmacies.
What are salvetrols?
According to Burke, salvestrols are “potent anti-cancer molecules that only affect the cancer cell, and then become inactive directly after”. These molecules exist naturally in our food. They’re widespread in herbs, fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, their presence is lacking in Western diets, and translating the process from the laboratory to humans is tricky. However, Burke says there’s enough reason to presume that salvestrols in our plants contributed to the prevention of cancer historically. As you can see, an organic, integrative and preventative approach to life will allow you to live healthier for longer. Remember, we need much more than five fruits and vegetables a day. Your diet is your prevention. Want to learn more? Click on the link to find out more about salvestrols.
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