Self-empowerment through wellness is emerging as a critical part of patient care at the Brain Tumor Center at the University of Cincinnati Neuroscience Institute, one of four institutes of the UC College of Medicine and UC Health.
In addition to working with surgeons, neuro-oncologists and radiation oncologists, patients are increasingly likely to meet with a specialist in integrative medicine who helps keep them engaged in their own treatment and recovery.
"Wellness empowers patients and reminds them that they have some intrinsic control," says Stefanie Stevenson, MD, adjunct assistant professor and clinical director of integrative medicine at UC Health. "Much of what they have to go through seems out of their control. They are dependent on the surgeon, they are dependent on the oncologist, and they are dependent on their medicine working or not working. Together, these factors can strip away some sense of control.
"When we introduce the concepts of wellness and have a doctor talk to them about nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management, patients assume an active role in their care. None of these actions by themselves mean that you are going to cure your cancer, but engaging in wellness initiatives gives patients some sense that 'this is something I can do.'"
That positive feeling alone can make a difference during treatment, Stevenson says. "For example, a patient who feels better may be more likely to be able to complete his or her treatment."
Luke Pater, MD, assistant professor of radiation oncology, endorses Stevenson's views. "Balanced nutrition and rest are vital to a patient's ability to get through radiotherapy, which requires the patient to be able to recover between treatments that could last up to several weeks," he says.
Wellness and the optimizing of health for patients with brain tumors will be the focus of two UC Brain Tumor Center events during the Oct. 26-27 weekend. The 2013 Midwest Regional Brain Tumor Conference, a free educational event for patients, caregivers and family members, will be held from 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 26, at the Miami University Voice of America Learning Center in West Chester.
On Sunday, patients, families, caregivers and healthcare providers will join together at the fourth annual Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure, a 5-kilometer walk/run at Sawyer Point in downtown Cincinnati.
Topics at the Brain Tumor Conference will include the anti-inflammatory diet and food as medicine.
"There's more and more evidence accumulating about the terrain of the cancer cells," Stevenson says. "We are learning about inflammation and how a pro-inflammatory cellular environment can facilitate a cancer cell's ability to grow and spread. Changes in lifestyle and nutrition can reduce the inflammatory environment of the cancer cell."
To minimize inflammation, Stevenson encourages her patients to adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet, sometimes referred to as the WFPB diet. "The emphasis is on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and healthy omega 3 fats that include fish," Stevenson says. "If patients want meat, we recommend getting it from sources that are lower in inflammatory fats. Essentially, our recommendation is to avoid the standard high-protein, high-sugar and high-fat American diet."
At the Oct. 26 Brain Tumor Conference, Stevenson will team up with Suzy DeYoung, chef and owner of La Petite Pierre, and put her words into action through a demonstration of healthy cooking.
Using the "FASS method" (fat, acid, sweet, sea salt), DeYoung will explain how to alter and develop flavors when taste buds change as a result of various treatments. She will also demonstrate how to make dressing for quinoa salad, how to clean and store ginger, how to make the proper vinaigrette and how to soak beans quickly.
"I also hope to show a second way to eat the salad they will be served in their lunch," DeYoung says. "By processing the salad, breading it in panko mixed with hemp and chia, they can have the ultimate powerhouse veggie burger the next day!"
Emmanuel Kidd, a 42-year-old resident of Colerain Township, put his own nutritional efforts into high gear after receiving a diagnosis of brain cancer in March 2012.
"Those were some very dark days, but I got through them, and I'm able to give my testimony," says Kidd, who was treated at the UC Brain Tumor Center and is back at work full time. "I credit my wife's support, but also a positive attitude and fitness. I was very fit when I was diagnosed."
Kidd's wife, Priscilla Kidd, studied up on nutrition and created a concoction that her husband calls Priscilla's Magic Green Shake. "Basically, my wife put anything that was green into the shakes," he says. "At first, she wasn't very good at making them. But she figured out what I liked and didn't like. I can tell you that one of the main ingredients is spinach."
Priscilla Kidd also concentrated her efforts on making kale salads and on integrating vegetables with anti-oxidants and a high concentration of vitamin C.
"It was rough at first," Emmanuel Kidd says. "But I owe her a lot, more than she'll ever know."
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