Breast health awareness: My conversation with naturopath integrative oncologist Dr. Christian Gonzalez

A couple of weeks ago I went live on Instagram with Dr. Christian Gonzalez, a naturopathic doctor who specializes in integrative oncology, working to heal by combining gentle, preventative therapies alongside conventional and traditional western medicine approaches. Christian also runs the podcast ‘Heal Thy Self with Dr G’ and is the co-owner of the Swell Score, a new website to help you access the best quality wellness solutions, science-backed supplements, health products & resources.

In this awesome live, I asked Dr. Christian:

1.     What is integrative oncology?

2.     How does it work alongside traditional medicine?

3.     Thermography, mammograms, CAT scans & MRIs - which are best?

4.     The danger of radiation and how to bind it out of our system - spirulina, chlorella, zeolites, and more

5.     Understanding the ingredients in beauty and household products

6.     How do chemicals and fragrances *actually* impact our body;

7.     The under-discussed topic of male hormones; and

8.     The connection between suppressed emotions and physical health. 

I hope you enjoy and once again, thank you, Christian - it was great to have you on.

Jena x

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Hi Christian, let’s start with the basics - what is an integrative oncologist? What do you actually do?

Integrative oncology believes that, in the fight against cancer, both conventional medicine (chemo, radiotherapy, surgery, etc) and gentle, preventative therapies should be considered. Together, they can be as effective, if not more, than the traditional approach. Many people have moved into remission in this way.

I have seen thousands of cancer patients (including, sadly, my Mum) and I have seen many who have just gone down the traditional route and had a horrible journey. Chemo and radiotherapy area bit like using an atomic bomb in a rose garden to get rid of one weed. It’s intense.

Cancer is not just a physical disease, it’s multifactorial, there is a huge psychosomatic, mental, emotional and spiritual effect. It is everything combined and offers us an opportunity to reset ourselves physically, emotionally and look into deep spiritual trauma work, etc. I know we will go into this later in the live. 

How does integrative oncology work in practice alongside traditional medicine? I have someone very dear to me pass away and his conventional Cancer treatment center was very resistant to the amazing Will Cole and his integrative assistance.

For sure, it’s a problem. I was lucky that I did my residency at an integrative cancer hospital where we would sit as a team to discuss things and work out how we could incorporate integrative treatments into the conventional process without it interfering with the conventional treatment. That’s just not possible in 99% of cancer treatment approaches today as the Doctors are not educated in the integrative side. Often they will shut the door on anything that they aren’t comfortable with exploring or discussing. They take a very conservative approach. 

There are very few integrative hospitals in the USA. I know that the Cancer Treatment Centres of America used to work integratively - but not all of the locations do anymore. Amary in Atlanta just opened up a new branch of integrative oncology. Cleveland Clinic - and also Dr Connealy out in Irvine at the Cancer Center for New Medicine I believe works with an integrative or holistic to Cancer. 

Do you think both sides are needed, or can this be done completely holistically?

 My integrative oncology career has a foot in each camp, but I have seen people be totally in remission from the holistic route. Is that my recommendation? No, because it’s not my area of expertise, but it is intriguing to understand what other people are doing and that there are other options out there.

What is it that you are recommending for women these days in terms of monitoring? CT scans? Mammograms? Thermography? MRIs? I always want to try and avoid the radiation as I suffer from Stage 4 Endometriosis and Adenomyosis.

Unfortunately, the CT is the gold standard to see if any tumor has grown, shrunk, but this is a higher dose of radiation to get this done.

Thermography is something I recommend a lot but in conjunction with a mammogram. It’s an awesome complementary treatment and I love it because it can be sensitive enough to show abnormal patterns happening in the breast and you can use these as a baseline scan to compare against, without all of the extensive radiation. This mammogram and thermography combination is what I would advise if you are worried about exposure.

MRIs are one of the last ways we would look to monitor cancer tissue. I would say always chat with your doctor as it’s best to work out what is best for you on a case by case basis. 

If you come into contact with radiation, what can you do to detox from it?

We always have to think about the liver as our first point of call for detoxification - I advise looking into foods and herbs and nutraceuticals that support the liver. Glutathione is one of my favorites. Magnesium and B vitamins and Vitamin C will also help the liver. Look into foods that are rich in these - then be sure to incorporate all of the cruciferous vegetables - kale, brussel sprouts, broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, etc. I would also put a herbal protocol in place to target the liver every single day.

I’m also intrigued by Chaga in relation to radiation, now and then I will get a chunk of chaga, boil some tea and drink it.

What are your thoughts on binders such as spirulina, chlorella, zeolites, etc to do the same job?

So, these types of things are what I call moderate binders, as opposed to heavy binders that are needed for mold & mycotoxins. When I suffered from mold toxicity, I used activated charcoal and bentonite clay (alongside the sun, the sauna, etc). The prescriptive binder is Cholestyramine but I have heard Cellcore binders are good too.

The last time I did a deep dive into spirulina there were only a few companies that were very high quality and testing for purity. It’s always a challenge if it’s coming from outside of the country. Chlorella is similar, I haven’t found many companies that are very clean. 

Let’s discuss the ingredients in beauty and household products and how many chemicals are allowed into our systems in the USA. It’s crazy!

Yes - there are so many loopholes in the USA that allow so many chemicals into our system, into our air, on our skin, what we eat and drink. I tell people that if you are using it every day - a morning routine, or a night routine, then look into what you are using. 

What are your thoughts on fragrances?

Fragrances are interesting - I think we have equated clean and fresh with smelling like synthetic fragrance. For me, this triggers asthma and a headache, because as you start getting things out of your body, you become so sensitive to this stuff. Things like Tide, the bedsheets in a hotel, cheap candles, glade plugins, new car smell - all of this you are spelling is chemicals and not actually ‘fresh’. It’s a problem.

Our bodies are very adaptable and resilient, most of us have amazing detoxification abilities, so it’s ok to be exposed to chemicals but not everyone has the same resilience or detoxification levels, so it is our responsibility to look at what we are using and how it is impacting us.

As a society, we need to start shifting our understanding that ‘fresh’ doesn’t have to smell like chemicals. Fresh should smell neutral, and/or have a little essential oil scent.

What impacts do these chemicals have on our body, our chemistry, our physiology? We always say that they are dangerous but let’s go into what they do and how they can negatively impact our health.

First up, a lot of fragrance chemicals influence and impact the endocrine system, our hormones and our reproductive system. Over time these can influence fertility - just as much as alcohol, poor diet, etc. They can also impact the functioning of our immune system.

The problem is people often overlook the impact of plastics and fragrances on our hormones and our fertility and often are living in a chemical stew. 

What about males and the changes in their hormones? As a society, we always focus on women and their hormones - what about men who are having oestrogen problems because they are eating high levels of factory farm meat, etc.

Yes, testosterone is lowering at a rapid pace, more than ever before. Fertility is declining for both sexes and Dr Shanna Swan thinks that by 2040, most of us will be infertile which is a major issue, to put it lightly.

Men need to ask themselves, what is affecting my testosterone levels? Xenoestrogens - things that act like oestrogen in our body - are very dangerous. We come into contact with them through meat that is fed antibiotics, poor inflammatory grains, etc. Dairy is also one of the most active forms of oestrogen that we are ingesting and alcohol massively disrupts testosterone. Plastics, BPA, etc also act as xenoestrogens and interfere with male hormones.

For men, we need to start paying attention to how much plastic are we drinking out of? Are you drinking out of plastic every day? I would switch that to glass or stainless steel bottles and then also reduce alcohol consumption, particularly beer - it’s the worst thing for testosterone reduction and interference.

To get on top of this potential damage you really also need to control your alcohol and your plastic consumption and be getting the right amounts of sun and sleep. These are the foundations of balancing and optimizing these hormones.

 OK - so other than magnesium, what tips do you have for sleep?

Your phone is a huge one. For every hour you spend on your phone after sunset, 20% of your melatonin is going down which can have detrimental effects on how your body functions. It is so critical to get off your phone or learn how to put it into tint mode, get blue-blocking glasses, etc for after sunset and as the sun goes down.

In addition to that, focus on developing some sleep hygiene rituals. You can’t just shut your phone off and go into a deep sleep, there is so much stimulation and then your nervous system doesn’t get the cues it needs to go to sleep and to wind down. 1 hour before bed, every night, you need to focus on cutting out some time for you to stretch, breathe, allow your body to be safe to go into a deep sleep.

Yes! Airplane mode and EMF reduction are critical for me as well as taking my electronic devices, laptops, phones, away from me, or at the very least, getting them on airplane mode.

Ok - moving onto our last topic now - what are your thoughts on the connection between emotional health and physical health? Do you see a common denominator, such as people being angry, suppressed, etc and it showing up in physical health conditions?

Yes, absolutely. Very few of us are expressing our emotions very well, especially men and the masculine. Jena, you mentioned you are good at expressing your emotions, but even people like Jena who don’t have a problem expressing - they often are not good at integrating the root of that emotion once it has been expressed and they don’t know how to process it or what to do with it.

The first step is being able to identify and feel the emotion, and to ask yourself - or your children - where do you feel this emotion? Where are you holding it? The understanding of the experience is in our cognition and our brain, but the experience of the emotion is stored in the body. Once you start to feel where the emotion is sitting in the body, you can allow it to release - however, that needs to come out of the body, and the body will start to process it. You need to give these somatic feelings attention so you can start to release them and integrate them.

This release is very important. Animals are so good at shaking off their energetic build up after a stressful situation - the same with children when they have a tantrum but as adults, we have all been taught over time to be quiet in public, or not to cry. We no longer allow our emotions to move through us as we need to and should do.

Do you see these emotions as opportunities for us to learn what is triggering us?

100%. Situations and their resulting emotions just show you where you need to heal and work and the people and situations that show up are just mirrors for you to see where you need to work.

I agree. The same people will keep coming back in different bodies until you learn the lesson! Do you see a trauma connection between emotional suppression and cancer?

Absolutely. The trauma connection to cancer is huge. The body knows how to heal - it has the most sophisticated, exquisite intelligence that we can ever imagine - yet it can’t do this if there are major trauma issues. I often will see my clients holding emotional blockages or harbouring negative relationships with people close to them - when we explore it, it starts to release - often in a physical way, and their healing journey can then continue.

I believe that these emotional situations get stuck in the body and then will either drive our disease or block you, your body and your cancer or /disease from healing. For me, and integrative oncology, the mental, emotional and spiritual part of your healing journey is just as important as the medical treatment side.

You need to ask - is this driving my disease, or is it blocking my healing? Even if you do not have a connection to this emotional, spiritual and mental healing, on a physical level, you can understand that if you are stressed, if your body is holding events from the past, if you are stopping letting yourself feel, or release - your nervous system is utilising so many resources to hold that tension in the body - and this takes energy and power away from the immune system so it can’t function properly.

With any disease you are not getting better from, you need to look closely and say what is going on with the mental, emotional and spiritual parts? Does this need attention?

That’s super interesting. I grew up in a rough neighbourhood, a masculine environment and I think this impacts my endometriosis and the energy balance. For me, journaling is a great place to start, it can help you process your emotions. Also, I really notice when I am aggressive or in my masculine, my periods are definitely more painful that month. There is definitely a connection. Thanks so much for sharing that. 

Right, exactly. When you decide to feel the emotion, rather than lash out from your ego, or with your words, you let the energy move ‘in motion’ through you (that’s what an emotion is) - you are then integrating it and letting it pass through. It’s true processing.

For me, the ultimate way to handle life is approaching all things with love and compassion so we don’t contract, hold in fear, etc and suppress this into our physical bodies and beings. As adults, we have the power to integrate our emotions and develop a more multifaceted version of ourselves. It’s beautiful but it requires active work.

Thank you so much for having me, Jena.  

***SOME OF THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA.  ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.