The role of nutrition, yoga, tai chi, physical activity, and herbal therapy in healing has deep historical roots. Early on, healing was often the domain of priests and religious figures. In various native societies, shamans and tribal leaders continue to hold positions of healing authority.
The evolution of healing from religious figures to physicians took place during the Middle Ages, spurred by influential philosophers like Descartes, who introduced the idea of a distinct separation between mind and body. This departure from the interconnectedness of mind and body in early medicine paved the way for a new trajectory in Western medicine.
Western medicine, marked by significant technological advancements, has achieved remarkable breakthroughs in disease control, particularly in infectious diseases and vaccines. However, its approach tends to be one-dimensional, often seeking a single solution—a “magic bullet”—to address the root cause of diseases such as infections or cancer.
In contrast, Eastern medicine, often termed alternative medicine, adopts a holistic approach. It sees diseases like cancer, infection, or inflammation as stemming from a breakdown in the body’s immune forces. Eastern medicine employs multi-therapies, including nutrition, herbs, stress reduction through practices like yoga or tai chi, exercise, meditation, and acupuncture, reflecting a global perspective seen in traditional Chinese medicine.
Unlike Western chemotherapy, which seeks single-agent effectiveness, Eastern medicine commonly combines several herbs, leveraging their synergistic effects. Dr. Fair emphasizes the need for a coordinated approach to correct immune system disorders and restore balance to the body.
The Importance of Alternative Medicine to Physicians
Dr. Fair asserts that while adherents of alternative medicine are prevalent among individuals with cardiovascular disease, asthma, arthritis, and nonmalignant conditions, complementary medicine plays a crucial role in cancer prevention and treatment. A survey by the prostate cancer survivor organization USTOO revealed that men with prostate cancer prioritize slowing cancer, extending life, and enhancing the quality of life.
Viewing cancer as a chronic but often incurable disease, akin to cardiovascular disease or diabetes, emphasizes the importance of control rather than cure. Dr. Fair advocates for the term “complementary medicine” over “alternative medicine,” as the latter implies replacing standard treatment, a perspective he and many physicians consider a serious mistake.
While some conventional practitioners dismiss the benefits of complementary medicine as mere placebos, Dr. Fair highlights the significant impact of the placebo effect. Studies, such as one involving angina pectoris patients, demonstrated notable symptom improvement with sham surgery. Dr. Fair emphasizes that even if some effects are attributed to placebos, the potential to improve conditions should not be disregarded.
Dr. Fair’s report focuses on complementary techniques with definitive scientific evidence of benefit, encompassing nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, group support, acupuncture, herbs, and aromatherapy, either alone or as adjuncts to standard therapy.
Dr. Fair underscores the pivotal role of nutrition in preventing and treating cancer, particularly prostate cancer. Highlighting a study from Wayne State University, he discusses the potential link between environmental factors, notably nutrition, and prostate cancer incidence. Experimental and clinical data from his laboratory suggest that reducing dietary fat to 20% or less after tumor establishment significantly reduces tumor growth.
The association between a high-fat diet and prostate cancer is supported by studies, with Dr. Fair recommending an optimal diet where no more than 20% of daily calorie intake comes from fat. Additionally, he discusses the potential benefits of nutritional supplements, such as Vitamin E, citing a Finnish trial showing a decrease in prostate cancer incidence.
In addition to nutrition, Dr. Fair emphasizes the value of exercise in managing chronic diseases. Referring to studies involving postmenopausal women and men walking more than two miles a day, he illustrates the positive impact of physical activity on overall and cancer-specific death rates.
While the role of stress in cancer remains controversial, Dr. Fair notes increasing evidence that stress can alter the immune system, potentially influencing tumor growth. He cites a study involving HIV-positive men, suggesting a correlation between higher stress levels and an increased risk of disease progression.
Social Interaction and Group Support
Dr. Fair explores the impact of social interaction and group support on disease control, emphasizing the striking correlation between social isolation and premature death. A 10-year study involving women with breast cancer highlights the value of group support, with significantly higher survival rates in the treatment group participating in weekly support sessions.
Acupuncture, Herbs, and Aromatherapy
Addressing once-dismissed practices, Dr. Fair acknowledges the effectiveness of acupuncture in pain control and its role in managing chemotherapy-induced nausea. While herbal therapy lacks extensive controlled studies, recent research suggests potential benefits, such as saw palmetto for benign prostate hyperplasia and St. John’s Wort for moderate depression. Dr. Fair notes the inhibiting effect of the herbal mixture PC-SPES on prostate cancer.
Aromatherapy, a relatively new area, is discussed in terms of its impact on body processes through the sense of smell. Dr. Fair cites studies like the “Bruce Effect,” demonstrating the profound influence of smells on physiological processes, possibly involving pheromones.
Dr. Fair anticipates an increasing role for complementary medicine in the future, emphasizing the need for more controlled studies while challenging claims that all complementary medicine lacks merit. He concludes by advocating the use of complementary therapy techniques not as alternatives but as complements to conventional therapy. These techniques, providing nutritional, physical, mental, and spiritual support, may significantly contribute to therapy while minimizing the mental and psychological stresses associated with chronic diseases. Dr. Fair stresses that relieving illness does not necessarily equate to curing the disease, and the primary goal in caring for cancer patients should be expanding life, even when extending life may not be feasible.