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Show #257 - Date: 10 May 2020

Functional Medicine Practitioner Jo Gamble talks about strategies for people with cancer whose NHS treatment has been suspended due to coronavirus

Categories: Functional Medicine

Other content on this website featuring this person (including links to providers mentioned in this show):

Provider Find Jo Gamble in the Life Directory
Radio Show It's Personal! 1 Jul 2022
Radio Show Pole Position 26 Nov 2021
Radio Show Terrain Reigns! 23 Feb 2020
Radio Show Gamble on Nutrition 20 Jan 2019
Supporter Jo Gamble

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Robin Daly: Hello, welcome to the Yes to Life Show on UK Health Radio. I’m Robin Daly, presenter for the show and founder of the UK charity Yes To Life, which supports people with cancer who are interested in using integrative medicine. Each week I get to talk to people from around the world who are involved in integrative medicine in some way. That includes practitioners, doctors, research, scientists, activists, and people with personal experience to share for the benefit of all.

I was recently contacted by Jo Gamble. Jo is a functional medicine practitioner who’s been on the show before. She is currently disturbed by the situation that has been thrust on people with cancer in the UK as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. She wanted to have the opportunity to speak about strategies for these people to help them get to grips under some very challenging circumstances.

I was delighted to say yes to Jo’s suggestion, so I’m talking to her over the phone now in Coventry. Great to have you back on the show again.

Jo Gamble: Hi, Robin. How are you doing?

Robin Daly: I’m doing fine, thanks so much for offering to bring your functional medicine perspective to the situation that lots of people with cancer find themselves in, in the midst of this pandemic.

It has been suggested that the secondary effects of coronavirus, in terms of the cutbacks in the treatment of other conditions, could actually be worse than the impact of the virus itself. It’s a really worrying situation. You support a lot of people with cancer. What are the kinds of stories that you’re hearing about their experience?

Jo Gamble: Absolutely. I’ve had many clients phone me and email me distraught that their ongoing cancer treatment had been canceled, often with no date in place for it to re-start. Now, the patients that seem to be impacted the most are the stage four cancer clients, and the story seems to be a bit conflicted. I think what’s coming out, which is more about resources and the availability of resources with many nurses who normally do the treatment either being off sick or being deployed to other departments. Therefore there isn’t availability of nurse practitioners or doctors to do the treatment. I think that’s a big part of the truth because actually no stage four cancer clients who are continuing their treatment are neutropenic during the pandemic, so it doesn’t quite make sense why it’s just about neutropenia, why they pulled out the stage four cancer treatment and not the others. So I think the truth is it’s about availability of resources and I think we can put two and two together and then say, okay, stage four cancer clients have got less chance of survival, so they’re the ones that are going to be hit the most. In my opinion, this is shocking. I have many of stage four cancer clients who aren’t dying of their cancer, but living with stage four cancer. I’m sure many of your listeners can relate to this, but there are people who have stage four cancer for years.

Just because it means that cancer metastasized to a distant organ does not mean that they’re in a life and death position today. We have to think about the physical effects of what’s going to happen to their cancer without this essential treatment, not to mention the emotional effects—the feeling that they have been cut loose from the NHS. Also the families who might not be able to see their loved one with stage four cancer because of the lockdown, and then fear that one might not be around for long.

Robin Daly: Yeah, it’s a complex situation and very difficult for people. So, maybe you want to go through some of the problems you’ve talked about talk about the kinds of things that you might advise to help people in those circumstances. What sort of strategies do you feel are useful?

Jo Gamble: Absolutely. In clients that already work with me, I am continuing to intensify my work. Maybe it’d be best to talk about some of the new clients that I’ve had to pick up as a result of this situation, those who have therefore looked for alternatives.

Let’s think about the environment within your body, which is currently an environment where cancer cells thrive. So whether that is because it’s cancer receptive to glucose, whether it’s because the environment is more acid and cancer thrives in an acid environment, as opposed to an alkaline, or maybe because it’s an aerobic and we know that that cancer cells thrive more than an anaerobic environment. I am purely working to make the environment as hostile to those cancers cells as possible, because in a hostile environment, the cancer isn’t going to grow as rapidly. So whether this is about making improvement, whether this is about maybe holding the individual, trying to reduce decline, it varies from person to person, but it’s about doing things that are proactive.

Then thinking about supplements to encourage the immune system to be as active as possible. Everybody is a different scenario, but let’s just talk about vitamin C for example. So we know the link between high dose vitamin C and fighting cancer, it’s out there published research. This isn’t me claiming something that’s not already been investigated. But then similarly, look at how they’re using high dose vitamin C to fight COVID in patients who’ve got active COVID symptoms, this is something that was released in the New York Times. As you know, one of the treatment regimens that were being looked into and used in the conventional world. So thinking about what supplements can we use for these clients to optimize the environment, I’ve got to do something about it. I’ve got to be proactive.

I think that’s another thing: I just want people to think about it. The more that we feel are doing, the less we feel out of control, right? So for cancer clients a common theme in the last six weeks has been fear and out of control because we all have to feel in control. Don’t wait. I think most clients who have cancer or they feel out of control because they can’t control the cells mutating within their body. Then you add COVID and a global pandemic into the situation and everybody feels really out of control, and I think the biggest thing that we can do is give people, education, what they can do, and empowerment, all positive things that they can put into place from today.

So rather than living life in theory wondering what’s going to happen with treatment, it might be as long as six months. I think the reality is nobody knows, but it might be as long as six months, in which case, if there are things that you can tangibly hold onto and put into place today, both you and your loved ones feel like there are certain things we are controlling in an out of control world.

Truthfully we are in that moment, aren’t we?

Robin Daly: Right. It’s always a good plan to try and get yourself wised up and somewhat in control of your situation in order to do something about it.

It’s actually much better to [get in the right] mental state, then we don’t feel totally under siege and out of control. There are multiple reasons for having fear at the moment because it’s a huge, widespread government-level problem where they’re looking at the mental health of the nation under these lockdown conditions, which is a huge cause for concern.

For cancer patients, there’s this extra layer: they’ve had their treatment, that they were counting on to help them get well, and it has been taken away at the moment. It’s a relentless day to day stress.

Jo Gamble: It absolutely is.

I think the biggest thing is obviously nobody told us a pandemic was coming, so therefore we couldn’t put an action plan in place, so we’ve all been hit with this situation. We’ve had to find our ways to deal with it, and none of us have lived through global pandemic before.

I think that’s what is so challenging—we weren’t prepared for it. Therefore we couldn’t have pre-educated ourselves, which has exacerbated the fear factor. Then, as you said, Robin, stopping essential treatment, for some clients that is whether that is ongoing chemotherapy.

I’ve got clients with ovarian cancer that go through round after round of chemotherapy or to stop the ovaries from producing estrogen or injections to give more strength to the bones, to protect from bone metastasis, all of the drugs that I have seen stopped for clients.

Then when a client calls me distraught, it’s about getting together to create a different plan of action. I think that’s what I want to come out today, for people to go “okay, I’m not happy with the situation and fearful, but what can I do now?”

I did have a client who was hit with this and took it to the press and contacted her local MP. Within four days her treatment was restarted. So I think it is important for us to use this voice. I wanted to help, there are things that we can be doing that give people the confidence, voices should be heard. This amazing client who took it to the press and took it to her MP, she did it to raise awareness and didn’t necessarily feel it would get her anywhere, but it might have saved somebody. Within a week, treatment was restarted. It’s amazing how powerful the voice says.

Robin Daly: Absolutely.

Many of the listeners to this show have embraced the concepts you were talking about earlier: looking after the environment of the body in order to make it as hostile as possible towards cancer. Now that’s not a conventional concept, it’s not talked about in hospitals,

and for many people who are being had their treatment put on hold this may be the first time they’re bumping into this kind of thinking—looking outside the box.

It is a very different way of looking at chronic disease. Let’s talk about the kinds of things you can be addressing in your own body’s environment and how you would go about doing that.

Jo Gamble: You’re right. Somebody gets diagnosed with cancer and they get told to continue to eat everything that they want to eat. Generally, they get told to eat more of the sugary foods because they don’t want them losing weight, would you believe it? I had a client the other day who had a colon cancer and newly diagnosed with COVID. For colon cancer, they encourage a low fiber diet. So she was told to eat Coco pops and full fat milk. Now it doesn’t take a nutrition degree to realize that there’s no nutritional value in Coco pops. Not only is it full of sugar, there’s no nutritional value in this.

Why is that important? It’s about the environment. So. I can sense between 10 to 20 times the receptors of glucose as a non-cancer. Doctors are aware of this because when they do a scan, which involves the radioactive isotopes, it might be a CT scan with contrast or a pet scan.

When they do one of those scans, they put the radioactive isotope into a pure glucose solution. Inject the arm. The cancer will take up 10 to 20 fold of the glucose under the radioactive isotope. What that will mean when they scan you, is that, of course the cancer cells will light up more than the non-cancerous.

It goes without saying that doctors are aware of the impact of glucose receptors on a cancer cell. But they never say anything to you.

So one of the things that I always say to a client is we want to get that high glucose out of the diet because we don’t want that source of fuel for the cancer cells makes sense. So Dr. Also Warburg introduced us to this concept that cancer grows in an oxygen deprived, acidic tissue disease cannot live in an outline borders and that’s a quote from him.

So cancer grows in oxygen deprivation. Therefore I encourage clients to focus on oxygenation. What are some practical tips we can do even out of lockdown?

We go back to our biology days in school. I’m encouraging clients to spend time with nature. In their garden, if you’ve got a bit of green space, if you’re not feeling well, you can go and sit down outside. If you’re feeling well, maybe a bit of barefoot walking on the grass interaction with the trees. Great way to focus on enhancing that oxygen availability.

Then we also want to focus on deep breathing exercises. So when we’re stressed, we’re not exchanging good oxygen exchange, whereas deep belly breathing is a great way to counter this.

It’s a very simple strategy that you can take away from is the concept of box breathing, that’s what we’re doing to really oxygenate the body. You must do that more than once a day. I encourage clients to set a reminder on your phone, but you want to be doing this six, eight times a day to get that repetition of deep breathing.

Then we said that disease cannot live in an alkaline body. So what do we need to know about that? So many foods in a Western diet are quite acidic. Things like our processed foods, particularly processed meats, flavor enhancers, such as monosodium glutamate, which is in Chinese food, takeaway foods, many flavorings and things like crisps that are very acid forming. Whereas alkalizing is much more towards a plant based diet. Vegetables are salads. Juices and smoothies or soups is a great way to increase that alkalinity adding in something like matcha green tea, and you, you, you can see a big leap in your pH by having a matcha green tea each day or adding the powder. You can measure this with Paychex, which you can just buy off the internet measure your morning.

Then we think about inflammation. It turns out rather than them using lactate further acidifies the tumor environment. A local inflammatory response then attracts immune cells such as macrophages and cytokines. And those inflammatory cells then incur or row factors that drive the disease.

Now there’s been lots of talks about foods that have natural anti-inflammatory properties to them.

Mackerel trout, all fish, you get omega three from flaxseeds seeds and chia seeds, and walnut. Other foods that have anti-inflammatory properties include turmeric include ginger.

So adding those into your daily diet might be a way to push more towards anti- inflammatory. Again, cool grains in large amounts. However, this doesn’t mean no red meat too bad. If you can shop at a farm that has grass fed red meat, the animals have to work harder for a living and therefore is natural, but you do need to look for that grass-fed label. I tend to find this isn’t readily available in conventional supermarket. This might be where you need to go to like an online distributor from a meat point of view.

I use grain farm for my meat, who send to our house on a monthly basis. Um, their, their animals, all grass fed. I think that supermarkets might find it more difficult to sell it in comparison to the what looks the same on the shelves. So then some very simple, but yet effective thought processes of change that environment. The more that we can put these things in place, the more that we are back in a position of being in control and freedom: being proactive on a daily basis.

Robin Daly: It’s quite interesting to think about the difference between the kind of conventional thinking about cancer and this other approach. Conventional thinking tends to think in terms of stopping cancer dead in his tracks, killing it, removing it, whereas this is a case of looking at the process of cancer and applying the brakes.

Jo Gamble: Absolutely. Let’s not think so much about Covid. It makes you think about it in a general situation. So generally what happens is you get diagnosed with a cancer because you’ve either found a lump yourself or where you’ve had reduced functionality.

So I have colon cancer and you suddenly become constipated. Get diagnosed with cancer and you go into this cycle of chemotherapy, radiotherapy surgery, maybe immunotherapy. But none of them changed the terrain, which means if the terrain remains out of balance, all the things we’ve just discussed, then actually you remain in an environment where cancer cells are happy.

Treatment ideally kills off a prime, but it’s vital for everybody to be thinking about reducing the risk of a relapse.

I have a fellowship in integrative oncology. We break that down, I’m not asking clients to go off all them, we integrate these thought processes. I’ve got more than a decade of experience of working in this field and integrating, I’m working slowly but surely by the end of my career, my retirement goal is that when somebody is diagnosed, that the oncologist says, here’s my conventional protocol for you, but he/she has considered this integrative approach as well. Even if it’s obviously not funded by the NHS, just for a to be told that that’s an option.

Robin Daly: Interesting. Just to make clear to any listeners, you brought in the word terrain there, and this has come from a seed and soil metaphor about growing a healthy plant. Is it the soil you put it in the body here as being described as the terrain that you’re looking after in order not to foster cancer.

Jo Gamble: Yes. I haven’t, haven’t dug deep into different systems in our body. I kept it quite generic. But you know, when we’re thinking about that terrain, you’ve also got to go into the individual and go, well, what’s going on with your gut microbiome, your immune system, and what’s going on with your detoxification capacity?

That gives you an opportunity to raise your estrogen levels, driving an estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, as an example. So actually when we think about that we need to look at every part of the, of the individual and understand together why this happens.

And I guess that they’re my, and my favorite words in the world, but why, but why did somebody get cancer, they ended up with too much estrogen that dominated their breast cancer, or why did the cells mutate in their colon? Why did they get to a brain tumor? Why did they get leukemia? I think the deeper you go into that dive of the terrain for the individual.

That are some common themes, such as altered gut microbiome, which we see more and more in the Western world part because of diet, because of pharmaceutical medication use and stress. I will say that they are fairly much common themes, but then we need to look at your genetic blueprint and the environment you’ve been.

Robin Daly: Yeah. It’s a sort of a Sherlock Holmes job. Just to come back to what you were saying about integration: so many people want just this information to be out there in a way that every person with cancer has it available to them.

Look at functional medicine and everything you do as an adjunct to conventional treatment. Actually right now, with this gap in treatment, functional medicine might be best thing out there.

How much do you think that strategies such as you offer can actually fill the gap given that this might go on for months?

Jo Gamble: Yeah. Well, you’ve absolutely nailed it. This might be the only form of medicine available to these people at the moment.

It’s really important that everybody sees the options available to them generally. My job is to integrate what I do alongside what they do, but at the moment that might not be an option for them. So actually I am having to work even smarter to make sure that I’m bridging the gap too. I’m bridging the gap on a scientific level, but I’m also bridging the gap on an emotional level because I am the person that still picks up the phone to them.

I am the person that will give them reassurance and support for them and their families to know that there are options. It doesn’t have to mean certain deaths because that treatment has stopped and I’m, do you know what? I actually believe that. Who this might be a long- term positive to the industry of functional medicine, which is a form of medicine.

I work with other clients as well with my functional medicine approach, which is in a nutshell, dig down deep and see the whole person and why they’ve gone off balance.

So obviously you could apply that, not just to cancer, but to cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative diseases and auto immunity. I actually think that COVID could be a long- term positive to show that there are different forms of wellness out there.

Robin Daly: Well, it’s interesting. I wanted to ask you about silver linings, unexpected positive consequences from difficult circumstances for individuals, but sometimes for wider groups of people.

An awful lot of people have learned how to do things online that they never knew before.

Jo Gamble: Absolutely. I did a FaceTime conversation confrontation with a 75 year old this way and he said it was his virgin FaceTime, but he did a great job. So yeah, we’re all learning new skills.

I think one of the silver linings is that many people keep their heads buried in the sand about being invincible until something happens.

So why are people shocked? When the statistics of so highly in favorable of you or one of your loved ones, getting a cancer in their life. I don’t know what the statistics are.

We might be able to push back those statistics and little bit, I focused on prevention right now. What COVID has done has proved to the world that we’re not invincible because COVID has affected people from our prime minister to rich people and famous people. It doesn’t discriminate. So I actually think one of the silver lining might be a few people have pulled their head out of the sand and realize that that we do need to invest in prevention.

Robin Daly: Right. I wonder, given the circumstances, where people can’t do everything they want to do at the moment, do you have any other resources outside of your own functional medicine resources that you feel are particularly useful to people that can say in these circumstances that they can access?

Jo Gamble: Yes. So Karen cology in London have converted all of their contemplations to online. A great doctor that people aren’t familiar with. They’re using licensed drugs. So drugs like Metformin, which blocks the blood glucose receptors. They are working tirelessly to increase the number of consultations and instead of having to go to London for the initial consultation, they transferred it all to remote consultation. I know that clients who have contacted me have also said, and I’ve been in contact with Karen cology and I share many clients with Karen cology and send many clients to them and, and vice versa.

That’s definitely another consideration for people to go down that line and to talk to them about the potential for offline licensed drugs.

Robin Daly: Maybe for the listeners who have not heard of this approach before, that’s altering processes in the body in order to slow down the progress of cancer by changing the environment.

These are a conventional drugs that are being used to achieve the same ends, interestingly, but very often are drugs which were actually developed for a completely different condition, but just happened to have this kind of effect, as you said, like Metformin, for example, which is quite good for controlling blood sugar.

That’s what a diabetics need it for.

Jo Gamble: The research that’s coming out of those drugs is phenomenal. It’s definitely a base to keep looking at the wider drugs that have been considered. I’m sure that they are using repurposed drugs. So they’re looking at chloroquine and hydroxy chloroquine as a treatment to prove it, hydroxychloroquine is a rheumatoid arthritis drug.

They’re really cheap for the NHS, but it’s something that people do need to go down the private sector to do there. That’s been happening over the last probably five odd years and will continue to increase that unfolding as we learn more and more than I do more and more research trials.

I always say, think of cancer a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, so improve the diet that might give you 20 pieces to suppose, or utilize supplementation, both targeted that might give you 10 pieces of the puzzle count apology that might give you 50 pieces to the puzzle lifestyle medicine that might get you.

If we keep adding these in, then we start to be able to see a picture. So no, there isn’t one thing. So we create an action plan to figure out how can we add in these interventions to see a picture?

Robin Daly: Right. So a wide range of strategies, that seems to be the way to go. I agree with you that the whole repurposing of drugs is a fascinating new area. I think a lot is going to come out of that.

We talked a lot about functional medicine during the program, but actually a lot of our listeners might not have any idea, really what functional medicine is all about.

Do you want to just give us a succinct definition please?

Jo Gamble: Absolutely. It’s a system based approach to medicine, which looks at every part of the human being. So for example, you’ve got gut problems, see an gastroenterologist, and you’ve got skin problems, see a dermatologist and you’ve got brain problems and you go see a neurologist. But never do all of those doctors sit down and consider that your skin and your brain might be linked to each other. Whereas functional medicine, I look at every system within the body and look at how those systems are out of balance. It’s very much about the why.

So everything I do is backed up with science. We go to see a doctor and we have to fit the nice guidelines, but the guidelines don’t fit, whereas what I do is every one of my clients has an individualized approach, depending on what they’re diagnosed with and what their symptoms are, what they can manage, what their support network is, what their finances are. Everything is about them and everything is negotiated and agreed with them as an individual.

Robin Daly: That’s great, thanks for that. We’re about out of time, I just want to throw in any last tips on day to day actions, choices, et cetera, that could be helpful to our listeners that are not getting their cancer treatment.

Jo Gamble: Okay. The first thing is I would say try not to panic because we all know that stress is negative on the body and actually makes the body more acidic. Think about what you can be in control of. So reach out to reach out to people like myself.

Robin’s interviewed many amazing practitioners before, because actually we’re all here to support you through this focus on what you can change or even take away.

Remember you still have a voice. So it is okay to positively raise awareness. This is what I’m trying to do. You know, the goal is today is we have got a voice and we can raise the awareness. Through social media or the media or MPs.

There has been a little bit of awareness in the last couple of weeks, but honestly not in comparison to what is deserved and your listeners or your listeners, family, or friends, or whoever it is, deserve the best possible care.

We’ve all got to work together as a collaborative team to try and make that possible.

Robin Daly: Right. Okay, thank you. Very passionate about this stuff. Thank you very much for coming forward and suggesting we talk about it today. It’s been really great. I hope some of that information people find really useful.

Jo Gamble: I think they will. Yeah. Thanks a lot.

Robin Daly: If you’re one of the people that Jo has been addressing, someone who’s cancer treatments has been indefinitely suspended, I send you my very best wishes and I hope that you’ve heard something helpful in this show. So the launch of yesterday, wigwam online forums and our first event featuring Jessica Richards talking and answering questions on fear. The deadliest virus of all was a success, despite a few technical challenges and the recording of the event will be available shortly as a resource to members on the new wigwam website, which is Take a look at the website and you’ll find full details and booking for the second online forum featuring exercise specialists, Lizzie Davis.

Thanks for listening today. Please make a point of joining me again next week here on UK health radio. Goodbye.


Kindly written by Literary & Transcript Editor Amy MacLennan