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More to healing
Show #277 - Date: 27 Sep 2020

An exploration of the mind-body connection and the ways in which Integrative Medicine can support transformational change with nutritionist Kate Chaytor-Norris

References from the show:

Kate Chaytor-Norris
Categories: Author, Mind-Body Connection, Mindfulness, Nutrition
Keywords: I Wish My Doctor Had Told Me This, Kate Chaytor-Norris, nutritional therapy for cancer, cancer nutrition, thyroid, adrenal problems, fibromyalgia, immune system, immunity, healing, paleo diet, covid


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Robin Daly: Welcome to the Yes to Live show on UK Health Radio. I’m Robin Daly, presenter for the show and founder of Yes to Life, the UK charity, helping people with cancer to help themselves through integrative medicine. I’m always excited to make new connections, to meet new people who are passionate about integrative medicine and its potential to turn around our current crisis of chronic conditions.

Kate Chaytor-Norris is a nutritionist who regularly supports people with cancer and who has just published her first book “I wish my doctor had told me this”. Kate has agreed to come on the show and so I’m talking to her now over the internet. Kate, thank you so much for coming on the Yes to Life show today.

Kate Chaytor-Norris: It is a huge pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Robin Daly: Well, it’s a real pleasure to meet you and I have plenty I want to ask you about. So, it wasn’t that long ago that finding a nutritionist was quite a challenge and finding one who would help you if you have cancer, was frankly almost impossible. Of course, I’m delighted that all this is changing quite rapidly and it’s now much easier than it was. What do you think are the factors underlying this change?

Kate Chaytor-Norris: I think there’s been a kind of mindset change of being approached by clients, having been diagnosed with cancer saying, “oh, well, I asked my oncologist or someone else about what I could be eating to help”.

The answer was “oh, well, it doesn’t really matter, eat what you want” or being passed on to a dietician where they didn’t feel happy with the advice that they were being given. So, then I guess people are hunting around, there’s more information out there and knowledge about how important diet is, and when you are faced with something like cancer, I think people want to look at it from all angles: what are all the things that I can be doing to help my body heal?

Robin Daly: Yes, very much so. I think you’re right. Public awareness is rocketing really in this area. In the whole area of health generally, there’s much more of a feeling of “I really want to know all the options” and “surely there are things I can do to help myself” which is brilliant.

Kate Chaytor-Norris: Yes, and so important for cancer as it can be such a terrifying prospect and it’s very tempting to hand yourself over to somebody and go “fix me”. But I think empowering people to feel that there is actually something that they can be doing themselves alongside whatever treatment they choose to do, makes them feel much more in control of the whole process. It then becomes a little less scary.

Robin Daly: I think that’s enormously important. That kind of psychological feeling of moving from helplessness to being active is very important. Plus, a lot of the activities are also very important, so altogether it’s a completely intelligent way to go.

Kate Chaytor-Norris: Yes.

Robin Daly: I’m delighted to come across you. I have my friends at the Alliance for Natural Health to thank for that. You just brought out a book called “I wish my doctor had told me this”. Obviously, this is a catch-all title, but if I were to ask you to describe what that ‘this’ is that you’re referring to on the cover, how would you sum it up?

Kate Chaytor-Norris: The subtitle to it is “there is more to our healing than medication”. I guess I felt so passionately about it. I had a lot of clients saying to me “Oh gosh, will you write a book?” Everyone and everything inside me were going “Oh no, that sounds like awfully hard work and very scary”. But that little voice just wouldn’t leave me alone and I just thought, “well, I’ll just start jotting some things down” and I think it was really about when I explained to people about what was going on in their body, they were all so fascinated. Plus, I think when people understand the mechanisms that have become imbalanced in that body, they then are absolutely onboard with the homework I am dishing out. I say to people “I will probably give you quite a lot of homework here, I am not expecting you to do it all in one go, but I want you to have all the tools in the box to be able to heal your body”.

It’s not always just about nutrition. I get a lot of clients who are eating a fantastic diet, but actually their body is not being able to absorb and assimilate the nutrients. You’ve also got lifestyle, stress, how much time they’re spending outside, whether they’re getting enough sleep, what’s their toxic exposure.

There are so many different things when you are looking at a body that has become so imbalanced that it then has to produce symptoms. And you know what? Our bodies are incredible. They will soldier for years with an imbalance before they actually start to give you a symptom.

Robin Daly: It’s incredible isn’t it? You’re absolutely right. My own mother died recently, but she had 25 years of very poor health, but still actually kept going. It was amazing how many things she had wrong with her, but she wasn’t terribly good at doing anything about. She still survived somehow and led an active life almost up to the end. So yes, the body is enormously durable.

Kate Chaytor-Norris: It is a miraculous machine and the more I learn about it, the more I realise that we really don’t have a clue how a lot of it works. It has a slightly magical element to it.

Robin Daly: I know what you mean. Almost, invariably, I find that people who’ve decided to specialise in nutrition – or in helping people find a route to health for many of the chronic conditions we are so dogged by these days – have a bit of a health story of their own to tell. Is that true for you Kate?

Kate Chaytor-Norris: Yes. I didn’t have anything severe, but I went to see a nutritional therapist, many moons ago. I’d had three children in quick succession, so I think my body was kind of on the floor, and back then I didn’t really have a clue about looking after myself and making sure I was eating the right things.

I’ve always loved bodies and I always wanted to get into some kind of complimentary therapy but hadn’t found the right one. As I was listening to her [the one I visited], I said, “gosh, this is so fascinating” and she said, “if you’re interested, read this book”. That was Patrick Halford’s “The Optimum Nutrition Bible” and just reading it was that total lightbulb moment of “this is what I want to do, this is just so impactful”.

Also, I was going to the doctors, saying, “I’m feeling absolutely exhausted, it’s like walking through treacle, what’s wrong with me?” They did all the blood tests and then said “you’re absolutely fine”.

And I remember sitting in my lecture, which was all about adrenal and thyroid health, and thinking, “oh my goodness, this is me”. I got a private thyroid test done and my thyroid was down. I didn’t have to take thyroxin; it was all about sorting my adrenal glands out because they were on the floor and I’d been driving myself into the ground with three small children.
So it was an incredibly useful thing for me to have gone through because the more health issues that I experienced, the more valuable it became. I completely get where my clients are coming from. More recently, about five years ago, I developed fibromyalgia.

It’s a long story but the more research I’m doing into it, I have a feeling it might be connected to some vaccinations. Although that may be an area that we don’t want to go into. I’ve been reading Judy Michowitz’s book, and there’s something in there.

It’s a fascinating world for our bodies. My book is all about how our bodies are responding to the environment that they are being presented with; and that the environment that we created in our 21st century world is just really not conducive to optimal health.

Robin Daly: This is the kind of territory I want to explore a bit today. Also, what we already mentioned, the body’s stunning ability to keep going and to heal itself. I feel this is probably one of the most important topics in healthcare. It’s pretty much entirely overlooked by conventional doctors in favour of interventions, which largely means pharmaceutical drugs.

In contrast, natural medicines sought to learn more about this innate healing capacity and to capitalise on it and support it whenever it can. Can you tell us a bit more about natural healing abilities – what supports them, but also when an intervention could be actually just the best thing?

Kate Chaytor-Norris: That’s a big question. I mean, from my point of view if you have an acute issue, interventions are great. If you have a heart attack, you get yourself to hospital and they can save your life. But when we’re talking about more chronic-like problems which develop over years, that is really your body’s way of saying “my environment is out of balance and needs rebalancing”. I guess I feel my job is a textual one: to look at somebody’s body and go, “what is it? which systems are out of balance?” Usually most of them all need a bit of tweaking because you have one system with the main bit that’s out of balance, but that has a knock-on effect onto everything, particularly our digestive tract. It does so much more than just digesting and absorbing our food. It produces our brain chemicals and its where most of our immune system is sitting. At the end of the day, chronic disease has got to involve an imbalanced immune system.

When I first started practicing 11 years ago, I didn’t really see that many clients with autoimmune disorders, but now they are all over the place. It’s just all about calming the immune system down because it’s become so confused that it starts to attack our own tissue.
Robin Daly: Can I ask about that? I’m just very interested with what you just said because there’re two reasons that could be the case. One of them could be, yes, there’s an explosion in those kinds of conditions, the other one could be that there’s an explosion in the awareness that people might be able to do something about it by going to see the right kind of practitioner. Do you think it’s a bit of both or one or the other?

Kate Chaytor-Norris: I’m not sure it’s the second. I think most of the people that come through my door who have severe autoimmune diseases have been put on hideous drugs, like methotrexate, and it hasn’t even dawned on them.

First, they haven’t had it explained to them what autoimmunity is about. It’s that kind of mentality of the conventional medical world: “If your body goes wrong, let’s just suppress it”. Your immune system goes AWOL and starts attacking your own tissue: “we just need to suppress that immune system”. It just can’t do it, but then you explain to people why there is confusion in your immune system.

At the end of the day, our bodies are trying to keep us well and safe. I feel that’s a really important place to come from. For instance, when your body produces cancer, it’s almost having the mindset of looking at it with empathy and compassion. It’s like asking the body, “what are you trying to tell me?”

I think it’s one of the reasons why I wrote my book. I was just trying to make people more aware about how bodies function and that when they go wrong, just suppressing the symptom is not healing the problem. It will just squash the symptoms somewhere, which are going to pop out somewhere else.

Robin Daly: It’s led straight into the next thing I wanted to ask you about. In my line of work, I’ve listened to hundreds of hours of lectures on nutrition and more. I ought to be a health expert by now, but actually I studiously avoid all the detail in favour of trying to grasp the overall picture. On the side, I know lots of great people to go and ask when I want a detailed answer.

One notably complex lecture I attended at which the number of words and concepts that were a struggle to grapple, with was even higher than usual. The speakers attempted to demonstrate the idea that cancer itself could be an end game of the body, trying to keep you alive for longer, under very dire circumstances. In line with what you were saying about this one-pointed mission of the body to keep us well, that actually made a lot more sense to me than the body-attacking-itself story so beloved of the media. This is all a bit theoretical; do you have any thoughts, particularly on the nature of cancer?

Kate Chaytor-Norris: I’ve read somewhere that cancer is the body’s metaphor for the body’s extreme need to grow. For me, when a body produces cancer, there always is an enormous emotional element to it. I find that people who have developed cancer, 9 times out of 10, are the people who have squashed themselves into a box and are not living their authentic selves – for many, many reasons. Usually, it’s a kind of downlow from childhood that we have to be good and don’t make a fuss and toe the line and it’s not okay to show emotion.

That’s the downlow that we then operate by, as we become adults and sometimes the body will just go: “actually, I can’t, I can’t let you continue to live like this. I’m going to just throw you a curve ball and see if I can get you to wake up and have the courage to express your authentic self”. I don’t know if that’s too woo-woo. I feel so passionate. The more I do this, the more I seem to be attracting clients who are having this awakening of “I’ve been living my life one way, but actually that’s not really me and I need to break out and work out what really is me and how that is going to look in my life and how I want to operate going forward”. That takes a huge amount of courage to do, because very often, the people around you go “oh my God, what’s happened to you?” because you change and are often not prepared to accept what these people have been getting for decades. Suddenly you turn around and go, “actually, I can’t operate like that anymore”.

Robin Daly: Yes, it’s a shock to people. The deal is with other people, is that we don’t change really. They want to sustain the same life so they know who they are amongst that…
Kate Chaytor-Norris: Yes. It changes everything.

Robin Daly: Interesting. Tying together that cause and effect. That’s theoretical but the effect is no doubt real. An extraordinary number of people I come across totally changed their lives in response to cancer. A ridiculous number say cancer’s the best thing that ever happened to them, that’s remarkable, isn’t it? Indeed, in our upcoming event, Your Life and Cancer, we’ve got a very important session devoted to exactly the topic you’ve just brought up. Let’s look at it as an opportunity, even if an unpleasant one on the face of it – that cancer certainly seems to present people with an opportunity which can be a magical thing.

Kate Chaytor-Norris: Absolutely. Yes. I think it is that chance to have a kind of reset. Sadly, it usually takes something as monumental as cancer to be the push that they need, where they think, “right, okay, I really need to grasp the nettle here and change things”.

Robin Daly: I think this is human nature. We fundamentally don’t want to change, and that’s not an unreasonable thing to not want to change but when it comes to it, we need a very hefty jab, to actually do it. Cancer seems to be that jab for a lot of people.

Kate Chaytor-Norris: Yes, and it does take a huge amount of courage to open up that box and really have a poke around and that can involve people processing trauma from childhood. I think when people think of trauma, they think of the big, bad guys – some amazing event that happened, sexual abuse or physical abuse etc. I’m doing a lot of reading around chronic PTSD – growing up as a child in an environment where you didn’t feel safe, permanently – and I am finding it has such a profound effect. To unpackage that, when a body grows up not feeling safe, you have this heightened fight-or-flight reaction, which will kick in so much more readily than for somebody who has felt safe. It means trying to retrain a body to be able to scan its environment and go, “okay actually, I don’t need to be reacting to a sabre- toothed tiger attack potentially around the corner every five seconds”. But that takes a long time to reprogram. Wonderful therapies like EMDR, trauma release exercise, I think are incredibly valuable. All of the work that some people like Van der Kolk and Peter Levine are doing is just so exciting.
I feel it brings so much to the party with regards to people who have been diagnosed with cancer who do want to open up the box and address stuff that’s kind of keeping them stuck.

Robin Daly: Do you want to expand on the acronym, EMDR?

Kate Chaytor-Norris: Oh yes. Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing. For instance, if you are having talking counselling you will be operating, most likely, from the left hand, logical practical side of your brain. Therefore, I could say to you, “it’s totally irrational that you’ve got this phobia about teddy bears” and they say, “yes, I know that’s totally irrational, but I’m still absolutely terrified” because the trauma and the memory for whatever triggered that phobia is stored in the right-hand side of the brain, and you don’t access that when you’re having a kind of logical practical conversation with somebody.

EMDR is a way of getting both sides of the brain to link up whilst you are thinking about that memory. You then actually access where the trauma and the memory is stored and it’s a really effective way of helping to process and file that experience so it doesn’t continue to be the trigger, which sends your fight-flight off the scale.

Robin Daly: Thank you for that. I mean, I’ve heard a bit, but I don’t know anything about it, so that’s been very useful.

You’ve mentioned quite a few times at about trust and one of the most important aspects of the way we view health and medicine is the effect that it has on trust at a very fundamental level. Of course, we are nature and losing faith in our body’s abilities, not to mention nature’s abilities to make and keep us well is a very fundamental loss of trust that can impact us on all sorts of levels. Do you want to say something about that?

Kate Chaytor-Norris: I think that the trouble is that our lack of trust in our body is very much perpetuated by the conventional medical world: people view cancer or any kind of nasty chronic disease as this sword of Damocles that’s hanging over them, that at any point it could be there. I hear people say, “I hope I don’t get cancer, I don’t get this, I don’t get that”. I think that’s been exacerbated by the fact that you go to hospital and then they “fix you” because there’s nothing that you can do to help yourself.

Trusting that when you really listen to your body and being honest with yourself about what it does and doesn’t like, it gives you a sense of being able to trust that what your body is throwing at you is for your benefit. Although it may not feel like that in the short-term.
I think that trusting, with the right mindset and the right nutrition and the environment and detoxing and all the other wonderful things that we can do to help our bodies heal. We can regain trust in our bodies.

Robin Daly: Yes. It’s really interesting to see how we’ve come to a place where many of the things that used to reside more in the arena of common sense are now in response to where we find ourselves, as a society, turning into kind of therapeutic strategies that people like you are working with. Fresh air is turned into forest bathing and a good night’s sleep is all about managing screen time.

I just wonder, would it be fair to just describe what a lot of people like you do is helping them people to reclaim their place in nature?

Kate Chaytor-Norris: Absolutely. I mean, that’s very much in my book. We are operating in stone-age bodies on this extraordinary environment that we’ve created.

So yes (and I’m very much an advocate of a much more paleo style diet) and I say, the scale on how strict you are with that paleo style diet depends on how much your body’s shouting at you. I think a lot of people envisage a paleo diet as masses of red meat and that’s really not the case.

When people were living in the ice age, they wouldn’t have been tucking into a wooly mammoth steak every day of the week. They would have been out there doing a lot of forages for plant matter. The diversity would have been huge – you wouldn’t have had broccoli every day.

Which means we had the environment, and moving outside all the time meant we would’ve got sunlight and vitamin D. There’s nothing to not like about that kind of existence for the body. When you look at what we’ve created, in our modern-day world, it is just so planets apart from the environment meant for our health and body.

It is not surprising that we are just seeing these ridiculous levels of chronic disease going crazy. The end result is something like Covid and if we all made sure that we had optimal vitamin D, C, zinc, and we’re eating good diets and getting outside, doing exercise and getting athletic; then things like COVID just really wouldn’t be an issue. That’s my belief anyway.

Robin Daly: Maybe you could look at the flipside of this mistrust that I think we’re suffering from as a society, something that gets excessively missed, with a cancer diagnosis, which is of course, stress. It is a precursor of and an underlying factor in disease which is talked about more and more these days.

There are actually a few things in life, more stressful than getting a diagnosis of cancer. Stress is a reasonable response so being told we need to relax when we got cancer might be a punch on the nose. What do you find that can really be helpful to people in these circumstances?

Kate Chaytor-Norris: I think it’s empowering them to feel that they can do something to help themselves so they’re not just taking the helplessness and, explaining what the underlying mechanisms of cancer are all about. As soon as people start to feel more empowered, “there is a reason why this cancer diagnosis has been thrown at me, and I need to listen to my body and give it what it is asking for”. I feel that empowerment just makes a huge difference to this terrifying feeling of “my body’s doing something that I’m totally out of control with. It’s happening to me and I can’t do anything about it”. That’s so incorrect, but again, that’s not surprising because most people will go into the conventional medical process, where they are told that, “it’s only us that can fix you” and that anything you do at home is not going make any difference. I just find it infuriating and really heartbreaking for people and it exacerbates the stress. For the stress thing, I totally understand your point about telling somebody to relax – it’s nonsensical, but if you can give them a sense of a bit more of a control and understanding of what this diagnosis is all about, they can start to feel a little calmer about it.

Robin Daly: Knowledge and power is the cure to stress in this circumstance?

Kate Chaytor-Norris: Definitely.

Robin Daly: So Kate, would you maybe summarise: what was your overall intention for the book and what do you hope it offers?

Kate Chaytor-Norris: My overall intention for the book was, whenever I see clients and explain what’s going on in the body, they are amazed. They question, “why is my doctor not explaining this to me?” Well, they don’t have the time. In the 10 minutes with a patient, you can’t possibly help to dig around in the underlying causes. There’s so much to tell people about all the different things in our environment that can push our body off kilter. I just wanted to put them all in my book. It’s quite a sign-posting book. The feedback I have had is that it is incredibly readable because I’m not blinding people with science. There’s a lot of anecdotal stories – personal stories about my own experiences.

It was also to make sure that I covered all the elements of the environment and breaking them into the five Ss: stress; sugar; sleep; sludge (which is toxicity) and spirit, which is probably one of the biggest chapters, it is all about nurturing our soul and our emotional wellbeing. If you have somebody who is not being emotionally nurtured, it goes back to that caveman existence. If you didn’t feel that you were part of the tribe, the danger was that you could be kicked out which was life-threatening. Things like loneliness and feeling that you don’t have emotional connection with other people can physiologically manifest in that fight-flight stress response.

Stress kiboshes everything. If your body is operating permanently with the “I’m ready to fight that sabre-tooth tiger or run away” reaction, then a lot of the physiological mechanisms like our digestion and our detoxing and our immune system, they all get put on the back burner. That is not a priority for those things to be working, if we’re about to be eaten by a tiger. In the long-term, if people are living in that permanent stress response, inevitably, the body systems are going to become out of balance and things will stop.

Robin Daly: Well, that’s nice you mentioned that thing about being part of the tribe, because some of the figures coming out about the effect this has on people’s health, wellbeing, longevity, everything, are extraordinary. I think it is a massive factor in health.

Kate Chaytor-Norris: Yes, an absolutely enormous effect. We humans are wired for connection and all of the wonderful work that Brene Brown has done about the importance of connecting and being able to be vulnerable with people, is mind boggling and wonderful.

Robin Daly: Do you want to finish off by sharing your website address and telling people how to get hold of your new book?

Kate Chaytor-Norris: My website is www.nutritionyorkshire.com. You can either get my book through that website or through the normal Amazon route. So I hope you enjoy.

Robin Daly: And the clue to where you are is in your website address.

Kate Chaytor-Norris: Absolutely, yes. Up in Yorkshire but I do lots of Skype, Zoom, FaceTime calls, so you can reach in to wherever you are as we all do now.

Robin Daly: Many thanks for speaking to me today. It’s been really interesting, and I really enjoyed it.

Kate Chaytor-Norris: Thank you for having me. Bye.

Robin Daly: I think a lot of what Kate was saying, particularly in the arena of the mind-body connection and the effects that emotional blockages can have on our health, will resonate with many of you listening. Do visit her website and say hello. By the time you hear this, the first weekend of Your Life and Cancer how-to weekend, our online event, will be well underway or maybe even over.

This first weekend is particularly focused on those who are new to integrative medicine. With many of the very top international experts, giving sound science, informed advice on addressing cancer in a broad and inclusive way. If you were unlucky enough to miss some or all of this, the good news is, but it’s all going to be available as recordings, full details of all the sessions and speakers can be found at www.yourlifeandcancer.com, where you can also purchase the recording.

Still to come though is the second weekend entitled expanding your knowledge, which features hugely important figures in integrative medicine, such as Professor Tom Siegfried. Dr Nasha Winter, Dr Patrick Hanaway, Jay McClelland, Dr Keith Block, Dr Valter Longo, Dr Robert Becker, Travis Christofferson, and many, many more. The sessions will cover topics ranging from cannabinoids to off-label drugs, fasting to medicinal mushrooms, hypothermia to Nutrigenomics and mistletoe to oxygen.

This weekend is aimed at those who have already embraced the basics of integrative medicine, but now want to know more. The quality and breadth of information that will be presented is unmissable. Again, go to www.yourlifeandcancer.com for the full schedule and speakers’ details, as well as to reserve your place at this second weekend.

It’s from the 10th to the 12th of October.

Thanks so much for listening today. I’ll be back next week, and I hope you will make a habit of joining me again for another Yes to Life show on UK Health Radio. Bye.

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Kindly written by Literary & Transcript Editor Kenza Afnoukh