What Is Integrative Medicine?

A nutritionist has launched a platform sharing expertise on food and the fight against cancer. Jason Bosley-Smith is founder and host of ONCancer Health. The online resource offers podcast interviews and content from clinicians and academics working in nutrition and cancer. Topics involve evidence-based studies with a focus on exploring cutting-edge, holistic therapies.

A proponent of integrative medicine, Bosley-Smith teaches at the Maryland University of Integrative Health. Patients are no longer satisfied with one-size-fits-all guidelines. Instead, they desire customizable herbal, exercise, and nutritional remedies, according to Bosley-Smith.

“There’s been somewhat of a paradigm shift toward functional and complementary medicine. In the healthcare system, some traditional dietary recommendations have become a bit antiquated,” he said to SmartBridge Health.

A licensed nutritionist, Bosley-Smith said his interest in nutrition, health, and specifically cancer, stemmed from personal experiences. His grandfather died from colorectal cancer. Later, a childhood friend entered hospice care because of skin cancer. The friend was a 36-year-old mother of two young children.

Bosley-Smith also noticed more cancer patients getting referred to his office.

“They’d received very little counseling on nutrition from the [cancer] care team. They were seeking advice from friends and family and then Googling about dietary considerations for cancer,” he said.

The online searches could easily result in patients going down a “rabbit hole.”

“Online resources can be misleading," said Bosley-Smith. "The information may be disreputable. [So] I thought to myself, how can I bring reliable evidence to the forefront?”

OnCancer Health was launched in early 2018 with three main focus areas:

1. To share evidence-based education with cancer patients and survivors.

2. To provide information around optimizing nutrition against the recurrence of cancer.

3. To provide anyone concerned with cancer prevention knowledge of dietary strategies that may reduce their risk.

Currently, Bosley-Smith is working with prostate cancer patients as part of a small, pilot study at the Maryland Proton Treatment Center. The study examines the patients’ weight, markers for inflammation, hormonal, and cell metabolism levels in response to a dietary intervention. For eight weeks, the cohort of about a dozen men are actively monitored.

The men follow a “ketogenic diet” by eating a low carbohydrate, moderate protein, and high fat intake. The diet stimulates the production of anti-inflammatory ketone molecules which have “the potential to influence cancer progression,” said Bosley-Smith.

“There’s some evidence in existing literature showing that a ketogenic diet influences cancer metabolism in some cancer types,” he added.

The pilot study illustrates the integrative approach to medicine, where cancer patients deliberately make diet and lifestyle changes. Participants agree to follow the ketogenic diet for eight weeks. They keep a food log and track weight, blood sugar, and blood ketone levels. Sleep, physical activity, and stress levels are also surveyed. In weekly phone calls, Bosley-Smith talks with the study participants. He assesses any challenges, adverse events, and provides counseling on adherence to the diet.

The open-enrollment study is in its initial stages. Meanwhile, ONCancer Health plans podcast discussions around hot-button topics like the effects of dietary supplements on cancer patients.

“My goal is to bring a nutritional component to cancer care and prevention and enhance overall health literacy surrounding cancer to a wide audience. Our podcasts are designed to introduce and educate on many of the areas that may not be built into a traditional cancer treatment or survivorship plan,” said Bosley-Smith.

Hua Wang