Strength Training: Improving Quality of Life with Cancer

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Strength Training: Improving Quality of Life with Cancer

Fitness, nutrition, and a holistic approach to health with Dr. Thomas Incledon.

Should the elderly lift weights? How about stage 4 cancer patients? The results Dr. Thomas Incledon has seen say this practice is very likely to improve their quality of life. Being weak from various illnesses is often considered the product of those illnesses, but frailty may in part be fueled by lack of movement. In this episode, he shares his individualized, holistic approach to health, which includes strength training, micronutrient testing, and GI testing.

Episode Intro

Dr. Michael Ruscio, DC: Hi everyone. Welcome back to Dr. Ruscio Radio. This is Dr. Ruscio. Today I’m here with Dr. Thomas Incledon, and we’re going to be talking about cancer. And a different approach, a very—I guess you could term—bio-individual approach to cancer. This is definitely stuff that I’m curious to dig into. So Tom, thanks for being here.

Dr. Thomas Incledon, PhD: Well, thank you for the opportunity. I’m really excited.

[Continue reading below]

Dr. R’s Fast Facts Summary

Strength training for cancer

  • Can improve the quality of life for cancer patients

Nutrient deficiencies in cancer

  • It is common to see low B vitamins and low antioxidants with patients that have very little mobility (can’t stand up on their own, etc.)
  • For the most part each cancer case is unique and there is not a particular nutrient lacking in “most cancer patients”

Where to learn more

In this episode…

Episode Intro … 00:00:40
Strength Training & Cancer Outcomes … 00:04:17
A Bio-Individual Cancer Approach … 00:11:48
Micronutrient Testing & Analysis … 00:17:32
Don’t Believe Everything on the Internet … 00:27:51
Common Deficiencies in Cancer Patients? … 00:32:37
How Does the Team Work Together? … 00:36:01
Digestive Conditions & Cancer … 00:39:34
Building Strength in Patients with Fatigue … 00:43:19
Episode Wrap-up … 00:50:29

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Again, the link is in the podcast description on your players. It’s also embedded on the website with the transcript post, and it’s directly accessible through Okay. Thanks.

DrMR:   Tell us a little bit about your background. I know you’re classically trained as a PhD, but what was the road up to where you are today? Because of course, you’re not in anyone’s box, you made your own box. So how did you get there?

DrTI:     So, basically I was training for the Olympics and weightlifting. I was just lucky in that I had coaches that were also brilliant scientists. And that combination of brains and brawn, if you will, helped guide my young career. And I was surrounded by sort of the who’s who in the exercise physiology world, specifically with respect to hormone responses to lifting weights (so we would say endocrine responses to resistance training back then). And one day I got sick. I believe I got food poisoning at a barbecue.

Then that led to one thing after another. And I just thought, man, there are a lot of shortcomings in healthcare. I went through a lot of suffering that was totally unnecessary, simply because they had their fixed model of approaching my situation. It wasn’t working and they kept doing it anyway. And when I finally lost consciousness and had an ambulance take me to the hospital, they were still doing the same thing, and I thought, “Man, there has got to be a better approach to this.”

DrMR:   And then you did your PhD. What was the area of study there?

DrTI:     So the program was at the University of Miami Department of Education and it was exercise science, in terms of what it says on my diploma. But the academic focus was exercise physiology, with an emphasis on nutritional biochemistry. So at different phases of my academic career, I worked with cells, animals, and people. The joke I used to say was, “I was being paid to torture people and we called that research.”

DrMR:   Well, thinking back to when I had electrodes stuck in my hand for, I think, some muscle conductivity test and how painful that was—because I don’t think the PhD student had much experience with sticking needles into muscles, it was quite painful—I guess I can see where that comes from.

Strength Training and Cancer Outcomes

How does that transition over into cancer? Like, when did you make a shift?

DrTI:     When I was at Penn State, we were a world leader in publishing research on basically getting stronger. And at some point, the United States Army was faced with a serious dilemma. They have these engineers that calculate one or two people should be able to lift something in a wartime situation. But if you need two, three, or four people to lift that object, you have more people lifting. They should be doing other things, so it’s not a good use of the labor.

Strength Training: Improving Quality of Life with Cancer - 240F82961250kxyLJS2fhDxf38v2ZszDryQr2RN1eICEThey were seeing a consequence if you’re not strong. And their concern was that the women were not as strong as the men. So they basically hired Penn State to study how to take average women and make them stronger than average men.

And this was in the 80s. Back then the challenge was that from a sociocultural climate, it was still an age where women shouldn’t work out, women shouldn’t sweat. There was still this whole taboo like, “If you lift weights, it’s going to turn into fat eventually. So don’t even bother doing it. It’ll make your muscles imbalance.”

So we came out at the time and said, “We’re going to do a strength training study for women.” It was a bit like we were somehow quacks. And we’re just talking about working out, right?” There’s nothing that strange.

DrMR:   Right.

DrTI:     We were quacks because we were doing something that might actually be healthy. Well, six months later, we showed you can take average women and get them stronger than average men. And all of a sudden now, everybody’s like, “You guys are geniuses. How did you know?” It’s like, “We didn’t know the answers. That’s why we’re doing this study. But we weren’t afraid to look into it and study it because it seemed potentially promising.”

From there, it led to us studying the effects of strength training on men and women over the age of 90. This is just lifting weights alone, this is no nutrition or diet, or supplement modifications at all. So, we were still way down on the ladder of the learning curve, if you will.

Strength Training: Improving Quality of Life with Cancer - 240F186983036641sgnIV9IDMxJVVPVPQquSWpqLwH6lDWe found that if we added three pounds of lean body mass to older adults—these are men or women over 90 that were in a wheelchair or had a quad cane, not because they had a spinal cord injury or neurological issue, primarily, they were just frail, they just didn’t have enough muscle to move their body—as we started getting these guys stronger, lo and behold, we had people coming off like 26 medications and not needing any meds at all. And they could now walk outside without a walking device or an assistive device. They’d needed care, nursing assistance, to go to the bathroom.

So it was a similar thing at the beginning of the study, everybody said, “Look, you can’t have old people lift weights, because they’re going to get hurt!” And then were like, “How do you get them stronger if they don’t do anything?” And it wasn’t like we’re taking a guy and throwing a thousand pounds on his back in a weight room. These people are lifting like one to three pounds, because that’s all they could lift at that point. But we got them to 10 and 20 pounds, and that was enough to strengthen their arms and legs so that they could walk better. And the surprise finding was how many meds they didn’t need once they were stronger. That created some controversy, because we’re basically showing, through exercise, you don’t need drugs.

And that wasn’t really the purpose of the study. But imagine if it was your dad and he was on 26 meds, and all of a sudden he’s not on any, you’re going to be telling the world you don’t need drugs, that kind of thing. And then that led to strength training with all kinds of very serious illnesses, including stage four cancers. And the point that was really exciting is we got to see firsthand that there’s a common mistake made in medicine, that when someone is diagnosed with any condition or illness or syndrome, as their health declines, everybody assumes it’s due to the disease, let’s say, or the disease process. But they never take into account that the person’s not moving.

You can take the strongest athlete in the world, and when he gets injured and doesn’t move for a few days, he loses some muscle within three days. It’s substantial. Like, you can see a difference. So if a very fit, strong person can lose fitness, if you will, that quickly, what would happen to someone that’s very frail and diseased, or is dealing with a lot of health issues?

Strength Training: Improving Quality of Life with Cancer - 240F2369550084zt3BZvFLTzVlo5k1p9OapxMHXDNZPtTAnd we started seeing that we could do strength training with pretty much anyone and counter a lot of the loss of function that was basically associated with the disease, but really wasn’t. People just throw everything into one box. And we were saying, “No, there’s other stuff going on besides the disease process.” So we had men and women with stage four cancers out, dancing, food shopping. They could bathe and do the activities of daily living on their own without a care nurse assistant. And if you ask any family member that was involved with the people that were studied, they’d say it dramatically improved quality of life for their loved ones.

But unfortunately, if you look at, let’s say, mortality rates or survival statistics, however you want to phrase it, not everybody lived longer. And so the FDA’s position was that the only outcome measure of concern was, do you live longer? In other words, “Does strength training help these guys live longer?” On average, it did not, at least at that point in time. So what was ignored though was quality of life improvements. Because yes, some guys were alive, let’s say, in other groups. The group that didn’t lift weights were laying in a hospital bed, hooked up to a morphine drip, and they couldn’t recognize their loved ones while they were drooling on themselves. And if you were to interview people and say, “Hey, when you pass on from this life, how do you want to go down?” no one says, “Yeah, I want to drool on myself and I want to look at my wife and not remember her.” No one says that.

So there’s a total loss of connection of how we value life, and how we want to pass on, versus where research statistics say, “Oh, they all live to the same age or they all live to the same point in time.” So that’s how we got into the cancer world if you will. I started seeing all these people that were just, I thought, getting really poor quality care, they were getting drugs and radiation and nothing else. I was like, “Oh my God, there is so much more that can be done.”

Strength Training: Improving Quality of Life with Cancer - 240F65577699du4ZjLUERAdvYhPy0JcWdEZ175QAWpszSo I sort of built the super friends team over here. I got a bunch of guys that are very accomplished in their own right in different areas, and we started talking. I’m like, “Look, man, I think we could do something. I think we could make some serious impact.” And they were like, “We could do it right now. I don’t think we have to wait.” They all agreed and things slowly started forming. Today we’ve got a center in Scottsdale. And every day we’re doing some really cool stuff.

DrMR:   And at the center in Scottsdale, the focus is cancer prevention, cancer treatment, or are you seeing wider breadth of conditions also?

DrTI:     A wider breadth. So in a given day, I could have an Olympian, an NFL guy, a guy with spinal cord injury in a wheelchair, and someone with some very rare type of cancer that can barely stand. And there are principles of fitness and health that are consistent, across, let’s say, the disease or fitness spectrum, which is modified or manipulated based on where someone’s current status is or their starting point is.

It’s so different. If you want to run a marathon, you don’t start at 26 miles. You might work up to that over time. And it’s no different than what we do. We start people at an appropriate level and then we build them up from there.

A Bio-Individual Cancer Approach

DrMR:   And so, tell us more about the bio-individualized approach to cancer that you’re taking.

DrTI:     So let’s say, someone comes in and like, “Hey, I got this cancer and I want to beat it.” Most people make some false assumptions. They assume basic things that they read on the internet and they don’t really have data on their own body. They may have blood work done from other places, but the blood work is telling you, “Hey, you’re alive.” It doesn’t really give you any real details to make a better decision. You already knew you were alive. You don’t need me to tell you that. You don’t need me to tell you things you couldn’t figure out on your own.

Strength Training: Improving Quality of Life with Cancer - 240F129595167EKICAbBzP7de3LYv0FrLt4fjulOLDTGHSo essentially, our algorithm is we look at their nutritional status and if someone has three or more micronutrients at the low end, we might say that fits malnutrition. Then we’d go on a path where we might do an IV, or foods, or supplements or a combination of all three. That builds up the nutritional status so they’re basically not low in those things.

During that time we’re focusing on adding muscle. That can take maybe two weeks to two months, depending on frail they are and how long it takes them to get to a minimal fitness level. Minimal fitness level would be to be able to walk two minutes or further without stopping. It’s not a high bar, for sure, but believe it or not, many people cannot do that.

So, assuming, then, that’s addressed, then we would look at strategies to fight their cancer. If, let’s say, we run some tests and they look really good, there are no issues nutritionally, then we would look at some ways to fight the cancer. And depending on the type of cancer, there may or may not be chemo, or may or may not be radiation. We do not do radiation or full-blown chemo here. But if someone comes in, based on the data for their type of cancer, we might advise them, “Look, there’s actual evidence that chemo may benefit you. And we would suggest doing that. And here’s ways that we can mitigate those side effects.” And then we might have other cases like, “Hey, we’ve treated this quite successfully many times without any chemo radiation.”

Then, we give people the opportunity to make a decision which way they want to go. On our website, there are examples of people that have done no chemo and no radiation, and they got to “no evidence of disease” successfully and continue to remain that way. There are also people that have done full-dose chemo and full-dose radiation, got to “no evidence of disease” and continue to remain that way. The commonality across the different ends of the spectrum is that we’re running tests on these guys to see what’s going on that’s unique about each person, and whatever we find we address.

Strength Training: Improving Quality of Life with Cancer - 240F1779689549UGctrEhIKih2IPcdi6ZGoy5iettlZTlSo they may come here to, let’s say, help beat cancer, or address issues they have orthopedically. Their knee pain is going to be treated, any issues with the brain and body awareness or control is addressed, if they have high blood pressure, heart issues, we address that too. It’s not so much treating cancer specifically as it is really helping this person get healthier than they ever imagined.

And the result is, people tend to want to keep coming back and bringing family members. So we’ve now treated four or five generations of some families. We have just things like a guy comes in and he can’t move, because his knee hurts. Just treating cancer and ignoring the knee pain, essentially, is not a good long-term outcome because he’s not going to be able to move when you’re done. Basically, we’re going to make sure that his knees don’t bother him so he can run or lift weights, whatever he wants to do, and then we’re helping him to embrace a healthy lifestyle that involves movement.

DrMR:   So is it fair to say that the foundation of what you’re doing is this personalized health and wellness plan? And in addition to that, you make some cancer therapy recommendations, but those don’t appear to be the main focus. The main focus seems to be getting the individual healthy as the foundational part. And then in addition, on top of that foundation, is to some extent, our specific cancer therapies? Would that be a kind of correct, loose way of describing this?

DrTI:     Yeah, it would. I’ll give you an example. We test a lot of bacteria or what we call the oral microbiome. And we found all kinds of organisms that people have, that have been connected to different cancers of the mouth or esophagus or the stomach or the large intestine or colon. I can’t say, “Hey, that bacteria caused that cancer,” because I didn’t see it form and happen. All I know is, at this point, this person has this cancer diagnosis and they got all these bad guys in their body. So from a causative relationship, I can’t say one caused the other, but I do know having those bad guys isn’t helping the person in front of me.

Strength Training: Improving Quality of Life with Cancer - 240F231543208PRIRerdMJnI1GE8sMpV1TDHDK15lcGVrSo we do strategies, we developed protocols to kill off the bacteria, and then the people respond better to the treatment programs they’re doing for their cancer. So I look at this as a much more complete, integrated approach than anything I’ve seen anywhere else. People that come here typically say, no one’s said this, paid this attention, given this level of detail to their body.

DrMR:   Mm-hmm.

DrTI:     And we try to fix everything we find.

Micronutrient Testing & Analysis

DrMR:   And how are you assessing the nutritional status?

DrTI:     So we run tests using serum markers, leukocytes or white blood cells, red blood cells and lymphocytes, and also whole blood. I think of it as, if we check the air pressure in a tire, you don’t just check one tire and say every other tire in the automobile is fine. You check each individual tire. They’re not all connected, in terms of one pressure doesn’t mean the other pressure is good or bad.

When you look at micronutrient status of people, just because there’s enough in a serum of the plasma, that just means, okay, there was absorption. But it doesn’t tell you utilization. And then just because it’s in a red blood cell, it doesn’t mean it got inside a white blood cell. And then just because your white blood cell on average has adequate status, it doesn’t mean your lymphocyte status is adequate.

In most diseases, the primary cell we’re concerned with is lymphocytes, to either deal with a virus or bacteria or cancer cell. So all these different subcomponents of our body matter. There are groups out of Sweden that have shown that red blood cell status correlates very nicely with the brain, heart, and skeletal muscle. No one’s going to really give up parts of their body, right? So if I could do a blood draw and get some correlation with these other areas in a less invasive way, it’s just a much more reasonable approach.

Strength Training: Improving Quality of Life with Cancer - 240F281279415qgZguzwckD9ZBZ9m6yN6lfrwtfD1Oql4And a lot of times people say, “Well, how much does this stuff cost? Is it covered by insurance?” Insurance is not designed for optimal biology. Insurance is a better fit when there’s something major. But if you said, “Look, I want to get 10% better,” it’s really not a good fit. If you say, “Look, I’m tired of suffering. I want to find out what’s going on and fix it,” insurance is not a good fit.

So what I’ve done to make things cost-effective is negotiated with these labs to do these giant arrays, meaning we take small amounts of blood from individuals, send it to the lab, and we run every single test they offer. And we get that done at a price point that’s better than anyone else in the world has been able to offer to people. So now we’re saving them thousands and thousands of dollars, and giving them insight they’ve never had on their body before. Now we make it so that it’s sustainable. They may not have to repeat the same testing again. But if they did, they could afford it now. It’s not something that becomes cost-prohibitive to the masses.

DrMR:   Now, is there a certain nutrient as one example, let’s say, arbitrarily, iron? Are you looking at one of these tests to be more representative of iron status? Let’s say, lymphocytic iron. So, you’ve run a whole blood, you’ve run red blood cell, you’ve run white blood cell, and you’ve run lymphocytes. Are you looking for agreement amongst all the measures to give you the best indicator that there’s a certain deficiency in and of itself? Or do you have some data you’re looking to where certain nutrients are best represented by a certain part of the panel that you’re running?

DrTI:     So it’s a very insightful question. Let me answer that two ways. So, if I was looking at, let’s say, the published research, there are fairly clear guidelines that would say, whole blood measurement for a certain marker is better than a serum or plasma measurement. Or maybe a red blood cell test is better than a white blood cell, a leukocyte test. If the goal was just to find the best marker within all these, my vitamins and minerals, that would be one approach. I have a slightly different perspective though. I’m looking to find that every marker shows signs of adequate nutritional status. And the reason is, we know that when there are certain types of inflammation or certain pathways are elevated, there’s some dysfunction of nutrient uptake by different cells.

Strength Training: Improving Quality of Life with Cancer - 240F126280469mwL5w6bjFve2ilrIFTni9WmhayvLPQh2So an example would be, let’s just say, serum or plasma levels were normal to high, but intracellular levels are low. That means it’s getting into the system. But once it’s in the blood, it’s not getting into the cell. That may indicate that there’s some elevation of cytokines or there’s something else interfering with utilization of the nutrients. And that’s being paired up with, if the guy says, “Man, I’m tired all the time,” and I’m seeing all these nutrient markers involved in making ATP are low, one supports the other. Then we’re trying to figure out, “Well, how are we going to get those nutrients into the cells so they don’t feel tired all the time?”

So I’m looking to get improvements across every measure that we make for a given nutrient. You mentioned iron. If there was some dysfunction with iron metabolism, such that we think there’s an inflammatory event, like an infection, or something the other way like anemia, we have other tests, looking at other markers like ferritin and RBCs and hemoglobin, etc. Then we’ll be able to say, “Hey, there’s something going on here,” and then address it that way.

DrMR:   I see that as being one of the challenges, because cause and effect here can be hard to tease out. In some cases it would seem reasonable to conclude that a low value or even a high value on a certain nutrient mineral, what have you, might be causal of something like fatigue. And then there’s other cases where, let’s say, it’s ferritin in the iron family that could skew high as a result of an infection, and the infection is causing the fatigue, not so much so the high ferritin.

Does this get challenging? I’m assuming there’s quite a bit of context and nuance here in the interpretation and that this gets a little messy. But how are you navigating this without feeling like you’re guessing a lot?

Strength Training: Improving Quality of Life with Cancer - 240F102621276BKCE5yVRrBSn3cYwCn6bVe3O4A3TaxJbDrTI:     Well, there are a couple of things. One, a mistake a lot of times that’s made is people look at a study, and let’s just say the study shows iron fights anemia. So now they’re looking for this iron. Then some guys may look into methods and the exact form of iron, was it iron bisglycinate or some other form? But then, in reality, people take iron and they don’t feel any different at all. It’s very similar to, let’s say, a car engine needs oil. But at this moment right now, if I said, “Hey everybody, go put oil in your car,” not everybody’s car engine needs oil, right? So we need to have some way of objectively measuring what’s there, then deciding, “I need oil,” or not.

So what I try to focus on is objective measurement. And I can’t tell you causatively that the fact that iron was, say, low or high, is linked to a given symptom that someone is experiencing. But I just notice something wrong, and exactly what’s causing that… When you’re dealing with human life, the focus isn’t to ignore that it’s a human being in front of you and treat them like a research subject or a number. The focus is to really make sure that we get the outcome we want. The outcome is that we want this guy to live. So as we get from, they walk to the door, to the end, where they’re doing better than ever, I can’t say everything perfectly lines up neatly and all that. I think there’s still a lot of art, maybe more art than science sometimes.

I see details, like when people like their physician, they’re more than likely to get better than when they don’t like their physician, independent of the competency of the physician. So we’ve got details like that that we try to make sure of here. People have fun and have a good time, people are laughing and smiling. You don’t see a lot of people crying hardly ever. You don’t see any sorrow, that kind of thing. It’s a much different type of environment. A lot of docs wear white lab coats, as an example. They don’t look like normal people. You wouldn’t even know most of us are doctors. We’re here to help you and be more like your partner in health, not talking down to you.

DrMR:   I agree. The community effect, I think, has been shown to be quite powerful in terms of people’s health recovery.

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Don’t Believe Everything on the Internet

DrTI:     Yeah. I’ll share some insight. If you asked me to look at everything we do, and say what’s the biggest weakness that would make the biggest impact, the biggest thing I see over and over again, is that people read stuff on the internet, and they suffer from a visual bias effect. They think that they’re going to get competent medical advice from the internet and they don’t take into account that the algorithms that determine what shows up in front of them are driven by business models. They’re not driven by optimal biology.

Typically what happens is, someone has some symptoms. They see maybe a family med doc or urologist and they run some tests and now, “Hey, we got prostate cancer.” There’s a little bit of disbelief and a little bit of, “What the heck is going on? I was healthy my whole life, and now all of a sudden…” so they may go on Google or Bing or some other search engine and put in prostate cancer. The next thing is prostate cancer treatment, and they start reading stuff. And now they become convinced that this treatment will help them, and it never occurs to them that they’re a unique human being.

We have really good data now. We use a lab called NA Genomics that does a full exome analysis and we have other labs that do full genome analysis. But what NA Genomics does is they have really bright guys from Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and all these other places where they’re just going crazy over data mining, and they test every single gene in germline genetics.

Strength Training: Improving Quality of Life with Cancer - 240F2326767779pxEemF421w18NSGRKItUlJ6j7own2HnWe can show that every person that we’ve ever tested—we’ve tested over a hundred thousand people, but not every person has done all 22,000 of their germline genetics genes—has genes that are so unique, meaning that mutation has been seen in less than one out of a million people, maybe even less. Now you’ve got a number of combinations of those, less than one out of a million genes.

What that means is that there are no data really on how this human being will respond to something. The mistake people make is that they read something that was done on other people, they see the result, and they’re convinced that that will help them. But it never occurs to them that it may not help them at all, because there may be something very unique, either within their genetics or some other, let’s say, post-genetic issue that makes it so that that treatment will never work.

So the way that people can navigate very dark or murky water, if you will, is you have a competent physician or competent medical care where someone’s going to study your reaction or your response to whatever treatment is being done. So, let’s say, if it was a blood cancer, there are signs the leukemic cells are going down. It’s literally that straight-forward. If it’s a solid tumor, it may take more time, especially if it’s a slower tumor. It may take time to see a change, but you know, PET scans or something along those lines, so that you could see the concerned area changing over time. That’s how you could really create individualized protocol for anyone, even when there is allegedly no cure. Or some other, what I would say, common statement that we don’t know applies to every person.

So we think about their statements about, “Cancer has no cure,” like “a Glioblastoma has no cure.” And lo and behold, we have a bunch of patients who are diagnosed with Glioblastoma and are alive and well today. Could we say we cured them? Well, they’re still alive. They haven’t died yet. So I don’t know, until they get to the end of their life span and see what happens. Just because there’s no cure, doesn’t mean there’s nothing that will work. But then, what works for one individual may not work for another person.

DrMR:   Well, I certainly agree that it would behoove patients to be very cautious with what they read on the internet. I’ve seen, in my areas of focus, people coming in with a narrative and a belief about a given condition or even a lab finding that is

far worse than it actually is, based upon what they’ve read on the internet.

So fully agree with you there. And I do want to come back to that topic in one second, but I want to make sure not to forget to ask you, because I know our audience is probably very curious to hear this.

Common Deficiencies in Cancer Patients?

Are there common deficiencies or insufficiencies nutritionally that you’re seeing?

DrTI:     Let me break it down into people that are frail, and I’m defining frail in the context that you can’t stand up on your own and walk two minutes without stopping, versus the people that can stand up and walk. Let’s say it’s two different groups. In the people that can’t do that, I see a lot of B vitamins and antioxidants that are low.

The concern with those findings is that there’s sort of this unwritten rule, and the unwritten rule is this: before you have cancer, there may be some value in antioxidant-rich foods, whether or not all antioxidants are beneficial depends. But you might say, in general, the antioxidants are a good thing before you get cancer. And I’m limiting this statement only to cancer. Forget about heart disease and other things, arthritis, stuff like that. But once you have cancer, it seems the best weapon against cancer is more oxidative stress. And so if you already have cancer, challenge is, those same antioxidants, while they may help your healthy cells, may increase glutathione levels inside the cancer cells and make them more resistant to pretty much any form of treatment.

So it’s a very difficult tightrope to walk. Because like on the one hand, we want to improve health, we don’t want anyone to suffer. But on the other hand, it’s like, we don’t want to strengthen the enemy and make the enemy harder to kill later on. Here we have a team of docs that get together and look at someone’s case and we say, “Do we go left or right, right now?” Everyone typically comes in thinking they want to kill cancer right away. But they don’t consider the possibility that they may be so unhealthy, they can’t handle vitamin C IVs and simple stuff. They’re just thinking, they’re going to fight cancer and magically everything else will turn around. So I would say, to answer your question more directly, the B vitamins and some antioxidants I see. For people that, let’s say, aren’t frail, I’ve seen everything from no deficiencies, to things like chromium. Maybe sometimes there’s some of the nutrients involved in glucose metabolism, or even zinc is low.

But I will say, across the board, it’s not an absolute finding that everybody is low on the same thing. One of the things that shocked me the most is how many people we have worked with that look phenomenal. They look really healthy on the outside, but on the inside they’re a train wreck. Like, there’s so much biochemical damage. I think that makes it difficult for a lot of people to accept what they’re dealing with: “I look like a model or an athlete on the outside. How can I have cancer all over my body on the inside?” It could just be their genetics is such that it prioritizes protecting your skin, or their outward appearance from damage, more so than their inside.

How Does the Team Work Together?

DrMR:   Now, one of the other things I wanted to ask you is, with the cancer therapies themselves, is there a team of integrative oncologists who are working, and you’re all looking at this together? Or how are the cancer therapies tying into your operation? And then tell us a little bit more about some of the therapies you’re either using or referring people to.

DrTI:     Sure. So we have an integrative oncologist, he’s an MD, so he’s not… basically, I would say, like your standard of care doc, if you will. He’s got a background from MD Anderson, and then he’s been an advisor on the largest centers all over North America. So he’s seen a lot of, let’s say, very standard things, a lot of very crazy, wacky things based on the different centers he’s been involved with. And his real value is, he’s seen it, done it, just an incredible wide range of things.

And we have a naturopathic doctor, Kristy Anderson, who is a medical advisor for two of the largest homeopathic companies in the world. So she’s traveled globally, seeing docs from all over the place, all over Europe and the U.S. and other countries. And basically, she had a chance to see all these different approaches that are done. She’s trained maybe hundreds, if not thousands, of doctors worldwide. Then we have a physical therapist that works for a bunch of Olympic teams. So he’s a pretty high-level physical therapist. I’ll just insert that many people just don’t think that if you have cancer, you need physical therapy, but there are all kinds of altered recruitment patterns and dysfunction.

What happens is people don’t realize they have these issues, and then all of a sudden things come crashing down rapidly and it’s kind of everything reached that critical threshold, and now they’ve got a lot of stuff that needs addressing. So, I find physical therapies have a huge impact, help people feel better about themselves. It may not actually have done anything for their cancer, but what it has helped is it’s given them time, and that time now allows the oncologist and naturopathic doctor to do their job.

Then every patient has a strength coach. And my function is kind of looking at all the lab values and organizing the data in a way. So when the docs have to look at it, they don’t have to look everywhere. It’s nice and neatly packaged for them, and I share my insight. Some stuff is just glaringly obvious, they don’t really need me to say anything. And some stuff is… there’s a lot going on. Then we have to figure out, if you’ve got 10 holes in a boat, which hole you plug first. If it’s a cancer patient, the primary person that makes that call is the oncologist, because that’s the guy that’s got the most experience. There’s some logic here.

Recently, I had two cases where both patients had infections in their mouth, they just didn’t know that they had infections, they hadn’t seen a dentist in a while. So I brought that to the attention of some of the other docs. Like, I know we’re dealing with this cancer stuff, but they’ve also got these other issues. So we’ve referred them to some guys that can do a better job looking in their mouth. We don’t have a dentist on site, and we don’t have an ENT on site. If we think there’s a need for that, we refer to those types of professionals.

Digestive Conditions & Cancer

DrMR:   And what about digestive? I want to make sure to ask you, are you seeing small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, H. Pylori, IBS? Is this something that is common? Does it seem to be to a degree impactful on the outcome of these cases?

DrTI:     So I would say, just initial first answer, absolutely yes. Does every human being have a GI issue with cancer? No, I haven’t seen that at a hundred percent, but I will say it’s pretty darn high. It’s almost a hundred percent, if not 100%. And it’s things like this. We test for H. Pylori… So we use Aperiomics out of Virginia, which can test for any organism discovered, any pathogen. They can pretty much test for everything except for RNA viruses. And depending on someone’s insurance and the relationship they have with different labs, we may use another lab to do stuff that allows us to make an official diagnosis. So the patient pays for some stuff to see what’s there and then other stuff they can get done, so that we can get them on the right treatments.

We find different versions of candida, don’t always find Candida albicans. I tend to find more candida in the mouth than in the digestive tract, like lower down in the GI tract. Tend to find lots of bacteria in the GI tract, a lot of issues with… I don’t know if you’re familiar with zonulin or some of the markers that essentially are modern day markers for a classic concept of leaky gut syndrome. They’re basically tests that show there’s microscopic damage in the lining of the GI tract.

We also test for damage to the blood-brain barrier, and we look for markers that show up in the blood, indicating there’s stuff crossing the blood-brain barrier that shouldn’t be crossing. The thing about it, and a concern with a lot of that stuff, is that there are substances called lipopolysaccharides, which I think of as bacterial fragments that are on food or on the bacteria themselves, maybe other types of organisms. And this stuff is very tiny. It gets through, and some people have just really serious ways they suffer. That suffering could be, they may get a lot of depression, they may get a lot of fatigue, they may get emotional reactions and things like that.

And then it’s perplexing because if, let’s say, if you were the husband or wife and your partner is dealing with this issue, they’re talking to you fine, and all of a sudden, they’re having this emotional change, it’s difficult to understand why. So if you go on PubMed or some other medical databases and look at LPS and mood, or endotoxemia and mood, there’s an abundance of research discussing this stuff. What’s surprising is how many people have pretty serious mental health issues that they now believe may be linked to GI function.

So one of the things that we’ll do here is, let’s say, if someone has colon cancer, or any type of cancer diagnosis, when we do, let’s say, a GI test, and we find a bacteria in the mouth or somewhere else in the body, we then run queries to see, “Has that organism been reported with that cancer?” And we typically find it has been.

So there are a lot of relationships. Now, I can’t say that it’s causative, right? But I can say, look, it’s a bad guy. We don’t want him in your body because he can only harm you. Let’s get rid of it.

Building Strength in Patients with Fatigue

DrMR:   And, I think you touched on earlier… I’m curious, I’m sure some of our audience who suffer with post-exertional fatigue or post-exercise fatigue are wondering, given your focus and familiarity with exercise, are you finding anything that’s helpful for these patients?

One of the things that I have found to be helpful is just having a very slow ramp-up of the volume, and being careful not to say, “Well, I haven’t been exercising for a while. Now I’m going to go three days a week, somewhat hard.” And I’ve really been impressed at how much people can progress if the buildup is slow and steady. But for patients who are really finding, “Well, any time I do significant movement, I tend to crash,” are you finding anything helpful for this cohort?

DrTI:     Yeah, similar to what you just shared, there are a lot of ways you can measure energy metabolites, the Krebs cycle. There are a number of labs that do different tests, either urine or blood. It’ll tell you, “Hey, you get so far and then you can’t get to the next step.” And the first level would be, we look at, “Is there a vitamin or mineral that’s missing, that’s involved in the enzyme that moves things along, let’s say in the Krebs cycle, or the electron transport chain or something?” I would look at making sure we’ve addressed or reinforced, let’s say, the micronutrients needed to make energy. In the exercise part, we do a lot of neurological assessments, standard things like a Romberg stance. And we keep taking it out to single leg movement patterns.

And so, we each have—between the physical therapist, strength coach, the chiropractic physician and myself—our phase, or our part of the relay, if you will. Then we pass the baton on to the next person, and they look at their area. And we see where they’re breaking down. So, for example, if I have a guy that, when he closes his eyes and has his feet together, can’t maintain his balance, you’d think, is there something wrong with the cerebellum? Then we’re restricting movement patterns to first figure out, can we improve this with exercise or is this something where we need to bring in a neurologist? Most people will have some issues, and it can be addressed through exercise. So there’s not a reason for the neurologist to get involved at that point.

Then, let’s say, we get them to a certain point and there are some issues with stability of their pelvis or spine. That’s a toss up. Do they go to the PT? Do they go to the chiro? The big guys put their heads together and figure that stuff out. But the main point I’m getting at is, biochemically we’ll look at micronutrients, make sure that’s addressed physically. We’ll make sure that there’s good ability to stabilize the body under load.

Imagine if I have a torn labrum (which I have had in the past). I can’t really control my femur that well because of some missing connective tissue around it. So if I don’t have a competent therapist that can observe my body and teach me what to do in a struggle, I’m going to try to do my best, but I basically got my femur wobbling around in my acetabulum. So I’m going to get more fatigue out of doing movement patterns than I might realize, simply because I’m working so much harder to do basic tasks. But if you have a physical therapist or chiro, or some trainer that’s aware of this stuff, they can teach you how to do different things, to learn how to use the muscles outside the joint to assist with the stability of the joint. So it’s a more coordinated mechanical motion, less energy required to execute the tasks, and there’s less fatigue from doing that.

In terms of the exercise design, if you will, we tend to start out people very low. We use basic things like a talk test. So if you’re doing cardio, we’re having a conversation. If you have to gasp, it’s too much for you right now. If we’re doing strength training, the strength coaches are looking at you, seeing how you’re responding, and they’re pacing things accordingly.

Generally speaking, most people that have never worked out tend to doubt their abilities. So they may require a little motivation. But then you have the guys that were athletes in the past. Now they’re not as athletic, but they think they could still do what they did, 20, 30 years ago. Those guys may need to hold back a little bit, just because we don’t want to see anyone get hurt and overdo it. But the goal is to help everyone get to a level… even simple things, we can do one set of different movements today and that’d be the workout for the week. Maybe eight movements, to do one set of each, and then next week they’d going to do two sets, and the next week three sets. We slowly build up their volume over time, and as they’re responding, we can make more modifications and tweaks.

DrMR:   Gotcha. Yep, that progressive volume increase makes a lot of sense. And I think for our audience, don’t underestimate how much you get out of just, slow. Starting low and slow, building, and volume increases.

DrTI:     Yeah, one simple thing. Even if, let’s say, you added five pounds to a movement, and let’s say you did it 10 reps, the volume effect is, if you did three sets of 10 reps, well, now if you added five pounds, that’s the five pounds times 10 reps, that’s 50 pounds, times the three sets, that’s 150 pounds of additional work done or loading that you’ve introduced that day. That has an impact over time. So you don’t have to kill yourself today to see the results you want. You’ve just got to stimulate things enough to keep it going in the right direction.

View Dr. Ruscio’s Additional Resources

Episode Wrap-Up

DrMR:   Yep. Agreed. Well, I wasn’t able to get to every question I wanted to ask because we’re coming up on time here. But I do want to make sure that we tell people more about your center, and where you’d want to point them on the internet or to any books or articles or videos.

DrTI:     So they can go to On the home page, you can fill out a form to schedule a free consult and talk to one of the people here. Just say, “Hey, here’s something I’m thinking about doing. Can you guys help me or not?” so you don’t have to pay for anything right up front.

Then we can say, “Look, here’s how we would approach it.” And if you want to go forward, they’ll tell you what the next step would be.

If you’re looking to get a little education without spending any money, you can go right over to the resources section. Click on that, and there’s all kinds of free stuff you can download. We have a rainbow diet book. We look at things like glycemic load and different food combinations to stabilize blood sugar, but provide all these micronutrients, phytonutrients and things like that that are healthy.

We have a really good book on 10 questions to ask your doctor if you have cancer. That’s got two questions that people never ask. They don’t realize because it’s their first journey, usually. They ask the wrong questions and then they don’t get the result. They get upside down. And like, how’d they get here? They just didn’t realize that some of the questions they were thinking don’t really matter. There are other questions that matter a whole lot more.

There’s other stuff there that people might find very useful, like different stories and videos, educating for technologies that we have or how we treated people that were allegedly incurable, and just the stuff we did. When you see it, I think most of it is kind of basic. I don’t think a lot of it is earth-shattering, it just takes someone that’s willing to put the time and effort to figure things out.

DrMR:   Great. Well, certainly I have no disagreement that getting someone fit and healthy is going to be the foundation for being as disease-resilient or able to combat diseases as possible.

So I liked the general approach, and the integrative team sounds really interesting to have all those different players looking at a case and working together cooperatively. So thank you, Tom, for taking the time to elaborate on what you do and making our audience aware of it.

DrTI:     Thank you for the opportunity.

DrMR:   Been a pleasure.

DrTI:     Have a great day.

What do you think? I would like to hear your thoughts or experience with this.


I care about answering your questions and sharing my knowledge with you. Leave a comment or connect with me on social media asking any health question you may have and I just might incorporate it into our next listener questions podcast episode just for you!