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Nutritional Therapy

Bristol Cancer Help Centre has always recognised and promoted the vital importance of nutrition with regard to cancer prevention and management. The Centre's team of nutritional experts regularly update the nutritional recommendations and ensure that they are based on the most up-to-date cancer nutrition research.

The nutritional aspect of the Bristol Approach focuses on providing the body with all of the nutrients it needs such as vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and phytonutrients, while limiting consumption of foods that inhibit optimal functioning such as refined sugars and hydrogenated fats.

All nutrients are required to protect us from cancer, and studies show that a varied wholefood diet can promote general health and help to support the immune system - the body's first line of defence against disease. One of the most important aspects of the wholefood diet is the fresh vegetables and fruit. While the government recommend five portions per day, our team of experts believe this is the absolute minimum and that people should aim to consume seven or eight portions if possible.

The first step to healthy eating should be about introducing more of the foods that promote wellbeing.  We would recommend the following:

  • eat a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruit, including some salad and raw vegetables with most meals (juicing is a good addition for getting more fruit and vegetables into the diet)
  • increase the range of wholegrains eaten: eg brown rice, barley, millet, quinoa and wholewheat bread and pasta
  • include a range of beans and pulses such as lentils in meals on a regular basis
  • consume fresh raw nuts and seeds
  • use only cold pressed plant oils and only olive oil for cooking
  • start to include freshly made vegetable and fruit juices wherever possible
  • drink plenty of water, preferably filtered or mineral water - aim for two litres a day

The second step is to cut down, and possibly avoid the foods that undermine health, these include the following:

  • sugar and refined carbohydrates
  • dairy products
  • red meat
  • processed foods
  • smoked/cured foods
  • caffeine
  • alcohol
  • salt 

The Centre's team of nutritional experts have produced nutrition and supplement guidelines which expand on the above information. Contact the national telephone helpline on 0845 123 23 10 or e-mail us to receive a copy

Vitamins and Minerals

The key focus of the nutritional apsect of the Bristol Approach is food. Unfortunately even a balanced diet can lack certain nutrients, in particular the trace minerals, and we therefore recommend people take certain nutritional supplements. For more information on these recommendations please consult our supplement guidelines. These are regularly reviewed and updated by our team of experts.

Contact the national telephone helpline on 0845 123 23 10 or e-mail us

Relaxation, Meditation & Guided Imagery

A range of contemplative therapies are used as part of the Bristol Approach, and each commences with a fundamental relaxation process. It is well known that relaxation is important to health and well being, and this simple self-help technique is easily learned and implemented.

Similarly, meditation is also well understood as a way to achieve a peaceful mind. Less well known, though, is guided imagery. But if you ever enjoyed listening to a story being read to you as a child, or heard a radio play and pictured the scenes vividly, then you have had some experience of guided imagery. Guided imagery can create in the mind a whole spectrum of emotional experience and can be a very positive and creative tool of the mind.

Practices such as meditation and guided imagery help to balance the two halves of our brains - the logical/ constructive left side and the imaginative/feeling right side. To use directed creative thought and images is a way of choosing to be more responsible for the way we think about ourselves. To create positive thoughts when we are ill removes us from the role of victim and empowers us, changing the energy within and assisting the natural healing process.

Common reactions to a cancer diagnosis or recurrence can include anger, fear and a sense of losing control over one�s life. This can lead to a loss of confidence and feelings of depression that may in turn impact on a person�s immune system. However, when feeling more uplifted and positive, the reverse process � a strengthening of the immune system and improvement in a sense of wellbeing - can occur. This is why the Centre uses and teaches self help techniques such as relaxation, meditation and guided imagery, which can be learnt and practised in the home.


When confronted by serious illness it is important to be able to talk about things that are important to us, our lives and those we are close to. Thoughts and questions will naturally arise relating to the illness, its treatment, the effects of both illness and treatment on everyday life and relationships, the changes that will need to be absorbed, and possible short and long-term outcomes.

Counselling within the Bristol Approach is considered a central component of the healing process. During a counselling session the emphasis is on seeking to explore gently and safely, principally through conversation, those things that are important and relevant to the effects and changes that the cancer has brought about in everyday life and significant relationships.

At the centre the counselling used both in one-to-one sessions and group therapy is termed 'transpersonal'. This helps individuals to explore needs from a whole-person perspective. Serious illness challenges all parts of our being - our physical body, our thoughts, our feelings, our emotions, our spirit, our relationships and the environment in which we live. Initially the need is to cope with the crisis of diagnosis and the grief surrounding the loss of the known, and to explore the potential adjustments involved in facing a new reality. As those adjustments take place, so counselling can become a more expansive and co-creative process.

Spiritual Healing

Healing is a general term which covers a wide range of applications. It does not, in this context, specifically equate with the verb �to heal�. Rather, it is a method of conveying inner strength � or spiritual strength � from one person to another. We all have an ability to help and heal each other, from the comfort a mother gives a child when she �kisses it better�, to the support of a pat on the back from a friend. These things make others feel better. Healers are people who have chosen to develop and refine this skill and the best doctors and nurses and healthcare professionals come into this category.

Although we may use the term �spiritual�, there is no specific religious dimension to the healing process at Bristol Cancer Help Centre. But healing does relate to the spiritual essence of an individual and the healer works with an individual according to his or her specific needs. This will take the form of a quiet talk followed by a period of stillness to allow healing energy to be transmitted to the other person giving them strength and calmness.

People generally feel very peaceful during and after a healing session, but sometimes a healing crisis is experienced. As the shifting energies release tension they can reveal long-term tiredness or even pain, which may need time to pass through the physical body before the improved pattern is felt. The healer does not necessarily use a physical touch, but they try to be in touch with the person�s inner self or spirit and so refresh or re-energise their depleted energy levels or help people find inner peace of mind and acceptance.

Massage & Shiatsu

Touch is the most accessible form of soothing and comforting, and we use it instinctively all the time. We all know how great we feel after a good massage, but recent studies by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami suggest that this �feelgood factor� has a clear physiological basis through boosting the immune system. The results of blood tests taken from people with breast cancer suggest that following massage their level of natural killer cells (which attack cancer cells) rose. Lowered cortisol levels have also been registered. Cortisol is the stress hormone which, in too great a quantity, destroys our bodies natural defences.

The same research also indicates that massage can reduce anxiety and depression and re-energise recipients � all outcomes seen at the Centre. It�s not really surprising when you consider that the skin is the largest organ in the body, with thousands of receptors which react to all sorts of stimuli, from heat to pressure, sending messages to the brain via the nervous system. When you touch someone you are, at most, 2 or 3 nerve junctions from their brain.

The Centre also offers Shiatsu massage, a non intrusive body therapy in which people remain fully clothed, and this is specially adapted for the needs of each individual.

Creative Therapies

Art and music therapy are used as a way of helping people express feelings which are sometimes beyond words. When a person is happy and inspired their body works at its best, and therefore some of the most powerful healing occurs when individuals are actively and passionately involved with projects or activities that excite and interest them.

Art and Music therapy sessions offer a chance to experience the creativity we all possess, allowing us to discover our continuing strengths. Exploring creativity is a powerful, often surprising and joyful way of going deeper into our journeys. No kind of artistic skill is needed and there can never be anything �wrong� about what is created as every image is particular to the person who makes it, and valued as such. In art therapy thoughts and feelings may be expressed through the making of images, to promote self healing, self discovery and insight.

Music Therapy has recently been the subject of scientific evaluation and it has been demonstrated that cortisol levels are reduced in people during and after music therapy sessions. This evidence supports what most people have known instinctively for years, that listening to certain types of music in a relaxed state improves ones mood and helps people reach a deeper level of rest and explore a wide range of feelings.

Creative therapies are implemented in an active way with the therapist acting as a facilitator. By taking part, people can gain the creative energy to enable them to project feeling and thoughts which might be difficult to articulate.

"The beauty of the Bristol Approach is that you can adapt it into a personal strategy.  With the Centre's help I have a positive, creative lifestyle which I do not intend to change."

Robert Ross