Optimizing Your Body Terrain

Your body terrain is the state of your inner environment. It includes your nutritional status, metabolism, immune function, microbiome, environmental exposures, and more. Eight terrain factors have known links to cancer development, growth, and spread.

Optimizing your body terrain at a glance

Your body terrain is the state of your inner environment. It includes your nutritional status, metabolism, immune function, microbiomethe collection of microbes living on and within your body, environmental exposures, and other factors. You can think of your terrain as your garden. The minerals, microorganisms, water, and other aspects of soil can promote healthy growth and bountiful outputs, or they can get in the way of healthy growth. Your inner body terrain can similarly promote healthy cell and organ function—or it can favor the unwanted “weeds” of cancer. 

Your body terrain can directly affect your tumor’s microenvironment—the noncancerous cells and tissues and their processes that directly interact with your tumor. Your tumor can change its own microenvironment, and its microenvironment can affect how a tumor grows and spreads. 

We focus on eight terrain factors with known links to cancer development, growth, and spread.

Complete handbooks

Nutrient deficiencies

Levels of some nutrients also impact your response to cancer or cancer treatments, other body terrain factors, and/or your experience of side effects or symptoms common with cancer.

Vitamin C levels

Blood levels of vitamin C are linked to survival, inflammation, diabetes/prediabetes (a risk for cancer and worse cancer outcomes), body weight, bone health, blood pressure, depression, and risk of cancer.

Read about the connections in Vitamin C: Oral Use ›

Vitamin D levels

Blood levels of vitamin D are linked to survival, inflammation, diabetes (a risk for cancer and worse cancer outcomes), body weight, and lower risk of cancer. Optimal levels are also linked to fewer or less severe side effects common during cancer treatment.

Vitamin D ›

Upcoming handbooks

  • Bleeding and coagulation imbalance
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Immune function
  • Inflammation
  • Oxidative stress

See What is my body terrain, and why is it important? › for descriptions of these terrain factors.

Other practices such as smoking or drinking alcohol are linked to many of these terrain factors and to cancer development and outcomes. We discuss these in this handbook.

If you suspect you have a terrain imbalance or simply want to learn more about your status, ask your medical professional (oncologist or primary care practitioner) to order tests. Blood tests, urinalysis, or other tests can find imbalances. Integrative physician and CancerChoices advisor Keith Block, MD, lists tests for detecting specific terrain imbalances and how to partner with your physician to find and manage these imbalances.1Block KI. Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment. New York: Bantam Dell. 2009. Chapters 13–19.

Functional medicine physicians, naturopathic physicians, or other physicians who specialize in assessing and treating imbalances, may also be helpful. We provide guidance on finding these professionals

You can actively improve your body terrain through self carelifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress—healthy lifestyle choices, 7 Healing Practices—and complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture care such as natural products or mind-body therapies. Your oncology team may also use some conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy therapies to enhance your body terrain and make your tumor microenvironment less welcoming and supportive—in short, less hospitable—to cancer. You’ll find entry points for all these options below.

By itself, optimizing your body terrain is not enough to control or cure cancer. But it’s an important complement to conventional treatments, extending the benefits of those treatments by reducing your risk of recurrence and improving your overall health.

Keep reading about optimizing your body terrain

Authors

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Last update: February 13, 2024

Last full literature review: July 2021

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.

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