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The Link Between Cancer and Fatigue – And What You Can Do to Prevent Them

October 13, 2017 by DR. MYLAINE RIOBE
Riobe Institute of Integrative Medicine The Link Between Cancer and Fatigue – And What You Can Do to Prevent Them

There’s no doubt about it – modern life has many conveniences and advantages. Despite these modern conveniences, many of us already feel wiped out before the day even starts. Do you feel like you can’t keep up or focus because you’re tired? Fatigue is the most common complaint that I hear from my new patients. Did you know that your energy levels say a lot about your personal risk of cancer? In this article, I will explain the indirect, but critical link between your energy level and the development of cancer.

Riobe Institute of Integrative Medicine The Link Between Cancer and Fatigue – And What You Can Do to Prevent Them

Why are the rates of certain types of disease, such as cancer, skyrocketing in our modern world? The numbers are sobering: 2 out of every 5 people in the U.S and Canada are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. One out of 4 is expected to die of cancer every year. Why are these statistics expected to rise despite the best that modern technology has to offer? The answer to these questions comes down to the very basics of life – the inability of your cells to make and use energy fast enough to meet the demands of modern life.

The human body is made of trillions of cells, each working specifically to perform its functions as part of a seamless whole. Within each cell, millions of chemical reactions occur daily in response to body requirements and environmental input. Cells work hard within their limited lifespan. All body function is derived from its cells, including the manufacturing of energy, hormones, enzymes, detoxification, and elimination of waste. Cells reproduce several times, die, and are replaced by new cells.

When the body is functioning normally, the immune system responds to abnormal cells, including cancer, and kills them. We don’t have significant symptoms or diseases when the body is functioning properly.

This process is a delicate balance, however, and when the body experiences imbalance, the effects begin at the cellular level and create a ripple effect that can disrupt and negatively impact many different body systems. The macro-environment (the environment around us) exerts a strong impact on the cellular microenvironment of our bodies.

It has become increasingly clear that our macro-environment poses challenges to our internal systems due to both synthetic and natural chemicals (natural chemicals are those produced by our own bodies in response to stress). A number of almost unavoidable factors in our modern world have harmful effects, including overwhelming demands on our physical systems:

  • the use of pesticides
  • genetically modified foods
  • processed and pasteurized foods
  • the use of hormones and antibiotics in the food industry
  • the overuse of antibiotics
  • household toxins
  • widespread production and use of plastics
  • exposure to artificial light
  • stress
  • air pollution

Processing foods, for example, reduces the natural fiber, vitamins, and minerals in that food. Combined with the increased use of pesticides, processed foods wreak havoc on our gastrointestinal tract and fail to bring us the benefits normally associated with food because of the reduced nutritive value. Up to 20% of the U.S. population has a significant gastrointestinal problem, leading to poor absorption, weak immunity, inflammation, sleep disturbances, psychiatric disturbances, and even cancer. Lack of sleep is another reason why the demand on our cells outweighs supply. When we don’t sleep sufficiently, our bodies are “on” more than they should be. This creates increased demand. We have forced the body to compensate to the point where it runs out of gas, causing fatigue, chronic disease, and, frequently, cancer.

This negative ripple effect is a matter of resources. As explained in detail in my book, The Tao of Integrative Medicine, nature endowed our bodies with built-in mechanisms to self-correct. When the body is constantly waging a protective battle to self-correct, however, it begins to deplete its natural resources, such as proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, hormones, and enzymes. As a result, it redirects these resources to ensure the tissues and cells that are a top priority for survival have precedence to receive the supplies they need. This leaves those low-priority cells (hair follicles, skin, skeletal muscles and joints, immune system, ovaries, and other glands) drained and worn out. Eventually, we experience symptoms once these cells can’t perform their normal functions. As the body continues to run low on resources and has to short-change more and more cells and tissues, even the critical cells become deprived of the energy and oxygen necessary to function correctly.

Riobe Institute of Integrative Medicine The Link Between Cancer and Fatigue – And What You Can Do to Prevent Them

At this point, “normal” life becomes a challenge due to fatigue, low energy, and other symptoms. I call this the gray zone. The gray zone is the zone where we know something is wrong, but conventional medicine can’t identify what it is, or finds a piece or two of the puzzle and treats them individually, missing the underlying cause. Many people seeking relief from these symptoms with conventional medicine fail to find it; blood work and other diagnostic tests come back normal because the standard tests do not reveal what their body needs. This is a critical point because if the body can get what it needs, these symptoms go away. This is the most critical point of intervention to successfully prevent cancer and many diseases. It turns out that the causes of fatigue are the same causes of cancer! This is the strategy that I employ at the Riobe Institute that has significantly reduced the risk of cancer and the risk of recurrence for patients with cancer in my patient population.

The answer to this challenge is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Traditional Chinese Medicine allows for diagnosis and treatment in the critical gray zone. This approach looks at the energy of the body (E = mc2) and finds patterns of imbalance, which we can correct, restoring the body’s relationship with itself and its environment. Energy-based medicine has a central role in disease prevention because it provides the ability to treat the underlying causes of symptoms and correct them before they progress to the stage of a disease. In other words, your fatigue is not solved just simply by getting more sleep – your body needs to stop operating in the gray zone so that your body can process the energy it absorbs efficiently and properly. According to TCM, cancer has several causes. The one thing almost all cancers have in common is a pattern called “spleen qi (pronounced chee) deficiency.” The “spleen” in TCM is the energy system responsible for making the body’s energy! Spleen qi deficiency is also a common pattern causing fatigue.

If this fatigue is left untreated, it simply compounds over time leading to the risk of cancer.

Functional medicine is the second part of the answer, as it also allows for some diagnosis and treatment in that gray zone. While functional medicine is technically anatomical and deductive, it looks in the cells for answers and reveals significant dysfunction when blood work remains within normal parameters. Cellular-based testing alone, for instance, doesn’t answer all that is needed, but it’s a great addition to help complement what TCM reveals.

The triggers of fatigue and cancer begin at the cellular level, and it’s at the cellular level that the battle can be won – if the underlying issues are identified and addressed effectively. In my experience, a comprehensive evaluation based on both functional medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine is the best way to make an accurate and thorough diagnosis, with a treatment plan based on the principles of both modalities providing the way forward for a healthier life, unencumbered by a high risk of fatigue, cancer and other serious diseases.


Dr. Riobe helps patients prevent cancer and survive chemo and radiation therapies through the use of Functional and Traditional Chinese Medicine – an Integrative approach – the Riobe Method. Contact the Riobe Institute of Integrative Medicine for your appointment today – 772.266.4258.

Read more about The Answer to Cancer by Dr. Riobe.

Click here to learn more about The Tao of Integrative Medicine: The Path to Prevention by Dr. Riobe.

Interested in learning more about Functional Medicine? Click here.



The Tao of Integrative Medicine:

The Path to Prevention

by Dr. Mylaine Riobe


The Answer to Cancer:

The Ending of an Epidemic

by Dr. Mylaine Riobe



  • “I was always interested in natural health…hate medications, prescriptions. I came in originally because my hormones were out of whack! I was grouchy, hated the world.I knew something was wrong. My hormones are better now.  My husband even thanked Dr Riobe for helping me.” Any recommendations to improve our concierge program?  “No. It’s perfect!”

    Renee C, concierge member
    Jensen Beach, Florida 2019
    RIIM Client for over 5 years,
  • "I have direct access to Marlene and Dr.Riobe. It helps to keep me on track plus if I have a question about a supplement I don’t have to wait 6 months to get an appt to ask if it’s okay for me – with other doctors you have to wait but with this program I can stay right on top of my health and get the answers I need! Our health is something that we have to stay on top of everyday so it’s important to get answers.  It’s quick fast immediate attention to my health concerns – love it!" Any recommendations to improve our concierge program? “Just duplicate Dr.Riobe in other states to help other people in need – Dr.Riobe is excellent!”

    Debbie S, concierge member
    Palm City, Florida
    RIIM Client for over 8 years,
  • "I’ve been a patient for over 7 years! She is fantastic. I am a Retired RN and very holistic/organic. I was looking for integrative doctor to help me and was happy she was in Stuart. Now I have to drive to Jupiter, but oh well, it’s worth it!” “I have seen a big improvement in my health. I love having the direct access to Dr. Riobe!” Any recommendations to improve our concierge program? “No. I think it’s great!”

    Marilyn M, concierge member
    Palm City, Florida
    RIIM Client for over 7 years,
  • "My mother in law in really big into nutrition and health so she also recommended that I reach out to an integrative doctor plus I've always been a huge fan of natural health/holistic medicine.  I had tingling in my feet, legs and hands.  After going to multiple doctors, they couldn’t tell me why I was having this pain and I’ve always been active, so it didn’t make sense.  I’m glad Barbara referred me to Dr. Riobe because she ran tests and found out I was deficient in vitamins and had poor absorption.” “Treatment is definitely helping and I’m feeling better!”

    Deanne L, concierge member
    Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
    RIIM Client for less than 1 year,
  • “My daughter recommended Dr. Riobe...because traditional medicine wasn't working for my chronic migraine headaches.  I was getting 15-20 per month.  It was ruining my life.  I couldn't get out of bed. I couldn't play with my grandson.  I was getting seizures.  Dr. Riobe gave me my life back! I can play with my precious grandson and go to dinner with my husband again.  I lost 30 pounds.  I'm so excited that I get to live my life again thanks to Dr. Riobe.”

    Barb B, concierge member
    Stuart, Florida
    RIIM Client for 1 year,