Breast Cancer and Diet

It is a sad fact that we are less healthy today than we were fifty years ago. Cancer, including of the breast, are diseases of ageing and waning immunity so why is it that it is being diagnosed in mid-life or even earlier now? The answer almost certainly lies in our modern diets and lifestyle.

Every day we all make cells that are less than perfect. This is not a problem for a healthy body – the immune system does not allow these cells to flourish. They will be dismantled and removed to ensure the body stays healthy. This protective action is seen time after time within the body. Think of the liver – it is probably the busiest organ in the body and is an expert at multi-tasking. It works tirelessly to make the nutrients we require and detoxify us of the substances we don’t need or could be dangerous. We constantly bombard our bodies with toxic chemicals – shampoos, shower gels, cosmetics and importantly in the case of breast cancer, antiperspirants. We also receive noxious substances in our food – antibiotics, hormones, chemical preservatives, colourants and flavourings. The liver has a hard time removing all this and if it can’t get rid of it, the liver will store some “out of the way”. This is not a good idea at all.

In order that these mechanisms work efficiently, the right diet in addition to avoiding the wrong one is of paramount importance. Why would you want to aim for anything else? Cancer is a horrible disease wherever it is, but for women breast cancer can change everything that is held dear and ruin confidence and self-esteem as well as health.

One of the most important aspects of the diet, are the choices we make choosing fats. Yes – we need fats and we need the ones that are loaded with the fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins that are essential for the correct functioning of cells, hormones and Salmonthe rebuilding of tissues. These must be the traditional fats including butter – the best ones are from organic and preferably pastured beef, pork, lamb, duck and goose fats. Also, two excellent vegetable oils are (again organic) coconut and olive oils. These are in addition to, not instead of the animal fats. Oily fish such as wild salmon, mackerel and sardines provide essential fats which are anti-inflammatory. We definitely do not want highly processed seed oils – either for frying or as margarine. These are very harmful to us and compromise our immunity.

A diet high in sugars and other carbohydrate foods will increase blood glucose and therefore insulin levels. There is a good deal of research to show that constantly high levels of insulin encourage the growth of at least some cancers – including breast. It is beneficial for your all-round health to adopt a low carbohydrate, organic diet.

It is also a good idea to forgo soya. Not only is it usually genetically modified, but it messes with hormones due to its phytoestrogen content. Our hormones are best left to their own devices.

Stress is a very significant factor. Any stress, be it physical or mental sets up the release of stress hormones from the glands. They are there for our protection – should we need it for instant energy to allow us to get out of danger. This is fine for a short period of short duration but long term, this is harmful for health. As the stress hormones release glucose into the blood, over time the blood vessels become inflamed. Our bodies hate inflammation and this is the cause or at least a factor in many diseases.

I couldn’t possibly write a blog without the mention of vitamin D! Whilst we are carefully staying out of the mid-day sun in order to avoid skin-cancer, we are inviting a whole host of other disastrous illnesses – including some types of breast cancer.

Email me

Stress and Inflammation

Long-term stress may be the most damaging single condition to affect our health.

Stress is not just a state of mind but a defence mechanism that evolution has bestowed to get us out of trouble quickly. It is physical. The hormones involved in this make you breathe faster, increase your heart rate, elevate your blood glucose levels, lessen sensitivity of bladder and bowels, remove hunger and much more.These measures may well get you out of trouble (flight or fight), but long term chronic stress is extremely damaging to the body – therefore your overall health.

Stress equals inflammation – caused by the stress hormones and this is what the body cannot tolerate over long periods. Mental stress will do this but so will physical stress. Over-exercising, smoking and eating nutrient-poor foods are examples of this.

Today’s lifestyle brings stress to us all. Learning how to manage it is imperative. You have to eat the correct diet for humans and you have to make time for relaxation – if you want a long life that is.

There are many ways to relax – a good book, a stroll (not a power walk- leave that for exercise!), listening to music, a long lie in the bath and so on.Yoga provides relaxation for the body and the mind. This study shows it.

If you prefer to go-it-alone, I can highly recommend this book: Quiet the Mind by Matthew Johnstone

Don’t feel that you are being indulgent or feel guilty – they just add to the stress. This is a life-lengthener and should be built into all lifestyles. Read my lifestyle guidelines.

 

Email me

Wellbeing for the Mind – part 3

Stress -  “when life changes from normal to something abnormal to us”

Coping with life seems to cause us many problems. At the end of the day, this is what often causes our moods to change – when life changes from the normal to something abnormal to us – the life experiences. Here are some examples; illness, moving house, separation and divorce, the death of someone close and then life without that person, redundancy, retirement and so on. On an even more serious level, there is abuse, violence, deprivation, disability (although the impact of this will vary between individuals), homelessness etc.

All of these situations fit into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (see part one) so in my view, the best way to tackle treatment is at this grass roots level. I am not a therapist with experience in this area and I believe that in some of these situations, help is going to be needed in one form or another and often from another person/people. Sadly, the usual sequence of events is that you feel out of control, you have time off work, you feel guilty about this so you see a doctor. You are given medication. This gives you hope and you return to work – who may be pressurising you to do so, but the very basic issues have not been addressed. It is highly likely that your problems will resurface at some time. The drugs have side effects which are at best unpleasant and at worst, detrimental to overall health. This report shows that drugs may not be necessary.

LotusWhen times are tough, be good to yourself. These measures do not have to be expensive. They don’t sound powerful in the way that drugs do, but their effects are far-reaching if you approach them in the right way. If you are given medication, you expect it to work don’t you? You must approach other measures in the same way – they will work and you will benefit but for the long-term, not just for the course of tablets. Time is a great healer and whether you are on a course of tablets or doing something less risky – putting space between you now and an adverse event holds the most benefit. You may as well do something positive for your overall health.

This is a passage taken from the link above, about the Key Factors to Overcoming Depression:
(“Me” and “my” refer to Dr. Joseph Mercola – not me personally)

 

Exercise – If you have depression, or even if you just feel down from time to time, exercise is a MUST. The research is overwhelmingly positive in this area, with studies confirming that physical exercise is at least as good as antidepressants for helping people who are depressed. One of the primary ways it does this is by increasing the level of endorphins, the “feel good” hormones, in your brain.

Address your stress — Constant stress can lead to depression which is a very serious condition. However it is not a “disease.” Rather, it’s a sign that your body and your life are out of balance.

This is so important to remember, because as soon as you start to view depression as a “mental illness,” you think you need to take a drug to fix it (and so do doctors). In reality, all you need to do is return balance to your life, and one of the key ways to doing this is addressing stress.

Meditation or yoga can help. Sometimes all you need to do is get outside for a walk. But in addition to that, I also recommend using a system that can help you address emotional issues that you may not even be consciously aware of. For this, my favorite is Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). However, if you have depression or serious stress, I believe it would be best to consult with a mental health professional who is also an EFT practitioner to guide you.

Eat a healthy diet — Another factor that cannot be overlooked is your diet. Foods have an immense impact on your mood and ability to cope and be happy, and eating whole foods as described in my nutrition plan will best support your mental health. Avoiding sugar and grains will help normalize your insulin and leptin levels, which is another powerful tool in addressing depression. An important observation has been made regarding people suffering schizophrenia and their gut health. The same has been observed in people diagnosed with a condition on the autistic spectrum.

Support optimal brain functioning with essential fats — I also strongly recommend supplementing your diet with a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat, like krill oil. This may be a very important factor in helping depression.

Get plenty of sunshine – Making sure you’re getting enough sunlight exposure to have healthy vitamin D levels is also a crucial factor in treating depression or keeping it at bay. One previous study found that people with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who had normal levels. Vitamin D deficiency is actually more the norm than the exception, and has previously been implicated in both psychiatric and neurological disorders.”

I couldn’t have put it better so I have just cut and pasted it. I would add a couple of things too. Use your friends and talk to them – just as you have done for them and will do in the future. Revisit hobbies or maybe even go to an evening class. Not only will you make friends, but you will learn all the time – this is positive. Use distractions.To the diet recommendations, I would add fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kefir. These can help normalise the gut microbes. Dysbiosis (“difficult life”) in the gut is associated with many health issues, including the health of the mind.

For exercise why not just walk? It’s free and always interesting – whether it’s country or town. Observe all the while – don’t just look around you, really see the birds, gardens, people and so on. These give you connection and belonging. Don’t forget to greet the people you meet – this connection can make an enormous difference, not just to you but to them as well. Walking barefoot has huge health benefits too – a physical as well as spiritual connection to the earth.

There will be times when professional help is needed. It is of course, your choice where this comes from but do consider this – here is a link to the Human Givens Institute. Their help is very much based on problem solving and does not usually require more than a couple of appointments.

Email me

 

 

 

Fight or Flight

Part One

StressWhat does the word stress mean to you? Sitting in a traffic jam when you have a meeting to go to? Having more work than you can reasonably cope with? Family arguments? Illness? Stress comes in many guises. Some stress is needed – call it motivation if you like – or we wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning! When we feel the effects, it is usually due to repeated or continual stress. We become tetchy – even volatile; our concentration diminishes; our judgement becomes impaired; sleep is difficult or unrefreshing; skin problems emerge or our digestion suffers. I could fill this blog with the effects of stress. We don’t normally suffer from all the effects but many of them will come and go as stress increases.

We need to understand why this happens to us before we can control its effects. All animals experience this, because it serve a purpose. It is all due to the need to survive. You will have heard of the “fight or flight” reaction. For example, if you have a close encounter with a snake, given the right circumstances the snake will “leg it”, but if it is cornered it will strike.  Having too much work to do doesn’t, superficially, appear the same thing but as far as the body is concerned, the same chemical reactions are started up. The effects of this are inconsequential when it is an occasional occurrence. It’s normal and our bodies cope well. We run into problems when the effects are repeated or constant.

Our stress hormones set up numerous responses to help us with the fight or flight decision; we breathe more rapidly; our blood sugar rises; blood pressure increases; the nerves to bowel/bladder/stomach become less sensitive (we do not need to be rushing to the loo before we run!); hearts beat faster; tiredness disappears – again I could fill the blog with these effects. Over time these change to more serious problems – blood pressure and pulse rate rarely return to normal, we have constipation or diarrhoea or suffer indigestion and sleep is elusive. This is an over-simplification of what happens but hopefully, you get the point. The fact is, it’s a whole body experience and can have lasting effects on health. The solution is easier said than done. RELAX! I know this is not very helpful and therefore my next blog will be about how you can avoid stress, or at least control it.

Part Two

Chronic stress can be felt as being out of control.  The condition which gets us up in the morning we call motivation – hunger, needing the loo, getting the kids up, going to work etc. These are all fine most of the time but sometimes the pressure of all this “motivation” starts to affect our ability to function normally (see previous blog).

There are many coping strategies and you already know most of them. Why then do we find them so difficult to implement? It’s mostly to do with our fears: We don’t want to appear weak/incapable/untrustworthy/slacking/uncompromising and neither do we want to be unpopular. We have to learn to say “NO”  as well as time management/prioritising and delegation – both at work and at home.

For example: I don’t “do ironing”. A very good friend of mine (in her 60s) told me that she doesn’t “do ironing” and I didn’t believe her – she always looks so lovely. She puts everything in the tumble drier for ten minutes then gets it out, shakes it and it continues drying on the line or radiators. So now I do this – if it is not good enough for those in the house – they know where the iron is (but I don’t!). This is a great time saver and there are many others, too many to list here. A brainstorming session at home or at work will undoubtedly come up with lots of ideas; just don’t be afraid to do things differently. If the outcome is the same, does it matter how it gets done?

Prioritising work is also important. Once you have made a list, stick to it. If you have prioritised at work, bash out some short emails to those at the bottom saying that you have the work in hand and you will get the work done by ****(over-estimate). Then, make a note and get it done a week before that time. They will be delighted and you will be less stressed and get brownie points too! At home, get the teenagers cooking the dinner – they get to choose the menu. (You can have pizza once in a while!) When someone offers (or even ask them) to help with collecting kids from school etc. SAY THANK YOU – you can reciprocate when you have less on.

Sleep can be the first thing to suffer when you’re stressed. You fall into bed, completely shattered, and are still awake two hours later working out how to cope with tomorrow. Or, you go straight to sleep and wake up at 2am! Get a routine. We get our children focussed on the bedtime routine because we know they need it. But so do WE! Having a little relaxation time during the day can pay dividends at bed time. Some people find that yoga or uplifting music can be helpful.

Even if it is just a half hour routine, it can make all the difference. A warm bath (with essential oils if you like), a warm milky drink, a chapter of a trashy novel and into bed – with ear plugs if necessary. Make sure you are warm enough – a hot water bottle can be a real comfort. I think it is good practice in a partnership to sleep in separate rooms if one partner is having trouble sleeping. Actually, I believe it can be a relationship saver for some.

Take control now before it gets out of hand!

Email me