Eating Greens and How It Affects Immune Health

Image source: rgbstock / johnnyberg

Eating Greens and How It Affects Immune Health

My mother always used to tell me “eat your greens, they’re good for you!” It turns out, mother was more right than she could possibly know.

Eating one’s greens may be even more crucial for immune health than we previously thought, according to recent research which has discovered that an immune cell population essential for intestinal health may be controlled by leafy greens in the diet.

The immune cells, termed innate lymphoid cells (“ILCs”), are located in the lining of the digestive tract. They were discovered in 2013 by researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Molecular Research in Australia. [1]

Let me back-track a bit. Science has, for many years, divided the immune system into two types: innate and adaptive. Innate immunity is present at birth and does not require prior exposure to protect you against pathogens. Adaptive immunity only develops when you have been exposed to a pathogen, for instance chickenpox. Once exposed to a pathogen, your immune cells are able to recognize the invader and mount a defense against it. Adaptive immunity provides the SWAT team that identifies an invading enemy and makes the specific weapons (known as antibodies) needed to destroy it. The fascinating thing about ILCs is that they are neither innate nor adaptive, they sort of straddle the two.

ILCs include cells that have been known for decades, such as natural killer (NK) cells and lymphoid tissue-inducer (LTi) cells. NK cells are key in protecting us from cancer as they recognize a huge array of tumor cells and cancer stem cells and help to eliminate them through cytotoxicity and the production of cytokines. Other ILCs are found mainly in the mucosal lining of the gut and in other mucosal-associated lymphoid tissues, where they work hard to protect us from pathogens.

The 2013 research [2] discovered that a gene called T-bet is essential for producing these all-important ILCs. Going back to the subject of eating greens, they found that the gene responds to signals in the food we eat. They discovered that T-bet is the key gene that tells precursor cells to develop into ILCs. It does this in response to signals from the food we eat and to the presence of bacteria in the gut.

Here’s how it works. Apparently proteins in green leafy and cruciferous vegetables interact with a cell surface receptor that switches on T-bet. Researchers think that the proteins in leafy greens may be part of the same signaling pathway used by T-bet to produce ILCs.

These researchers were excited about the discovery because it has been exceedingly difficult to isolate or produce ILCs. So finding out that something as simple as leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables in the diet can turn on the gene responsible for making ILCs is noteworthy. Without eating greens and without T-bet, the body becomes more susceptible to bacterial infections and other diseases.

Beyond their role in immunity, ILCs are also found in adipose (fat) tissue where they regulate thermogenesis and prevent inflammation that may lead to metabolic syndrome, obesity-related asthma and insulin resistance. [3]

Interestingly, while reading all the research as I prepared to write this article, I came across any number of web articles that boldly denied that diet had any role to play in bolstering immunity – despite the vast amount of research that’s being published to the contrary. Some people live in an interesting land called DENIAL.

For more information on which foods help with immunity and fighting cancer, see my page Diet and Cancer.

References:

[1] Gene Discovery Reveals Importance of Eating Your Greens –
https://www.wehi.edu.au/news/gene-discovery-reveals-importance-eating-your-greens

[2] T-bet is essential for NKp46+ innate lymphocyte development through the Notch pathway –
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4076532/

[3] Innate lymphoid cells: A new paradigm in immunology – http://science.sciencemag.org/content/348/6237/aaa6566

GET MY BEST TIPS on healthy ways to beat breast cancer and prevent recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

I Love This New Nebulizing Essential Oil Diffuser

Organic Aromas Raindrop Nebulizing Diffuser

I Love This New Nebulizing Essential Oil Diffuser!

One of the things I love, use daily, and promote the use of to my clients, are essential oils. In a single bottle of essential oil there is so much potential! They contain so many amazing phytochemicals that are proving in research to be good for so many ailments. I’m continually finding new ways to enjoy their therapeutic benefits and diffusing is one of my favorite ways to use them. I had been using an ultrasonic (cool mist) diffuser but it just recently stopped working so I did a little looking around and found this new nebulizing essential oil diffuser by Organic Aromas.

I used to have a nebulizer diffuser years ago but it was one of the old styles that made so much noise I found it drove me crazy (well crazier than usual). It also ATE UP WAY TOO MUCH oil! It would take 20 drops at a time and that wouldn’t last too long. That’s when I switched to the ultrasonic cool mist diffuser and I still like that style except during the rainy season here in Australia. It does add some humidity to the room which is nice in the hot dry summer season but not so nice when it’s already 90% humidity outside and raining.

Anyway – it appears that nebulizer style diffusers have come a long way in the meantime.

What Is The Difference Between A Nebulizer and an Ultrasonic Diffuser?

Nebulizing diffusers  have an air pump that sends condensed air to a nozzle tube which controls the direction of the vapor. A stream of air blows across the nozzle tube, creates a vacuum and propels undiluted essential oils upward. As they rise, the pressurized air hits the essential oil droplets and causes them to atomize into micro-particles which then fill a glass reservoir. Once in the glass reservoir, the micro-particles rise and are emitted from the reservoir as a vapor which is released into the room.

Ultrasonic diffusers have a water reservoir and a lid. When the unit is plugged in to electricity, a small, flexible membrane at the bottom  of the water reservoir vibrates ultrasonically. This passes energy to the water, breaks up water molecules, and turns water from a liquid to a vapor. The vapor is propelled into the air and carries along with it the now-diluted drops of essential oil.

There are other types of diffusers too. I recently wrote an article on this very subject for the folks over at The Truth About Cancer website. Here it is: Diffusing Essential Oils 101: The Best Diffusers, How to Use Them & DIY Oil Blends   Check out the article, you will get a lot more information about various types of diffusers there.

The Organic Aromas Nebulizing Diffuser

Back to the current topic, my new Organic Aromas nebulizing diffuser. It arrived in a very well-packaged and sturdy box and the company sends you links to videos on how to set up the diffuser and how to clean it properly, all good information.

The thing I like best about the Organic Aromas nebulizing diffuser, however, is that it is so QUIET! It’s fantastic, especially in comparison to my last one. I got the opportunity to use it this week for my 3-year old granddaughter who woke up with a horrible cough, it sounded like whooping cough. We placed the diffuser in her bedroom at bedtime, placed a particular oil blend called “RC” in the diffuser (it’s great for bronchial problems), let it run for just a little while and it was so quiet, it didn’t disturb her slumber and she got over the worst part of that cough in no time flat. Here are some of the features of the Organic Aromas nebulizing diffuser:

  • It is equipped with a “touch sensor” light switch allowing you to turn the LED “mood light” on or off any time with a swipe of a finger
  • It’s very quiet!
  • It uses no heat (which can wreck the therapeutic effects of an essential oil), and no water, so it delivers just essential oil into the air of the room where the diffuser sits
  • It has a dial control that allows you to precisely control how much oil you diffuse
  • It uses little energy, running for 2 minutes on, then 1 minute off
    It has an auto shut-off feature after running for 120 minutes
  • It is rated for rooms up to 80 square meters (800+ square feet)
  • The diffuser looks great. It has a handsome hand-made wood base and blown glass top which looks elegant anywhere you place it
  • It measures approximately 10″ (25 cm) tall x 6″ (15 cm) wide
  • It arrives with the appropriate electrical cord and electrical plug adapter for your market (USA, UK, EU, Australia, etc)

Here is a link to the diffuser I’m enjoying, you can see all of their other products too. And no, I’m not getting paid to write this review, I just love this diffuser and want to share it with you.
The Organic Aromas Raindrop Nebulizing Diffuser

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

7 Effective Ways to Lower Cholesterol without Statins

7 Effective Ways to Lower Cholesterol without Statins

We already know that obesity is linked to breast cancer, there are several studies that have linked the two quite effectively. Now it appears that having high cholesterol levels MAY also put us at a higher risk for breast cancer.

Several studies have recently been published investigating whether there was an association between hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) and breast cancer.  There have been mixed results, with one preliminary British study saying there definitely is an association, and one French study finding no association between blood lipids and breast cancer risk.

Dr Harold Burstein, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and a spokesman for the American Society of Clinical Oncology has stated “The link between cholesterol and breast cancer risk is mild, at most, and has not been a consistent finding in different studies, especially when other factors such as weight, obesity and diet are factored into the epidemiology.”

So the experts don’t agree and the studies are inconclusive but we already know that having high cholesterol levels is bad for our cardiovascular health.

Also in the breast cancer community, patients treated with aromatase inhibitors often develop hyperlipidemia, hypercholesterolemia, and hypertension, all of which are recognized risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

So it only makes sense to do what we can to naturally reduce high cholesterol levels without the  use of statin drugs, which come with their own set of problems and side effects.

Following is a guest post from Kate Forsyth over at Be Healthy Today. Kate has shared 7 great tips on how to effectively lower cholesterol levels without statin drugs.

GUEST POST from KATE FORSYTH

Thanks to the onslaught of fast food and junk food we have easily available nowadays, a lot of people are battling with the bulge. This means having a high cholesterol content in the body. And that’s not good.

As we all know, having too much of something is always a bad idea. To ensure a healthy lifestyle, we always need to check the levels of everything. With regard to cholesterol levels,  one way that people ensure they’re not too high is through taking statins.

Statins, to put it simply, are cholesterol-lowering medications. How do they lower the blood cholesterol levels? They block the action of a specific chemical in the liver that is necessary for producing cholesterol. Take note that having too much cholesterol in the blood causes plaque buildup on the artery walls. This buildup will eventually cause the arteries to narrow and harden. Blood clots in these arteries will cause a heart attack or stroke. To prevent that, statins are then prescribed.

When a person takes statins, cholesterol levels are thus lowered. Because these levels decrease, this then reduces the risk of heart attacks and strokes. In fact, some studies show that statins effectively lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, and even death from heart disease by around 25%–35%. Other studies also show that statins reduce the chances of recurrent strokes or heart attacks by around 40%.

So how exactly will you know if your blood cholesterol levels are “high”? Most of the practitioners in the medical community believe that the ratio of LDL (bad) cholesterol to HDL (good) cholesterol should be around 2:1. Taking a lipid profile blood test will show the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in your system.

Total Cholesterol

Below 200 mg/dL Ideal
200–239 mg/dL Borderline high
240 mg/dL and up High

LDL Cholesterol

Below 70 mg/dL Ideal for people with a very high risk for heart disease
Below 100 mg/dL Ideal for people with a slight risk for heart disease
100–129 mg/dL Near ideal
130–159 mg/dL Borderline high
160–189 mg/dL High
190 mg/dL and up Very high

HDL Cholesterol

Below 40 mg/dL (women) Poor
Below 50 mg/dL (men) Poor
50–59 mg/dL Better
60 mg/dL and up Best

Triglycerides

Below 150 mg/dL Ideal
150–199 mg/dL Borderline high
200–499 mg/dL High
500 mg/dL and up Very high

While I’m sure statins are a godsend to many people, wouldn’t it be better to lower cholesterol levels naturally? That way there won’t be any drug dependency, and you’ll have more control over your body.

There are quite a number of ways that you can lessen those high cholesterol levels. Here are a few prime examples that actually work.

  1. Watch That Fat

Make sure to limit your intake of foods loaded with saturated fats, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol. These include butter, fatty flesh (red meat), dairy products, palm oil, as well as coconut oil.

The best choices of food to load up on instead are those with omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, sardines, trout, and mackerel.

Also, opt for foods with polyunsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty acids. These two will help lower LDL. Many plant-derived oils contain both. Some examples are safflower, grapeseed, olive, and peanut oils. (note by Marnie – make sure they’re organic!)

  1. Eat More Protein

For your protein content, great sources are legumes, beans, seeds, and nuts. Specific examples are red beans, pinto beans, white beans, and soybeans. They’re full of essential nutrients and help lower total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and insulin levels.

  1. Fiber Is Your Best Friend

Foods with high fiber intake have been proven to help lower high cholesterol levels. Excellent sources of fiber include oats, barley, peas, yams, sweet potatoes, and other potatoes. You can also stock up on legumes or beans, such as peas, pinto beans, garbanzo beans, and black beans. Good fruit sources are berries, passion fruit, oranges, pears, apricots, nectarines, and apples. And finally, vegetables rich in soluble fiber include carrots, Brussels sprouts, beets, okra, and eggplant.

  1. Hello, Herbs!

A number of herbs have been noted to help with cholesterol levels as well. These include rosemary, basil, and turmeric. Adding them to your food provides powerful antioxidants that are cardio-protective and can help lower cholesterol levels naturally.

  1. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

Regular exercise improves cholesterol. Doing moderate physical activity helps raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Regularly exercising helps you lose weight. Making sure you maintain a desirable and healthy weight can gain plenty of benefits. One of these is improving your cholesterol profile. This helps prevent getting other sorts of diseases as well, like type 2 diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, gout, and some types of cancer.

In order to stay on track, it’s a good idea to find an exercise buddy who shares the same goals as you. You can both encourage and help each other out to be healthier.

  1. Say Goodbye to Smoking

If you smoke, quitting ASAP is a good idea. Cutting this bad habit will do wonders to your HDL levels. Once you quit, your blood pressure and heart rate decrease. Within a year of quitting, your risk of heart disease will be half that of a regular smoker.

  1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep deprivation has been proven to increase the LDL levels. This leads to high blood pressure and overeating as well. Try to ensure you get a good solid 6-8 hours of sleep every night. Check out bedtime practices that work for you and are effective in providing you with the rest you need.

Author Bio:

Kate B. Forsyth is a writer for Be Healthy Today, who specializes in health and nutrition. Her passion is to help people get an overall transformation of health that lasts a lifetime. In her blog posts, she goes beyond research by providing health-concerned citizens doable and simple tricks to achieve a healthier lifestyle.

SOURCES:

https://www.pritikin.com/your-health/health-benefits/lower-cholesterol/1468-7-tips-for-improving-your-ldl-cholesterol.html

https://draxe.com/lower-cholesterol-naturally-fast/

http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/how-to-lower-your-cholesterol-without-drugs

http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20552005,00.html#dietary-fiber-0

http://www.newsmax.com/Health/Headline/statins-cholesterol-natural-drugfree/2013/11/14/id/536605/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/reduce-cholesterol/art-20045935

 

Thanks, Kate, for the 7 great tips!

GET MY BEST TIPS on healthy ways to beat breast cancer and prevent recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

The Truth About Vaccines – Are They Safe?

http://MarnieClark.com/the-truth-about-vaccinesThe Truth About Vaccines – Are They Safe?

An argument is raging across the globe, and it may get worse before it gets better. Parents and grandparents are up in arms fighting with each other, their friends, doctors, and even legislators. It’s a subject so controversial for some that it eclipses political events, the world economy, and the healthcare debate itself. People want to know the truth about vaccines and whether or not they are safe.

Vaccine safety and news about increasing adverse reactions, both in adults and children, is a very real concern. Medical doctors are increasingly being confronted with parents who want to diverge from the recommended vaccine protocol, asking to vaccinate selectively (or sometimes not at all).

Parents and grandparents are asking –

– How do I know for sure that vaccines are safe for my child?

– Is my child at high risk of having a bad reaction?

– How often should we administer vaccines? Can we space them out?

– How MANY vaccines are really necessary?

– Should we vaccinate at all? Are there alternatives?

– Speaking long term, are we doing more harm than good?

And much more. In my humble opinion, the biggest problem facing the vaccine controversy today is that there’s too much noise. Too much propaganda and emotional arguments. Too many opinions and too few facts.

Just like other “hot button issues”, everyone has an opinion (factual or not), and there’s BIG money at play to try and tip the hand in one direction or the other.

How To Know What’s Best?

How do you know what’s best for you and your child? Not only are we facing the questions about vaccine safety and integrity, now we’ve got to deal with, “Who decides what’s best? Me or the government?”

California entered the fray when it passed a mandatory “forced vaccination” law in 2016, much to the outrage of many of its citizens.

How would you feel if your government mandated that you MUST vaccinate (or must NOT), even if it goes against your religious or philosophical beliefs?

What does it say for freedom when the government starts making major medical decisions for you and your children? Where do we go from here? How did we even get to this point?

Way back in 1796, when Edward Jenner somewhat accidentally cured a child with what was then known as “cowpox,” it was a major medical breakthrough. People in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s were dying from diseases that could be controlled by vaccines, and with that the race was on.

These days, we’re vaccinating our kids against literally everything, but we still don’t know how many of these newer vaccines react in the human body over a period of time.

Did you know that in many cases, the double-blind placebo safety studies have not been done like they are for other pharmaceutical drugs? The vaccine companies themselves have immunity from the government. That means you cannot sue them if something goes wrong, and your child is injured from the vaccine. Couple that with the rising anger on both sides at the thought that “the other side” is reckless and ignoring the facts, and you have an issue that’s just about reached boiling point.

We owe it to our children and our grandchildren to learn as much information as we can (good and bad) about vaccines, so that we can protect them and give them the best chances of having a vibrant, healthy future — free from disease in this modern world.

Fortunately, Someone Has Done Something About This Issue

Even though the debate is contentious, one brave team has decided to do something about it. Filmmaker, author, and health freedom advocate Ty Bollinger, the man who produced the record-setting documentary “The Truth About Cancer” (now seen by 10 million people), has an epic new series about to be released. Ty and his team traveled the world to interview over 60 of the best vaccine experts on the planet, on both sides of the debate. Scientists, researchers, doctors, clinicians… the list is huge.

Their goal with the series is to bring some facts and sanity to the heated vaccine debate. To investigate both sides and separate fact from fiction, so parents can make their own decision about what’s best for their family. The result is a new 7-part documentary series called “The Truth About Vaccines.”

The reality is, no matter whether you’re a staunch vaccine supporter, or you believe they should be eliminated completely, your voice matters, and the health of your children and grandchildren matter too. You deserve to learn all you can about the science and statistics behind vaccines, to weigh the benefits and the risks for your own family.

Ty and his team reject the idea that you have to “pick a side” and approach the vaccine safety topic the same way they did cancer – interview the best experts, collect the facts, look at the science, and then pull it all together to find the real truth – free from speculation, hype, and emotional bias.

On April 12th at 9pm Eastern US time, “The Truth About Vaccines” premieres, and the answers will be revealed. 7 episodes in 7 days. It’s the biggest, most comprehensive documentary series on vaccines ever released, and the whole thing is completely FREE.

Click HERE to get a sneak preview and register to watch the entire series free of charge. It’s a one-time event. It’s your chance to join the debate in a positive and meaningful and very powerful way. Your health of your children and/or grandchildren depend on it.

GET MY BEST TIPS on healthy ways to beat breast cancer and prevent recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

YouTube Videos by Dr Michael Greger, A Great Source of Nutrition Facts

Dr Michael Greger
Dr Michael Greger

YouTube Videos by Dr Michael Greger, A Great Source of Nutrition Facts

One of my favorite sources of nutrition facts and information are Dr Michael Greger’s YouTube videos.  They are full of great information on nutrition, all backed by research and common-sense thinking, and he really delves deeply into the subject he is discussing. He also explains it all so clearly and concisely, so that the average person can understand.

The particular things I really like about Dr Greger and his videos are his witty dialogue, the way he simplifies medical jargon as he’s reciting the facts of medical studies, and the fact that the videos are in a short, easy-to-digest format. I appreciate the fact that he reads so many studies on a particular subject, boils it all down for us into 3-4 minutes of information, and delivers the facts with a minimum of fuss. No messing around – I especially like that, when you don’t have much time to waste on finding out about something, it’s a real plus! Just the fact that he reads all of those research studies (he obviously has an inquiring mind), that alone would turn us mere mortals blue in the face. Oh, and he’s not pushing any products, another nice thing.

Some of my favorite YouTube videos by Dr Greger are:

Are Organic Foods More Nutritious?

Antimutagenic Activity of Green Tea vs White Tea 

Is Soy Healthy For Breast Cancer Survivors?

BRCA Breast Cancer Genes and Soy

Cancer Reversal Through Diet?

Apple Skin: Peeling Back Cancer

Is Distilled Fish Oil Toxin Free?

Each video is only 4-5 minutes long and definitely worth your time and attention. Go check out some of these – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If you go to the NutritionFacts.org website, you will find a treasure trove of instructional videos over there on a huge variety of health subjects. Use the search field to find what you’re looking for. The YouTube channel is called NutritionFacts.org, so go on over to YouTube and subscribe to his channel and they will email you when new videos are released.

Searching for more information on breast cancer and nutrition? Visit my page Diet and Cancer.

GET MY BEST TIPS on healthy ways to beat breast cancer and prevent recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

The Telomerase Test for Monitoring Breast Cancer

Image Source: Dreamstime / Dmitry Sunagatov Image Source: Dreamstime / Dmitry Sunagatov

The Telomerase Test for Monitoring Breast Cancer

One of the things I am frequently asked is whether there are new tests for cancer markers available that help you monitor the level of cancer in your body. One such test is the CA 15-3 cancer antigen test, and you can read more about that in my article: The CA 15-3 Cancer Marker Test and its Accuracy.  Another test that is available to us is the telomerase test, although to my knowledge it is not widely used.

What is Telomerase?

Telomerase is an enzyme involved with your DNA. It is called a reverse transcriptase enzyme. It acts like a template to make more DNA sequences and adds them to the ends of chromosomes. Telomeres are essential for maintaining the stability of those chromosomes. Think of telomeres as the protective cap on the end of a highlighter pen. Telomeres protect the important information-carrying DNA in cells from injury during cell division.

Healthy cells that are lacking the enzyme telomerase have a problem because the telomeres shorten with each cell division. During DNA replication, the two newly formed chromosomes separate and small bits of DNA are trimmed off the end of the chromosomes. Long telomeres allow these cells to keep on dividing for a longer time and restoring the tissue, whereas short telomeres have to give up early because the protective telomere caps are depleted sooner. Short telomeres are associated with aging more rapidly.

Telomerase and Cancer

Scientists have discovered that short telomeres can lead to chromosomal instability and/or rearrangements, and that is related to cancer. One study stated: “Irrespective of its source, damage acts as the basis for the development of dysfunctional tissues, which are a hallmark of age decline as well as the basis for cancer.” [1]

Another study found that short telomeres also promoted metastasis (cancer spread) in the absence of telomerase activity. [2]

Stem cells have the ability to create the enzyme telomerase – and thus telomeres – and so can cancer cells. This makes them immortal. It has been discovered that if there is a high quantity of telomerase in the body, it can be an indicator that there is cancer in the body somewhere. High levels of telomerase have been found to be present in 85-95 percent of malignancies. The telomerase test is, however, a non-specific test, in other words it can’t tell you where the cancer is located.

So is the Telomerase Test Useful? Accurate?

Apparently the telomerase test can be helpful in the assessment of breast cancer risk. In 2011, a joint review of research by both Brazilian researchers and  scientists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, entitled “Accuracy of Telomerase in Estimating Breast Cancer Risk: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis” [3] investigated the accuracy of the telomerase test in predicting breast cancer risk. They thoroughly examined 25 studies that qualified, covering a total of 2,395 breast tumors. They found that 82 percent of breast cancer tumors and 18 percent of benign tumors were positive for telomerase activity. Researchers concluded that “telomerase activity was significantly present in breast cancer when compared with normal breast tissue or benign breast lesions.”

Who is Using the Telomerase Test?

Quite a few alternative and integrative doctors are using the telomerase test to follow the progress of cancer patients they treat. One holistic practitioner in the UK, Dr Patrick Kingsley, has treated cancer patients for over 40 years. Dr Kingsley shared some interesting information about the telomerase test. For the patients diagnosed with cancer with whom he works, he relies on several other tests besides the telomerase test, one which investigates pyruvate kinase levels, and another called the laevorotatory lactic acid test. The combination of these three tests, he felt, were fairly indicative of what was going on in the body. [4] He said that raised telomerase levels in the blood, while often being indicative of the presence of cancer cells, also told him something else. When levels were low, around a few hundred, it made the patient happy because they assumed it meant low levels of cancer in their body. What he found, however, was that raised levels of telomerase in the blood did not necessarily reflect the fact that the cancer was spreading, particularly if they were going through some of the natural treatments he recommends for cancer. Dr Kingsley stated that one actually needed raised levels of telomerase in the blood when fighting cancer, otherwise there was nothing for the immune system to notice and respond to. His experience was that when telomerase levels increased to quite high levels, it was an indication that cancer cells were being killed and releasing that extra telomerase into the blood, that it is a good sign that the immune system is doing its job.

Dr Al Sears of the Sears Institute for Anti-Aging Medicine in South Florida also uses the telomerase test for his patients interested in monitoring their health and for anti-aging concerns. [5]

Of course, there are always nay-sayers, those who feel the test has absolutely no merit. Discuss the telomerase test with your integrative doctor or naturopath and then decide for yourself!

References:

Testing Time for Telomeres – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166469/

[1] Telomerase at the Intersection of Cancer and Aging – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3896987/

[2] Dysfunctional Telomeres Promote Genomic Instability and Metastasis in the Absence of Telomerase Activity in Oncogene Induced Mammary Cancer – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22086874

[3] Accuracy of Telomerase in Estimating Breast Cancer Risk: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis – http://www.academia.edu/25335428/Accuracy_of_telomerase_in_estimating_breast_cancer_risk_A_systematic_review_and_meta-analysis

[4] Dr Patrick Kingsley – Breast Cancer, Your Way Forward

[5] http://alsearsmd.com/2015/12/the-most-important-test-your-doctor-wont-order/

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Chamomile is an Effective Cancer Fighter

http://MarnieClark.com/Chamomile-is-an-Effective-Cancer-Fighter

Chamomile is an Effective Cancer Fighter

Welcome to my first article for 2017! I’ve been taking a wee break to spend time with my lovely grandchildren but it’s time to get back to work. This article is all about the wonderful herb chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and how great it is for killing cancer cells.

Chamomile has centuries of use as a remedy for inducing sleep, fighting the effects of stress and anxiety, and calming digestion. New research indicates that drinking chamomile tea regularly can also assist with many other health issues. Interesting 2015 Greek research found that chamomile tea consumption protected against thyroid cancer. For those who drank the tea two to six times per week, these participants had a much reduced risk of thyroid cancer. For the long-time drinkers of chamomile tea, researchers stated “Thirty years of consumption significantly reduced the risk of thyroid cancer and benign thyroid diseases development by almost 80%.” [1]

Chamomile has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cholesterol-lowering, anti-parasitic, anti-aging, calming, and yes, anti-cancer properties. [2]

We know that antioxidants are important for reducing cancer risk. But that part about anti-inflammation? That’s important too. Chamomile has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Since many disease processes involve inflammation, including breast cancer, this is an important thing to get under control. Prostaglandins and COX-2 enzymes (molecules closely related to the process of inflammation in the body) are higher in tumor tissue than in normal tissue. Many recent studies have confirmed that if the inflammatory process can be stopped, tumorigenesis (the process of the formation of a tumor) stops too. In Germany, chamomile has been approved by the German Commission E for the management of inflammatory diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, for topical application in the treatment of skin disorders, and for inflammatory disorders. [3]

Chamomile’s Phytochemicals

Chamomile contains some very interesting phytochemicals (plant-based, all natural chemicals) including apigenin, luteolin, terpene compounds, chamazulene, alpha-bisabolol, patuletin, quercetin, myricetin, and rutin.

Apigenin has strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Apigenin is a flavone, from the flavonoid family of phytochemicals. Besides chamomile, apigenin is also found in celery, celeriac, onions, grapefruit, oranges, and the herbs thyme, lemon balm and parsley. [4]

Canadian researchers reported in 2014 that apigenin inhibited the proliferation (spread) of four different types of breast cancer:
MDA-MB-231: estrogen receptor negative, progesterone receptor negative, HER2 negative – also known as triple negative breast cancer, highly metastatic
MDA-MB-468: estrogen receptor negative, progesterone receptor negative, HER2 negative, adenocarcinoma, metastatic
MCF-7: estrogen receptor positive, progesterone receptor positive, HER2 negative, infiltrating ductal carcinoma, metastatic
SkBr3: estrogen receptor negative, progesterone receptor negative, HER2 positive, infiltrating ductal carcinoma with lung metastases

The Canadian researchers stated: “low-dose apigenin has the potential to slow or prevent breast cancer progression.” [5]

Luteolin is also a flavone. Researchers at the University of Missouri in the USA reported late in 2016 that luteolin inhibited cell migration, the spreading of cancer cells to lungs and viability of triple negative breast cancer cells. It also induced apoptosis (programmed cell death, absent in cancer cells), inhibited VEGF secretion. VEGF stands for vascular endothelial growth factor, a protein that plays a critical role in breast tumors by enhancing cell proliferation (rapid growth), invasion (spread), angiogenesis (the ability of a tumor to create new blood vessels to feed itself) and metastasis (spread to other tissues of the body). [6]

Terpene compounds are a class of phytochemicals that are components of the essential oils found in plants. Terpenes have some wonderful characteristics. They are highly antimicrobial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and pain relieving phytochemicals. The most exciting aspect of terpenes, however, is that they clean off the receptor sites in cells, which helps to increase cellular communication. They have the ability to cross over the blood-brain-barrier separating the brain from the rest of the body. This means they can have direct effects on the brain. They can also erase incorrect coding information in DNA, and they help to reprogram cells with correct coding information to effect deep healing.

Chamazulene is a phytochemical found in chamomile, it has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. [7]

Alpha-bisabolol is one of the terpene compounds referred to above. Namely, it is a sesquiterpene. Italian researchers in 2016 listed five ways alpha-bisabolol worked as an effective cytotoxic (toxic to cancer cells) agent. Researchers stated that alpha-bisabolol acted “on different layers of cell regulation to elicit different concurrent death signals.” [8]

Quercetin, a flavonoid, is a strong antioxidant with anti-cancer effects. A 2013 study demonstrated that quercetin reduced proliferation, promoted apoptosis and decreased levels of survivin in MCF-7 breast cancer cells (described above). [9] See also the role of quercetin in breast cancer resistance protein, discussed below.

Myricetin, also a flavonoid, increases antioxidant levels in the body. In 2014, Indian researchers investigated its effects in a small animal trial. Rats were given a specific drug to promote breast cancer and for those who received myricetin, there was a significant protective effect. [10]
2016 research also found myricetin to have anti-cancer properties. It arrests the telomeres in the DNA of MCF-7 breast cancer cells. [11] Scientists have been investigating the use of small molecules to arrest something called the G-quadruplex structure. This has become a potential strategy for the development and design of a new class of anti-cancer therapeutics. While I’m not a scientist and I don’t understand this research sufficiently to be able to explain it to you in layman terms, I do know that telomeres play an important role in cancer and anti-aging. The article at [12] below may help to clarify matters for you.

Rutin is a flavonoid present in chamomile. In 2013, Chinese researchers investigated the role of rutin for neuroblastoma, a particularly lethal form of childhood cancer. Rutin was found to have potent anti-cancer effects on neuroblastoma cells. It induced cell cycle arrest, induced apoptosis, as well as regulating the expression of the gene related to apoptosis. [13]

Breast Cancer Resistance Protein

Doctors and researchers have been stymied in recent years by tumors that increasingly have a resistance to the chemotherapeutic drugs being used to battle the cancer. Identified in 1998, breast cancer resistance protein (BCRP), is a gene found in diverse cancer cells which appear to cause multidrug resistance. BCRP appears to function as part of a self-defense mechanism for the cancer – it enhances elimination of toxic substances (ie most chemotherapy drugs) and harmful agents in the gut and through the blood-brain, placental, and possibly even blood-testis barriers. BCRP expression in cancer cells operates by recognizing and transporting out of the body numerous anti-cancer drugs including conventional chemotherapeutic and targeted drugs. BCRP is also a known stem cell marker, its presence in cancer cells usually indicates drug resistance, self-renewal, and invasiveness and, consequently, poor prognosis. [14]

I’m sharing all of this with you because chamomile, and more specifically, quercitin has been found, in a brand new 2017 study from researchers in the UK, to down-regulate the expression of BCRP, without the neurotoxicity shown by other drugs designed to modulate BCRP. [15]

Curcumin was also mentioned as a down-regulator of the BCRP gene. See my article Harvest the Power of Curcumin to Kill Breast Cancer Cells

So which form of chamomile is best? Both Roman chamomile and German chamomile contain the potent phytochemicals mentioned in this article. Whether you drink the herbal tea or use the essential oil, chamomile is bad news for cancer cells.

References:

[1] The Effect of Greek Herbal Tea Consumption on Thyroid Cancer: a Case-control Study – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25842380

[2] A Review of the Bioactivity and Potential Health Benefits of Chamomile Tea (Matricaria Recutita L.) – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16628544

[3] Chamomile, a Novel and Selective COX-2 Inhibitor with Anti-inflammatory Activity – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2784024/

[4] Apigenin and Breast Cancers: From Chemistry to Medicine – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25738871

[5] Exposure of Breast Cancer Cells to a Subcytotoxic Dose of Apigenin Causes Growth Inhibition, Oxidative Stress, and Hypophosphorylation of Akt – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25019465

[6] Luteolin Inhibits Lung Metastasis, Cell Migration, and Viability of Triple-negative Breast Cancer Cells – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5207335/

[7] Rapid Evaluation and Comparison of Natural Products and Antioxidant Activity in Calendula, Feverfew, and German Chamomile Extracts – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25666499

[8] The Antineoplastic Agent A-bisabolol Promotes Cell Death by Inducing Pores in Mitochondria and Lysosomes – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27278818

[9] Effects of Quercetin on the Proliferation of Breast Cancer Cells and Expression of Survivin in Vitro – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3820718/

[10] Evaluation of Protective Effect of Myricetin, a Bioflavonoid in Dimethyl Benzanthracene-induced Breast Cancer in Female Wistar Rats – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4014640/

[11] Myricetin arrests human telomeric G-quadruplex structure: a new mechanistic approach as an anticancer agent – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27249025

[12] http://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/Telomeres-and-Cancer.aspx

[13] Anti-Tumor Effect of Rutin on Human Neuroblastoma Cell Lines through Inducing G2/M Cell Cycle Arrest and Promoting Apoptosis – https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2013/269165/

[14] Breast Cancer Resistance Protein (Bcrp/abcg2): its Role in Multidrug Resistance and Regulation of its Gene Expression – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3777471/

[15] Phytochemical Mediated-modulation of the Expression and Transporter Function of Breast Cancer Resistance Protein at the Blood-brain Barrier: an In-vitro Study – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27771282

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Product Review – Happy Breast Balm

http://MarnieClark.com/happy-breast-balmProduct Review – Happy Breast Balm

Always on the lookout for great products that help to increase breast health, this one actually landed in my lap without my looking for it. A lovely lady by the name of Sue McKenna contacted me and told me about her product, Happy Breast Balm. She liked my website and thought that my readers might like to know about her product. Sue was kind enough to send me a bottle to try, along with a skin brush and instructions on how to use both. I have spent a couple of weeks using Happy Breast Balm and in this article, I’ll share with you more about it.

Sue’s story is similar to my own – we both lost our mothers to breast cancer, and then found we were battling it ourselves a few years later. Sue healed three breast lumps (diagnosis: DCIS) with all-natural therapies. Her story is inspirational, check it out:  How I Recovered from Breast Cancer Using Natural Therapies

The balm Sue describes in that article is the one I’m reviewing today, Happy Breast Balm. Sue used this balm herself , along with a huge amount of other natural therapies, described in the above article, to heal her three breast lumps.

Sue learned that (among other things) using a combination of the balm along with a specific method of dry brushing the skin using a soft skin brush provided stimulation of blood and lymphatic flow, and encouraged detoxification and nourishment to breast tissue. The dry brushing routine was inspired by the work of Dr Bruce Berkowsky (www.naturalhealthscience.com).

Each of the ingredients in Happy Breast Balm are included for very specific reasons. It contains:

* Fractionated coconut oil – A natural antioxidant and antiseptic, it facilitates the absorption of other oils in the product and is a great source of healthy triglycerides
* Organic hemp seed oil – Contains 94% of the body’s daily needs for essential fatty acids in the perfect proportion of omega 3, 6, and 9, also gamma-linolenic acid, or GLA. It’s better than both flax seed oil and fish oil. Hemp is wonderfully healing for many different conditions.
* Magnesium oil – Most of us are deficient in magnesium. Delivered transdermally (through the skin) is a very effective way to get it into the cells of the body. The body relies on magnesium for over 300 biochemical processes. Magnesium helps rid the body of toxins and acid residues, and it is required for the synthesis of vitamin D and absorption of calcium. A Swedish study reported that women with the highest magnesium intake had a 40 percent lower risk of developing cancer.
* Lugol’s iodine – Among other very important functions in the body, iodine suppresses carcinogenesis (the development of cancer) in the breast and other tissues. See my article Why Iodine and Selenium are Useful for Breast Cancer.
* Therapeutic grade essential oils – Included are lemon, grapefruit, thyme, myrtle, peppermint, frankincense, rosemary and ylang ylang. All of these essential oils have very particular anti-cancer properties. I’ve been studying essential oils for years and I can tell you that nearly every single study I’ve read on essential oils discusses their anti-cancer benefits. To see some of this research, just go to Google Scholar or www.pubmed.gov and in the search field put the name of the oil and the word “cancer”. You’ll be surprised at the many studies that have been done from countries all over the world.

More about each ingredient and why they are included appears in the website: http://www.happybreastbalm.com.au/ingredients.html

One thing that really impressed me was the reminder to use affirmations of good health, gratitude and self-love while using the products. This is so often overlooked as we go about our busy days. Take time out to do this, it really is important and makes a huge difference.

The Bottom Line:

I loved using this product. It smells amazing, the texture of it is quite divine – definitely not too oily and it is easily absorbed – and you can really feel that it is a healing product. I especially appreciated the inclusion of the organic hemp seed oil, together with therapeutic grade essential oils. The combination is just wonderful. The product comes from Australia, but Sue does offer international shipping as well.

To order, go to http://www.happybreastbalm.com/shop.html  For my readers, Sue has graciously offered a 10% discount. Just use the discount code “Marnie10″ in the checkout.

For more questions, contact Sue on sue@happybreastbalm.com.

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Yes Your Urine Might Change Color When Taking DIM

http://MarnieClark.com/yes-your-urine-might-change-color-when-taking-dimYes Your Urine Might Change Color When Taking DIM

I have long been an advocate of the supplement DIM, you will find many articles about it on this website. DIM is short for di-indolyl-methane and it is made from plant indoles, natural phytonutrients found aplenty in cruciferous vegetables like kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, spinach, and my favorite, broccoli. Indoles help to manage out-of-control estrogen and estriol levels in both men and women. Today I’m sharing some information about one of the possible side effects of DIM supplementation. Your urine might change color when taking DIM. It can be a surprise if you’re not expecting it, and even slightly worrisome.

While I was on the subject I took a look at all of the newest (and exciting) research on DIM and have included that information in this article as well.

About That Urine Color Change with DIM…

I have taken DIM myself on many occasions. Recently, however, I changed my DIM product to a stronger formulation and began to notice something rather odd. My urine was a dark orange, almost a bronzey red color. I was also having some weird cramping, rather like very mild menstrual cramps. I have NEVER seen my urine that color before and with that and the cramping, I began to think I had a bladder infection or a UTI. I just wasn’t feeling so good.

Gotta say, all of that worried me a bit. I almost went in for a urinalysis, but then did a quick Internet search and connected the two. DOH! These are common symptoms when taking DIM. So I stopped taking it for a day or two and the dark urine color changed back to normal and any cramping stopped. I wondered why it hadn’t happened to me before because as I say, I have taken DIM before. But then I recalled that I was taking a stronger and better formulation. I’m back on it now and though my urine is dark again, there has been no more cramping.

So Why Does Your Urine Change Color When You Take DIM?

Because DIM is doing great things for you! It can be a sign that it is assisting your liver to detox your body of excess estrogen metabolites and other environmental estrogens (known as xenoestrogens). For that reason, it’s a good idea to also take some sort of liver support while taking DIM supplements. The herb milk thistle is extremely good for this. Also drinking lots of green tea is helpful for liver support. Please also ensure you drink lots of filtered water when you’re taking DIM because your body is trying to excrete toxic substances and you need to help it flush them out of your body. Add a slice of lemon and get some vitamin C too!

There are times when a change of urine color should be checked out by your doctor – see Other Causes for Concern for Dark Urine, below.

New Research on DIM

I’m excited to share some great new research on DIM, just released. Older studies have already shown that DIM inhibits the growth of human cancer cells by interfering with multiple signaling pathways, reducing the invasion, migration, and metastasis (spread) of cancer cells, as well as promoting apoptosis (planned cell death, which cancer cells lack). It is also a potent stimulator of immune function [1].

Research published in October 2016 by Korean researchers examining the effect of DIM on mice with colitis found that DIM has anti-inflammatory properties (always a good thing for your anti-cancer arsenal). It also suppresses the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor, a growth factor associated with a tumor’s ability to create new blood vessels to feed itself, a process called angiogenesis. [2]

Chinese research published in September 2016 investigating the effects of DIM on mice undergoing total body radiation found that DIM has radioprotective properties [3]. This is great news. Apparantly DIM helps to offset the injury that occurs to hematopoiesis, our ability to create new blood cells. This is one of the reasons people can have alarming decreases in various blood cell types when undergoing radiation.

Joint USA/Chinese research reported in September 2016 (again on mice) found that DIM reduces prostate tumor growth by suppressing a gene known as PCGEM1, while promoting apoptosis. [4]

A joint USA/Indian study on animals released in August 2016 found that two derivatives from DIM (DIM-10 and DIM-14) possessed strong anti-cancer effects, and were responsible for a significant reduction in tumor size in triple negative breast cancer cells. [5] These are cells that are not affected by hormones or HER2 status. An older 2002 study also found that DIM could induce apoptosis in breast cancer cells independent of estrogen receptor status. [6]

A July 2016 Korean study indicated DIM could also be useful for gastrointestinal cancers. [7]

DIM may be beneficial for those carrying the BRCA1/2 gene mutation as well. A small Canadian research study appearing in the British Journal of Cancer in 2014 investigated the ability of DIM to upregulate BRCA1 expression. Upregulating this gene, associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, translates to a reduced cancer risk. Although a small study, the women receiving 300 mg per day (150 mg twice per day) of DIM experienced a 34 percent increase in BRCA1 expression. [8] Very encouraging!

One other interesting thing. When taking DIM, oxygen levels in tumor cells increase. This is a really great thing because oxygen is hated by cancer cells. They thrive in anaerobic conditions (meaning without oxygen) so something natural that increases cellular oxygen levels is beneficial. The study was done at the University of California at Berkeley in 2008 and it was the first to demonstrate that DIM works by decreasing the accumulation and activity a key factor involved in angiogenesis called HIF-1alpha in hypoxic cancer cells. [9]

Here’s the brand of DIM I’m taking.

This is another great brand.

This is a great milk thistle supplement.

Other Causes for Concern for Dark Urine

If your urine turns dark when taking DIM, do not be alarmed. There are times, however, when you do need to be concerned and watchful for other symptoms. If your liver is diseased, you may have symptoms such as yellowing of eyes and skin, abdominal pain, pale or red stool, itchy skin, nausea and loss of appetite. Kidney disease symptoms include loss of appetite, fatigue, problems sleeping, muscles cramping and twitching, and decreased urine output.

References:

[1] 3,3′-Diindolylmethane Stimulates Murine Immune Function In Vitro and In Vivo – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2387240/

[2] Effect of Oral Administration of 3,3′-Diindolylmethane on Dextran Sodium Sulfate-Induced Acute Colitis in Mice – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27700072

[3] 3,3′-diindolylmethane Mitigates Total Body Irradiation-induced Hematopoietic Injury in Mice – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27609226

[4] Regulation of PCGEM1 by P54/NRB in Prostate Cancer – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5041109/

[5] Novel Diindolylmethane Derivatives Based NLC Formulations to Improve the Oral Bioavailability and Anticancer Effects in Triple Negative Breast Cancer – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27586082

[6] Bcl-2 Family-mediated Apoptotic Effects of 3,3′-Diindolylmethane (DIM) in Human Breast Cancer Cells – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11931841

[7] Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of 3,3′-Diindolylmethane in Gastrointestinal Cancer – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4964527/

[8] BRCA1 mRNA Levels Following a 4–6-week Intervention with Oral 3,3′-diindolylmethane –
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4183839/

[9] 3,3′-Diindolylmethane Reduces Levels of HIF-1a and HIF-1 Activity in Hypoxic Cultured Human Cancer Cells – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2387239/

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

The Problem with Taking Antidepressants Along with Tamoxifen

http://MarnieClark.com/The-Problem-with-Taking-Antidepressants-Along-with-TamoxifenThe Problem with Taking Antidepressants Along with Tamoxifen

One of the most prevalent side effects from taking tamoxifen, the often-prescribed endocrine therapy drug for estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer, is depression. Whether the depression is associated with a cancer diagnosis or from taking tamoxifen (or both) we do not know. We do know that up to 25 percent of breast cancer patients suffer what is termed “clinically significant depression” following diagnosis. [1]

Depression is not the only side effect of tamoxifen, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is one of the most prevalent and debilitating side effects. Breast cancer patients and survivors on this drug commonly share with me just how debilitating the depression was for them. Many choose to stop taking it because of this. One told me that coming off the drug was like emerging from a long, dark tunnel out into the sunlight.

SSRI Drugs Prescribed For Depression

So what happens when a woman on tamoxifen goes to her doctor and complains of depression? Yes, you guessed it – she gets prescribed another drug, usually in the form of an SSRI antidepressant. That stands for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Without getting too heavily into the chemistry of how these drugs work (which is not my purpose with this article), in a nutshell, they work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain, serotonin being a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) that carries signals between brain cells. SSRI drugs work by blocking the reabsorption (aka reuptake) of serotonin, thus making serotonin more available for use in the brain. This is supposed to help ease the depression.

Estrogen’s Role in Brain Health

So why does tamoxifen cause depression? It is an estrogen antagonist, meaning it blocks the receptor sites on cells that estrogen would normally take up and direct the action of those cells. The problem with blocking the body’s natural estrogen is that it has a huge role to play in brain health (among many other biological activities). Estrogen has a protective effect on brain neurons and affects the nervous system in many different ways. By blocking estrogen, tamoxifen quite effectively compromises a person’s moods and cognitive health, even normal coordination and movement. It is a known fact that high doses of estrogen exert an anti-depressant effect in humans.

So What’s the Problem with Antidepressants and Tamoxifen Use?

A 2010 study by Canadian researchers, published in the British Medical Journal, had some interesting (and rather worrisome) findings. The researchers were hoping to discover whether using SSRI antidepressants concurrently with tamoxifen reduced the effectiveness of tamoxifen. The study was done with 2,430 women in Ontario, Canada, aged 66 years or older. These women started taking tamoxifen between January 1, 1993 and December 31, 2005.

What they discovered was quite remarkable. For women taking the SSRI drug Paxil (generic name paroxetine – one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for depression) along with tamoxifen, there was a much higher risk of death from breast cancer, namely a 24% – 91% higher risk, depending on length of time the drugs were taken together. The researchers stated that of the women taking tamoxifen and Paxil, 374 (or 15.4%) of them died of breast cancer during follow-up (mean follow-up 2.38 years). They saw no such risk with other anti-depressants, mainly paroxetine/Paxil. Researchers concluded that the use of Paxil during tamoxifen treatment was associated with an increased risk of death from breast cancer, supporting the hypothesis that Paxil can reduce or abolish the benefit of tamoxifen in women with breast cancer. These researchers concluded “We estimate that treatment with paroxetine for 41% of tamoxifen therapy (the median in our study) could result in one additional breast cancer death at five years for every 20 women so treated.” [2] (bold type added for emphasis)

That’s huge.

A newer American study reported in December 2015 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found no such increased risk for those taking paroxetine together with tamoxifen. The study followed 16,887 Californian breast cancer survivors diagnosed from 1996 to 2007 and treated with tamoxifen. Of this group of women 8,099 (roughly 50 percent) also took a variety of SSRI antidepressants. 2,946 of the women developed subsequent breast cancer in the 14-year follow-up period. Researchers stated “we did not observe an increased risk of subsequent breast cancer in women who concurrently used tamoxifen and antidepressants, including paroxetine. [3]

Huh? Of 8,099 survivors, 2,946 develop subsequent breast cancer and there’s no correlation? What the…?

Uninformed medical practitioners continue to prescribe Paxil and other SSRI drugs that are known to inhibit CYP2D6 enzymes (required by the body for the metabolization of tamoxifen). One 2013 study by Dutch researchers stated that “In clinical practice, one should strive to avoid potent CYP2D6 inhibitors as much as possible in tamoxifen-treated patients to reduce the risk of compromising the efficacy of the hormonal therapy.” [4]

To make matters worse, doctors are prescribing SSRI anti-depressant medications for hot flashes and menopausal symptoms. I was too, but I politely declined my doctor’s offering of this when I was going through terrible hot flashes related to breast cancer treatments. I’m suspicious of these drugs anyway, so that made NO sense to me. Back in 2004 I didn’t even have access to any studies that suggested taking SSRI’s could put me at a higher risk for breast cancer. I just didn’t want these drugs in my body. I also refused tamoxifen due to its long list of side effects and the fact that the State of California and the American Cancer Society have listed it as a carcinogenic agent. Why on earth would we want this in our bodies?

Truthstream Media has an interesting video on this subject on YouTube:

In this video, it is stated that Paxil has a weak estrogenic effect, but enough of an effect to promote breast cancer. Also mentioned is that FORTY to FIFTY PERCENT of American women aged 40-50 are taking these SSRI anti-depressants.

The video also references an older 1999 study entitled Antidepressant Medication Use and Breast Cancer Risk, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology [5]. This study found that taking tricyclic medications (ie SSRI drugs) for more than two years was associated with a two-fold increase in the risk for breast cancer. So we have known since at least 1999 that the use of SSRI drugs could put us at a higher risk for breast cancer.

I just thought you should know about this. As a natural therapist, I wonder about the combined toxicity of tamoxifen and SSRI drugs. Taking these drugs in combination gives the liver a lot of work to do to detoxify them. If the liver is involved in detoxification of these two drugs all the time, that taxes it to an extraordinary degree.

I think there’s a much better way to go. I believe our bodies were uniquely designed to use natural foods, herbs, essential oils and other remedies for our healing. If you’d like to find out more, sign up for my free newsletters over on the right-hand side of this page.

References:

[1] Breast Cancer Recurrence Risk Related to Concurrent Use of SSRI Antidepressants and Tamoxifen – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892037/

[2] Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors and Breast Cancer Mortality in Women Receiving Tamoxifen: a Population Based Cohort Study – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2817754/

[3] Tamoxifen and Antidepressant Drug Interaction in a Cohort of 16,887 Breast Cancer Survivors – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26631176

[4] Unjustified Prescribing of CYP2D6 Inhibiting SSRIs in Women Treated with Tamoxifen – http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10549-013-2585-z

[5] Antidepressant Medication Use and Breast Cancer Risk – http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/151/10/951.full.pdf

Estrogen Effects on the Brain: Much More than Sex – http://misc.karger.com/gazette/66/mcewen/art_05.htm

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Meditation Benefits and 4 Quick Tips To Assist You

http://MarnieClark.com/meditation-benefits-and-4-quick-tips-to-assist-youMeditation Benefits and 4 Quick Tips To Assist You

One of the things I teach newly diagnosed breast cancer patients is that meditation is wonderful for helping us to heal our bodies. For the majority of people going through breast cancer, learning meditation is one of the best things you can do, for so many reasons.

First, for stress relief (and going through cancer is NOTHING if not stressful). Another powerful reason is that when you are undergoing the various tests and treatments (some of which can also fill you with anxiety, like MRIs, CT-scans, bone scans and the like) knowing how to calm your mind and focus on something else is absolutely vital. That’s just scraping the tip of the iceberg.

Going back to the stress issue, research tells us that meditation is one of the most effective methods to relieve stress. If there’s one thing I hear about all too often from women going through breast cancer, it’s stress. Most tell me that in the lead-up to their cancer diagnosis they were struggling with some form of unrelenting stress. And this, they feel, is what let cancer in the door. It was the same for me.

So why is meditation so powerful?

According to the latest research, meditation can help you “rewire” your brain, so that you are less stressed, you have improved focus and ability to concentrate, less anxiety, more creativity, and your memory can also improve! How great is that!

Do you need some help getting started? If you’re anything like me, I didn’t really know where to begin. I struggled. My mind would NOT shut up. Here are four quick tips that will help you.

Step 1. Prepare for meditation.

Set aside some time – it doesn’t have to be a long time, perhaps just 20 minutes. If you only have two minutes, take two minutes. Those could be the most important two minutes of your day! Get a drink of water. Go to the bathroom if necessary. Shut the door so you can have some quiet time. Find a comfortable position (but not too comfortable or you might fall asleep). Loosen tight clothing. If you want to have meditation music playing in the background, put it on. You could also breathe in essential oils to help you focus your mind if you wish (frankincense, lavender or sandalwood are helpful). These things are helpful, but definitely not a requirement. When I worked in an office, I would just sit in the ladies room and meditate for a few minutes – it was the only place I could find some relative peace and quiet.

Step 2. Relax.

Once you’re in a comfortable position, allow your body and mind to relax. There are many techniques to help you relax and what works for one may not work for another. If you need some help finding a good relaxation technique, click here. Allow your mind to just let go. Let there be no effort involved with this. If you find yourself thinking about something, just let it go by like a cloud floating past in the sky. Try not to feel irritated with yourself, just let it go.

Step 3. Mindfulness.

One of the ways you can utilize meditation is with something called mindfulness meditation. Without getting into too much detail, begin to focus your mind on your breath. Just feel it moving into and out of your body. Be aware of your body in time and space. Allow for stillness. Be present. If your mind wanders off, gently bring it back to the present moment.

Step 4. Notice.

Just begin to notice your mind growing more and more still. Look for the gaps between your thoughts. As one meditation guru puts it, those gaps are where the magic happens. It can’t be described, you just have to wait for it, experience it yourself. It may not happen immediately, but increasingly the stillness of your mind becomes more familiar to you. You may notice that as you sit quietly in meditation, your cold hands or feet get warm – this is a lovely reminder that quieting the mind helps the energy, the chi, flow through you better. I sometimes see swirling colored lights behind my closed eyes, rather like the aurora borealis. I notice my nervous system quieting and calming. Meditation is like a healing balm for the nerves.

I hope that helps, but if you still have questions, I created a series of 7 videos answering questions about meditation. Check them out, your question might be answered in one of them.

Why Should I Meditate?
How Do I Keep My Mind From Wandering?
How Do I Find Time to Meditate?
How Do You Know You’re Meditating and Not Just Sitting There?
What Is the Best Meditation Technique For Beginners?
Can I Use Meditation for Healing?
Teaching You How to Meditate

From Ian Gawler, cancer survivor, author, and meditation/health teacher:

Having prepared well, we relax.

Relaxing more deeply, we become more mindful.

As our mindfulness develops, the stillness naturally reveals itself.

We rest in open, undistracted awareness.

There is nothing to do. Simply be aware. Open. Undistracted. Aware.

It is as simple, and as difficult as that.”

Need Help With Your Meditation Practice?

Back in 2004 when I was going through treatments for my breast cancer, I knew that meditation could hold the key to my struggle with stress, and thus possibly the key to my healing.

But I had a very hard time finding a good guided meditation for cancer patients that would lead me through a series of calming visualizations and help me to focus my mind. There were lots of meditation CDs available (no downloads then!) and I tried most of them, but each one had something that drove me crazy – it would be intrusive background music or the person narrating it would have some annoying trait. I finally decided to create my own how-to-meditate course, called Change Your Life Meditation Course (click that link to find out more).

I created it for people who lived in small towns without access to meditation classes, for busy people who just wanted some help and guidance with their meditation practice. If that sounds good to you, click here.

Not sure? Want a free sample? Check out my free guided meditation. This is the very meditation I used each and every day (instead of radiation, but that’s a whole different story).

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

The Benefits of Eating Raw Food vs Cooked

Image source: freedigitalphotos.net
Image source: freedigitalphotos.net

The Benefits of Eating Raw Food vs Cooked

As a breast health coach one of the things I recommend to my clients is the benefits of eating raw food vs cooked food, it’s part of my wellness recommendations for them. Let me be clear – I am not saying everyone should switch your diet to all raw (although some do and are quite happy to). In this article I hope to share with you why raw food should be considered part of a healthy regimen and in what quantity.

Malnourished?

According to health expert Philip Day, the top six causes of disease deaths in our western culture are ALL diseases of chronic malnutrition, especially cancer. Yes – malnutrition! Hard to believe in this day and age, but it’s absolutely true. Our bodies are literally starving for the nutrients they need to run properly.

The primary goal of eating a diet high in raw foods is to help your body get those easy-to-digest, high quality nutrients it so badly needs. Our bodies are naturally designed for this sort of diet. Secondly, cooked foods create a higher level of acidity in the body, while raw foods neutralize acid and help the body be more alkaline. We know that high levels of acidity are associated with increased disease.

Cooking vs Raw

The problem with cooking food is that heating it can destroy many of the natural nutrients and enzymes the food would normally contain. This is not a good thing because those enzymes assist with digestion and help in the fight against chronic disease (yes, even cancer). Foods that are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients (plant nutrients) simply don’t stand up well to cooking.

Cooked foods can also produce inflammation in the body and this is something we definitely want to avoid because cancer is an inflammatory process. So anything that creates or promotes inflammation is to be avoided wherever possible.

Some of the benefits of incorporating more raw food into the diet include less inflammation in the body, less acidity, better digestion, healthy weight promotion, good quality dietary fiber (helps elimination so less constipation), reduced food allergies, less joint pain, improved heart, liver and colon function, reduced need for vitamin supplements, more energy, clear skin, and more importantly, more cancer-fighting nutrients.

My Recommendations

One of the key parts of a breast healthy diet is one high in cancer-banishing phytonutrients that come from raw fruits and vegetables. Depending on which style of raw food diet you wish to follow, you can begin by just adding more raw fruit and vegetables into your diet every single day. There’s no need to completely make over your diet on day one. Start slowly and aim eventually for a 50/50 ratio of raw to cooked food – that’s a really great goal. Here’s a tip:  at each meal, fill a plate half way with fresh, raw, non-starchy vegetables and fruit and the other half of the plate with cooked or lightly steamed food.

For a list of the best anti-cancer fruits and vegetables to eat, check out my page Diet and Cancer. My personal feelings are that there is little need to go completely raw (unless you want to), because it’s too easy for a person to become deficient in protein and to feel deprived, unless they are following a very specific and rigorous raw food regimen. I’m finding many just don’t have the time or inclination for that.

So as to not feel too deprived I recommend people also include fish, sea vegetables, sprouted grains, fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, also seeds, nuts, eggs, and small amounts of organic meat and chicken. This is definitely a matter of personal choice, however, and if you feel the need to completely avoid eating meat, that’s your right. We can agree to disagree.

You definitely want to avoid most packaged and processed foods sold in the grocery store like bread, cereals, crackers, cheese and most dairy products, condiments, highly processed oils and meats. One naturopath went a step farther and said to me “If it has a bar code, avoid it!” That’s not strictly true anymore as even fruit can have bar codes these days. But you get her meaning, right? The more natural (and preferably organic) that it is, the better.

Good Raw Food Websites

There are some wonderful websites out there that share loads of tasty and inventive raw food recipes. I recommend beginning with just one new recipe per week that you will enjoy and build up your recipe repertoire over time. Get familiar with the world’s leading raw food websites. Here are some of my favorites:

Raw Food Recipes


http://rawmazing.com/rawmazing-recipes/
http://allrecipes.com/recipes/16337/healthy-recipes/raw-food-diet/
http://www.thebestofrawfood.com/raw-food-diet-recipe-index.html
http://www.therawfoodmum.com/

Please remember the benefits of juicing too. Juicing vegetables and adding phytonutrient-rich green foods and fulvic acids to your diet gets some cancer-blasting nutrients into your body in a hurry. So if your diet has been less than optimal lately, today is a new day. Do some juicing. Eat a new raw food salad (my favorite one is at the top of the page here). Get some greens into you. Give your body what it needs. Raw vegetables and fruits RULE!

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Post Mastectomy Pain Syndrome – It Is Real and What To Do About It

http://MarnieClark.com/post-mastectomy-pain-syndromePost Mastectomy Pain Syndrome – It Is Real and What To Do About It

If you have had a mastectomy or lumpectomy and are experiencing some ongoing pain and discomfort that has nothing to do with the normal recovery period for surgery – we’re talking pain and burning that lasts months and even years after surgery – it is VERY real, it has a name, and in this article I’m going to give you some suggestions for what to do about it.

It is a reasonable expectation that pain can be experienced after major surgery like a mastectomy or lumpectomy, although there are ways to minimize this kind of pain. See my article Your Breast Surgery Recovery – Using Arnica to Minimize Brusing and Swelling. But pain which persists beyond a normal period of healing is considered to be chronic and is a whole different thing altogether. There is a term for it, Post Mastectomy Pain Syndrome, and despite the title, it can happen after lumpectomy surgery as well.

What is Post Mastectomy Pain Syndrome (or PMPS)?

PMPS is categorized as chronic pain that occurs after surgery for breast cancer including lumpectomy, mastectomy, and axillary lymph node dissection (this involves removing lymph nodes in the underarm area) and persists beyond what could be considered a normal period of healing.

A number of my coaching clients are experiencing PMPS and it, quite simply, is driving them nuts. The pain and discomfort experienced from PMPS can be any of the following:
• a shooting pain
• a burning sensation
• a stabbing pain
• an electric shock type of pain that accompanies a constant burning and aching feeling
• a throbbing, aching pain

There are a number of studies on PMPS and they indicate that anywhere from 20 to 68 percent of breast cancer survivors who have had mastectomy, lumpectomy or axillary clearance experience PMPS. That’s a huge number! PMPS typically begins in the period immediately after surgery, but it can also wait up to several months after surgery to appear and persist for a number of years. For some, the condition goes away on its own, but for others the pain is constant, and it wears away at their normally good nature, making them feel tired, despondent, depressed and grouchy.

What Causes PMPS?

There are several different things which can cause PMPS:

1. During lumpectomy surgery, mastectomy surgery, and/or axillary lymph node dissection, sometimes a patient’s intercostobrachial nerve (see photo below) and/or other sensory nerves in the underarm and breast areas are injured. Removal of a tumor located in the upper, outer quadrant of the breast (near the underarm) also increases risk of PMPS because the nerves in this region are more easily damaged.

http://MarnieClark.com/post-mastectomy-pain-syndrome-it-is-real-and-what-to-do-about-it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Formation of scar tissue from the surgery can also be a cause for PMPS. Interestingly, studies have shown that PMPS occurs more often after lumpectomy than after mastectomy.

3. Treatment with radiation or chemotherapy after surgery can also cause PMPS.

Symptoms of PMPS

Survivors typically complain of pain in the upper arm, the underarm, the shoulder and even the chest wall (all are areas enervated by the damaged intercostobrachial nerve). The pain experienced can range from mild and manageable, to being severe enough to interfere with daily activities. It can cause impaired movement of the affected arm, and can lead to not only pain but stiffness, and a condition referred to as “frozen shoulder”. These symptoms can be fairly continuous or intermittent. One client said hers was the intermittent kind, she would feel better for a few days and think it was finally gone, only to have it return full force for no apparent reason. The pain of PMPS can worsen by doing seemingly simple things such as household chores or even gentle stretching.

Easing the Symptoms of PMPS

It is important to carefully manage PMPS – not only for relief of the aggravating pain and other symptoms, but also to reduce the negative impact it can have on your quality of life. Here is a list of things that can help:

1. Essential oils – using pain relieving and anti-inflammatory essential oils like wintergreen, marjoram, peppermint, copaiba, ginger and a few others topically on the area of pain or other sensations can help to relieve the pain, inflammation, and settle the nerve down until it can repair. I would try this avenue first. Please ensure you use therapeutic grade essential oils from a reputable supplier.
2. An anti-inflammatory diet is highly recommended to ease the attendant inflammation in the body. See my article Anti-Inflammatory Foods That Help Fight Breast Cancer for some recommendations.
3. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. While it isn’t recommended to use these daily over a long period of time, the occasional use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen can help to relieve chronic pain and inflammation.
4. Deep tissue massage therapy is beneficial in management of PMPS because it can help to ease inflamed tissues, reduce scarring and adhesions, and restore movement to the affected limb. Indeed, one Korean study reported in 2014 found that trigger points that had developed in two particular shoulder muscles in post-mastectomy patients were responsible for their pain syndrome and injecting the trigger points with ultrasound relieved that pain. [1] A well-trained deep tissue massage therapist will know how to do this manually, without the need for ultrasound, but both can be helpful.
5. Pulsed, high intensity laser therapy. One small 2015 Egyptian study with 61 women found that treatment with pulsed, high intensity laser therapy increased range of motion of the affected shoulder, as well as quality of life for the women who underwent this form of therapy. [2]
6. Nerve block. A small study published in Cancer Research in 2013 found that a nerve block employing a combination of bupivacaine (an anaesthetic) and dexamethasone (an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid) was an effective potential treatment option for chronic neuropathic pain after mastectomy. 75 percent of patients receiving this nerve block injection reported persistent relief after one injection. [3]

The least exciting treatment option, but sometimes helpful for some patients in cases where pain is severe, is the use of anti-depressants and opioids to relieve neuropathic pain. These drugs must always be prescribed by a doctor and carefully monitored.

For some survivors, just knowing that the pain they are experiencing is real and not imagined can be comforting. Many have been told by their surgeons that there is no apparent reason for the pain they are experiencing and are sent on their way. If you’ve been told that, march down to your surgeon’s office with this article and have him/her read the research links below.

References:

[1] Application of ultrasound-guided trigger point injection for myofascial trigger points in the subscapularis and pectoralis muscles to post-mastectomy patients: a pilot study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3990076/

[2] Long-term effect of pulsed high-intensity laser therapy in the treatment of post-mastectomy pain syndrome: a double blind, placebo-control, randomized study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26115690

[3] Abstract P3-10-03: A simple intervention to relieve chronic neuropathic post-mastectomy pain – http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/73/24_Supplement/P3-10-03.abstract

Post-mastectomy pain syndrome: incidence and risks – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22377590

Prevalence of post-mastectomy pain syndrome and associated risk factors: a cross-sectional cohort study – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24144570

Clinical and neurophysiological evaluation of persistent sensory disturbances in breast cancer women after mastectomy with or without radiotherapy – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27456370

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

The Fear of Dying – Changing the Mindset

http://MarnieClark.com/The-Fear-of-Dying-Changing-the-MindsetThe Fear of Dying – Changing the Mindset

One of the things I hear most frequently, as I work with women dealing with breast cancer and all that it entails, is the fear of dying. We talk about it in hushed tones, as if we are afraid to even utter the words “I might die from this.” I went through exactly the same thing when I was working on healing from breast cancer. It is a common thread among nearly every single person fighting cancer. In this post I will share with you some things that helped me with that fear of dying and what you can do to change your mindset.

“Many people facing life-threatening illness begin by being scared of dying. This is not surprising and often this fear leads to a high motivation to get well. However, if the focus is ‘I don’t want to die’, from the mind’s point of view, what is the target, what is the goal? Obviously, the dying! An important step in getting well is to shift the focus onto living and finding what there is to live for – the passion. In comparison with trying not to die, there is far more healing in focusing on living and living well. We are healed by what we turn towards, far more than what we turn away from. When we affirm life, healing is a much greater possibility.” – Ian Gawler, excerpted from “The Creative Power of Imagery“.

I found these words by Ian Gawler to be immensely comforting. They were kind of like a re-set button for my overworked brain when I was going through breast cancer. Reading those words, I realized that he was absolutely right. Changing your mindset from “I don’t want to die” to “I am living each day with passion, love and healing” may not be easy but it’s SO worth the developing this skill. Here are some tips to help you.

1. LEARN TO LISTEN TO YOUR INNER VOICE – Recognize that your inner voice is your touchstone, your guide as to how you are feeling. It’s also good to help you discover whether or not you are making progress. By listening to what your inner voice has to say, you can learn much about yourself. If you find that your everyday thoughts are filled with negative criticism, stress, self-blame, regrets and fear, get some help. Find a practitioner of EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique. This is a healing technique that (in simple terms) relies on tapping on acupuncture meridians, employing the use of neurolinguistic programming and positive thinking to change negative thoughts and beliefs into more positive ones, and it seems to do this on not only the mental level, but also energetically and spiritually. It may seem like a simplistic solution, but it can be quite powerful.

2. MAKE A CHOICE TO TURN NEGATIVE THOUGHTS INTO POSITIVE – We all have down days, but by paying close attention to negative thoughts when they occur, you can make the choice to turn away from negativity and embrace more positive, harmonious thoughts. Why is this important? Because we ARE what we think. Engaging in positive thinking changes you, both energetically and physically, from someone who is full of self-blame, stress, recrimination, and negativity to someone who is open, loving toward themselves and others, motivated, and more healthy. Yes, I said that – more healthy. Research shows that positive thoughts actually change your brain! It’s a whole new area of science called neuroplasticity. By engaging in positive thought and positive activity, you can rewire your brain and strengthen areas of the brain that stimulate positive feelings and emotions. Here’s something you can try. When you find yourself in that cycle of negative thinking, worrying or obsessing, there are three things that can help:
a. When the worry and fear hit, mentally yell “Stop!” (I even envision a big red STOP sign).
b. Remind yourself that the worry is not real – it’s something your brain has conjured up. Tell that worry to sit down and shut up!
c. Reframe your negative thinking by focusing on more positive or distracting thoughts. Mentally switch gears and choose to think about something you love. Redirect your actions – go do something uplifting or fun. This might take the shape of helping a neighbor, calling someone you love, taking a walk, making a healthy smoothie. Make a list of things you love to do – and I suggest this because sometimes when you are down and depressed, you have difficulty even thinking of something uplifting to do that will make you feel better. Get the list out! Start doing more of those things!
After awhile, you will notice things changing and improvements in your way of thinking. The key is to do these 3 things EVERY SINGLE TIME you begin to worry or obsess. This breaks the pattern and helps you to rewire your brain.

3. TRY MEDITATION – Another amazing thing to rewire your brain is meditation. One American study on loving-kindness meditation, reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2015 [1], found that one hour of loving-kindness meditation PER WEEK (and certainly we can find one hour per week) “enhanced a wide range of positive emotions in a wide range of situations” for those taking the time to do the meditation. Interestingly, even after three months post-experiment, the people who practiced meditation daily continued to enjoy increased mindfulness, better social support, purpose in life, and (most importantly) decreased illness symptoms. The reasons for taking up meditation are many. You only have to Google the words “benefits of meditation” to be rewarded with hundreds of studies and articles touting meditation. If you need help with meditation, see my page where I talk about it.

The Bottom Line

What I came to realize is that by living with the fear of dying ever present in my mind, I was closing myself off to living NOW. I was projecting myself to some far-off day in the future when things might not be too good. By learning to live in the here and now, I lost that fear of dying. I came to understand that living in the present moment was one of the most powerful gifts a person can give to themselves. Because what do we really have other than the present moment? If we are truly alive in the here and now, we are quiet observers. We can really taste what we are eating and enjoy every mouthful. We notice the color of the sky. We hear that bird singing its heart out. We see the spark of love in our husband’s eyes. We see our children changing and growing. And really – what is more important than these things? Focus on the things you love and that fear will melt away. And you just may find that the energy you have freed up helps you to heal as well.

Please be aware that someone with a serious mood disorder or depression may require the help of a trained counselor. If you are suffering from severe anxiety or depression, please see a trained professional to help you get to the root of the problem.

References:
[1] Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3156028/

The Creative Power of Imagery by Dr Ian Gawler, ISBN 0855722819

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Searching for Tamoxifen Alternatives?

Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / stockimages
Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / stockimages

Searching for Tamoxifen Alternatives?

One of the most searched phrases on the Internet for women fighting breast cancer is “tamoxifen alternatives”.

For those of you who have been prescribed the estrogen blocking drug Tamoxifen because your breast tumor had estrogen receptors on it, one of the first things you undoubtedly did was Google something like “Tamoxifen side effects”. And what you read scared you, with good reason. The list of side effects, as well as women complaining about those side effects, is pretty darned long.

When I was going through breast cancer in 2004, I was prescribed Tamoxifen as well, even though I didn’t have an estrogen-receptor-positive tumor – mine was progesterone-receptor positive (which in itself is odd, nobody knew quite what to do with me). I couldn’t see how blocking my body’s estrogen was going to help that situation and all my doctors could say in response was to mumble something about “well, it may have some therapeutic benefit anyway.” I found that hard to believe, especially after I learned a few things about it – and back in 2004 there was nowhere NEAR the amount of research available, or chat rooms, or online support groups, that we have available to us now. What I did find was pretty distressing, so I refused Tamoxifen. Then I went in search of other, better things I could do to support my health, well-being and ability to stay healthy. I will share some of those things later in this article.

Those Pesky Side Effects

As a breast cancer coach I am in regular contact with women who took Tamoxifen and some of the other inhibitors like Femara, Arimidex, Aromasin and Evista. With the rare exception, everyone complains about the side effects. Apparently only a small percentage of women taking the drug do NOT have any side effects.

What are some of the most common side effects? Here’s a partial list (and inside the parentheses are comments made to me by others taking these drugs): joint pain, muscle pain, bone pain, joint stiffness, feelings of arthritis (“I felt like I was 85 years old on this drug!”), hot flashes (“You could fry an egg on my head!”), leg cramps, vaginal dryness (“It’s a desert down there!”), tiredness, anxiety, depression (“I felt like killing myself”), vision changes, uterine lining abnormalities (“I had to have a hysterectomy.”), insomnia, weight gain, loss of mental acuity (“I couldn’t think straight while taking it.”), hair thinning and, most worryingly, unexplained blood clots.

And we MIGHT be prepared to put up with some of those side effects if the drug actually worked well. I don’t know what the statistics are, but what I am discovering with my clients is that many of the women who took this drug still had recurrences of breast cancer, despite putting up with the side effects and toxicity. I hear this all the time! Now we also are finding out that some women don’t metabolize them well.

What Does the Research Tell Us?

Plenty of studies have been done on Tamoxifen, far too numerous to list here. Several studies have established that there is an increased incidence of endometrial cancer among women taking Tamoxifen [1], [2]. In 1993, British researchers found that Tamoxifen administered to rats induced liver cancer and several subsequent studies confirmed those findings. [3] In other animal studies (again there have been many of them) Tamoxifen caused all sorts of reproductive organ cancers including testes, uterine, cervical, and vaginal cancers. In 2000, one researcher found that a key metabolite of Tamoxifen is mutagenic (DNA damaging) when particular conditions for its metabolism are met. Those conditions are discussed at length (if you can wade through the terminology) in the research paper listed at [4]. Notably, this researcher stated: “tamoxifen presents something of a problem in the arena of regulatory testing of pharmaceuticals for genetic toxicity: negative in the battery of short-term tests, but demonstrably genotoxic (and carcinogenic) in vivo.” (In vivo means inside a living body, either animal or human, not just a test tube.)

Of course, there do exist numerous studies which indicate Tamoxifen saves lives. Indeed one recent Lancet study [5] (funded in part by the pharmaceutial company making the drug) indicated that taking it for up to ten years substantially reduces breast cancer recurrence. We all heard about that not so long ago. However, all is not what it seems. I will point you to my learned friend, Sayer Ji, of GreenMedInfo.com, who has spent some time with the facts and figures on Tamoxifen, which culminated in his 2012 comment on this research: Tamoxifen: Praised As “Life Saving” But Still Causing Cancer.

It’s clear that the medical establishment believes that Lancet study because Tamoxifen continues to be one of the most-prescribed drugs for hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. It irritates me that they remain stubbornly blind to the fact that natural medicine has many wonderful (and side-effect free) ways to stay well that can both help to prevent and also to treat cancer safely.

For those in the natural medicine arena, the bottom line is still what we see out there in the trenches – the terrible side effects from these drugs, the fact that so many women taking it are still having recurrences, and the fact that it is classed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the State of California as a human carcinogen.

So What Should an Empowered Survivor Do?

I can share with you what I did and what I am teaching others to do.

First of all, I disagree that our body’s own estrogen (a hormone we both want and need in our bodies) is causing breast cancer. If that were truly the reason, it seems to me that breast cancer would have been a problem since ancient times and it has only really become the huge problem that it is in recent decades, with the advance of processed foods, chemically-laden body products and cosmetics, environmental toxins and rising stress levels. Breast cancer is a multi-factorial disease and must be addressed on many other levels, not just hormonal. The medical establishment seems to be totally focused on the presence of estrogen receptors on breast cancer tumors. Of course they are there, estrogen plays a huge part in breast health. But complicating the problem is that there are synthetic estrogens in our body products, our drinking water, our cosmetics, our environment — they are coming at us from all directions – and I believe these synthetic estrogens, termed xenoestrogens, are just part of what is making us sick. For more about xenoestrogens, see my articles Protect Yourself From Xenoestrogens and Estrogen Dominance and Unraveling the Mystery of Xenoestrogens and Estrogen Dominance.

So my plan involved, firstly, detoxing my household of chemicals. I got rid of all that crap and began using only natural, organic products. If I couldn’t find them, I made them myself.

I began using some very particular essential oils, massaging them, undiluted, into my breast tissue on a daily basis. See my page Essential Oils for Overall Health and Specific Health Problems for a list of the oils I use.

I had my husband fit a filtration system to the kitchen sink and filtered the drinking water. I also had him install a shower filter.

I began buying only organic produce and when I couldn’t get it organically grown, I either learned how to grow it myself or washed the hell out of it (for things I really wanted/needed) or avoided it completely (I mean who really needs a rutabaga?).

I began working on building up my immune system. Here’s my page on how to do that:  8 Ways To Build a Super Strong Immune System.

I found out which supplements really made a difference in breast cancer and I discovered which foods had real research on them indicating they had anti-cancer activity and began eating those foods. Lots of them! See my page Diet and Cancer.

I got my hormone levels checked periodically. Even though I don’t believe our body’s own estrogen causes breast cancer, it made sense to me to keep an eye on things. When necessary, I use a natural wild yam cream trans-dermally to boost progesterone levels and I take certain supplements that contain wild yam and other things for breast health.

I also got my vitamin D levels checked periodically. When low, I take supplements. See my article: Why Vitamin D is So Important for Breast Health.

I amped up my exercise after reading a study called The Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) study [6]. It involved 1,500 women from 1991-2000 who had early stage breast cancer. It found that women who ate plenty of vegetables and fruit every day as well as got regular physical activity were nearly 50 percent less likely to die. So I began getting more regular exercise (in addition to all those lovely plant based foods)!

I learned meditation, because I felt very strongly that a long period of badly managed stress was what undermined my immune system to such a degree that it let cancer in the door. I even created a downloadable how-to-meditate course to help others who don’t have access to meditation classes like I did. Here’s the link: Change Your Life Meditation Course

I learned how to improve my sleep because I found out that bad sleep also undermines the immune system, messes with your hormones and just generally makes you feel crappy. See my page about that: Want To Sleep Better?

I also learned how to do cleanses. A yearly or twice yearly bowel and liver cleanse is one of the best ways to get toxins and xenoestrogens out of your body and keep things running beautifully.

I am still well, healthy and here to tell the story.

References:

[1] Endometrial Cancer in Tamoxifen-Treated Breast Cancer Patients: Findings From the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) B-14 – http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/86/7/527.abstract?ijkey=f6e51d3ed6a435030236801eb63df2f1c9279a5d&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha

[2] Risk and Prognosis of Endometrial Cancer after Tamoxifen for Breast Cancer. Comprehensive Cancer Centres’ ALERT Group. Assessment of Liver and Endometrial cancer Risk following Tamoxifen – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11036892

[3] Two-year Carcinogenicity Study of Tamoxifen in Alderley Park Wistar-derived Rats – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8358718

[4] Understanding the Genotoxicity of Tamoxifen? http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/22/6/839.full#content-block

[5] Long-term Effects of Continuing Adjuvant Tamoxifen to 10 Years Versus Stopping at 5 Years after Diagnosis of Oestrogen Receptor-positive Breast Cancer: ATLAS, a randomised trial – http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2812%2961963-1/abstract

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.