People often ask me what they can do to be a part of breast cancer awareness month. Rather than telling them to donate a thousand bucks to a research organization or a wonderful NPO (which would be great for sure) I always respond to them, “The best thing you can do for breast cancer awareness month is to equip yourself with the knowledge necessary to take control of your own health.” So, put down that pink cardigan and let’s begin with our health to solve the problem. Let’s start on a grass roots level here and see where it can go.
When I was first diagnosed I wondered if I had done something wrong to bring the horrible situation I found myself in upon myself. Did I eat the wrong thing? Did I breathe the wrong air? Did I use the wrong deodorant? Did I do something wrong?!!! The truth is we will never know.
I have had people tell me that cancer is 100% preventable. This makes me feel guilty and ashamed for getting cancer. It makes me angry sometimes when people mention prevention like if I had just taken better care of myself things would have turned out differently. I don’t buy into that, but I do know that there are some things that have been thoroughly researched enough that we should give some degree of legitimacy to the findings. When I was diagnosed with cancer I spent countless hours reading information on how I could take better care of myself so I could beat this and remain cancer free.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has determined that at least one-third of all cancers are preventable. I have aligned my research with the findings of WHO, NIH, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). These are my top ten findings of things you can do to significantly increase your body’s ability to fight disease, specifically cancer. When people say that they don’t care much about prevention because anything and everything is found to be linked to cancer these days I want to hit them in the face. I want to show them my scars, I want to give them a dose of chemo (OK not really I am trying to make a point here), I want them to see what it is like to go through cancer and then maybe, just maybe, they would care a little more about prevention. Living in ignorance and ignoring all scientific research on cancer prevention would be silly. Take it or leave it, people, but here we go:
1. Try and maintain an Alkaline Diet: The number one overarching goal I have from a nutritional standpoint is to maintain my body’s pH levels. The alkaline diet and its ability to help one fight cancer is currently a hot debate in the cancer world, but I have done a significant amount of research on the alkaline diet and believe that it truly reduces one’s cancer risk. You see, the body’s insides, aka the body’s “ecosystem” runs on the pH scale ranging from very acidic to very alkaline. Cancer cells grow and thrive in an acidic (harsh) environment and have a hard time surviving in an alkaline (tranquil) one. My goal, therefore, is to always be on the alkaline side of the pH scale. I achieve this by eating a majority of alkaline foods (lots of green vegetables) and limiting my acidic intake. As a cancer survivor, it is advised that I should aim for an 80/20 balance of alkaline versus acidic foods. It is suggested for those who have not been diagnosed with cancer to aim for a 60/40 balance of alkaline versus acidic foods. How do I know if I am alkaline you ask? Well, I test my urine regularly with pH strips to make sure my body is alkaline. I know that might sound crazy to you, but crazy has and will always work for me.
2. Green Juice: A great way to stay alkaline is through juicing. I aim to juice every day, but I often miss a day. Life gets busy as you know. When I don’t juice, I just focus on making it up in my diet by eating a lot of cruciferous vegetables which are extremely alkaline and drinking my green tea which I drink (at least 3 cups) every day (green tea is also very alkaline).
3. Alkaline Foods generally: Here is a great website for alkaline foods http://www.alkalinesisters.com/alkaline-food-chart/. There are dozens more that can assist you in making wise alkaline-friendly choices. You will probably be surprised by some of the foods listed. Lemons are actually extremely alkaline which I thought was weird. They seem acidic to me. It turns out that once lemons are in your system they become alkaline! Consider lemons your new BFF. Go ahead and take a selfie with a lemon, just do it! Then Instagram it, #alkaline! So whenever I drink plain water I try and throw a lemon in there to increase my alkaline intake. I have found that if I juice (I will include my juice recipe at the end), eat healthy, drink my green tea and drink my alkaline water I am almost always alkaline. (Note: You can become TOO alkaline. You need to aim for a balance.)
4. Check the ingredients of your cleaning products: I mostly buy all natural cleaning products now. They are a little more expensive, but they last a long time and are worth it. It is incredible how many chemicals we have around our house that we are unaware of and breathing into our bodies on a regular basis. The usage of all natural cleaning products significantly decreases those levels.
5. Coffee, fried foods, soda and other super acidic foods: Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE coffee, but I drink it sparingly and only on special occasions now. Coffee is super acidic and can throw off your body’s pH quickly. It took me several months, but I forced my coffee-loving self to go to the other side and become a tea drinker and now I find myself craving green tea and not coffee. Also, alcohol has been linked to increasing cancer risk and risk of recurrence by up to 30%. I don’t think you have to eliminate alcohol from your diet completely, but I would advise significantly reducing your intake if you are a drinker.
6. Pay close attention to the plastic you use: There is a synthetic compound in plastic (BPA) that when mixed with extreme temperatures produces a carcinogenic reaction that is extremely toxic. NEVER microwave anything in plastic, EVER. NEVER use water bottles that are not BPA free, EVER. If they are BPA free, they will say it on the bottle. ALWAYS CHECK. Opt for glass containers over plastic containers when you can. I would advise to pay special attention to microwave meals. They are generally found frozen in plastic containers and then when you heat them up the reaction can be extremely carcinogenic. If you eat microwave dinners, aim to find ones that are not frozen in plastic or, if they are in plastic, the plastic is BPA free.
7. Reduce your stress: I cannot emphasize this one enough. I have no idea how stressed of a person you are, but I was a stress ball before cancer. I was always very anxious because of the pressure from school, life, relationships etc., and the research I have done shows that stress does real, physical harm to your body and can increase toxins that can be carcinogenic and either cause tumors or aid in a tumor’s growth. I had to make significant changes to my life in order decrease the stress. I had to make some very real, tough decisions regarding stress and relationships in my life that seemed to always cause that stress. Some of these decisions were extremely difficult for me, but you have to do what is best for yourself. You have to look at your life, identify the stressors and try and eliminate or reduce them. I can say now that I do live a 99% stress-free life. That is something I could not have even imagined before cancer. I exercise daily to reduce my stress, I meditate, and when something stressful comes into my life that I can’t avoid, I face it head-on and deal with it. You cannot eliminate all stress from your life, but you can change how you deal. For me, I just remind myself how far I have come and what I have been through and most of life’s little stressors are chump change compared to the hell I have had to endure.
8. Food-based versus Synthetic Vitamins: I believe that one should always aim to achieve nutrition from food not pills, but I do take a multi-vitamin and a calcium supplement. I take a multi-vitamin as sort of an insurance policy for my body. I take the calcium supplement because of what my bones have been through from the chemo. I would advise, if you take vitamins, to always buy food-based or whole-food vitamins instead of synthetic vitamins. Synthetic vitamins do not flush out of your system if they aren’t used but actually build up and that is no bueno. Food-based vitamins do what they are supposed to in your body and any extra that is not used simply flushes out of your system.
9. Processed foods: Aren’t processed foods tasty? Aren’t they just sooo delish!? Don’t you just love processed foods??! Here is a tip: processed foods hate you. They are not your friend but your worst enemy. Let’s reciprocate, shall we, and take them out of our lives. Aim to decrease the amount of processed foods in your world. Your body will reward you handsomely.
10. Know your genetic risk: The cancers that are not preventable are largely due to genetic mutations we can’t even control. You can thank your great grandparents for these genes they have so kindly passed down to your generation. Hundreds of thousands of individuals are walking around this world having a genetic risk that can make them up to 85% more likely to get a certain cancer than those who do not carry the gene and they do not even know it! Genetic counselors are becoming more and more accessible as more information on genetic risk and cancer appears. Bright Pink, a non-profit organization focused on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancers, has a useful resource that may be just right for you. It provides a free forum where you can present your genetic history and ask questions specific to your family history to a qualified genetic counselor. Just go to this link to learn more: http://www.brightpink.org/i-am-high-risk/ask-a-genetic-counselor/
OK, I realize I have written a novel here, but what I have written are things that I have spent a significant amount of time researching and believe they are quality points on health and nutrition. Let me be quite clear here that this is just my own personal discovery of useful information and is by no means a medical or scientific report. I feel pretty confident in the information I have presented, however. If you have any questions about any of this, please feel free to reach out to me. My hope is to help others take control of their health and their lives and maybe we can prevent this cancer thing from messing with anyone else we love.
My Green Juice Recipe:
1 large cucumber
1 large handful kale
1 large handful spinach
1 large handful of broccoli (just the stem)
4-5 chopped up celery stalks
1 shot of wheatgrass (I buy this in powder form you can get it from the healthfood store)
2 medium size granny smith apples
1 lemon (peeled)