Category Archives: cancer prevention

Batman Fights Cancer (Exercise and Cancer Prevention)

You know Batman fights the Joker, Penguin, and Cat Woman, but did you know Batman fights Cancer as well?

A major study confirmed a link between exercise and cancer risk: namely, that the more you exercise, the lower your risk of cancer. The three cancers with the clearest connection (perhaps because they were the most studied) were breast, colon, and endometrial (lining of the uterus) cancers. This major study was an analyzed conglomerate of smaller studies. To be fair, one of the smaller studies did not find that exercise lowers your risk of getting cancer. It did, however, find that exercise lowers your risk of dying if you get cancer. Holy statistics, Batman, that’s still a good reason to take a walk.

batman cancer 1How does Batman the Exerciser lower cancer risk? There are three theories:

  1. Catwoman: Exercise regulates hormones, especially estrogen and insulin, which have been linked to certain types of cancers. When the hormones are out of whack, they allow cancer to thrive. Holy hormones, Batman, your iconic deep voice tells me your estrogen levels are very low.
  2. The Joker (Because colon jokes are always funny): Exercise keeps food—and any carcinogens you ingest— moving through the colon. That’s right, Batman, the more often you poop, the less likely you are to get colon cancer. The more you move your body, the more you move your bowels. Holy porcelain, Batman, we’re going to need more toilet paper!
  3. The Penguin: Exercise decreases body fat. Body fat is “an active organ” that produces hormones which lead back to Catwoman. Body fat also makes it harder for your organs to function and for blood to flow. For example, your liver’s main job is to remove toxins; fat slows down that process and creates the kind of toxic environment The Penguin loves. If blood doesn’t flow well, strong, and often, cells don’t get as much oxygen as they need and cellular trash isn’t removed efficiently which leads to less healthy cells. Holy waddling bird themed bad guy, Batman, let’s go swim to slim!

batman cancer 2So what came first? The Fat or the out of whack Hormones? The sluggish colon or the sluggish human? We’ll leave that to the chickens and the eggs because we know the solution: Batman the Exerciser!

Do you have to spend hours a day doing pull ups in a bat cave in order to decrease your cancer risk? Nope. One study showed you can shuffle along like the Penguin and still reap the benefits. Holy sneakers, Batman, just going for a walk can save my life! The study defined their “most active” subjects as exercising 7 hours a week and their “least active” subjects as exercising just 20 minutes a week. That’s a range as wide as Joker’s smile, but the study showed that all exercise helps reduce cancer risk: the more active the person, the lower the risk. Holy cancer prevention, Batman, let’s get moving!

 

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

 

Resources:

National Cancer Institute, Physical Activity and Cancer, 2017

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/obesity/physical-activity-fact-sheet

American Institute for Cancer Research, More Evidence of Exercise for Cancer Prevention, 2016

http://www.aicr.org/cancer-research-update/2016/05_18/cru-More-Evidence-of-Exercise-for-Cancer-Prevention.html

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Eating for Cancer Prevention (part 4 of 5): Curcumin

Kirk, coom in, it’s Scotty in Engineering!”

“Kirk here. What’s the matter, Scotty?”

“Captain, it’s Security! They’ve been brainwashed!”

“Brainwashed!”

“Aye, Captain. Security deployed to arrest an invading alien, but now they won’t stop! They’re arresting the crew.”

“Just fix it, Scotty. And curry!”

“Curry, Captain?”

Simon-pegg-star-trek-3“I said hurry, Scotty, hurry!”

Inflammation, like the Starship Enterprise’s Security force, is essential for keeping your body safe from invading microorganisms; inflammation helps to kill the invaders and start the healing process. But chronic inflammation, when the body ends up attacking itself, can lead to a galaxy of problems. Inflammation has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome (which can lead to stroke and diabetes).

So what’s a Scotsman in outer space to do? Hit the intercom and say “Curcumin!”

(Not laughing? Re-read the first line of this post. Still not laughing? I blame your Scottish accent.)

curcuminCurcumin is a compound found in turmeric, a root that gives curry and mustard it’s yellow color. Curcumin is both a very strong anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. (A green tea toast to that!) The bad news is that turmeric (and therefore curry) doesn’t contain a whole lot of curcumin; most medical benefits are seen from taking curcumin extracts, not from eating Indian food 24/7. That’s a bummer, because I was hoping that hitting our local Indian buffet could be considered “fighting cancer”. Sigh.

A bottle of curcumin extract will run your anywhere from $15-30. I’m not usually one to take extracts; I barely remember to take my daily multivitamin. But I also like the idea of giving my body a Star Trek spring cleaning.

kirk fightFirst there’s Kirk. He seeks out new life and new civilizations and, if they’re evil, he squashes them. He prevents evil empires from spreading to other planets, fights the enemy in hand to hand combat, and roots out injustice all over the galaxy. Curcumin stops cancer tumors from spreading, stops tumors from growing, and even reduces pre-cancerous lesions. Best to let Kirk coom in.

Spock

 

Then there’s Spock. Logical to a fault and owner of the coolest ears this side of Vulcan, Spock increases the knowledge of everyone around him. Curcumin raises the level of BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) in our brains. BDNF is what allows your brain to keep learning and growing throughout your life, and decreased levels of BDNF have been linked to depression and Alzheimer’s. So, curcumin makes you Spockier.

mccoyLast of our Star Trek spring cleaners is Doctor Bones McCoy. McCoy has a big heart and curcumin improves the function of the lining of the blood vessels, which affects blood pressure, clotting, and other important stuff that you need McCoy’s medical tricorder to observe properly. In short, curcumin helps prevent heart disease because “Darn it, Jim, McCoy’s a doctor, not a chef”.

If you do try curcumin supplements, please talk to your doctor or at least google the side effects first. They don’t sound bad unless you’re taking certain kinds of chemotherapy or trying to get pregnant.

“Scotty, is Security under control? The Ambassador from the Planet of Beautiful Bipedal Females is due to arrive any minute.”

“Aye, Captain, we’re all set. I’ve got the curry.”

“I said hurry, Scotty.”

“I did, Captain. The Ambassador has just beamed aboard.”

“I’ll come greet her in person. Kirk coomin’ down.”

 

Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Matthew 23:26

 

Images courtesy of: www.comicvine.com (security officers), www.worldtechtoday.com (Scotty), dejareviewer.com (Kirk), bigbangtheory.wikia.com (Spock), www.thezone.fm (McCoy), www.precisionnutrition.com (curcumin)

Eating for Cancer Prevention: Green Tea (Part 4 of 5)

teaI propose we answer two questions today: What is Green Tea? and Why do we care? The answers are: Tea and Molecular weeding.

All tea (Black, Green, Oolong, Ooshort) comes from the same plant; the way you harvest the leaves gives you different kinds of tea. Green Tea leaves get a steam bath instead of a sunburn, so they’re thought to have more cancer-fighting antioxidants, although a few researchers believe that all teas are created equal.

Green Tea is loaded with antioxidants which have been shown to help fight cancer. Antioxidants are just what they sound like if we all spoke Greek: “anti” means against and “oxidant” means oxygen, so antioxidants are against oxygen. That sounds kind of evil, doesn’t it? But oxygen can be evil if you’re a wrench in the rain.

antioxidants_benefitsWhen oxygen reacts with chemicals in the body, it creates useful chain reactions. Your body needs some of these oxygen chain reactions in order to, you know, live, but too many chain reactions lead to free radicals and cell damage.

Oxygen chain reactions are like mint plants in a garden. One mint plant is great; delicious leaves, lovely flowers. But mint plants spread aggressively by the root and can take over your garden in weeks. Antioxidants are the hands that pull extra mint plants out of the soil so you can make Mojitos, but still grow beans.

I’m not a tea drinker. I’ve tried. I have about twenty pounds of tea in my cabinet to prove how determined I was to become a tea addict. But I can’t help loving coffee, and maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Green-TeaGreen Tea has up to 10 times the antioxidants compared to fruits and vegetables, but coffee has 3 times more antioxidants per cup than Green Tea. If I’m not thirsty enough to drink 9 cups of Green Tea per day, then 2 cups of coffee gives me more microscopic meds for my mug.

Of course, tea, coffee, fruits, and veggies all provide us with different antioxidants, so perhaps eating the full spectrum of antioxidants is wise. The best advice I found was actually in a comment on a medical website; the woman said that she consumes coffee with breakfast, tea in the afternoon, and red wine and dark chocolate after dinner. Does she have all of her oxidants covered or what?

antioxidantsGreen Tea is worth including in your diet, but if you’re not a fan of drinking it, try hiding some in foods you do enjoy. Mix Green Tea with Black Tea, add a cup to your smoothie or soup, or sprinkle the leaves into pasta sauce like you might with dried parsley flakes.

With the variety of things that can go wrong in our bodies, it makes sense to dose ourselves with a variety of antioxidants to clean up microscopically. Raise your glass of a plant-based beverage, be it bean, leaf, or grape, and let’s toast to our health!

 

“Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.” Proverbs 11:28

Images courtesy of fitnessandhealthadvisor.com (tea), greenteaforweightlosstips.com (tea plant), www.lookgreatnaked.com (antioxidant chart), bloomfieldbathblog.com (awesome antioxidants)

Cancer Fighting Dinner Recipe

We’ve talked about how garlic, beans, and cruciferous vegetables fight cancer, but we haven’t talked about how to prepare them in a delicious, easy, fast way for dinner. There’s a recipe below. BOOM, baby! Now you know.

Beans and GreensBeans and Greens

Ingredients:

1 Tb olive oil OR 3 strips bacon, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tb chicken or beef bullion paste (or 1 packet/cube)

2-3 Tb water

4-8* cups cruciferous vegetables, frozen or fresh, chopped (broccoli slaw, kale, Cole slaw, cauliflower, etc)

1 can beans or 2 cups cooked beans, rinsed and drained

Parmesan cheese, optional

Salt to taste

*If using cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, measure 4 cups. If using kale or some other vegetable that shrinks when it cooks, measure 6-8 cups. If you hate cruciferous vegetables, use spinach. At least it’s green.

 

Directions

Heat 12″ frying pan or 6 Qt stock pot over medium or medium high heat. Add oil or bacon (fry until brown). Add onion and garlic, saute until tender. Add vegetables, bullion, and water. (If using frozen vegetables, you might not need the water.) Cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Add beans, stir. Taste, add salt, stir, taste again, repeat as necessary. Serve over rice or by itself.

 

Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours! 1 Samuel 25:6

Eating for Cancer Prevention: Beans (Part 2 of 5)

NCI_Digestive_torso_largeSeeing as how beans are known as the “musical fruit”, it should come as no surprise that beans have a strong link to the colon, and specifically to colorectal cancer. For those of you in the decades between middle school biology and the all-too-real anatomy lesson of a required colonoscopy, your colon is another name for your large intestine.

Your small intestine absorbs nutrients from the food you eat. The large intestine sucks the water out of what’s left, leaving behind stool or poop. It’s a good system, but when things go wrong, they go very wrong: colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. There is hope, however: research suggests that roughly 30% of colon cancers could be prevented by a change in diet and lifestyle.

beansBack to the beans.

I’m not talking about fresh green beans, although they are delicious and I encourage you to eat them whenever possible. I’m talking about the Legume Family: lentils, kidney beans, black beans, navy beans, split peas, and so on.

The Legume Family are police officers; it’s a proud tradition dating back to Creation. These Bean Cops enforce the law, direct traffic, and even manufacture Kevlar bulletproof vests.

bean cop dnaLaw enforcement: The first Bean Cop tool of the trade is folate. Cells need folate (ie folic acid) to make and repair DNA when they divide. Folate helps the cells to follow DNA laws and divide perfectly. When folate is lacking, mistakes are made. This is why pregnant women are asked to take extra folic acid; their baby begins life as a dividing cell and the fewer mistakes, the better.

bean cop trafficTraffic: Bean Cops have access to large amounts of fiber and that fiber keeps traffic flowing in the gut. Researchers aren’t sure why increased fiber lowers the risk of colon cancer, but they suspect is has something to do with fiber’s ability to move waste and carcinogens out of the body quickly. Think back to the last time you left a concert, a festival, or a sporting event: traffic crawls and bottlenecks until that blessed whistle blowing, hand waving man in uniform arrives. How could moving waste along not be a good thing, right?

bean cop kevlarKevlar: Resistant starch is starch that resists being digested and Bean Cops are full of it. Resistant starch makes it all the way through the digestive track to the colon untouched. Once in the colon, resistant starch becomes food for the friendly bacteria that turn it into food for colon cells. This resistant-starch-fueled-bacteria-byproduct makes the colon cells stronger; it acts like a Kevlar vest to protect the colon and prevent leakage. Imagine what’s in your colon. Now imagine that leaking out of your colon and into your body cavity, even on a microscopic level. That’s why resistant starch Kevlar is so important.

In countries where the Legume Family is consumed several times each week, the morbidity rate for colon cancer is lower than in, say, the U.S. of A., where legume consumption is low. That means that if you do get colon cancer, Bean Cops can help you not die from it. (Protect and Serve is their motto, after all.) In one study, lab rats with chemical-induced colon cancer were fed beans. These rats developed 50% fewer tumors than the rats who didn’t eat beans!

I’m not suggesting that you trade in your Thanksgiving turkey for a bunch of beans, but if you’re supposed to bring a side dish to a gathering this week and you’re not sure what to prepare, try Three Bean Cop Salad.

 “Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself.” Ezekiel 4:9a

Cancer Prevention Foods (Part 1)

This series on foods that help fight cancer is a repeat, but three women I know have been diagnosed with cancer in the past month, so now seems like a good time for a refresher. Do I think adding a little more garlic and beans to my diet will protect me from all harm? No, of course not. But these foods have been shown to improve health and that sounds good to me. I like my tatas; I want to keep them healthy.

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 45. That felt like a distant milestone until I turned 35. Add to my family history the recent breast cancer diagnosis of a friend – who is my age and stage of life – and it’s a bit of a wake up call. If it can happen to them, it can happen to me. I wanted to know if there was anything I could do now to prevent cancer later (or kill it now, now is good too).

downloadFirst, I took stock of everything I knew about food and cancer prevention; it was summed up with the phrase “Eat berries”. Berries have lots of antioxidants that clean out the free radicals, right? Whatever those are and however that works.

I checked out four different health websites for recommended anti-cancer foods and when I compared the list, five foods stood out: garlic, dried beans, cruciferous vegetables, tea, and curcumin. Since this is a blog post, not a book, I’ll just tell you about my favorite one today. Anyone want to guess? Anyone want to smell my breath and then guess?

garlicGarlic!

Besides making everything it touches delicious, garlic has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. It was also used as a weapon of war; they’d just breathe on the enemy and the enemy would run. (It’s the taste of garlic we love, but not the aftertaste.)

So why is garlic a cancer fighting food?

Garlic contains sulfur. (Insert volcano reference here.) I know that sounds bad, but the sulfur combines with other stuff in the garlic to form compounds, and these sulfur compounds really clean house. Garlic’s biggest connection to cancer is its ability to slow or prevent the growth of tumors. For example, one compound makes all cells more vulnerable to the stresses of cell division; tumor cells divide more quickly than normal cells, so they have more stressors and die, whereas normal cells can handle it and live. (See why I called it a weapon?)

Garlic also has antibacterial and antifungal properties; while it fights infection, the rest of your immune system is free to work on other problems, like cancer. Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties as well and inflammation is like PMS on a cellular level; it makes every little problem in your body worse.

How does this apply to the kitchen? Two ways:

  1. garlic choppedWhen you peel, chop, mince, or crush garlic, let it sit for a few minutes before you cook it. Those beautiful sulfur compounds need time to form. If you squeeze your garlic press over a hot pan like I’ve done until now, you get the flavor, but not the compounds.
  2. Eat garlic raw whenever possible. I knew a woman once who sliced cloves into pill sized pieces and swallowed them whole. She said she hardly ever got colds. If you aren’t ready for that level of halitosic commitment, try raw garlic in pesto, guacamole, gazpacho, or mixed with butter and spread on toast.

Pesto has to be my favorite. You can find the recipe here: Fresh Pesto.

I also found a recipe for a raw garlic based tea. How did it taste? Not horrible. I know that’s not a rave review for flavor, but it’s raw garlic tea: “not horrible” is as good as it gets, and I’m a garlic lover. Garlic Tea. I’ve drunk it twice and will do so again: my body wanted more, so it must be doing something good.

I am very happy to say that my mom has been cancer free for 18 years now. She loves garlic too. No, I’m not saying that garlic cured her. I’m just saying that this happy ending smells like garlic!

 

“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’” Numbers 11:4-6

 

Tatas courtesy of freeinterentpictures.com.