Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Breast cancer genetics

May 8, 2010

Thinking about daughters and genetics on Mother’s Day –

I read about this conference as a result of a link on Twitter:

The conference in Toronto sounds interesting, but I have alarm bells going off when I hear about women facing a “daily conflict” about telling daughters of their risk for breast cancer.

Daily conflicts are not healthy – if we pile more daily conflicts on top of all the other concerns we have when living with breast cancer, they will further damage our health.

I say learn about genetics if you can handle it, but not if it creates emotional pain which may affect your health and well being.

I think it’s important to remember that genetics are responsible for only 15% of cancers.

Some lifestyle choices – which we can control – are responsible for many more cancers than genetics. Taking charge of our lifestyle choices is empowering!

Women are disempowered when they think they have no control over their prognosis because of their genetic makeup.

Women need to be empowered in order to overcome breast cancer.

Women can protect their daughters by encouraging them to eat healthy food, be physically active, get enough sleep and deep relaxation, and manage their stress. Healthy habits make a difference!

I know because I had Stage II breast cancer in 1986. I’ve been cancer free since 1987 and I’ve done that by changing my lifestyle once treatment was over. I eat a low fat high fiber diet, walk every day, get enough sleep and deep relaxation, and manage my stress level. This is simple stuff, and if I can do it so can many others.

Cancer institutions tell us that 30 to 50% of cancers can be prevented. I believe you get what you focus on and this is what we need to focus on if we’re going to reduce the cancer rate in the next generation.

Peace of mind helps us to survive cancer. I believe that negative emotions and daily conflicts can ruin our health, so it’s important to work through them and move towards a healthier state of mind.

In the words of an old Chinese doctor: Happiness is the key to good health!


Soy foods for breast cancer survivors

December 9, 2009

Many breast cancer survivors wonder about the connection between breast cancer and soy products, and whether soy is safe to eat once we have a diagnosis.

Soy is in many of the foods we eat whether we like it or not, and the quantity of soy consumed is an issue in itself. Another issue is the fact that soy is genetically modified.

So the jury is still out, but this article from the Globe and Mail provides you with Leslie Beck’s Food For Thought:

Breast cancer survivors shouldn’t shun soy foods

In the past several years, soy foods have been showing up regularly on grocery store shelves. And it’s not just tofu. Packages of soy nuts, burgers, drinks, cereals, yogurt and desserts as well as edamame have become mainstream grocery items.

At the same time, there’s been controversy about the use of soy, especially for breast cancer survivors. The concern is that isoflavones, compounds that occur naturally in soy, could increase the risk of the cancer returning.

But according to a study published in Wednesday’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, enjoying a soy latte or soy burger causes no harm – and can reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Foods made from soy beans are high in protein and contain isoflavones, phytochemicals that compete for the same place on breast cells that estrogen does. By acting like weak forms of the body’s own estrogen, some experts have worried that soy isoflavones could possibly promote cancer growth.

That’s because certain risk factors for breast cancer, such as beginning your menstrual period before age 12 or starting menopause after 55, are related to the length of time breast cells are exposed to the body’s own circulating estrogen. It’s thought that estrogen can promote the growth of breast cancer cells.

Women taking tamoxifen, a drug used to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence, are often advised to avoid soy foods because soy isoflavones can bind to estrogen receptors on breast cells just like the medication does. The fear is that soy may reduce the effectiveness of tamoxifen. (Tamoxifen works by blocking estrogen in the body from attaching to estrogen receptors on breast cancer cells, slowing the growth of tumours and killing tumour cells.)

In the new study, the largest conducted to date on breast cancer survival, researchers examined the safety of soy food consumption among 5,042 breast cancer survivors, aged 20 to 75, in China. Women were recruited into the research effort – known as the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study – six months after breast cancer diagnosis

After four years, women with the highest soy consumption – measured as soy protein intake – had a 29 per cent lower risk of death and were 32 per cent less likely to have breast cancer recur compared with women with the lowest intake.

The protective effect of soy was observed for women with either early or late stage breast cancer and in women with estrogen-receptor (ER) positive and ER negative breast cancer. (Doctors test breast cancer cells to determine whether they have hormone receptors. If breast cancer cells have estrogen receptors, the cancer is said to be ER positive. If they do not, it is called ER-negative.)

Soy food consumption was associated with improved survival regardless of tamoxifen use. Among women who consumed the most soy, both users and non users were 35 per cent less likely to have breast cancer recur.

Women who consumed the most soy and did not take tamoxifen had a lower risk of cancer recurrence and death than tamoxifen users with low soy intakes. This suggests that high soy intake and tamoxifen use may have a comparable effect on breast cancer survival.

A daily intake of 11 grams of soy protein offered the most benefit, an amount found in about 11/2 cups of soy beverage, one soy burger, 1/2 cup of edamame (young green soy beans) or 1/2 cup of tofu. Higher intakes did not offer greater protection.

Only one previous study has explored soy intake and the risk of breast cancer recurrence. The Life After Cancer Epidemiology (LACE) study, published in November, followed 1,954 northern California early stage breast cancer survivors for six years and found that postmenopausal women with a high soy isoflavone intake – compared with none – had a lower risk of their cancer returning.

Findings from the LACE study also revealed that among postmenopausal women treated with tamoxifen, those who consumed the most soy were 60 per cent less likely to have their breast cancer recur compared with women with the lowest intakes.

Soy foods may protect from breast cancer in a number of ways. Isoflavones may decrease circulating estrogen levels and increase its removal from the body. Soy also contains folate, calcium, fibre, protein and many phytochemicals that, individually or together, may help combat cancer.

While it appears that moderate soy consumption is probably safe for breast cancer patients and survivors, keep in mind these findings are confined to soy foods, not soy supplements.

In fact, research suggests the effects of soy foods and supplements differ. In one study, soy milk reduced circulating estrogen levels but isoflavone supplements had no effect. And we don’t have data on the long-term safety of these supplements.

In addition to adding soy to your diet, the following strategies may also help reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

Soy protein in foods The study published in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association found that consuming 11 grams of soy protein per day reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence and death. Higher intakes did not confer extra protection. Soy beans, canned, ½ cup 14 grams Edamame, ½ cup 11 grams Soy nuts, roasted, unsalted, ¼ cup 11 grams Soy beverage, unflavoured, 1 cup 8 -9 grams Soy yogurt, 1 cup 5 grams Soy nut butter, 2 tbsp. 7 grams Tofu, firm, ½ cup (125 g) 20 grams Tofu, regular, ½ cup (125 g) 10 grams Soy ground round, 1/3 cup 10 grams Soy burger, 1 patty (14 g) 14 grams Soy hot dog, 1 (46 g) 10 grams Soy frozen dessert, ¾ cup 1 grams

Eat more vegetables and fruit

Strive for at least seven servings a day. Studies suggest that cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower) and leafy greens are especially protective from breast cancer.

Reduce fat

Research suggests it’s prudent to reduce your intake of dietary fat, particularly if you’ve been diagnosed with ER-negative breast cancer. Choose lean meats, poultry breast, legumes and non-fat dairy products. Use high-fat spreads and salad dressings sparingly.

Control your weight

Breast cancer survivors who are overweight or obese are more likely to have cancer recur compared with leaner survivors. Women are advised to keep their body mass index (BMI) in the range of 21 to 23 and limit weight gain and increases in waist circumference.

Be active

Moderate to vigorous exercise has been shown to improve breast cancer survival; the evidence is strongest for women with ER-positive tumours and those diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. Regular exercise helps reduce breast cancer recurrence by preventing weight gain and reducing levels of circulating hormones.

Breast cancer survivors are advised to get at least 150 minutes (21/2 hours) a week of moderate intensity exercise (such as brisk walking) or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise (running, elliptical trainer, cardio machines).

Leslie Beck, a Toronto-based dietitian at the Medcan Clinic, is on CTV’s Canada AM every Wednesday. Her website is

What will I be?

June 24, 2009

If we are what we eat, then I would rather be an apple or a stem of broccoli than a scoop of ice cream or a pile of French fries. Don’t get me wrong, I love ice cream and French fries, but they don’t add much in the way of helping my body to feel energetic and healthy.

I treat myself to a serving of ice cream and French fries on occasion because they taste so good, but I find I’m left feeling sluggish and heavy with a blob of fat in my stomach. I wonder if it’s worth it – probably not. I think the solution for me is to have a child size ice cream cone or a couple of fries off someone else’s plate if they’re willing to share.

I know that when I eat an apple, it’s going to give me some much needed energy and it’s a great thing to eat at the end of a work day when I have to go home and make dinner.

I also know that broccoli is going to give me the nutrients I need to help my body to prevent cancer cells from growing. There are many other power house foods which help me to stay well and have the energy to take my dog for a walk or play with my grandchildren.

I’m grateful that I live in a country where there are so many choices about what to eat, and fresh fruits and vegetables are available all year round. Nothing has more eye appeal to me than a fresh fruit salad or a plate full of colorful veggies.

If you want to raise your energy level today, try eating an apple in place of another snack and see if you can tell the difference too.

Reality check on swine flu

May 1, 2009

WHO’s afraid of the big, bad pig? This headline in the Globe and Mail today made me laugh, but there is too much fear being produced right now.

At a Wellness Fair yesterday I spoke to many other wellness providers; the general consensus was that fear is being marketed to the hilt when it’s more important for us to keep calm and think.

Fear of swine flu does get attention and hopefully it will make people take action, but it can also paralyze people and create more stress.

Stress is one of the worst things to affect the immune system in a negative way and when faced with a possible pandemic, nothing will protect each of us more than a strong immune system.

So it would be of great benefit to the world if those of us who can, would choose to boost our immune systems. You can do this by getting good nutrition, regular exercise, lots of sleep, deep relaxation, and managing your stress. You can choose to eat lots of fruit and vegetables so you get lots of vitamins, drink water, go for walks, make sure you get adequate rest, and wash your hands often. Change in lifestyle habits is not always easy, but it will make a difference if you do your part to stay healthy.

All of these immune boosters are cheap, easy, and accessible to most of us.

The best defense is an offense as they say in the sports world. If you want to boost your immune system, I’m sure you know how; for your sake and everyone else’s, please just do it!

Take good care of yourself – the world will thank you!

Do you love yourself enough to eat healthy?

March 27, 2009

In the days when I was a junk food addict, or a chocoholic, I have to say I didn’t care enough about myself to see that I was making myself sick. I would just eat to make myself feel better, but then I’d feel worse because I knew the stuff I was eating was bad for me.

I was more concerned with taking care of other people than I was about taking care of myself. What I didn’t realize is that I could take better care of other people if I was healthy. If this sounds confusing, it fits, because I used to be confused about this issue.

I used to think that if I looked after my self first, I was being selfish. Now I know that if I take good care of myself, I am able to take better care of others.

Having a healthy diet means that I eat healthy food at least 80% of the time and control my weight to stay in the healthy range of the BMI guidelines. I even get to eat chocolate every day, but I limit it to one wafer of good quality Belgian chocolate. I buy the dark chocolate that people use for melting since it comes in wafers and it’s easy to stop at one wafer; if I buy a chocolate bar I feel obligated to eat the whole thing.

If you think your diet could be healthier, the important part is to figure out what will work for you. Think about how you can make simple changes which will be easy to maintain, and make a commitment to yourself to follow through.

Having someone beside you, to coach you, to be accountable to, can help you stay on track and make all the difference in being able to enjoy eating a healthy diet.

The simplest path to weight control is in your head.

March 26, 2009

It was a learning curve for me, but now I think that weight control can be a simple matter(not easy, but simple): I decide what weight I want to be, and I make a commitment to follow through with that decision. If I can do this, so can you – that’s if you want to, but you have to really want to do it or it doesn’t work.

Having cancer 22 years ago taught me to start taking better care of my eating habits. Before cancer I had a high fat – low fiber diet; this made me feel crappy for the most part, pun intended.

Since cancer had a way of making me wake up enough to want to change my lifestyle, I decided to make good health my number one priority in life. I learned to filter all my eating decisions through the question “Is this good for my health?” I have to be very honest with myself and if the answer is yes, then I can go ahead and eat whatever I want to eat. If the answer is no, then I have to ask myself if I’m cheating. Once I realize that I am only cheating myself, it’s very easy to back up and filter everything through the question again.

I just read a great article by Judith Beck in the January 2009 issue of Reader’s Digest, a Canadian magazine. The article is called “Think Like a Thin Person” and it’s adapted from Dr. Beck’s book called “The Complete Beck Diet for Life”.

The philosophy in the article is the same as mine, and my summary of Dr. Beck’s 7 key principles is:

1. Change your thinking – be aware of the thoughts you have before you eat and flex the resistance muscle more than you flex the “giving in” muscle

2. Eliminate emotional eating – face the emotions that make you eat when you’re not hungry, and distract yourself so you’re not tempted to eat

3. Dare to be hungry – recognize when you’re truly hungry and talk yourself out of eating when all you have is a desire to eat

4. Get real about your intake – pay attention to what you’re eating and instead of thinking it doesn’t count, remember that it does

5. Forget fairness – if you envy someone who is thin, remember thin people consciously choose to eat less so they control their weight

6. Eat sitting down – this is key, as it helps you to see everything you’re eating so you’re more satisfied visually and psychologically

7. Believe you can do it – keep up your motivation and confidence in yourself -rather than beating yourself up if you fall off the rails, talk to yourself in a positive way so you can quickly get back on track.

If you want to make a change, remember to do something every day to be kind to yourself; something small will do, but it helps you to feel nurtured so you won’t crave the comfort food and you’ll feel great.