Why Eat Well?

 

In light of the recent news I’ve shared about Annette, it feels a bit odd to jump back into discussing leafy greens and quinoa (or any other health-promoting food stuff) in my next blog post. And this is probably why it’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted. I’ve had a tough time trying to figure out what to say! Annette is, after all, not only my coauthor, but also a dear, dear friend.

I was asked in an interview last night on Because Hope Matters Radio (listen to the interview here) a little about how Annette’s cancer recurrence has affected us in terms of our message and support we offer through Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen and here, on our website. In other words (and this is MY own words, not how this was asked on the radio show!) what does it mean if Annette, someone who promotes eating well to fight cancer and is so healthy herself, gets cancer again? Perhaps others wonder this as well.

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer. At least, not a simple one.

Annette has led a beautifully healthy lifestyle – diet, exercise, etc. – over the last several years since her first cancer diagnosis. [You can read about Annette’s and my cancer stories in detail in our book, but long story short – Annette was diagnosed with breast cancer and found she has the BRCA1 genetic mutation, which increases her risk for certain cancers. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer two years after her breast cancer diagnosis. She had treatment for both. A few years later (now) – ovarian cancer recurrence.]

Many studies have shown that a plant-focused diet reduces cancer mortality rates and that vegetarians live longer and have lower cancer rates [1], that lifestyle changes can actually turn cancer genes on and off [2], and that chemicals in plants protect against cancer in many ways [3]. Studies have also shown that a healthy diet helps to prevent late effects (a late effect is a health problem that occurs months or years after a disease is diagnosed or after treatment has ended. It’s caused by cancer or cancer treatment). [4] Most experts agree that some form of a plant-focused diet this is an optimal way to eat! And it is.

Eating a whole-food, plant-based diet improves quality of life on many levels, with or without cancer. This, in my opinion, is reason alone to eat in such a way. You just feel good – great, actually. Generally, you have more energy, better moods, feel stronger, and have fewer health problems. If a person is going through cancer treatment, it’s very likely that he or she would feel far better than he/she would have if eating a poor, processed, high-sugar diet. If a person who isn’t facing cancer eats a more health-sustaining diet, he/she will likely feel better. That seems logical, right?

A plant-based, whole-food diet also supports your body on many levels – immune system, digestion, blood health, heart health, mental clarity, bones, tissues, organs. The food we eat becomes us, plain and simple.

What isn’t quite so plain and simple is the formation of disease, or the environment in which disease thrives, at least not specifically. There are so many beliefs and theories, some evidence-based, some partially, and some are simply opinions. Believe me, I’ve read it all (how many of these have you heard about?) – pH levels in the body, inflammation, toxin overload, digestive health affects immunity, conventional treatment (like chemotherapy) creates a cancer-friendly environment in the body, the affects of stress, how mindset affects disease and health…and on and on. Much of this is quite credible, and more than likely, it’s a combination of several of these causes in relation to food, environment, stress management and genetics.

Along these lines, I remember reading once, “A person isn’t sick because he/she has cancer. He/she has cancer because she is sick.” I don’t remember the source – let me know if you know it! In any case, that’s an interesting way to think about it.

These are all, perhaps, pieces of the puzzle, but still not the whole thing. I’m not sure we will ever have that exact answer because every person and every cancer is so unique in many ways.

I’ve met people who healed from cancer on dietary and lifestyle improvements alone.

And there is Annette, and others like her, who have built amazing, healthy lives, yet cancer just persists. Is it genetics? Something else? A combination of many different factors? We may never know that answer, definitively.

What I do know is that neither Annette nor I have changed our minds and decided to say, “Oh forget about food. I’m going to just start eating all the sugary sweets, fried foods, fast food, processed, artificial foods I want. It just doesn’t matter.” (Ok, I’ll be honest, there have been moments that we’ve considered this. I even joked with Annette that our next book should be Screw the Kitchen. But that was also in response to some of the difficulties she’s had with eating anything with this recurrence. Cancer sucks. It makes us angry. But we also need to find some humor in things, don’t you think?)

While neither one of us has made our diets so strict that we can’t enjoy ourselves – and we’ve always allowed guilty pleasures without the guilt! – we still know that we feel our best and that our bodies thrive much more when eating well. With cancer or without. And if food is what builds and supports our bodies, and eating well makes us feel good, why would we have it any other way?

 

 

[1] National Institutes of Health, Vegetarian Diets linked to Lower Mortality, 2013

[2] In the foreword of our book, Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen, David Katz, MD mentions that diseases are effects, not causes. Causes of what? According to a paper published in the Journal of the American Medial Association all the way back in 1993, Dr. Katz says “Premature death and chronic disease are attributable to just 10 behaviors each of us has the capacity to control…much dominated by tobacco use, dietary pattern and physical activity level.” This same information was reevaluated and published again in 2004.

Another study Dr. Katz addresses was reported in 2008 in the Proceedings od the National Academy of Sciences: It measured the effects of intervention on genes through a whole food plant-based diet, physical activity, psychosocial support and stress management. What was found? These factors had the ability to turn on 50 cancer suppressor genes and around 500 cancer promoter genes became less active.

[3] Cancer.net, Plant-based Foods 2/2012, approved by American Society of Clinical Oncology

[4] National Cancer Institute

 

 

Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen on Tucson Citizen

 

We’re happy to share a lovely review of our book, Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen, in the “What’s Cooking?” section of the Tucson Citizen: http://tucsoncitizen.com/cooking/. In this section, reporter Larry Cox, shares is favorite cookbooks – and he says of our recipes, “I highly recommend this collection.  Whether you are facing a cancer fight, know someone who is, or just want to improve the odds by eating healthier foods, this cookbook offers valuable guidance.” He also tried our Oatmeal Carrot Cookie Smoothie and Roasted Beets – yum! Get the Roasted Beets recipe by visiting the review!

10 Tips for Shedding Unwanted Weight Effortlessly and Bringing Harmony to Your Body

We hear so much about the latest diet fad and how to lose those extra 10, 20 or 30 pounds withweight some special pill or drink. Many of us have grown up seeing advertisement after advertisement for the next big weight loss program or quick fix. This leads to yo-yo dieting and feelings of failure and inadequacy when we can’t lose the weight we want to lose.

For many cancer survivors, excess weight is one more crappy side effect of conventional treatment, and can add to the lack of energy, strength and balance we feel once treatment is done.

The truth is losing weight is just one part of the picture. And very often fad diets and magic pills might help with weight loss but they create imbalance and stress in the body, weaken the immune system, create fatigue, disrupt proper hormonal function and even put us on an emotional rollercoaster. Even if the weight is lost, it is likely to come back and there are usually other issues in the body that are not addressed or resolved.

When we begin adding in real, whole foods, mostly plants, and focus on that on a daily basis, rather than going on a strict diet or restricting certain foods, the results are amazing, real and long-term. How we eat, our health, our weight – these things are all a result of a lifestyle shift. Rather than going on the on-again, off-again dieting route, instead, it could make all the difference if we begin to make changes in food and diet that we plan to maintain permanently.

To make this work, we can’t be eating in a way that causes deprivation of foods we love, starvation from not getting enough nutrient-dense calories, or an inflammatory, imbalanced environment in the body.

We’re saying get stop dieting, stop counting calories and points. Get real with food and with yourself. Eat in a way that is enjoyable AND health-promoting. Eat more veggies. Eat whole grains. Eat more plant proteins. Eat healthy fats. And as you do, you will naturally crowd out the processed, sugary foods and too much animal protein. You will also find a balance that works well for YOU. After all, there is no one right diet for every body.

To get you going, here are 10 specific tips that you can begin today (or try one new tip a week) for losing unwanted weight effortlessly and bringing harmony to your body:

  1. Pick one leafy green veggie, like kale, spinach, or collards and add it in on a daily basis. Need a recipe to get you started? Try our Cashew Kale recipe!
  2. Make a nutrient-rich smoothie for breakfast.
  3. Replace white pasta with brown rice or quinoa pasta. Add green vegetables to it.
  4. Stop getting on the scale every day. Focus on eating whole, clean foods and getting some movement into your day and the weight will come off.
  5. Include apples, veggie sticks with hummus and nuts as snacks instead of packaged, processed foods.
  6. Cook with coconut oil. This oil helps boosts your metabolism and has amazing health benefits.
  7. Check out our 20 Food Faves and add some to your fridge or pantry.
  8. Want a sweet treat that also packs a powerful punch with health-boosting good fats? Try our Pumpkin Chia Pudding.
  9. Plan ahead with meals. Make your plan for the week and shop accordingly, so you are less likely to get takeout and make a packaged, processed dinner at the last minute.
  10. Make a tasty soup and enjoy leftovers with a colorful salad for lunch the next day.

 

The Secret Ingredient : Love

 

By Annette Ramke, CHHC

It’s mealtime.

Maybe you’re cooking an old favorite.

Or you found a new recipe you can’t wait to try.

In either case you’ve been to the store, picked up everything the recipe calls for and are all set to make your chosen dish.

Food is washed, diced, chopped, mixed together, cooked, baked, tossed, or blended. All according to the directions on paper or in your head.

But something’s likely missing. Something to make your meal complete and your food more delicious than you can imagine.

It’s a secret ingredient. One that you’ll rarely find listed in a recipe.

What is it, you ask?

Photo: Fangol

Photo: Fangol

It’s love.

While that may sound a little “fluffy” to some, I am pretty darn serious.

Because when we “get” the fact that what we put into our body matters, then that means all of it.

And so it matters – the conditions under which are food is grown or raised. It matters the care given, how the plants and animals are treated and, in turn, our earth.

Think of the kind of energy you are taking into your body from an animal raised in factory farm conditions and, under stress, transported and butchered in a huge “processing facility” versus the animal raised and lovingly cared for according to its natural ways on a family farm and which is not forced into trucks at the end of its life before it reaches our plates.

Think of the energy of produce grown from genetically-modified seeds, fungicide and pesticide-laden as compared to fruits and vegetables that are grown organically, using nature’s tools for pest management and for protecting our environment.

Our body not only takes in the protein, fat, carbohydrates and vitamins of our food, it takes in the whole essence of it — from the way it was grown, to the manner in which it is prepared.

You can test this by seeing how you feel after eating certain foods. There may be more aggression, more sadness, more unsettledness. But also more joy, contentment and wellbeing.

Beyond how our food is grown there is the atmosphere in which it was prepared. Can you notice the difference in how you feel between eating, say, a fast food meal versus a home-cooked meal made with care and love? Or a home-cooked meal made under feelings of stress, anger and resentment compared with a restaurant meal made by a chef passionate about real food and her work?

I am going to venture to say that there is a light bulb going off for some right now. Maybe you had never stopped to reflect on this.

So when we shop for our food, when we get in the kitchen, we have a lot of power, actually!

First, the act of showing up in the kitchen, of placing a priority on food, is an act of radical self-love. This comes from realizing that your meal is not just there to fill a hole in your stomach, but rather to nourish and support your body. When you bring your presence, care and love to preparing your food, you are not just making dinner, you are caring for your body and your life.

So….grow the love.

Grow the love inside you.

Our tips:

Choose food grown with love.

Make self-care (self-love!) a priority – one aspect of which is preparing healthy meals for yourself.

And when you are in the kitchen, treat this time as a scared time as much as possible. Feel the gratitude for your food. Your health or the path toward health you are on. For the people you will share the food with, whether yourself or a whole group. Really feeling the gratitude, the love, as you are preparing and eating a meal makes all the difference between food that merely pacifies a hungry stomach and food that helps us create a life full of meaning and well-being.

Love your food. Love yourself. Love your life.

 

6 Coffee Alternatives You Just Might Love

by Kendall Scott, CHHCcoffee

Coffee is a common morning beverage, and many of us use it to wake up and may even feel that we can’t function until we get our cup o’ Joe.

For many years, I was a big coffee drinker: I needed it in the morning to wake myself up and I continued drinking it through out the day. It was my go-to choice in the afternoon when I needed to get myself out of that common mid-afternoon slump. I enjoyed my coffee and I had no reason to stop drinking it.

Then I received a cancer diagnosis and what followed was major surgery and chemo. This is when my coffee habit just stopped. After surgery, I was on pain medications and had to sleep a lot anyway, so I didn’t bother with the coffee. During chemotherapy, I also slept a lot and coffee made me feel nauseous.

I started drinking herbal tea in the morning, on a regular basis. After I completed cancer treatment, I would have a cup of coffee on the weekends, and I realized that on Monday morning when I would go back to my tea, I would get a terrible headache! Caffeine withdrawal!

I realized that I felt so much better when I stayed off coffee. Once I had adjusted to not getting my morning cup (or 4!) o’ Joe, I actually felt plenty of energy without and didn’t crash later, only to need more coffee to get going again.

It’s been almost four years since I finished cancer treatment. These days I stick mostly with herbal tea, but I also have a baby, and some days I just “need” my coffee. I also love going to a cafe with a friend and sipping a latte in the winter. There’s just something so comforting about that to me. When I do have a cup of coffee, it’s small and I do try to include other drinks, like Yerba Mate or naturally caffeinated teas instead of coffee at times. I also juice, and that alone is a big pick-me-up in the morning!

One factor to consider in drinking your coffee is what else is going in it? Sweeteners? Chemicalized sweeteners? Milk, heavy cream? Not only can these add calories devoid of nutrients, but they can also be harmful to the body in other ways.

If you’re a coffee drinker, don’t fret. We’re not going to tell you to stop your naughty little caffeine habit. We get it. But DO be aware of how it affects your body, and consider trying an alternative at times. You may find that you feel a whole lot better drinking something else!

Some morning beverages to try:

  1. Yerba Mate – made from the naturally caffeinated leaves of the celebrated South American rainforest holly tree
  2. Green Tea – naturally caffeinated (although less than coffee) and has been shown to protect against the growth of cancers
  3. Black Tea – generally contains more caffeine than green tea and has a stronger flavor
  4. Pero – contains no caffeine, but has a coffee-like taste, made from malted barley, chicory and rye
  5. Herbal Tea – no caffeine, but offer a range of health benefits, and may be just the thing to support your morning hot beverage habit. We love Traditional Medicinal teas!
  6. Raw Juicing – this is quite different from drinking a hot cup of coffee, BUT the health benefits are huge and it provides as more or more of a pick-me-up as coffee does for many people, without feeling the “low” later.

 

 

 

10 Natural Cold and Flu-Fighting Tips

 

If you’re like us, you want to avoid getting the cold, flu or anything in-between as much as cold fighting juicepossible! Especially if you’re dealing with cancer, getting even a minor cold can be absolutely exhausting. And, if you’re in treatment with low blood counts and a compromised immune-system, the fear of catching something is even more prevalent. Then, there are those of us with kids – isn’t if awful when they get sick?! – or working a busy full-time job and we just don’t have time to get sick, do we?

Fortunately, there are many natural ways to help your body fight and heal from disease, from the common cold to cancer. Whether you combine these with conventional medicine practices or not, know that you’ll be helping your body our big time when you implement some of these tips. Getting the right food into your body, getting enough rest, keeping stress at bay and getting fresh air all play a large role in staying well.

Take a look at some of our tips for preventing illness and helping your body to heal from it. These can be done on a regular basis AND when a cold or other illness strikes. Do you have a great natural cold remedy? Please share in the comments below!

  1. Get plenty of rest whenever possible. Lack of sleep breaks down the immune system.
  2. Drink plenty of water to hydrate and flush toxins and unwanted germs out of the body.
  3. Try the teas in our book to hydrate and nourish your body, or create your own! One we love – simmer pieces of ginger root and turmeric root in water for 30 minutes. Pour through a tea filter into your cup and add a teaspoon of honey.
  4. Include plenty of onions, garlic and scallions in your cooking. Studies have shown these foods from the allium family help in fighting colds and cancer.
  5. Drink your juice! Raw juice, that is. Get a dose of nutrients, flush toxins out and help rebuild and balance your blood’s pH balance. Try juicing once daily – first thing in the morning, if you can. No juicer? Try blending veggies and fruit with water at high speed and pouring through a mesh strainer (but we recommend the juicer!).
  6. Try our Cold-Busting Juice – 1 apple, 1/2 large lemon, 2 large kale leaves, 1/2 to 1 inch ginger root. Wash, chop and add to your juicer. Makes 8 to 10 ounces of juice.
  7. Get some astragalus root in capsule form or the root itself, and add it to tea, like the one we mentioned in #4. This herb helps to stimulate the immune system. Find it in health food stores.
  8. Reduce sugar in your diet. It breaks down the immune system.
  9. Eat lots of veggies, especially leafy greens, like kale, spinach and collards.
  10. Get some Vitamin C. You can try taking a supplement, or up your dose of Vitamin C-rich foods. Try these 7 Foods with More Vitamin C than an Orange from the Huffington Post.

 

Six Things That Helped Me Cope With Crappy Cancer

Today we are sharing Kendall’s guest blog post with WhatNext: Six Things That Helped Me Cope With Crappy Cancer. We’ll give you a hint – eating some tasty, healthy food was one of them! Click the link to read more.

If you are facing cancer, http://WhatNext.com is a fabulous resource with support and a pretty cool format for connecting with other cancer peeps. Check them out!

Frame Your Focus

Cancer survivors, us included, often speak about fighting cancer. This is, of course, because we all hate cancer and work and wish for the day that this horrible disease is no longer able to harm us.

Though the idea of embracing the fight can be powerful and galvanizing, we’ve also found that the moments we are able to envision what we do want – health, physical and mental well-being—rather than on what we don’t want – cancer – we feel even stronger and more peaceful. For example, you might try creating a personal, positive affirmation or mantra, such as “Every day in every way my body is getting healthier.” Or “I am brave, strong and full of life. My body, mind and spirit are in balance.”

Kendall: This is something I have never shared with anyone besides a couple of my closest people, but I created a mantra before I was even diagnosed with cancer – when scans were showing something wasn’t right and my doctor said it could be cancer (yikes!). I was terrified and I needed something positive and grounding on which to focus. So, I am now sharing with you these very special words that helped me through a very difficult time. Here was my mantra:

I am young, healthy and strong.

I am going to live a long, healthy, happy life.

I am going to live until I’m at least 90! :)

This is just a bump in the road.

We will take care of it and move on.

And while there were plenty of times and situations that made me feel that this mantra may not be realistic, it offered me a strong, powerful sense of hope and a positive focus. I typed up these words, printed them and kept them on a little piece of paper in my wallet that I always carried with me. I would take it out and look at it during chemo treatments, while prepping mentally for surgery, before scans and scan results and just about anytime I felt scared. And, let me tell you – it helped! Saying the words aloud made them seem as if they had to be the truth. It made me feel stronger, determined and happier.

As hard as it can be, especially immediately post-diagnosis, we would encourage you to try this approach to framing your focus and see if shifting your thoughts from what you don’t want to what you do want make a difference.

What is YOUR mantra?

Banana-Pecan Pancakes with Chocolate-Coconut Drizzle

Banana-Pecan Pancakes with Chocolate-Coconut Drizzle, Photo: Steve Legato

Yup, they’re as good as they sound! This is one of the recipes from our book, Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen. We use spelt flour (whole grain, low gluten) and add in some pecans and bananas for some more whole food goodness. There’s also coconut oil, which is a fabulous, health-promoting oil to add to your pantry. Oh yeah. Then there’s that chocolate coconut drizzle. A-MA-ZING!

Want the recipe? Watch Kendall make these easy, delish pancakes on WCSH6’s 207 Show with anchor, Rob Caldwell. Click here to watch on the WCSH6 website and get the recipe, or watch the video below. Enjoy!

Adding Acupuncture to Your Integrative Toolbox

Catherine Allen, LicAc, MAOM, MSc

Today we have a guest post from Catherine Allen, acupuncurist and owner of White Peony in Brunswick, Maine (read her bio below). If you haven’t tried acupuncture, it may be a wonderful tool to add to your integrative cancer-kicking and/or health-boosting toolbox! 

Chinese medicine does not treat cancer!  Whenever I talk to patients or groups about acupuncture and cancer, I like to get that out of the way first.  However, acupuncture can be extremely helpful in treating side effects from Western medicine treatments or the cancer itself.

While I am also a practitioner of Chinese herbal medicine, I generally don’t recommend taking herbs in conjunction with chemotherapy.  There is research to support the use of certain herbs to increase the effect of some chemotherapy drugs, but most oncologists are not open to that idea yet–and I don’t recommend going against the advice of your oncologist.

The foundations of health in Chinese medicine are diet, exercise and sleep.  Unfortunately, cancer treatments commonly cause side effects that interfere with your ability to keep those foundations strong.  What can we do with acupuncture?  There is a lot of research to support its use for common side effects experienced by patients undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation, including:

  • nausea–acupuncture is particularly effective here
  • decreased immune system
  • dry mouth
  • pain–either due to the treatment or the cancer itself
  • neuropathy
  • constipation/diarrhea
  • fatigue
  • hair loss–acupuncture can’t prevent the loss, but the first re-growth will be healthier

Getting acupuncture before surgery can promote relaxation, prevent infection, prevent side effects and alleviate symptoms.  The optimal time to get acupuncture is two days before surgery.  Post-surgery benefits include reduced swelling, improved mental alertness, improved intestinal mobility, and promotion of healing.  Two days post-surgery an acupuncture treatment would focus on controlling pain and improving urinary and bowel function.  One week post-surgery we would continue to work on reducing swelling and pain control, as well as treat any symptoms from medications, such as constipation or nausea.

Additionally, acupuncture promotes healthy sleep and is extremely effective at alleviating anxiety, which is understandably common in patients with cancer due to the treatment and the disease itself.  Because no medication is involved and nothing is added to the bloodstream, acupuncture is an extremely safe and effective way to support your body–both the physical and emotional aspects–while still allowing your treatments to work. Click here for more information information on acupuncture and its use in cancer care.

Catherine Allen is a licensed acupuncturist and has a private practice, White Peony, PC, in Brunswick, Maine.  She earned her Masters in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the New England School of Acupuncture in 2007, and her Masters in Pain Research, Education and Policy from Tufts University School of Medicine in 2009.  Catherine’s post-graduate education includes training at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in using acupuncture for patients with cancer.