Friday, January 23, 2015

Cleaning Up

Since my diagnosis of Crohn's Disease a year and a half ago, I have been cleaning up my life to hopefully support my body as it heals and maybe also prevent future illness.
My Mom's scary diagnosis recently was another clue that I'm on the right track.
My special Auntie Cindy (my Mom's sister) asked me recently what steps she could take to clean up her lifestyle a bit to do anything possible to keep her own body as healthy as possible.

I'm not an expert, but I've been doing a lot of research and reading, so I thought I'd write a blog post about what I'm doing and why.  It's a slow process, but any difference is a healthy difference and a benefit to your body!

This book is the best one I've read so far:

The doctor who wrote the above book fought an aggressive brain cancer for almost 20 years by adding complementary strategies to his traditional treatments.  He describes the process as having four parts:

1.detoxification (getting rid of) carcinogenic substances
2. an anticancer diet
3. adequate physical activity
4. emotional peace

I very much recommend the book for the science alone, but it is also an interesting read, full of the author's personal journey.

Part 1:

There's the obvious stuff like DON'T SMOKE and stay as far away from nasty chemicals (like asbestos) as possible.  I hope you already know those things.

About pesticides:  I firmly believe in eating organic whenever possible and I don't think pesticides are a useful thing for the human body to consume.  I am now working on figuring out nontoxic (to humans, anyway!) ways we can tackle the spiders, ants, and cockroaches that wish to live in our home without pesticides.  Our bug control guy comes every other month and only deals with the outside, but I would like to get rid of that extra source of chemicals altogether.

We also won't be repurchasing RoundUp or any herbicides once ours is gone . . . there are other options (boiling water, vinegar, etc.) that won't add to the toxic load our bodies face.

Make-Up & Body Care:
There is no governmental body that assesses and approves cosmetic items as "safe".
These items don't fall under the FDA's jurisdiction because they are neither food nor drugs.
We know there are many harmful chemicals in these products and many of them have proven links to illnesses such as cancer and reproductive disorders.

I recommend a slow process of replacing items from your make-up and self-care arsenal with items that rate lower on the EWG's Skin Deep database scorecard (they have a great app you can use from the store to scan potential purchases).  Don't try to replace everything all at once or you will end up with lots of products you don't like because they don't meet your needs.  Decide first which products you must have, what you need from each product, how much you're willing to spend, and whether that item is a must-have.

For example, I require the following every day:

body wash
facial moisturizer (with sunscreen)
foundation/bb cream
sometimes mascara
lip product (tinted balm, usually)

face wash
night moisturizing (and anti-aging) cream

I decided I would start first with the foundation/bb cream because it stays on my face all day long.

I wanted my foundation/bb cream to be less than $15 and to rate in the "green zone" on EWG's SkinDeep scorecard (0-3).  I chose finish I wanted (dewy, not matte) and the sort of coverage I wanted (medium).  Then I tried a bunch of different products.  The ones that didn't work, I took back.  I can do a later post or a video if you're interested in the actual products I have settled on.

There may be some products that you decide are not worth the effort.  I don't usually wear fragrance anymore.  I discovered the other day when I sprayed on my favorite scent that I got stuffed up right away and got a headache.  "Fragrance" is one of the most dangerous ingredients, because almost anything can be hidden in there!

Trust your body.  Listen to it.  When you use a new product, watch for reactions.  Does your skin feel itchy?  Maybe that product isn't right for you.  Give it a couple of days and if it doesn't seem right, take it back and try something else.  If you purchase potential new products from Target, Walgreen's, CVS, etc., you will be able to return the product if it doesn't work for you, even if it is opened and used.

This doesn't have to be an overwhelming process.  Just do one product at a time.

I am feeling successful with my routine now, but it hasn't been quick.

Consider whether you truly need the medications you take.
I am working to NOT take antihistamines and decongestants anymore and I work really super hard to not take antibiotics.  I don't know if I'll be successful, but the more we put in our bodies that our bodies have to get rid of, the higher the overall load our bodies have.  Think of a highway with only one lane.  If there's only one lane of cars on that road, it's fine.  But if there are four-lanes-worth of cars, there's going to be a back-up.  That seems to be sort of what happens with the body when it's getting rid of bad stuff.  I would like to lower the burden for my body so it can do its job well (and for a long time!)  Don't just take my word for any of this, but do your research and make wise decisions with your health-care provider.

*** Oregano oil is helping me a lot with allergies and sinus problems
*** D Mannose prevents/heals many/most UTIs
- at least for me and every other woman I know who's tried it!
*** Boswellia and Turmeric are excellent anti-inflammatories (for pain, swelling, etc.)

See if there's a better, less-burdensome option before using a drug
that your body will have more trouble breaking down (and that will have negative side effects!)

Part 2:
An anticancer diet

For me, this step will probably go on and on forever, because there's almost always more work to be done in this area - also, my digestive system isn't tolerating a lot of vegetables right now, so I'm still figuring this all out.

What we eat can hinder or help the body to resist abnormally-growing cells (cancer) AND our food can help our bodies heal from illness.

for more information on how food choices can specifically affect cancer
Both of these books are very science-based, meaning they list studies to back up their recommendations; I found them a little overwhelming and their recommendations weren't always the most practical, but if I were diagnosed with cancer, I would definitely be more on board!
(Both books are applicable to more than breast cancer and more than cancer in general!)

Obviously, EATING is a big issue.
I'm not a nutritionist or a doctor, but I can tell you about what I've read and what I'm striving for.

There are lots of differing opinions about what best fuels the human body.  It's up to you to decide which particular eating works best for your body (vetegarian, vegan, Mediterranean-style, low-carb, etc.)  I am still figuring out the triggers for my Crohn's episodes, so I don't always know what's going to work from one day to the next.  Play around with which real, whole foods suit your body best and lean on those.

Overall . . .  

*** Whatever you choose to eat, decrease your portion size a little.
*** Keep your glycemic level LOW (use agave syrup or coconut palm sugar, both of which have a low glycemic index) - sugar feeds cancer, and high-glycemic foods (pasta, white bread) count as sugar
*** Switch out some processed low-nutrition foods (candy, chips, etc.) for vegetables and fruit.
*** Eat less red meat (and maybe a lot less meat and dairy altogether)
*** Try to eat lots of foods that don't have an ingredients list
*** Move towards organic choices when your budget allows, especially with meat, dairy products, fruit, and vegetables

Part 3: 
Adequate physical activity

Yes, exercise.

But before you go out and sign up to run a marathon, keep in mind that the newest theories are that cancer (and many other diseases) are inflammatory processes.  We know that inflammation is related to poorer outcomes for people with cancer (people who had high levels of inflammation in their bodies when they were diagnosed with cancer were more likely to die from it).  The idea here (though I can't give you statistics) is that anything that lowers your inflammation level is an anti-cancer, anti-illness activity and anything that raises your inflammation level is a pro-cancer, pro-illness activity.  So activity that is moving around and gentle to your body is anti-inflammatory, but running a marathon usually causes much more inflammation because it's so hard-core.  Sweating is fine, raised heartbeat is great, but too much stress on the body isn't so great in this context,
so we're talking gentle exercise like walking, yoga, tai chi, etc.  

The studies show that walking 3-5 hours per week at normal walking speed has a measurable effect on breast cancer.  Cancer of the colon and rectum require twice that much (either twice as long or twice the speed).  Prostate cancer requires three hours of jogging per week (can be done in 30 minute segments) or the equivalent exertion.  It doesn't have to be much.  Go for a walk!  Just walking is benefiting you in all sorts of ways!

Part 4:
Emotional Peace

This one may seem weird, but there is plenty of science behind it.
Most of us probably can't prevent or cure cancer with our minds, BUT, as the above book says, "certain psychological states can profoundly influence the soil in which the seed develops" (page 197).  Feeling helpless is one of the worst enemies of health.
Meditation and repetition of certain mantras can create a six breaths per minute pattern, which creates a harmony with autonomic functions in the body.  This slow steady breathing and inner calm is shown to cause better regulation of the immune system, reduction in inflammation, and better regulation of blood sugar levels (see the book for the studies).  When the body is not in harmony, it's an environment in which cancer and other illness find it easier to grow.

Check out this program for bare-bones NON-spiritual meditation guidance.  It's good stuff.
10 minutes once or twice a day are recommended.

Check out this book for a Christian guide to silence and solitude.

Check out this book, "Train Your Brain" (it isn't just for business building as the subtitle suggests!), which talks about how to re-train your brain to help you heal.

So there are the four steps to preventing an illness OR giving your body the extra support it needs to recover from one.

Here's a short, concise guide to avoiding cancer, in case you prefer your "books" to take less than 10 minutes to read!

The food one is the most challenging for me.  Which one is most challenging for you?

1 comment:

  1. Good post. Will get some of those books after the move. You are soooooo good at investigating things. U the BEST !!!