Friday, October 28, 2011

Shedding Some Light On Dairy

The following is a guest post by Dr Lilli Link on the topic of dairy consumption.  There is so much controversy on this subject that I asked her if she would share her knowledge on the subject.

The second most frequent question I hear when I tell someone I eat a primarily raw vegan diet or suggest one of my patients try it is, “Don’t you need milk for your bones?” If you don’t want to read all the way through the blog to get the answer, I’ll give it away right now: No!

Why would someone choose to stay away from dairy when ice cream and cheese taste so good and it’s supposed to be healthy? Even the government says we should be eating it. One reason to avoid dairy is based purely on logic, not science. It makes no evolutionary sense. No other mammal drinks milk after infancy, and certainly not the milk of a different species. In addition, although most people of European descent have adapted over the years so that they don’t lose the enzyme (lactase) necessary to digest dairy, more than half of the world’s population is lactose intolerant and can’t digest it.

But if those reasons aren’t convincing enough, here is a list of problems that have been shown in scientific studies to be associated with eating dairy: constipation, acne, asthma, and eczema. With regard to cancer, the evidence indicates dairy may be linked to a decreased risk of some cancers and increased risk of others. But it definitely increases a hormone called IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1) which is a tumor promoter – something we cancer survivors would just as soon avoid. Finally, it is full of antibiotics, dioxin and hormones. Even if you are drinking organic milk from a cow that was never injected with bovine growth hormone, the milk is still full of the hormones she produced naturally.

So there are a lot of reasons to stay away from dairy. But doesn’t it help make your bones stronger? How else can you get enough calcium in your diet? The US RDA for calcium is 1000-1300mg/day, depending on your age and gender. In fact, it is hard to consume that much calcium if you are not eating dairy. This may be where the confusion begins. In a study that compared calcium consumption in different countries, the countries with the lowest calcium intake, about 500-1000mg/day, had lower rates of hip fractures (the dreaded outcome of low bone density) than the countries with the highest calcium intake (over 1000mg/day). Another study showed that countries with the highest consumption of animal protein intake had the most hip fractures, whereas the countries with the highest vegetable protein intake had the fewest hip fractures.

Although a number of studies show that eating dairy is associated with a decreased risk for fractures, a similar number of studies show it makes no difference. One of the major obstacles to getting a true picture of the importance of dairy for bone strength is the way the studies are done. Study participants are asked what they usually eat and then followed to see how many end up with broken bones. Since milk is touted as a healthy food, the people who eat the best and exercise the most are also the ones likely to be eating the most dairy. Curiously, of the scientific review articles about dairy and osteoporosis, most of the ones that showed a favorable association between dairy and bone health were sponsored by the National Dairy Council.

Since people from other countries who eat much less calcium than we eat have fewer fractures, maybe it’s not all about how much calcium we eat. Actually, more important is how much we keep. There are two other nutrients, in particular, which affect how much calcium we hold onto: protein and sodium. The more protein and sodium we eat, the more calcium we urinate out. So if we eat less protein and sodium (which are all too commonly consumed in a Western diet), we probably don’t need to eat as much calcium.

The other side of the equation is the absorption of calcium. It is better absorbed in an acidic environment, such as with vitamin C. That means that the lemon juice on your green leafy vegetable is helping you absorb the vegetable’s calcium. And vitamin D also increases the amount of calcium absorbed by the body.
Finally, it is becoming increasingly clear that there are other nutrients that are also very important for bone formation, such as vitamin K (high in dark green vegetables) and magnesium (high in green vegetables and seeds).

If you are wondering if a raw vegan diet can be okay for your bones, there has actually been a small study which suggests that it is. In this study, the people following the raw vegan diet were much thinner and had lower bone density (which goes along with being thinner). The reassuring part of the study was that the blood markers of bone turnover (i.e., how much bone was formed and broken down) showed no difference between those who followed the raw vegan diet and those who followed a typical American diet that contained almost twice the amount of calcium as the raw vegan diet.

Perhaps you are starting to think you might like to take dairy out of your diet, and you want to be sure you are still getting enough calcium. Good sources are dark green vegetables, nuts and seeds. Especially good foods are collard greens, kale, almonds and sunflower seeds.

Now if you are interested, theoretically, in cutting dairy out from your diet, but need some added incentive, read on. (If you still want to enjoy your milk, however, I suggest you stop reading now!) As a result of the milking process, cows often have mastitis (an infection of the udder), making dairy full of white blood cells, aka, pus. This means your yogurt, cottage cheese, ice cream, etc., are also full of pus.

It’s been 10 years since I have had dairy of any kind, and at this point I no longer even miss the cheese that sits on top of my former favorite food: pizza. But if you think you need some milk or cheese substitutes there are plenty of vegan (e.g., soy or rice-based) and raw (e.g., nut or seed-based) options to satisfy your palate!

Lilli Link, MD, MS, is a board certified internist who has the knowledge and experience to combine conventional and complementary approaches to individualize and optimize your health.  Since her own diagnosis of cancer over ten years ago, she has learned first-hand how to use diet and lifestyle to optimize her own health and the health of her patients.  For more information about Lilli and her services, please visit:
Elyn Jacobs
Elyn Jacobs is President of Elyn Jacobs Consulting, Inc. and a breast cancer survivor.  She helps women diagnosed with cancer to navigate the process of treatment and care, and she educates about how to prevent recurrence and new cancers.  She is passionate about helping others get past their cancer and into a cancer-free life.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Exercise May Improve the Quality of Life for Cancer Patients

Today’s guest post is by a wonderful young lady, Liz Davies.  Liz was influenced by her mother, an oncology nurse who saw, first-hand, the devastating and debilitating side effects cancer treatments often create.  Sadly, the risk for potential side effects is often not sufficiently explained to patients, nor are suggestions offered to help patients avoid or manage these issues. Her goal is to educate patients on ways to minimize the side effects of cancer treatment so that they may move forward into a life of wellness and health.  We all look forward to a day when cancer treatments do not negatively affect quality of life, but in the mean time, it is helpful to know that there are steps one can take to lessen the effects of treatment.

Exercise May Improve the Quality of Life for Cancer Patients
Cancer strikes millions of Americans each year, and while advancements in modern medicine have resulted in a lower mortality rate for many types of cancer, certain treatments are associated with negative side effects such as fatigue, muscle wasting, nutritional deficiencies and in many cases neuropathy. Some of these issues will lesson or cease after treatment ends, but some never fully go away.

Regardless of one's physical condition prior to becoming ill, evidence suggests that significant benefits can be realized by those who participate in physical activity during cancer treatment. For many years, the general opinion of most medical professionals was that the best place for those undergoing cancer treatment was bed. However, research conducted over the past decade strongly suggests that this is not always the case. Some oncologists are now encouraging patients to participate in moderate physical activity, and some doctors even prescribe exercise for their patients.

Selecting an Exercise Routine

Choosing the most suitable exercise is a decision based on many variables, and these should be discussed with one's doctor or oncologist. Each patient is different, and the most appropriate exercise for one person may not be suitable for the next. Overall, the exercise routine selected depends on the patient's individual goals, and what he or she hopes to achieve. For instance, the radiation and chemotherapy treatments typically used for that battling breast cancer can create high levels of chronic fatigue, making aerobic exercise the best choice for such patients. There are a few reasons why exercise creates higher energy levels. People who exercise have an increased heartbeat which causes more oxygen to be absorbed by brain cells causing people to feel more alert and energetic. When muscles are conditioned it makes daily tasks much easier. Lastly, exercise boosts the immune system which helps makes it so people do not get sick as often which drains us of energy.
Androgen deprivation therapy–ADT–is a testosterone reducing treatment frequently prescribed for prostate cancer patients, which often results in muscle wasting. In this case, light resistance training would most likely produce the best results. Lung cancer patients typically battle extreme fatigue and breathing problems, therefore exercises that help to increase the patient's lung capacity are the wisest choice. Lymph edema–swelling of the extremities due to fluid build-up–is also a common side effect of many cancer treatments and certain exercises can lessen the occurrence of this side effect. For those suffering from or at risk for Lymph edema, please consult a therapist trained in this condition.
 Cancer and Depression
Most cancer patients struggle with some level of depression due to the seriousness of their disease. This is especially true for patients who are battling illnesses that are associated with a high mortality rate such as lung cancer or pericardial mesothelioma, pancreatic and advanced breast cancers. Exercise has been proven to stimulate the production of beta-endorphins, which combat depression and can help patients to better cope with their situation. A study conducted at the Mayo Clinic University indicated that those who participated in physical exercise experienced less depression than those who shunned exercise in lieu of anti-depressant medication. However, one should not stop taking a prescribed anti-depressant without first speaking to his or her doctor.

Battling cancer takes courage and determination, and anything that can assist a patient to feel stronger and more in control of his or her life should be pursued. Therefore, it is wise for those who have been diagnosed with cancer to speak to a doctor or oncologist about starting an exercise program and utilizing other supportive therapies, and to be sure all potential side effects are discussed prior to the onset of treatment.  
For more information, please visit:

Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She became particularly interested in ways cancer patients can cope with the side-effects of their treatment after her mother became an oncology nurse for lung cancer.
Elyn Jacobs

Elyn Jacobs is President of Elyn Jacobs Consulting, and a breast cancer survivor.  She helps women diagnosed with cancer to navigate the process of treatment and care, and she educates about how to prevent recurrence and new cancers.  She is passionate about helping others get past their cancer and into a cancer-free life.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Three Factors that Enable a Woman to Thrive

It’s a matter of change. Let’s face it, we are not the woman we were twenty or thirty years ago.  Our needs, priorities, goals and passions change.  One thing that does not change is our need to take care of ourselves.  In my prior life, I was a bond trader, worked crazy hours and did not prioritize my health. While I loved my job, there was this gnawing feeling that I could do more, that my passion was to do something greater. When cancer struck, I realized I needed to take better care of myself, and to embrace my passion. Cancer allowed me to make change.  In doing so, I found my new passion.  I wanted to help other women to more successfully get past their cancer and into cancer free lives.  This might seem an odd transition to some, but to me, it was the best decision of my life.  Whether you act on a suppressed passion or more fully embrace a current one, all of us need to be more mindful about how we live, work and play every day.  Powerful words by guest blogger Rhonda Smith.  Rhonda found her new passion, and from this, many women will benefit. Life gives no guarantees, except death. There is plenty of time to be dead; it’s time to start living and embracing life. Change is often uncomfortable, but we owe it to ourselves to Recover, Restore and Reenergize ourselves each and every day. 
The Three Factors that Enable a Woman to Thrive
It seems as though over the past few months a common theme I've heard from women is centered on the feeling that they're in "transition".  Honestly, I think the whole world is in transition right now.

The women I have encountered talk about discovering that they've reached a point in their lives where they recognize that the choices and decisions they made many years ago that lead them to where they are today don't seem to be working for them anymore, and are feeling unfulfilled. They have a strong desire to create a different life for themselves.

I find that some are clear on how to go about making this change, some seem “stuck”, some don't know how to move forward, and some are fearful even about the thought of abandoning the life and career they have known up to this point to pursue their passion and true purpose, even though they may be undoubtedly unhappy with their current existence. 

Whatever the case may be, I think that there is some sort of transitioning happening among women.  In my personal network I see women taking charge and making changes in their lives, careers, their consumerism, their investments, and their activism.  

I am happy to say that through my own personal journey I have discovered what I believe is my passion and purpose in life – to educate, enlighten and empower not only breast cancer survivors, but women in general to become their own health and wellness advocate. This discovery was born out of my breast cancer experience and desire to make the necessary changes in my life to put my health and wellness first after realizing what a difference doing this has made in my vitality and overall quality of life. 

I have since created a business, Breast Cancer Partner that focuses on breast cancer recovery through health and wellness and taking a more integrative approach to recovery. However, in the process of getting Breast Cancer Partner off the ground, I realized that all women can benefit from putting their health and wellness first, becoming their own health and wellness advocate, and adopting the Recover Restore Reenergizeã Philosophy.  

 I realized how much we as women give of ourselves every single day to love, take care of and nurture everything and everyone we’re responsible for in our lives, saving ourselves for last.  I recognize how exhausting that can be whether we acknowledge it or not.  

 I believe that the three equal factors that enable a woman to “thrive” and live a life full of vitality with grace, elegance and energy is her ability to Recover, Restore and Reenergize herself and her life on an ongoing basis.  So, I wanted to create something that would serve as a reminder to women and hopefully inspire them to take some time each and everyday to love and nurture them in healthful, healing way – The Recover Restore ReenergizeÓ T-shirt!
And really, it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman recovering from breast cancer, a woman who is enduring the challenges of everyday life, or a woman living out your passion and purpose in the world - all of us need to be more mindful about how we live, work and play everyday. Most important, we must be sure to schedule the time to nurture and love ourselves each and everyday, putting our health and wellness first. That’s the way we can Recover, Restore and Reenergize ourselves each and everyday and be a better, bolder, brighter transmitter of light, love and energy to the world! 

Share this post on your site or on FB, and comment below to let us know you’d like a chance to win a RRR T-shirt!  Drawing will be on November 1, 2011.

Rhonda M. Smith is the Founder of Breast Cancer Partner, an organization that focuses on breast cancer recovery through health and wellness and taking a more integrative and holistic approach to recovery. Rhonda wants to create a world in which each and every breast cancer survivor lives a life that is full of vitality, cancer-free and without fear, so that recovery is a life-enhancing rather than a life-limiting event.
Rhonda m. Smith []

Elyn Jacobs
Elyn Jacobs is President of Elyn Jacobs Consulting, and a breast cancer survivor.  She helps women diagnosed with cancer to navigate the process of treatment and care, and she educates about how to prevent recurrence and new cancers.  She is passionate about helping others get past their cancer and into a cancer-free life.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Psychological Healing

The following is a guest post by Katie Evans.  Katie is funny, social, and outgoing and doesn't plan on letting breast cancer get in the way of any of that. Diagnosed in March at the age of 26 and having completed chemo in September, she is on the mend. She has an incredible support system and plans on paying it forward to other young women fighting breast cancer.  When I read her post, I asked if I might share it.  Thank you Katie…
It feels so good not to live my life in 3 week, chemo-based, increments anymore. I feel like I can plan a little for the future and not have to cram everything into two week periods before I’m laid up from chemo again. I am well into my Christmas shopping and planning my weekends in October and November without having to keep my bowel activity in mind.
I am still far from ‘normal’ but things are looking up. My hair is growing back and I’ve started using shampoo AND conditioner, my stupid armpit hair is growing back as well (too much information??), but my eyelashes and eyebrows are still MIA. I still get stared at but keep in mind, I’m 6 feet tall, queen size is an understatement, and I’m bald; people are going to stare. In the beginning, the staring didn’t bother me because I was very conscience of being bald; I was checking myself out in a mirror every chance I got. But as I got used to my bald head and strangers continued to stare, I kind of got annoyed. I wanted to go over to them and say ’yes, it’s cancer’ but instead I just kept walking. It took me a while to realize that not everyone staring was doing it out of ignorance, I’m sure some were looking at me thinking of a loved one who had gone through chemo, and maybe others were thinking that I was brave leaving the house with my bald head uncovered.
Someone mentioned to me that I should go over to the gawkers and say, very seriously, ‘do you have any questions?’ and I loved the thought of that. Those who are ignorantly looking at me probably do have a lot of questions about cancer, and chemo, and being bald, etc. etc. etc. and wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to answer those questions right on the spot (although, who would say ‘yes, actually, I do have a few questions…’?).
Having cancer has made me re-evaluate my reaction to otherwise frustrating situations. When someone cuts you off on the way home maybe he was preoccupied because his doctor just told him he had cancer. When someone doesn’t hold the door open for you when your hands are full, maybe that person is thinking about his/her daughter that’s in chemo who he/she can’t be with her every day. When someone screws up your morning coffee, maybe she is thinking about the lump she found this morning in the shower. If 1 in 3 people will have cancer, imagine how many people are affected by it. Maybe when people are staring at me, they are admiring the way I’m kicking ass.
Keith and I were talking about the day that I was diagnosed last night. He said that he remembers thinking about the long road that we had ahead of us and now look at where we are, I finished chemo and am starting to heal. I had a bit of a cry tonight as I looked back at the past 6 months. It’s almost like when you’re going through it, you don’t realize the severity of it all but looking back it sets in a little bit. I think of those days that felt like years, the days that felt like no matter what I did, I was going to feel deflated and alone and ‘sick’ for the rest of my life; I can safely say, chemo was the scariest time of my life.
I have learned a lot that can’t be understood unless you’ve gone through a cancer diagnosis/treatment and I think anyone who has been through it ‘just gets it’ and those who haven’t ‘just don’t', and by ‘just don’t’ I guess I should say ‘just can’t’. I was prepared for the physical reaction to chemo but not the psychological. If you know someone who is going through or has gone through cancer (the psychological healing is lifelong – it doesn’t end when treatment ends) please call them or send them a card this week. Tell them that you are thinking about them and ask them if there is anything you can do for them. Better yet, just do something nice for them because the odds of them asking for anything is slim to none. Many times, I felt helpless and asking for help would have made me feel worse but having something nice done for me without having to ask felt so good.  
I had many friends checking in on me throughout chemo and as I have said many times before, my support was incredible but there were many friends who called once or not at all. To be fair, many friends just don’t/can’t get it (how would they if they’d never been there) but having gone through it, if I can pass on any advice to those caregivers or friends of patients; let them know that you are thinking about them, let them know that you will be there from the day of diagnosis, to chemo graduation day, from the first doctor’s appointment to the last day of Tamoxifen, from the first day without a breast to the last breath. I just think that if I wasn’t warned about the psychological part of cancer, how can someone without cancer know about it? 
Women in their 20s with breast cancer is not a group I wanted to belong to however, now that I am a member, I am honored to fight with these women. It’s not only amazing how many young women are affected by breast cancer but it blows me away how strong they are. It’s like when the cancer/treatment made them physically weaker it made them emotionally stronger at the same time.
Elyn Jacobs

Elyn Jacobs is the Director of Grants for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation and a breast cancer survivor.  She helps women diagnosed with cancer to navigate the process of treatment and care, and she educates about how to prevent recurrence and new cancers.  She is passionate about helping others get past their cancer and into a cancer-free life.