Forbes Nutrional Services

Tips for Living with Poor Air Quality

http://pacificislandparks.com/2012/02/17/what-do-you-know-about-hawaiis-volcanoes-2/

It may seem a little whiny to complain about volcanic smog (referred to as “vog” here in Hawaii) while my friends and family on the mainland are dealing with freakish winter weather.  It’s a beautiful and poetic thing to be near an active volcano where you can be a witness to the continual formation and transformation of our beloved earth.  However, a recent and especially wicked two day migraine has led me to prioritize the whine-ability of vog.  I never had allergies when I lived in Iowa or near DC, but living near a volcano has taken things to a whole new level.  When the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii is more active and the wind directions are right, it leads to more sulfur dioxide particles in the air over Oahu (the island I live on), which leads to sinus pain, headaches, and irritable children (in that order).   I know that vog is something unique to those living near active volcanoes, but hopefully the tips below will be helpful for anyone living in an area with poor air quality either due to smog or pollen (or both – celebrity allergen name “smollen”!) because it all leads back to the same root cause – irritation to the respiratory system.  This irritation causes the body to release histamine, which is a chemical produced by specific immune cells that burst when triggered.  The histamine provides a signal that says “something’s wrong, send help”, so these immune cells tend to congregate in areas that are prone to “invasion” such as the nose, eyes, and skin.  Histamine has other important roles in the body and is actually also a neurotransmitter, which is a chemical that has an effect on the brain.  This is why taking anti-histamines can make a person feel groggy or tired – histamine helps the brain to be alert, especially in times of danger.  Some people are prone to excess production of histamine.  It’s a simple genetic trait, probably kept around and passed on because people with more histamine tend to be more alert and aggressive – qualities that will get you a higher ranking on dating websites, I guess :).  Dietary factors are also involved, and eating allergy-prone foods such as excessive amounts of gluten and ultra-pasteurized dairy can increase histamine levels.

With that said, here are a few tips to lower your histamine response during times of acutely poor air quality.  (All dosages for supplements are only suggestions based on personal experience – please check with your healthcare practitioner before taking anything, especially if you are taking medication):

  • Keep track of your local air quality. Here are the websites for Hawaii and California, which also include practical tips to follow during times of increased exposure vog or pollution (i.e. try to stay indoors, use air conditioning, avoid physical exertion).
  • Make your neti pot a close, personal friend.  Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in warm water in your neti pot and use it to flush out your sinuses as often as needed (obvious statement- use clean water! If your tap water is prone to parasites or contaminants please use a sterile source of water to clean out your nasal passages).  I find this to be more effective than almost any other method for sinus pain.
  • Drink plenty of water!  If you are hydrated, your respiratory system will be better able to deflect irritants.  A pinch of Celtic salt and a squeeze of lemon will help to make your water more absorbable.
  • Run a humidifier with a little bit of peppermint essential oil in the water (if your humidifier allows for that) or boil a pot of water with peppermint oil on the stove to get the same effect.  This moisturizes the nasal passages and the peppermint acts as a natural anesthetic for sinus pain.
  • 1,000 mg of Quercetin3 times per day for up to two weeks.  Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that stops the release of histamine without the side effects of pharmaceutical anti-histamines.  It can be purchased at most health food stores.
  • 500 mg of Bromelain 2 times per day for up to two weeks.  Bromelain is an enzyme from pineapple (you can also try eating fresh pineapple daily and skip this one) that works synergistically with Quercetin to balance histamine levels.
  • 2,000 mg of Magnesium Ascorbatedaily for up to two weeks, which can be taken in divided doses if taking it all at once causes diarrhea.  This is a specific form of vitamin C that is attached to magnesium.  The reason I like this form for allergies is that vitamin C itself increases the body’s rate of detoxification of histamine (one study found that just taking 2,000 mg of vitamin C daily for 1 week decreased histamine levels by 38% in participants) but when you attach it to magnesium you get the added benefit of magnesium blocking the calcium channels that trigger histamine release.  To put it very simply, calcium is the “go, faster, increase” mineral and magnesium is the “stop, slower, relax” mineral.  So in this case, taking Magnesium Ascorbate kills two birds with one stone.

NOTE: This blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or prevent any disease.  Supplement dosages above are given for information only based on personal experience and do not replace the advice of a qualified health care practitioner.  Please consult with your practitioner before making changes to your diet or lifestyle, especially if you are under treatment for a specific condition or are on medication.

February 19, 2014   5 Comments

Bacon and Sperm Quality

Bacon and sperm quality

The bacon world (yes, there is a bacon world) is buzzing with the results of a recent Harvard study that claims eating bacon lowers the quality of sperm.  As an outspoken nutritional defender of bacon, I had to put my two cents in here and caution people not to throw the bacon out with the bath water (hardy har har).  Most bacon on the market today is highly processed, full of nitrates, and sourced from pigs that have been raised in toxic confinement conditions requiring the use of antibiotics and fed a nutritionally deficient diet full of genetically modified and pesticide-rich soy.  There is no question in my mind that this type of bacon, and particularly the nitrates used to preserve it, would harm sperm quality.

However, if you are able to purchase bacon that is nitrate-free and sourced from healthy animals that have been raised on chemical-free pasture (grass), then your bacon may be supplying a shot of beneficial saturated fat, which is important for fertility.  Obviously you would need to also eat other foods that help normal cellular production and fertility such as vegetables and seafood.  That is just part of being a human being!  But “as part of a balanced breakfast”, bacon may still be a helpful thing to eat as long as it’s the right kind.

While doing some quick research to respond to this study, I came across an interesting tidbit on nitrates.  I believe it’s mostly the nitrates in processed meats (bacon, sausage, lunch meat) that are harmful to sperm because you need selenium (found in Brazil nuts and seafood) and vitamin E (found in olive oil and avocado) to detoxify nitrates.  Interestingly, selenium and vitamin E are both absolutely essential to producing healthy sperm.  I found an animal study which showed that testosterone levels (both in blood and semen) were significantly lowered in rabbits when their intake of nitrates was high…and I don’t want to know how they harvest semen from rabbits.  The interesting part of the study was that researchers were able to “significantly increase” testosterone and fertility – without reducing nitrate intake – by supplementing those animals with vitamin E, selenium, and vitamin C (found in citrus, broccoli, and organic red bell pepper).   My point here is not to say “keep eating low quality bacon, just take supplements with it” but to say that even if you have been eating nitrate-rich foods and are having fertility problems (I always say a prayer for Jared from Subway when I see those commercials and think of how many years he ate nitrate-filled cold cuts for a primary protein source), there is hope for you!  The human body is very smart and can recover from almost anything if we give it the right tools.  And I’m holding fast to the assertion that one of those tools is an occasional serving of high quality bacon.

October 16, 2013   8 Comments

What’s hiding in your corn?

If you’ve seen the documentary King Corn, or other documentaries about our food supply, you are probably already a little suspicious of corn.  I personally am very allergic to most varieties of corn except for blue, which people think is funny since I lived in Iowa for almost a decade.  I had heard that corn contains mold (similar to the issue with peanuts) but had never taken the time to research it until someone who had gone gluten-free asked me if all the corn in gluten-free foods was worse for you (not to mention more expensive) than just eating gluten.  Great question!  I read through a few studies and then found an absolutely amazing research report on the subject by Charles M. Benbrook, PhD from the Organic Center. Below is what hit me in my own research from several sources but the bulk of the interesting stuff is from Dr. Benbrook’s review.  If you have time, I highly recommend reading the whole report!

  • Worldwide, pretty much all corn grown and then stored (vs. grown and then eaten fresh off the cob) contains mold.  However, the main concern is not the mold itself, but the presence of mycotoxins, which are toxins produced by mold.
  • Wheat, rice, peanuts, spoiled produce (especially apples used in apple juice), and milk and meat (because the animals are fed moldy corn) are also significant contributors of mycotoxins in our daily diets.
  • The key thing in all of this is looking at the type of mycotoxin found in the different foods.  Corn and peanuts contain the highest concentrations of Aflatoxin B, which is considered by many scientists to literally be “the most potent carcinogen known to man” because of its ability to cause intense liver damage and gene mutation.  This makes the mold in corn and peanuts a much higher priority to avoid than the mold in wheat or rice, though they all contain mold.
  • Aflatoxin is extremely stable and lasts for years.  Levels do decline slightly at temperatures above boiling temperatures.
  • The biggest factor in determining the quantity of aflatoxin present in a food is how wet the growing season was when the grain was budding.  So, it’s virtually impossible to trace through the food supply.  Drought stress (like the drought we had last year in the US) also causes an “aflatoxin bloom” when the mold produces more aflatoxin than normal.  So it’s safe to say that we should try to avoid all US grown corn and corn-fed animal products from last year.  Which again, is really hard to trace when you’re shopping at the store!
  • Studies comparing organic vs. commercial levels of aflatoxin in corn and other foods were inconclusive.  Some showed more in organic, some less, some the same, mostly depending on when and where the food was grown.  Monsanto and others have tried to propagate the idea that organic and non-GMO grains are a higher risk for aflatoxin because fungicides are not used.  However, when looking at the food as a whole, a person is much better able to effectively detoxify and prevent harm from aflatoxin exposure when it is not combined in the same mouthful with pesticides, fungicides, and foreign genetics.
  • On a side note, in 2011, 10% of the corn in our food supply was genetically modified.  Sweet corn was the first “vegetable” (because un-sweet corn is a grain, not a vegetable) that Monsanto modified for our food supply.
  • Organic farms also tend to be smaller operations, and they tend to have more “soil harmony” including use of compost tea which inoculates plants with healthier forms of bacteria and non-pathogenic molds that displace molds that produce aflatoxin.
  • Mold also produces higher levels of aflatoxin when exposed to excessive levels of nitrogen, such as those found in commercial fertilizers.
  • I did not find anything saying mold was more or less on blue corn vs. white and yellow.  However, it more likely contains less aflatoxin since it is open pollinated rather than hybridized so would have stronger resistance.
  • Several studies examined mycotoxin content exposure to our children and found that there is a serious concern for kids who eat a lot of wheat – including the wheat cereals for babies which contained some of the highest levels of mycotoxin of ALL foods studied – and for pregnant or nursing mothers who eat bread, breakfast cereals, cake, and liver pate from corn-fed animals (because the aflatoxin the animals are exposed to is concentrated in the liver).  Mycotoxins pass the placental barrier and are more concentrated in human breast milk than in milk from cows.  That’s a hard one for this nursing mother to read without wanting to cry!
  • Stress, disease, hunger, and inadequate protein intake make it more likely that aflatoxins will cause damage in the people eating them.  This makes mold exposure in developing countries a major global issue because some communities have to choose between moldy grain or no grain at all.
  • The USDA is sickeningly lenient when it comes to mycotoxin levels in our food supply.  On all types of mycotoxin (there are about 10 different ones that we keep track of) we have the highest allowed levels of any other nation that is developed enough to monitor this.  We allow 10 times more aflatoxin (the really bad one) than Europe and 2 times more than Japan in corn used for human consumption.  In corn used for animal consumption, we allow 15 times more aflatoxin than Europe and Japan.  For other mycotoxins such as those found in wheat, the US gives “guidelines” for levels but does not necessarily enforce them.

Now, before you turn off your computer and go hide in your closet, I wanted to share some practical points for navigating through this issue.

  • As much as possible, try to have your diet be protein (especially animal protein from grassfed animals or wildcaught seafood, or for vegetarians – minimally processed proteins such as whole raw nuts or dry beans) and fresh produce.  The more a food is processed, the more likely there will be items that contain aflatoxin.
  • When you do need to cook with corn products (as in tasty Mexican food!), try to buy organic or blue corn varieties.
  • If you regularly eat gluten-free pasta, I would suggest using zucchini cut into noodle-shape a mandolin as a first option or use the Andean Dreambrand which is a combo of rice and quinoa flour that cooks well enough that my “texturally particular” (my way of saying picky without imprinting on my son’s brain that he’s picky) toddler loves it.  Any grain will have some mycotoxin, but rice and quinoa tend show lower levels when tested (though rice does have its own issues, I will get into that at some point in the future).
  • Use sourdough as much as possible when having bread.  Lactic acid bacteria such as those found in yogurt and sourdough bind mycotoxins and prevent their absorption.  I recently started making my own kombucha and at some point want to make my own sauerkraut and sourdough bread if I can ever got over the concept that I have to make it the way my dad told me when I was a kid, which is that old miners in California would keep their sourdough starter in their armpits because it was the right temperature.  So from ages 8 to 16 I would not eat sourdough because I thought it all came from armpits.  (And I know the point of writing this blog is not analyzing my own psychology but I have to admit that subconsciously I still kind of think about armpits when I eat sourdough. )
  • Always serve beans (preferable whole black or pinto) or another high soluble fiber vegetable at Mexican meals containing corn.  The fiber in the beans helps to bind the aflatoxin.  As I write this I’m remembering that one of my favorite people in the world back in Iowa always wanted to eat apple sauce on his enchiladas, which seemed crazy but when I tried it, it was delicious!  Maybe he knew that apples are a good source of soluble fiber so they are a perfect complement to the corn in the enchilada :).
  • Eat more beets, which directly support the liver.  I don’t think I personally can practically avoid mycotoxins altogether (they are even in wine!) but I can eat foods that make my liver more able to handle them.  There are so many ways to enjoy beets – raw shredded beets are great in sandwiches, steamed beets taste wonderful in salads, and roasted beets are a delicious side dish.  And if you are new to eating beets, don’t think your kidneys exploded if your urine if pink or red after you eat them.  There is even a ridiculous Wikipedia explanation on the subject.
  • Ingesting bentonite clay is one of the most effective ways to bind aflatoxins in the gut, so much so that some feedlot farmers have considered adding bentonite to their feed to keep their animals from dying of liver cancer before slaughter from the constant exposure to aflatoxin in their feed.  In my private yet public blog confessional, this is the part where I confess that I have started sprinkling bentonite clay over popcorn (alongside the Celtic salt and butter) when my kids and husband eat it (I try to keep the blue corn popcornon hand).  I get the super fine bentonite clay and lightly dust it over the top, mostly to give me some peace of mind that it’s soaking up aflatoxins while they’re watching a movie.  Neurotic I know, but nobody has complained about their popcorn tasting like a face mask yet so don’t tell them :).

 

June 19, 2013   No Comments

My Homemade Kombucha Recipe

After 7 years of spending way too much money on GT Dave’s Kombucha (which is delicious, but in Hawaii is almost $5 per bottle), I decided to take the plunge and started brewing kombucha myself.  Kombucha offers an extensive list of health benefits including but not limited to hormone balance, cancer prevention, detoxification support, and even improvements to bone and tooth quality.  I personally drank it through both pregnancies to prevent nausea (which I never had, thank goodness!) and when not pregnant would drink it for the week prior to my period to prevent migraines and PMS during that time.  At $5 a bottle that really adds up!  To be brutally honest, I was resistant to brewing my own kombucha because in my mind the next step after entering the world of home fermentation is Birkenstocks and hairy armpits (not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things!) but I realized I was being ridiculous and my resistance was costing me money that could instead be spent on practical, important items like stilettos and waxing (okay, now I’m really being ridiculous but I’m too hopped up on coffee and homemade kombucha today to have a filter and I’m perceiving myself as funnier than I actually am).  But back to the point – making kombucha at home was shockingly easy to do and my very first batch (pictured above) turned out well so I wanted to share the recipe with all of you who may also be skeptical of home brewing.  Here’s what you do:

  1. Find a SCOBY (the starter – stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast).  I recommend checking on Craigslist.org for someone in your area (just type in “SCOBY” or “Kombucha”) or contacting your local Weston Price chapter leader.  If you can’t get a SCOBY from either of these places, you can get them on Amazon, but this tends to be the most expensive option.  I found someone through Craigslist here on the North Shore of Oahu (relatively far from me) who referred me to their friend in Waimanalo (close to me) who was nice enough to meet up and gave me a free SCOBY.  Here’s what they look like:  While it may seem a little disturbing to meet up with a total stranger and leave with a ziplock baggie full of something that looks like an alien organ suspended in a solution of brown liquid, it is totally worth it.
  2. Get a half gallon glass jar (or gallon, or any size glass container really, but my recipe is for a half gallon because that’s the biggest jar I have), fill it with purified water, and then dump that water into a pot and bring it to a boil.  Stir in approximately 3/4 cup sugar, but don’t dump it in all at once or it might boil over.  White sugar is actually the best (and cheapest) but you can use any type of sugar you have on hand – white sugar, brown sugar, organic sugar, I’ve even heard of people using molasses.  The sugar is just to feed the fermentation so the bacteria and yeast should eat most (if not all) of it anyway. Just don’t use honey since it has antibacterial properties.
  3. Remove solution from heat and add 2 black tea bags (any type of black tea, I used plain old Lipton’s because I had it in the cabinet but since then have started using organic black tea from Vitacost).  Steep for 10 minutes to brew a strong tea.  (You can also use an equivalent amount of loose tea, you just have to strain it and that’s 5 seconds I’d rather spend doing something else.)
  4. Cool to room temp.  If you’re in a hurry you can throw in a few ice cubes and put it in the fridge to cool faster, just make sure you stir well to avoid any “hot spots” that might kill the bacteria in the SCOBY.
  5. Once the solution is cool enough, add your SCOBY along with 1-2 cups of kombucha from a prior brew (use storebought kombucha if you didn’t get liquid with your first SCOBY, or if storebought isn’t available add 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar to make the tea acidic enough for fermentation) and cover loosely with a cheesecloth or other breathe-able cloth (I used a thin dishcloth, but Gerber diaper cloths work well also) and secure with a rubber band.  Place this in an area where the temp is around or slightly warmer than room temp (between 74 and 84 degrees F) and leave it alone.  Here’s how my first brew looked:
  6. Depending on how sour or bubbly you like your kombucha, you can let it brew for a minimum of 3 days up to a month.  My first brew I fermented for 5 days (it was sour and tasty, but not too bubbly), my second brew I fermented for 2 weeks (more sour and tasty, and more bubbly) and my third brew is in the works now.  You can check the fermentation process by gently dipping a clean spoon into the mix and tasting to check how sour and bubbly it is.  Also, one of the fun things to notice as your kombucha is brewing is that the SCOBY “mother” produces a “daughter” which starts out as a thin, clear film on the top and eventually turns into a perfect little disc the exact shape of the top of your brewing container.  Mine looked like this:
  7. Once the kombucha has fermented to your liking, you can pour off what you want to drink and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to enjoy it!  Be sure to reserve at least 1-2 cups of your brew as the starter for the next batch, which you can store at room temp if you’re going to use it in the next few days or in the fridge if it’s going to be a while before your next batch.  You can drink the kombucha straight, or add juice or fruit for flavoring.  It is sweet on its own so doesn’t require additional sweetener but I find that it mellows nicely when you add something tart for balance, such as lemon juice or frozen berries (but I personally don’t recommend adding these to the fermentation unless you really know what you’re doing – I would wait until your brew is complete to add them to the final product).

Obviously, after 3 batches at home I don’t consider myself a kombucha expert but I did want to share this info with you to let you know that you don’t have to be an expert to make your own! For more practical tips, I recommend visiting the SustainabiliTEA site on kombucha.  I did not read the entire site (yet), but what I did read was very helpful and concise and explains some important issues such as how to avoid and detect mold.

TURD IN THE PUNCHBOWL ALERT: For the sake of full disclosure, I must confess that the frozen berry mix used in the beautiful picture of the finished kombucha at the beginning of this blog is the very same organic antioxidant mix that was recently recalled from Costco for containing pomegranate seeds from Turkey that were giving people Hepatitis A!!!  Luckily I only used it once to flavor that particular glass of kombucha.  I didn’t like the flavor (maybe my body could innately taste the Hepatitis A – but more realistically it’s because I didn’t like the flavor of the variety of cherries used in the mix) so it stayed in my freezer untouched until it ended up on the news.  Now it’s still in my freezer until I can take it back to Costco and exchange it for something with a little less communicable disease.  I don’t have any hepatitis symptoms and thankfully my kids and husband didn’t have any of the berry mix, but just to be safe I’m taking milk thistle herb (for liver support) and eating lots of coconut oil (for its anti-viral activity).  In the future I will try to stick to flavoring my kombucha with fresh fruit that I have washed myself.

June 5, 2013   9 Comments

Easy Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

The amount of laundry required for 2 kids and a husband who works outside is staggering!  To save money and ensure a non-toxic product, I’ve started making my own laundry soap.  It’s a “quick and dirty” version of my friend Annie Tryon’s recipe and takes about 5 minutes to assemble (not counting cooking time).  Here it is!

Ingredients needed: 2 cups Borax, 2 cups Washing Soda, 1 bar Castile Soap (I use Kirk’s castile because I can buy it locally but any natural castile brand is fine, scented or unscented depending on your preference).  This makes 4 gallons of laundry soap or enough for 128 loads.

Using a food processor or hand grater, grate the bar of soap into a pot.  The larger your pot, the faster your soap-making will go because you can add more water to make everything dissolve faster.  As I type this I’m realizing you could probably just buy liquid castile soap if you want to skip the step of grating the bar soap, but I’ve found the Kirk’s castile bars to be a lot cheaper than any liquid castile soap out there.  And I don’t know how much liquid soap is equivalent to a bar of castile so if there are any soap experts out there who want to share that info in the comments section I would appreciate it!

Add the Borax and Washing soda and enough water to cover everything. Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally until everything is dissolved.  You can turn the heat higher if you want it to go faster but do not step away for even a minute on high heat or you will have an overflowing volcano of crystalline soap that gets down in your stove and takes so long to clean up that you will WISH you had just gone to Costco and bought expensive and possibly toxic laundry soap instead.  Not that I know from experience…

Personally, I set it to low and then go about my day around the house stirring it whenever I’m in the kitchen and within an hour or so it has all dissolved to a clear (if I was really good about stirring occasionally) or somewhat cloudy (normally the case since I forget to stir) solution.  Once everything has dissolved and there are no large chunks, you can pour it into your containers.  If you have a 4-gallon container that’s great but if you don’t, just use any combo of containers that will add up to 4 gallons.  The best way to do it is to have several of the same container so you can eyeball it when dividing it up rather than having to measure it.  I personally use 3 empty vinegar bottles from Costco.  Since they are plastic and the soap solution is hot, I fill each halfway with cold water and then divide up the soap in thirds, pouring it through a heat-resistant canning funnel.  Then I fill each container to not quite full since each holds 1.5 gallons (I fill each to approximately 1 and 1/3 gallons to make 4 gallons total).  Give each a good shake, and continue to shake each time you walk by them for the next couple of hours to help everything homogenize as the solution cools.  Here’s a photo to help you visualize this, sorry it’s out of focus – it was hastily snapped before the little Godzilla attached to the tiny brown foot in the photo was able to exert destruction on his intended target (my laundry soap).

After the solution has cooled you should be good to go!  Just give it a quick shake before you use it each time to help break up any little clumps that might have formed in the cooling process.  Use 1/2 cup (4 ounces) per load.  Works well for everything from baby clothes to super dirty work clothes and anything in between.

Cost breakdown vs. Seventh Generation Free & Clear Concentrated Laundry soap from Costco:

  • Costco natural soap: $24.72 for 1.17 gallons @ 1.5 ounces/load = 25 cents/load
  • Homemade natural soap: $8.23 for 4 gallons @ 4 ounces/load =  6 cents/load

 

 

 

 

April 24, 2013   5 Comments

Breast Cancer Nutrition

Lately it seems that I’m working with more and more otherwise healthy women who are battling breast cancer at younger and younger ages.  The purpose of this blog is to give some nutrition and lifestyle tips to aid the fight against breast cancer, but I have to start off by saying that if you are dealing with breast cancer it’s not your fault.  It’s not because you did or didn’t do something: many of us don’t exercise, eat a terrible diet, live a stressful lifestyle and don’t get breast cancer.  Of all cancers, breast cancer seems to be the most emotionally charged because it is so fundamentally wrong that the parts of us which help to make us visibly feminine and which may have nourished our infant children would now be capable of so much destruction.  So – in my very humble opinion – the first thing you have to recognize is that a breast cancer diagnosis is not your fault, but that there are things that you can do to help turn your hormonal chemistry back to health.

There are many nutrients involved in the biochemistry of cancer, but the two supplements I would immediately start taking if I were battling breast cancer would be:

  1. Iodine.  Iodine is a mineral that is concentrated in the thyroid, breasts, and ovaries.  It is found in seaweed, fish, egg yolks (as long as the chicken lived in an iodine-rich area), and organ meats.  Iodine deficiency is related to abnormal breast tissue growth (which is why many women with fibrocystic breasts find relief by increasing their iodine intake) and increased sensitivity to estrogen in breast tissue.  On the surface this increased sensitivity may not seem like a big deal, but when you factor in the amount of estrogen that our bodies are bombarded with on a daily basis (see lifestyle tips below) you can start to get a picture of why breast cancer is on the rise.  Signs that a person may have low levels of iodine include low body temperature (feeling cold when others are warm), fatigue, goiter, and slowed growth of body hair (meaning you have to pluck your eyebrows or shave your legs less often, but ladies please don’t intentionally deprive yourself of iodine just to save on your waxing bill :)!).  Despite the addition of iodine to salt, many Americans still have low levels of iodine.  In my opinion this is because of our rampant exposure to things that compete with iodine, namely chlorine, fluoride, and bromine.  Nerd alert – if you look at the periodic table of elements you will see that these elements are in the same column as iodine which means they have similar properties and may compete in the human body.  Chlorine can be found in tap water, pesticide residues, and as a breakdown product in Splenda (the artificial sweetener that “Tastes like sugar cause it’s made from sugar” or in my more accurate slogan which hasn’t been picked up by the manufacturers: “Tastes like sugar cause it’s made from poison”).  Fluoride is found in fluoridated tap water, toothpaste, and is a breakdown product of industrial fertilizers.  Bromine is found in some baked goods and in fire retardants (which is why my kids don’t sleep in pajamas treated with chemical fire retardants – bromine is linked to hyperactivity and with two already super active little boys, Lord knows we don’t need anything to increase their activity levels!).  You can see how the exposure to these elements from multiple sources on a daily basis helps to squash the small amount of iodine the average American gets in their diet.  A general dosage to restore iodine levels is around 25 mg of iodine (I like the forms in Iodoral brand the best) but if you plan to take iodine for any length of time it is best to have your levels evaluated with an iodine loading test, and of course consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner to make sure it doesn’t interfere with any medications you may be on.
  2. Sulforaphane Glucosinolate, abbreviated SGS.  This dietary compound, found in cruciferous vegetables (ie broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts), works at the epigenetic level – meaning that regardless of whether you have the so-called “gene for cancer”, it works at a deeper level that tells your genes how to express themselves.  Epigenetics is a huge and exciting area of research and I’m having a hard time not going on a 10-page rant about how it proves that we are not just victims of our genes so I will just save that for another blog!  Johns Hopkins has done extensive research on Sulforaphane and its specific role in preventing cancerous growth in the breast as well as in prompting breast cancer cells to commit apoptosis, or programmed cell suicide.  Broccoli sprouts are the richest dietary source of SGS and can be purchased at most health food stores or grown at home from broccoli seeds.  If sprouts aren’t your thing, SGS is also available in supplement form.  It’s important to note that SGS is not just for ladies – it has been found to prevent several forms of cancer and has similar anti-cancer effects in prostate cancer cells.

Lifestyle tips that may also help include:

  • Avoid environmental estrogen like the plague that it is.  Sources of environmental estrogen include plastic (especially any plastic with a smell, such as plastic shower liners – the smell means it’s off-gassing), new foam mattresses, hormones in meat and dairy products, pesticide residues on food, bis-phenol A found in plastic food storage containers and in the lining of canned foods, synthetic fragrances found in cosmetics and air fresheners (that’s right I’m talking about you, Glade Plug-ins), preservatives and sudsing agents in personal care products, chemicals and fragrances in commercial cleaning products, pharmaceutical and pesticide residues in tap water, adhesives in new carpet, fumes in paint, and dry cleaning chemicals. Now, before you banish yourself to your closet wearing a burlap sack and eating only air, realize that you can avoid most of the above by eating organic foods as much as possible, storing food and beverages in glass or stainless steel instead of plastic, drinking only filtered water, using natural cosmetics and personal care products, and being mindful of the chemical input of things in your home (i.e. choose a cloth shower curtain instead of plastic, look for VOC-free paint, consider a latex or wool mattress instead of foam).
  • Go to bed at or before 10 PM and sleep in a totally dark room.  This helps your brain to produce adequate amounts of melatonin, a hormone involved in sleep regulation that also has antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.  The link between melatonin and breast cancer may partially explain why nurses and other night-shift workers have higher incidences of breast cancer than other populations.
  • Take time to nurture yourself.  Metaphysically speaking, the breasts are commonly linked to feelings of nurturing (or lack thereof).  Figure out what this means for you – maybe it’s getting a massage, taking a hot bath, eating a meal you really enjoy, going on a trip, scheduling a few minutes of “me time” into your day, planting a garden, reading a book, allowing yourself the time to exercise, or simply taking a nap!  Regardless of the treatment option you choose, taking the time to nurture yourself will help you on the road to healing.  For more info on this, see the excellent book Feelings Buried Alive Never Die by Karol Truman that discusses the link between specific emotions and the particular diseases they are associated with and gives practical steps for creating health in the link between mind and body.  For an overall look at emotions and women’s health, I recommend the book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrup, that is an amazing and practical read on learning to love our bodies – even when certain parts may be giving us a hard time.

One more thing that I would like to mention is that when choosing a treatment option, make sure you go with the option that is absolutely what you want to do.  I know I personally tend to have a more holistic approach, but in talking with oncologists through the years the one theme that remains constant is that people have the best outcome when they are confident in their treatment choice.  Whether you decide to go with chemotherapy, radiation, surgical options, natural options, experimental treatments, nutritional treatments, or no treatment make sure that you are doing it because you feel it’s the right choice for you. Every woman is different, every cancer is different, and finding the right treatment option for you – regardless of what your insurance company thinks – could be the key to getting you through this difficult step and on to the rest of your life.  Things may seem bleak right now, but in lectures I have given nationwide with cancer survivors, the thing I hear most often from these amazing women is that cancer changed their life for the better because they realized how strong they really were.  A cancer diagnosis was the catalyst that forced them to choose daily to replace fear and despair with love and celebration.  My sincere wish is that it does the same for you!

October 31, 2012   4 Comments