Three Things Meditation Can Do for Breast Cancer Survivors

Uncategorized Aug 21, 2018

You’ve no doubt heard that meditation can benefit your overall health, but did you know that there are some very specific benefits of meditation for breast cancer survivors?  This post covers research about three common problems that breast cancer survivors face and how meditation can help alleviate those problems.  The three problems that I am going to touch on are anxiety/depression, sleep disturbances, and hot flashes.

 

Let’s begin with how investigators commonly teach and utilize meditation in research studies.  One of the methods they use to teach meditation is called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction or MBSR.  This program was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn at University of Massachusetts and has been widely used as a meditation training program across the US.  Using it provides a similar structure to the meditation instruction that participants get across studies.  But it is certainly not the only way to learn meditation.

 

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Is Stevia a Healthy Choice?

natural sweeteners stevia Aug 07, 2018

If you are one of those health-conscious consumers who has mindfully switched from pink or blue packets of sweetener to the more natural choice, stevia…we need to talk.

 

First, what is stevia anyhow?  Stevia is a sweetener made in a lab but starting with a plant.  The pink and blue stuff is also made in a lab but starting with…umm…not a plant.  So in this regard, stevia is “natural”. 

 

Stevia belongs to a group of products known as nonnutritive sweeteners. It is pretty new to this club so we don’t have a long track record of its use in the US.  In the US, pure stevia extracts (those made in the lab) are considered by the FDA as GRAS (which stands for generally recognized as safe).  There is some nitpickiness at the FDA differentiating whole leaf stevia extracts (which may have some serious effects on blood sugar, blood pressure, and the kidneys) and “high-purity steviol glycosides”, and it...

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How to Pick a Healthy Yogurt (and Why You Should)

dairy yogurt Jul 31, 2018

Yogurt has become a staple in a lot of homes in the past several years.  Moms view it as a healthy snack for kids.  So much so that the food industry came up with a variety of kid and lunch box friendly packaging ideas.  And then there are the folks who eat yogurt to lose weight usually leaning toward the low-fat, fruit flavored varieties.  And then there are the health-conscious Whole Foods shoppers who lean toward the Greek yogurt varieties. 

 

Even if you don’t fit one of these categories, there are some things you should know about yogurt if you are trying to be healthy (and who out there doesn’t want to be a little healthier). 

 

Real yogurt is made when fresh milk is fermented by adding bacteria to it.  Don’t get grossed out.  Those bacteria are really good for us.  The bacteria eat up the sugar in milk (lactose) and convert it to lactic acid which gives yogurt that tangy flavor and thickens the...

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The Alkaline Diet for Cancer

alkaline diet Jul 24, 2018

“Breast cancer patients need to be on an alkaline diet”. 

 

I know you’ve heard it.

 

Unfortunately, an “alkaline diet” just doesn’t make any physiologic sense. The body just doesn’t work in a way that the proponents of this diet says it does.  There are two assertions about the rationale for the diet that just are not true.

 

The first misconception is that cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment.  Cancer cells exist in an acidic environment, but they don’t thrive there.  They don’t like it any more than a regular cell would.  The reason they exist in an acidic environment is that they create that environment.  This is because they grow so fast and uncontrollably.  Which means that they outgrow their blood and nutrient supply quickly.  Which also means that they have no way to clear the waste they produce through their metabolism (which is acidic).  So, cancer...

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Exercise and Breast Cancer Recurrence

In the last couple of blog posts we have focused on how important lifestyle changes like following a good diet and maintaining a normal weight can be in reducing your risk of breast cancer recurrence. 

 

It probably shouldn’t surprise you that doing a little exercise will also decrease your risk of recurrence.  But what may indeed surprise you is how little activity it takes and how big the impact is.

 

So here is the good news.  First of all, the activity that you choose doesn’t have to involve a gym.  Any sort of purposeful activity like gardening, house cleaning, or washing the car counts as activity.  You need to do something to be active every day.  And when you know that you don’t have to go out and run 5 miles or spend an hour on the elliptical machine in order to make a difference, then being active can seem manageable. 

 

Research shows that if a breast cancer survivor walks just 30 minutes a day for 6 days...

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How to Get a Good Night's Rest

insomnia sleep aids Jun 19, 2018

There are few things more frustrating than not being able to sleep.  Maybe you are working through a particularly stressful time in your life, maybe you just can’t shut your brain off, or maybe you just can’t sleep, doggone it.

 

There are a few things that you can make sure you do to optimize your chances of falling and staying asleep.

  1. Make sure your environment is sleep-inducing: dark, cool, and quiet.  Some people need a little white noise (especially if they are trying to drown out the neighbors), and that is fine.  Keep your bedroom on the cool side, 60 to 70 degrees.  Have a comfortable mattress and pillows.  Use some eye shades if you can’t get your room dark enough.
  2. Avoid daytime naps. This may make it more difficult for you to fall asleep at night.  Excessive daytime sleepiness is usually a sign that you are not getting enough sleep.
  3. Try to get 7 to 8 hours. This is optimal for most people but you may require a little...
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What to Do If You Are Not Getting Enough Sleep

insomnia sleep problems Jun 05, 2018

It’s no secret that busy adults do not get enough sleep.  In fact there are many adults who are trudging through life in a state of chronic sleep deprivation.  It’s a badge of honor for some.  Have you ever heard a colleague brag that he or she only needs 3 hours of sleep each night?  Does this make him/her a super human or just a stupid human?  Turns out, it is probably the latter.

 

While there are many serious chronic health issues that are associated with chronic sleep deprivation (we’ll get to those in a minute), a more insidious problem occurs with just even one night of not enough zzz’s.  Sleeping less than 7 hours per night causes decreases in cognitive function.  These cognitive problems accumulate over time.  The less you sleep, the less smart you are.  In fact, in one study of 48 healthy individuals who were limited to either 4 or 6 hours of sleep each night for 14 nights, the decline in cognitive...

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The Slow Burn of Chronic Inflammation and Breast Cancer Recurrence

In previous posts, we have talked about how important insulin resistance is in your risk for breast cancer recurrence.  Insulin resistance is also associated with a condition known as chronic inflammation.  This is different from acute inflammation.  You are all probably familiar with what happens with acute inflammation since that is a normal body response. Let’s say you cut your hand.  Your immune system sends out its army to create an inflammatory response which results in cells that stop the bleeding, fight any potential infection, and start healing the damage.  Once the damage is healed, the inflammatory response dies down.  That’s acute inflammation and it keeps us healthy. 

Chronic inflammation is another story.  It happens when there is a low grade irritation that smolders along in your body.  The cells that were so useful at fighting infection and healing damage from a cut can actually start to cause damage in...

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Does Diet Matter After Breast Cancer?

Most breast cancer survivors want to know what they should be eating after treatment.  Unfortunately, when they ask their oncologists about what diet they should follow after treatment the answers generally range from “eat what you want” to “just eat more fruits and veggies.” 

 

I know because this is what you have told me over the many years that I have seen patients as an integrative oncologist.  And I have heard it directly from my oncology colleagues.  Some just don’t think nutrition is all that important and others are as confused by the research as you are.

 

Well, as you might have guessed, there is more to the nutrition recommendation than just eat more fruits and veggies.  In fact, there is a LOT more you need to know.  Part of the confusion comes from docs not really knowing the results of the trials that have been done and the quality of those trials.  While there has been some research on...

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Do You Get Enough Protein?

healthy protein May 15, 2018

What are the “best” proteins?

 

As a breast cancer survivor, you should get enough protein.  There have been several studies that show a relationship between protein intake in breast cancer survivors and a lower risk of recurrence.  Just how much you should get is dependent on a number of factors but the range should be from 0.8 to 1.5 grams per kg of weight (there are 2.2 pounds in 1 kg).  How much you need varies with age and activity level.

 

But what is the “best” protein to have? Goodness knows chicken can be added to almost anything, but are there better sources of protein that you are overlooking?  Probably so.  Here are a few for you to consider adding to your meal plans.

 

Eggs:  Eggs have gotten a bad rap over the years but we now know they don’t cause high cholesterol or heart disease.  Eggs are a great source of protein and come packaged with some fat so they keep you full for a while. ...

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