Tag Archives: Cancer Prevention

Think Beyond Pink for Breast Cancer Prevention: Think Bright Colors

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Diet plays a critical role in a woman’s risk for breast cancer. Daily foods with bright colors are not only appetite-appealing, they can also be quite therapeutic, as research reveals that colorful fruits and vegetables are powerful weapons to fight breast cancer.

Two categories of dietary nutrients with bright colors are fruits and veggies that are red or orange/yellow.

Red grapes_comboThink Red.

Red grapes, red grape-derived products such as grape juice, and red wine are rich in resveratrol, a health-beneficial antioxidant that protect against breast cancer in both animal and human studies. Also, resveratrol offers cardiovascular protection. It’s important to remember that red and dark red grapes contain higher levels of resveratrol than green grapes and red wine.

I love sweet red grapes. I often eat red grapes as a snack or desert and incorporate them in my salads. To enjoy this nutritious red fruit, follow your taste and deploy your creativity.

Think Orange and Yellow.

Carrots bunch_1389068-mFruits and veggies with vibrant orange, yellow, and red colors are rich resources of carotenoids, organic pigments, micronutrients and antioxidants. These foods include carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and red peppers, plus some greens like spinach and kale. Research shows that eating plenty of these fruits and vegetables can be particularly beneficial for women at risk of non-estrogen-dependent cancer and those with a genetically increased risk for cancer.

More-peppers_580768-mThere are many ways to increase your daily consumption of bright-colored, plant-based foods. You can use them in fresh salads or sandwiches for lunch and prepare steamed or stir-fried veggie dishes for dinner. Whatever way you choose, these healthy treats are quick and easy to prepare, and they are yummy. Similarly, regular ingestion of tomatoes does good to you, because tomatoes are a wonderful source of lycopene, one of carotenoid compounds.

Keep in mind that carotenoid-rich fruits and veggies are low in dietary lipids that facilitate human absorption of micronutrients. Therefore, it’s always wise to consume them with olive oil or avocado (i.e., healthy fat) to improve the carotenoids’ bioavailability.

Conclusion

Not only can a colorful diet of fruits and veggies reduce your breast cancer risk, it can protect you from other major human diseases and positively affect your mental and emotional levels. Just remember: rainbows on your plate help create a healthy rainbow in your life!

 

Image credits: by redvisualg; DeLaMartre; and awottawa

Salmonella Infection — How to Avoid the Risk

Do you eat eggs? They are nutrient-rich, esp. vitamin D-rich food. Now you know eggs can also be a source of food poisoning, based on the fact that Salmonella outbreaks drove a nationwide egg recall recently. The New York Times reported that a half billion eggs have been recalled because of possible contamination with salmonella.

Today we focus on top 3 takeaways from this incident.

First, who is most vulnerable to salmonella infection?

Salmonella infections cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps, as well as fever. Usually symptoms of infection begin 12 to 72 hours after consuming contaminated foods/ beverages, and last 4 to 7 days. However, some cases can be serious and even fatal. In particular, the following populations are at high risk:

  • young children
  • elderly or frail individuals
  • people with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients and those undergoing chemotherapy

Second, what precautions can you take to eliminate the risk of infection?

Again, the food safety system has failed to eliminate salmonella threat. Therefore, you need to take some precautions to protect yourself and your family from food poisoning or bacteria infection. Based on recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and my own practice, I’ve compiled the following eggs/poultry safety Dos and Don’ts.

 

The Don’t list:

  1. Don’t eat raw or undercooked eggs.
  2. Don’t use raw eggs for salad dressing or homemade ice cream.
  3. Don’t handle food, esp. cooked food or ready-to-eat food before washing your hands.
  4. Don’t consume unpasteurized milk or any raw dairy products.
  5. Don’t eat restaurant dishes made with raw or undercooked eggs.
  6. Don’t prepare food or serve food/drink for others when you’re infected by salmonella.

The Do list:

  1. Do wash your hands thoroughly after handling poultry and anytime before preparing foods, especially cooked or ready-to-eat items.
  2. Do thoroughly wash the cutting board, involved counter surface, knives, utensils and containers/plates after handling uncooked poultry or foods.
  3. Do separate the cutting board or plates for raw food from those for cooked or uncooked ready-to-eat food to avoid cross-contamination; — a practice that many folks overlook.
  4. Do throw away any cracked or dirty eggs.
  5. Do keep eggs or egg-containing foods refrigerated at 45oF or lower.
  6. Do cook eggs until they are well-done (i.e., both yolks and whites are firm).
  7. Do judge or determine whether meat or poultry is cooked or safe to eat by a food thermometer when in doubt, not by food color or poking depth.
  8. Do make sure to cook any egg mixture (casseroles or cakes/pies) until the center of the mixture reaches a safe temperature level.

Third, is Salmonella infection linked to cancer risks?

The relationship between bacterial infection and cancer is rather complicated in the way that bacteria can either cause one type of cancer or protect from the other type of cancer or both. Here we only look at the link between salmonella bacteria and cancer – it’s like two sides of a coin.

There is a close association between mixed bacterial and salmonella infections with the carcinogenesis of cancer, particularly gallbladder cancer – a cancer with a poor prognosis. Even though one infection won’t get you cancer, repeated bacterial infections or chronic infections may lead to cancer development. Therefore, don’t overlook infection. As WHO advocated, preventing infection is one strategy to prevent cancer.

Reversely, the same bacterium, salmonella, has been found as a potential strategy to fight melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer. Specifically, research showed that injecting salmonella (of course, in a safe form) into cancerous mice and cancer cells from human melanoma increased an immune-killing response to tumor cells through elevating immune surveillance.

In short, food hygiene and food safety measures are always worthwhile for your overall health.

Photo credits:  by andar; by g-point

A Special Memory of Martha

We lost Martha Anne Thornburg, 52, recently. I was always inspired by her smile and gratitude even during those difficult days of fighting cancer. Her loving husband of 27 years, Jon E. Thornburg wrote a touching and beautiful letter to Martha at her funeral service. I sincerely appreciate his sharing this special memory here.

“For my dear Martha,

On our first date, we came across a dog hit by a car, lying on the side of the road. We decided to pick it up and take it to the vet clinic at Purdue. That was one of the first clues of Martha’s love for strays; dogs, cats, and later on she even agreed to take me in and give my life purpose. She had a boundless love for family and friends and heaven help those that ever tried to hurt someone she loved.

Martha had a personality and a smile that was contagious. That smile, given often, given freely, and given genuinely; you just had to love her. She was diligent and loved puzzles and to solve problems. When presented a problem she would jump into it and find a dozen ways to solve it while making it seem so simple. As many know, anyone who received teasing by Martha knew another side of her personality. She loved to laugh, joke and tease; and she could keep a straight face through the punch line of a prank or joke.

Martha loved to give and to share. She gave of herself; and what she had without limits, usually as long as nobody knew she was the one giving. I do not believe she ever took a bow or showed off anything, even though she had volumes of accomplishments to show and brag on, but that wasn’t her way, except for her kids. She was forever proud of Jessica, Andrea, and Jimmy. She raised three children who have kind and tender hearts, giving and forgiving, polite and a strong sense of family and friendship. She loved and was proud of her babies.

Martha loved to sing, she could be walking along, sitting, and reading or watching a show; or doing almost anything, and a song would come to her and she would start singing. Sometimes when driving she would have to stay in the car a little longer when stopped so the song on the radio could finish, and she was usually singing along with it.

Martha grew daily in her spirituality in her love of Christ and her awe and fear of GOD. She studied the word, questioned and sought answers, and had the faith of no one else I know. When the Holy Spirit came to her, she accepted and was whole-heartedly grateful, and she knew her life had really begun. She truly put her love, trust and soul in God’s hands.

I am going to miss her. I don’t know why Martha loved me, or ever agreed to be my bride, but I’m eternally grateful and proud she did. I loved her and always will.”

Our deepest condolences to Martha’s family.

Delicate Mushrooms Are Strong Supporters for a Healthy Immune System

Do you eat mushrooms? I love them, white button mushroom, Portobello mushroom, fragrant mushrooms (Shiitake in Japanese name) etc. are used in many of our dishes.

Immune function, particularly natural and cell-mediated immune response, is critical to preventing and controlling infection and tumor. Nutritional food is one of strategies to efficiently modulate the immune cell response. Mushrooms have been among foods that possess immune modulating properties.

The most common mushroom in the US is the white button mushroom found in every supermarket and available year round. Studies indicate that they can enhance natural and cell-mediated immune response, and promote efficient defense mechanisms against microbial invasion and tumor development.

Fragrant mushroom has always been one of my favorite ingredients added to our family cuisine – the taste is delicious! That’s why one of my must-packed items from my China trip is dried fragrant mushrooms. They have long been reserved as both a delicacy and medicinal food. Fragrant (or Shiitake) mushroom can strengthen immune system through its component called lentinan, which stimulates the production of T lymphocytes, macrophages, and natural killer cells, as well as interleukins, the biologically active modifiers of inflammation and immunity.

In short, various strains of mushroom (white button, shiitake, maitake, etc.) have strong immune impact, which contribute to their anti-tumor properties. They are available fresh in many U.S. supermarkets and oriental grocery stores. Plus they are easy to incorporate into your daily diet.

Advice: It’s always safe to clean mushrooms thoroughly and cook them before consuming them, in order to avoid carcinogens or toxic compounds from any pesticides and any pathogens on the surface of raw mushrooms.

Photo credits: by Bura ; by frankenstoen

Garlic—Its Healing and Preventative Properties and How to Reap Maximal Benefits for Your Immunity

Garlic (allium sativum) is a spice, a medicinal herb, one which is becoming popular as a natural product against health problems such as cardiovascular disorders, immune dysfunctions, and cancer. In particular, both epidemiological and laboratory findings have demonstrated that garlic consumption reduces cancer incidences of the stomach, colon, breast and cervix.

What is the science behind the wonders and mystery of garlic’s properties? Here I sum up how it may boost the immune system and lower cancer risks.

1. Anti-microbial: Garlic protects effectively against bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, without damaging your normal cells. This natural antibiotic, unlike synthetic ones, has an affect on a broad spectrum of microorganisms with little or no resistance from the body. So it can work as your long-lasting agent for preventing and fighting infections.

2. Anti-inflammatory: Garlic acts as an antioxidant, inhibiting the secretion of inflammatory mediators/factors, reducing the migration of neutrophils, antagonizing the oxidation by free radicals, and stimulating immune response.

3. Anti-carcinogenic: Its anticancer properties are rather complex, and have been proposed to function through a number mechanisms that include scavenging of free radicals, increasing availability of substance(s) and enzymes that detoxify genetic damaging chemicals, assisting with DNA repair, and inhibiting tumor cell proliferation.

Furthermore, research suggests the anticancer effect of Allicin, a major component of garlic, is associated with its immune stimulatory properties. It’s of interest that garlic can be useful as a natural remedy against immune suppression. Apparently, suppression of immune response is linked with increased risk of cancer or other malignancies.

The next question is how you can turn scientific knowledge into a practical aide for your own health. Incorporating garlic into your diet requires a few guidelines to gain most of benefits from it. Things to consider are:

The amount—How much is enough? How many cloves a day?
Although accumulated evidence supports the health benefits of garlic, additional studies are needed to determine the quantity required by humans to minimize cancer risk. The current suggestion is to eat a minimum of two medium-sized cloves daily, based on a recent study that used garlic extract concentration equivalent to an adult’s intake. This amount can be increased to five cloves, again based on consumption of Asian adults.

Preparation—Should it be cooked or not?
The best way to consume garlic is to eat in raw (i.e. in its natural form). However, cooked ones are fine except for microwaving, which destroys much of the effective components. Some scientists claim that lightly cooked, crushed garlic provides similar health benefits found in raw garlic.

Crushed or not crushed?
Crushing may be best, since it enables the beneficial components to be released. Crush or chop the garlic at room temperature and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes.

How to reduce garlic’s odor and unpleasant breath?
Personally, I find cooking a dish with garlic and parsley together helps reduce the odor. After a meal, brush your teeth (including tongue) thoroughly. Since this concern is beyond the scope of this post, you may find solutions from other resources such as How to Get Rid of Garlic Smell and Garlic Breath Removal.

Supplements as an alternative—garlic pill or not?
Garlic supplements have some advantages, since eating lots of garlic isn’t always practical and/or socially appealing. The bottom line is—there is no clear evidence whether the pill provides the same benefits as garlic or its extracts, and whether the effective compounds detected in garlic remain potent after manufacturer’s processing. Also, depending on your health needs, you may wish to consult with your physician.

After all, maintaining immune stimulation can significantly reduce the risk of cancer. So, enjoy your daily dose of garlic!

What’s your take on garlic? Do you have a favorite recipe to share?

Photo credits: by nkzs ; by vieux bandit

Make A Seasonal Dish Your Year-round Cancer Preventive Antioxidant

Unlike American folks, who cook sweet potatoes as a Thanksgiving side dish, Asian people use the vegetable as a staple. Today we will talk about how you can take advantage of its nutritional value for cancer prevention benefits.

Sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which can inhibit abnormal differentiation of epithelial cells that make up the skin covering the whole surface of the body–the frontline defense against bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. Beta-carotene, a so-called cancer-preventative antioxidant, can eliminate carcinogenic free radicals, block binding of carcinogens with the nuclear proteins, and thus prevent cancer.

Beta-carotene is crucial to the production of vitamin A. Your body requires this vitamin, creating it from foods containing beta-carotene. Also, vitamin A is essential for eye health, and sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A. In addition, sweet potatoes are a good source of copper, dietary fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, manganese, and iron. When you obtain well-balanced nutrients, you are unlikely to suffer from nutrition deficiency, and so boost the capability of your immune system.

Eating more sweet potatoes is particularly important for the following groups of people:

1. Vegetarians or those who do not consume red meat. Without animal sources such as beef, liver, or butter, these folks must obtain vitamin A from plants that contain carotenoids.

2. Cigarette lovers and “second hand smokers” with no choice. Because smoking releases trillions of free radicals that cause cell damage, these individuals need to have strong carotenoid and antioxidant defenses. Carotenoids are simply red and yellow pigments in plants and animals. In addition to providing colors, they also act as antioxidants to neutralize free radicals, keep them from damaging cells, and protect the network of other antioxidants.

Two bonuses from sweet potatoes:
1. Fiber-richness, which effectively stimulates intestinal movements, reduces cancer-causing toxin retention, thereby preventing colon cancer – good for those with constipation.
2. Natural sweetness, which makes the sweet potato a dessert without artificial sugar. But those diagnosed with diabetes should be aware of the possibility of increased blood sugar levels.

Can you see sweet potatoes as an important food for overall health and immune benefits?

Photo credit: by NatalieMaynor

Sleep Disordes, Immune Suppression, Cancer Risk

When an old saying tells you should “sleep like a baby” or “sleep like a log”, modern science is backing it up, especially when insufficient sleep can suppress your immune system. The human immune system plays an important role in protecting the body against the development of cancer. The cells of the immune system are our defenders, constantly destroying and eliminating any cell in the body that initiates or undergoes a malignant change. When this natural defense mechanism is weakened, as malignant cells increase and then overpower the immune system, cancerous growth takes place.

View from the real world:
I’m sure everyone can relate to what inadequate sleep can cost in our daily lives. Sleep deprivation and/or disorders are linked to an array of health issues from fatigue, lacking mental alertness, and depression to more serious problems such as heart failure, hypertension and diabetes. Insomnia certainly contributes to road or workplace accidents. Of significance, sleep disorders are commonly associated with chronic inflammatory diseases, and can lead to immune suppression. Some studies suggest that shortened/reduced nightly sleep is associated with a higher risk of breast cancer development.

View at the cellular level:
Sleep is a key factor for supporting a functional body defense system. During deep sleep, our bodies work to strengthen our immune system by producing and releasing potent immune-enhancing substances, such as cytokines. In contrast, there are cancer-stimulatory cytokines, which may be switched to dominance when sleep is deprived. It seems that cytokines are a group of critical players in the sleep-immune interaction.

When sleep is deprived, the immune T-cells go down and inflammatory cytokines go up, as shown by many studies. This alone may post a potential risk for a suppressed body defense. When your immune system is weak and not functioning well, germs or pathogens can easily penetrate the body and commit destruction to the cells, thereby you are susceptible to colds, flu, and even more serious diseases including cancer. In addition, sleep deprivation may lead to a higher level of C-reactive protein – an inflammation marker. Inflammation plays a role in heart disease, atherosclerosis and cancer.

How to get a good night’s sleep:
We all have had experience how it feels after a good night’s sleep. For those who are unable to sleep well, don’t be depressed. Here are a few practical, time-tested tips – in I-b-e-d:

I-b-e-d techniques help you have a restful sleep:

Individualize sleep hours.
Best practice on time.
Eliminate distractions.
Discover the cause (of sleep disorders).

1. Individualize your sleep hours, and get what you really need, whether is 6, 7, or even 9 hrs. Of course, more than 10 hours of sleep doesn’t make you healthier.

2. Best is to maintain so-called “sleep hygiene”, i.e. go to sleep at the same time every day and wake up at the same time.

3. Eliminate any distractions. These range from bedroom TV, computer, too much food before bed to thoughts and emotions. If necessary, discipline yourself: no coffee, no alcohol or smoking 6 hours before bed.

4. Discover the cause of sleep disorder, don’t rely on “sleeping pills”. There are various reasons responsible for sleep disorders: from stress, health complications to side effects from medication – including drug use or abuse, and drug withdrawal as well. Consult your physician, explore it and receive effective treatments.

How did your sleep impact your health? What’s your practice to get enough sleep?

Photo credit: by sean_mcgee

Protein and Immune System

The backbone of your immune system is made from protein; without adequate protein your immune system can’t survive, and is less able to stay and fight cancer. It’s critical to include healthy protein such as fish, poultry and beans in your daily diet, because they provide plenty of protein yet without much saturated fat. Here I emphasize a few foods high in immune boosting protein.

Beef
Sure, a diet high in red meat is not good for your health. This doesn’t mean you should ban beef. Beef is rich in immune boosting mineral zinc, in addition to protein. Zinc in your diet is very important for the development of white blood cells, the heroic immune system cells that recognize and destroy invading bacteria, viruses, and other harmful foreign bodies. Zinc deficiency weakens your immune system; even mild zinc deficiency can increase your risk of infection. Since vegetarians and those who avoid red meat (beef and pork) let pass this major source of zinc, these folks should make sure to consume zinc-rich oysters, fortified cereals, poultry, yogurt or milk.

Fish and shellfish
Research showed that of all fats, omega-3s — found in fish such as salmon — created the highest blood levels of flu-fighting T cells and interferon-gamma cytokines. Cytokines are various protein molecules secreted by cells of the immune system that regulate the immune functions.

Shellfish like oysters, lobsters, crabs and clams contain plentiful of selenium. Getting adequate selenium can increase immune cell production of cytokines. Cytokines help clear flu viruses out of your body.

The bottom line:
Dietary deficiencies in protein and key micro-nutrients have long been associated with immune dysfunction.

Photo Credits: by Art By Steve Johnson and  TheBusyBrain

What’s in Colorful Berries for You?

Berries_2746572505_797146afd7_mBerries (such as blueberry, cranberry, blackberry, raspberry, and strawberry) are known for their antioxidant power. They contain a number of healthful compounds including vitamins A, C, E and folic acid, selenium, calcium, phytochemicals such as polyphenols. By consumption of berries, you can enjoy diverse health benefits — from preventing cardiovascular disorders, age-related degenerative diseases and inflammation, to improving brain functions and eye health.

How about minimizing cancer risks? Studies from numerous cell culture and animal models, in vitro and in vivo, have demonstrated berries’ anti-cancer properties using berry extracts or constituents. Although certain phytochemicals in berries (i.e. antioxidative potentials) contribute to cancer suppressive action, a novel, key ingredient for berries’ cancer fighting effects is the compound called anthocyanin(s), which also give berries’ natural, vibrant colors.

Anthocyanins play a role in reducing malignant transformation of cells. They exert anti-carcinogenic effects in the following ways:
1. Regulate carcinogenic attack and enhance the removal of carcinogens;
2. Protect DNA integrity via a decreased DNA binding of carcinogens and inhibition of oxidative damage to DNA;
3. Suppress inflammatory processes via alternating cell signaling pathways;
4. Inhibit tumor invasiveness and metastasis via the induction of cell death at various stages of cancer progression.

Sounds promising, doesn’t it? Surely, berry anthocyanins are your supporters in promoting human health and disease prevention. Evidence is still needed for the anti-cancer effect in human studies. While edible berries serve as a source of natural anthocyanin antioxidants, cancer-fighting properties in each group of berries may vary, and you need to acquire more accurate information on health benefits that can be expected from different berry products.

The bottom line:
1. Consume berries regularly. Eat fresh and frozen ones.
2. Mix berries with your cereals, shakes and juices. A combination of various berries has their health benefits maximized over an individual berry.
3. Do take precautions about manufactured and/or concentrated berry powders on the market.

What’s your favorite berry or berries? How do you include berries in your healthy diet?

Photo credit: by love♡janine

Thoughts on the Gulf Oil Spill: from the Seafood We Eat to the Air We Breathe

Before-After-Clean Pelican_4609844828_d1462e89e2_mIf you’ve followed the news about the oil spill in the Gulf Coast for the past month and half, if you’ve seen the tragic images of oil-soaked or oil-coated animals, or learned of the climbing toll of dead and injured birds and marine animals, you’re probably concerned about how much threat this oil disaster poses to our health. Although a few experts claim its toxicity is minor to humans, such advice does little to ease public worries and fears.

Good news: The initial testing of water showed negligible contamination, and the government tried hard to stop the seafood from Gulf regions from becoming distributed into the marketplace.

Anticipated news: Clean-up status? More testing results? Health risks to the public primarily stem from contaminated seafood and inhaled airborne oil toxins. Because hurricane season is approaching, the concern is that oil hazards carried by winds and ocean currents could threaten widespread regions along adjacent shorelines or estuaries.

Bad news: The impact of spill will last years in terms of environmental, economic, and public health consequences.

The truth: The seriousness of long-term health effects on people is inconclusive at this point. According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), airborne toxins after an oil spill include toluene, benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons — all of which are known carcinogens.

What’s the connection with cancer risks?
Crude oil contains a mixture of hundreds of different hydrocarbons, other organic and inorganic, as well as toxic substances. Some of them are carcinogens (i.e., cancer-causing substances), from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and benzene to tar and more. Others cause neurological and reproductive disorders, as well as skin and lung illnesses. Today, let’s just focus on one of them — Benzene. It is known to cause cancer in humans, particularly leukemia.

What is benzene?
Benzene is a colorless, aromatic, highly flammable liquid. It evaporates into air very quickly and dissolves in water slightly. Benzene is used widely in the U.S. (one of the top 20 chemicals for production volume) as a building block for plastics, rubber, resins, nylon and synthetic fabrics, and as a solvent in printing, paints, dyes, detergents, dry cleaning, and pesticides.

What are the sources of benzene in our daily lives?
- The air at gas stations, since gasoline fumes contain relatively high levels of benzene.
- The air emitted from burning coal and oil, and motor vehicle exhaust.
- Cigarette smoke, since benzene is a natural part of tobacco smoke.
- Indoor air from products containing benzene (e.g., glues, paints, detergents, furniture wax).
- Occupational exposure — people working in industries that make or use benzene.

The takeaway message: The impact of health hazards from Gulf oil spill might be minor to populations residing far from the tainted shorelines. But you don’t need to be exposed to a disaster to become exposed to any harmful chemicals released from it. Some of the same carcinogens, such as benzene, occur in our everyday environments, whether you live in New Orleans or Seattle, Florida or Alaska. Become aware of the chemicals you run into on a daily basis.

Tip to share: Air pollution is a reality, whether we’re discussing outdoor or indoor environments; that’s why an air purifier is so essential! I’ve personally benefited from it. Use air purifiers in any space where you spend a significant amount of time, especially for pregnant women, those who suffer from asthma and other respiratory disorders, and those with a weakened immune system.

What’s your thought?

Photo:  Before and after cleaning of the Gulf oiled pelican — credit to International Bird Rescue Research Center