ADOPT A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
There are a number of things that cancer patients must do to improve their chances for recovery. Attain the quality of life that has purpose and meaning, adequate and appropriate nutrition, sleep, physical activity and effective stress management are all fundamental for good health.
All forms of physical activity help to prevent many forms of cancer
(American Institute for Cancer Research)
While exercising may be the last thing on your mind during cancer treatment, starting or continuing an exercise program during treatment can improve your quality of life, help reduce fatigue and lessen muscle loss.
Exercise is one prescription that could prevent and treat dozens of diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and even cancer. There is plenty of evidence indicating that exercise can slash your risk of cancer by reducing the elevated insulin levels and normalizing estrogen. Active bodies produce less insulin and insulin-like growth factors (IGF) that speed tumor growth and regular exercise has been shown to reduce the incidence of endometrial, prostate, colon, breast and lung cancers.
Studies show that women who exercise regularly can reduce their breast cancer risk by 30 percent compared to those who are inactive – the benefits being greater for post-menopausal women. This is due to higher activity levels which lowers the level of blood estrogen in the body. Older women who have reached menopause have more cause to be concerned as hormone is produced by fat cells. Women who exercise have less fat and therefore produce less estrogen.
Men and women who exercise reduce their risk of colon cancer by 20 percent compared to those who led sedentary lifestyle. The effect is greater in men. Decreases in body fat, insulin and other growth factors also may contribute to lower colon-cancer risk1.
Exercise during cancer treatment
During your cancer therapy, a safe and effective exercise program can help increase your energy and strength, improve balance and coordination and help maintain your muscle strength. Physical activities can also improve your overall feeling of well-being and reduce the pain, nausea and fatigue commonly associated with treatment. Exercise gets the blood pumping and transports the oxygen throughout the body, boosting absorption of nutrients and eliminating toxins from cells.
What kind of exercise?
Any amount of exercise is better than none, and more is generally better than less. The key is to stay consistent. Go for low-impact exercises, low intensity strength training, and stretching to enhance mobility initially.
- swimming, cycling, jogging, brisk walking, use stairs
- go dancing, join tai chi, aerobic or yoga sessions/ classes
- use a stationary bike or do sit-ups and leg lifts while watching TV.
- start slowly and very gradually progress. You may find it most comfortable to gradually progress the time of your activity up to about 15 minutes before you start to push harder.
- take frequent breaks during activity if needed
- do it outdoor and get the most of sunshine and fresh air
- There is no optimal exercise program for exercising with cancer – the goal is to preserve and improve functions. Your activity may be modified as needed based on your current condition or reaction to changes in treatment.
- Your treatments may limit the activities possible. For example mastectomy (surgery to remove the breast) may limit the strength and range of motion in the chest, arms and shoulders and perspiration may irritate the skin of the patient post radiation therapy.
- The exercise program should therefore be designed to maximize the benefits with the fewest risks of aggravating your health or physical condition. You may consider contacting a certified health professional who can work with you to design a safe and effective program addressing your specific needs.
Take daily sunbaths – get plenty of vitamin D
"Activated vitamin D is one of the most potent inhibitors of cancer cell growth, it stimulates your pancreas to make insulin and regulates your immune system."
Michael F. Holick, PhD, MD, head of the Vitamin D, Skin, and Bone Research Laboratory at Boston University School of Medicine. "
Vitamin D is among the most important compound the human body needs for it to function optimally. Vitamin D regulates the amount of calcium and phosphorus in the body and helps support a healthy immune system. Although best known for its role in using calcium to help build bones and keep them strong, Vitamin D affects many other tissues in the body, including the kidneys, intestines, and parathyroid glands. It is also now gaining recognition and prominence as an important weapon in the fight against cancer. It is estimated that vitamin D is necessary to ‘switch’ on/off up to 2000 genes in the body.
Where do we get Vitamin D?
Our body gets most of the vitamins and minerals it needs from the foods that we eat. For Vitamin D it can be obtained through exposure to UV rays and food or supplements.
However, there are only a few foods that naturally contain any vitamin D. These foods are like the oily fish (tuna, mackerel, salmon, fish liver oil), beef liver*, cheese* and egg yolks*. However, to get the required Vitamin D from food, you would need to eat lots of fish or egg yolk every day. So it’s almost impossible to get what your body needs just from food. Some foods are now fortified (added) with vitamin D (example— breakfast cereals). *contains small amounts.
The sure way to get Vitamin D is by exposing your bare skin to sunlight. Sunlight is the largest single source of vitamin D for most people. Exposure to sunlight stimulates the skin to produce quantities of vitamin D that far exceeds our needs.
How does the body convert light to vitamin D?
Like the plants, our physiology is closely linked to the sun. Plants use sunlight to photosynthesize chlorophyll whereas our body uses a similar process to photosynthesize vitamin D by producing it when our bare skin is exposed to sunlight. The part of the sun’s rays that is important is ultraviolet B (UVB).
Strategies for getting vitamin D from the sun
- get the sun not the burn -
- Don't be a modern-day cavemen where you spend the majority of the day inside at work or in your home - go outdoor.
- Expose as much of the body to the sun. A duration of 15 minutes daily is sufficient – don’t expose yourself to the mid-day sun between 10 am to 2 pm. If you have a light complexion start with ten minutes and gradually increase it to 15 minutes a day. You don’t need to tan or burn your skin to get vitamin D.
Note: How much vitamin D absorbed depends on the time of day, where you live in the world and the color of your skin.
- Do not use lotions or sunscreens (they can be a source of toxin). If the moisturizer you use has an SPF value (sunscreen), it will block UVB rays and will not allow your body to produce any vitamin D. If you are told that the sun causes skin cancer, you are only getting very little of the truth. Skin cancer was very rare 100s of years ago where the civilization roam and toil the earth under the heat of the sun. It is still very rare today among some of the populations. For example, there is virtually no skin cancer in Africa, where the population stay in the sun all day long without without sunscreen. If you think that's down to the protective effect of darker skin pigmentation, think again. People with African heritage who live in America have very high rates of skin cancer. And interestingly, as sunscreen sales have risen, so has the rate of skin cancers.
It is not possible to list all of the dangerous substances in conventional sunscreens and their detrimental health effects. However, the important thing to realize is that sunscreens contain a cocktail of chemicals that either damage skin and/or absorbed through skin into the bloodstream causing much more widespread damage. Recent research by the Center of Disease Control (CDC) showed that 97% of all Americans are contaminated with oxybenzone, a UV absorber widely used in sunscreens. This chemical so far has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption, and cell damage, as well as low birth weight in baby girls whose mothers are exposed during pregnancy1.
Sunshine offers powerful healing not only for cancer but also for the prevention of other diseases. Optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the simplest, yet most profound things you can do to protect your health. It will likely be many years before the mainstream policies catches up to what the evidence has already revealed. It is freely available for everyone, so do take advantage of it.
Alternatively, if the above is not feasible (i.e. in temperate climate) you can get vitamin D by taking supplements, recommended dosage is 2000- 5000 IUs per day.
Positive outlook in life
One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to choose happiness. Happiness has many meanings. Very often we think that happiness is something that comes from outside us, but it really starts from the inside. Even when life is filled with pain, sorrow, and disappointment, you can still choose to be happy regardless of the outward circumstances—easier said than done right?
In the last few decades, researchers have studied laughter's effects and have shown the beneficial effects on health. For example, laughter improves the immune system through the release of neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses. Laughter can also enhance the intake of oxygen-rich air, thus stimulates the heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. It also activates and relieves the stress response and soothes tension, stimulates circulation and aid muscle relaxation.
Start learning how to laugh, love and enjoy life more. Laughing is one of the best cures for heart and soul. Watching funny videos, movies etc., can reduce stress, and balance blood pressure.
Make time for fun and relaxation - Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury.
Learn to manage stress - It's well known that chronically high levels of stress hormones (such as adrenaline and cortisol) suppress the immune system and reduce the body's ability to defend or repair itself. Therefore it is important that you learn how to avoid/ minimize/ deal with stress.
Get regular and plentiful sleep
Aim to have between 6 –8 hours of good sleep. Getting uninterrupted hours of sleep per night can help your immune system function well. There’s a growing body of evidence that sleep deprivation suppresses the immune system, lowering your defenses against illness and infection.
Tips for getting good night sleep
- Clean up your room and get fresh air into your bedroom. Invest in a good mattress.
- Avoid reading, watching TV or using computers late at night as these activities affect the production of your melatonin (sleep inducing hormones) and deprive you of the many health benefits of this hormone.
- Taking melatonin at night can frequently help – but not on a long term basis.
- Avoid drinking before you sleep - this will avoid the need to go to the toilet during the night.
Points to note on melatonin:
* Very small amounts of it are found in foods such as meats, grains, fruits, and vegetables. You can also buy it as a supplement (refer to your doctor for clearance and dosage).
* Natural melatonin levels slowly drop with age with some older adults making very small amounts of it or none at all.
* Sunlight, artificial indoor lighting can be bright enough to prevent the release of melatonin.
There are many benefits of taking melatonin. When taken as a supplement, it can stop or slow the spread of cancer, make the immune system stronger, or slow down the aging process.
Don’t use tobacco
Tobacco use accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths and 87% of lung cancer deaths. (Source: www.cancer.org - Cancer Facts & Figures 2013). Smoking has been linked to various types of cancer including cancer of the lung, bladder, cervix and kidney and chewing tobacco has been linked to cancer of the oral cavity and pancreas. Even if you don't use tobacco, exposure to secondhand smoke might increase your risk of lung cancer too.
There are more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke and at least 250 are known to be harmful. Among the 250 known harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke, at least 69 can cause cancer. These cancer-causing chemicals include Arsenic, Benzene, Beryllium (a toxic metal), 1,3 –Butadiene (a hazardous gas), Cadmium (a toxic metal), Chromium (a metallic element), Ethylene oxide, Nickel (a metallic element), Polonium-210 (a radioactive chemical element and Vinyl chloride)2. Avoiding tobacco is one of the most important health decisions you can make. It's also an important part of cancer prevention.
Avoid excessive alcoholic consumption
Not everyone who drinks will develop cancer. But on the whole, scientists have found that some cancers are more common in people who drink more alcohol than others.
Heavy or regular alcohol consumption increases the risk of developing cancers of the oral cavity (excluding the lips), pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), esophagus, liver, breast, colon, and rectum. The risk of developing cancer increases with the amount of alcohol a person drinks. Epidemiologic research shows that people who use both alcohol and tobacco have much greater risks of developing cancers than people who use either alcohol or tobacco alone.
If you are undergoing treatment, we advise that you don’t take any alcoholic drink. There are many reasons for not consuming alcohol. Among these are alchohol consumption can damage tissue, it can also cause highly reactive molecules, called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS), to be produced in the cells. These molecules can damage the DNA, which could cause cancer to develop. If you do take alcohol, limit your consumption to not more than 1 drink per day and take red wine.
Maintaining a healthy weight
Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for several types of cancer. Studies have shown that overweight and obese people are more likely to develop cancer than people with a healthy body weight. This is because they have more fat tissue that can produce hormones, such as insulin like growth factors or estrogen, which may cause cancer cells to grow. Obesity is also linked to poorer cancer outcomes, including increased risk of recurrence and of both cancer-specific and overall mortality. It therefore makes sense that losing weight can help in keeping the cancer at bay.
The best way to lose weight is to eat healthily, eat smaller amounts and become more active. You can find out whether your weight is within the healthy range by working out your body mass index or BMI.
Reduce your use of cell phone and other wireless technologies
Cell phones and other wireless technologies emit radio frequency energy which is a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation. This radiation can be absorbed by tissues closest to where the phone is held such as the head and the neck.
Is radiofrequency electromagnetic field harmful?
Based on the classification by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), radio frequency fields such as those produced by cell phones are classified as “possibly *carcinogenic” to humans (Group 2B – which is the same category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform) *Carcinogenic – cancer causing agent.
More information is becoming available now highlighting the dangers of radiofrequency exposure for example the study conducted in Sweden which shows that people who used cell phones and cordless phones for more than a year were at a 70% greater risk of brain cancer compared to those who used cell phones and cordless phones for a year or less. Those who used cell phones and cordless phones for more than 25 years were found to have a 300% greater risk of brain cancer than those who used cell phones and cordless phones for a year or less. Brain cancer risk was also found to be greater in the part of the brain where the exposure to cell phone and cordless phone radiation was highest, on the side of the head where people predominantly used their phones3.
Things that you can do to minimize the risk:
The amount of electromagnetic radiation a cell phone user is exposed to depend on the technology of the phone, the distance between the phone’s receptor and the user, the extent and type of use, and the distance from the transmitting towers.
Thus it is wise to:
Ö limit mobile calls to those that are absolutely necessary
Ö keep the cell phones away from the body eg. do not put it in your trousers pocket or shirt pocket
Ö use the speaker or hands-free option where possible
Ö alternate the usage from one side of the head to the other when phoning
Ö avoiding using a cell phone when the reception is poor – such as in elevators, buildings, mountainous and rural areas.
Ö use a corded land line whenever possible
Ö remove mobile phones (and other electrical devices such as TV and computer) from the bedroom
Ö turn off your wireless modem at night or when not in use.