As October comes to a close, the enormous amount of publicity given to Breast Cancer Month wanes a bit. I’m a strong proponent of education, and of preventive health care. But unfortunately, for many women, the fear of breast cancer has now reached epidemic proportions. Fear is a stressor that, left unchecked, can actually contribute to cancer. Stress heightens endocrine and nervous system activity, contributing to allostatic overload and exceeding our ability to adapt, restore energy, and maintain health and balance. This interferes with our body’s natural cancer-protective abilities. It’s important to realize that much of the fear propagated by the media is fueled by misinformation and misunderstanding. For example, studies show that most women believe that their risk of breast cancer is far greater than it really is.
“Feel better! Have more energy! Live longer!” Sounds like a late night infomercial, or the claims made for patent medicines in the late 1800’s, doesn’t it?
But in truth, there is a class of herbs that will increase your energy, help to prevent disease, and even likely extend your lifespan. These herbs are called “adaptogens”, and I recommend them to everyone for increasing vitality and well-being.
Adaptogens got their name from their unique ability to buffer the effects of stress—they actually help the body adapt more readily to the demands of life. Everyone experiences stress, whether it’s everyday worries about work, money, and relationships; the physical demands of athletic competition; or the emotional and physical stressors of chronic illness.
If you believe the findings of a recent highly publicized research report, you may be wondering if you should throw your fish oil supplements into the garbage. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (September 2012), researchers who evaluated data from 20 previous studies maintain that neither fish oil supplements nor a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids effectively reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
In my estimation, this is a seriously flawed evaluation of research. I’ve collected an enormous amount of data that strongly suggest multiple benefits from the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, including protection from cardiovascular disease, cancer, neurological disease, and autoimmune disease, as well as for bone, skin, and lung health.
If you’ve ever walked into a room and couldn’t remember why you were there; misplaced your keys (or even your car in a parking lot); or forgotten the name of an acquaintance, you might have momentarily wondered if you were losing your mind. If you’re over the age of 50, you might even be seriously concerned about the possibility of Alzheimer’s.
It’s a valid concern. According to the 2008 Alzheimer’s Association figures, more than five million Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, approximately 500,000 Americans under the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
Although a decline in memory and brain function is generally regarded as an inevitable part of growing older, in reality, brain aging is caused by poor cerebral circulation, mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation, oxidative damage, and decreased levels of anabolic-repair hormones, including DHEA and testosterone. All of these factors contribute to changes in the brain that lead to neuronal degeneration and cognitive impairment.
Over the past few years, soy seems to have gone from the best food one can eat to the worst. According to soy opponents, tofu causes everything from birth defects to pancreatic cancer. It’s no wonder that people are concerned and confused.
In my opinion, there is a great deal of fear-mongering as well as inaccurate (and one-sided) interpretation of studies. Hundreds of reports in leading peer-reviewed journals worldwide provide compelling research that soy helps to protect against cancer, most notably breast cancer. For example, researchers at Japan’s National Cancer Center followed the eating habits of more than 20,000 women for a decade, and found that those who consumed at least three bowls of miso soup daily reduced their risk of breast cancer by about 40 percent. Miso (a concentrated fermented soybean paste) and all soy foods (as well as many other legumes) are rich in isoflavones, natural compounds that appear to impede the growth of some tumors.