Monthly Archives: May 2012

Lifestyle and Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer is a common disease, affecting approximately 1 in 8 women over a lifetime. Men are also affected, at a rate of approximately 1 in 100. All women should have an awareness of the changes that occur in their breasts, and should undergo routine evaluation and imaging (such as mammogram, ultrasound, or MRI if appropriate) at recommended intervals. Men should perform periodic breast self examinations and men and women should report any changes to their physician.

As a breast surgeon, I focus not only on the treatment of disease, but on prevention as well.  While having a family history of breast cancer increases your risk, all women are at risk. With the exception of women who test positive for a BRCA gene mutation, it is not currently possible to say exactly why breast cancer developed. However, we are becoming more aware of the effects of lifestyle and environmental influences on the development of cancer as well as other diseases. A healthy lifestyle does not equal prevention in all cases, but here are some facts regarding breast cancer:

– Postmenopausal women who are overweight have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, and if they’ve been treated for breast cancer, their risk of recurrence is increased if they are overweight
– Moderate exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer development as well as the risk of recurrent disease
– A high fat diet has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer
– More than 3-6 alcoholic drinks per week (in women) is associated with an increasing risk of breast cancer

– Exposure to some environmental toxins, such as BPA, has been linked to breast cancer development in laboratory animals. The link between breast cancer and various chemicals is the subject of intense research and there are many conflicting studies. Until we have firm data however, it does seem prudent to limit your exposure to toxic chemicals whenever possible.

Remember that it is possible to do everything “right” and still develop breast cancer. The reality is that breast cancer and many other diseases are caused and exacerbated by multiple factors – this is why studies evaluating methods of prevention are so difficult. And it’s also why the studies that pop up every so often regarding the benefits of a particular nutrient or extract need to be placed in proper perspective – it’s usually not as simple as one nutrient or extract.

My recommendation for all of my patients, not just those with breast cancer, is to simply take good care of yourself. As we age (and we’re all getting older!), our bodies become less tolerant of the effects of lack of sleep, heavy alcohol intake, and the dietary habits that we had when we were in our  teens and 20’s. Our bodies have changed, and we have to change our habits if we want to try to stay healthy. Here are some recommendations:

– Low fat (not no fat!!) diet – focus on the healthy fats such as olive oil, salmon, walnuts, and avocado
– Plant-based diet – focus on lots of greens and veggies of all colors, as well as fruits. You may feel it’s easier to take your fruits and veggies in pill form, but while you may be getting some of the vitamins and extracts, the way the real foods interact is very complex (cancer development is a similarly complex process) and cannot be replicated in a pill. Trace nutrients that we may not even know about will also be missing, as well as fiber, not to mention the wonderful taste of properly prepared, fresh, real food! A periodic splurge is also fine – life is too short to go without chocolate -just make it is good quality, dark if possible. With the exception of low-fat, there is no one particular diet felt to reduce the risk of cancer development.
– Animal protein is ok, just consider the source and eat in moderation
– Don’t forget non-animal sources of protein such as legumes and quinoa
– Moderation in alcohol intake – 3-6 drinks per week (and no, you can’t save up your week’s “allowance” for Friday night…)
– Moderate exercise – it’s ok if you can’t do you spinning class like you did 10 years ago – a good 20-30 minute walk once a day is fine. If you need that endorphin rush of strenuous activity, make sure to balance it with some more meditative exercise such as yoga or pilates
– Proper sleep – we all need 7-9 hours a night, period. Our bodies repair themselves during sleep, and you can’t just “catch up” on the weekends. Those that catch me on-line after 10pm pacific time – feel free to call me out on this one!
– Meditation / Reflection – it is so very important to take some time each day to reflect on what is good in your life – having a sense of appreciation and gratitude for the good things will help make it easier to get through the tough times. This can be as formal or informal as you want, it’s just important to fit this in somewhere.

This is meant to provide you with some thoughts and a framework for getting started, and I welcome comments and suggestions from others on these points. Just remember that you’re not doing this specifically for breast cancer prevention – these are steps to make you a healthier and happier person.

By, Deanna J Attai

Overview of Menopause and Hormone Replacement

Menopause is often thought of as an abnormal state. In the past this “disease” was treated with hormone replacement therapy to keep you as normal as possible. But consider a woman’s life cycle. For the first decade or so, you produce very little hormones. Then puberty comes and brings fertility and the possibility of pregnancy. Then menopause comes and you return again to a state without hormones.
The production of estrogen and progesterone at very high levels are linked to this special period of child-bearing years, while the majority of your life you have relatively low levels of these hormones. Instead of trying to maintain the “normal” state of fertility, late into life, perhaps the focus should be upon easing the transition back to a natural, non-fertile state.
The common symptoms of menopause are clearly linked to the changes in estrogen and progesterone, but there are a series of reactions that occur throughout the body during these years. Control of hormone release is linked to the Hypothalamus section of the brain and the pituitary gland which releases hormones to stimulate the release of an egg from the ovary. This release, called ovulation, leads to the rise of progesterone in addition to the estrogen that is already being generated in the ovary.
During menopause, release of eggs stops. The hormones produced in the pituitary rise dramatically in response. And the production of progesterone and estrogen begin to fluctuate and eventually fall off. Even though the ovaries stop producing high levels of estrogen, this hormone is still produced by fat tissue in the body. Likewise, progesterone is produced from the adrenal glands, but in a smaller amount than during the fertile period of life.
Many physicians feel that there are several mechanisms at play during the transition of menopause that may be linked to symptoms.
1. Fluctuation of hormones from the pituitary gland (Follicle Stimulating Hormone – FSH, and Luteinizing Hormone – LH)
2. Rapid changes in estrogen and progesterone levels
3. Unbalanced relative amounts of estrogen and progesterone (typically lower amounts of progesterone)
The main symptoms associated with menopause include:

• Hot flashes
• Memory Loss
• Insomnia
• Sweats
• Vaginal Dryness
• Changes in sex drive
• Irregular menstrual periods
• Heavy bleeding
• Concentration problems
• Hair loss
• Weight gain
• Mood changes

While replacing estrogen and progesterone in levels that approximate those that occur during the fertile period of life, there are some risks involved. The Women’s Health Initiative study from 2002 looked at over 16,000 post-menopausal women for more than 5 years. This large study showed clear evidence linking hormone replacement therapy was linked to more breast cancers and more severe types of cancer in the women who took both estrogen in the form of Premarin and a form of progesterone called Medroxyprogesterone. A similar study with more than 1 million women in Great Britain confirmed these findings and created even more concern. These reports led to a dramatic change in the use of hormone replacement therapy from being generally recommended to now being rarely used in most countries.
Interestingly, further analysis of these studies showed that there may be some differences between those women who took both progesterone and estrogen compared to those women who took only estrogen. Typically, estrogen only use would only occur in women who have had a hysterectomy because of the risk to develop a cancer of the inside of the uterus with estrogen only treatment. The researches doing this analysis suggested that women who were taking only estrogen might actually be a lower risk for breast cancer. If you are considering hormone replacement therapy, you should consult your health care provider.
Bio-identical hormones are sometimes recommended. Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2), and Estriol (E3) are the three different types of estrogen that occur in the body. During your life these hormones are found in different amounts. During fertile years E2 predominates, while in menopause E1 which is produced in your “belly” fat is the major estrogen being made. E1 has been associated with a higher risk of certain types of estrogen sensitive breast cancers. Older research has shown that E3 may be associated with some protective effect against breast cancer.
Additional considerations for hormone replacement therapy include both the positive benefits and other negative risks associated with treatment. Known risks of treatment include higher frequency of blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. On the benefit side, this treatment may lower your risk for osteoporosis, and perhaps dementia.
The final story on hormone replacement therapy has not been written. At the present time, the practice of using hormones in post-menopausal women is discouraged as a general rule. The newer research on estrogen only treatment will likely change some of the thinking on this subject. And additional research on bio-identical hormone replacement may change things yet again.
The best advice given the contradictory information currently available is to have a frank discussion with your health care provider. Your treatment should be individualized based upon your risks and the potential benefits of any treatment. While studies can show trends and potential relationships, the exact mechanisms and outcomes will be different from person to person. Your health care provider can use the general guidance from research combined with direct knowledge of your particular case to help “dial in” the best treatment advice for you.


By, Todd A. Hoover

What to eat? Nutrient Dense Food

As an Iridologist I spend a lot of time focusing on people’s eyes. By looking into people’s iris I am able to identify people’s genetic predispositions. Iridology categorizes each iris into different constitutions like Lymphatic, Uric Acid or Biliary Constitution just to name a few. Once I identify certain constitutions for an individual, I can point out what area needs more nutritional nourishment so disease can be prevented.

Most of the times my clients seem very excited to receive information like this, but at the same time they can get quite overwhelmed and confused about what to eat and what not to eat.

Out of necessity LVIT was born.

Livit stands for live-it. I use the term LIVIT instead of DIET. Livit is very easy to follow, just focus on a high nutrient dense diet. No more counting points, no more weighing your food, no more calculating the right ratio between protein and carbohydrates. Just simply eat high nutritional food. Did I mention no more counting of calories!

We have been focusing for too many years on protein, carbohydrates and fat. Don’t get me wrong this is important too, but in the meantime we have forgotten to keep the main focus on eating foods that we were meant to eat.

Look at the animals in a zoo. Every zookeeper will tell you with pride that they feed the animals the exact foods that they would eat in their habitat. Do you think our bodies can digest rice crispy cakes, chicken wings with barbecue sauce, chunky monkey ice cream, pina colada chewing gum and four cheese pizza?

I am absolutely sure that our bodies have not adapted yet to the new chemical enhanced cuisine. Just look at the statistics, chronic disease is at its highest. Scientists tell us that the new generation won’t out live the older generation. If this would happen to the animals in the zoo, I am absolutely sure the zookeeper would immediately start changing the animal’s diet.
Remember Albert Einstein’s quote about INSANITY: “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results!”

Bring back your vegetables, whole grains and fruits onto your plate. We are meant to eat what Earth provides us for millions of years. We have taken the wrong turn on the road of nutrition, time to make a U-turn. Our ancestors have been eating like this for decades why on earth have we decided to outsmart nature and create our food in a science lab?

Here are the DOs and DON’Ts of Livit

• 80% of your food intake should be vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds and nuts
• If you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat!
• Eat according to the season
• Eat on a table, not in your car, on your office desk or standing at your kitchen counter.
• Avoid drinking during a meal, only before or after a meal.
• Don’t eat alone, seek out company.
• Laugh out loud and/or smile before, during or after a meal.

If you are interested to learn more about LIVIT, Iridology, herbs read my articles on

Your Iridologist- Birgit Lueders

Homeopathy, treating the whole person

Many patients are stuck between two worlds: one is they have a conventional doctor, but they’re not fully satisfied. It doesn’t seem like they’re addressing the whole body or their whole nature. So they’re looking for something else.

At the core conventional medicine is built on a reductionistic model. There’s a problem with this part and we need to fix that part all the way down to the genetics. There a problem with the genetics so we need to fix the genetics. Is there a problem with the breasts, we need to fix the breasts. And holistic medicine are coming into us and really saying, “We have a system issue here and how do we best manage the system in balance such that your health is better?” These two worlds rarely cross over. So the patient who’s looking for a little of something from both is stuck a bit.

So they’ll ask their conventional doctor, “Who could I see as an acupuncturist.” And the doctor will say, “Well I don’t really know much about the acupuncture stuff because there’s no real studies for it,” and it’s not that the doctor has researched acupuncture in depth and looked to see if there was studies. More or less has a feeling that it doesn’t have a robustness of conventional medicine and maybe they’re looked at a few reviews and said, “There’s not enough evidence for me to actually refer somebody for this.” However on an individual, by individual basis, acupuncture might be the perfect thing for that patient. But the patient doesn’t know, is acupuncture the right thing for me? Is homeopathy the right thing for me? Is herbal medicine?

I think is very much prudent for holistic, good holistic practitioners to refer to conventional therapy and I think both models are actually valid. But they need to be used in a complimentary fashion, which is very complex and is difficult to comprehend by individuals who are trained one way or the other way. So I think the best physicians really look at, “Where are we at now, and if I was able to look into the future what’s likely to develop for this individual?” Taking that into account, and homeopathy I think does that beautifully, it’s really built to do that. We can then predict, is this person likely to develop cancer or not? If so, what steps can we take now that have been shown either through randomized controlled trials or just by a strong body of historical evidence to make a difference for that individual?

How can we optimize health?


By, Todd A. Hoover

What we can and cannot control

So it’s important to realize there are things that we can control and there are things that we can’t. We can’t always say that we can prevent disease but we can at least help to reduce the risk of disease, whether that be cancer or other diseases.

There are a few specific factors that we know that will increase a woman’s risk of developing a breast cancer: a high fat diet and a sedentary lifestyle. And those factors also increase the risk of recurrence in a woman that’s been treated for breast cancer. I am definitely a believer in a good balanced diet, high in fruits and vegetables, all different colors on your plate, just like your mom told you. Minimal saturated fats, I personally am a minimal to no processed foods. Again, we don’t have any evidence that this is going to reduce the risk of cancer or other disease but to me it’s just a healthier way to live. I tend to stay out of things that came in boxes, bags or cans. I don’t necessarily recommend that for my patients but it’s something that we do talk about.

The environmental angle is a really interesting one because we are really learning a lot more about the role of chemicals and toxin exposures. Again, not only with breast cancer but in disease… There are several chemicals that have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, studies ongoing. Again, this is one of the reasons that I tend to recommend trying minimizing toxins from your life. And I look at toxins in a global sense, not just the plastic that you microwave your food in but your whole environment, your whole mental outlook, the people you surround yourself by and trying to create a more calming, peaceful, nurturing environment in every aspect of your life.

Personally I think that’s where we need to be looking is not just diet, not just exercise, not just proper sleep, but looking at everything in your life and where can you make little tweaks and little changes to reduce the toxicity?


By, Deanna J Attai

Mind-Body Connection

I attended a seminar today, given by Dr. Lee Bowers PhD, on the mind-body connection. I thought “I’ve read so many things about this already, I wonder if I’ll learn anything new” but went with an open mind, hoping that I would glean some piece of useful information. I came away with so much!

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “it’s all in your head”. Maybe you’ve wondered that yourself, or worse still, had it said to you about a problem you’re experiencing. So is it all in your head? Or maybe it’s all in your body. It could be that it’s both! Perhaps we can’t separate the two because they are intimately connected.

In her book “The Molecules of Emotion” Candace Pert talks about how our thoughts affect us on a cellular level. Everything we think affects our body. Positive thoughts can strengthen us and negative thoughts can weaken us. Think about how you feel when you’re with a happy, positive person (uplifted) or with a person who complains all the time (drained). It has been shown that neuropeptides (small protein-like molecules made by nerves in the body) communicate our thoughts to our cells. If we can keep ourselves surrounded by positive thoughts and energies, we will be healthier.

So how can this knowledge help us? Have you heard stories of how the power of positive thinking can heal problems in our body? Dr. Bowers shared many stories of how her patients had improved/healed their physical problems through positive visualizations for just one minute a day. One of her patients was suffering from pain from an ovarian cyst and was scheduled for surgery to have it removed. Dr. Bowers suggested that her patient practice the following visualization daily – 30 seconds first thing in the morning & 30 seconds before sleeping. Her patient imagined the cyst being packed in ice and first shrinking to the size of a raisin then disappearing to less than a speck of dust. The patient practiced this and reported that initially her pain subsided, then on follow up appointments, her cyst was shown to be completely gone!

Dr. Bowers also shared how firewalkers are able to walk on burning coals and not be burnt or feel pain. Aside from going into a deep trance, they tell themselves they are walking on Styrofoam peanuts. This is the message that the neuropeptides transmit to their cells, so they are able to walk on the hot coals with no ill-effects.

Of course, I’m not suggesting you try this at home, but if there is a physical problem you are dealing with, how about trying one minute of positive visualization everyday? Think of a picture where the problem is dissolving away. Involve all your 5 senses and really try and feel it. Only focus on the positive, not the negative and don’t use any negative words. For example, don’t think “ my pain is no longer here” but instead, “I am completely at ease, comfortable, and moving around easily.”

Let me know how things work out for you. I know I am going to try it for my aches and pains … after all, there’s nothing to lose.


By, Pallavi Kapoor