If you Googled “most important vegetables to eat”, you would find leafy greens at the top of every list. And there are some pretty good reasons for that.

They are one of the richest sources of nutrition and are the number one food you can eat regularly to help improve your health and boost weight loss.  This is because leafy vegetables are full of fiber along with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that help protect you from heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Many of these vegetables even help slow down the aging process.

What are leafy greens?

Some of the most common include kale, collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens, arugula, Romaine, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, dandelion, broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, cabbage, watercress and broccoli rabe.

If you notice, most of them are in the cruciferous family of vegetables that offer the most bang for your plant-based buck.

Cooking Greens

Although it can be a little intimidating to prepare greens if you’re coming home from the grocery store with a bunch of Bok Choy for the first time, don’t let that stop you! Once you learn a few simple preparation tips, you’ll soon be cooking up a “leafy-green” storm.

You have some preparation options by trying a variety of methods like steaming, boiling, sauteing in oil, water sauteing, preparing a pressed salad and waterless cooking.

Steaming creates gray, bitter greens (concentrates bitterness) – so strong tasting greens (turnip & mustard greens, kale, broccoli rabe, collards) are better boiled or blanched. Boiling a large amount of water takes time. And if you ever wondered if you lost lots of nutrients in the water cooking this way, you’d be right! So it’s best to boil or shallow blanch in a small amount of water. Use approx. 2 cups water for up to 1 lb. greens. Boil water, add chopped greens, cover and cook until tender. It can take from 3 – 10 minutes depending on the type of green.

You also want to cook at high temp to preserve nutrients, color and taste.

If your greens turn out too bitter using two cups water, try more water next time. You can control the bitterness of the greens this way. Then drain the greens and sauté if desired. or use in recipes. Make sure to drink any remaining cooking water – called “pot likker”. It contains many of the minerals and vitamins lost in the water.

Milder greens (spinach, chard, beet greens) can also be cooked this way, but because they are mild tasting and cook quickly anyway, they can be steamed or wilted in a skillet.

Boiling makes greens plump and relaxed. Steaming makes greens more fibrous and tight, which is great for people who are trying to lose weight.

Once cooked:

  • Drizzle greens with some vinegar and tamari
  • Sprinkle with lemon or orange juice
  • Toss with some toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds for an Asian flair
  • Sauté’ some red onions, add a little brown rice syrup and grated lemon zest
  • Sauté’ with garlic and olive oil and add some sun-dried tomatoes
  • Toss with your favorite healthy dressing
  • Add them to soups, serve over grains

Some greens can be eaten raw in salads: arugula, watercress, romaine, chicory, spinach, escarole, etc.

You can also prepare a Pressed salad - a wilted vegetable dish that gives the freshness of a raw salad but is processed with salt or vinegar to break down the tough outer cellulose layer which can make raw vegetables difficult to digest. Use ½ tsp sea salt or umeboshi vinegar per cup of salad. Rub the salted greens with your hands until liquid starts to be released. Then either set aside for 20 minutes or place a plate with a weight on top. Pour off the fluid that accumulates. Pressing eliminates a lot of the liquid in the raw veggies which can make us feel cold in winter. The secret is to slice the veggies very thin.

Try Chinese (Napa) cabbage, kale. Also add daikon radish, cucumber, carrots, celery.

When most people hear “leafy-green vegetables”, they probably think of iceberg lettuce. But the ordinary, pale lettuce in restaurant salads doesn’t have the power-packed goodness of some other greens. Get into the habit of adding these leafy green vegetables to your diet as much as possible.

Try it out for a month and see how you feel.

By: Christine Scalfo, Food for Living

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Many of the newer chemotherapy drugs used to treat cancer are called targeted therapies. Lapatinib, for example, is used for the treatment of many breast cancers.

These therapies target the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) protein, which act on certain parts of cancer cells to block the growth and spread of cancer. They work by affecting the processes that make normal cells become cancer cells and cause tumors to grow.

Although effective in the treatment of many cancers, EGFR inhibitors often result in adverse reactions in the skin, which occur in at least half of treated patients. They can leave patients overwhelmed with one more medical issue to contend with.

The dilemma is that normal skin cells also have a lot of EGFR. So drugs that target or block EGFR often affect these cells by turning off the signal for them to grow and making it harder for them to retain moisture.

The skin side affects include dry, dull, lifeless skin, many conditions related to aging. You may think the best approach to address these skin conditions would be the conventional anti-aging skin care products and treatments that are currently on the market. This may include exfoliation, skin peels, as well as moisturizers that have ingredients that increase cell turnover. However, it is important to consider how these skin care products affect skin function and whether they are appropriate for individuals undergoing cancer treatment, especially (EGFR), Epidermal Growth Factor inhibitors.

There are many conventional skin care products that oncology patients should discontinue using and even avoid completely. For instance, there is an increase use of EGFR in anti-aging creams, which are delivered to the skin through a technology called nanotechnology. Nanotechnology uses nucleic acid nanoparticles to penetrate the skin’s surface faster and deliver gene regulation technology directly to cells. These nanostructures are designed to stimulate epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), a biomarker associated with wrinkles in aging skin.

In fact, manmade proteins, peptides and enzymes extracted from human stem cells are used to stimulate your own skin cells by sending messages telling them to produce skin cells. This is not only inimical to what the medical industry is trying to accomplish in retarding cancer growth, but has other hazardous implications to one’s over all health.

Due to their ultramicroscopic size, these nanoparticles readily penetrate the skin, especially when it is inflamed and raw, thus invading underlying blood vessels and getting into the general blood stream, producing systemic toxic effects. As medical EGFR inhibitors are designed to retard the growth of cancer cells, anti-aging creams are formulated to stimulate cell growth and thus could stimulate cells affected by cancer.

Many of the anti-aging products can also contain other toxic ingredients, such as allergens, toxic hormonal ingredients, and known carcinogens such as, Ethylene oxide,Dioxane, Nitrosamines, Formaldehyde, and Acrylamide.

Other skin symptoms may occur due to targeted therapies and they include scaly, flaky skin. When skin demonstrates flakiness we tend to think our skin needs exfoliating products and/or skin resurfacing procedures. However, in this case the stratified cells that loosely organize on the surface of the skin, as an attempt by the organ to protect and defend itself. Disturbing this natural defense formation would only make skin more vulnerable and susceptible to further complications.

There are several ways to reduce side affects and to support the skin if symptoms do occur. Start with simpler skin care routines and invest in cleansers that heal, not products that peel. Stay away from cleanser with moisture-stripping alcohols and sudsy sulfates, and instead use cleansers based with seed oils and pure botanical ingredient. Oils in cleansers won’t clog pores, but will lift dirt off the skin and help build up the lipid barrier, which contain the skin’s natural moisturizers.

Skins natural defense functions best when there is improved suppleness and enhanced moisture levels. This can be achieved with serums based with oils of Acai and Broccoli. These pure botanical oils are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and hydrate skin by reducing epidermal moisture loss. They also prompt skin cells to produce natural occurring glutathione, which reduces oxidative stress.

Caring for the skin during medical oncology therapies is about achieving balance. We can achieve healing to our skin and our bodies by supporting its inherent healing capabilities. Skin care products used for these sensitive conditions should soothe the impact that disease has on the skin and the body, not overburden the body with toxicity and harmful ingredients. The ultimate goal is to provide a holistic approach for an optimal healing environment that enhances the body and skin health, thus supporting overall wellbeing and comfort.

By Anne Willis

Anne C. Willis, LE, CME, is the founder of De La Terre Skincare® and one of the industry’s most outstanding innovators in the world of holistic skin care. Ms. Willis lectures nationally regarding collaborative care for medical institutions and skin reactions incurred by patients receiving combined chemotherapy. Ms. Willis has been published in multiple international holistic and beauty publications. She is the director of Oncology Skin Therapeutics™ and is certified by the NCCAOM, bringing over 30 years of experience and knowledge to a new generation of skin therapist.

Posted in Complementary Cancer Care, Daily Matters, Oncology Esthetics | Tagged | Leave a comment

It’s trite to say that a cancer diagnosis forever changes your life. A cancer diagnosis affects and shifts and disrupts life in so many different ways I could write a novel on that alone. Some changes are obvious and immediately clear (Yeah, I’m missing a body part and I’m bald. Boo), some may not manifest for a long time (Wait, what do you mean the chemo might have damaged my heart?), and some can take years to come to grips with (Yep. Working on this. Daily).  One of the worst things about a cancer diagnosis is the immediate loss of control.   You don’t have a choice. When the Cancer Train screeches to a halt to pick you up, you get on. When the white-coated conductor with a stethoscope and syringe escorts you to your very personal seat, you sit down.  Even in remission, the Cancer Train chugs along, its cars filled with doctor appointments and tests and the never-evaporated fear.

The worst train stop is Cancer Town.  Here you live while undergoing treatment. Doctors, nurses, hospitals, specialists, surgeries, radiation, chemo… these are some of the day-to-day denizens and aspects of life in Cancer Town. The changing reflection in your mirror is your security badge for this gated community.  Maybe you derive comfort in Cancer Town, maybe you rabidly hate it, or most likely, you feel a mixture of both. But you don’t have a choice about living there.   Mercifully, many people only lease in Cancer Town.  Once active treatment concludes, they can pack up their belongings and catch the Cancer Train to the next stop, and hope for a more “normal” life.

If you’re fortunate enough to be in remission, your choices expand and you do have the choice about visiting, about remaining really attached, to Cancer Town.  Connections come in many forms: physical support groups, online groups and chat rooms, continued closeness with your treatment facility or relationships with women you were lucky to bond with at the chemo lounge. You can also continue to keep current vis-à-vis medical information, maybe even attend cancer conferences, lectures, and webinars.

Staying connected has enormous benefits.  I was incredibly alone through all my active treatment.  My initial surgeries were in upstate NY where I didn’t have a team of doctors or a young support group to draw forth strength and comfort.  (Even the nursing social worker I was “assigned to” forgot about me. She called me after I moved back to Philadelphia to apologize that I dropped off her radar.)  My chemo was in Philly, but I didn’t meet anyone in the chemo lounge; indeed, I was always the youngest person there, which further depressed me.  About a year after diagnosis, I attended a cancer conference and was delighted to hook up with a group of young survivors.

What a relief!  A whole group of young women who knew exactly what I had gone through and what I was still going through. Fantastic!  Attending meetings could be a double-edged sword; sometimes I left feeling worse and even more anxious, sometimes I left feeling better.  The anxiety-provoking moments happened when women shared experiences that I could have (Oh my God, I didn’t even know that could happen!!), tests that I wasn’t having (Why am I not having those scans??), treatment options that I didn’t choose (Did I make the wrong choice??), and side effects that I didn’t suffer (Does that mean the meds aren’t working????)  It was enough to make my head explode!

But overall, those meetings were invaluable, and now that I live in NYC, I really miss those amazing women!  Although I may not “know” many of them outside of the support group, our shared experiences during treatment and perhaps more important, now, as we continue to deal with cancer fall out,  mean so much.  The simplest sentiment is clichéd but true:  “They just get it.”

I’m also connected with a large group of young BC survivors via a FB group.  It’s a great forum. Women at all stages in their treatment and their lives throw out questions, offer advice, share resources, and give unconditional support. The word awesome pretty much covers it. I will probably never physically meet most of these women, but the existence of this group is like my very own fuzzy security blanket.

But as anyone who is out of treatment knows, keeping close ties to Cancer Town come with a price.    Women you know (personally or just online) face further hardships and crises. Cancer comes back. Medical emergencies happen. And women die.  Choosing to remain in Cancer Town can amplify personal fears and concerns that otherwise might fade without the constant reminders.

I only attended my support group for a little less than a year, but by the time the full-year mark hit, two of the women I had peripherally met at group meetings or activities had died, one at 26 and the other at 40.  Seeing that kind of information pop up in my Facebook feed was a gut punch even if I barely knew them.  My initial reaction was sadness and rage at the really shitty hand these women were dealt. My second wave of feeling occurred almost simultaneously: those women could be me. I could be them.

The online forum runs the same risks.  Shared community and knowledge is beneficial, but the cancer fears can remain fresh and omnipresent. I know when women have recurrences or their cancer has metastasized, or when someone dies.  A strong and accepting mind is required to not feel anxious or frankly, freak out. I’m not great at it.   My stomach flip flops every time someone posts a new, horrifying medical diagnosis.  I’m upset for the person, but it’s no surprise that I feel anxious and project onto myself.

But I choose to be there, in Cancer Town. I choose to be connected.  I choose to write a blog once a month, to share, to talk about the cancer experience. Some people justifiably don’t want, or can’t, stay connected.  This cocoon of self-preservation holds strong appeal.  My anxious, overactive mind is my greatest enemy. I fully understand and respect wanting to cut the ties to Cancer Town.

Because it’s damn scary. To hear that someone’s cancer has come back scares the Crap out of me.  It’s not just an emotional fear; it can also be a physical one (Panic attacks suck).  Maybe it would be easier for me to shut it out and join what I consider the media’s pink wagon of happy survivors who scarcely mention those of us who do not thrive or survive.  But I feel strongly that women who are suffering with progressive disease need to be recognized and supported and valued even though thinking about Mets might bring me some distress, discomfort, or okay, scare the living daylights out of me. (To even give voice to these trivial effects on me is embarrassing.) Attention must be paid to these women. Their struggles must be recognized.  Our sisters with progressive disease no longer have a choice…. they have permanent housing in Cancer Town.

So I choose to keep an apartment in Cancer Town. A rental only, if you please.  For me, the benefits of community and sisterhood and support outweigh the fears and anxiety.

 

Jennifer Jaye is an editor, writer, actress, yogini, former karate instructor, and in her newest role, a cancer survivor. She lives, works, and plays in New York City as she attempts to navigate life as a young survivor of breast cancer.  

Posted in Spiritual Care, Survivor Story | Tagged | Leave a comment

Homeopathy is a powerful system of healing with the potential to enhance recovery. This system of medicine prompts the body to correct itself, treating the whole person rather than just the symptom. In the context of cancer care, homeopathy can relieve side effects of chemotherapy and radiation and then optimize longevity. Dr. Jen Green ND generously shares her homeopathic expertise in this audio.

By Dr. Jen Green
Published with the permission of Five To Thrive Live

Posted in Audio, Cancer Education, Complementary Cancer Care, Homeopathy, Integrative Medicine, Multimedia, Oncology Esthetics | Leave a comment

Keith I. Block, M.D., has a passion for helping people with cancer. It began more than 30 years ago, when he was a teen and witnessed his grandmother’s struggle with the disease. An avid high school athlete, he saw his grandmother confined to a hospital bed, getting no physical activity, fighting a recurrence of advanced breast cancer.

“I watched her body wither and waste away,” he says. “Nothing was done to stop her physical decline—not nutritionally, not physically, not, really, medically. She eventually died as much from a wasting process as from the disease itself. Some might say that’s the same thing, I would argue it is not. Had my grandmother been provided the tools to fight this wasting syndrome, we may have been able to reverse or stabilize her condition and seen a very different outcome. The core of my message is that cancer patients’ survival is as much about integra- tive and nutritional interventions—even in advanced cancer—as it is about the disease itself.”

This more comprehensive approach to cancer treatment, backed by research and clinical experience, is at the heart of Block’s medical practice. He is cofounder and Medical/Scientific Director of the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment in Evanston, Ill. While the Block Center is a treatment clinic, it also participates in cancer research through the University of Illinois, and with other university facilities in the United States and Israel.

Dr. Block serves on the National Cancer Institute’s Editorial Board for PDQ Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Cancer Treatment (CAM) in Washington, D.C., and on three faculties at the University of Illinois at Chicago: He is Director of Integrative Medical Education and a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Education at the College of Medicine; Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pharmacognosy in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry; and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pharmacognosy in the College of Pharmacy. In addition, Dr. Block is editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal, Integrative Cancer Therapies, published by SAGE Science Press and indexed in MEDLINE and Index Medicus.

Breakthroughs In Health’s

Sherry Baker spoke recently with Dr. Block about how he helps cancer patients using integrative medicine—combining the best of complementary therapies (systems, practices, and products not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine) with innovative approaches to conven- tional cancer care, providing an individualized program of nutrition, exercise, stress reduction and more.

BIH: Could you comment on the problem of cachexia, the physical wasting away due to cancer, and how proper nutrition can help patients combat this life-threatening problem?

Block: Between 20 and 40 percent of cancer patients actually die from the complications of malnutrition, not from the disease itself. In addition, 80 percent of cancer patients suffer from some form of clinical malnutrition. Yet nutrition is considered a ‘stepdaughter’ to medicine, when it clearly should be a profoundly important component of treatment. I do not believe diet and nutrition alone are the answer to cancer cachexia, but I do believe it is an essential tool that, if disregarded, leaves patients with less opportunity for acquiring a survivor’s edge. In addition, there is no doubt that malnutrition contributes to a patient’s inability to tolerate treatment.

The typical Western diet is filled with saturated fats, omega-6 fatty acids, trans-fatty acids, highly refined sugar and carbohydrates, all of which fuel inflammation, the driving force behind cancer cachexia. Many major institutions talk about preventing cancer with healthy diets consisting of whole grains, fewer animal foods, more vegetables and fruits and fewer processed foods. But the day a person is diagnosed with cancer, they’re often told to eat what amounts to a pro-inflammatory diet (contributing to the cachexia) that might include favorites such as milk shakes, cheeseburgers and sugary desserts. This is the equivalent of pouring gas on a fire.

Block: We launched the clinic in l980, and in those early years we focused on lifestyle interventions. I was working on understanding the foundation of optimal health, looking at how one lives and takes care of themselves, and the impact that has on fighting disease. And I was doing extensive research on the complementary tools of nutrition and fitness and mind-spirit interventions.

By the l990s, I was earnestly pursuing an under- standing of what it takes to create and maintain biological integrity. This continues to be a focal point of our research today. We individualize patient care by doing a thorough biochemical assessment of each patient, a ‘molecular fingerprint’ that allows us to customize a treatment plan. Since each patient’s biology is dynamic and continually changing, treatment options are con- tinuously reviewed and altered based on each patient’s most current diagnostic information.

By the late-l990s, I was focusing on the use of natural therapies and methods for improving treatment response and reducing treatment-related toxicity. As an example, I became enthusiastic about chronotherapy (timing chemotherapy to the body’s own internal clock), a revo- lutionary way to administer chemotherapy that improves survival and reduces toxicity. By 2000, the Block Center had formalized a “Cancer Rehab” program

BIH: Could you comment on the importance of a person’s biochemical environment on the prevention, control and treatment of cancer?

Block: If someone has a cancer growing and proliferating, the biochemical environment is directly responsible for what is going on with that disease. Factors in a patient’s individual biochemistry largely determine whether that disease will become aggressive or not. In other words, there are various imbalances in our biochemistry that can be strongly influenced by our lifestyle and nutrition choices, and these same imbalances dictate the behavior of the disease. For example, when people eat excessive amounts of omega-6 fats, their disease is far more likely to spread, or metastasize. Part of our research focus has been to measure different aspects of this biochemical environment in order to tailor treatments to a patient’s specific needs and maximize the effectiveness of the treatments.

BIH: If people could be tested for these biomarkers, if we could see if we needed adjustments to our biochemical environment, would it be a way to keep people healthier? Would it be an important prevention tool?

Block: Absolutely. But some of that already exists, and we implement these tests in our strategic clinical programs with patients, as I just mentioned.

BIH: Chronotherapy is also something not often found in the United States. How did you become interested in it?

Block: Through my reading and with the help of my research staff, I learned of an innovative way to mitigate the toxicity of cancer treatments. This was in addition to what I was effectively implementing with nutrition, fitness and mind-body techniques. I started studying the importance of biorhythms in terms of sleep, rest and activity cycles, and how they affect quality of life. That eventually led me to chronomodulated chemotherapy, or more simply, chronotherapy. The research supporting its use is quite impressive. We use a portable pump that I brought to this country from Europe (it is FDA-approved) that allows patients to receive their chemotherapy when it will be most effective but least toxic. The device times the infusion based on several factors, including the biological uniqueness of the drug being given and the time when the specific type of cancer cells divide. Patients receiving such chemotherapy experience reduced side effects, such as nausea, vomiting and fatigue, increas- ing the likelihood that the patient will complete their therapy. In addition, chronotherapy has been shown to take patients who were previously inoperable and reduce their tumor size enough to make surgery possible. All of this is remarkable when you consider the fact that one-third of all chemotherapy patients receiving conventional chemotherapy abandon their treatments pre- maturely due to the side effects. Currently, there are 40 large centers in Europe that give chemotherapy that is chronomodulated, but it is rare in the United States.

BIH: How do you define cancer rehabilitation?

Block: Because of the stress and physical consequences of the disease, it is very common for cancer patients to have multiple physical and psychological challenges, from profound fatigue, muscle wasting, and weight fluctuations to depression, anxiety and the inability to carry out normal daily activities. There’s no surgeon on the planet who wouldn’t rather have a patient who is more nutritionally, physically and emotionally fit. So why would that be any different from a cancer doctor getting ready to treat a patient?

We intervene with different groups. We implement a rehab program that prepares patients for surgery, and chemo and radiation therapy. Some patients have gone through therapy and cannot tolerate any additional treatments, so we will work with them to help restore their biological integrity, enabling them to complete their therapy.

We also work with patients who are sent home, and deemed “in remission.” Despite the positive implications of that phrase, the patient still feels terrible, and may have chronic fatigue and other physical and emotional challenges. These people need to go through an individualized rebuilding and recovery process, too.

There is another group of patients who have advanced disease and for whom additional treatment might not be appropriate. Our goal, with the implementation of a cancer rehab program for these patients, is to restore them to the highest level of functioning possible, with an improved quality of life. Several studies indicate that in this process we will also stretch survival. By stretching survival, and improving a patient’s condition, we may buy them enough time for new and more effective thera- pies -even experimental therapies—to become available, enabling them to further extend their survival.

“Between 20 and 40 percent of cancer patients die form the complications of malnutrition, not the the disease itself”

I think many times doctors give up on these patients too early. There is always something that can be done to improve survivorship.

BIH: Thank you Dr. Block for taking the time to speak with us about your important work. BIH

Sherry Baker’s feature stories, interviews, columns and investigative reports have appeared in a wide vari- ety of publications including Newsweek, Health, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Omni, Yoga Journal, Arthritis Today, MAMM, Optometry Magazine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine Focus on Healthy Aging and many others.

By Keith Block

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