21 Aug Reviewing lifestyle choices to prevent disease
After watching the documentary, “The C Word”, on Netflix a couple of weeks ago it prompted a blog post! The documentary specifically looks at cancer and discusses the possibility of a new way to look at the disease beyond medication. As opposed to purely relying on mediation to cure cancer, are there lifestyle changes we could be making on a daily basis that could help prevent cancer in the first place? There are so many important messages in this documentary that I felt inspired to get nerdy and research deeper into the link between lifestyle and disease and whether the application of the principles in this documentary could be applied to other diseases.
Before we jump into the juicy stuff, I wanted to categorically state that this is not some hippy dippy article promoting the idea of turning your back on medicine in favour of some “out there” approaches to treating disease. The objective of this article is to raise curiosity in your own minds and encourage you to become more educated on your own bodies and the way you live your lives. The idea is to consider complimentary ways to slow and prevent disease, alongside conventional medicine. So…read on with an open and curious mind my friends…
Treating disease: Medication v Lifestyle Changes
Ok…medicine…amazing right? The brain power that has been thrown into scientific research has resulted in medical breakthroughs beyond our wildest dreams. The interesting question lies here; “Aside from the life changing drugs we are prescribed, are there other ways to prevent some of the diseases we face in our lifetime from ever rearing their ugly heads in the first place?”
The consideration is prevention versus cure. Quite often drugs can be prescribed as a band aid solution to a much more deep rooted problem. Take raised blood pressure for example. High blood pressure can lead to excess strain on the heart which can result in a heart attack or stroke. We are prescribed medication to lower this blood pressure. However, the raised blood pressure is the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong and we need to take action – we may be overweight, we may have a thyroid issue or we may be living in a state of chronic stress? The danger is, that by removing the symptoms, we remove the signals that something is fundamentally wrong with the way our bodies are operating. We should be using these signals to pay attention to our bodies. For example our blood pressure is high because we are overweight and therefore we need to look at our diet, our alcohol intake or our exercise levels to address this or our bodies will just find some other way to flag that there is a problem. Make sense?
We need to stop always looking for a quick fix – the operation to fix your back, the drugs to lower your blood pressure, the products to treat your acne – and think why the issue may be there in the first place and how we can make a change for the long term.
This article by M.D. David Katz for the Huffington post explores the issue from the perspective of a doctor.
A new way of looking at disease
In “The C Word” documentary there was a really interesting section presenting the case that we all have cancer cells lying dormant within us. Some of us are more genetically disposed than others to kill them off so they never appear as a life threatening disease but what needs to be further understood and communicated by the medical profession is the control we have over whether these cells continue to lie dormant or not. The terrain in which they exist, i.e. the environment within our bodies, plays a huge part in what happens to these cancer cells and we are responsible for looking after this environment and therefore influencing whether these cancer cells thrive and result in disease or their growth is inhibited.
So we need to look at ways to create the most optimal environment to fight off disease and to keep the growth of these cancer cells at bay! Our Western diet of processed food, high stress and limited movement create great conditions for these cancer cells and other diseases to thrive. So where can we start making changes?
Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes
TLC – it is a thing! There is so much information out there in terms of which super foods you should be eating and which type of meditation you should be practising and all of the weird and wacky ways we can life a healthier life. In terms of preventing disease though, I wanted to discuss the main two factors in my eyes through which we can influence disease prevention…nutrition and stress management. A poor diet and the presence of the stress hormone cortisol create conditions within our bodies for disease to thrive! So below I have outlined my top 5 rules for each category to help you create conditions to keep those pesky little diseases at bay
Anti-disease nutrition management rules:
1. Eat good fats with your carbs to balance your blood sugar levels. Good fats in avocado, oily fish, nuts and seeds prevent your blood sugar levels fluctuating throughout the day which feeds inflammation and cancer growth.
2. Mix and match your veggies. Combining different vegetable combinations into your diet is an effective way to get all the nutrients you need to create that optimal environment in your cells to fight off disease.
3. Eat organic where possible. Pesticides contain toxins that are known to encourage the spreading of disease. I know it is more expensive so just do what you can! Remember however, that it is better to eat a carrot exposed to pesticide that not to eat a carrot at all!
4. Keep it spicy…and herby. Herbs and spices are not just a great way to add flavour to your food but they have anti-inflammatory properties. Added insight: Turmeric is the wonder spice so get involved with the yellow stuff every day if you possibly can!
5. Reduce your refined sugar intake. This seems like an easy one and one that you should know but beware of hidden sugar in foods that you may not realise sugar is present in. Read your labels as sugar is known to feed cancer cells.
Anti-disease stress management rules:
1. Breathe. Sounds simple but taking 10 deep breaths when you are feeling flustered is know to activate the parasympathetic nervous system which reverses the flow of cortisol into your blood stream.
2. Journal. Journalling is a way of getting everything out of your head and onto paper and stopping the constant whir of activity that is diverting your attention and stressing you out.
3. Incorporate technology boundaries. No phones in the bedroom, designated times to check social media, no phones at the dinner table….whatever might work for you, make time to unplug from your devices. This will give your brain a rest from the constant information overload and will allow your body to restore itself.
4. Connect with friends. A problem shared is a problem halved and all that!!! Seriously though, talking things through with your friends really aids the problem solving process and stops you from replaying your problems over and over in your head on a continuous loop.
5. Develop a gratitude practice. Thinking about the things you are grateful for and appreciate in your life as it is right now is a really simple way to placate the feelings of stress and overwhelm. It can be as simple as the fresh air you are breathing. How on earth can you feel stressed when you are alive and thankful for the oxygen keeping you this way?!
So, if I could give you one little take out from this article, it would be to get curious and to take control of your own body. The symptoms you are experiencing are your body’s way of telling you that something is not quite right so start noticing. And then, as opposed to heading straight to the doctor for your medicine and drugs, start to explore some of the possible causes of these symptoms. If you can implement lifestyle changes that stop your symptoms and address the root cause of your ailment, HAPPY DAYS! And if not, you will at least be going to your doctor with a lot more knowledge about your own body and the ability to challenge and discuss some alternative solutions to your problem. Be your own body’s detective!