CHOCOLATE MEDITATION

Surely one of the best things about modern science is the discovery that chocolate can actually be good medicine!  Chocolate As Preventive Medicine?  Cocoa contains phytonutrients (plant chemicals) called flavanols that may help protect you against coronary heart disease (heart attacks). Compared to milk chocolate, dark chocolate contains two to three times the amount of these beneficial plant chemicals. A possible mechanism by which flavanols protect the heart may be enhancing the production of.....

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YOGA + KIDS = FUN

Yoga can be fun and healthy for you and your kids – physically, mentally and emotionally.What is yoga?   The word “yoga” means to yoke, unite, connect or join together. Yoga helps connect the body, mind, heart and emotions. It can also help connect you to other people, animals, trees and all of nature. We tend to think of physical movements and body postures when we think of yoga. Yoga looks like exercise, but its intent is very different. Physical hatha yoga is traditionally performed as a means of quieting the mind....

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MANAGING WEIGHT WITH MINDFULNESS

Where is your attention when you eat?  Do you love the pleasure of eating so much that you overeat from sheer enjoyment rather than from physiologic hunger cues? Do you overeat as a self-soothing antidote for emotional stress, anxiety or depression?  Or do you consider eating a necessary but boring interruption in your busy day at home and work and overeat while reading, watching TV, driving or talking?  If any of these eating patterns describes you, the power of your attention is being used unskillfully.

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LIFESTYLE MEDICINE FOR CANCER SURVIVORS

A cancer survivor is anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer, from the time of diagnosis through the rest of his or her life. Modern medical, radiation and surgical treatments have led to a growing population of cancer survivors, who now number over 12 million, or one in 25 Americans.


Lifestyle choices such as health-supportive nutrition, maintaining a healthy weight, participating in regular physical activity, practicing stress management, seeking group support and practicing spirituality are important components to consider in a cancer survivor’s recovery and prevention plan. Such lifestyle choices may help prevent recurrent cancer and the development of new cancers. They also may help prevent and treat many other common medical conditions.


Major cancer advocacy groups provide guidelines for lifestyle behaviors based on solid medical research evidence. These guidelines are the place to start in developing your own plan for living well as a cancer survivor. They help cut through the hype and promotion for unproven cancer therapies.


The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends cancer survivors experiencing nutrition-related issues consult a registered dietitian (RD) for personal, individualized nutrition counseling. Special nutritional

needs may arise during cancer treatment and recovery that are best handled by an RD with additional training as a certified specialist in oncology (CSO). Your treating oncologist or your primary care provider can make this dietary referral.


The ACS offers general guidelines about nutrition for cancer survivors, including achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. An RD can assist you in determining a reasonable tar-get weight in conjunction with your oncologist or primary care provider. The ACS suggests choosing whole grains rather than refined and processed grains (whole wheat instead of white flour, whole old-fashioned oats instead of quick oats, brown rice rather than white rice); eating 2 cups of vegetables and 1½ cups of fruit daily; limiting or avoiding the consumption of processed meat and red meat; and avoiding alcohol or limiting consumption to no more than one drink daily for women and two drinks daily for men. Women at high risk for breast cancer are advised to consider avoiding alcohol completely.


Research has not demonstrated any conclusive benefits from dietary supplementation with the antioxidant vitamins C and E, carotenoids or other phytochemicals. In fact, some harm has even been found in using them. The

ACS recommends cancer survivors not use such supplements. Smokers in particular are warned to avoid high-dose beta-carotene supplementation, which was associated in two studies with an increase in lung cancer in smokers. The ACS and several nutrition organizations suggest if supplemental vitamins and minerals are taken at all, they should be limited to a balanced multivitamin/mineral providing no more than 100 percent of the daily value for most nutrients. Many groups recommend such a multivitamin/mineral supplement be taken only every other day to avoid causing unintended harm.


The ACS also recommends resuming or beginning regular physical activity as soon as possible after the cancer diagnosis, aiming for 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity (ballroom or line dancing, leisurely bicycling, general yard work and gardening, doubles tennis, brisk walking, water aerobics, ice or roller skating, horseback riding, canoeing, yoga, downhill skiing, golf, volleyball, softball, baseball, badminton, mowing the lawn, walking and lifting as part of your job) or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (aerobic dance, biking faster than 10 miles an hour, heavy gardening, hiking uphill, jumping rope, speed walking, jogging, fast swimming, singles tennis, circuit weight training, cross country skiing, soccer, racquetball, basketball, heavy manual labor at work). Strength training is recommended at least two days a week.


A National Cancer Institute fact sheet explains that while the exact mechanism is unknown, psychological stress can affect tumor growth and spread. For some people, there seems to be a relationship between attitudes, emotions, the immune system and cancer. Psychological factors, especially feelings of helplessness and hopelessness or suppressing emotions, seem to impact the growth or spread of cancer in some survivors. It seems prudent, therefore, to recommend stress management as part of your lifestyle treatment plan. Even if there is no connection between a given individual’s cancer and stress, the many positive side benefits of stress management can improve overall mental and physical health.


Religiosity and spirituality are receiving long-overdue attention from medical researchers. Most studies examining this issue have found greater religiosity and spirituality are associated with lower risk of onset of cancer, lower rate of progression of cancer over time and improved long- term survival compared with people for whom religiosity and spirituality are less important parts of their lives. Many cancer centers are now integrating conventional biomedical cancer treatment, nutrition and physical activity education and comprehensive lifestyle programs personally tailored to individual needs. Such programs include support groups, spiritual assessments and support, coping skills and stress management using mind-body skills (including relaxation, imagery, meditation, mindfulness, yoga, tai chi, humor/laughter therapy, journaling and artistic expression).


These comprehensive lifestyle programs will likely become a universal standard as we continually improve the art and science of caring for cancer survivors.


Sources and Resources:


•  American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention

•  Cancer Treatment Centers of America

•  National Cancer Institute Psychological Stress and Cancer: Questions and Answers

•  National Institute of Mental Health. Fact Sheet on Stress

DR. JOHN PATTERSON

Dr. John Patterson is past president of the Kentucky Academy of Family Physicians and is board certified in family medicine and integrative holistic medicine. He is on the family practice faculty at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the University of Louisville School of Medicine, Saybrook University’s School of Mind Body Medicine (San Francisco) and the Center for Mind Body Medicine (Washington, D.C.). He operates the Mind Body Studio in Lexington, where he offers integrative medicine consultations

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