Monday, 28 October 2013

The Dairy Connection

Dairy is a no-no for those of us with cancer, particularly hormone driven cancers like ovarian and breast. Why? All milk contains the hormone IGF-1, an insulin-like growth factor needed to promote the rapid growth of infants (be they human or animal). Guess what? This hormone also promotes the growth of tumours. Non-organic dairy is also laden with toxins; pesticides, hormones and antibiotics fed to cows as damage limitation for poor farming methods. All of these chemicals are passed on to the consumer.

Dairy is mucous forming; it slows the lymph, the very system which needs to be free and fast flowing in order to efficiently remove toxins from our cells. It also creates inflammation and acidity, the pre-cursers of disease. To balance this, our bones will leach calcium to alkalinise the blood. Yep, dairy can contribute to osteoporosis! And after the age of 7, most of us can no longer digest lactose, the sugar present in dairy, because we have evolved to be weaned by then. Persistent dairy ingestion therefore puts enormous pressure on the digestive system. 

'The China Study' by Colin Campbell is a fantastic book, which talks in detail about the link between animal derived protein, particularly dairy, and cancer growth. Jane Plant also talks about this in her book 'Your Life in Your Hands'. She made the connection between the low incidence of breast cancer in China (1 in 10,000) and low dairy consumption. Scientific research showed that when Chinese or Japanese women move to the West, within one or two generations their rates of breast cancer approach those of their host community (closer to 1 in 10).

The idea of giving up dairy can seem challenging, particularly as we have been programmed to believe that it's our ideal source of calcium. The truth is that there are other, great sources. Kale, broccoli, almonds and black strap molasses all contain high levels of absorbable calcium. 

There are delicious, health-GIVING dairy alternatives out there. At the moment I'm making fresh coconut yoghurt and kefir, which are a great way to repopulate gut flora. Coconut oil tastes great as a butter replacement when cooking and baking (although after a year of being a vegan, I now eat a little unsalted, organic butter). Nut and coconut milk is full of protein and calcium and is so easy to make. Simply soak nuts (almonds are great) overnight (coconut flakes can be soaked in warm water for just 20 minutes), whizz in a high speed blender with fresh water and strain through a nut milk bag or muslin. Cheeses are harder to replace, but cashew cheese is delicious. To make, soak cashews overnight, empty a probiotic capsule and whizz up in a blender. Leave in a warm, dark place for 12 or so hours. You can flavour with herbs, or pepper. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013


Stress is a killer. These are not empty words. Chronic stress, over time is catastrophic for the body.

I'm in the process of buying a house. It's been one of the most stressful things I've ever done, and I'm feeling it. Stress is incredibly acidifying. It doesn't matter how many green juices I drink, or how well I eat, when I'm stressed I can't get alkaline. Stress has a physical effect on the body, causing the adrenal glands to pump out adrenaline and corticosteroids. The knock-on effect of these powerful hormones is an increased heart rate, a less effective immune system and dehydration at a cellular level.

Whereas in nature the stress response is a powerful life saver, for most of us it's become a fabricated reaction to a too-fast pace of life. When our bodies perceive danger, we're flooded with adrenalin, the Fight-or-Flight hormone, which gives us superhuman (yes, really) power, to flee the scene, or fight our attacker (historically this was presumably a wolf, not an estate agent!) Corticosteroids are also produced, and work FOR us by temporarily increasing energy production. However, they suppress the body's immune and inflammatory (short term healing) response. They also work in opposition to DHEA, an androgen produced by the adrenals which protects bone density, regulates sleep patterns, and maintains cardiovascular health by controlling bad cholesterol levels. In this modern world, many of us are in a permanent state of stress: when we're late, when we have an altercation with our boss, or when we miss a deadline. None of these situations is life threatening, but the resulting stress certainly is.

Of course this constant, excessive hormone production is harsh on the adrenal glands. Over time they become depleted and the body becomes unable to produce enough DHEA (the very hormone which balances the effects of steroids and adrenalin in the body). The result is lowered immune function, fatigue, sweet cravings, reliance on caffeine, low libido and disrupted sleep.

Although stress is real to our cells and organs, the truth is that most of it is created in our heads. And so we have power OVER it. These are my top stress busting tips. I'm writing them down in the hope that I will remember to use them more often!!!

BREATHE. Deeply and from the stomach. Ten deep, committed breaths will slow your heart rate, sending the signal to your body that you are safe.

Find a time and a place to meditate. This doesn't have to be a daily, dedicated, hour long practice. Even five minutes of mind-silence will take you to a place of calm. Longer periods spent in contemplation can give you precious insights into the world. What often comes up for me is that 'it doesn't matter' or 'it's OK'. I see my problems in a better perspective. I become aware of my organs, my heartbeat, my breath, and I see how hard my brain is making my body work.

Get out and MOVE. Exercise, in whatever form, releases happy hormones, which are the perfect counter to adrenaline. Being outdoors, being in nature, and breathing fresh air away from electro-magnetic stressors is both invigorating and grounding.

Sleep. Getting enough sleep is vital for repairing burnt out adrenals and allowing the body to heal. Ideally get 8 hours of good quality sleep (ie going to bed before 10pm in a darkened room free from mobile phones, computers and television screens).

Love your kidneys: The adrenal glands sit directly above the kidneys and they're closely linked organs. Lemon and warm water is a great tonic for the kidneys - it's calming and cleansing, and perfect upon waking. Drink plenty of water throughout the day (up to 2 litres is ideal), and limit caffeine and alcohol consumption, which makes work for the kidneys.