February 4, 2016 is World Cancer Day. In this era of increased diagnosis of cancer, we need to pause and reflect on what this means about our world. We live in a toxic world that affects our very DNA, mutating the cells until they grow into diseased organisms that often strip our health, reduce our quality of life and and bring sorrow and sadness for millions. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can embark on a new age of health and wellness if we just embrace a more natural way of life.
Many people think they are doomed to a certain disease, even cancer, if they have the genetic traits. But science has proven that only about 5% of human disease is a result of genetic destiny. That means on average, over 95% is NOT genetically determined. We are not doomed to any condition because we have a gene for a specific disease. We must activate that gene in order for it to become a disease.
Exposures to toxins, inadequate nutrition – especially eating refined sugars and poor lifestyle choices can activate these genes that cause disease. Toxins come in many forms – pathogenic, chemical and environmental. A toxin is any substance that causes harm to the body. An accumulation of toxins is called toxic load. It’s this toxic load that places a burden on the body organs and immune system.
Toxins come from many sources. In fact, the world around us is saturated with toxins, many of which we are not even aware of. Pathogens, chemicals and environment are three of the most common categories of toxins.
- Pathogens are microbial agents (such as bacteria, fungi or viruses) that invade the body and cause infection or disease.
- Chemicals are any natural or synthetic substances that cause harm to the body. Common examples of chemicals are ingredients in processed foods such as artificial sweeteners and flavor enhancers, automobile exhaust, cigarette smoke, solvents, plastics, pesticides, xenoestrogens* and harsh cleaning products.
*Xenoestrogens are endocrine disruptors that alter the normal function of hormones.
- Environmental sources include radiation which refers to high-energy particles that can cause harm to cellular structures and DNA. The most common source of radiation is sunlight.
Your diet, toxic exposure and hormones alter your genes. In order to stave off cancer and have a more vibrant life you must address all three factors.
You can do this by making simple lifestyle changes.
- Reduce your toxic load – eat foods that nourish your body in the way it was meant to be. Eat foods high in antioxidants to battle the free radicals in your body. Instead of reaching for the chocolate chip cookie, substitute a handful of dark colored grapes or blueberries. Go organic and stop eating genetically modified food.
- Reduce exposure to environmental contaminants – stop using chemical pesticides in your garden, remove harmful cleaners from your cabinet, don’t buy clothes with flame retardants and stop using fabric sheets in the dryer.
- Eat a nutrient-dense diet is the best preventative measure. Add more dark green leafy vegetables to your diet. Don’t just eat them in a salad, add them to a morning protein shake, put them in casseroles and other dishes where they can blend in with the sauce or flavorings of the dish and no one else in the family will be the wiser! Add superfoods and healthy fats to your diet.
- Reduce stress – easy to say but there are ways that you can moderate stress without too much effort. Take a five minute breathing break. Where someone else might go out for a smoke break, stop and take the time to inhale deeply for a count of five, hold the breath in for a count of five and then release it slowly for a count of five. Do this while inflating your abdomen. Breathe from your diaphragm to get the most benefit. If you find it hard to keep your shoulders from going up when you breathe, lie down on the floor and place one hand on your stomach to feel the sensation of your abdomen rising and falling. You can’t be stressed when you are breathing deeply!
- Avoid smoky areas – see step 4. Don’t be one of those people going on the smoke break! This also means avoid smoky and charred foods.
While I honor all those living with cancer in any form, I implore you to consider natural solutions for your health. There are many functional practitioners who are able to successfully treat cancer in a holistic way that can help restore your health. Seek out a functional medicine practitioner to help you through this journey. Above all, keep your genetic mutations dormant by improving your nutrition, your habits and how you live. Remember, genes are just the gun; epigenetics (everything outside of the genes) are the trigger!