Monday, 11 February 2013

Balance

Last week I met a friend for lunch. She has also had breast cancer, yet she surprised me by telling me that she never thinks about it. It made me realise that I keep cancer close, albeit in a mindful way. 

Finding the balance on this journey has proved challenging. My daily routine subtly reinforces the fact that I'm in the process of healing. Coffee enemas, juicing and taking supplements all tip their hat to cancer. In my home there are many nods to health: the water filter in the kitchen, the geopathic stress buster in the dining room, the FIR sauna in the bedroom. These are all health-promoting gadgets, but still they are winking at cancer. Meditating, yoga, blogging, all of these activities remind me that where I was once ill, I am now on a path to health. While none of this is negative, the danger is that if I take away cancer there's nothing left. Being The Cancer Woman is not a title I desire! 

I'm genuinely not afraid of cancer. It's my companion, my teacher, my guide. And so while I will embrace the time when I no longer think about it, I'm cautious of leaving it behind, because it still fulfils a purpose: gently reminding me to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to keep growing. In the meantime, maybe it's time to pick up some of the things I dropped on the day of diagnosis.



Monday, 4 February 2013

Sleep

In the period leading up to cancer, I was incredibly sleep deprived. When I say 'the period' I'm talking about 6 years of broken sleep. My husband and I had struggled to conceive our sons and I was a fearful parent, overprotective and running to every nocturnal cry. Consequently I created bad habits and our children were exceptionally rubbish sleepers. I was tired to the point of hallucinating. I felt sick on waking, which I averaged 3 times a night for many years. I was constantly unwell, but I soldiered on with the help of a well-stocked medicine cabinet. I set myself up as indispensable in the care of my babies, and in doing so created the perfect environment for disease. Only when diagnosed with cancer did I magically find the time to look after myself, to listen to my body, to understand it's calls for rest and self-love.

Sleep is more important than I ever understood, despite my body screaming for it. We are regulated by a circadian rhythm - the body clock. The need to respect this is far greater than our desire to reclaim some adult time in the evenings. Our pineal gland waits for darkness before it starts to produce melatonin. This hormone is responsible for the winding down of daytime oestrogen production amongst other important jobs. When we stay awake beyond natural daylight hours the artificial light created by television or computer screens sends our pineal gland the message that it's still daytime. Even sleeping with a nightlight will disrupt our production of melatonin. This can eventually lead to an unnatural hormone imbalance. Oestrogen dominance is a strong pre-curser to certain cancers like prostate and breast. It has been proved that night shift workers are more prone to breast cancer (and conversely that blind women are less so). This is thought to be due to an excess of oestrogen and a lack of progesterone: a hormone imbalance linked to the suppression of melatonin production. Melatonin also directly affects the immune system in ways not entirely understood. Taking supplements is not the solution, as it stops our innate production of this hormone.

Sleep also has a direct impact on the liver, which has hundreds of jobs to do at night, jobs which cannot commence until we are asleep. It's important to try to maintain regular bed and waking times to allow the body to follow it's natural circadian rhythm. 





Traditional Chinese Medicine links periods of the day and night to specific organs. If you wake regularly at a certain time, this chart may help you to see which organ is compromised. For a long time I would wake just before 3am. Unsurprisingly this time correlates to the liver.

Ideally we should go to sleep at 10pm and wake at 7am. This gives us an optimum 9 hours of health-giving sleep, and means that we are up and ready to clear our bowels of accumulated night-time waste at the point of 'activation' (around 8.30am). Waking later often leads to the re-assimilation of some of these toxins.

Thankfully my children are now fantastic sleepers, and I make uninterrupted sleep a priority in my journey back to health.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Juicing

Juicing is probably the best thing I do for myself each day. What if I told you that when it comes to fruit and vegetables, five a day is not nearly enough, particularly if you're recovering from disease. Juicing is the best way to incorporate more fresh, raw produce into your day than you could ever manage to eat, and it's a fast way to alkalise and repair the body. Just one 8oz glass of vegetable juice delivers a densely packed nutrient hit. The gut can assimilate these live enzymes, minerals and vitamins incredibly quickly (within half an hour) as it doesn't have to process any fibre. For this reason it's important to rely mainly on green vegetables to avoid overdosing on sugar. Even root vegetables like carrots and beetroots have a high sugar content. At the Hippocrates health Institute, recovering cancer patients are banned from drinking carrot juice for this reason.

Other cancer protocols (like The Gerson Therapy) recommend 13 fresh juices a day, taken hourly to give the body the constant stream of enzymes that it needs to heal. These take the form of carrot, carrot and apple, green, and one fresh orange juice a day.


We should each aim for at least one 8oz green juice a day. Because of the volume of produce being eaten, it's imperative that it's organic. My favourite recipe is kale/chard, green pepper, broccoli, cucumber, celery and apple, but you can include anything green and in season. 



So what's in a juice? One of the key ingredients is potassium, necessary for the function of every living cell. Green juices are also loaded with magnesium, needed by muscle tissue, and used to aid the absorption of calcium. Carrot juice is full of beta-carotene, a cartenoid which is converted into vitamin A in the body. This nutrient is vital for growth and development. The brassica family (particularly broccoli and kale) contains the powerful phytochemical Sulphoraphane, which has been proved to help regulate hormones, and inhibit the growth of cancer tumours. Watercress contains calcium and iron. Chlorophyll in green leafy vegetables is a great blood cleanser and booster, and increases magnesium levels in the body. Wheatgrass is particularly high in chlorophyll, but the potent flavour can take a little getting used to. Maybe surprisingly, green juice also contains protein. 

There are many different juicers on the market. The perceived best is the Norwalk, (which uses a two step, grind and press process), but at £1500 this is a big investment. The second best option is a twin gear juicer, like my trusty Greenstar. It's best to avoid centrifugal juicers if you are recovering from disease, as most of the precious enzymes and nutrients are lost in the spinning process.

Initially, green juices can be challenging for the body, sometimes sparking an uncomfortable healing crisis. A healthy approach would be to begin slowly with carrot and apple, gently introducing green vegetable juices over time, starting with cucumber and celery bases. Be aware that the vital enzymes will start to break down and oxidise within 15 minutes of preparation, so it's always best to make your juice fresh. Ideally, it should be drunk on an empty stomach, or at least an hour after meals. Also, avoid combining fruits and vegetables, with the exception of apples, as they require different digestive processes.

Something else to consider is the green smoothie. Rather than juicing, this drink is made in a blender. It's a great way of getting fibre into your diet because it uses the whole fruit/ vegetable. It's filling enough to serve as breakfast, or an afternoon snack. I start with an almond milk base, add a banana, blueberries, a little raw honey and spinach. You can add super-foods like chlorella, bee pollen or chia for an extra boost.

I'm so used to my daily green hit that I start to feel a bit toxic and twitchy if I miss one. Juicing will give you noticeably increased energy and focus. Working up to 32oz a day will bring an unbelievable sense of clarity. Once you start, it becomes a difficult habit to break!