Oct 22 2014

Boosting the Immune System to Fight Cancer

While preparing an upcoming product I will be releasing, I have been diving in for a deep review of the immune system. I have been reading about the inflammatory response and how our immune system uses this as a way to heal and repair damaged tissue.

Unfortunately, I got a first-hand review of this when my daughter fell off the monkey bars and broke her arm. The five pillars of inflammation were all present: redness, heat, swelling, loss of function and pain.

I managed to keep myself calm as I drove to the hospital emergency department. Thankfully, my partner was with us so she could sit in the back and take care of the patient, while I navigated the streets to the ER. The patient is now on the road to recovery.

The doctors at the children’s hospital are all too familiar with money bar mishaps and were able to get a good alignment of the fractured bone without surgery.

Broken Bone Pictorial

My daughter missed school and as it turns out, her assignment was to prepare a pictorial of a story with one sentence each. Here are her four drawings to give you a visual of the adventure.

I have often spoken about a “cancer fighting diet” and “fighting cancer cells”, but recently, I started to approach cancer from a different perspective. This new perspective is that of “boosting the immune system”. The immune system, after all, is the body’s built-in army for fighting invaders. Most of us think of the immune system when it comes to bacteria, viruses and infections but it is also fights against cancer cells.

While chemotherapy, radiation and surgery are the tools of the oncologist, the immune system is our built-in healing tool. There is a part of the immune system called cell-mediated immunity. This consists of cells that recognize abnormal cells and attack them. They don’t need to know the foreign cells by a previous infection or immunization.

This is the part of the immune system we can use against cancer. It begs the question, is there anything we can do to support this part of our immune system? Turns out there are many tools at our disposal. An obvious one is what we eat, but there are several lifestyle factors that can be used too. I can’t wait to share with you more about what I have learned about nutrition and lifestyle tips to boost your own immune system. The best way to stay up to date is to join my community. I’ll keep you posted on when I will be ready to share all this great information. CLICK HERE to join my community!

Oct 12 2014

Avocado on Rosemary Crackers with Fresh Peas

Untitled design (47)

My daughter created this appetizer. We love the combination of smashed avocado on Rosemary Triscuits. She added the fresh peas in a moment of creative inspiration!

Ingredients:

  • Crackers
  • Avocado
  • Fresh Peas
Triscuits Small

We like to use Rosemary Triscuit crackers for this recipe.

Method:

Scoop out fresh avocado. Place about 1 TBSP on a cracker and press down with a fork. Top with 3 fresh peas.

Voilà.

What’s your favourite kid-inspired recipe?

Oct 07 2014

BRCA1 and BRCA2 Gene Mutations

Breast cancer caused by the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations are rare and account for only 5-7% of breast cancers.

Discussing genetic testing with your doctor should be considered if your family has:

  • Cancer in multiple generations
  • A cancer which has developed at a younger than normal age
  • Rare and unusual cancers
  • A woman in the family who has had both breast and ovarian cancer
  • A male with breast cancer

Testing is usually done on the family member who has cancer. If a specific genetic defect is found, then other family members can test for that specific defect rather than the entire investigative panel. However, a negative test is not always the end of the story. There may be gene mutations responsible for cancer that have not yet been identified or tested.DNA

It’s important to keep in mind that these gene mutations can occur in any race, but do appear more often in Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry (Eastern European). It’s also important to remember that you inherit genes from your mother and father. So, the history of breast cancer in the relatives on your father’s side of the family is equally important.

A woman without the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations has a 12-13% chance of developing breast cancer in her lifetime, as opposed to a woman with the gene mutations who has a 60-80% chance. In addition, if she has already had breast cancer there is a 50% chance of getting breast cancer again.

There is also increased risk of ovarian cancer. A woman without the gene mutation has a 1-2% chance of developing ovarian cancer, but a woman with the BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation has a 30-45% chance of developing ovarian cancer.

BRCA1 versus BRCA2

With BRCA2, you see:

  • More male breast cancer
  • Less ovarian cancer than BRCA1 mutation
  • More prostate, pancreatic and melanoma than BRCA1 mutation

It’s not only people who have the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations that can be proactive when it comes to prevention. Everyone can do this by following these 3 key measures:

  1. Achieving a healthy body weight
  2. Regular physical activity
  3. Healthy eating

In fact, 1/3 of common cancers can be prevented by these three measures.

The American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that lifestyle choices are a far more significant predictor of cancer risk. This can sometimes be difficult to sort out as some families can see a higher prevalence of cancer – but families also share lifestyles, such as eating and exercise habits, as well as genes.

To find out more about dietary changes you can make to help reduce your risk of cancer, stay in touch by joining my community where you will receive my newsletter, tips, updates and advanced notice of upcoming webinars and programs.  Click Here to Join

Sep 28 2014

Apple Puff Pancake

Fall time brings back many great memories for me. I grew up in a family business. My father was the owner of Country Market, a fruit store just south of Lindsay, in central Ontario, well known for its fresh local produce. I worked there growing up and one of my jobs was to work in the canopy area just in front of the store. There we sold baskets of whatever produce was in season. During the fall, we sold gourds, corn, squash, pumpkins and of course apples—so many apples. My father always amazed me that he could just look at a single apple and tell you what kind it was and what it was best for – whether it be applesauce, pie or a good eating apple.

With this in mind, I want to share a recipe with you from my book, The Essential Cancer Treatment Nutrition Guide and Cookbook, for Apple Puff Pancake.

Apple Puff Pancake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 eggs (omega-3)
  • 2 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 TBSP butter or non-hydrogenated margarine, divided
  • 3 apples, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
  • 2 TBSP packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Method

  1. In a blender or food processor, blend flour, milk, eggs, granulated sugar and salt to make a smooth batter. Let stand while cooking apples.
  2. In a large nonstick skillet, melt 2 TBSP butter over medium heat. Add apple slices, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until apples are softened.
  3. Add 1 TBSP butter to each baking pan and place in preheated oven until melted. Swirl to coat bottom and sides. Pour batter into pans, dividing evenly, and top each with an even layer of warm apple mixture.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until puffed and golden.

Important!

Apples that are good for baking include Cortlands, Empire, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp and Ida Red.

What’s your favourite baking apple?

Sep 21 2014

GMO or GM-No?

Popcorn bag labels

What is GM?

Genetic modification (GM) is a process in which a gene from one species (plant, animal, insect, mold, etc.) is inserted into the genetic code of another species (I’ll focus on plants for our purposes). The resulting product is a unique product, for example, GM corn. Since GM products are unique, they can then be patented by their developers.

Is this the same as plant breeding?

No, traditional plant breeding techniques used by agronomists and farmers are the more traditional and slower method. Plant breeding produces a plant with a certain trait but does so by cross-pollinating different varieties of the same plant. Charlie Johnston, an Amaryllis farmer will show you how this is done. Watch his YouTube video here.

Purple, orange and green cauliflowers are good examples of traditional plant breeding.

Why breed plants?

Some, like Charlie Johnston, breed plants to experiment and see what new plants can be created. Others are more strategic and want to develop a new plant with certain traits. For example, you could take 2 plants with favorable traits, one that is drought resistance and other disease resistant, and cross-pollinate them with the hope that the offspring has both drought and disease resistance.

Why use Genetic Modification (GM) then, if plant breeding is available?

Genetic modification is faster and can produce new offspring that wouldn’t otherwise exist. Genetic modification doesn’t just cross two varieties of the same plant; it instead introduces genetic material from a completely unrelated organism.

What crops are approved for GM in Canada?

Some varieties of:

  • Alfalfa
  • Corn
  • Canola
  • Cotton
  • Flax
  • Papaya
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Soybeans
  • Sugar beet
  • Sunflower
  • Squash
  • Tomato
  • Wheat

What’s GM-approved in the U.S.?

In addition to the above list, the U.S. has also approved:

  • Cantaloupe
  • Papaya
  • Radicchio

Which crops are actually grown commercially and on store shelves?

Despite the fact that there are over 50 crops approved for GM, only a few are actually grown commercially. These are:

  • Field corn (used as animal feed and to make corn products such as corn starch, corn syrup, corn oil and corn flour)
  • Soy beans
  • Canola
  • White sugar beet (used to make sugar)
  • One variety of sweet corn (called Attribute, newly available as of 2012)

In the U.S., in addition to the above the following GM crops are commercially available:

  • Cotton
  • Papaya
  • Squash

Why are crops genetically modified?

Foods are genetically modified to produce a crop with a certain characteristic. These are the characteristics sought after to date:

  • Crops that continue to grow even when sprayed with pesticide or herbicide
  • Crops that are resistant to certain insects
  • Crops that are resistant to drought or cold
  • Crops that ripen more slowly and are more stable during shipping
  • Crops that bruise less easily
  • Crops that are higher in certain nutrients, such as vitamin A rice

Are GM products safe?

As you can image, GM has its proponents and its opponents.

GM proponents say:

  • There is a reduced pesticide use in Bt cotton
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Protection from pests and disease in our crops

GM opponents say:

  • Lack of evidence that GM food is unsafe is not the same as proof that it is safe
  • One altered gene could have unintended effects
  • We need more study on the impact of GM crops on our environment and our health
  • Some animal studies have shown negative results on health
  • Herbicide resistant GM crops have higher levels of chemical residue

What do you say?

At this point I’m on the side of the opponents. I will avoid GM products for my family and myself and recommend this for members of my community.

How do I avoid GMO?

  • You can buy organic corn, sugar, canola, soy and foods containing these products. Make sure to read the labels!
  • Buy organic squash and papaya, if the product is from the U.S.
  • You can choose sugar that is made from sources other than sugar beet (e.g. cane sugar, agave, coconut palm).
  • Grow your own sweet corn.
  • Purchase from a grower that you know that isn’t using GM seeds (e.g. farmer’s markets or farms that retail their crops direct to consumers).
  • Choose products that display the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal.

Non GMO Project Verified

The Non-GMO Project is the only organization offering independent verification of testing and GMO controls for products in the U.S. and Canada. You may see this label on products sold in Canada and the U.S.Organic Canola Oil
This bottle of canola oil, labeled “organic” does not contain GM canola. This is what I use in my home.

 

Sep 12 2014

Guacamole

I’ve been making this guacamole recipe for a few years. I adjust the ratio of the ingredients based on what I have available and who is eating it. It’s delicious and goes fast!

Ingredients:

Guacamole Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 small-medium sized tomato
  • 1 slice of onion
  • 1 slice – 1 whole jalapeno
  • 1-2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 1-2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt to taste

Method:

Dice the tomato. Chop the onion, jalapeno and cilantro. Spoon out and mash the avocado but leave some texture.

Dice the tomato. Chop the onion, jalapeno and cilantro. Spoon out and mash the avocado but leave some texture. Blend all ingredients in a bowl. Salt according to your preference.

While cilantro is the more authentic herb for this dish, if you don’t have it, you can substitute fresh parsley.

The traditional use is to dip into it with tortillas chips, but we liked zucchini sticks or whole grain crackers at my house.

Guacamole

Enjoy!

Sep 06 2014

Benefits of Exercise for Cancer Patients and Survivors

When I had cancer there was no mention of exercise as part of my treatment or recovery. It was never brought up by anyone on my health care team. Advice for cancer patients used to be: “rest and avoid activity”.

Well times they are a changin’ and exercise recommendations are now a more regular part of cancer treatment and survivorship as new evidence is emerging on the benefits of exercise.

In an interview posted on YouTube, cancer exercise specialist Jay Herdson from Johns Hopkins Cancer Center had this to say about the benefits of exercise for cancer patients—he reports that with exercise, treatment is improved; and there is an improvement in many side effects such as fatigue (in as little as 1 workout), improved mood, better weight control, reduced anxiety, and improved sleep and mental clarity.

Benefits cited from other sources are: fewer falls and bone fractures and higher quality of life. Most importantly for many patients, exercise can prevent recurrence and death from cancer.

Exercise programs should include warm-up and cool-down, as well as the following 5 elements:

  1. strength
  2. cardiovascular
  3. core-stability
  4. balance
  5. flexibility

Avoid focusing on just one element such as doing only cardiovascular training. If you are a bit intimidated to get started on your own, there are now many exercise specialists who have done additional training to understand the unique needs of cancer patients. They would have the designation of CES—“Cancer Exercise Specialist”—so look for a trainer with this qualification.

Remember to set short and intermediate range goals to support your long-term goal. This will help you to see your progress and feel a sense of accomplishment as you achieve milestones on your way to the big prize.

Currently for cancer prevention, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends being active at least 30 minutes daily. The American College of Sports Medicine sums it up succinctly in their recommendation: “Avoid Inactivity!”

Take advantage of the fresh start September offers by getting started or renewing your commitment to your exercise program.

Sunrise view of the city

One of the advantages to my summer exercise routine has been the beautiful sunrises.

 

References:

Johns Hopkins Exercise Specialist Jay Herdson

AICR

American College of Sports Medicine

Aug 28 2014

Easiest Gazpacho Ever

Baskets of Tomatoes

Fresh summer tomatoes at my local market–perfect for this recipe!

I have been to Spain and tasted delicious cold summer gazpacho. At first it felt a little odd to be eating soup cold, but then that was forgotten as I felt really indulgent—I was able to enjoy my favourite summer fruit/vegetable (depending if you are a botanist or a chef)—tomatoes!

I don’t know the original source of this recipe but like many of my creations, I like to add and take-away to make the recipe my own. Here is my version of Easiest Gazpacho Ever!

Why is it the easiest? Because it all goes in the blender…I’m a purist when it comes to homemade salsa. I think it must be hand chopped, but using the blender for this recipe makes a delicious end product and the flavours don’t suffer at all.

 

Easiest Gazpacho Ever

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium tomatoes (or 3 beefsteak tomatoes)
  • 1 purple onion
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 red bell pepper*
  • 2 stalks of celery*
  • 1-2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 6-10 leaves of fresh basil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • pepper (black or cayenne) to taste
  • Tabasco sauce 6 drops or to taste
  • Worcestershire sauce 6 drops or to taste

Directions

Place in blender/food processor and blend. No need to over blend, a bit of texture is nice. Serve cold in soup bowls or iced cocktail glasses.

Important!

*Buy celery and bell peppers organic if you can as they are on the ‘dirty dozen’ (high in pesticide residue) or rinse and rub down thoroughly if not organic.
Gazpacho Soup

Enjoy!

Aug 21 2014

Book Review: Slow Death by Rubber Duck, by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, Vintage Canada, 2010

Admittedly, I am slow to the show with this book review. I’ve had this book on my bedside reading table for several years. Yes, years! It didn’t get shuffled to the top of the stack until I learned that the authors published their latest book, Toxin Toxout: Getting Harmful Chemicals Out of Our Bodies and Our World on Dec 31, 2013. I heard this and thought—enough is enough!—I need to read this already.

Slow Death by Rubber Duck Book Cover

My copy of “Slow Death by Rubber Duck” by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie

I’m glad I did. It was a much easier read than I expected. I was pleasantly surprised by the story-telling style of the book. The basic premise is that two men, both environmental crusaders, put themselves through several experiments to see if they can raise the levels of various environmental contaminants in their bodies.

According to the authors, people are sponges and we absorb things from our environments. No longer should we think of pollution as smokestacks billowing out toxins, but the very cells inside our bodies.

In their self-proclaimed “adult science fair project”, Rick Smith, the Executive Director of Environmental Defense, exposes himself to phthalates, brominated flame retardants, anti-bacterial triclosan and bisphenol A.

Bruce Lourie, president of the Ivey Foundation, exposes himself to Teflon, mercury, and the weed killer 2,4-D. What these intrepid explorers show us is that it is indeed possible to increase levels of these chemicals in blood and urine with some every day practices people do unwittingly.

Thankfully, the book includes lots of tips on how to limit our exposure to these chemicals. Here are some highlights:

Phthalates

  • Avoid toiletries containing “fragrance” and “parfum”
  • Replace your PVC shower curtain with recycled polyester or natural fibres
  • Do not use air fresheners
  • Check out your toys on healthytoys.org
  • Reduce consumption of fatty meat and dairy foods
A variety of toiletries

Items I found in my home containing dangerous chemicals (Left). I have since stopped using these! Products I purchased (Right) to replace these items.

Perfluorochemicals (PFCs)

  • Stop using old non-stick frying pans
  • Limit use of Gore-Tex, Stainmaster and Scotchgard non-stick products
  • Stop using microwave popcorn and take-out food contains (burgers, pizza)
  • Read labels to make sure items don’t contain perfluoro- ingredients

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)

  • Use natural products like wood, hemp and cotton
  • Buy PBDE-free furniture, upholstery and electronics
  • Dust and vacuum regularly
  • Recycle your old electronic equipment safely

Mercury

  • Eat fish that is lower on the food chain and avoid large predatory fish
  • Avoid white albacore tuna
  • Choose wild over farmed fish
  • Take mercury-containing products to household hazardous waste depots (old thermostats, paint)

Triclosan

  • Avoid using “antibacterial” products
  • Avoid nanosilver and nanozinc products (usually labelled “anti-bacterial”)

2,4-D

  • Do not use synthetic weed killer on your lawn or garden
  • Choose organic whenever you can
  • Wash your produce well (CLICK HERE to read my blog on washing produce.)

BPA

  • Check the recycling number on the plastics in your home; remember this ditty “4, 5, 1 and 2, all the rest are bad for you.”
  • Do not use plastics in the microwave
  • Store your food in glass containers
  • Choose fresh or frozen over canned foods
  • Use cloth instead of plastic shopping bags

Included in all of their tips are also links to more resources, as well as plenty of ideas and encouragement for you to engage your political leaders at all levels of government to support legislation that bans or restricts use of these invasive chemicals.

Bottom Line: This is a great book. While some of the information will be familiar to you, I’m sure there are things in your life you can improve to reduce your exposure to these chemicals. I am going to order Rick and Bruce’s latest book and this time, I won’t wait so long to read it.

Aug 12 2014

Super Green Parsley Pesto

Summer is well underway and it’s time to harvest some of those herbs that you planted in the spring. Depending you where you live, it may not be too late to plant herbs. If you missed my blog post on the Top 7 Herbs I recommend, you can read it here.

Parsley in my garden.

It may not be too late to plant. I just planted this parley after taking out my pea plants that were finished for the season.

Herbs are more than just a garnish. You can feature them as a main ingredient. A great way to do this is to make pesto. For a twist on traditional basil pesto, here is my version. I call it Super Green Parsley Pesto.

Why super green? Parsley contains important plant nutrients (phytonutrients). In laboratory work, these phytonutrients have been shown to reduce inflammation, reduce proliferation of cancer cells, stop angiogenesis (creation of blood supply by the cancer) and induce apoptosis (natural cell death by the cancer). It truly is a ‘super green’.

As well as being super green in colour, this recipe, with its cancer fighting potential, is like a super hero on your plate, let’s call it “Super Green” to the rescue!
When you harvest the parsley you don’t have to pull out the entire plant, just pick off the leaves you will use. They will grow back and you may get a second harvest before summer is over. Enjoy!

 

Super Green Parsley Pesto

Parsley

You can use curly or flat leaf parsley to make this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups freshly harvested parsley, washed, with excess stems removed
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup toasted pecans

 

Method

  1. Pat dry washed parsley and place in food processor with processing blade.
  2. Add parmesan cheese and olive oil.
  3. Process until smooth.
  4. Add toasted pecans and process until desired texture.

Serve over hot pasta or use as a spread on sandwiches.

Important!

Optional: Add garlic, basil, cilantro or a combination of other herbs. If you want a thinner texture, add more oil.

Finished Pesto

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