Sep 112015
 

Something I called an “Hour of Power” was key to my cancer recovery in the first couple of years.

The reason why is that when I started my alternative program with my great doctor-ally, I was working full-time in an office, so time at home was limited. And my morning schedule was peppered with to-dos: take supplements; eat a giant breakfast; do qigong; exercise; do skin brushing; breathe deeply. Add to that the usual routine like showering and getting dressed, and I was overwhelmed.

So I developed the “Hour of Power.” When I woke up, I started my day with an affirmation. I’d look out the window and yell, “It’s GREAT to be alive!”

Right after that, I’d take pancreatic enzyme supplements and then spend the next 60 minutes before breakfast doing everything I could think of that was healthy. I crammed it in like a student studying for finals.

Exercise, Tea and Hydrotherapy

First I’d do a 15-minute qigong routine while staring out my window at the sky and the trees below in the courtyard. This routine learned from my tai chi teacher consisted of eight different positions that I held for about 2 minutes each while breathing deeply.

Then I’d hop on my mini-trampoline and rebound for another 10 minutes to get my lymphatic system moving.

After that I’d boil water for tea and brew a pot of Chinese Sencha (it was still too hot to drink, but I wanted to make sure it would be cool enough to drink when I was ready to drink it!).

I’d use a natural bristle-brush on my skin as a quick lymphatic massage and then hop in the shower. After showering for 15 minutes with alternating hot and cold water (hydrotherapy!), I’d get dressed, cook the rest of breakfast, and pack my supplements for the day.

The Breakfast Scramble

At the end of the Hour of Power was the Half Hour of Frantic Eating. I’d wolf down as much breakfast as possible (I couldn’t always finish everything!). If I wasn’t in a serious rush to make it to a meeting, I’d catch up on news and email while eating. If I was in a rush, I’d eat standing at my breakfast bar, inhaling 14-Grain cereal, yogurt mixed with flax oil, a soft-boiled egg, an apple, and raw almonds.

Lastly, I’d take all of my breakfast supplements, from liver powder to vitamin C, and then rush out the door: well fed, well exercised, and ready to heal another day.

My point in describing this routine is that YOU CAN DO IT. Even if your time is limited, even if you work a full-time job, one hour a day doing good-for-you things can have huge benefits in your life.

What would your own Hour of Power look like? How would you design it for maximum benefit?

Aug 312015
 

I took supplements 15 minutes ago. Sixteen pancreatic enzyme capsules, along with magnesium and bromelain.

I’ve taken these supplements thousands of times in the past four years. Sometimes I’m religious in taking them, and sometimes (especially lately) I’m lax. But I always return to the path. Because if I don’t, I’m toast.

That’s a fairly sobering thought. It might not be entirely true — I’m confident I could find another solution to stay well, because I don’t give up — but having found something that works for me, I’m reluctant to deviate from it. I’m happy to adjust, to dial up or dial down depending on how my body is responding, but the idea of discontinuing my supplement program never crosses my mind.

I’m dedicating the next two weeks to getting entirely back on track.

So this will be my schedule:

Upon arising: 2 beta glucan capsules.
Five times per day: 16 enzyme capsules with magnesium and bromelain.
Once per day at bedtime: RNA/DNA capsules with magnesium.
With meals: “Regular” vitamins and minerals, plus two RM-10 caplets with breakfast and dinner.
Once per day before breakfast: Garden of Life Women’s RAW Probiotics.
Once per day: Half a teaspoon of organic dandelion root powder.

In addition, I’ll be doing some detox procedures (a.k.a. my home spa-time). These will include:
Once per day: Lymph stimulation with a natural bristle brush (this is a nice skin massage!).
Once per day: Foot soak with mustard and cayenne.
Twice per week: Baking soda and sea salt bath (fantastic for skin!).

For food, I’ll eat organic, relying primarily on the following staples:
Organic raw almonds
Organic raw brazil nuts
Organic yogurt with flaxseeds
Organic raw multi-grain cereal with honey
Organic apples and berries
Organic pasture-raised eggs
Organic black rice
Organic whole wheat pasta with olive oil and butter
Organic garlic
Wild-caught fish (twice per week) or organic grass-fed beef (once per week)
Organic carrots, yams, salad and other veggies (beets if I can find them)
Organic green tea
Purified water: 8-10 glasses per day

I’ll report on how I feel after following this “reset program” and sleeping at least 7 hours per night.

It’s a trek. Time to keep trekking.

Jun 112015
 

It’s time for my 2015 self-assessment. To be honest, I’ve slipped in the past year. If I’d written this self-assessment last year, in spring 2014, I’d have given myself stellar marks almost across the board.

In the past year, I quit my job, began traveling a lot more, went through a breakup, and let my diet and nutritional program fall by the wayside a bit. I gave in to my sugar cravings more, even if that means organic ice cream instead of Hostess Cupcakes. In other words, I was human.

This doesn’t mean I feel like an awful person — I’m a little anxious about not being on track, but I know that any day is the day I can turn it up full-volume again. Health is the sum of 100 little decisions we make each day, plus luck. This year, I’m making about 70 right decisions and 30 wrong decisions per day, instead of holding a 98-2 record. I need to step it up.

Enough excuses, here’s my self-assessment:

1. Neutralize emotional chaos.
Assessment: Fair to good. After completely mastering my emotions and embracing life for its awesomeness in the present, I got knocked back by two breakups (with the same boyfriend) and all the accompanying worries and insecurities. I found myself wallowing a bit, especially the second time, and failing to see the good all around me. I’m still able to feel and focus on my inner light, but it’s harder than before, and I hope this cloud passes soon. I also spend some time stressed about the future, even though I know I’m working toward my long-term goals and this requires a step back from “conventional” measures of success.

2. Sleep early and well.
Assessment: Fairly awful. The same thing I wrote in 2013 applies. I sleep well when I go to sleep early. I still stay up later than I should, often till 1 or 1:30 a.m. My goal should be to go to sleep around 11 p.m. This rarely happens, and it’s an obvious place to try for improvement.

3. Avoid alcohol and artificial hormones.
Assessment: Good until recently, then fairly awful. I don’t drink alcohol much, usually once a month or less. I also try to avoid conventional dairy. But I often drink tap water when traveling, and it contains hormone residues. None of this is the elephant in the room: I froze my eggs in April, so I endured a short-term bombardment of hormone shots. The shots contained recombinant FSH and human LH, not estrogen or progesterone, but the FSH and LH stimulated my body to produce more estrogen than normal. (Edit: I told my doctor about this in advance, and he okay’ed it as a short-term procedure. I didn’t just go rogue!) I accepted this as a short-term hit to my health, but its effects lasted longer than I expected, stretching through the next cycle (hello, heart palpitations!) and even beyond. I feel like my body is still getting back to normal. If I could do it over, I’d make the same decision, but I knew when I started the process that I was only doing it once. And I’m sticking with that call: It’s too risky for me to do it more than once. On the other hand, I feel much calmer and more in control of my own destiny as I head toward forty.

4. Eat organic whenever possible.
Assessment: Good. I eat organic at home and buy organic groceries when traveling. I try to buy organic vegetable juice whenever possible (i.e., at a health food store) and minimize organic fruit juice, since I prefer eating whole fruit to get the benefit of fiber and minimize sugar. I also seek out organic restaurants as much as I can. When I go out with other people, I eat more conventionally, though I try to stick with vegetarian or fish entrees. My biggest weakness is pasta with cheese, technically a “vegetarian” entree (doesn’t mean it’s healthy!). I do best when I can talk my dinner companion into sushi. I’ve been eating way too many sweets. Even if they’re organic, they’re not good for me.

5. Get moving.
Assessment: Pretty good. I walk a lot, especially when traveling in cities. I wish I had my rebounder, but I got rid of it when I started traveling. If I needed to, I could order a rebounder fairly cheaply in the places I visit for a month or more, but I haven’t done it yet.

6. Get adequate iodine and vitamin D.
Assessment: Good. I take 2000-4000 IU of vitamin D daily, plus iodine in the form of Atlantic kelp. I’m taking more iodine than I used to (up to twice as much), which is a tweak to my supplement program.

7. Invest in a good drinking water filter and shower filter.
Assessment: Fair. At home, I have an Aquasana countertop filter for drinking water (I got rid of the distiller when I moved) and an Aquasana shower filter. On the road, it’s a different story: I often end up drinking Brita-filtered water, and there’s rarely a shower filter. One thing that helps is getting tea from Starbucks (Starbucks uses triple-filtered water that sometimes includes a reverse osmosis process), but I’ve stopped lugging around glass bottles of water.

8. Reduce xenoestrogens and toxins in your environment.
Assessment: Fair. At home, I’ve replaced my own cleaning products, toiletries and cosmetics with organic and/or green versions. However, I’ve slipped back to using regular deodorant (I just couldn’t find an alternative deodorant that was truly effective), and when traveling, I often pack my own soap and shampoo but sometimes skip it for short trips. I think the worst thing is that I’ve slipped back to using regular laundry detergent. I’d like to try to use more “green” laundry detergent like 7th Generation, which makes individual-size packets that I could bring along on trips.

9. Take a good multivitamin, probiotics, and at least one great supplement.
Assessment: Very good. I still take most of my prescribed enzyme supplements and about half of my meal-time supplements (I’ve gotten less strict about taking vitamins while eating out — I used to step into the restroom and take them before the meal). I could do better with this but am still doing reasonably well.

10. Get outside during the day.
Assessment: Good. I spend a lot more time outside since I left my job. One thing I could improve is to remove my contacts and use glasses more when I go outside, since allowing sunlight to reach my eye directly could help me produce more melatonin at night and balance my hormones (source: John Ott has a great book about Health and Light). As we head into summer again, I’m going to try to do a better job of this.

May 132013
 

Two years ago, I wrote about 10 Changes I was making in my life. Here is my 2013 self-assessment:

1. Neutralize emotional chaos.
Assessment: I’ve done astonishingly well on this front. At first, I used The Healing Code. This helped significantly with some old traumas, less significantly with others. I did the program spottily, a couple of weeks here, a couple of weeks there, one memory at a time. I also gained a great deal from hypnosis — at a time when I was desperate and searching for anything that might help, I did a past-life regression and a life-between-lives session. I was shocked to find that these two sessions put to rest some uneasiness I’d never understood and helped me become comfortable with letting my inner light shine. (I realize this sounds new-agey — I don’t care.) I feel comfortable in my own skin now, in my own soul. I’ve learned not to question why certain things work, but to accept and be happy that they do. On a similar note, I went to see a man named Braco, an energy worker from Croatia. Once again, I don’t understand why this worked, but it did. Before seeing Braco, I was an extreme Type A and could not relax. After seeing Braco, I am still Type A, but I found I was able to relax and really do nothing for the first time in my life. To just sit on my couch and breathe. To feel the flow of the universe and the many creatures in it.

Only when I was truly able to love myself, did the ultrasound nodule they wanted to biopsy disappear. Yes, it disappeared. I’ll talk about it more later.

2. Sleep early and well.
Assessment: Fairly awful. I do sleep well — when I go to sleep early. I made significant progress (no more 3am work binges) but still go to bed much later than I probably should. If I needed to “turn up the volume” in my wellness program, this would be one obvious place to do it. I aim to go to sleep around 11 — it’s usually more like midnight or 1. This is bad because the adrenals re-charge mainly between 11pm and 1am.

3. Avoid alcohol and artificial hormones.
Assessment: Very good. I had champagne on New Year’s Eve and it was the first drink I’d had in years. I may now begin enjoying a rare glass of very good red wine. But alcohol is essentially out of my life. So are artificial hormones — no more birth control pills, ever. I probably still get a little hormone residue when I drink green tea made with unfiltered tap water at work, or when I don’t realize there’s conventional dairy 1 in something I order at a restaurant. But I’m doing well overall in this area.

4. Eat organic whenever possible.
Assessment: Very good. I eat organic at home. I juice organic vegetables only — why concentrate pesticides in a cup and then drink them? I strive to eat organic at restaurants, and I choose my restaurants carefully. I eat as-organic-as-possible at other people’s houses, without being ridiculous.

5. Get moving.
Assessment: Good but not great. I walk a lot — probably at least a mile per day, often two miles. I use a rebounder (mini-trampoline), but not consistently. If I could consistently use the rebounder for about 15 minutes per day, I’d meet all of my exercise goals. This is a goal for 2013.

6. Get adequate iodine and vitamin D.
Assessment: Excellent. My doctor determined my optimal vitamin D intake (it was lower than I expected — about 3000 IU. I wasn’t absorbing higher amounts before, because other nutrients/minerals were out of balance) and iodine intake (again, lower than expected). I have normal levels of iodine and vitamin D now.

7. Invest in a good drinking water filter and shower filter.
Assessment: Very good. I use a distiller at home and drink truly pure water whenever possible. I also have an Aquasana countertop water filter for cooking water and for times when I don’t have time to make distilled water. However, I need to change the filter frequently because of high sediment levels, and I’m not sure of the quality at all times. I use an Aquasana shower filter and it works great. When I’m not home, I try to drink tea made with filtered water (Starbucks uses triple-filtered water that includes a reverse osmosis process!) or bottled water in glass — but I only succeed about half the time. The other half, I confess I’m drinking Brita-filtered water (not as good) or tap water.

8. Reduce xenoestrogens and toxins in your environment.
Assessment: Good but not great. I’ve replaced my own cleaning products, toiletries and cosmetics with organic and/or green versions. However, at work and when traveling, I use what’s available for soap, shampoo, etc.

9. Take a good multivitamin, probiotics, and at least one great supplement.
Assessment: Excellent. After stumbling on this front initially, I found a great doctor-ally and got great results. All of my deficiencies are now corrected, my toxicities are under control, and my body is getting healthier and healthier. My one great supplement is pancreatic enzymes, and I also use beta 1,3 d-glucan.

10. Get outside during the day.
Assessment: Fair. I do a better job in summer than in winter, because there’s more benefit from being outside during summer months (from a vitamin D perspective). But I still spend too much time inside, tied to a computer, in all seasons.

Mar 262011
 

This post is in initial build-out status and may change.

General Information: Wikipedia entry. Note: Melatonin is a natural hormone that is also available as a supplement. The Evidence Summary and Score below assess the benefits and/or risks of melatonin levels in general.

Studied Uses: General health, cancer

General Health

Melatonin - General Health Evidence Summary - http://sheet.zoho.com

Overall Score: 2.18

Behind the Score:

Evidence for beneficial effects of relatively high melatonin levels is piling up across many types of studies and in relation to many disorders and biomarkers. Experiments have variously studied sleep quality 1, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) 2, behavioral disturbances in Alzheimer’s 3, and brain damage 4. Perhaps the biggest hope for melatonin is as a cancer protective, discussed below because the number of studies warrants a separate section.

That said, the majority of studies comprising the overall score assessed test subjects’ natural melatonin levels (based on working shift hours, natural sleep-and-wake cycles, or physiological factors such as BMI and age) rather than the value of melatonin supplementation. If planning to supplement, talk with a doctor to find the right dose, since it is quite possible to take too much melatonin. Even better may be increasing your own body’s production of melatonin through lifestyle changes.

For example, natural melatonin production may be suppressed by exposure to bright lights (such as computer screens) after dark. 5 And it doesn’t take that much light to suppress melatonin production. 6 Another study showed that women who routinely “were not asleep at or after 1:00 a.m.,” the time of highest melatonin production, had higher serum estradiol levels, which may be a risk factor for cancer. 7 Overall, light exposure at night appears to pose risks for humans, which this study from the Journal of Pineal Research does an excellent job of summarizing.

Warnings and Special Notes: Melatonin’s greatest effects may be in its naturally occurring form. Melatonin supplementation has not been sufficiently studied in pregnancy and breastfeeding.


Cancer

Melatonin - Cancer Evidence Summary - http://sheet.zoho.com

Overall Score: 1.96

Behind the Score:

Some studies that looked at natural melatonin levels found correlations between higher melatonin levels and lower cancer risk 8 9, although one prospective study in premenopausal women found no association and another found an increased risk in the two years after baseline measurement of melatonin levels and a decreased risk over the longer term. 10 (Researchers speculated that this result could reflect preexisting sub-clinical illness affecting baseline melatonin measurements in some women — in other words, they were already sick at the beginning of the study and their melatonin levels were high as a result!) Notably, most studies of melatonin supplementation did not identify a positive effect on cancer risk, recurrence risk, or biomarkers. For example, a double-blinded, randomized controlled trial of melatonin supplementation in postmenopausal breast cancer survivors found improved sleep with melatonin supplementation but not improved biomarkers 11 (caveat: The study was small and short-term, with 95 women studied over 4 months). Another study of melatonin use in people with metastatic brain cancer found no benefit; in fact, the people given melatonin supplements had shorter median survival times than historical control data would predict. 12 Conversely, it increased survival times for lung cancer patients who did not respond to initial chemotherapy. 13

Warnings and Special Notes: Melatonin’s greatest effects may be in its naturally occurring form. Melatonin supplementation also has not been sufficiently studied in pregnancy and breastfeeding.


What Now? More rigorous study is warranted, especially of supplementation.

What Can I Do? You can work to boost your body’s melatonin production by:

  • Going outside for at least half an hour each day and letting full-spectrum light reach your eyes (yes, that means no glasses or contacts during that time)
  • Getting to bed relatively early and at a consistent time;
  • Sleeping in a dark room or using a good eye mask;
  • Keeping the lights off if you need to get up in the middle of the night (be careful, though!);
  • Decreasing exposure to blue-spectrum light (such as your computer screen or television, or blue-spectrum fluorescent lights) after dark;

One possible mitigation for late-night computer users: Try Flux, an application for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux that adjusts screen brightness and color spectrum to match the time of day.

All of this may be a tall order, since the modern urban lifestyle features a lot of bright lights and late nights. If you’re unwilling or unable to make lifestyle changes, or you’ve tried and think they aren’t helping enough, you can talk with your doctor about trying a melatonin supplement. This might or might not be right for you, but getting the dose right is definitely important.

 

Notes:

  1. Prolonged-release melatonin improves sleep quality and morning alertness in insomnia patients aged 55 years and older and has no withdrawal effects. Journal of Sleep Research, 2007.
  2. Reduced oxidative damage in ALS by high-dose enteral melatonin treatment. Journal of Pineal Research, 2006.
  3. Decreased Melatonin Levels in Postmortem Cerebrospinal Fluid in Relation to Aging, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Apolipoprotein E-{epsilon}4/4 Genotype. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 1999.
  4. The protective role of melatonin in experimental hypoxic brain damage. Pediatrics International, 2005.
  5. Effects of VDT tasks with a bright display at night on melatonin, core temperature, heart rate, and sleepiness. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2003.
  6. Minimum light intensity required to suppress nocturnal melatonin concentration in human saliva, Neuroscience Letters, 1998.
  7. Light Exposure at Night, Urinary 6-Sulfatoxymelatonin, and Serum Estrogens and Androgens in Postmenopausal Japanese Women. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, 2008.
  8. Urinary Melatonin Levels and Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Risk in the Nurses’ Health Study Cohort. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, 2009.
  9. Urinary Melatonin Levels and Breast Cancer Risk. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2005.
  10. Urinary 6-Sulphatoxymelatonin levels and risk of breast cancer in premenopausal women: the ORDET cohort. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, 2010.
  11. Randomized trial of oral melatonin supplementation in breast cancer survivors. Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research, 2010.
  12. Randomized Phase II Trial of High-Dose Melatonin and Radiation Therapy for RPA Class 2 Patients With Brain Metastases (RTOG 0119). International Journal of Radiation Oncology, 2007.
  13. Randomized study with the pineal hormone melatonin versus supportive care alone in advanced nonsmall cell lung cancer resistant to a first-line chemotherapy containing cisplatin. Oncology, 1992.
Mar 052011
 

At least half of U.S. adults take dietary supplements. 1 Not all multivitamins are equal, though — many have relatively non-absorptive forms of vitamins and minerals, or unbalanced proportions of nutrients. The best contain high-quality ingredients, few or no additives, and balanced nutrient doses based on age, gender, and activity level. Personally, I take Vitamin Code Raw Women’s multivitamin (EDIT: I now take a specially formulated multivitamin prescribed by my doctor), which states on the label that it uses raw, organic food-based ingredients. There are several other good brands as well. How to identify them? Check the label and avoid additives like gelatin (often from beef), soy, and titanium dioxide. 2 Look for easily absorbed forms of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium asporotate (EDIT: or magnesium citrate) instead of oxide, for example, and calcium forms other than carbonate. 3 No multivitamin is ideal, but some are much better than others.

Another key supplement is probiotics. 4 The key here is to get a brand that requires refrigeration. That means it should have been refrigerated on the store shelf, and it should be refrigerated as soon as you get it home. It may contain multiple strains of beneficial bacteria, possibly with fructooligosaccharides (FOS). Personally, I take Primadophilus reuteri (a blend of a few strains) and Primadophilus Optima (a blend of many strains). (EDIT: I now take Garden of Life Women’s RAW Probiotics, as well as Primadophilus reuteri.)

Beyond these basics, supplementation is primarily a matter of choice. Some people have had excellent results with supplements like dried barley greens, Cellect powder, Immunocal, or chaga mushroom. A magic bullet for one person may not work for another — so you’ll need to experiment to find what works best for your own body chemistry. Rest assured that there are great supplements for you — so, if I were you, I would find at least one with the help of a qualified health-care professional and then take it consistently.

Notes:

  1. Multivitamin-multimineral supplements: Who uses them?, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007
  2. Titanium Dioxide Classified as Possibly Carcinogenic to Humans. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety.
  3. Calcium, Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health
  4. Probiotic, Wikipedia