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Hey, I am a med student who likes to write. Each week I provide a handful of tips that will help you in your quest to become healthier.

How to kick the junk food habit

Written: 06/22/2008 | Join the discussion (0)

DumbLittleMan has a great suggestion on how to kick your addiction to fast food -- give yourself a budget to spend on fast food each week, and cut it over time. I love this idea because a budget puts you in control and doesn't force you to go cold turkey. You decide when you want to eat fast food, and you can do so guilt-free as long as you haven't exceeded your budget. My addiction, though, is junk food, so I came up with an equivalent strategy for kicking a junk food habit. Here's how it works:
  • First, switch to buying all of your junk food in individual portions for easier measurement. Get potato chips in individual bags, cookies in single serving size containers, individually wrapped candy bars, etc. It might cost you a bit more, but individual portions will make it much easier to count how much junk food you're eating. Quitting junk food is going to be hard enough, so you'll want to do everything you can to make the process as easy as possible. If the snack you prefer doesn't come in individual serving sizes, you can divide a bigger bag yourself into individual portions and store them in ziplock bags.

  • For the first week, just eat how you normally would, but count how many portions of junk food you're consuming. To help you count, save the wrappers of every portion you eat. At the end of the week, just count the wrappers and you'll know how many portions you had.

  • Take the number of portions you ate for the week and cut it in half. This is your new junk food budget, or how much junk food you'll get to eat each week from now on. If possible, buy as close to that many portions as possible each week and no more. That will help you keep from going over your budget - once you're out, you're done until your trip to the store next week.

  • Every two weeks, cut your budget by a certain amount, say 2-4 portions. Keep going until you're eating an amount of junk food each week you feel comfortable with - ideally zero, of course!

  • Try to keep substitute healthy snacks on hand to help kill those junk food cravings. Nuts, fruit, vegetables, or low-fat yogurt are all quick, healthy snacks that can fill you up without the extra junk food calories.
A junk food budget is a great way to develop better eating habits over time with just small changes each week. Try it for yourself, and let us know how it works in the comments!

5 simple steps to start losing weight

Written: 06/22/2008 | Join the discussion (0)

Weight loss can be an intimidating process, but it doesn't have to be. If you're trying to slim down, small steps can lead to big results. The easy adjustments below will help you lose pounds without overwhelming you.

  1. Don't drink your calories
    You'd be amazed at how many calories are hiding in your sodas, alcohol, or sports drinks. And worse yet, studies show that calories you drink don't satisfy your hunger nearly as well as food, so you most likely won't eat less food to compensate. Toss out those sodas and switch to good ole' fashioned water. Not only will you save hundreds of calories a day, but you'll feel better and have more energy.

  2. Incorporate exercise into your daily life
    If you're someone who has trouble motivating to go to the gym, or you just don't have time to dedicate solely to working out, try slipping exercise into your everyday life. Skip the elevator and take the stairs. Walk or bike to work. Park as far away as possible in the parking lot. Or one of my favorite exercise-at-work tips, rather than sitting in a conference room, see if the person you are meeting with is up for a walk instead. You can often be just as productive while walking and get healthier at the same time.

  3. Choose a time to stop eating every night
    Eating at night is when most mindless eating occurs - when you're eating not from hunger, but out of habit. And worse still, you're not expending any extra energy at night because you're watching TV, sleeping, or reading a book, so the calories you consume just sit there. Break the habit by choosing a time each night that you won't eat after, say 8pm. You'll automatically be cutting down your calorie intake, and as an added benefit, you'll sleep better.

  4. Make simple food substitutions
    There are lots of food pairs with radically different nutritional values. Choose the right one and you can cut your calorie intake significantly without a major change to your diet. Try these simple swaps and watch the pounds drop off:

    • Mustard (15 calories/tbsp) instead of mayonnaise (100 calories/tbsp)
    • Nonfat milk (10 calories/2 tbsp) instead of half-and-half (40 calories/2 tbsp)
    • Fat-free dressing (15 calories/2 tbsp) instead of a creamy dressing (100 calories/2 tbsp)
    • Unbuttered popcorn (60 calories/2 cups) instead of buttered popcorn (175 calories/2 cups)

  5. Always eat breakfast
    Studies show that the simple act of eating breakfast can help keep you slimmer. Eating breakfast not only jump starts your metabolism for the day, but also makes your body feel nourished and satisfied, making you less likely to overeat the rest of the day. Choose healthy foods like whole-grain cereals, low-fat dairy like low-fat yogurt or skim-milk, lean protein like eggs or turkey bacon, fruit, and nuts.
Got any more suggestions? Share your tips in the comments!

Red Wine – The Secret of the French

Written: 06/12/2008 | Join the discussion (1)

The French have long been envied for their low rates of heart disease, despite the consumption of all those cheeses and pâtés, and for many years now, scientists have suspected the part that red wine plays in this so called “French paradox.” A new study provides further evidence of the solidity of that theory.

Researchers from the industry, the University of Florida and the University of Madison-Wisconsin now report that resveratrol – a constituent of pomegranates, grapes and red wine – when taken in low doses, can enhance the health of the heart, thereby prolonging an individual’s life and boosting its quality. These findings were published in the online journal Public Library of Science (PLoS) ONE.

The scientists experimented on middle aged mice, adding resveratrol to their diet and monitoring the effects on the aging process. The resveratrol was found to mimic the widely recognized effects of caloric restriction, a diet that contains between 20 to 30 percent fewer calories than a normal diet. Caloric restriction and its relation to the aging process have been studied widely, but this new study makes a connection between resveratrol and caloric restriction, suggesting that both govern the same genes that are related to aging.

According to Christiaan Leeuwenburtgh of the Institute of Aging at UF, who authored the study, caloric restriction in any species leads to a regulated cellular stress response which increases longevity. This study, he says, has proven that the benefits of caloric restriction are almost the same as the administering of resveratrol in low doses.

This connection between resveratrol and long life has been made before, when a study showed that high doses of resveratrol led to increased longevity in invertebrates. What this new study has shown is that the same substance in smaller doses and beginning in middle age can have the same benefits as the intake of fewer calories.

The study compared mice on a diet that contained low doses of resveratrol and others who were on a restricted diet. The similarity in the effects of both resveratrol and the restricted calories was astounding. Close to 90 percent of mice on a restricted diet showed significant alteration in gene expression of the heart, while in the case of resveratrol, the changes were visible in 92 percent of the animals.

It’s clear that small doses of resveratrol whether in the form of a glass of red wine or as a supplement can ward off the aging process of the heart. So, go ahead and have that extra glass of wine at lunch – it could just be the secret of a healthy heart and a long life!

20 Questions You Need to Ask Your Surgeon Before You or Your Loved One Has Surgery

Written: 04/08/2008 | Join the discussion (0)

Millions of Americans have surgery every year (estimates range anywhere from 23 million to 60 million procedures per year!) and must put their health into the hands of their surgeon. Fortunately, most surgeries are elective, or at least not immediate, which means you have time to do your homework and choose a surgeon that you feel comfortable with.

It's your body, after all, and you must take the time to learn about your surgeon and the procedure that's going to be done. You wouldn't simply buy a car or a house without first looking into it, would you? Nor should you go blindly into any health care procedure.

Moreover, studies have found that well-informed patients heal faster and report having a better surgical experience than those who are not, according to the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

So take your time "interviewing" your surgeon with the following top questions so you feel certain that the procedure and the surgeon are right for you.

  1. How will the surgery be performed? (Ask him or her to draw you a diagram, if you like.)

  2. Is there more than one way of performing the procedure?

  3. Are there alternatives to the surgical procedure?

  4. What are the benefits of the surgery?

  5. What are the risks of the surgery?

  6. If I opt NOT to have the procedure, what are the risks/benefits?

  7. What is the expected outcome of the surgery?

  8. How many of this (or similar) surgery do you perform each year? (A good indicator of experience and ability)

  9. What kind of anesthesia will be used? (And what are the risks/benefits of it?)

  10. Will I meet with an anesthesiologist before surgery?

  11. Will my heart rate and breathing be monitored during the surgery (and is anything else monitored)?

  12. At which hospital will the surgery be performed?

  13. How often is this procedure performed at that hospital, and what is the success rate? (Studies show that patients do better in hospitals that have experience with the procedure.)

  14. How long will I be in the hospital?

  15. Is there a 24-hour recovery room in the hospital (or, where will I recover in the hospital)?

  16. What are the qualifications of the staff in the recovery room?

  17. What are my options for pain control after the surgery?

  18. How long will it take me to recover?

  19. What will the procedure cost, and is it covered by my insurance?

  20. What about a second opinion? (Getting a second opinion is fairly common before an elective surgical procedure is performed.)


Agency for Health Care Research and Quality

American Society of Anesthesiologists

Top Five Health Benefits of Garlic

Written: 04/01/2008 | Join the discussion (3)

It's the subject of countless festivals, ancient folklore and entire cookbooks, and is a flavor that people either love or hate. Garlic -- the beloved small vegetable, or "stinking rose," that's been cultivated for over 5,000 years -- is not only tasty, it's incredibly good for you.

A Bit of Garlic Lore

Garlic has long been considered a food of strength. Ancient Egyptians put it in Pharaohs' tombs and gave it to the slaves who built the pyramids. In ancient Greek and Roman cultures, athletes ate garlic before events and soldiers did so before going off to war.

Cultures in China and India are also known to have taken advantage of the therapeutic effects of garlic.

The Top Five Health Benefits of Garlic

Most likely, you've heard that garlic is good for you. You may, however, not know exactly why. Garlic, a member of the lily family, contains potent sulfur-containing compounds that are responsible for many of its healthy effects, along with its characteristic odor.

Aside from providing manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C and selenium, garlic is known to offer the following healthy benefits.

  1. Protect Your Heart
    Eating garlic is known to benefit your blood pressure, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, lower triglycerides, prevent atherosclerosis and reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

    These benefits are, at least in part, due to the sulfur compounds allicin and diallyl disulphide (DADS) (which are also found in onions, leeks and chives). These compounds help to induce the relaxation and enlargement of blood vessels, which improves blood flow throughout the body

    In fact, eating from one-half to one clove of garlic a day may lower your cholesterol by up to 9 percent, according to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

  2. Reduce Inflammation in Your Body
    Compounds in garlic inhibit key enzymes that generate inflammation in your body. By reducing inflammation, garlic may help to prevent severe asthma attacks and reduce the pain associated with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

  3. Prevent Cancer
    According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating garlic is an excellent way to lower your risk of cancer. Compared to those who ate the least amount of garlic, those who ate the most garlic had a:
    • 57% reduced risk for esophageal cancer
    • 44% reduced risk for laryngeal cancer
    • 39% reduced risk for cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx
    • 31% reduced risk for renal cell cancer
    • 26% reduced risk for colorectal cancer
    • 22% reduced risk for ovarian cancer
    • 19% reduced risk for prostate cancer
    • 10% reduced risk for breast cancer

  4. Fight Infectious Diseases
    Garlic has powerful antibacterial and antiviral properties that, when combined with its vitamin C, kill harmful microbes and fight diseases including:

    • Cold and flu
    • Stomach viruses
    • Candida yeast
    • Tuberculosis
    • Botulism

    Garlic is also a potent antibiotic, fighting a wide range of pathogens, and studies show it even appears to fight antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

  5. Prevent Weight Gain
    Among animals fed a sugar-rich diet, those given allicin from garlic did not gain weight like those not given allicin, according to a study in the American Journal of Hypertension. The researchers concluded that allicin may be useful for weight control.
The TYPE of Garlic Matters

Most of the health benefits of garlic refer to it in fresh form, so it is ideal to always use fresh garlic in your cooking (not dried, jarred or paste forms).

In order to convert garlic's phytonutrient alliin into beneficial allicin, the garlic must be chopped or crushed. So if you plan to eat a whole garlic clove for health benefits alone, you must chew it first.

To maximize garlic's allicin content, wait a few minutes before you eat or cook the garlic.

The World's Healthiest Foods
Garlic Recipes

How to Declutter Your Home

Written: 03/31/2008 | Join the discussion (0)

Most of us clean our homes regularly, but when was the last time you cleaned out your home's clutter? Clutter can be anything from stacks of mail taking over your kitchen table to too many toiletries under your bathroom sink.

Clutter takes the form of leftover Christmas wrapping paper and bows that you're saving for next year to those coffee mugs your friends brought you from their trip to Disney World, which you just can't get rid of.

While most of us revel in the clutter-free spaces that exist in nice hotel rooms, model homes and pictures in magazines, our own homes are typically far from serene -- and our peace of mind is paying for it!

Clutter Equals Stagnant Energy

One of the basic tenants of feng shui, which is an ancient art of creating a harmonious environment in your home using space, placement of objects, color and more to keep vital energy aligned, is that clutter represents stagnant energy.

In order for energy, or chi, to flow -- and therefore for your home to feel peaceful, support your mental and emotional well-being and provide a sanctuary for you to reside in -- the clutter must be cleared.

We feel this inherently upon walking into a cluttered room or looking at a cluttered counter. It is visually distracting to start, then mentally distracting as you feel overwhelmed and think of all the things you need to get done, and all the while brings up feelings of anxiety and tension.

Just as clutter keeps energy stagnant, it can also keep other areas of your life from growing. Do you avoid having friends over because your home is not in order? Have you put off planning a vacation or starting a new business because your life feels too out of control? Does a lack of organization make daily tasks, like paying bills or putting away groceries, seem like insurmountable feats?

Or does the clutter in your home leave you feeling tired? Overwhelmed? Irritable?

If so, clutter may be controlling your life.

Clutter Leads to More Clutter

The thing about clutter is it can easily spiral out of control. It starts with just one thing out of place, say a bill you've been meaning to pay left out on the counter. Soon, that one bill turns into a mountain of clutter: your kids' school books, a hairbrush, a two-day-old newspaper, etc.

You may then very well take that pile of clutter and move it into an even larger cluttered area, like a closet, a basement or an extra room devoted just to things you don't know where to put.

Material clutter will inevitably also lead to mental clutter. You may find you have thoughts running through your head constantly, too many tasks to fit into a day, too many e-mails to answer, and soon become way over-stressed.

With too much stress, and no peaceful retreat of a clutter-free home, you can easily be on your way to a myriad of stress-related illnesses and chronic disease. So clearing clutter is not just a matter of personal preference, it's a matter of health and sanity!

How to De-Clutter Your Home

Most of us dream of, and aspire to have, a clean, clutter-free home. This dream no longer has to be out of your reach, as clearing clutter and freeing the energy in your home is something that anyone can do using these 10 tips.

  1. Start small -- a kitchen drawer, a countertop, a front entrance or a bathroom vanity -- to keep from feeling overwhelmed.

  2. Make a decision about every item you pick up. Either it stays where it is, gets put away someplace else, is given to charity or gets tossed.

  3. Use organizational tools, like file drawers, to give you appropriate places to put things. But, don't buy them until you've cleared the clutter. Buy containers, folders, furniture, etc. based only on what is left (example: if you have three piles of tax papers you need to keep, invest in a file drawer where they can be stored safely, in order and out of sight).

  4. Adopt this rule: Before you bring something new into the house, you must get rid of something old. Buy a new coat? Give the purple one in the back of your closet that you haven't worn in 10 years to charity. New dishware? Time to purge the cabinets of the set you no longer use.

  5. Get help. Enlist your kids, your friends, your spouse and anyone else who's willing to tackle a cluttered room. Explain the goal to your family so they will help ensure the home remains clutter-free.

  6. Buy less stuff. Part of what brings on clutter is simply trying to fit too many things into your home. If you don't really need it, or really, really love it, leave it at the store.

  7. Learn to let go. Clearing clutter means saying goodbye to items that aren't necessary. Do you have three sets of barbecue tools and only grill out twice a summer? Give two away. Holding on to your child's stuffed animal collection, even though he just turned 22? You know what to do.

  8. Look for, and clear out, clutter where you wouldn't expect it, such as old books, items from past relationships, makeup you've had too long, worn-out clothing, and magazines you don't really need.

  9. If all else fails (or if you don't want to do it yourself) hire a professional. Pro organizers are out there and will come into your home to clear out clutter. They charge anywhere from $40-$80 per hour.

- Ryan

Feng Shui Tips for Clutter Control
ABC 7 Online: Turn Your Home Into a Sanctuary
40 Places to Look for Clutter Now

6 Major Causes of Dry Hair

Written: 03/27/2008 | Join the discussion (1)

Dry hair lacks the oil and moisture it needs to give it sheen and a soft texture. As a result, hair that's dry will be brittle and dull and have a straw-like texture. Most of us will get dry hair at one point or another--either due to over-processing or exposing it to sun, wind and chlorinated swimming pools.

Dry hair that comes and goes from these external causes is an annoyance. Chronic dry hair that comes from an internal source, however, can be a sign of an underlying health problem. That's why, if your hair is dry, it's important to take a look through these six top causes and try to pinpoint yours. If conditioning treatments do not improve your hair's moisture level, it may be time to contact a health care provider.

  1. Excessive Washing and Blow-Drying, Harsh Detergents

    Washing your hair too often, especially with a harsh shampoo, is a surefire way to strip moisture away. Heat from blow dryers, curling irons and electric curlers will also contribute to dryness.

    "It's in vogue these days to shampoo every day, but shampooing doesn't only wash away dirt, it washes out the hair's protective oils," says Thomas Goodman, Jr., M.D., a dermatologist from Memphis, Tennessee, and assistant professor at the University of Tennessee Center for Health Sciences.

    If your hair is dry, try washing it just two or three times a week using a mild shampoo and a quality conditioner which uses vegetable proteins to reconstruct extremely dry and damaged hair.

    Like home remedies? "Mayonnaise makes an excellent conditioner," says Steven Docherty, senior art director at New York City's Vidal Sassoon Salon. Leave it on for five minutes to an hour before washing out.

  2. Environmental Dryness

    The climate you live in can also dry out your hair. Areas with lots of sun, dry heat and little humidity, for instance, will definitely make your hair drier than tropical, humid locales. Likewise, if you're an outdoorsy person who likes to spend time in the sun, wind, ocean or pool, your hair also risks being dry. You can cut down on the damage to your hair from the elements by wearing a hat while outdoors and always using a swim cap when swimming in chlorinated water.

  3. Anorexia

    Because people with anorexia engage in self-starving to stay dangerously thin, their bodies are denied the nutrients they need to function. This includes the nutrients necessary to maintain luster, shine and softness in their hair. Dry hair (along with dry skin and hair loss) is a common side effect of anorexia, and one that may manifest early on.

  4. Malnutrition

    Similar to anorexia, a person who is malnourished does not take in the nutrients necessary for the body to maintain healthy hair. As a result, the hair becomes dry, brittle and damaged. In particular, dry hair can be a sign that your diet is lacking in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which can be found in salmon and fish oil, walnuts and flax seeds.

  5. Hypothyroidism

    This is a condition in which the body produces too little of the thyroid hormone. Dry, brittle and thin hair is an early symptom of hypothyroidism, along with weakness, fatigue, depression and joint or muscle pain. If left untreated, the condition causes the body to slow its functions, leading to mental and physical sluggishness and other symptoms that can range from mild to severe.

  6. Hypoparathyroidism

    Hypoparthyroidism is having too little parathyroid hormone, which causes blood levels of calcium to fall and phosphorus to rise. This can lead to dry hair, scaly skin, cataracts, muscles cramps and spasms, seizures and more. The most common cause of hypoparathyroidism is injury to the parathyroid glands during head and neck surgery.

- Ryan


Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia

The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies: Dry Hair

The World's Healthiest Foods

Getting Hooked on Tanning: Health Benefits and Risks of Tanning Beds

Written: 03/25/2008 | Join the discussion (0)

Tanning in the United States is a $2-billion industry, bringing in more than 1 million indoor tanners every day. What has caTanners, as it turns out, may be going to the tanning salon for more than just a bronze glow. Tanning beds, along with their potential risks, also offer some health benefits -- and they may also produce a drug-like high.

Getting Hooked on Tanning

It's possible to get "hooked" on tanning much like it is possible to get hooked on a drug, researchers say. A new study has lent credence to a 2004 study, which found that when tanners used two tanning beds (one with real ultraviolet (UV) light and one without), they felt happier after the UV light.

"A more relaxed and less tense mood was reported after UV exposure compared to after non-UV exposure," said Dr. Steven Feldman, a dermatologist at Wake Forest University. "We believe these relaxing and reinforcing effects contribute to tanning behavior and may help explain why people choose to tan despite the risks."

The new study, conducted by Dr. Mandeep Kaur of Wake Forest University (who was also involved in the 2004 study), compared eight frequent tanners (who went tanning eight to 15 times a month) with infrequent tanners (tanning once a month or less).

Half of each group was given opiate-blocking drugs, which blocked endorphins (the "feel-good" brain chemicals) from producing their pleasurable effects. The frequent tanners said they got less enjoyment when taking the drugs, which suggests the pleasant feeling played a role in their desire to tan.

Interestingly, half the frequent tanners also experienced withdrawal-type symptoms, including nausea and jitteriness, when the pleasant feeling was blocked.

Dr. Feldman explained: "Frequent tanning may be driven in part by a mild dependence on opioids, most likely endorphins. The nausea and jitteriness ... are consistent with symptoms of mild opiate withdrawal."

The Health Benefits of Tanning

Relaxation and better mood aside, tanning does offer some other health benefits that are often overlooked by the mainstream public (but not by frequent tanners, it turns out).

Most notably, tanning gives the body a chance to produce vitamin D, a nutrient that has come out as a major player in fighting everything from cancer to heart disease to depression, and which many Americans may not be getting enough of.

"Instead of tanning just for cosmetic reasons, an increasing number of regular tanning bed users have learned that regular, responsible and moderate exposure to UV light -- from natural or artificial sources -- is important to well-being, natural vitamin D production and disease prevention," said tanning technology researcher Michael Stepp, who is CEO of Wolff System Technology (a manufacturer of sunlamps for tanning beds).

In circumstances when a person is unable to get out into natural sunlight, either because of climate or a disability, some experts say tanning beds may offer a suitable solution to getting adequate amounts of vitamin D.

According to a Wolff study, which surveyed 300 men and women who use commercial indoor tanning beds, "Nearly 55 percent believe indoor tanning is a responsible way to protect the skin from overexposure by the sun. These regular tanners recognize that there is a growing body of validated medical research pointing to the benefits of UV-generated Vitamin D -- as well as the serious medical and health risks of chronic sun-deprivation vitamin D deficiencies."

Tanning Poses Risks, Too

Before heading out to one of the nation's nearly 20,000 tanning salons, you should be aware that tanning does pose some risks.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), exposure to UV light, either from the sun or a tanning bed, is a risk factor for skin cancer. Short-wavelength UVB light has been found to be carcinogenic in animals, and longer wavelength UVA, which penetrates the skin more deeply and is used in tanning beds, may also contribute to cancer.

Further, a study in Norway and Sweden found that women who regularly used tanning beds had a greater risk of malignant melanoma.

Tanning, either from tanning beds or the sun, can also damage the skin structurally. In the short-term, this can lead to burning, fragility and scarring. In the long-term, overexposure to UV can result in photoageing, which occurs when collagen in the skin is broken down by UV. The end result is wrinkling and a loss of elasticity.

Eye problems, including cataracts, pterygium (a white-colored growth over the cornea) and inflammation of the eye can also occur from UV exposure. Excessive exposure may also suppress the immune system, potentially leaving a person at risk from infectious diseases.

Avid tanners will defend the benefits of tanning just as intensely as opponents will refute them. As the debate over tanning ... and its stronghold over many Americans ... continues, it's up to you to make your own final informed decision about this activity.

- Ryan


You Can Get Hooked on Tanning Because it Gets You High

Frequent Tanners May be Lured by the "Feel-Good" Effects of UV Light

Research Study Profiles Indoor Tanners

WHO: Sunbeds, Tanning and UV Exposure

Indoor Tanning Dangers

8 Essential Nutrients to Help Prevent Breast Cancer

Written: 03/20/2008 | Join the discussion (0)

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, accounting for one in three of all women cancer cases diagnosed. In 2005 alone, more than 211,000 women will be diagnosed with the disease, according to the American Cancer Society, along with nearly 1,700 men.

It's estimated that over 40,000 women will die of breast cancer this year, surpassed only by lung cancer deaths. Another 460 men will also die from the disease.

While age (over 65) and family history are unchangeable factors associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, there are other factors you can control. Lifestyle factors, including drinking two or more drinks a day and not exercising, along with being obese, all increase the risk. Along these lines, eating a healthy diet that includes the foods and nutrients noted below may help to reduce your risk and prevent you from becoming one of the one in seven U.S. women (or smaller number of U.S. men) who has, or will develop, breast cancer during her lifetime.

  1. Vitamin D3

    This vitamin helps control cellular growth and inhibit the growth of cancer cells. According to holistic healing and natural health author Donald R. Yance Jr., "Vitamin D3 may also inhibit the activity of hormones such as estrogen in breast cancer, thereby decreasing its spread."

    A University of Birmingham study also found that vitamin D3 encourages healthy breast cell growth while making cells more resistant to toxins.

    One way to get vitamin D3 is through sun exposure--one study found that safely exposing your skin to the sun reduced the risk of breast cancer by 30 to 40 percent. If that is not possible, you can get vitamin D3 in the foods below.

    Found in These Foods: Salmon, tuna, cod fish, cod liver oil, egg yolks, shrimp and some wild mushrooms

  2. Monoterpenes

    These substances, found in citrus fruits, appear to help sweep carcinogens out of the body while helping to inhibit the spread of breast cancer cells. In a study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer, the authors wrote, ""These compounds have been shown to exert chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic activities in mammary tumor [cells] and represent a new class of breast cancer therapeutic agents."

    Found in These Foods: Citrus fruits, including grapefruits, oranges and tangerines

  3. Indole-3-carbinol

    This is a phytochemcial that belongs to the glucosinolate family. It's formed when certain vegetables are crushed or cooked. Research has found that it deactivates an estrogen metabolite that promotes tumor growth, particularly in breast cells. It's also been found to keep cancer cells from spreading to other parts of the body.

    Found in These Foods: Cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, kale, bok choy, arugula, horseradish, radishes, watercress, daikon, kohlrabi, mustard greens and rutabaga

  4. Calcium d-glucarate

    This substance has been found to inhibit beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme that, when elevated, is associated with an increased risk of cancer, particularly hormone-dependent varieties like breast, prostate and colon cancers. Studies in rats have shown that this substance reduces breast cancer by as much as 70 percent. It also has detoxifying properties that may help the body excrete potentially toxic compounds.

    Found in These Foods: Oranges, apples, grapefruits and cruciferous vegetables

  5. Lignan

    This phytoestrogen inhibits estrogen production, which may stop the growth of breast cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.

    Found in These Foods: Flaxseed, pumpkin, sunflower and poppy seeds, whole grains (rye, oats, barley), fruits (especially berries) and vegetables

  6. Epigallocatechin-3 gallate (EGCG)

    This phytochemical has been found to strongly inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells while leaving normal cells alone. A study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that Asian-American women who drank about three ounces of green tea (which contains EGCG) a day had a 47 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those who did not drink green tea, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.

    Further, a meta-analysis in the June 2005 issue of Integrative Cancer Therapies found that evidence to date suggests drinking five or more cups of green tea a day shows a non-statistically significant trend toward preventing breast cancer.

    Found in These Foods: Green tea and green tea extract

  7. Lycopene

    This antioxidant is a member of the carotenoid family. Studies have found that consuming lycopene is associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. In one study in rats, those given lycopene-enriched tomato developed fewer tumors and had smaller tumor volume than the control rats. Lycopene also attacks free radicals in the body that may trigger cancer.

    Found in These Foods: Tomatoes (particularly cooked varieties such as tomato sauces, paste and ketchup), watermelons, carrots, red peppers, apricots, papaya, pink grapefruit and guava

  8. Oleic Acid

    A Northwestern University study, published in the journal Annals of Oncology, found that oleic acid inhibited activity levels of the Her-2/neu gene. This gene is thought to trigger breast cancer and is found in over one-fifth of breast cancer patients. The gene is associated with highly aggressive tumors and poor prognosis.

    Found in These Foods: Olive oil, avocados, almond oil, peanut, pecan, cashew and macadamia oils


American Cancer Society

News Target: Sunlight Emerging as Treatment for Breast Cancer

Annals of Oncology, March 2005;16(3):359-71

Nutrition and Cancer, 1998;32(1):1-7

Alternative Medicine Review: Calcium-D-glucarate

American Institute for Cancer Research

Mayo Clinic: Breast Cancer Prevention

8 Tips to Get Rid of Pain

Written: 03/19/2008 | Join the discussion (0)

For the majority of Americans, pain -- either chronic or the kind that comes and goes -- is a way of life. More than half of us suffer from physical pain, which means that if you were to stop someone randomly on the street and ask "Are you in pain?" chances are high that they'd say yes.

This finding comes from a nationwide phone survey of over 1,200 Americans, sponsored by Stanford University Medical Center, ABC News and USA Today. Back pain was the most common type of pain reported, followed by knee and shoulder pain, joint pain and headaches.

When pain strikes, about 80 percent of Americans reach for over-the-counter drugs or home remedies to help. 60 percent have also tried other pain-relief methods including prescription drugs, bed rest and prayer. More than 10 percent of adults now rely on prescription painkillers everyday (interestingly, the survey reported that prayer and prescription drugs worked best, and equally well, in addressing Americans' pain).

And the pain is more than just a mere nuisance, as it can severely impact people's work, relationships, mood and more.

"Pain has been a hidden disease; it has not received as much attention as other diseases. But now there's a growing recognition that pain really is not just the sensation we have--it's something that interferes with every one of us, with life," said Raymond Gaeta, M.D., associate professor of anesthesia at the Stanford School of Medicine and director of pain management services at Stanford Hospital & Clinics.

A separate phone survey of 800 adults, the Americans Living with Pain Survey (ALPS), found similar results. Two out of three respondents said that their pain led to stress and irritability, while:
  • 45 percent said pain negatively impacted their personal relationships
  • 51 percent said it affected their work productivity
  • 61 percent said it affected their daily routine
"This survey demonstrates that chronic pain is a problem that has reached near epidemic proportions," said Edward Covington, M.D., director of the Chronic Pain Rehabilitation Program at the Cleveland Clinic. "The 'can do, can cope' spirit of Americans can lead to untreated chronic pain, which has a severe impact on people's work, personal relationships, hobbies, and even sex, and can greatly diminish their quality of life. In addition to physical disability, it may also lead to irritability, anxiety, or depression."

To look at the glass half-full, pain can be construed as a good thing. It serves as a warning of a deeper, underlying problem, which otherwise may have gone unnoticed. So it's extremely important not to simply ignore or mask your pain, but rather to seek out and address the problem that's causing you to be in pain. Once that problem has been addressed, it's likely the pain will subside. In the event that it doesn't, here are eight methods you can try to reduce and eliminate pain, without relying on prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
  1. Deep and Proper Sleeping/Relaxation
    Says Dr. Neil B. Kavey, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City, sleep is the time when your body is able to do repair work. So whether you're in pain from an injury or due to an underlying condition, your body will be able to fight and work toward healing that pain while you sleep.

    Relaxation is also important, not only in helping you to fall asleep, but by reducing tension in your muscles, which can help to relieve pain or keep it from getting worse. Being relaxed may also help any other pain relief methods you're using to work better.

  2. Prayer/Meditation
    Similar to relaxation, meditation and prayer are ways to calm your body, focus your mind and reduce stress, all of which can help to lessen your feelings of pain. Prayer is the most commonly practiced type of meditation, and according to the first study it ranked right up there with prescription drugs for its ability to relieve pain - obviously without any of the possible negative side effects of drugs!

    "Prayer falls in the category of having patients learn about the meaning of their pain. Sometimes patients do need to be introspective before they can move forward," said Gaeta.

    Meditation includes concentration meditations, in which you focus your mind on a single object, phrase or thought and often practice deep breathing as well, and exercise meditations like yoga, tai chi and qi gong. Even reading, thinking about those you love and writing can be forms of meditation. Pick the method that feels most naturally alluring to you.

  3. Stretching
    After three weeks of stretching, stretching expert Jacques Gauthier was able to reduce his pain by 50 percent. Stretching helps to reduce tension in your muscles, improve flexibility and range of motion, and may slow the degeneration of your joints. The act of stretching alone will also improve your blood circulation and help you to relax--a key to pain relief.

  4. Reduce/Prevent Inflammation
    When your body is in a chronic state of inflammation, the inflammation can lodge in your muscles, joints and tissues. Over time, this can lead to physical pain, as well as a number of diseases including heart disease. Emotions (too much stress), diet and lifestyle all contribute to inflammation.

    One of the safest, low-risk things you can do to lower your risk of inflammation is to modify your lifestyle and dietary choices. This means eating a variety of anti-inflammatory foods (fruits and vegetables), limiting or avoiding all together the pro-inflammatory foods (highly processed foods, high-sugar foods, trans fats, etc.), exercising and quitting smoking (if you do).

  5. Regular Exercise
    "One of the most important aspects of managing one's pain is taking an active role in care and becoming part of the treatment team," says Penney Cowan, executive director of the American Chronic Pain Association. "There are many treatment options available to help people reduce the effects of pain in their lives. Proactive behavior such as recognizing emotions and practicing relaxation techniques to reduce stress, pacing activities and working within personal limits, and exercising on a regular basis may contribute to better pain control."

    Although you may be tempted to not move around much when you're facing pain, a regular exercise program can actually help to relieve pain. According to the Mayo clinic, exercise works by prompting your body to release chemicals called endorphins that actually block pain signals from reaching your brain.

    "Endorphins are the body's natural pain-relieving chemicals that in many cases are more powerful than morphine," says Edward Laskowski, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist and co-director of the Sports Medicine Center at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

    Plus, exercise will help you to sleep better, have more energy to cope with your pain, and lose weight, which will relieve any excess strain on your joints. If you're currently in pain, remember to consult your physician before starting any exercise program.

  6. Chiropractic
    According to the American Chiropractic Association:
    Chiropractic is a branch of the healing arts which is concerned with human health and disease processes. Doctors of Chiropractic are physicians who consider man as an integrated being and give special attention to the physiological and biochemical aspects including structural, spinal, musculoskeletal, neurological, vascular, nutritional, emotional and environmental relationships.
    Every Doctor of Chiropractic is different, and will use varying chiropractic methods to relieve your pain. According to the first survey above, chiropractic (and massage therapy) ranked second-best at relieving pain. If you're interested, the American Chiropractic Association has an online tool to help you find a Doctor of Chiropractic near you.

  7. Massage Therapy
    The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) says massage therapy:

    • Helps patients become more aware of their bodies and the sources of pain.
    • Better familiarizes patients with the pain they experience.
    • Has an impact on the patient by virtue of human touch.
    • Improves confidence by encouraging patients to effectively cope with their pain.

    Further, according to an American Hospital Association survey about their use of CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) therapies, nearly 82 percent of the hospitals offering CAM therapies offered massage therapy. More than 70 percent of these used the massage therapy for the purpose of pain management and relief.

    The AMTA can help you to find a massage therapist near you.

  8. Hot or Cold Packs
    Applying a hot pad or cold pack to your area of pain can provide temporary relief. Hot pads are helpful for sore muscles, while cold packs work by numbing the affected area. If you've only tried one or the other, switch to the opposite and see if it works. Be careful not to use a pad that is too hot or too cold, and when using a cold pack, wrap it in a towel so you don't expose your skin to the cold.

HealthOrbit May 9, 2005
Medical News Today May 9, 2005
The Mayo Clinic
American Massage Therapy Association

- Ryan