Battling Fatigue

Dear YR,

Hey, thanks for listening to the radio show! I appreciate the listeners and appreciate the comments and letters I received more because it makes me feel that more and more people are taking charge of their health by accessing more information.

One of the most common complaints I hear in my practice is fatigue. Fatigue and stress account for the most visits to the doctor each year. When we are fatigued, our body is slowing down to cope with something wrong. Fatigue can be incurred as a result of medication, may be a chronic condition and may stem from the body being forced to fight for its survival! This is particularly true with chemotherapy treatment and recovery from them.

Some chronic everyday problems may also cause significant ongoing fatigue, such as stress, dietary imbalances, food allergies, nutritional deficiencies, environmental toxicity, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), low thyroid hormones and low-grade depression. Sometimes the problem is as simple as a lack of adequate exercise or boredom. Indeed, most cases of fatigue are the result of the body not being fed enough of the nutrients responsible for producing energy.

There are some general suggestions for reducing fatigue after eliminating any of the serious medical conditions as the underlying cause. Depending on the reasons for your fatigue, the following things may help restore your energy levels:

* Get more exercise - Expending more energy can actually give you more energy, especially if you work at a sedentary job. Exercise also acts as a tranquilizer, counteracting emotionally induced anxiety or weariness. If you're feeling sluggish, try taking a brisk walk in the fresh air. It can renew your energy instantly.

* Cool off - Working or playing in hot weather can drag you down, as can living or working in a warm, poorly ventilated environment. The solution to these problems is to rest in a cool, dry atmosphere as often as you can, drink plenty of liquids and open a window.

* Rest and relax - You don't me to tell you that getting a good night's sleep can put the spring back in your stride. But did you know that daily relaxation breaks can also restore your energy? Schedule your day to allow relaxation breaks, then practice deep breathing, meditation or yoga.

* Change your routine - Nothing makes you feel stale faster than doing the same things over and over. Try to do something novel and interesting once or more times a day. If, on the other hand, you're on the go too much, set aside some time for peace and quiet.

* Lighten your workload - Delegate tasks to others when you can, both at work and at home. Ask for help when you need it from family and friends or hire help if necessary.

* Do something for yourself - Plan time to do things that meet only your needs, not just those of others.

* Avoid caffeine and alcohol and don't use illegal drugs - These can trigger fatigue.

* Eat healthier - Both extreme overeating and crash dieting can tax the body and lead to exhaustion. Skipping an important meal like breakfast or indulging in high fat and/or rich, sugary snacks are practically guaranteed to leave some people pooped. On the other hand, iron-rich foods, whole-grain breads and cereals and raw fruits and vegetables contain the nutrients your body needs to maintain your energy level. It may help to eat 5-6 light meals a day, instead of 3 large ones.

Energy Comes from the Cells…and our foods!

We receive energy for our body from our cells. Our cellular energy depends on exercise, eating healthy, getting proper rest and relaxation, having sound mental and spiritual practices, and developing a healthful routine. The body must rely on proper nutrition; proper transportation of nutrients and proper utilization of nutrients once they enter the cells. We surely can recognize that a good diet will provide energy, but given our "modern" lifestyle, we may not be getting enough good nutrition from the diet. And when we have the added stress of medications and rigorous medical treatments such as chemotherapy, it is completely normal for someone to experience a terrible sense of fatigue. For this reason, it may be important to combat fatigue with a wide array of nutritional, spiritual and physical programs, including quality nutritional supplement programs.

Nutritional research has spawned many nutritional products that claim to increase energy, but in my many years of practice, I have never seen a better product for energy that Propax . Propax is the most complete single dietary supplement available in the world today. It was formulated to enhance the quality of life for patients undergoing oncology treatments and indeed, does not interfere (but works in synergy) with therapeutic pharmaceutical regimens. However, during the testing of the product, it was discovered that Propax had a profound, positive effect on energy production in all the study participants, regardless of the age or physical condition, by helping to create energy within each cell of the body. It is now marketed (rightly so!) as a clinically proven solution to the issue of cellular fatigue.

How does cellular energy work?

In each of our cells, there are energy-producing factories, known as mitochondria. These factories receive certain nutrients from the water, proteins and fats in our body, through the membrane (outer casing) of the cell. These nutrients are then transported to the factory (mitochondria), to be used as fuel for the production of energy. Like other factories, there are waste products that need to be removed to keep the factory clean and the cell works to clean these from its environment, so that the body can eliminate them. If a cell does not do all it is supposed to do to keep the factory clean, it will begin to degrade and eventually die.

All factories need a transportation system, to supply the raw ingredients (nutrients) and dispose of the waste and cell mitochondria are no different. We are all familiar with train tracks next to big factories. The transportation system within a cell is similar. We count on ingredients known as phospholipids to bring nutrients into the cell, deliver them to the energy-producing factories and take out the waste matter. These same phospholipids encase the cells and objects within the cell, protecting them from decay. As you can tell, phospholipids are incredibly important to the life and production of cells.

When we lose our ability to maintain phospholipids within our body, problems obviously can occur. Two of the key problems are our ability to feed the cells the ingredients needed for energy, which would naturally result in fatigue. The second, more serious problem is the premature destruction of the cell. We now know that the body continues to create new cells of most kinds. Obviously, we would continue to need phospholipids for this purpose as well. And those types of cells that we cannot create, like brain cells and nerve cells, must have phospholipids to protect them from deterioration.

Different problems can cause us to lose our ability to protect our cells (free radical damage, medications, chemotherapy, etc.) and these reasons are very similar to the reasons we are fatigued. Until only recently, we had little hope of protecting our energy- production and the integrity of our cells. Then came Propax™!

What is Propax™?

You could say that Propax is the greatest multivitamin in the world, but it is even more than that. Propax provides incredible nutritional support with a full assortment of vitamins, minerals, amino and essential fatty acids, and antioxidants to provide a comprehensive, sensible approach to dietary supplementation. It also contains a targeted combination of nutritional and biochemical ingredients that directly supports the production of cellular energy, by improving the production of adenosine triphosphate, (ATP) which is our body's cellular process of creating energy. But it is still even more than that!

Propax™ contains a very rich source of phospholipids, derived from soy. This is an important consideration because lipids derived from soy, known as lecithin, are considered the perfect phospholipid. The makers of Propax™ have been able to extract the necessary components of lecithin to produce a sort-of "supercharged" phospholipid, that the body recognizes and immediately uses. This is important for several reasons: 1) the body (which is already tired) does not have to use energy to convert the soy phospholipid to the form the body needs, and 2) the effects of the phospholipids can immediately start helping the cell in its energy-production.

The result is a quick feeling of energy that only seems to grow over time. The combination of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fats, antioxidants, and energy-producing nutrients are quickly absorbed and quickly utilized. The tableting base, which has become known as NT Factor™, works with the array of nutrients to insure the digestion is better, the transportation of nutrients through the body is better and the use of the nutrients in the formula are more quickly put to work. The factory is back operating at full capacity!

This every from cells applies to both physical and mental energy, as brain and nerve cells operate under the same principle. Propax provides targeted nutrients for brain function, thereby enhancing cognitive thought and providing more mental energy. The benefits to the body are not just related to the cells, though. Propax also helps the digestive system. In essence, the product not only makes sure the raw materials (nutrients) are on the train, delivering to the cells, but the product also repairs the train tracks all along the way!

The formula utilizes the unique tableting technology, the NT Factor , which provides food extracts and friendly bacteria that aid in repair and restoration of the gastrointestinal tract. It may surprise you to know that we use an incredible amount of our calories in the process of digestion (about 25%!) and as we age or undergo problems and treatments using medications, our digestion suffers. The makers of Propax™ took this into consideration, by giving the tablet base the nutrients the digestive system needs to repair itself and function properly. This is why the product has such a great following with chemotherapy patients, as it helps them to counter problems of constipation, diarrhea and acidity.

Propax sounds almost too good to be true, doesn't it? Well, don't take my word for it; let's look at the proof!

The scientific results speak for themselves!

NT Factor has been used by physicians in clinical settings for over ten years. The company responsible for its creation, Nutritional Therapeutics, Inc. (NTI), knew that it had a great product and, when most vitamin companies would refuse to study their product for fear the results would suggest it was not any good, NTI spent thousands of dollars on studies in some of the finest research facilities across the nation, including the Henry Ford Center in Detroit, Harvard University, The University of Texas and UCLA.

In pre-clinical experiments, controlled studies were conducted and published in peer-reviewed medical literature under the supervision and authorship of Dr. Michael Seidman, Department of Otolaryngology at Henry Ford Hospitals in Bloomfield, MI. These studies proved that NT Factor™ demonstrated improved mitochondrial function and nerve function by 20% over controls. Mitochondrial function and nerve function (such as hearing) typically decline with age.

The dramatic results created by Propax™ with NT Factor™ are also proven through numerous clinical trials at these prestigious research facilities. The gold standard of research, a double blinded, placebo controlled, randomized crossover clinical trial was performed in a multi-site study approved by the Harbor-UCLA institutional review board under the supervision of 25-year Chairman of the Department of Oncology/Hematology and professor at the UCLA School of Medicine, the late Dr. Jerome B. Block.

A multi-site open label trial was conducted simultaneously and reported in the same publication as the double-blinded trial. The near identical result of the two studies eliminates any possibility that the positive fatigue and quality of life results are a placebo effect. The authors of the paper stated that since patients are expected to become sick and tired during chemotherapy the overwhelming success of Propax with NT Factor in defeating fatigue and improving the quality of life for patients using Propax while undergoing chemotherapy was important. Overall, 81% of patients had a quality of life equal to or better than when they started chemotherapy. Patients and Nurses reported separately. (Below is a bibliography of the clinical trials to date.)

Propax TM is proven with scientific double blinded, placebo controlled, randomized crossover clinical trials to improve quality of life and defeat fatigue even when the science says the patient is supposed to get sick and tired.

Without NT Factor , Propax would simply be a good multivitamin; with it, however, Propax is perhaps the best nutritional solution available for fatigue.

My pharmacy practice focuses on chemotherapy medications and for years, I would watch hopefully while many of my patients suffered the effects of fatigue and other problems with their quality of life. It has been through the use of Propax™ that I have been able to help them to take back their energy and stamina, in order to feel better while taking the medication, as well as afterward, when they need all their energy to recover.

I have seen many products claiming to increase energy, but few if any I would endorse. As a practitioner, I require clinical proof for products and must be assured that my patients will be provided a safe product that offers results. A report supporting the theory was issued in July, 1999 under the authorship of the Director of Glycobiology, Dr. David Newburgh of Harvard School of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital in Cambridge, MA. Dr. Newburgh declared that NT Factor would improve cell maintenance and metabolism; improving the health of normal cells while inhibiting tumor cells. Dr. Newburgh explained how components of NT Factor would enhance, rather than compete with, standard therapies such as chemotherapy.

That is why, for issues of fatigue and chemotherapy, as well as those with fatigue issues of all types, I always discuss exercise, diet…and Propax .

A Primer on Cancer and Nutrition

Cancer cells are a part of our physiology from the moment of birth. Cancerous cells are born and die with little influence in the body. The combination of nutritional influence and optimal immune functioning are responsible for maintaining a defense against the proliferation and influence of cancerous cells. Cancer by name is not a single disease, but more of a generic term to describe more than 100 distinct diseases, which display a common denominator of uncontrolled cellular distortion. Twenty plus years after President Nixon declared war on Cancer, scientists, nutritionists, and other medical researchers continue to search for means to define the cause of cancerous activity, the means to control its proliferation, and ultimately, the means to prevent its deadly occurrence.

It has been reported that over 10 million cases of cancer worldwide may be linked to lifestyle choices and diet. While many lifestyle factors are well known, such as smoking, the dietary influence of cancer is much less known. For instance, it is known that diets high in animal fat may contribute to a greater percentage of risk of developing cancer. Few people outside the medical and nutritional community understand why this is true, and it has not been until recently that the popular press has given much attention to the dietary link to cancer.

Numerous studies related to diet and culture have defined how the diet plays a role in both the initiation and the prevention of cancer. Studies have examined why certain cultural diets may prevent the disease, such as the Japanese diet, while other diets seem to promote cancerous activity, such as the American diet. One statistic remains constant in the studies - 30-40% of all cancers are related to diet and could be prevented by simply changing foods and the manner of preparation, as well as the overall amount of foods and beverages consumed.

There are two phases to cancerous activity in the body, initiation and promotion. The diet plays a role in both phases, and the diet may also interrupt both phases. Let's look at the initiation phase and the foods that may promote activity.

* Foods that are cooked under high temperatures, such as charcoal broiling, are considered to be dangerous. In laboratory trials, charbroiled meats and fatty carbohydrates have shown alterations that could result in tumorous growth.

* Meats that have been smoked or cured contain carcinogenic compounds, including nitrosamines, which may also be cancer initiating.

* Fat is a nutritional component that also may promote cancerous growth. A positive association has been reported between saturated fat and colon cancer; people who typically consume a diet high in saturated fats -- more than 10 percent of total calories -- face higher rates of the disease compared to people who consumed diets lower in saturated fats. A relationship between high fat intake and cancers of the breast, prostate, pancreas and endometrium (the inner lining of the uterus) has also been reported.

* Obesity, which is closely related to intake of dietary fat and high calorie consumption, is also reported to be associated with tumor production. In laboratory experiments, it is clear that calorie restriction is associated with a reduction in tumors.

* Alcohol can promote several types of cancer by direct contact, including the oral cavity and larynx, and indirectly by affecting the liver, colon and breast.

* A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole (unprocessed) grains are believed to help reduce risk of tumor development. These foods are rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber and contain substances that can inhibit tumor formation -- factors that have been associated with a reduced risk of several types of cancer.

Nutrition for the Cancer Patient

While good nutrition may not cure cancer, dietary factors do play an important role in cancer treatment. When you're battling a serious disease, adequate nutrition is needed to maintain strength and overall well-being, keep the immune system functioning optimally, prevent the break-down of body tissue, and help the body heal after surgery or other treatment. A well-nourished person is better able to tolerate treatment side effects, and may even be able to handle more aggressive treatments.

Good nutrition may also increase odds for survival for people battling cancer. In one study of people with head and neck cancer, the two-year survival rate was six times higher among those who were well-nourished compared with those with poor nutrition status.

In general, a cancer patient should follow the same guidelines as for preventing cancer with food. These dietary recommendations will assure that you get the best possible mix of nutrients without too much fat. Your doctor may have other recommendations specific to your situation, so let him or her know that you are interested in nutrition advice. And don't take any nutritional supplements without discussing it with your doctor, since certain supplements may interfere with some chemotherapy drugs.

Problems Specific to Cancer and Chemotherapy

Nutrition can become a problem for people with cancer for several reasons. The cancer itself may interfere with eating and digestion -- there may be difficulty chewing and swallowing, blockages in the gastrointestinal tract due to tumor growth, or interference with digestive enzymes and hormones. Cancer treatment such as radiation and chemotherapy can cause nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing and dry mouth, and surgery can also make it difficult to eat for a while. There may be changes in taste or smell that can deter good eating. Depression and lack of energy may make a person not want to eat. Appetite and metabolism may change so much that nutrition is compromised.

Loss of appetite is called "anorexia." It can be caused by the cancer itself, cancer treatment or depression. Cachexia is the term used to describe the wasting and dramatic weight loss seen in many cancer patients. It may or may not be linked with anorexia, and often an increase in the body's metabolism makes adequate nutrition difficult. In cachexia, body organs starve and waste along with muscle and fat.

Approximately two-thirds of all cancer patients, and nearly all patients with wide-spread metastases, experience weight loss due to anorexia or cachexia. These problems can be so serious that up to 20 percent of people with cancer die not of the disease, but of extreme malnutrition and body wasting. While anorexia and cachexia may not be preventable, attention to eating and good nutrition will allow a better quality of life, help the body tolerate treatment, and can contribute to better resistance to infection. Here are some tips regarding treatments and dietary considerations:

* If you are undergoing cancer treatment, it's important to be good to yourself. Experiment with the following tips, and use the ones that work for you. Listen to your body to find the foods and eating schedule that make you feel best.

* Find ways to relax while eating. Choose a quiet place, put on soothing music, and try to keep distractions to a minimum.

* Make the eating experience as appealing as possible by paying attention to colors and presentation. Use your favorite plates, put a vase of flowers on the table, and arrange the food in an attractive way.

* Eat when you feel like eating, not just when it's mealtime. Nausea or lack of appetite may return by dinnertime, so take advantage of the times you feel you can eat.

* Eat small meals throughout the day instead of three big meals that may not be tolerated as well.Keep snacks handy and eat them between meals.

* Keep your favorite foods available. If you can eat nothing else, sometimes a favorite food will spark a little appetite.

* Experiment with different foods -- the change may stimulate your appetite. Try to increase protein intake.

* Eat foods that are warm or at room temperature. Cold or hot foods may be uncomfortable to your system.

* Learn which food smells are appealing to you, and use them to stimulate your appetite. If the smell of apple pie sets your mouth watering, bake a ready-made pie, or put a apple slices with cinnamon on a baking tray in the oven. Once your appetite is aroused, eat your meal.

* Avoid cooking foods with unappealing smells. When really feeling nauseous, eat foods with little or no smell, such as cottage cheese or crackers.

* If others are preparing food for you, make sure they know your tastes. Ask them to add flavors you like, or to change the way they cook if it is unpalatable to you. Your nutrition is more important than politeness.

* Keep prepared foods available for those times when you are too tired to cook. If your sense of taste is diminished, spark-up your food with strong (yet non-irritating) flavors, such as fruit juices or Italian dressing.

* Add extra calories to your food by adding dry milk, honey, jam or brown sugar whenever possible.

If you are frequently nauseated during chemotherapy, consider the following:

* Eat crackers, toast, oatmeal, soft bland vegetables and fruits, clear liquids, and skinned baked chicken. These are usually well tolerated.

* Avoid fatty, greasy or fried foods; sweets; and hot or spicy foods. All these foods are harder to digest.

* Eat in a well-ventilated, cool room. A hot, stuffy room will only make the nausea worse.

* Eat small amounts throughout the day.

* Drink liquids between meals, not while you are eating (except for small amounts to moisten food if your mouth is dry).

* Don't force yourself to eat during nausea. This may cause you to develop aversions to your favorite foods.

* Eat in a room other than the kitchen -- cooking smells may make your nausea worse.

If you are having physical trouble with eating due to cancer or treatment, you may also consider the following:

* Avoid foods that may irritate your mouth, such as spicy, acidic, citrus, or salty foods.Take very small bites of food at a time instead of full mouthfuls.

* Cook foods until they are very tender or even mushy. Puree foods in a blender or food processor.

* Mix foods with broth, sauces or thin gravies to make them easier to swallow. Drink through a straw if that makes it easier.

If you continue to have problems or if you have questions about what foods you should or should not be eating, talk with your doctor or dietitian. There is now a medicine (megestrol acetate,) which can stimulate a cancer patient's appetite. You should be able to come up with a course of action that will carry you through your eating difficulties.

Preventing Cancer with Food

No single food or nutrient will remove the risk of cancer, but following some guidelines can reduce your chances of developing certain types of cancer. (As an added benefit, some of these guidelines also help prevent heart disease, obesity and diabetes.) And for those who already have health problems, making these dietary changes can give you the needed stamina to fight the disease, plus increase your immune response and make treatment more tolerable. To help you remember these guidelines in your everyday food choices, think P-R-E-V-E-N-T-S.

Plant-based diet
Eat Less Fat
Variety E xercise
Natural, whole-grain foods
Smoked, pickled, salted and cured foods

Plant-based diet
Many experts believe that adding more plant-based foods is the dietary cornerstone to prevent many types of cancer. That's because fruits, vegetables and other plant-based foods typically are:

* Low in saturated fats, the "animal fats" found in meats, butter and cheese that are linked to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease and other diseases.

* High in fiber, which is associated with a lower risk of colon cancer.

* The best sources of phtyochemicals, natural substances in fruits and vegetables that seem to offer some protection against the formation of certain types of tumors.

By eating mostly plant-based foods, you will more easily reach the dietary goal of eating 6-11 servings of breads, grains, and cereals; 2-4 servings of fruit and 3-5 servings of vegetables. In fact, the goal of "5 A Day" -- or 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day -- is the cornerstone of the National Cancer Institute's dietary guidelines for cancer prevention. One recent NCI report stated that if everyone following the "5 A Day" guideline, cancer incidence rates could decline by 20 percent or more. To learn more about the "5 A Day" program, including tips and recipes, go to dcp.nci.nih.gov/5aday.

While roughage is more closely associated with keeping your bowels regular and helping reduce the risk of heart disease, a high-fiber diet is also a good way to reduce the risk of colorectal cancers. Fibers make up the structural parts of plants, and are therefore found in all plant-based foods -- including fruits, vegetables, grains, breads and cereals. They are not found in meat, milk, cheese, or oils. The refining process used to make white flour removes almost all of the fiber from grains.

By definition, fiber is resistant to digestion, so its effects are mainly what it does as it passes through the body. There are many different types of fiber with different effects in the body, but they are generally classified into two groups: "soluble" and "insoluble."

Soluble fibers are those that can dissolve in water; they typically are in highest amounts in fruits, legumes, barley and oats. They generally slow down digestion time, allowing you to feel full longer, and to give your system plenty of time to absorb nutrients from the foods you eat. More significantly, soluble fibers bind with bile acids in your intestines and carry them out of your body. Since bile acids are made from cholesterol, soluble fiber can lower your cholesterol levels. Studies relating high bile acid concentrations and colon cancer have led some scientists to suspect that binding bile acids may be one way that fiber (soluble and insoluble) helps prevent colon cancer.

Insoluble fibers are the type found in vegetables, whole-grain breads and whole-grain cereals. They increase the bulk of stool, help to prevent constipation, and aid the removal of bound bile acids out of your system. Insoluble fiber also increases "transit time," or the speed that food moves through your gastrointestinal system. One theory as to why a high-fiber diet reduces the risk of colon or other cancers is that fiber can bind potentially cancer-causing agents in your intestines and speed the transit time so harmful substances do not stay in the body long enough to do damage.

Both types of fiber are important for good health and cancer prevention, and you can get them by eating a varied plant-based diet. Ideally, everyone should get at least 25 grams of fiber each day -- about half the amount most Americans currently consume. A good way to achieve that amount is to eat the National Cancer Institute's recommended five fruits and vegetables each day. You can boost your fiber intake by eating the skins of potatoes and fruits such as apples and pears, since the skins contain a lot of fiber. Switching from refined foods to whole-grain foods is also advisable; that means choosing whole-wheat breads over white and brown rice over white. Other good sources of fiber include legumes, lentils and whole-grain cereals.

Eat less fat
Choosing foods naturally low in fat makes sense for a number of reasons:

* A high-fat diet has been associated with an increased risk of developing cancer of the prostate, colon, endometrium and breast.

* Foods that are low in fat are usually high in fiber, so you're accomplishing two dietary goals in one.

* Low-fat foods are usually lower in calories than high-fat foods, and obesity is associated with a higher risk of cancer. (The exception is low-fat foods that have extra sugar to make up for the lost fat.)

The three types of dietary fats -- saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats -- differ in their molecular structure: Saturated fats come almost exclusively from animal products, such as meat, milk and cheese. A diet high in saturated fats has been associated with increased risk of both cancer and heart disease. Monounsaturated fats, found in olive oil and canola oil, and polyunsaturated fats, found in vegetable oils are less closely linked to disease; but since overall fat intake is associated with obesity, cancer and heart disease risk, it's a good idea to limit your intake of all three kinds.

Some recent studies have suggested that eating margarine may be worse for your health than eating butter because the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in margarines may be related to heart disease. While the margarine versus butter controversy continues, dietitians are recommending that, if you must eat one, choose a tub margarine over butter, since butter is rich in both saturated fat and cholesterol and the hazards of saturated fats are better documented and appear to be more severe than the hydrogenated fats in margarine. Most margarin is made from vegetable fat and provides no dietary cholesterol. According to the American Heart Association, the more liquid the margarine, the less hydrogenated it is. And the less hydrogenation, the fewer trans fatty acid it contains.

The usual recommendation is that you should get no more than 10 percent of your daily calories from saturated fats, and that your total fat intake should not exceed 30 percent of your total daily calories. Many dietitians go one step further and say that if you are limiting fat calories for disease prevention, you could increase the benefit by reducing bringing your total fat intake to 20 percent of total calories. You can reduce dietary fat by limiting the amount of red meat you eat, choosing low-fat or no-fat varieties of milk and cheese, removing the skin from chicken and turkey before eating, snacking on pretzels instead of potato chips, and decreasing or eliminating fried foods, butter and margarine from your diet. Cooking with small amounts of olive oil instead of butter will significantly cut your saturated fat intake.

Try to eat a variety of foods instead of eating the same things week after week. We all know that vitamins and minerals help keep us healthy, but scientists are still discovering other important substances in foods, such as antioxidants, phytochemicals and phytoestrogens.

Antioxidants are substances that seek out and destroy the naturally occurring toxic molecules called "free radicals." Free radicals can cause extensive damage to the body's cells. The damage done by free radicals is called "oxidative stress," which is thought to be involved in the aging process and in cancer development. Antioxidants reduce the number of free radicals, prevent tissue damage and, quite possibly, prevent cancer. The antioxidants that have generated the most interest and research to date are vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and selenium. Eating foods rich in these nutrients will help keep free radical levels in check.

Good sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, cantaloupe, strawberries, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, mangos, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Vitamin E can be found in green leafy vegetables, wheat germ, whole grain products, nuts, seeds, and vegetable oil. Beta-carotene is often (but not always) identified by its color -- yellow, orange or deep green -- and is found in large quantities in carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, apricots, broccoli, spinach and other green leafy vegetables. Selenium is found in seafood, meat and grains.

Phytochemicals are plant chemicals that contribute to the color and flavor of vegetables; in the body, they may suppress cancer development. One phytochemical that has been widely publicized is the antioxidant beta-carotene. But other "carotenoids" may be even more powerful than beta-carotene in preventing cancer. For example, lutein found in spinach, kale and other green leafy vegetables, has been shown to have a more active effect in the body than beta-carotene. Other phytochemicals that are thought to have a role in preventing cancer are: limonen and phenols in citrus fruits, allyl sulfides in garlic and onions, sulforaphane, indoles and isothicyanates in broccoli, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables, and flavonoids in most fruits, vegetables and tea.

Phytoestrogens are compounds that bind with estrogen receptors in the body, reducing the usual effects of estrogen. Since estrogen has been associated with increased risk of breast, endometrial and ovarian cancer, phytoestrogens may reduce the risk of these kinds of cancer. Phytoestrogens are found in soy products (such as tofu, soy milk, and "vegetable burgers") and legumes.

The more different kinds of foods you eat, the more cancer-fighting nutrients you'll get. Another reason to choose a variety of fruits and vegetables has to do with the potential health concerns associated with pesticides used to grow produce. Most experts believe that eating the small amount of man-made pesticides that remain on or in produce constitute a negligible risk. Whatever the risk, eating a wide variety of foods assures that you won't get too much of any one additive in your diet. Despite the publicity pesticides have been getting in the media, eating your "5 A Day" is still your best move towards good health and cancer prevention. So the next time you're at the supermarket, try something new: Buy a mango as well as a banana, or broccoli rabe as well as celery. Get the full range of cancer-preventing nutrients from a full range of produce.

What does exercise have to do with nutrition? Plenty! Exercise helps the body, including the gastrointestinal system, function properly so that all the food and fiber you eat gets optimally used. Also, exercise builds lean muscle and burns calories. This serves two purposes: It gives you a chance to eat more (and thereby get more nutrition) and lose weight. Underactivity is thought to be a major contributor to obesity, and obesity is a risk factor for many cancers, including cancer of the prostate, breast, ovary, endometrium, gallbladder and colon. Exercise itself reduced the risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer in some studies.

You don't have to run marathons or buy a basement full of expensive equipment to improve your health through exercise. Recent guidelines suggest doing 30 minutes of any kind of activity every day. And you don't have to do all 30 minutes at one time -- a 10-minute walk around the block in the morning, mowing the lawn after work, and playing with the dog in the evening will be enough to satisfy the requirement. There's no trick -- you just have to move, since exercise also speeds up transit time, which may reduce your risk of colon cancers. The more you do, the greater the health rewards. Just remember to start slowly, and see your doctor before starting any exercise program different from what you're already doing.

Natural, whole-grain foods
Whenever possible, choose foods that come as close to their natural state as possible. That means selecting whole-wheat bread over refined flour breads, fresh fruits and vegetables over canned, whole grain cereals over cereals that are heavily sugared, brown rice over white rice. Refined products, such as white rice and white bread, have had most of the nutritious part of the grain removed during processing. These products often are "enriched," which means that they have certain vitamins and minerals added back to them. While "enriched" may sound like a good thing, many valuable nutrients removed during the refining process are never added back -- such as fiber. In addition, many refined products add other ingredients you may not want, such as sugars, salt or fats.

If you smoke or use any tobacco products, stop. The single greatest cause or correlate of cancer is smoking -- and this goes beyond lung cancer. Smoking is directly related to mouth and esophageal cancers, and has been shown to cause an increase in risk of cancers of the pancreas, stomach and bladder. Chewing tobacco, far from being a safe alternative, is associated with an increased risk of cancers of the mouth and throat. Smoking can also decrease appetite, so you may not get all the nutrients you need.

In addition, alcohol should be limited to no more than one 1-ounce drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Alcohol has also been associated with cancers of the breast, liver, esophagus, mouth and throat.

Smoked, pickled, salted and cured foods
In the 1930s, before refrigeration became common in the U.S., stomach cancer was the leading cause of cancer death in men, and the second leading cause in women. Without the ability to freeze and safely store food, people relied on different preserving methods -- such as smoking, pickling, salting and curing. Now, because these types of preserved meats are less common, rates of stomach cancer in the U.S. are the lowest they've ever been. (In parts of the world where these types of meat-preserving measures are still widely used, stomach cancer remains a major killer.) Common foods that should be avoided include hot dogs, bacon, ham, and pickled vegetables. If you do eat them, try to drink a glass of orange juice or get another source of vitamin C, as well -- it may protect against some of harmful effects.

Several recent reports suggest that barbecued meat may also promote cancer. Cancer-causing substances called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are produced when fat from the meat drips onto the flames; they rise up in the smoke and settle on back on the meat. It's recommended that you limit the amount of barbecued meat you eat; if you must barbecue, pre-cook the meat in an oven or microwave before transferring it to the barbecue -- that way you'll have less open-flame cooking time, and fewer polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons on your dinner.

"Cancer-Fighting" Foods

All fruits and vegetables are good for you, contributing something valuable to your overall health, as well as resistance to cancer and other diseases. But some studies are making the news by showing that eating particular fruits and vegetables and lower the risk of cancer:

According to research, this may be one of the most powerful cancer-preventing foods. Broccoli contains the phytochemical sulforaphane, which may help prevent cancer. Laboratory tests show that rats fed concentrated amounts of sulforaphane have less cancer, or have cancer that develops more slowly than rats that do not get the benefit of broccoli. Watch for an even more powerful form of broccoli to hit the supermarkets in 1998 -- broccoli sprouts.

Cruciferous Vegetables
Like broccoli, cruciferous vegetables contain sulforaphane, as well as other phytochemicals (such as dithiolthiones) that help stop cancer before it begins. These compounds work by triggering enzymes that act to block carcinogen damage to your cells' DNA. Population studies show that the more cruciferous vegetables you eat, the lower your risk of cancer in several sites, especially lung, stomach, colon and rectal cancers. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, collards, kohlrabi, mustard greens, and turnip greens.

Garlic and Onions
The sulfur compounds in garlic and onions (allyl sulfides) are the active, cancer-preventing component. They trigger enzymes that act to excrete carcinogens from the body. Research is still being done to determine exactly how garlic and onions might prevent cancer, and for which specific cancers they might be most useful.

Orange and Grapefruit juice
Along with vitamin C and other nutrients, oranges and grapefruits (especially concentrated in juice form) contain flavonoids, which act as antioxidants and can inhibit cancer cell growth. In a recent study, mice that drank orange juice or grapefruit juice instead of water had half the number of tumors and metastases as mice that only drank water. While more research is needed, stocking up on the citrus fruit seems like a good idea.

Soy foods are high in phytoestrogens and isoflavones, which block some hormonal activity in cells. Diets high in soy products have been associated with lower rates of cancers of the breast, endometrium and prostate. Soy can be found in soy beans, soy milk, tofu, misu, and meat-substitute products like "vegetable burgers."

Tea is one of the most heavily consumed drinks in the world, and some studies suggest that some varieties, especially green tea, may inhibit digestive tract cancers. The benefit is thought to be due to antioxidants (which protect the cells from oxidation damage) and polyphenolic compounds (which block the formation of some carcinogenic compounds in the body).

Tomatoes and tomato sauce

Tomatoes are high in the phytochemical lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. One study found that lycopene is even more potent than beta-carotene in stopping cancer cells from proliferating. A diet high in tomatoes and tomato sauce has been associated with decreased risk of prostate cancer and cancers in the gastrointestinal tract, including stomach and colon.

Most common cancers have a dietary component. There are estimates that between 30 and 70 percent of all cancers are somehow related to dietary factors -- what we eat, how much we eat, and even how we prepare our foods. What this means is about half of all cancers could be avoided with the proper diet.

Unfortunately, we don't know specifically what that proper diet is. High dietary fat is often associated with an increased risk of several types of cancer, such as those of the colon and breast, so along with avoiding exposure to known carcinogens such as the sun, tobacco and industrial chemicals, one key to helping prevent cancer is to monitor the amount of fat in your diet.

Another key is to eat foods that offer protection against this disease. That's not to say that certain foods offer a "magic bullet" that will keep you from developing cancer, but our research shows that there are many types of natural chemicals in some of the plants we eat that can boost levels of protective enzymes to stop cancer before it starts.

If you are interested in dietary plans to help with the cancerous condition, please do not hesitate to contact me at the Wellness Store. I am happy to provide counseling for you and believe me, I have seen so many patients improve with simple plans…and an attitude that says, "I am going to fight this…" You have that power in you. Contact me for more.

Mike Casso, R.Ph.