Obesity and Cancer – What You Need to Know

Here at The Bodhi Clinic, we commonly answer questions about the connection between diet, exercise, blood sugar, weight, obesity and cancer. Fortunately, there is good research available to draw upon and by working with a naturopathic doctor at The Bodhi Clinic, we can design and recommend an individualized plan with the goal of supporting cancer prevention and reducing recurrence. In order to maximize the anti-cancer benefits from these interventions, you need a long-term plan that works for you.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Eating a healthy diet is key to overall health and can help lower the risk of numerous cancers.  Both myself and Dr. Porter provide individual diet-based recommendations based on your cancer type and individual biochemistry. We are all biochemically unique, meaning that our nutritional and chemical make-up varies and therefore dietary needs vary as well. An example of this is the more common lactose intolerance or MTHFT genetic variation (the inhibition of the body in converting folate (B9) into active folic acid).

The most important diet-related mistake in cancer prevention is likely overnutrition – overeating calories that lead to weight gain and go against maintaining a healthy weight – which is not healthy. Good evidence shows that a diet low in animal products and high in plant-based nutrition helps prevent cancer. Cancers with a link to diet include: breast, colon, lung, esophageal, oral, pancreatic, prostate, pharyngeal, laryngeal, stomach, kidney and uterine.

Balance Your Blood Sugar sugar bowl with blood sugar measure

Balancing your blood sugar is definitely connected to eating a healthy diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.

Many of our patients have researched online the “Sugar Feeds Cancer Theory” and are working to avoid any-and-all sugar – impossible! All the carbohydrates we eat and metabolize (includes all fruits and vegetables) are processed into sugar. Trying to avoid all sugar would mean a diet high in protein and fat. Not recommended.

What is key in understanding how sugar and cancer are connected is insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Remember, insulin is a hormone, produced by the pancreas, that allows sugar to get into the cell, and when insulin rises, so does the hormone IGF-1.

Both hormones have been known to stimulate cell growth and IGF-1 and can even stop cell-programmed death (apoptosis) – both very bad things when you are dealing with cancer. When we have a food or meal that is high in sugar, insulin and IGF-1 will increase. Fiber is the key in slowing the release of sugar from foods – think whole apple versus apple juice. The whole apple contains fiber, which will slow down that release of sugar, leading to less insulin and IGF-1 being secreted, compared to the juice, which is fiber-less and essentially dumps a load of sugar into the bloodstream, raising insulin and IGF-1. Whole foods are all high in fiber, in contrast with refined and processed foods which are low in fiber. A diet high in fiber-rich vegetables, fruits and grains has a protective effect and leads to balanced blood sugar.

Exercise Regularly 

Regular physical activity is essential in weight and blood sugar management and all three go hand-in-hand; if you are exercising regularly, your weight will reach a healthy level, and your blood sugar will stabilize.

In terms of cancer prevention and reducing recurrence, regular exercise is widely accepted as fundamental. What does regular physical activity mean? Recommendations for this generally are around either 30 minutes of moderate activity (like brisk walking) five or more days per week, or 20 minutes of vigorous activity (like running), three or more days per week.

There is one important point missing from this recommendation by the American Cancer Society – you need to elevate your heart rate and breathing to get the benefits. This recommendation; however, only includes cardiovascular/aerobic activity. In order to get the full benefits of exercise for weight and blood sugar management and anti-cancer effects, I also stress the need to build muscle mass, which can be accomplished through resistance training.

Maintaining a Healthy Weight

According to the American Cancer Society, maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important risk factors for cancer. Being obese, which means your body mass index (BMI) is equal to or greater than 30, is most concerning and lowering your BMI not only reduces your risk for cancer, but also reduces your risk for numerous other disease states as well.

Maintaining a healthy weight involves both diet and exercise changes and for the vast majority of us, stress and mood support. I commonly see chronic high-stress responses as an obstacle to weight loss and addressing the body’s response to stress and mood is an important part of sustainable weight management. Our body wants to keep and maintain weight in a high-stress state and although we can’t always remove the stressor, we can work to modify how we respond to it.

Ways to Reduce Cancer Risk and Prevent Recurrence

A healthy weight, balanced blood sugar, good nutrition and regular exercise are all connected and we should not underestimate the effect they can have on our health in reducing our risk of cancer and preventing recurrence.

There are additional steps you can take to reduce the risk of some individual cancers, yet working to achieve a healthy diet and weight, regular exercise and stable blood sugar will provide a substantial benefit.

Naturopathic medicine at The Bodhi Clinic is a whole-person approach that works to address root-causes and allows you more time with the doctor to develop an individualized, long-term and sustainable plan that will work for you.

By Dr. Elise Benczkowski, ND

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Awakening Your Inner Pharmacy – Oxytocin

Hello there dear ones, this is the first in a new series by Dr. Porter on “Awakening Your Inner Pharmacy.” This new series will help empower you to understand the strength of your innate ability to heal by awakening your inner healer through your inner pharmacy.

What is Oxytocin

This month’s topic is going to be Oxytocin, also known as the hormone of love, happiness or the cuddle hormone.  For you techies, it is released in the Hypothalamus in a diurnal rhythm peaking around noon with receptors found in most organs however especially high in the brain, heart, endometrium and fat cells (adipocytes).  The effects of oxytocin are far reaching in the body: For example, in fat cells it can decrease the risk of diabetes, obesity and osteopenia.

Oxytocin has an effect on the HPA (Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis and the GBA (Gut Brain) axis via the vagal nerve with a strong ability to decrease the effects of stress on the body.  Via estrogen it acts synergistically improving your mood therefore happiness.  80 percent of the oxytocin neurons in the pituitary gland express estrogen B receptors which means you have a decreased risk of cancer.

OK, so is this sounding like the miracle hormone to have?  Yes, and there are so many more at work in your body that we will discuss in future articles.  However, there is one problem…  we have not found a way to make it that is affordable, stable and as effective as we would like.  Now, when we produce it in our own body, it is free, stable and available on demand.  HHhmmmm, and why are we not seeing commercials on TV about this?

Research Shows Benefits of Oxytocin

What I would like to share is what the research shows — what you can do to increase this hormone in yourself.

So, there is the obvious, make love not war.  Post intercourse there is a surge in oxytocin and a bonding effect with the person you are with.  A second major way to increase oxytocin in your body is to give and receive hugs.  A 20 second hug has been shown to decrease effects of stress, lower BP, and improve immune function.  This includes your dog or cat whom receive the same benefit.   We wonder why Amma the hugging saint is helping so many people; she is oxytocin manifested in a human form spreading healing to anyone open to receiving.

Other activities that increase oxytocin include exercise and expressing gratitude.  Vitamin C appears to help as well.  Some other benefits seen in people with healthy levels of oxytocin include increasing trust, empathy and the desire to be in social groups.  People with optimal levels have less anxiety, stress, addictions, obesity and/or PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder).  Oxytocin increases charitable donations, happiness, bonding, love and decreases the effects of stress via the HPA axis.  I am officially writing a prescription for each and every one of you to hug as many people as possible each day.  In fact, give mother earth a big hug as well for putting up with us humans and our crazy ways.

Two polar bears hugging - example of oxytocin

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Gut Microbiome and Mental Health

3d render Bacteria blue closeup (depth of field. From Human Microbiome Project, NIH.gov)

Dr. Porter presented the Keynote Address – Awakening your Inner Pharmacy: Changing Mental Health Naturally – to the Maryland Psychological Association Integrative Health Conference June 9, 2017.

Below is a summary of Dr. Porter’s keynote and links to her full article and slides.

Effects of the Gut Microbiome on Mental Health

There is a growing body of evidence to support epigenetics and the effect our environment, food choices, nutrient deficiencies and thoughts have on our health and well being. It is well established that the Gut-Brain Axis (GBA) and Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) have an affect on mental health. We will explore the pathways and their role in Anxiety, Depression and ADHD. Once we know these influences, we will explore the effects of diet, lifestyle, nutrients and botanical medicines on the above mentioned mental health issues.

Healthier Gut Means Better Mood

The keynote is designed to help you:

  • Understand the importance of a healthy gastrointestinal system and the role bacteria plays in our sense of well-being;
  • Review and understand the effects of stress on mental health and how our inner pharmacy can help;
  • Learn naturopathic insights and tools to balance the GBA and HPA axis in relation to mental health.
Read Dr. Porter’s article on the Gut Microbiome and Mental Health HERE

Check out the latest research and programs NIH is doing on the microbiome and its effect on health – LINK

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