Tigerlily Foundation

Tigerlily Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to educating, advocating for, empowering and providing hands-on support to young women, before, during and after breast cancer. For more information visit: tigerlilyfoundation.org.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Touch Your Tatas! They’ll Love You For It!

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love getting a massage.  It’s one of the most loving things that I do for myself and it’s so relaxing.  I actually try to make it a point of getting a massage every month with my membership at Massage Envy.  Not only do our bodies need that kind of love, our tatas do too!  Stay with me here –  I’m not talking about anything freaky and I’m not talking about how you can increase your bust size either!

A few years ago I went to a holistic gynecologist who told me to massage my breasts.  I told him that I already knew how to do breast self-exams, but he wasn’t talking about that.  He was talking about intimately massaging my breasts (not in a sexual way), really getting to know them and sending love to them.  It seemed strange to me at first, but after I thought about it for a while, it made sense.  Just like people, our bodies can sense the love, hate or apathy that we have for them.  Our bodies can tell when they are being neglected.  Any part of your body that is being loved will serve you better.  When we really love our bodies, we take better care of them -- we get sleep, we eat the right foods and we exercise.  Individual parts of our bodies also need that same kind of love and attention.  Our breasts are one of the many things that make us unique as women.  We need to take care of them.  We need to wear the right bras (both regular and sports bras) to give them proper support, refrain from using toxic chemicals (antiperspirant) under our arms and also really get to know them.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, many diseases, including breast cancer, are partially due to stagnation or the improper flow of blood.  It is believed that massaging any area of the body will improve blood flow and the flow of fluids as they relax and rectify the flow of qi (energy).[1]  The flow of bodily fluids is very important in Western Medicine as well.  Our breasts are located near our lymphatic system which transports and processes waste matter from our cells throughout our bodies.  This is one reason why breast cancer can be so dangerous—if cancer cells reach our lymphatic system, they can spread throughout the body.  Therefore it is critical that our lymphatic systems are working properly.  Moving the lymphatic system helps to flush toxins out of the body.  Exercise helps with this, but regularly massaging the breast tissue and lymph areas around the breasts helps to ensure that there is no stagnation.[2] 

As young women, many of us have dense and fibrocystic breasts, so it can often be difficult to detect breast lumps when doing breast self-exams.  One way to conquer this problem is really getting to know your breasts.  Breast massage not only allows you to do this, but also sends your breasts the love and healing energy they deserve.

(If you have active breast cancer, it’s best to see your oncologist, finish treatment and get clearance before practicing breast self-massage.  Also, if you notice any lumps or thickening while doing the breast massage, please see your doctor.)

If you google “breast self-massage” on the internet, you’ll get a lot of hits, some of which are quite graphic!  I recommend two types – the tulip technique and the lymphatic breast massage, which can both be done in as little as two to three minutes, but I suggest that you take your time. 

1.       The Tulip Tap – This technique incorporates Chinese medicine acupressure.  During the massage you apply pressure on six points around the breast that line the breast in the shape of a tulip and gently tap each area with your thumb for six to nine seconds.  After that, you use your three middle fingers to tap around the breasts in the shape of the tulip.   The Tulip Tap moves the energy and lymphatic tissue around the breast.  To watch a short video on how to do the Tulip Tap, click here.  Please note that this video also has a demonstration of the Lymphatic Breast Massage discussed below. 

2.       The Lymphatic Breast Massage – This technique was created by The Breast Health Project and involves pumping, squeezing, pulling and brushing the breast tissue in various directions which mimic how the lymph moves in the body.[3]  To watch a short video on how to do the Lymphatic Breast Massage, click here.  
If this blog post resonated with you, I encourage you to try both of these techniques and see which one you like best.  They’re both pretty simple to incorporate into your daily or weekly routine.  Whichever method you choose, remember to relax, take your time and send some love to those girls!

-          AmiCietta D. Clarke, Certified Holistic Health Coach & Founder of Clean Body Living, LLC, www.cleanbodyliving.com

[1] Honora Lee Wolf.  “Maintaining Breast Health Through Regular Self Massage”.  Chimedicineworks.com
[2] “October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month:  Are You Aware of What You Can Do for your Health?” 
[3] http://www.breasthealthproject.com/lymphatic-breast-massage.html

Monday, October 13, 2014

Healing & Wholeness

2013 was a very eventful year for me. I completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training, celebrated my 40th birthday, became baptized and a week later was diagnosed with Stage 1 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.

On July 3, I was bathing with my 3 yr old daughter when my fingertip grazed the outside of my left breast and I felt IT.  I took a deep breath, put my daughter to bed and immediately got on my knees to pray. I recall saying, “Lord, I don’t know what you have planned. I’m scared, but I bring it all to you, to rely on you through whatever is coming my way.” 

Immediately friends and family began sending me uplifting gifts, most of them pink in some way.  I received a ‘Fight Like a Girl’ hat and wore it often (and still do, I’m wearing it as I write). The theme of ‘fighting the good fight’, and terms like ‘battle’, and ‘survivor’ kept coming at me. So I decided if I was in a ‘war’ against the cancer in my body, I would need weapons.  My weapons of choice were (and still are!):

1. My faith in Jesus Christ
2. My 3 yr old daughter, being her role model and champion
3. My yoga practice

At the time of my diagnosis, I had been practicing vinyasa yoga for 7 yrs, was a newly minted teacher, and one of the first questions to my doctors after I knew my survival rate was, ‘Can I ever practice yoga again?’ Choosing to have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction, I knew my chest muscles would be cut and compromised.  After my plastic surgeon said I could return to practice after surgery, I then asked, ‘How soon?’  I believe he said ‘8 weeks’ but for me, 3 weeks after my surgery, I needed to breathe and move and be in community with others healing from cancer.  I was praying often and I needed to step onto a mat and reconnect my body, mind and spirit. A kind friend drove me to a therapeutic yoga class provided by my local hospital. In that first class, I just breathed as deeply as I could, moved my arms as much as my wounds would allow.  It was hard. It was humbling.

As I exercised to get my range of motion back there was one particular movement that brought tears every time; partly from pain and because it was a heart-opener yoga pose. In those poses I was most vulnerable emotionally as well as physically. I would cry at random moments on my mat and most times could not verbalize why the tears were flowing.

A deep humility was experienced over and over again throughout my recovery, for how physically weak I was, for how physically strong I used to be, for how I wasn’t able to plan much and was forced to take one day at a time.  Breast cancer demolished the illusion of control I thought I had over my life.

I turned to God in prayer to help me through the pain and discouragement. I kept feeling His peace and presence and began to believe that He must really have a purpose for me and for my breast cancer journey. That this was not just ‘happening to me’ but there was a much larger plan in motion that included more than me and my daughter.

And I kept coming back to my yoga mat. There is such vulnerability during treatment, I found it so easy to shut down emotionally, or become disconnected from my body. I was grateful I learned through yoga how to ‘listen’ to my body to know when to push myself and when to back off during my recovery. I began attending my former physically demanding vinyasa yoga classes and my ego was knocked down several pegs to be unable to do only half of the practice.  However, I figured out how to practice with the rest of the class but avoid any weight bearing on my upper body. I worked myself into the poses week by week, feeling so grateful to be on my mat, in community with others, doing what I loved and what I knew was helping heal my body. Practicing during my recovery and chemo helped me feel in control of my life, and I simultaneously marveled at the body’s ability to heal itself.  My eyes and heart were opened to the physically and emotionally hurting people like me who needed a path to get well.

During the rough hours and days of chemo, I tried to remind myself that other women had endured worse in order to keep perspective. I was depleted and beat down. I felt like I was in a time warp where sometimes the minutes and seconds stood still in my pain and exhaustion.  I was constantly irritated and agitated due to the steroids. I felt raw and stripped away of pretense, of trivial meaningless worries. I felt clarity like never before and I reveled in it. There was freedom in this space like no other.  Most importantly during this time, I was in deep communion with God. He was so faithful to His promise to always be with me, to give me the strength I needed, and I never felt alone.

There were many days I didn’t get off the couch and didn’t make it to yoga class. The silver lining was that I had lots of time to do Bible study! God opened my eyes to this truth: He had been preparing me to help fellow pink sisters through yoga. I could see the people, opportunities, education and timing all coming together.    I felt Him nudge me and whisper in my ear that He had equipped me for this moment. And so Faithful Warrior Yoga was truly born.

The pink sisters whom I’ve taught to this point have shown such determination and moxy. They want to feel better, they want to regain as much mobility, flexibly and strength as possible. They don’t want to allow cancer to limit them any more than it already has. Like me, women come to yoga practice feeling tired, nausea, or sore and they breathe deeply into those spaces, and facilitate for themselves internal healing. Yoga gives them an opportunity to reconnect or perhaps for the first time, connect to their bodies, and listen to the queues their bodies give. To come back to their mat, class after class when it’s not easy nor comfortable is an act of sheer determination in an effort to take control over what each woman can in her journey.

My life was forever be altered by breast cancer. I have a completely fresh and profound knowledge of health and of sickness.  I carry the responsibility to pay forward my experience and support I received. It is a gut deep feeling, a burning in my heart that fuels me.

I feel incredibly honored to serve God and others. I'm looking to Jesus for all I require to carry out my life's purpose, to minister to other women and to be a godly momma.  I am now taking the leap of faith, totally changing careers and paths, forgoing many creature comforts and corporate stability, in order to live out loud and follow this God given passion.   While I am reaching others, I am simultaneously making sure not to burn myself out. I am reminded daily when I look into my daughter’s eyes that mommy must continue to take care of herself too! 

A verse I clung to during the past year continues to speak to my heart today, "12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." James 1:12

My hope and prayer is that we who have been affected by a breast cancer diagnosis will not just survive, but instead, thrive.

God bless,
Vickie Vo, Founder Faithful Warrior Yoga

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Are Sweaty Arm Pits Healthier?

There is nothing like sitting next to someone with body odor or BO, as my grandmother calls it.  I've found that the main cause of BO is stinky armpits and let's admit it, we've all been there - I know that I have!  Using an effective deodorant will prevent anyone from talking about you (or writing a blog post about you :-)).  It's definitely nice to put on a 24 hour deodorant that keeps you dry and smell free all day, but unfortunately many deodorants and antiperspirants contain toxic chemicals that disrupt our hormonal systems, weaken our immune systems and contribute to chronic diseases such as breast cancer.

Our skin is our largest organ of detoxification and also and protects us from bacteria, UV rays and physical assaults (cuts & scrapes).  Chemicals in body products are absorbed into our skin within seconds and the skin under our arms is even more sensitive as it is near our lymph nodes and often has micro-cuts due to shaving.  There are three common ingredients in deodorant and antiperspirant that have been linked to breast cancer that you want to avoid.

Most “deodorants” aren't actually just deodorants - they're antiperspirants.  Their name is indicative of what they do - they stop you from perspiring.  Sweating or perspiring is one of the body's natural detoxification processes.   Aluminum is the active ingredient in most antiperspirants that blocks sweat glands and keeps sweat from getting to the skin's surface.  Aluminum has been linked to breast cancer as it causes estrogen-like hormonal effects in the body and estrogen has the ability to promote the growth of breast cancer.   Studies have also found that aluminum is present in the upper outer quadrant of the breast where many breast cancers are found.  Instead of an antiperspirant containing aluminum, opt for a deodorant that contains corn starch or another natural ingredient that absorbs your sweat instead of stopping you from sweating.

Parabens are a common ingredient in body products, including deodorants and antiperspirants.  They're actually used in 75-90% of all personal care products.  They’re endocrine or hormone disruptors and one study showed that traces of parabens were found in every single cancerous breast tumor tested in the study. They've also been linked to early puberty and birth defects.  There are many forms of parabens, so look for anything that ends in the word "parabens."

We often associate fragrance with something that is clean, however "fragrance" in deodorants and antiperspirants often contains a class of chemicals called phthalates which bind the fragrance to the deodorant/antiperspirant.  Phthalates are also endocrine disruptors and prenatal exposure has been linked to genital birth defects in boys, early breast development in girls and an increased risk of breast cancer in women.  Phthalates are not actually listed on the label of body products, but if you see the words “fragrance,” “perfume” or “parfum,” you can be quite certain that it contains phthalates.  You don’t have to use a product without fragrance (watch out for fragrance free products as they often contain “fragrance” or phthalates), but choose a deodorant that uses essential oils instead of "fragrance."

There are many other ingredients in deodorants and antiperspirants that are harmful, but I've given you three of the most common harmful ones that are linked to breast cancer.  The first thing that I suggest you do is, opt for a deodorant instead of a combination deodorant/antiperspirant.  If you do this, you'll most likely chose a product that does not contain aluminum.  Secondly, you have to read the label - the back label, that is.  Claims on the front label are often used to convince you to buy the product, whereas the back label contains information to inform you.  You want to choose a product that contains ingredients that you recognize like, shea butter, essential oils, coconut oil, corn starch, probiotics, etc.  If an ingredient has a long scientific name, it's most likely a chemical.  I won’t lie to you, choosing a natural deodorant might mean that you have to touch up your application during the day, but wouldn’t you rather do that, than put toxic chemicals under your arms every day? 

This blog post is about deodorants and antiperspirants, but parabens and phthalates are in almost every other type of body product, so be sure to watch out for them in other products as well. 

Now that you've learned about some of the toxic ingredients in deodorant and antiperspirant, I want you to do a couple of things.  First go and grab your deodorant/antiperspirant and read the label.  Do you use a true deodorant or a combination deodorant/antiperspirant?  Are any of the chemicals listed above in it?  Are there any additional long scientific sounding ingredients in them?  Let me know in the comments below.

- AmiCietta D. Clarke

AmiCietta D. Clarke
Certified Holistic Health Coach
Founder of Clean Body Living, LLC

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I Eat Chick’n or Turk’y? Soy What?

If you have been following me for a while or read the articles that I’ve written for the Tigerlily Foundation blog, you know that I encourage everyone to reduce their intake of animal protein.  Numerous studies have been conducted which show that a plant based diet is the best diet for living a long healthy life.  Plant based diets reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer and a host of other diseases.  While I do not necessarily encourage everyone to be vegan, I do encourage you to eat whole unprocessed foods and processed soy foods are no exception to this rule.
When I was new to clean eating, I thought that I was doing such a great job by making tasty stir fries with soy “chick’n.”  I tried all of the soy “meats”– soy ground meat, soy hot dogs, soy soul food - you name it!  Thankfully, I didn’t do this for long because there are three major problems with all of these types of soy products:  (1) there is a major debate as to whether soy increases or decreases the risk of breast cancer, (2) they’re generally genetically modified and (3) they’re significantly processed.
Soy has been hailed a cancer fighting food by some, including Dr. Andrew Weil, a renowned functional medical doctor and is said to be a cancer causing food by others, namely nutritionist Kaayla Daniel.[1]  Soy contains phytoestrogens which act like a weaker form of estrogen.  Isoflavones or isoflavonoids are the specific type of phytoestrogens found in soy.  Given that the structure of isoflavones is very similar to estrogen, the body may recognize and use isoflavones as it would estrogen.  Remember that one of the causes of breast cancer is increased estrogen levels in the body, so this may be especially troubling for breast cancer survivors and those at high risk for breast cancer.  On the other hand, estrogen protects a woman’s bones and heart and is vital to child bearing.  Isoflavones may also block natural estrogen which would be beneficial for those with breast cancer and those at risk for breast cancer, but it depends on how many isoflavones are present and where they are in the body.[2]
Almost 95% of the soy products in the United States are genetically modified and over eighty percent of the U.S. food supply contains genetically modified organisms or “GMOs.”  GMOs are plants or animals created through experimental biotechnology whereby DNA from different species is merged, creating unstable combinations of plants and genes that cannot occur naturally or in traditional crossbreeding.[3]  Scientists believe that GMOs wreak havoc on our systems and cite animal studies showing organ damage, gastrointestinal and immune system disorders, accelerated aging, and infertility.[4]  Soy lecithin is an emulsifier that is used in many processed foods and is usually genetically modified.  Soy lecithin is in everything from granola bars to chocolate.  So if you decide to eat soy, make sure that it has the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal on it.  The Non-GMO Project is an independent non-profit organization that verifies non-GMO food products.
In addition to potential problems with soy being linked to breast cancer and being mostly GMO, many soy products on the market are also highly processed.  Processed soy is just like any other food that is processed – it is not a whole food and has a lot of food additives.  Processed soy includes foods such as: soy cheese, bacon, chick’n, etc. and food manufacturers and restaurants make them very tasty and enticing for those who are trying to avoid or limit their intake of animal protein.  If you want to add soy to your diet, include whole soy foods such as tofu, tempeh, edamame or miso.  There have been studies done on Japanese women who consumed soy from childhood and had a lower risk of breast cancer than Western women, but they always consumed whole soy foods. 
I salute you for wanting to reduce your consumption of animal protein in your diet.  Adding some soy could be beneficial, but I would suggest that you do it in moderation.  Also only eat whole soy foods and those that have the “Non-GMO Project Verified” seal on them.  So ditch the soy chick’n in your stir fry and make it with “Non-GMO Project Verified” tofu, tempeh or beans instead!

AmiCietta D. Clarke
Certified Holistic Health Coach
Founder of Clean Body Living, LLC

[1] Edward Bauman and Helayne Waldman.  The Whole-Food Guide for Breast Cancer Survivors: A Nutritional Approach to Preventing Recurrence (California: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2012), 33.
[2] Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.  “The Soy and Breast Cancer Controversy: Cause for Concern?”  Cancer.uams.edu <http://cancer.uams.edu/Taxonomy/RelatedDocuments.aspx?id=0&sid=0&ContentTypeId=34&ContentID=22921-1>
[3] The Non-GMO Project.  “What is GMO?” NonGMOProject.org < http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/what-is-gmo/> 
[4] The Institute for Responsible Technology.  “10 Reasons to Avoid GMOs.”  Responsibletechnology.org  

Monday, March 3, 2014

Do you have a Sugar Daddy?

Do you have a sugar daddy?  Well, I know that I did.  Sugar daddies, life savers and jelly beans – I used to sleep with all of them!  In all seriousness, until a few years ago, I was a full blown sugar addict like millions of other Americans.  To tell you the truth, I still am.  I have only recently learned how to kick my bad habit after educating myself about the dangers of sugar and the cause of my cravings.  I knew that sugar caused diabetes, but had no idea until after I started studying nutrition, that sugar contributes to cancer, and breast cancer in particular. 

The average American consumes 130-145 pounds of sugar a year!  Think about it – that’s a significant part of your body weight in sugar!  When I say sugar, I’m not just talking about cookies, candy and cakes.  Sugar is actually a bigger part of your diet than you may realize.  It’s often hidden in foods such as ketchup, salad dressing, bread, baby food and peanut butter.   It is also critical to understand that simple carbohydrates such as white bread, pastries, pasta, rice, etc. convert to sugar very quickly and much faster than complex carbohydrates (brown rice, fruits, vegetables and legumes), proteins and fats. 

“When it comes to cancer, sugar is like gasoline to your car – it’s fuel.”[1]  When we eat or drink sugar, it causes a sudden spike in the hormone insulin, which can serve as a catalyst to fuel 1/3 of the more common forms of cancer including breast and colon cancer.  These cancer tumors have insulin receptors on their surface.  The insulin binds to these receptors and signals the tumor to start consuming glucose.  Every cell in your body needs glucose to survive, but these cancer tumors use it to grow. 

Obesity is also a major risk factor for breast cancer as a number of large studies have confirmed this association, including the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition which reported that obese women have a 31% increased risk of developing breast cancer than non-obese women.  Obese women, especially those with estrogen receptor positive tumors, have a greater risk of the cancer spreading to their lymph nodes.[2] 

Sugar contributes to obesity given its addictive nature.  Have you ever found yourself only wanting to eat one cookie or one piece of candy, but then reaching for another and yet another?  Does the same thing happen to you when you’re eating your broccoli?  I think not.  That is because of sugar’s highly addictive nature.  It is actually eight times as addictive as cocaine and activates the brain the same way that cocaine does.  As we eat sweet foods, dopamine, a chemical that controls the brain’s pleasure center is released.  People who frequently eat sweet foods build up a tolerance similar to that of drug users.  That means the more they eat, the less they feel the reward.  The result is that they eat more and this is one of the ways that sugar contributes to obesity.

It is now pretty clear that reducing our consumption of sugar reduces our risk of breast cancer and can increase our chances of survival for those of us who already have breast cancer, but how do we actually accomplish this?  The first thing that I suggest is learning some of the names of different forms of sugar.  Sucrose and anything ending in “ose” is another name for sugar.  High fructose corn syrup (this should be avoided altogether if possible for many reasons and will be the topic of another blog post), evaporated cane juice and rice syrup are just some of the other names for sugar.  I urge you to do an internet search for the many other names for sugar.  Once you identify them, I advise that you start reading labels so that you can avoid the sugars that are hidden in unsuspecting foods, even in the so called “healthy” ones, like Naked Juices.  The average 16oz bottle of Naked Juice contains the equivalent of over 13 teaspoons of sugar!  And don’t be fooled by the label “no added sugars.”  Foods and drinks with this label often have a lot of sugar, so make sure to read the nutrition label carefully. 

Increasing your water intake and adding naturally sweet foods to your diet are also great techniques for reducing your sugar cravings.  Most people have cravings because they’re dehydrated.  The next time you’re feeling like something sweet, try drinking a glass of water and waiting a few minutes to see whether you still have that craving.  A great way to curb your sugar cravings is to slowly add naturally sweet foods to your diet.  I added sweet root vegetables such as beets, sweet potatoes and sweet peppers to my diet.  I also get my sugar from a moderate amount of fruit every day.

I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with having something sweet every now and then, you just have to make sure that you don’t become addicted to sugar.  I’ve found that eating some dark chocolate, which is filled with antioxidants, satisfies my sweet tooth these days and make sure to indulge in it every now and again.

So there you have it.  Sugar is very detrimental to our health and causes obesity, diabetes and is linked to breast cancer, but you can easily learn to manage your sugar daddies by adopting the simple techniques outlined above.  Good luck and stay naturally sweet! 

- AmiCietta D. Clarke, Certified Holistic Health Coach & Founder of Clean Body Living, LLC

[1] Edward Bauman and Helayne Waldman.  The Whole-Food Guide for Breast Cancer Survivors: A Nutritional Approach to Preventing Recurrence (California: New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2012), 81.
[2] Bauman and Waldman, Whole Food Guide, 84.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Carnivores Eat Organic, Why Shouldn’t We?

          We are excited to bring you a series of articles throughout the year that will feature information on holistic health, provide you with a 360 degree education on what it means to live clean, how you can change your diet, lifestyle, mind, body and spirit, to not only lower your risk of disease, but to also prevent and encourage long term wellness.  We recently added AmiCietta D. Clarke to our team as a Holistic Health Coach.  We are excited to present you with her first article, “Carnivores Eat Organic, Why Shouldn’t We?”  The goal of any data we provide you is to give you information and options. The rest is up to you!
Carnivores eat organic.  Think about it.  Animals which graze freely in the wild, consume grass and contain no antibiotics or synthetic hormones.  Why should we be any different?  For those of us who eat meat, organic is the way to go.  It might cost a little bit more, but buying organic food is definitely not a fad.  It’s not the “in” thing to do.  It’s a necessity if you can afford it.  In our capitalist economy, it’s all about making more money and this translates to various sectors, including the food industry.  Conventionally raised chickens, cows and pigs are raised in very close quarters where they eat, drink and excrete all in the same place.  This makes them prone to disease and when one of them gets sick, they quickly infect the rest.  Antibiotics are mixed into animal feed to prevent the spread of disease and therefore maximize the amount of meat that farmers can sell – even animals that are not sick receive antibiotics.  Conventional farmers also use hormones to make animals grow faster and bigger therefore maximizing their profit as well.
There are many problems with eating conventional meats.  Three times more antibiotics sold in the United States are used on animals than on humans.  As we consume the antibiotics in meat, we are unwittingly building up a resistance to them so that when we have to take antibiotics when we are sick, doctors are noticing that we are becoming resistant to them.  This puts us at risk for infections getting even worse. 
The other major problem with conventional meats is the synthetic hormones that they contain.  Estrogenic pellets are placed under the skin of cows and the hormone is released slowly into their bloodstream.  Scientific studies have been done that show that increased exposure to estrogen increases your chances of developing breast cancer.  It is thought that the longer the exposure to high levels of estrogen, the greater the breast cancer risk.  Dr. Andrew Weil, a well-known integrative medical doctor who promotes healthy eating and prevention, suggests that we should avoid the daily intake of conventionally raised meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products if we want to lower our breast cancer risk.  He says that “They may contain hormone residue that influences estrogen metabolism.”[1]  As mentioned earlier, increased estrogen levels contribute to breast cancer.  The Breast Cancer Fund, an organization that focuses on breast cancer prevention, also suggests that women eat hormone free dairy and meat to eliminate the traces of hormones in those products that can contribute to breast cancer.[2]
The risk of developing heart disease and other types of cancer also increases with an increased consumption of too much meat, beef in particular.  Try to reduce your consumption of animal protein, even if it’s only for one day a week.  Aim to go meatless on Mondays and join the Meatless Monday campaign (www.meatlessmonday.com).  Going meatless on any other day of the week is great as well.  When you do eat animal protein, try to eat organic.  Make sure to look for the USDA organic sticker on chicken, meat, pork, veal, buffalo, etc.  Fish is a different story and not subject to the same regulations. 
Now, one question that I always get is:  “What’s the difference between organic and natural?”  Producers who want their meats certified as “organic” by the USDA have to adhere to stringent standards whereas the producers of “natural” meats do not.  Organic farmers cannot feed parts of any other animal to their cattle or chicken and they are not allowed to use hormones or antibiotics to make their animals grow faster.  They are bound by strict regulations that require them to expose their animals to sunlight, fresh air and access to free movement.  They must also use 100% organic grain as feed –  grain grown without the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides.  The major difference between “organic” and “natural” is that producers who want their meats certified as organic have to have their practices verified by inspectors certified by the state or federal government.  There are some farmers who produce “natural” meats, who adopt many of the practices that organic farmers have to adhere to, but they are not regulated and you have to take the farmers’ word that they are following those practices.  When you buy meats that are certified by the USDA (make sure to look for the sticker!) you know that all of the practices that I mentioned above have been followed and that you have the best quality meat.     
So if you’re a carnivore, remember to eat organic if you can afford it and if you can’t, try to limit the amount of animal protein that you do consume. 
By AmiCietta D. Clarke, Clean Body Living, LLC. You can learn more about AmiCietta at www.cleanbodyliving.com.

[1] Dr. Andrew Weil.  “Breast Cancer – Four Foods to Avoid.”  Drweil.com. .
[2] The Breast Cancer Fund.  “Eat and Live Better.”  Breastcancerfund.org. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Breast Reconstruction Options After Mastectomy

By Kathy Steligo: Author, The Breast Reconstruction Guidebook

The fight against breast cancer has achieved notable progress in the past few years. Health professionals are finding more early-stage tumors, refining and personalizing treatment, and saving more lives. But for many of us, the cure (or efforts to reduce high risk before a diagnosis) includes the loss of one or both breasts.

From a technical perspective, mastectomy isn’t a difficult procedure, but that can be small comfort as you struggle to comprehend and accept the loss of your breasts. The emotional struggle is often more difficult. Whether you’re facing mastectomy to treat or prevent breast cancer, you’re undoubtedly wondering what your body and life will be like after such a significant part of you is lost. You’re probably feeling fear, anger, confusion, remorse, anxiety—some or all of these understandable emotions. Many women say that reconstruction—replacing removed breast tissue with implants, a woman’s own fat (a tissue flap), or a combination of both—helps to make mastectomy more acceptable.  

Some women aren’t compelled to replace their breasts, but for those who wish to restore their physical profile, options are far more plentiful and much more sophisticated than what was available to our mothers and grandmothers. Surgeons have developed many reconstructive advances in the past few years, and results, including new nipple and areola, can be remarkable.

Modern breast reconstruction can be surprisingly good, but it remains imperfect. Results depend on many factors, including a surgeon’s skill and experience. Nor can reconstruction restore breast sensation or the ability to breastfeed after breast tissue is removed, but it can restore your physical symmetry and sense of wholeness. You can wear the same clothing that you wore before mastectomy, without special bras or prostheses. Your new breasts can look natural whether you’re clothed or not. (Any surgery carries certain risk, such as infection, delayed healing, and other issues, and reconstruction is no different.)

You may decide to have your breasts rebuilt using implants, because that’s the shortest beginning-to-end reconstructive procedure, and you don’t want to undergo longer surgery and recovery involved with tissue flaps. On the other hand, if you want to have the most natural-feeling breasts and not worry about replacing implants at some point in the future (or worry about the risk of infection, rupture, or other issues inherent with implants), and you have excess fat in your abdomen, hips, or buttocks, a tissue flap might be the right type of reconstruction for you.

Not all plastic surgeons perform all procedures, and not all women are candidates for every alternative. Some procedures require more (or different) surgical skill; some require more surgery or recovery time than others.

Whether or not to have your breasts recreated is an intensely personal choice. You may consider the decision to be no-brainer. Or you might be conflicted, unaware or confused by what can or cannot be done. In any case, it pays to thoroughly research your options and know what to expect before you decide which plastic surgeon and reconstructive alternative, if any, are right for you. I know this first-hand: after several lumpectomies, two bouts with breast cancer, radiation, and five years on tamoxifen, I ultimately lost both breasts. I then had reconstruction with implants, and subsequent reconstruction with my own tissue.

Learn all you can about mastectomy: the different ways it can be accomplished, what to expect, and how it affects reconstruction. Understand your reconstruction options, including what they provide and what they require. Be your own best advocate and make your own informed decisions.