Walnut & Avocado Pesto

May is Brain Cancer Awareness Month⁣.

Here are some facts:

  • The most common types of brain cancers are gliomas and meningiomas. Gliomas are cancers that grow from glia cells or glial cells, the supportive cells that hold neurons in place. Meningiomas are cancers that grow from the brain covering (meninges)⁣
  • Aspartame and long term cell phone use are being studied for their link to increased brain cancer risk⁣
  • It is estimated that 55,000 Canadians are surviving with a brain tumour⁣⁣

Two Awesome Foods to Support Brain Health

Walnuts

Walnuts are high in Omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols.

Omega-3’s exhibit neuro-protective properties and are critical for normal brain function and development throughout all stages of life.

Polyphenolic compounds found in walnuts reduce the oxidant and inflammatory load on brain cells and improve interneuronal signaling

Avocados

Avocados contain monounsaturated fats.  This contributes to healthy blood flow, which carries over to a healthy brain. Avocados also lower blood pressure, and hypertension is a major risk for decline in cognitive abilities.

Walnut & Avocado Pesto

Pesto Sauce is one of my favourite things to do with basil. So because ⁣this is Brain Cancer Awareness month I thought I would experiment with my regular recipe to incorporate a these 2 brain healthy foods.

Let me know your thoughts!⁣

Ingredients

  • 1 Avocado⁣
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil⁣
  • 2 cloves of garlic⁣
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese⁣
  • 1/2 tsp. salt⁣
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon⁣
  • 1/2- 1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil⁣

Directions

1. Pulse avocado, walnuts and basil in food processor until smooth⁣

2. Add garlic, parmesan cheese, salt and lemon juice. Pulse until well blended⁣

3. Stream in the olive oil slowly while the food processor is running.  It is important to do this slowly to help it to emulsify.  Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor when needed⁣

Resources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24500933

https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/eat-smart-healthier-brain#1

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4404917/

 

 

Cancer Taught Me to Embrace Normal

It’s a rare occasion when I sit down at 7:30 am in the morning, flip on the television and watch a Netflix documentary.  But after 4 straight days of early morning rises, this is what I did.  I invited Brene Brown into my family room to join me in my day.

Now if you have had the good fortune to watch The Call to Courage on Netflix I am sure we share, at the very least, an admiration for her stage presence.  Beyond that I can only reflect upon my personal admiration for her work, her research and her word.

To itemize all of her insights would be a total spoiler for you.  But there was one that I would like to expound upon because it resonated so deeply with me.

Appreciating Normal

I was totally qualified to lead the line of the great many of us who go through life mechanically.  I tended to the daily tasks that needed tending to.  I said ‘have a great day’ without thought as someone left the house in the morning.  And I grudgingly tackled the nuisance of the daily dinner menu.

This was how I did the normal of my everyday life.  I did normal mindlessly.  Until I got cancer.

In no way, shape or form do I consider this disease, my disease, a blessing of any kind contrary to those who have offered up to me the notion that some form of clarity is tied to a cancer diagnosis.

What going through cancer did do was steal my normal.  Those aspects of mundane in my life were replaced with appointments, tests, results, recoveries and fears.

I found myself searching for normalcy and it was in that search that I found gratitude.  Yes, in the midst of it all, I became grateful.  Grateful for hearing the garage door slam because I knew that someone made it home safely.  Grateful for a dish breaking because people were eating together.  Grateful for kids fighting because those children are mine and they are well and they are near.  Grateful for my sleeping husband because he is my best friend and most avid supporter.

So Now…

As life moves forward from cancer and with the grace of God that I am still living it, I have gratefully settled back in to my normal.  It’s not, nor will it ever be perfect.  But I have made a commitment to practice gratitude daily which helps me to breathe and accept some nuances of my normal that will never quite be appreciated.  Case in point is the danger zone marked by the 75 pairs of shoes piled in my back hall for instance.

So here is to Normal!  Normal is where I live most of my life.  Normal is that sweet spot between the highs and the lows.  And normal is right where I want to be.

 

Does Sleeping in on the Weekend Make Up for Lack of Sleep During the Week?

Sleep is our reward at the end of the day that allows our body to regroup, repair and restore.  But what happens if we don’t get enough sleep?

In the short term the effects of not getting adequate sleep can include:

  • Lack of alertness
  • Impaired memory
  • Moodiness

Chronic lack of sleep can have a severe impact on your health leading to serious health issues such as:

  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • heart issues
  • obesity
  • depression

And research has shown that long-term sleep disruptions may raise the risk of some cancers including prostate cancers and breast cancers.

https://www.cathybiase.com/sleeping-cancer-fighting-powerhouse/

So now that we know, in broad sweeps, the importance of getting adequate sleep,  how much sleep is enough sleep?

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF), along with a multi-disciplinary expert panel recommends that adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep nightly.

So let’s do the math.  If we take the average of required sleep time to be 8 hours per night then multiply that number by 7 days a week, that works out to 56 hours of sleep a week to hit the desired target.  And when we get less than our needed amount of nightly sleep, this results in what scientists call a ‘sleep debt’.

So here is the question, if we fall short of the average 7-9 hours of sleep during the week, can we repay this sleep debt by sleeping in on the weekend?  Many of us assume yes but research suggests otherwise.

In this study researchers enlisted 36 healthy adults age 18 to 39 to stay for two weeks in a laboratory.  Their food intake, light exposure and sleep were monitored.

Volunteers were divided into groups. One group was allowed to sleep 9 hours each night for 9 nights. The second was allowed 5 hours per night over that same 9 day period. The third group slept no more than 5 hours nightly for 5 days followed by a weekend when they could sleep as much as they liked before returning to 2 days of restricted sleep.

Both of the sleep-restricted groups snacked more at night, gained weight and saw declines in insulin sensitivity during the study period. While those in the weekend recovery group saw mild improvements (including reduced nighttime snacking) during the weekend, those benefits went away when the sleep-restricted workweek resumed.  According to Christopher Depner, lead author of the study

In the end, we didn’t see any benefit in any metabolic outcome in the people who got to sleep in on the weekend

Getting a good sleep on a nightly basis is something many of us need to work on.

Here are some tips to help the Sandman come your way.

Tips for better sleep:

  1. Turn all electronics off 1 hour before bedtime
  2. Do not eat 3 hours before bedtime
  3. Sleep in a cool, dark room
  4. If you must have electronics in your room, keep them 2 feet away from your bed
  5. Be consistent with your bed time aiming to go to bed around 10pm

Sleep well friends!

Here is a very interesting and informative interview that I did with Dr. Garcia-Rill entitled “Why Do We Sleep?”

Have a listen:)

 

References:

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times

https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(19)30098-3

http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/22/5/872

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149763417301628

 

 

 

How You Can Manage Lymphedema

Lymphedema is the abnormal swelling that is caused by a build up of lymph fluid and most commonly occurs in the arms and in the legs.

According to the World Health Organization there are over 170 million people world wide who suffer from secondary lymphedema.  It affects approximately 15% of all cancer survivors and an estimated 30% of those treated for breast cancer after surgery to remove lymph nodes.

The onset of lymphedema can occur during treatments, days, months or years after the treatment protocol is completed.

Unfortunately lymphedema cannot be cured but it can be managed by employing some or all of the following strategies to encourage movement of the lymph fluid:

Dry Brushing

Contrast Showers

Rebounding

Regular Exercise

Lymphatic Massage

Compression Bandaging

Dry Brushing

The benefits of dry brushing are many and include:

  1. Dead layers of skin being removed and pores unclogged
  2. Blood circulation increased to the internal organs and the skin, which promotes oxygenation and healing
  3. The detoxification qualities of the skin maintained
  4. Hormone and oil-producing glands being stimulated
  5. Nerve endings stimulated in the skin helping to maintain the health of the entire nervous system
  6. Muscle tone assisted and fat deposits more evenly spread

How to Perform a Dry Brush Massage
Use a natural bristle brush with a brush pad about the size of your own hand

Start with the soles of your feet. Brush in a circular motion as you move up your body brushing feet to legs, hands to arms, back to abdomen, and chest to neck. You don’t need to apply a lot of pressure.  Just enough to make your skin feel warm, about 5-10 minutes. The massage is best performed when you wake in the morning and before you go to bed at night.

Contrast Showers

 

Alternating hot and cold showers improves blood circulation, increases cellular oxidation, enhances immunity, strengthens the nervous system and flushes cellular toxins into the blood.

When we shower in hot water for less than five minutes, it has a stimulating effect on our circulation. When we have a cold shower for less than one minute, we stimulate blood flow and metabolism. Cold showers first constrict and then dilate blood vessels. When we finish with a cold shower the following physiological effects happen:

  • Increased oxygen absorption
  • Increased tissue tone
  • Increased white blood cell count improving immunity
  • Increased red blood cell count
  • Decreased blood glucose
  • Heightened metabolism

Rebounding

A rebounder a small trampoline. Jumping on a rebounder 5-10 minutes a day improves the circulation of lymphatic fluid. Muscular contractions push the fluid through the lymphatic vessels. When the muscular contraction is used in combination with deep breathing, lymphatic circulation is enhanced even more. This improves the body’s cancer-fighting ability.

Additional benefits of rebounding include:

  • Gentle massage of the internal organs, including the liver and colon
  • Improved muscle tone
  • Improved digestion, elimination and body detoxification
  • Burning calories
  • Increased energy
  • Improvement in cardiovascular health
  • Stress reduction

Regular Exercise

Exercising, of all kinds, causes muscle contractions encouraging the flow of lymph fluid.  Exercising also:

  • Improves insulin sensitivity
  • Helps manage weight
  • Improves mitochondrial health
  • Reduces stress
  • Improves muscle tone

Lymphatic Massage

Lymphatic drainage massage stimulates the circulation of blood and lymph, moving tissue fluid into the lymph vessels from the tissues.

As a result, lymph drainage massage can help remove toxins and wastes from the tissues. Increased lymph flow will also help with immunity, reduce the risk of infection, and speed the healing of inflammation.

Lymphedema Compression Bandages

Compression bandages help to limit the amount of fluid building up in the limb. When functioning without limitation, there is a constant flow of fluid from the tiny blood vessels into the tissues. This fluid will then be drained by the lymph system. For those with lymphedema, wearing a compression garment reduces excessive or unnecessary flow of fluid from the bloodstream into the tissues.

Lymphedema compression sleeves encourage the fluid within the affected limb to move towards the body where it can drain away more easily. Compression sleeves have a graduated compression, with more at the hand or foot than at the top of the garment.  This directs the fluid to the root of the limb which is either the groin or armpit.

Finally compression garments provide the muscles with a firm resistance to work against improving the function of the lymphatic system and encourage the movement of fluid along the lymph routes.

Summary

Your routine for lymphedema management:

 1)    Make a daily practice out of dry brush massage

2)    Have a contrast shower daily

3)    Use a rebounder four hours weekly; 5 – 30 minutes once or twice daily

4)    Exercise approximately 4 hours per week

5)    Routinely go for lymphatic massages

6)    Wear a compression bandage daily

References

Why You Should Start Dry Brushing Today

Health Benefits of Rebounding

The Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage Massage

The Benefits Of Wearing A Lymphedema Compression Sleeve

 

The Forgotten Function of Food

There are many functions of food within a cancer protocol. A well structured diet helps to strengthen and prepare a cancer patient’s body before surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. It provides key nutrients for patients going through treatment, helps to lower the risk of infection and it helps to detoxify, strengthen and repair a cancer patient’s body post treatment[1].

https://www.cathybiase.com/5-tips-start-cancer-prevention-diet/

But as important as these functions of food are, often missed or overlooked is the function of food to bring joy and joy can be a hard thing to find when you are going through a cancer diagnosis.

The heart of a house is the kitchen. It is where our bodies and our soles are nourished. It is where we succeed in plating a great meal or laugh at a recipe gone wrong. Food brings families and friends to the table and science shows that eating together has great benefits including greater happiness and healthier food choices[2].

Eating meals together offers an opportunity to reconnect to those that are central to our being, to those that give our lives meaning. Food is a part of our history. It is a part of the essence of who we are and where we come from. It evokes memories and makes memories.

Gathering in the kitchen and sitting around the table can bring back life as it was before cancer. And although this may only be for a brief time each day, these moments can invigorate and strengthen a cancer patient enough to help them to move forward when the road ahead can seem so hard.

I have done the schooling, the certifications and I will forever continue to expand my knowledge of Nutrition Oncology to better serve the cancer patients that I work with. But to this day I feel that the greatest thing that I have to offer to cancer patients, their family and friends lies not in my book knowledge but in my personal experience with having had cancer. I cherished moments of normalcy, those times when I was just mom again and not a cancer patient.

Many of those moments were in my kitchen. Not when I was using food as a tool in my protocol but when my food was a meal.

_________________________

References:

[1] https://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorship-during-and-after-treatment/staying-active/nutrition/nutrition-during-treatment/benefits.html

[2] https://www.goodnet.org/articles/9-scientifically-proven-reasons-to-eat-dinner-as-family