Natural healing, natural wellness

Health Basics 101

What Protects Indians From Cancer?

I live in a very cosmopolitan area, a veritable United Nations. Practically every country is represented here. The largest community is Chinese, followed by the Malays (the people who were here before the Chinese came along) and then the Indians. Then there are Caucasians, Koreans, Japanese, Africans, Mongolians and so on.

When I visit the largest cancer center here, I can’t help but notice that most patients are Chinese, Malay, European or some other group, but I rarely ever see any Indians. Now, people the world over like to go on about how the traditional Japanese or Oriental diet seems to protect against cancer, but increasing numbers of Oriental Asians are getting cancer. This trend seems to go hand in hand with the adoption of a Westernised diet and lifestyle.

Cancer rates have risen dramatically in all Asian countries which have adopted a Westernised diet and lifestyle. Traditionally, Asians rarely ate meat and life was hard, so there was plenty of daily physical activity eg. manual work, walking everywhere. Regular exercise was a part of life. Now modern Asians eat chemical-tainted meat and other foods – including convenience / refined / processed foods – in EVERY meal, and we drive or are driven everywhere. We hardly even take the stairs, as we have elevators, escalators and travellators everywhere. Our air and environment is contaminated with chemicals.

Interestingly, Indians in my country have a very low incidence of cancer. Indians, on the whole, still prefer their traditional diet, which is characterised by lentils, beans, vegetables, lots of spices and -gasp! – lots of dairy products. They love milk, cheese, yoghurt, ghee (clarified butter) etc. in their savory dishes as well as their desserts, and their desserts use plenty of sugar. Non-vegetarian Indians like to eat unhealthy meats like mutton. Unlike Oriental Asians, their diet does not include any soy foods or seaweed, which are generally viewed as anti-cancer foods.

While Indians here may have low cancer rates, they tend to suffer from diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Like many other modern Asians, they have also become sedentary and more Westernised in their lifestyle. Nevertheless, there are elements in the traditional Indian diet which protect against cancer. I suspect it is the heavy consumption of legumes, lentils, beans, vegetables (including tomatoes, onions and cruciferous veggies like cauliflower), spices, and fermented dairy like yoghurt. Many of the foods listed here are known to be anti-estrogenic, aromatase inhibitors or, at worst, phytoestrogens.

Unfortunately, with urbanization, modern Indians are eating more meat and more foods tainted with chemicals, more convenience foods, more processed foods and more refined foods. They are eating more unnatural or fake foods, just like the Westerners, and they are exposed to more harmful chemicals in their environment, personal care products and household cleaning products. And they are nowhere near as physically active as their forefathers were. So cancer, along with other diseases, is on the rise amongst modern Indians.

The rising cancer statistics worldwide cannot simply be blamed on single factors like meat or dairy consumption, although commercially-farmed meats and dairy foods are certainly unhealthy. Dairy foods and even meat need not be harmful as along as they are not pumped full of hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals. Think about the Eskimos and the Mongolians. They had little access to plant food, if at all, so they had to rely on animal food – including dairy in the case of the Mongolians – for survival. The food they ate was clean and free from chemical contaminants. Everything was natural, unrefined and unprocessed.  Bear in mind that their traditional way of life was also very labor-intensive (EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE!) and had virtually no exposure to chemicals. Cancer was virtually unknown in their traditional societies.

Obviously, the answer to being cancer-free lies in more than just diet, but that’s a good place to start. For me, I try to eat as naturally as possible. My diet is rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and legumes and I avoid refined and processed foods. Animal protein is mostly fish. I seldom eat meat. I do eat small quantities of dairy foods occasionally, and I do admit to sometimes having cookies or cakes. If I use sweeteners, I prefer it natural, like raw honey or maple syrup. The trick is to cut DOWN as far as possible, if you have difficulty cutting out certain foods completely. If I could afford it, I would eat organic all the way. I do what I can.

As for harmful chemicals in my personal care products and household care products, I’ve replaced whatever I can with products which are free from known carcinogens and other harmful ingredients. I get most of my products from Neways International as they have one of the widest ranges I’ve ever seen.

Oh, and I walk twice a day or more.

To keep cancer at bay, we need to get back to our roots and eat and live as naturally and cleanly as possible. Make a decision today to take a step in the right direction.

Pet Therapy

Billy’s lying in one of his favorite spots – on the cushion by the window, overlooking the river. When I went up to him to stroke him, he bit down lightly on my hand. I wasn’t annoyed, I just laughed. Billy’s a funny cat – when he’s in a bad mood, he bites. When he’s happy, he also bites. It’s rarely painful, it’s just enough to let him express his individualism.

This feline is such a character. He likes to knead his paws on my tummy (ouch!) and he loves to get under the covers with me. When I take out the ironing board, he leaps on it before I can start ironing because, for some reason, he thinks it’s a place for massage and I’m his personal masseuse. So I have to massage him before he’ll get off, leaving fine kitty fur all over the board.

Billy also enjoys ambushing Ginger, my sweet-natured doggy who found him when he was barely a month old. You should see him lying in wait, flicking his tail and wriggling his posterior as he gets ready to pounce on poor unsuspecting Ginger. Ginger puts up with Billy. She thinks that he’s always trying to steal her food, which is really hilarious as she’s 10 times bigger than Billy is, and her kibble is more than Billy can manage. She probably thinks that way because she’s stolen Billy’s food many times. Those two furballs are a riot and they provide me with endless hours of amusement, companionship and love.

Keeping a pet is good for your health. Their therapeutic powers range from helping to keep the blood pressure in check (unless they poop on the carpet, of course), providing comfort during depression and improving physical fitness levels. Pets, even cranky ones like Billy, are natural mood enhancers. They always look up to you – except maybe for cats who can be snotty – and make you feel good.

Generally, spending time with your pets will reduce your levels of cortisol, the hormone associated with stress. Serotonin levels (a chemical associated with well-being) rise. Too much stress is harmful while rest is healing. It’s elementary.

Having a dog who needs to be walked twice a day forces you to get some exercise, a good thing for urban-living sedentary types. If your pooch is anything like Ginger, who has a mind of her own and is constantly in a tug-of-war with me, you’ll also benefit from weight bearing activity which strengthens your muscles and bones. Walking your dog is a healthy and inexpensive way of preventing osteoporosis.

For some great true stories about cats and dogs who helped their guardians through breast cancer treatment, check out:

The true story of kitty-cat Luke and her guardian Karen who had Stage III triple negative breast cancer
The true story of Great Dane Kenya and her guardian “lifegoeson” who had Stage IV breast cancer

If you don’t have a pet, why not adopt one from the animal shelter? You’ll be saving more than just the animal’s life – you could be saving YOURS as well.

Let’s Go Forest Bathing

I’ve always been a nature gal. Childhood days were spent playing in the garden, climbing trees or combing the beach, picking seashells. When I grew up and bought my first home, it had a little garden with a very productive fruit tree. All kinds of birds and butterflies would come to visit. I loved my garden, and spent hours there. I live in an apartment now, with sweeping views of the river and forest. Cool, fresh breezes always blow, and I enjoy taking walks by the river and nearby fields.

Recently, in a series of studies, scientists found that when people leave their concrete surroundings to spend a few hours in a more natural environment – forests, parks and places with plenty of trees – they experience increased immune system function.

Several factors play a part. One is stress reduction. The other appears to be airborne chemicals called phytoncides which plants emit to protect themselves against rotting and insects. A study found an increase in white blood cells, which lasted a week, in women exposed to phytoncides in forest air. A 2007 study showed that men who took two-hour walks in a forest over two days had a 50% spike in levels of white blood cells.

A study published in January this year included data on 280 healthy people in Japan. On one day, some people walked through the city for a few hours while another group of people walked through the forest. On the second day, they traded places. Scientists found that being among plants produced “lower concentration of cortisol, lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure”.

Various studies have shown that visiting parks and forests seem to raise levels of white blood cells, which help to fight infection. Interestingly, in Japan which has one of the world’s highest life expectancy, its people enjoy visiting nature parks for its therapeutic effects. This practice is called “Shinrin-yoku”, which means forest bathing.

Think about it, people who live in rural areas and walk everywhere are known to have lower incidences of diseases like cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular problems. Ultimately, the best way to stay healthy and well is to have a strong immune system which functions properly. Medicine can only do so much. Time for me to go forest bathing.