Archive for tag: cancer

Olive Oil, Cancer, and Apparently My Frustrations

Hot olive oil is carcinogenic. I'm trying to cut to the chase in my writing -- can you tell?

2015-02-11_oilWhen extra virgin olive oil is heated to its smoke point of around 300º Fahrenheit, bad things happen. Its protective anti-oxidants become cancer-causing free radicals. I know, I know...bring on the cop-out onslaught of "Everything causes cancer, there's no point in worrying about it." Wrong. That's the answer given by two groups of people, and (spoiler alert) you don't want to be in either group.

2015-02-11_butterFirst, and more acceptable, is the group of people who really haven't looked into health and nutrition at all. OK, hey, this is a diversified society. Not everyone has to be an expert in every subject. Some people can grow the food, others can study chemistry, and some can sell the apples at the market. It's 2015, as Tricia would say. You're a productive member of society, but you're busy. I know. You see a commercial saying "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter is a healthy choice," you run out and buy it, and you figure you're doing a decent job in life. Well, you're wrong. At minimum, really though, shouldn't every adult eater in America take a few minutes out of the upcoming "dancing with famous people" show and perhaps start to learn a bit about what you're putting into your body?

Secondly, and less acceptable, is the group of people who simply don't care about what they've learned. These are the people who read the same books about olive oil that I did, saw the explanations about why it's a bad idea to heat olive oil in your wok on stir-fry night, but keep doing it anyways. "Everything causes cancer, so why should I bother switching to a healthier option?" Gee, I don't know, maybe because you don't want to be on the wrong side of "1 in 2 American men will get cancer in his lifetime." Ladies, you're 1 in 3. Want specifics? Here's the full wheel of fun: Lifetime Probability of Developing or Dying from Cancer.

Here's a thought that not many people seem to care about. Not everything causes cancer. There are actually lots of things that don't seem to cause cancer. What about trying some pesticide-free vine-ripened fruits and vegetables? Maybe refrain from spraying yourself down in poison perfume every day? I'm not saying you can simply walk through life making all the right choices and be guaranteed cancer free. I am saying that there's this whole thing called "epi-genetics" that effectively blows out of the water the old lazy assumption that your genes have predetermined whether or not you will get cancer or be obese, etc. Not true. Your genes throw you into the world with a certain set of probabilities, such as a 30% risk that your breast cancer switch will be flipped on. Sure, that sucks, but it's not a death sentence.

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What can you do about it? Something! Epi-genetics reminds us that our lifestyle matters just as much, or more, than our genetic predeterminations. "Only 5-10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90-95% have their roots in the environment and lifestyle. The lifestyle factors include cigarette smoking, diet (fried foods, red meat), alcohol, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity, and physical inactivity." Nobody hates that alcohol part more than I do, believe me, but the overall point is still valid.

This was supposed to be about olive oil, wasn't it? Well, now you know why I don't cook with olive oil. I cook with organic, grass-fed butter, and my husband prefers coconut oil, both of which have higher smoke points than olive oil does, meaning that we can cook at higher temperatures more safely. Some of you will google this "hearsay" and find websites that say not to worry about it, because all cooking of all food breaks down nutrients and produces some free radicals, and your body is programmed to deal with that small amount of carcinogens. You'll be fine...probably. Really? How's that working out for you? Which group of the "1 in 2 Americans" do you think you're in? Clearly, friends, we are bombarding our bodies with way too many carcinogens these days.

YOUR CHOICES MATTER. Make some.

Anand, P., Kunnumakara, A. B., Sundaram, C., Harikumar, K. B., Tharakan, S. T., Lai, O. S., ... Aggarwal, B. B. (2008). Cancer is a Preventable Disease that Requires Major Lifestyle Changes. Pharmaceutical Research, 25(9), 2097-2116. doi:10.1007/s11095-008-9661-9

Yep, I Make My Own Deodorant

Photo of homemade deodorant in an applicatorWhy would I need or want to do this? Why haven't I purchased a commercial deodorant in about two years? Why haven't I let my husband, either? The bottom line is that I just don't feel comfortable slathering on a toxic armpit cocktail, when I know that what I put on my skin has a good chance of being absorbed into my bloodstream. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If you wouldn't eat it, don't put it on your skin, either.

I also don't like the idea of blocking off the body's drainage system, so I had already stopped using anti-perspirants years before finally ditching the deodorant, too. (Not sure what you're using? Check the front label. "Deodorant?" Just covering the smell. "Anti-perspirant?" Also preventing your body from releasing the sweat.) My armpits are made for excretion, and that's just what they'll do. One of these days, I'll probably sweat all over you.

Really, though, it's not nice to sweat all over people, and it's particularly rude to have the sweat smell like the noxious fumes that we all know it can. Yet, I feel that primal urge to allow my lymphatic system to do its job and clean out some bodily sludge. Yes, I do think that using a commercially-produced anti-perspirant and deodorant contributes to the development of breast cancer and other ailments. But I guess I have to sit around and wait for a study to prove that sealing in your body's toxins and then layering more on top of that is bad for your health. Seriously, doesn't anybody else wonder why Dove is the breast cancer researcher out there? Really?

Or, I could make the choice that I know is healthier for my body (and my husband's body, too). Thus, one rainy afternoon two years ago, I jumped on Amazon and ordered myself some arrowroot powder (after not being able to find it in local stores). The rest is history. Instead of simply leaving you with the basic recipe I've been using and loving, I'll take you on a pictorial journey afterward. Note that if you do try this at home, the common expectation is that there is approximately a 1-2 week "learning curve" for your body to really have the opportunity to excrete build-ups that you've been holding hostage for most of your adult life with your commercial anti-perspirants. Translation = you might smell worse during this time. This, too, shall pass, and at the end you'll likely find that you don't smell as bad as you used to.

Photo of ingredients laid out on counter

Here are your simple ingredients:

Mix 1/2 cup coconut oil with 1/4 cup arrowroot powder and 1/4 cup baking soda. Add essential oils such as orange, lemongrass, or tea tree, and scoop into an old, cleaned out deodorant container to harden for a few hours. (Don't worry about those bottles of wine in the background. Those are for later, when you can celebrate your accomplishment if all goes well.) Simple, customizable, delightful. Remember, it's more meant to be a deodorant than an anti-perspirant, but my husband finds it does both well. I guess I'm just a sweatier fella. But at least I'm not usually a smellier fella.

That's the normal way. This week, I tried to plan for our upcoming medical mission trip to Nicaragua, where it is oh-so-hot every day, by customizing the usual recipe to prevent it from melting. Yes, coconut oil has a melting point in the 70s, so it would be like trying to use a puddle of deodorant instead of a stick if I took along the usual stuff. So, after googling for a while, I found a suggestion to melt and add beeswax into the usual recipe to raise the melting point (beeswax has a really high melting point, like 170 -- not even Nicaragua can match that). It went...well?

Photo of mixture in bowl

The resulting deodorant was very brown, as a result of using dark brown beeswax the first time. OK, I can live with that. Here's the bowl of leftover brown deodorant that I will scrape with a spoon and use until it's gone before wasting an ounce. Yes, this is the state of affairs of toiletries in my home.

The photo at the beginning of my post is what it looks like in stick form, which is much more socially acceptable, I know. It's almost normal looking...just brown, and bumpy, unlike the usual smooth off-white result for temperate at-home usage. Ah, Nicaragua, the things I do for you.

You're Putting What on Your Skin?

I know it's not summer yet, not even spring, but here I am, thinking about what I'll use for sunblock when I head to Nicaragua in just 10 short weeks. Yes, during Tri break in April, several volunteers and I will head to sunny Ometepe Island in Lake Nicaragua on a medical brigade for the non-profit organization Natural Doctors International. It's not exactlyonthe equator, but it's much closer than Chicago. We'll almost certainly burn if we aren't prepared. I should know, because Nicaragua turned me into a crispy piece of bacon last year! And that is the only one time in my life that I'll say anything negative about bacon.

2014-02-14_group
Nicaragua 2013 on our medical brigade for Natural Doctors International

So, back to the sunblock options. Clearly I chose to wear nothing  to protect me from the sun last year. If you've seen me, you know I'm fairly far over on the pale end of the spectrum, so this was not the correct choice. That was just bad planning on my part.

2014-02-14_coco _oilThis time, I'll do it right. I could use the standard, commercially prepared sunblock from the store. Yikes. Have you ever looked into the ingredients list and the health impact of some of those ingredients? If so, you're ready to move to the next option with me -- coconut oil. I actually used Trader Joe's Organic Virgin Coconut Oil straight out of the jar while vacationing in Puerto Rico a few months ago, and I am mildly happy to report that I barely achieved a tan at all, despite my hours in the sun. Slather that stuff on, and not only do you have the benefit of looking like an oiled up body builder (that's me for sure), but you have the benefit of approximately SPF 10 with none of the side-effects of conventional sunblock.

On a side note, I'm generally against using sunblock of any kind on a regular basis. Why? I like making Vitamin D. It's my body's job. When you block the sun -- specifically, the UVB rays -- you block your body's ability to synthesize Vitamin D. Oops. Coconut oil blocks many of the UVB rays, which also contribute to skin aging, etc., but it allows approximately 10% of them to get through and get the Vitamin D process rolling.

2014-02-14_sunblocksFinal rant: I'm personally bothered by the research available linking common sunscreen ingredients to cancer (specifically -- skin cancer!), hormone imbalance (infertility), and neurological disorders, thus, I do not slather it all over my children's skin or my own on any type of regular basis.

Check out this article for a brief summary of some of the issues associated with sunblock and some of the reasons that coconut oil can be a better choice for your health overall: Ditch the Toxic Sunscreen; Use Coconut Oil Instead (Natural Society).

Here is the Environmental Working Group's database of sunblock (and other cosmetics), where you can search by brand, see the overall rating of your favorite cancer-preventing cancer causer, and see the health hazards of each individual ingredient.

Finally, here is a snapshot of the results for a product I used to use on myself. Curses. It scores a 7 out of 10 on the toxicity rating system, where 10 is the most toxic.

Choose wisely, my friends.