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Welcome to the DebiLyn Smith blog site. If you like what you read here, check out her website at

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"I" is for Immune System

When your body encounters a threat, such as a virus or injury, its your immune system that comes to your rescue.It attacks, damaging and killing all varieties of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that happen to be in range—including some of the body's own cells.
Key cells involved in this reaction include the white blood cells, macrophages, and neutrophils, which produce powerful destructive chemicals known as free radicals.
Free radicals
In the presence of cancer or the invasion of a dangerous microorganism, your body quickly produces these highly reactive and unstable warrior molecules to take quick action against the enemy germ or physical insult. You can blame free radicals and other elements in the generalized defensive response for the swelling, redness, heat, and pain collectively known as inflammation. Because they are non-specific, free radicals cause the same damage to harmful bacteria as they do to healthy cells, if those healthy cells happen to be in their way.
After the free radicals finish their work, they're turned off, and are converted into non-reactive, harmless molecules. Antioxidant vitamins are essential to this conversion process, which is why you hear a lot about free radicals and the antioxidant vitamins A, C, D, and E.
Breast cancer cells start out as normal body cells,until something happens to start them growing out of control. The immune system plays a major role in limiting the development of these abnormalities, often before cancer has a chance to grow. This gets rid of many cancerous cells before they can do any harm. Damaged, pre-cancerous cells may be a constant presence, but an ever-alert immune system takes them out and protects us from many assaults of cancer that never get beyond the very earliest stage.
When the immune system fails
Occasionally, even though cells are changing from normal to abnormal, they may still appear to be normal. Their outer appearance (proteins and other molecules on their surface) may look unchanged, even though profound changes may be happening on the inside. In this way, these abnormal cells manage to escape attack by the immune system and grow and multiply without triggering an immune response. This is how it's possible for a tumor to form, even when your immune system is working normally. The tumor eventually becomes so altered and threatening that it can no longer hide its malignant character. The immune system is no longer fooled into recognizing these cells as normal, and launches its attack.
The attack may succeed, or it may come too late: the tumor may be beyond the power of the immune system by itself. The immune system may need help—bold measures such as:
·         immune growth factors—medicines that stimulate the production of new immune cells;
·         antibody medications—special antibodies made in a laboratory, designed to target a specific antigen on a cancer cell;
·         vaccines—agents that stimulate your immune system to fight back, giving it a wake-up call to action; and
·         non-immune-system intervention, such as:
o    surgical removal of the harmful growth;
o    chemotherapy; and
o    radiation.

Intriguing new studies suggest that exercise, stress reduction, diet and fundamental but non-traditional interventions may strengthen the immune system. For example, improved immune cell function has been documented after people with melanoma, a malignant skin cancer, attended regular support group meetings. Other studies find that women in breast cancer support groups live longer than those who don't join such groups. Researchers speculate that one reason is the stress-reducing, immune-supporting effects that these groups provide.
Your body can be crippled by poor nutrition. This is true for healing a wound, building immune cell blood counts, and even managing stress.
The power of nutrition to strengthen the immune function is not yet fully understood. But two leaders in the field: Dr. Keith Block (University of Illinois and the Block Medical Center, Evanston, Illinois), and Dr. Mitch Gaynor (Strang-Cornell Cancer Prevention Center, New York City), focus on nutrition as a means of reducing cancer risk and cancer death and increasing quality of life. Their work emphasizes vegetarian diets and fat restriction, coupled with stress reduction and other complementary medicine therapies. They believe these factors combine to strengthen the immune system.
Proponents of these innovative, non-traditional therapies say that excess weight and eating too much cholesterol and other fats are risk factors for cancer. They say that fat appears to reduce white cell production, affecting T-cell and macrophage activity. Further, they say, obesity and a poor diet compromise the lymphatic system, making the body more vulnerable to infection and disease. Eating large amounts of protein, such as that found in animal products, they believe, contributes to these undesirable effects. Thus, their nutritional programs strictly limit proteins that come from animal foods and unhealthy fats. 
Read the transcript of a Conference on food choices for cancer recovery.
Supplements vs. food
All experts agree that vitamins and other important nutrients are best eaten in whole foods rather than swallowed as processed supplements. Whole foods may contain many other valuable components that we currently know little about. Fresh fruits and vegetables, SURE grains, mushrooms, herbs, teas, omega-3 fatty acids (found in freshwater fish like salmon and mackerel), complex carbohydrates, yogurt, and seaweed are believed to increase the activity of T cells and their escort cells, and to increase the production of antibodies and fighting cells.
Researchers have long observed the positive effects of moderate amounts of exercise on the immune system. Now they're beginning to look at the effects moderate exercise can have on the immune systems of cancer patients in the midst of treatment. In one small study, researchers found that moderate exercise (three or more times a week) increased the immune cell counts of women undergoing breast cancer treatment back to normal levels, and also improved the women's mood and ability to handle their feelings comfortably.
Stress reduction
It's well known that chronically high levels of stress hormones (like adrenaline) suppress the immune system and reduce the body's ability to defend or repair itself. That's why many cancer centers and hospitals have begun offering stress reduction therapy along with traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. Meditation, visualization, yoga, and other relaxation techniques may help bolster your immune system and assist in fighting the effects of the cancer. Talk to your doctor or nurse about using these techniques in conjunction with your regular treatment.

There doesn't seem to be a food that begins with the letter "I" other than ice cream and dairy has been covered, so that's it for this week!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"H" is For Hereditary Factors and Hemp Seeds

"Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Canadian women. Many women believe that heredity is the most important factor in developing breast cancer; however, genetic factors account for only five to ten percent of diagnoses. Conversely, nearly half of all breast cancer diagnoses are due to preventable, non-genetic factors. The Breast Cancer Prevention & Risk Assessment Clinic that opened in Vancouver, October 2010 provides women with concrete tools to help them improve their risk profile, particularly by focusing on weight management, increased physical activity, good nutrition and limited alcohol consumption."

I got the above from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation website @

If breast cancer does run in your family, you might want to read this:

There are three 'faulty' genes that have been identified which are particularly associated with breast cancer. These are the BRCA1 gene, the BRCA2 gene and the TP53 gene. If you carry one or more of these genes you have an increased risk of developing breast cancer (and certain other cancers such as ovarian cancer). Also, the cancer tends to develop at an earlier age than usual. These faulty genes are just the main ones so far identified which are related to breast cancer. There are probably others which cause a smaller increased risk which have not yet been identified.

About 1 in 20 women are likely to carry a faulty gene that gives them a higher risk than the general population of developing breast cancer. This may vary from a moderate increase in risk to a high risk. You inherit half of your genes from your mother and half of your genes from your father. So, if you carry a faulty gene there is a 50:50 chance that you will pass it on to each child that you have. Because of these faulty genes, breast cancer does occur more often than usual in some families. This is sometimes called 'familial breast cancer' or 'hereditary breast cancer'.

Note: not all women with these faulty genes will develop breast cancer. It is just that the risk is increased.

Assessing Your Risk:
As breast cancer is common, many of us will have a relative who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. This is not usually due to any of the 'faulty genes' mentioned above, but is more often 'by chance'. Most women with a family history of breast cancer do not have a greatly increased risk of developing breast cancer compared with the normal risk of the general population. However, some women are at greater risk than usual.

In general, your risk becomes greater:
·         The more blood relatives you have who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
·         The closer the blood relationship to you of the person with breast cancer.
·         The younger your relatives were when they were first diagnosed with breast cancer, especially if they were under the age of 40.
·         If a relative had breast cancer which affected both breasts.
·         If a male relative developed breast cancer.
·         If both breast and ovarian cancer run in the family.
·         If certain other uncommon cancers have developed in family members. For example: ovarian cancer, a sarcoma under the age of 45, a glioma, or childhood adrenal cancer.
·         If you come from certain ethnic backgrounds. For example, the Ashkenazi Jewish community have a higher incidence of genes which increase the risk.

If Your Risk is Confirmed as Moderately High:

You are likely to be offered mammography screening to commence at the age of 40 (rather than the usual age of 50). Also, mammography is likely to be every year rather than the usual three-yearly.
If Your Risk is High:

You are likely to be offered genetic testing and counselling. This is usually done in a specialist genetics clinic. This may involve tests to see if you carry one or more of the faulty genes mentioned above. A blood test may also be taken from your family member who has breast cancer. Depending on the outcome of the tests and assessment of the risk, some women are offered regular mammography screening from an early age.

If you are aged 30-49 years and have BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, or are over 20 years and have TP53 gene then you may be offered yearly MRI and mammograms. An MRI scan may be a more sensitive test than mammograms for younger women. When mammography is recommended in women younger than 50 years of age, digital mammography may be used in preference to conventional mammography. Digital mammography takes an electronic picture of your breast and stores it directly in a computer. Digital mammography uses less radiation than film mammography.

For a very small number of women, whose risk is very high, surgery to remove the breasts and/or ovaries before cancer develops may be an option. This is not an option which is taken lightly and is only done after full risk assessment and counselling.

Personally, I didn't look that far into my family and figure I have no-one else to blame but myself for my breast cancer. The number one thing I keep reading and finding over and over is about alcohol consumption for women. There's no way around it. No way to sugar coat it. Women need to cut way back on those glasses of wine. One a day or LESS.

 Of course you're free to do  what I did: continue the Russian Roulette and hope you're  one of the lucky ones that doesn't "win" the cancer lottery.

I have to tell you though, you won't feel much like a winner when it happens to you!


A powerful alternative to meat and meat products is hempseed. Hempseeds are considered a Super Food and nothing short of miraculous when it comes to being a source of protein and essential fatty acids.

Shelled hempseed is 35% protein, 47% good fat and 12 % carbohydrate. It's a complete meal in a tiny palm kernel that you can substitute a small tablespoon for your mid day snack or the protein for your meal

Yes, marijuana and hemp are both classified as Cannabis sativa, the difference being hemp is bred to maximize fiber, seed and oil while marijuana is bred to raise its psychoactive substance known as THC. For that reason, marijuana is illegal to grow while hemp is not. You could smoke twenty rolled hemp-leaf cigarettes in a row and not get high.

Hemp is used for clothing, body care products, paper, plastics, building materials and fuel. But researchers still find that its greatest quality is being one of the most nutritious food sources on our planet. Only algae such as spirulina or phytoplankton exceed hemp in protein.

While not readily available in regular supermarkets as of yet, you will find it at any good health food store.

Buy a big bag and save money. Sprinkle it on salads, in baking but best ever- pop a handful into your mouth whenever you get hungry.

Filling, satisfying and super healthy for you.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Grains, Girth and Garlic

Grains, Girth and Garlic

The first fact is that one in four Canadians is overweight. Being excessively overweight contributes to a host of medical issues, which includes breast cancer and breast cancer occurrence.

It is well established that breast cancer risk increases with the level and time of exposure to estrogens. Excess body fat is a source of estrogen and that estrogen may act as a growth factor for cancer cells. Something else excess weight causes is elevated insulin levels, which also promotes breast cancer cell growth.
So we need to keep our body weight within healthy margins if we want to practice cancer prevention. It’s all about Girth Control, people.
Not easy, you say. Okay, admittedly losing weight has to be on the top five toughest things to do in life. But it can be done relatively painlessly if you do a few key things.
Number One: EAT more. Sounds crazy, but if you were to follow Canada’s Food Guide of eating 7-8 servings of fruits and vegetables and 6-7 servings of whole grains daily, plus 2 milk or alternatives and 2 meat, eggs or nuts, then you would be too full to eat anything else. This will also stabilize your blood sugar if you spread it out over the day. DON’T ever skip meals. Get in a healthy whole grain slice of toast or a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. Snack on fruits, vegi’s…anything high in fiber to keep fuel in your furnace burning. You won’t believe how good you’ll feel, while at the same time losing instead of gaining the pounds. Diets don’t mean you have to quit eating. They just mean you have to start eating what your body needs to function properly! Opt for low fat and sugarless as much as possible.
Number Two: It’s all about calories in versus calories out. If you want to lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you eat. Simple as that. So you broke down and ate a bag of chips. Now get up off that chair and walk it off! Jump on a bike, go to the pool, do what you have to but don’t just sit there and let what you just ate settle on your backside or stomach. You did the crime, now do the time! After a while, you won’t be so quick to eat the entire chocolate bar knowing how hard you have to work to burn it off!
Number Three: Try to eliminate ALL refined foods, especially energy dense ones low in fiber (like white flour, white pasta, sugary drinks, cakes, candies etc.). These cause weight gain. But don’t skip all carbs. Eat only whole grains or try brown rice products (ie :brown rice pastas, crisps and crackers) Buy a whole grain recipe book. You’ll find lots of dessert and cake recipes to use. I eat brownies, breads, cakes, scones you-name-it! All whole grain and all absolutely delicious and filling. Not to mention guilt-free. You will actually lose not gain weight.

Before discussing the importance of whole grains in our diet, I thought you might like to read what Wikipedia has to say on the subject:

Diet and cancer
Diet and cancer are associated. It has been estimated that 35 percent of cancer deaths may be related to dietary factors.[1] Almost all cancers (80–90%) are caused by environmental factors,[2] and of these, 30–40% of cancers are directly linked to the diet.[3] While many dietary recommendations have been proposed to reduce the risk of cancer, few have significant supporting scientific evidence.[4] The primary dietary factors that increase risk are obesity and alcohol consumption; with a diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in red meat being implicated but not confirmed.[5] Studies have linked consumption of red or processed meat to an increased risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, and pancreatic cancer, a phenomenon which could be due to the presence of carcinogens in foods cooked at high temperatures.[8][9] Thus dietary recommendation for cancer prevention typically include: "mainly vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish and a reduced intake of red meat, animal fat and refined sugar."[4]

According to Canada’s Food Guide, adult women need 6-7 servings of whole grains a day while men need 8. A serving size is one 35g slice of bread, ½ a bagel or flat bread, ½ cup cooked rice, bulgur, quinoa, pasta or couscous or ¾ cup cereal.
Instead of reducing our carbohydrate intake, which seems to be the trend these days, we actually need to bump it up to maintain a healthy weight! The key is to do it with WHOLE grains.

So what exactly is a whole grain?
To be considered a “whole grain” product, all 3 parts of the grain must be present:
§  the germ
§  the endosperm
§  the bran
If the bread is made with a flour from a different type of grain, the first ingredient listed should say “whole grain _____ flour”. For example, whole grain oat flour or whole grain spelt flour.
This is different from the refinement process in which the germ and the bran are removed leaving only the starchy endosperm behind. An example of a refined grain product is all purpose white flour. According to the Whole Grains Council, approximately 25% of a grain’s protein and 17 key nutrients are lost in the refining process.
Whole grains are rich in cancer fighting components such as antioxidants, phenols, lignans and saponins. They are also rich in fiber and B-vitamins. Whole grains are digested more slowly than refined grains which can help stabilize blood sugar levels. People with diabetes can benefit from this effect. You will also feel full longer eating them.
The following terms will indicate a bread made with refined (non-whole grain) flour:
§  flour
§  enriched flour
§  wheat flour
§  bread flour
§  enriched wheat flour.

It is possible for a bread to be made with several types of flour. The best bread choice would be made only with 100% whole wheat or whole grain flour. Avoid breads that list “enriched wheat flour” as a second or third ingredient.
TIP: I use brown rice flour in place of white flour when the recipe calls for “dusting with flour” for coating meats, thickening soups or making sauces. I also replace any white flour in recipes with whole wheat flour. When a recipe calls for a mix of both, I ignore it. Your end product will be denser but you’ll be eating a healthier choice.
And there you have it. Girth Control and Grains…hand-in-hand. Avoiding cancer isn’t as hard as you might have thought. A few adjustments in your diet and lifestyle and you can hopefully avoid the issue altogether.


Cancer, like vampires can virtually suck the life right out of you. Good thing that garlic works as a deterrent against both. A clove a day can keep cancer at bay.
 A study in France found that increased garlic consumption was associated with a statistically significant reduction in breast cancer risk. After considering total calorie intake and other established risk factors, breast cancer risk was reduced in those consuming greater amounts of fiber, garlic, and onions 
The National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, does not recommend any dietary supplement for the prevention of cancer, but recognizes garlic as one of several vegetables with potential anticancer properties. Because all garlic preparations are not the same, it is difficult to determine the exact amount of garlic that may be needed to reduce cancer risk. Furthermore, the active compounds present in garlic may lose their effectiveness with time, handling, and processing. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines for general health promotion for adults is a daily dose of 2 to 5 g of fresh garlic (approximately one clove), 0.4 to 1.2 g of dried garlic powder, 2 to 5 mg of garlic oil, 300 to 1,000 mg of garlic extract, or other formulations that are equal to 2 to 5 mg of allicin. 
The Truth About Garlic Supplements
People taking garlic supplements for cancer prevention should take note. Most garlic supplements contain only trace amounts of Allyl sulfur compounds, which are the major cancer-fighting component in garlic. It is best to stick with garlic oil or powder for more concentrated forms of garlic in its best cancer fighting form.

CAUTION: Too Much Garlic Can Cause More Than Just Bad Breath
An overload of garlic can cause several health problems, along with a bad case of halitosis. It may interfere with anesthesia and cause bleeding because of its anti-clotting properties. Digesting too much garlic can also lead to stomach problems, allergic reactions and dermatitis.
As I said, a clove a day!