Monday, November 14, 2011

Sometimes Life Gets Completely Out of Control

My life has been a whirlwind lately. Every time I sit down to write a post something else comes up that requires immediate attention. With the holidays approaching I can only imagine what will come up next. *rolls eyes* Does your life ever spin out of control? Mine seems to be doing it a lot lately. However there has been some “fun stuff” in my life lately.

There have been as many days and evenings on the boat as we could manage. Here a few pictures from those times to give you a better feeling of the marina.

It is so relaxing at the boat I am sure you are starting to see why we go as often as we can.

Sunday we started the day the usual way at our local farmers’ market. Like always we can home with a small mountain of produce. Today’s haul included: Brussels sprouts, tatsoi, arugula, lacinato kale, delicata squash, mushrooms, bok choy, green onions, celery, and hummus (buffalo wing, mango curry, cinnamon raisin, and pizza). Like always we stopped to chat with our favorite farmers and catch up on what is going on with them. Feel better soon Pam, we missed you! Six reusable grocery bags full and it was time for us to head for home.

We were in a hurry to rush to the boat so we had a little reduced-fat peanut butter on whole grain toast and a salad. Odd I know but I really felt like I needed greens. The salad included: arugula, tomato, bell peppers and avocado. I added a little wine vinegar and no-salt seasoning for flavor.

After some work on the boat we had a simple meal of whole wheat pasta dressed with tomato sauce that was seasoned with dried criminis, fennel seeds, hot pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, garlic, red onion and no-salt seasoning. The pasta was finished with raw arugula (because arugula is in the cruciferous family meaning it is more nutritious raw or lightly cooked) and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast.

Dinner came from Jesse Wong’s in Hunt Valley because both Dan and I were missing the faux duck dish. We started with veggie sushi (asparagus, avocado and sweet potato).

Then we shared the green beans and shitake mushrooms in spicy sauce.

We also order the faux duck to nibble on expecting most of it to end up in Dan’s lunch on Monday since I haven’t been home to cook. With a few cups of broccoli added to the faux duck leftovers Dan had lunch today.

After dinner we stopped at Wegman’s for some staples (organic dried beans, organic raw nuts and organic whole wheat pasta). While we were there I picked up some organic cat food for the fur children to mix into their existing stash. My little ones like it when we mix a number of different cat foods together. No spoiled cats here. ;-)

While we were in the organic bulk section Dan spotted this bag of cashews flavored with pomegranate. Darn are these things good and only 6 grams of sugar. You know I will be figuring out how to make this myself right? They include a couple of ingredients that I would prefer him not to eat so I will make my own version.

A Women’s Journey – Baltimore:

This past weekend I attended the annual women’s health conference put on by Johns Hopkins called “A Women’s Journey”. There were many sessions to choose from but I ended up selecting: Probiotics, Inflammation and Antioxidants, 10 Ways to Reduce Your Cancer Risk, and Staying Healthy in a Toxic Environment. I learned a few things so I wanted to share those with you now before too much time passed.

In the Probiotic session I learned that there are over 1,000 species and 7,000 strains of bacteria in our guts. Wow! I knew there were a lot of them but that was far more than I expected. Additionally many of these cannot be cultured so that when they are killed by antibiotics you aren’t going to add them back to your gut with a supplement. When we are born our GI systems are sterile but the gut is quickly populated with good bacteria by mother’s milk. Your gut bacteria are affected by: your diet, when you take antibiotics, intestinal infections and colonoscopy preparations. The gut bacteria help your immune system develop. They also prevent harmful organism from adhering to your intestine.

In most cases probiotics are not necessary. However if you are taking an antibiotic the doctor recommended that you use a probiotic concurrently and take it for 30 days than stop. She also explained that she would only use probiotics that have been tested in clinical trials because they are the only ones that have been “tested”. The brands she recommended were: Align and Culturelle.

For those of you that are thinking just eat yogurt or kefir the doctor addressed that as well. Studies have shown that eating fermented milk products everyday for a week did not substantially change the gut flora. This is probably due to the fact that they contain one or two strains typically. The doctor started the lecture pointing out $35 million dollar class action lawsuit that Dannon settled due to false advertising. Can you tell she wasn’t pushing the consumption of yogurt?

Her take away message was that it was more important to eat a healthy diet (whole grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and little meat). These healthy foods are the prebiotics which feed the probiotics. Inulin and fructo-oligosaccahrides are prebiotics and are found in things like: wheat, onion, artichokes, bananas, garlic and onions.

The Inflammation and Antioxidant session was also an interesting session. The MD that taught this session specialized in geriatric medicine so his focus was on inflammation and aging. He explained that chronic disease, altered body composition (less muscle more fat) and free radicals typically go in the wrong direction when we age. When we are younger estrogen, testosterone and DHEA protect us. However as we age and those substances decline we develop more inflammation. The doctor also mentioned the shortening telomeres as one of the triggers for inflammation. I have mentioned this previously but it is worth repeating that as little as 10 minutes of moderate exercise stops your telomeres from shortening. The doctor further explained that things like CRP, IL-6, IGF-1, DHEA-8 and Cortisol all activate inflammation. Did you notice the IGF-1? You remember that I have mentioned that many times before right?  Here is a link so you can refresh your memory.

The doctor also mentioned a study that showed that people with the lowest levels of selenium had the greatest risk of death. Are you eating one or two Brazil nuts every day? I hope so!

About half of the lecture was spent talking about supplements and that at best case many of them do nothing and at the worst they are linked to earlier death from all causes! Yes I said death. This was shown for beta-carotene, vitamin A and E in 2007 study published in JAMA. In another study taking vitamin C and D taken after a breast cancer diagnosis was associated with less mortality (i.e. more death). In another study taking vitamin E was associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. This wasn’t news to me but if it is to you please do a little research on your own to confirm it.

The doctor pointed out that we all need vitamins and phytochemicals but that we should get them from food. Where do they come from? Guess where….whole unprocessed plant food of course.

In terms of reducing your overall inflammation you may be wondering what you can do to impact that. The doctor recommended routine exercise every other day. Exercise itself causes inflammation which is necessary to build muscle. However on your rest day the inflammation turns off. This “planned” inflammation (exercise) will lower the chronic low level of inflammation that is damaging. Additionally the doctor also recommended a healthy diet (lots of whole plant based food) and regular use of baby aspirin once you have had that cleared by your doctor.

The third session was on the 10 ways to reduce your cancer risk. The doctor started by discussing the statistics regarding cancer. For those of you who don’t know it is now accepted half of all men and one third of all women will develop cancer during their lifetime. No that is not a misprint the statistics are actually that bad. The good news is the only 10-20% of cancer is genetic. We can control many of the other things that are associated with an increase in cancer.

The causes of cancer, in order of magnitude are:

1. Tobacco
2. Being overweight
3. Infections
4. Diet
5. Physical Inactivity (Exercise)
6. Medication
7. Family History
8. Reproductive factors
9. Alcohol consumption
10. Environment
11. Sun and radiation

The oncologist did point out that even losing a little weight makes a difference no matter when you do it. Also in terms of diet she mentioned reducing/avoiding charred meat due to the HCA (heterocyclic amines), reducing saturated fat, and eating more fruits and veg and less meat overall. There is definitely a pattern developing here.

She (the oncologist) also pointed out that while genetics may put you at a higher risk for cancer they don’t mean that you will get it. They only mean that you have a predisposition for it. However you can make healthy lifestyle choices and reduce to your risk.

One statistic that she pointed out (from the NCI) was that 50-75% of cancer deaths are related to personal behaviors and/or habits. That is a shockingly high number to me. While it is scary it should also give us all hope. If that make cancers are caused by our choices they can also be prevented by making different choices.

The take away from this lecture is that the following activities will reduce our cancer risk:

1. Stop using tobacco
2. Maintain a reasonable weight (all weight loss is good unless you are underweight)
3. Increase physical activity (even moderate exercise if beneficial)
4. Eat 5-9 fruits and vegetable per day (err on the high side)
5. Increase your intake of fiber and reduce your consumption of saturated fat
6. Limit your alcohol consumption
7. Limit your exposure to the sun
8. Get immunized (HPV and Hepatitis B)
9. Avoid risky behaviors (unprotected sex and intravenous drug use)
10. Treat precursor lesions (example Tamoxifen)

Once again the take home message was to make healthy lifestyle changes. You are starting to see the pattern right? ;-)

The final session was on staying healthy in an unhealthy environment. As I expected there was a lot of talk about chemical and the impact they have on our health. However I didn’t realize there would be such a focus on CAFO’s and commercially produced animal products. The PhD in Pharmacology who taught this session was part of the Pew Commission that studied the impact of industrial food production which he said is available on the web.

As someone who reads and watches everything about health and nutrition I was not surprised by much of the lecture. However there were a few statistics that I wanted to share with you because I thought they were so telling. First, 97% of all animal food comes from commercial mass produced operations. Yes that does mean only 3% of animal foods are probably fit for human consumption if someone in your family is eating meat. Also, 80% of all antibiotics used in the US go for livestock and 90%of those are not used to treat infections. I have read before that antibiotics are used in animal feeding operations to get them to grow faster. The problem with this is that these practices result in a dramatic increase in MRSA (serious antibiotic resistance). You may want to know that 325,000 people are hospitalized annually due to food borne illness and that on average 5,000 of them will die. Additionally food pathogens cause an average $14 billion in medical costs and lost wages per year. Poultry tainted with campylobacter caused 600,000 illness/year and 7,000 hospitalizations. Did you know that US farmers can’t sell farmed fish from the US in Europe because we don’t meet their standards? I gave up eating tilapia years ago after interviewing for the CFO position at an aquaculture farm and this was long before I went vegan in case you wondering. The take home message is that conventionally raised animal foods are not healthy for humans. According the doctor, “eat locally when possible and if you chose to eat animal protein make it pastured and sustainably raised.”

Did you happen to pick up the overall thread from the day? Every single session came back to lifestyle choices. All the doctors felt that the best thing you could do for yourself was to be aware of your habits so that you could make informed choices.

Overall the conference was good and it was nice to see so many women getting together to improve their health and the health of their families. Mary and I chatted during lunch and she came down for the second time from New Jersey for this conference. Many people were there for CEUs I am sure. However there were a lot of people there like me (and Mary) for their edification only. If you are local or close to local you should consider attending next year. If nothing else is a nice gathering of people (99% women) who are concerned about their health. I find the energy at this conference very uplifting.

Other Stuff:

Recently I attended a day and half conference put on by the Institute of Medicine on the topic of Cancer, Obesity and Physical Activity. It was a good conference but there was a lot of information that came out. I have 30 pages of notes to go through and summarize for you soon. There were some very interesting “tid-bits” that I picked up that even impressed the MD I was discussing it with last week. The conference was for medical doctors but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I know… I am not right. ;-) However as my friend Louis says often but I am harmless to others. Thanks for the good line Louis. Hugs!

In addition to the conferences I have been attending I have almost finished up my most recent nutrition certification. I am sure most of you are going, “huh, what is she talking about?” No you didn’t miss anything I hadn’t mentioned it until today. However I will be finished by early December and once I am I will tell you all about it. This is what prompted me to start thinking about a part-time career in nutrition/health. I have been busy working to finish up school and start a business. There will be a lot of fun stuff coming. I hope to have my website finished and my first newsletter out next month. Additionally I am also working on my first teleseminar which will be free. My goal is to be a resource for anyone that wants to improve their health of the health of their family. As I do here I am going to focus on providing a lot information for anyone who wants it.

I am also taking a 6-week “online seminar” led by Dr. Joel Fuhrman covering his book “Super Immunity”. For those of you who keep asking me to write a book I highly recommend this one. It is very similar to the book I would write. This post is getting long so I will review the book later in a separate post. However what I love about this book is that it focuses on what you can do to be healthier independent of weight loss. Great book!

Finally we have been busy preparing for an upcoming surgery at the end of the month. There has been a lot of preoperative appointments and testing to get ready for the big event. Even though I worked in hospitals for nearly 2 decades the idea of surgery is still scary. However the surgery will take place at Johns Hopkins and the surgeon is one of the best, if not the best, in the world at what he does. We couldn’t ask for more capable hands to be in. As you may have guessed this will keep me off line for a while but it is my intention to let you know before the surgery and ask you to send positive thoughts our way. Additionally I plan to let you know once everything is good. Please don’t expect a long post for either of those. I may end up putting on this Facebook only but I will try to get it up on the blog too.

Happy thoughts:

I know it has been a while so I will try to keep this short. However it is a wonderful problem to have that there is too much to mention. :-)

• While life has been crazy busy it has also been wonderful. Everything has been going very well and for that I am extremely grateful.

• I loved the conference at IOM and learned more about the impact of lifestyle and cancer. It is wonderful to have the time in my life to learn these things so that I can pass them on to all of you. If I can help just one person avoid cancer I will feel like a made a difference in the world.

• I am very grateful to live near one of the best hospitals in the country. Since Johns Hopkins is a few miles away I think most of the locals take it for granted. However when you have an uncommon problem to deal with you can’t ask for a better resource. Here is one very exciting piece of news. The surgeon actually commended us on our diet. Yes you read that right, the surgeon was onboard with our vegan diet and had no problem allowing food from home to be brought into the hospital. Love that! It makes me feel like the medical profession is beginning to move in a more holistic direction. Better late than never I say. :-)

• Both Dan and I are thankful to have our friend Louis. He has taken the day off and will be here for the big day. Louis you are best! Thank you so much for always being there. I hope you know how much you mean to both of us.

• We are also thankful for a great group of friends. Thank you to all of you that have offered to help out during this hectic time. We are very lucky to have you all be a part of our lives.

• I am also very thankful for all of you who have sent me email, texts or called to make sure that I am okay. I didn’t mean to worry anyone by not blogging. However it was wonderful hear from so many of you. You guys are the best! In all seriousness you really know how to make a girl feel appreciated. Thank you for your concern. I was very touched by the outpouring of concern.

• The boat is really starting to shape up. It definitely feels more like ours now. I have been busy personalizing it. Meanwhile Dan has been tracing waterlines and wires to get a better feel for the details. I am very fortunate to have such a brilliant, hard working and mechanical husband. I love you baby!

• It is fantastic to have school be coming to an end for now. It has been a long year. It didn’t help to have the new boat and now the surgery and school. However I have managed fine most of the time. Sorry that the blog suffered. But on the bright side that is mostly behind us now. Once school and surgery are over I will be back and soon in more than one place.

Signing Out:

Monday is another crazy day for me. I broke my glasses on Friday while we were at Hopkins. Thankfully I have prescription sunglasses but those will look a little silly inside so I need to get the ball rolling on a new pair today so I have them before surgery. It is always something isn’t it? On the bright side we get our glasses from Walid’s wife Jackie so I know she will do everything possible to them to me quickly.

In addition for studying for my final I also need to seriously clean the house in preparation for Thanksgiving. For those of you who haven’t been reading long I go overboard with Christmas decorations and it is a family tradition to turn on Christmas music after Thanksgiving dinner has been cleaned up. We begin decorating for Christmas late Thanksgiving night. This year it is more important that I pick up the pace so that everything is done before surgery.

As you can see the next two weeks are busy for me but I will do my best to talk with you again soon. For those you who are waiting for email responses I am very sorry about that. I hope to clean up my email in the next few weeks. Also I will get back to the fat series and book club blog as soon as I can. Life has gotten away from me lately as you can probably tell.

I hope you all have a wonderful Monday and a great week. Happy Monday everyone!


  1. So glad to have a post from you...I checked every day for one and hoped all was have a lot of loyal readers who wish the best for you:)
    Will be thinking of you on your will soon be over, and you will be enjoying Christmas!
    All the best..Coco

  2. What a fantastic post--I've been following your blog since you started the fats series & its extremely well-researched. I'm going to add a link to your site on a post I did on my own experiences with inflammation as well as commenting on other diseases that are inherently "inflammatory" (including cancer). I think my readers (few because my blog is new, but still!) would really benefit from reading your site.

    Next time I'm doing a post on how to navigate the hospital system to get the best care (I'm sure you could write for hours on this!) with tips from a doc :-) (

    The JHU conference sounds wonderful--I really enjoyed the section on which you commented on the geriatrician's talk on aging as an inflammatory state. Geriatric rehab is a huge component of my clinical patient population & several of my research colleagues believe that the majority of the symptoms that people attribute to "a normal part of getting old" (arthritis, frailty, sarcopenia, mobility issues, functional & cognitive decline, falls, etc) are not actually part of "normal aging." They believe that normal aging occurs in patients without highly inflammatory diseases (such as heart disease, diabetes, etc) and that these "normally" aged patients made lifestyle choices that allowed them to age energetically & healthfully.

    Thank you again for your lovely blog!

  3. Glad to hear from you. As always, I love your pictures. They are the best. I read Joel Fuhrman's Eat To Live has to be nearly 2 years ago now. It was an eye opener for me. I now drink green smoothies for breakfast and eat big, make that huge salads for lunch. Exercise is my downfall. Although, I've started walking a couple of miles 4 or 5 times a week. I'll keep you in my prayers for a successful surgical procedure. (((HUG))) Lori

  4. Coco,

    Thanks sweetie! That was very kind of you. I am sure everything will be fine since the surgeon is very experienced and specializes in exactly what we need. *fingers crossed*


  5. Dr. Cat,

    Thank you very much. I am happy that you enjoyed it. The MD that was given the inflammation course agrees with your friends given his lecture.

    Great idea to write a post about how to navigate the hospital. In my prior life I was a hospital controller so that makes things easier for me than most people. I am sure many people will benefit from reading what you have to share.

    thank you again for your kind words,

  6. Lori,

    Yay for adding more exercise into your life. Good for you! I find that exercise is easier once it becomes a habit. I still don't love it, but I like how I feel after I do it. Also since I try to do it the same time every day that helps me a lot to stay on track.

    If you liked Eat to Live you will love Super Immunity. I think this is hands down his best book yet.

    Thanks for your kind words. I really appreciate them. No matter how many years (okay decades) I spent working in hospitals I am not good on the other side of the desk. ;-)



Related Posts with Thumbnails