Rethinking Cancer Newsletter #48
Welcome to the brain edition of our newsletter!
Have you noticed? People are paying more attention to their brains lately— watching for early signs of absentmindedness, fuzzy thinking, learning difficulty…. Not surprising, considering the current U.S. statistic that people who reach the age of 80 have a 50-50 chance of getting Azheimer’s, a disease virtually unheard of a century ago, especially in traditional cultures. And it’s not just Alzheimer’s. Today we’ve got an epidemic of chronic degenerative conditions that go under the umbrella of “Diseases of Civilization,” i.e., the result of poor nutrition (fake, processed, chemicalized foods, high in sugar and refined carbs, low in healthy fats), not to mention overstressed living, sleep deprivation, too much sitting, not enough regular exercise, etc.
The good news is that disease does not occur in a vacuum. There is a great deal we can do to protect ourselves from these modern scourges. No guarantees, but healthy lifestyle choices play a huge role — in general, far greater than heredity or genes — in our brain and overall health. There is plenty of scientific evidence that, especially if we start early, we can lower our risk of conditions like Alzheimer’s. The key, at any age, is to build up our body and brain reserves by challenging ourselves mentally and adopting good lifestyle habits. Here’s some food for thought.
To your health!
Foundation for Advancement in Cancer Therapy (FACT)
Forgetfulness — What’s Normal?
It’s normal to forget things from time to time, and it’s normal to become somewhat more forgetful as you age. But how much forgetfulness is too much? How can you tell whether your memory lapses are within the scope of normal aging or are a symptom of something more serious?
Healthy people can experience memory loss or memory distortion at any age. Some of these memory flaws become more pronounced with age, but — unless they are extreme and persistent — they are not considered indicators of Alzheimer’s or other memory-impairing illnesses. READ MORE
Mind Full or Mindful?
Technology has brought us to unbelievable heights of connectivity and capability. The challenge of our times, however, is to live with it without it swallowing us whole.
Soren Gordhamer, who founded Wisdom 2.0 in 2009, says the desire is rampant for “non-doing”: “What the culture is craving is a sense of ease and reflection, of not needing to be stimulated or entertained or going after something constantly. Nobody’s kicking out technology, but we have to regain our connection to others and to nature or else everybody loses.”
One tried and true method for achieving this is mindful meditation, an increasingly popular mental practice that engages the brain in all the sights, sounds, smells, touch, tastes, emotions of the present moment, as if observing things for the first time. This can be as simple as watching your breath, noticing when your mind has wandered off, letting go of the wandering thought and bringing it back to your breath again. These movements of the mind are the equivalent of repetitions when lifting free weights: every rep strengthens the muscle a bit more. As has been verified in hundreds of peer-reviewed studies, such awareness of thoughts thickens the brain’s cortex, helping to regulate emotional and mental circuitry, creating a calming effect that can lower blood pressure, enhance healing, improve creativity and productivity, etc. READ MORE
The Well Nourished Brain
First of all, let’s get over the idea that there is, or will ever be, a miracle food, herb or drug for brain health. What’s good for the whole body — food-, exercise-, sleep-, mind-wise — is also what’s good for the brain. Today we have an epidemic of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, but not as a result of brain shrink caused by natural aging. Rather, in the overwhelming majority of cases, evidence strongly suggests that we are being set up for these diseases as a consequence of lifestyle factors all too common in our advanced technological age.
The prime culprit is the modern Western diet — high in refined sugars and carbs, low in healthy fats, quality protein, fresh fruits and vegetables. Today’s typical diet elevates blood sugar which causes metabolic havoc over time, like shrinking the brain memory center, the hippocampus — a perfect recipe for memory decline, as well as a host of other serious degenerative conditions.
The good news is, we now know that brain cells can regenerate, i.e., regrow and rewire (neurogenesis), given the right environment. It’s all about cultivating a good crop of brain cells through a healthy lifestyle. According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, this helps explain why brain autopsies may reveal the presence of cells indicative of Alzheimer’s, but symptoms were never manifested because the brain also contained an abundance of normal cells. A healthy, active brain is like a thickly forested jungle. If a few trees get cut down, the forest still thrives. By focusing on building up your brain reserves, it is possible that memory decline and other brain maladies can be reversed or prevented. READ MORE
Super Sardine Salad
Sardines are terrific brain food! Fresh, frozen or canned, they are one of the best sources of EPA and DHA — super omega-3 fatty acids that strengthen communication among brain cells and help regulate neurotransmitters, improving focus and memory and lowering the risk of dementia. They are also an excellent source of bioavailable calcium, as well as Vitamins A, D3, B complex and trace minerals essential for nerve and brain health. Because you’re eating the whole fish — bones, guts and all — sardines are, effectively, organ meat, a nutrient powerhouse for the whole body. As small fish low on the food chain, sardines are low in mercury, PCBs and other contaminants. All larger fish, including wild salmon, can concentrate mercury up to a million times more than the humble sardine.
Aluminum canned sardines retain the nutrients of fresh (check expiration date) and are a convenient, inexpensive choice. Look for whole, unskinned sardines — packed in olive oil or spring water to insure no leaching of metal (though most cans now have a protective coating on the inside).
- 3 cups greens, washed and torn in small chunks
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 1 orange, in bite-sized sections
- 1 small onion, thinly sliced or grated
- 4 oz. tin whole, unskinned sardines in extra virgin olive oil
Dressing: about 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, pressed garlic clove, 1 tbsp. mild mustard, dash seasalt or Celtic salt, fresh ground black pepper
- Combine greens, avocado, orange pieces and onion in a bowl.
Drain sardines (saving oil for dressing) and cut into bite-sized chunks. Set aside.
Place dressing ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Toss with greens mixture until creamy.
Divide the salad into two servings plates and arrange sardines on top.
For more mind-boggling effects, toss in brain-friendly additions like black olives, cherry tomatoes, raw cheese, mint leaves or fresh dill, thinly sliced radishes, lightly steamed asparagus, etc.