The Gap: An Important Mindfulness Technique

I had the pleasure of listening to Pema Chodron (Buddhist Monk and author) and KD Lang (Musician, singer, songwriter) in a conversation this morning on Live Stream. I was struck by several things, but the one that stood out for me is the concept of the Gap. I want to share the concept of the Gap with you, the reader.

The Gap is that in between space where you come to understand the presence of NOW. It is that moment when you look up from a hiking path and notices the sky, the tree, or the bird. The Gap is a sacred space within, when you realize you are part of the outer world.

It seems to me that as people living in the world of cancer, you can use the practice of the Gap regardless of where you are on your path. For instance, fall is my favorite time of the year and I am so excited about its arrival. that I know I will have many Gap moments when I see beautiful leaves dropping the magic of their colors on the ground as they leave naked branches ready for winter. What Gap moments might you look forward to this fall? What magical part of the day will you practice breathing into the Now. The Gap is that space within you that allows you to breathe deeply from the inside out.

As people experiencing cancer life can become very ugly and painful as rancid smells and nauseating waves of emotion run askew inside of your inner darkness. It is important that you do not live in the darkness. Pema Chodron might say something like, “Don’t run from the darkness, touch it, explore it and move on past it.” The practice of the Gap is a tool to help you move past the darkness into the NOW.

Looking for something good and magical in your day will help you practice the Gap and stay in the Now. If you can’t see magic in your day then create magic in your day. If you are irritated with not getting the results you want with your health care, then focus on something else that you have control over. For instance, purchase some fall flowers. Take time to have a Gap moment with those flowers. Smell them, touch them and notice how each one is uniquely different from every other one. Have you ever noticed that no two flowers are exactly alike? Notice the nuances in the shades of the colors, notice the stems. Notice each flower as you arrange it in the vase. These flowers traveled from rich fertile soil and were “harvested” for your delight. All cut flowers will die. But each flower has its own elegance, story, and purpose in your life today. That purpose is here to bring you joy and to put a gentle smile on your face. Enjoying flowers is a Gap moment. Take a breath and look up and see your room come to life because you placed a vase of flowers on your night stand or kitchen table. You took the time to create a Gap that brings you delight.

As you learn to experience Gap moments, be the Gap in someone else’s life today. Pick up the phone and call a friend and tell them how much they mean to you. Send a card to someone who needs a connection. Smile at the clerk in the grocery store and tell them, “I hope you have a really good day,” as you look them in the eye. Be the Gap in other people’s lives daily and you will experience more Gap moments in your day-to-day life that is full of the necessary medical appointments, follow-ups and tests. I even imagine your health care team will respond to you more positively if you are practicing Gap moments in your life.

See you are not cancer. You are not your disease. You are a person with many roles and facets to your life. Don’t let cancer define you. Smile, in spite, of the cancer. Bring smiles to other people’s lives. Make a difference today and you will be happier because you did.

For more information and exercises for cancer patients read Breast Cancer: A-Z Mindful Practices.

Dr. Robin Dilley

Dr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

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Why To Use Integrative Medicine & Yoga During Breast Cancer

Healing truly begins when we acknowledge that it is our own responsibility, and not that of our doctors or the healthcare system to provide for our innate healing capacity.

When we are first diagnosed with cancer we feel our doctors should be there to help speed up the optimal function of our natural organic healing systems. Currently, our healthcare system in the United States is inadequate at contributing and supporting our health, and it is far too expensive, and unsustainable. The healthcare “debate” has focused primarily on insurance reform, but discussion on the content of optimal healthcare and the use of complementary therapies as part of integrative medicine has yet to begin in earnest. Many experts have weighed in, but I believe that integrative medicine with its emphasis on disease prevention and healthcare promotion is the only practical way to transform our healthcare system.

Integrative medicine, also known as Complementary Therapy is growing in acceptance but insurance companies are slow to follow, let alone advocate for them. This is why we need to advocate and educate ourself this way we ensure that doctors of the future will recognize their primary role in supporting the optimal functioning of their patients’ innate healing systems, and not just the management of a disease. Focusing on each individual’s innate nature, appropriately using inexpensive and non-invasive means like diet and lifestyle changes to both prevent and treat the root causes of disease, and only resorting to invasive and drug therapies to treat illness and suppress symptoms when absolutely necessary. Wouldn’t it be great to have the best of both worlds when treating our illnesses and diseases?

We are beginning to see a change prevailing in our healthcare system. Integrative medicine is a healing-oriented medicine takes into account the whole person (body, mind and spirit) which includes all aspects of a healthy lifestyle. Therapy such as acupuncture is licensed in many states. Homeopathy, chiropractic and naturopathy are becoming more mainstream and frame the therapeutic relationship between patient and the healthcare practitioner. We want to have both a conventional and complementary holistic approach. We want to carefully incorporate conventional and complementary therapies to help us stay well and support our healing process. Therapies such as yoga, aromatherapy, and massage are great too in supporting the mind and body relationship.

Yoga Therapy attempts to bridge a gap between conventional medicine and a “5000” year old system of yoga. However, our “system” of medicine mainly treats the body, while the “system” of yoga supports healing on a physical, psychological and spiritual level simultaneously. The ultimate responsibility for staying healthy rests with us. We must educate ourselves and be active in our own wellness program.

Dawn - Breast Cancer Authority BlogAbout Dawn Bradford Lange:  Co-founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Dawn is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us at info@breastcanceryoga.com if you have questions.

Wide Angle – Arms Extended: Breast Cancer Yoga Pose

It is supported and endorsed in many research communities that yoga has a tremendous positive impact on our physical, emotional, mental and even spiritual well-being. Fearful thoughts associated with breast cancer often prompts us to research every possible alternative or integrated self care option. Yoga is an option that can become a vital aid for us to handle the stressors from treatments, fatigue and depression and from the unknown. Practicing yoga can have better fitness outcomes, less stress and improved biological indicators of future risk of secondary cancers.

Benefits

  • Stretches arm pit chest, biceps, inner forearm
  • Pectoral muscle is widened
  • Opens shoulder joint and improves flexibility
  • Increases circulation and blood flow in chest
  • Strong hip opener and deep twist in inner core
  • Lengthen and strengthen side body and increases vitality
  • Massages lower abdominal organs and glands
  • Develops core steadiness
  • Enhances circulation to chest and shoulders
  • Expands ribs for deeper breathing

Instructions

  1. Begin in a wide stance, legs 3 feet apart with feet parallel.
  2. EXHALE, bend forward onto bolster or yoga blocks (make sure the leg remains anchored).
  3. Begin to roll out bolster so the arms can straighten (make surehips stay over knees and ankles.
  4. INHALE, draw tailbone and spine back so the spine lengthens and the chest comes toward the ground and allow the back bodyto broaden.
  5. EXHALE, lengthen sides of torso
  6. Let your legs and arms support the extension of the spine.
  7. Relax your neck and shoulders
  8. Stay for 5 full breaths, then return back to center.

Remember as you begin to practice yoga poses with awareness, you not only begin to feel better but you will also be able to feel; that is, you become sensitive to everything and everyone around you. As inner awareness expands and deepens both within and outside the body, we  consciously begin to overcome obstacles of fear, pain, anxiety. You can practice yoga in such a way that the practice becomes a much “larger yoga.” Our true nature is revealed through this new sensitivity and awareness. We intuitively begin to discover how to overcome certain obstacles on this journey with breast cancer.

To experience the benefits of yoga for breast cancer, it is essential that you begin with simple, gentle yoga movements. You should also consult a doctor before you begin practicing yoga. It is also necessary that you follow a yogic diet that consists of a mainly vegetarian diet to enhance the benefits of yoga.

Diana RossAbout Diana Ross: E-RYT 500 restorative yoga teacher, survivor that cares and founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Diana is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us at info@breastcanceryoga.com if you have questions.

Yoga’s Spiritual Bloodline is Raising Consciousness

“The word yoga means union and the union is supposedly between the mind, the body, and the spirit…” ~George Harrison –Interview, Henley-On-Thames, Oxfordshire, 1982

What does it mean to create “World Brotherhood Colonies?” What is a Spiritual Bloodline? And what does the late Beatle George Harrison have to do with this?
Just before Paramahansa Yogananda’s disciple Swami Kriyananda died in 2013, Nayaswamis Jytish (pronounced Joe-tish) was designated by Kriyananda to be Dhamacharya, or The Successor. In this rare and privileged video interview, The Successor speaks to us of a Spiritual Bloodline, Choosing the  Light, love for mankind, yoga, meditation, and celebration.

Getting an interview with these immensely busy people who are dedicated to the betterment of mankind was extremely difficult because in preparation for the Choose the Light 2017 West Coast Tour they were often sequestered in an ashram in Ananda Village.

An ashram is a spiritual hermitage or a monastery in Indian religions.
Dhamacharya is Sanskrit for a successor in an unbroken Lineage of teachers and disciples. It is the continuation of an unbroken Spiritual Bloodline.

“Before his death, Swami Kriyananda asked that together with my wife Devi (pronounced “Day-vee) I serve as spiritual directors for Ananda’s worldwide work.”

Jyotish and Devi serve as the Spiritual Directors of Ananda, a global spiritual movement of people living the change they want to see in the world. They are emissaries of Paramhansa Yogananda, the spiritual master who sparked a revolution of yoga and meditation in the West with his book Autobiography of a Yogi, celebrating its 70th year in publication. Jyotish and Devi are carrying forward Yogananda’s mission to raise consciousness around the world.

So want is Ananda?
In response to Yogananda’s direction to create Worldwide Brotherhood Colonies, one of his foremost disciples, Swami Kriyananda founded Ananda in 1968 in the Sierra Foothills. This area contains portions of eight California counties: Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Mariposa, Nevada, Placer, Tuolumne, and Yuba. Not only does this area produce incredible sights, but it also produces awesome wine.

Ananda Village was the first Brotherhood community and continues as the spiritual heart of Ananda Worldwide. There are additional communities in Seattle WA, Portland and Laurelwood, OR, Sacramento, Palo Alto, and Nevada City, CA, and in Assisi, Italy and in India.

Ananda will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2019.
The Ananda Village is an amazing community built on love and cooperation.
“At these villages, you will find over 200 people living the yoga life, plus two beautiful retreat centers, the Ananda School of Yoga and Meditation, and many pilgrimage sites for deep meditation and renewal. In April 2018 over 15,000 tulips will bloom at the Crystal Hermitage where Swami Kriyananda used to live. It is sacred space. Many people will come to enjoy Springtime in Ananda. Our Ananda communities in Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Portland are hosting the Choose the Light speaking tour.”  

You don’t have to EAT PRAY LOVE in India and Indonesia to become enlightened. You can do it all right here in your backyard.

I asked my esteemed guests what can be done to help people around the world and in our country, the United States, who are feeling great uncertainty and anxiety during these troubled times. Jyotish explained how “the present chaos is a precious spiritual opportunity.” Yoga is an answer.

Yogananda taught the practice of Kriya Yoga as a powerful tool to still the reactive process and talks about yoga in Autobiography of a Yogi as a science.  A quiet Yoga mind allows you to choose to respond rather than to instinctively react.

“We’re teaching people to step back from conflict and confusion, meditate first, and then choose an action that generates peace and harmony in the world.”

Devi explains,“Many people think of Yoga as doing a physical stretching, but KriyaYoga is a meditation practice. The audience may recognize some of the people who practiced Kriya Yoga as; Mahatma Gandi who was initiated by Yogananda himself. He lived a life completely devoted to change from within, radiating peace and harmony, as Yogananda taught.”

Beatle George Harrison was a disciple of Yogananda and practiced Kriya.
“Geroge Harrison put pictures of Yogananda, and his gurus on the cover of Sargeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band,” Devi says.

So, I pulled out a picture of the old album cover, held it up to the camera,  and we had a great time finding all the hidden gurus, goddesses, and people, which included Sri Mahavatar Babji, a doll of the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi, Sri Yukteswar Giri, American actress and sex-symbol May West, and Dr. Carl Jung, to name just a few.

It was like having a great game of “I spy the Yogi!”

I asked Devi how our audience can start on a path of Kriya Yoga and she invited us to join in with her as she shared a quick and effective meditation focusing on the breath, that anyone can do anytime they feel stressed. You can even use it in traffic.

“We are also inviting people to pledge their meditation hours so that together, we will radiate one million hours of peace and harmony into the world this year. Just go to www.MeditationPledge.com  We are just getting started but currently have over 500 pledges from around the world, with about 30 people pledging every day.”

“Together we’ll radiate a million hours of peace and harmony into the world.”
In Portland, Oregon on July 21, 2017, Dhamacharya Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi will be at the historic Multnomah Hotel, where Yogananda once spoke. These new gentle leaders will talk about “A World United.” What a wonderful way to be the change you want to see and Choose the Light you want to be.

Photo credit: Show Poster is the copyrighted property of Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos. All pictures on it and in the post are used with the consent of the guests.

About the Author: Kathleen (Kat) O’Keefe-Kanavos-three-time cancer survivor whose guided dreams diagnosed her illness as seen on Dr. Oz, & NBC News, and detailed in her book Surviving Cancerland: Intuitive Aspects of Healing. She’s a Contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul, TV/Radio Host/Producer- Wicked Housewives On Cape Cod™, the Kat Kanavos Show, Internationally Syndicated Columnist, and Lecturer who promotes patient advocacy and Spiritual guidance.  www.KathleenOkeefeKanavos.com

Antiperspirants and Breast Cancer

A famous case report, called “The Mortician’s Mystery,” in the New England Journal of Medicine back in the 80s, described a man whose testicles started shrinking and breasts started growing. Turns out, he failed to wear gloves as he massaged embalming cream onto his corpse. They conclude there must have been some estrogenic compound in the cream that got absorbed through his skin into his body—one of the first such cases described.

This case was cited as inspiration by a group of researchers that came up with a new theory to explain a breast cancer mystery. Why do most breast cancers occur in the upper outer corner of the breast? The standard explanation was simply because that’s where most of the breast tissue is located, as the so-called tail of the breast extends up into the armpit.

But, that doesn’t explain this. It didn’t always used to be this way; there’s been a shift towards that upper corner. And, it doesn’t explain this: “greater genomic instability”—chromosome abnormalities that may signal precancerous changes. There definitely seems to be something happening to that side of the breast, and something relatively new—just in the last 50 years or so.

“Is it possible that the increasing use of [underarm] antiperspirant which parallels increasing breast cancer incidence could…be an explanation for [the] greater number of…tumours…,…and [the] disproportionate incidence of breast cancer in the upper outer quadrant” of the breast near where the stick, spray, or roll-on is applied?

There’s a free flow of lymph fluid back and forth between the breast and the armpit. And, if you measure aluminum levels in breasts removed after mastectomies, “[t]he aluminum content of breast tissue in the outer regions [near the armpits] was significantly higher”—presumably due to “closer proximity” to the underarm region.

This is a concern, because, in a petri dish at least, “it has been demonstrated that aluminum is a [so-called] metalloestrogen,” having pro-estrogenic effects on breast cancer cells. “Long-term exposure” of normal breast tissue cells in a test tube to aluminum concentrations “in the range of those” found in the breast results in precancerous-type changes. And then, once the cells have turned, those same concentrations can “increase the migratory and invasive activity” of human breast cancer cells in a petri dish.

This is important, because women don’t die from the tumor in the breast itself, “but from the ability of the cancer cells to spread and grow at distant sites,” like the bones, lungs, liver, or brain. But, we don’t care about petri dishes; we care about people.

In 2002, a paper was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, in which the underarm antiperspirant habits of 800 breast cancer survivors [were] compared to those of women who never got breast cancer. The first study of its kind, and they found “no indication” of a link between the two.

Based on this study, Harvard Women’s Health Watch assured women that antiperspirants do not cause breast cancer. “Women who are worried that antiperspirants might cause breast cancer can finally rest easy.”

But, two months later, this study. “Frequency and early onset of antiperspirant/deodorant usage with underarm shaving was associated with an earlier age of breast cancer diagnosis”—as much as 20 years earlier—in women using antiperspirant, and shaving their armpits more than three times a week. And, the earlier they started, before vs. after their sweet 16, appeared to move up their breast cancer 10 or 20 years. They conclude that “underarm shaving with antiperspirant…use, may play a role in breast cancer” after all.

But what does shaving have to do with it? Shaving removes more than just armpit hair; it removes armpit skin. You end up shaving off the top skin layer. And, while there’s very little aluminum absorption through intact skin, when you strip off that outer layer with a razor, and then rub on an antiperspirant, you get a six-fold increase in aluminum absorption through the skin. So, good news for women who don’t shave, but “[o]n the other hand, [the] high [through-the-skin aluminum] uptake on [shaved] skin should compel antiperspirant manufacturers to proceed with the utmost caution.”

European safety authorities and the FDA specifically advise against using aluminum antiperspirants on damaged or “broken skin.” Yet, shaving before antiperspirant application “can create abrasions in the skin.” I’m sure everyone knows about the FDA warning, having read title 21 part 350 subpart C50-5c1 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

But, we get so much aluminum in our diet from processed foods—”anti-caking agents [in like] pancake mix,…melting agents in [American] cheese,…meat binders,…gravy…thickeners,…baking powder,” candy—that the contribution from underarm antiperspirants would presumably be minimal in comparison.

“But everything was turned topsy-turvy in 2004,” when a case was reported of “a woman with bone pain and fatigue” suffering from aluminum toxicity. But, within months of stopping the antiperspirant, which she was applying daily to her regularly-shaved pits, her aluminum levels came down, and “her symptoms” resolved. Although not everyone sucks up that much aluminum, the case “suggests that caution should be exercised when using aluminum-containing antiperspirants frequently.”

Recently, it was shown that women with breast cancer have twice the level of aluminum in their breasts, compared to women without breast cancer—though this doesn’t prove cause and effect. Maybe the aluminum contributed to the cancer, or maybe the cancer contributed to the aluminum. Maybe tumors just suck up more aluminum? Subsequent research suggests this alternative explanation is unlikely. So, where do we stand now?

The latest review on the subject concluded that as a consequence of the new data, given that aluminum can be toxic, and we have no need for the stuff, “reducing the concentration of this metal in antiperspirants is a matter of urgency.” Or, at the very least, it should say on the label: Do not use after shaving. Or, we could cease usage of aluminum-containing antiperspirants altogether.

But then, won’t we stink? Ironically, antiperspirants can make us stink worse. They increase the types of bacteria that cause body odor. It’s like the story with antidepressant drugs—how they can actually make you more depressed in the long run. The more we use antiperspirants, the more we may need them. Awfully convenient for a billion-dollar industry.

Doctor’s Note

Whoa—lots in the that video! Normally I’d try to break that video up, but I really wanted all the information to be in one place. Please consider sharing with those in your life who may benefit.

Any way to decrease BO through changes in diet? I’ve got an ancient video on that (see Body Odor & Diet), with some new updated ones coming down the pike!

Here’s the antidepressant video I referenced: Do Antidepressant Drugs Really Work?

What else can we do to decrease breast cancer risk? See, for example:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United

Delicious Tempura Mushrooms – Vegan and Crispy

Another delicious way to enjoy mushrooms – and so much healthier than any tempura you buy!

What you need:

  • 10-15 fresh button mushrooms, cut to halves
  • 7 spoons rice flour (placed in a bowl or plate)
  • 1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce (placed in a bowl)
  • Avocado oil to stir-fry
  • Always use organic ingredients when possible

What to do:

  1. Heat the oil in a wide pan until it’s very hot.
  2. Dip the mushrooms in the soy sauce and then coat them with the rice flour.
  3. Stir-fry the mushrooms in the oil from both sides until they are soft from the inside and crispy from the outside.

You may eat the mushrooms by itself or add them to a salad. It’s best to eat them hot.

Enjoy!

To get more of these great recipes visit Neeva’s website  The Innergy

Visit: www.NeverMeatAgain.com

Yoga Online Class For Cancer Patients

online yoga classes for cancerWelcome to Yoga & Healing cyber yoga class room! These are interactive classes that are offered via the platform of Fuze (which is like Skype). All you need is a computer/iPad with a camera, internet connection, your mat, blankets and a quiet place where you will not be disturbed and an online sense of adventure!

Our instructors are able to watch you via the mobile device camera, offer guidance and support throughout the class just like you would have in a normal class situation. The great thing about these classes is that you can join in from anywhere. These are small group classes and spaces are limited. Bookings are required.

Yoga Online Course (live)

  • Thursday 6:00 am – 7:00 am Australian Time and Wednesday 2:00 – 3:00 pm.
  • Next 6 week course commences 9th March 2017 (cost $105)

Yoga is simply a state of being with our body in all that we do. The focus of these classes are about deeply re-connecting with one-self and enjoying a gentle movements and exercises in a way that truly supports and cares for the whole body. All our yoga classes offer an opportunity to deepen the quality of one’s presence and gentleness in all that one does, says and thinks.

Instructor: Donna Gianniotis. 6 week courses. Cost $105. For more information and bookings: Donna 0408 783187 or donna@yogaandhealing.com.au

To enjoy a free recording of our Body Awareness Meditation please click here.

Recording of the audio’s of these classes are also available for those who miss a class or for individual purchase of $20 per class.

Here is what people are saying about our online classes

I have never done yoga online before, but having been a face to face student of Donna’s I was excited to give it a try. The classes are wonderful! The connection is nurturing and deep. You really feel it in the stillness. So grateful for the convenience and connection these online classes offer! ~ Fiona Plascott

“It really is wonderful to enjoy all the benefits of a regular yoga class from my own lounge room floor. It’s also made classes accessible to me in a way they aren’t usually because of childcare & work commitments. Donna is able to provide all the guidance & support I need through this brilliant technical approach – & I love it!” ~ Gen Doyle

“Yoga Online is great for convenience – it removes that huge barrier of having to “get to the class (through the Sydney traffic!)”. The key to working online is both being live online and also having an instructor who is not only experienced but who has a high level of awareness so that the many geographically distributed class attendees can each feel their separate needs are being attended to and that the instructions are not simply robotically delivered like a canned YouTube recording. This is where Donna differentiates from other online classes –being live and online with Donna in these class sessions is really the way of the future for this form of well-being.” NG

Private yoga online sessions

Our practitioners also offer private online sessions of yoga. For bookings and appointments contact us. Cost for private sessions is $80. For bookings Contact Us →

What you need for online yoga classes

  • A computer or mobile device with a camera
  • Mat, blankets, warm clothing (for winter)
  • Comfortable clothing
  • A quiet place where you won’t be disturbed
  • Set up your computer/mobile device so that the camera is facing your mat
  • Download Fuze (free application). This is the platform that we will be using
  • An online sense of adventure!

Donna GianniotisAbout: Donna Gianniotis has been teaching yoga full time for over 14 years within Sydney and practised as an Esoteric Healing Practitioner since 2010. With a diagnosis of breast cancer at the age of 33, she started to question that there must be more to health and well-being than diet, exercise, meditation and yoga.

How to Make Stevia Extract to Reduce Your Sugar Intake

how-to-make-stevia-extractI’ve shied away from stevia in the past, because I hate its aftertaste. But, if you are trying to reduce your sugar intake, it is probably your best option of sweetener to use. So how can we make it more palatable? Today I’ll show you how to make your own stevia extract that doesn’t have a horrid aftertaste.

Years ago, I went to a cooking class on gluten-free and sugar-free baking. It was the worst cooking class I have ever attended – for various reasons! It was a demonstration, and the foods that were prepared were very high in refined carbohydrates (albeit gluten free ones) and fats. But no sugar – they used stevia instead. When we got to taste the dishes – I hated them all! I think that was the first time I had ever had stevia – and that aftertaste just wouldn’t go away.

But today, after some investigation, I am a little more tolerant of stevia. You can reduce or avoid its aftertaste,which makes stevia a good option to help you transition to avoiding sugar and other artificial sweeteners.

Stevia comes from the leaves of a plant called Stevia rebaudiana, and is usually found as a powder or a liquid extract. The active compounds of stevia are steviol glycoside – which has 150 times the sweetness of sugar. Stevia does not affect blood glucose levels, and some studies show it may help improve insulin sensitivity.

What I have found is that the bitter aftertaste is apparent when too high a concentration of stevia is used. Even though recipes with stevia call for just a few drops – if the extract or powder is really concentrated, that can still be too much. So taking it easy is the way to go.

To make stevia powder, collect stevia leaves and dry them, then finely chop them in a blender. The dried leaf powder can be used as is, in certain recipes – but they won’t dissolve, so don’t try them in your coffee!

There are many different ways to prepare an extract, with variables including:

  • using fresh leaves or dried leaves

    I use fresh leaves that I grow myself. They are easy to grow, and the plant regrows every year. The ideal time to harvest the leaves is around August – when the flowers start to appear but before the flowers start dying. If you leave it too late, you are more likely to get bitterness. If you can’t get fresh leaves, you can buy the dried leaves and use them instead.

  • with alcohol or  without alcohol

    I use alcohol – vodka – for my extract, because it extracts the sweetness well, and quickly. Any recipe calls for only a few drops of extract, which means there is negligible alcohol in the final product.

  • duration of the extraction time

    I extract for a relatively short period because, again, I find that the sweetness comes through quickly, and there is more likely to be an aftertaste if you leave the leaves in the alcohol for a longer period.

  • concentrating the extract by heating

    I choose not to heat the extract and reduce it as I don’t want it to be highly concentrated. By leaving the extract as it is, the amount you put into a recipe is more controllable. Yes, maybe I’ll use 6 drops instead of 2, but I can taste it as I go along and adjust the sweetness to how I want it.

Obviously, you can adjust these to your own taste. Here’s the recipe. I hope you’ll give it a try. If you live near me and want some leaves – just let me know.H

Homemade stevia extract:

Ingredients

  • Fresh stevia leaves
  • Unflavored vodka
  • (you can vary the amount as you wish – for proportions, see the recipe).

Instructions

  1. Wash the stevia leaves
  2. Roughly tear the leaves into a couple of pieces and place them in a clean jar. I filled the jar with leaves – but they weren’t compressed down.
  3. Add enough vodka to cover the leaves. For my jar, this was about half full as the liquid compresses the leaves.
  4. Seal and shake the jar.
  5. Leave for 8-12 hours. Taste the liquid to see if it is sweet enough.
  6. Strain the liquid into a bottle and discard the leaves.
  7. Keep the bottle in the dark, or use a brown colored bottle. Having a dropper helps, as only a few drop are needed to sweeten foods.
Recipe Type: Sugar-free, gluten free, vegan, paleo, sugar substitute

Notes:

If you prefer a more concentrated extract, you can gently simmer the extract to boil off some of the alcohol.

Ruth BaillieRuth Baillie is originally from the UK and now lives most of the year in Northern California. She holds two Master’s degrees, one in Personalized Nutrition (distinction), and another in Health Psychology. She is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, Certified Professional Cancer Coach, and Cancer Guide, and has undertaken considerable post-graduate studies in integrative naturopathic oncology. She is the author of “Choices in mind-body medicine for cancer patients in Sonoma County, California” and her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals.

Learn How Breast Cancer Patients Benefit From Forest Bathing

forest-bathing-for-breast-cancer-patients

Try forest bathing to support your immune system

In 1982, the Forest Agency of Japan first proposed that ‘forest bathing,’ was good for your health. No, forest bathing is not dragging a bathtub into the woods and having a soak – although that does sound good! Rather it is visiting a forest or wood for relaxation, and gentle recreation, and breathing in the volatile substances from the trees. When did you last forest bathe?

Since 1982, forest bathing (aka ‘forest therapy’ and ‘Shinrin yoku’) has become a cornerstone of preventive health and healing in Japanese medicine. Many research studies, mainly from Japan and South Korea, have looked at how forest bathing creates positive effects. One of the key benefits is that it is seen to improve our immune function by increasing the number and activity of natural killer cells.

Natural Killer Cells

Natural killer (NK) cells are a type of white blood cells that provide a rapid response to viral-infected cells and cancer cells. These immune cells don’t rely on antibodies so are able to produce a much faster immune reaction than other immune cells. They have a tumor immunosurveillance role, directly killing tumor cells. Take a look at this brief video which shows you how they work:

Natural killer cells are therefore of prime importance to destroying cancer cells in our body. Thus we can see that using lifestyle approaches like forest bathing to improve our natural killer cell activity can help in both prevention of cancer – by killing those rogue tumor cells formed everyday – and in the prevention of metastasis of tumors.

Phytoncides

One of the factors that has been identified as causing these immune improvements is our breathing-in of phytoncides – the natural chemicals secreted by evergreen trees, such as a-pinen and limonene. The levels of phytoncide in the air seem to correlate with the improvements in immune functioning. If we look back in history, these health effects were recognized then; in the 1800s, many tuberculosis clinics were set up in pine forests. Patients’ outcomes were reported as them having a “forest cure.”

Health benefits of Forest Bathing

In addition to the benefits of increased NK cells and their activity, bathing ourselves in the forest environment has been shown to also:

  • reduce blood pressure
  • reduce stress
  • improve mood
  • increase energy
  • improve sleep
  • support deeper and clearer intuition
  • decrease adrenaline levels
  • reduce pain
  • ease mental fatigue

Image of the concept of forest bathing – immersing in the forest environment for immune support, from CALMERme.com

Incorporating forest bathing into your life

Trees, sunshine, grass, and wildlife all too frequently take a backseat in our busy city or urban lives.

Think back to the last time you were surrounded by nature – maybe a walk when you noticed the fresh, vibrant green of a new leaf, or an insect, or the color of the bark of a tree, or saw a rabbit hop past. These moments of discovery and fascination are spontaneous and effortless kinds of attention, not like the attention we have to use at work or during most of our day. As we follow our curiosity from the leaf to a flower to a butterfly, we relax in an exploration of nature which gives our attention-driven brain a break. The sounds of nature are also important, for example, the calming sound of water helps to balance our hormones. Forest bathing doesn’t involve going for a strenuous hike in the woods; rather, it has a gentleness and awareness to it – a sensory experience.

So consider giving yourself a break, and find some time this week to be in nature. Let that effortless attention and fascination take over. And if you aren’t up for that, try bringing some nature indoors to you – open the windows, look at the trees, listen to the sound of a waterfall on your computer, put a nature screensaver on your computer screen, watch a nature DVD…. Yes, even looking at a scene of a forest has been found to reduce cortisol levels (stress hormone) 13% compared to looking at an urban scene.

Resources

For more information on forest bathing, take a look at this Shinrin-yoku website and the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy. Many of the research studies are shown on the Association website too. These resources also include information about guides, local walks, and training to become a forest therapist. The walks are short in distance and focus on breathing, relaxing, listening, healing, wandering, and touch.

Ruth BaillieRuth Baillie is originally from the UK and now lives most of the year in Northern California. She holds two Master’s degrees, one in Personalized Nutrition (distinction), and another in Health Psychology. She is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, Certified Professional Cancer Coach, and Cancer Guide, and has undertaken considerable post-graduate studies in integrative naturopathic oncology. She is the author of “Choices in mind-body medicine for cancer patients in Sonoma County, California” and her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals.

Why BPA (Synthetic Estrogen) Hasn’t Been Banned

“The number of new chemicals is increasing exponentially”—we’re talking 12,000 new substances a day. Yet, data aren’t available on the hazards of even some of the high volume chemicals. BPA is one of the highest volume chemicals, with billions of pounds produced each year. And, studies have “raised concerns about its possible implication in the [cause] of some chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, reproductive disorders, cardiovascular diseases, birth defects, chronic respiratory and kidney diseases and breast cancer.”

A new study on the health implications of BPA comes out nearly every week. BPA was first developed over a hundred years ago as a synthetic estrogen. But it wasn’t until the 1950s that industry realized it could be used to make polycarbonate plastic, and it rapidly became one of the most used chemicals worldwide, even though it was recognized to have hormonal effects. About a billion pounds are also used to line food and beverage cans—especially, it seems, in tuna and condensed soups.

And now, we basically all have BPA in our bodies, and our children’s bodies. But, not to worry; the government says up to 50 a day is safe; 50 micrograms per kilogram. And, even those working in Chinese BPA factories don’t get exposed to more than like 70 times lower than that safety limit. Okay, then, why did exposure seem to affect the male workers’ sperm counts?

how-to-avoid-bpaIn the U.S., the general population only gets less than like a thousand times lower than the safety limit. Yet, still, we seem to be seeing “adverse effects on thyroid function, weight control, blood sugar control, cardiovascular disease, liver function, and immune function”—even at those incredibly low doses. So, “[t]he fact that there are significant adverse effects in populations exposed to BPA at concentrations [thousands of] times lower than the [official tolerable daily limit] indicates that the safe exposure to BPA may be much lower than previously thought in humans.” Yet, the limit hasn’t been changed. It’s been banned from baby bottles and sippy cups, but nearly unlimited doses are still apparently okay for everyone else. What’s the disconnect here?

It has to do with the fascinating world of low-dose effects of hormone-disrupting chemicals. “For decades, [these chemicals] “have challenged traditional concepts in toxicology”—particularly the old adage that it’s “the dose makes the poison,” the concept “that lower exposures to a hazardous compound will, therefore, always generate lower risks.” That’s “the core assumption underlying [our] system of chemical-safety testing.” They start dosing lab animals with super high amounts, and then keep lowering the dose until whatever adverse effects disappear; then, add a safety buffer, and assume everything below that dose should be okay, assuming the curve looks like this. You know, the higher the dose, the higher the effect. But, hormone-disrupting chemicals can have all sorts of “curious curves.” Basically, how could something have more of an effect at a lower dose?

Think about a hormone, and its receptors in the body. At low levels of the hormone, like going from 0 to 1, the receptors can fill up quickly. But, once they’re almost all filled up, going from 4 to 5, adding really high doses may not change things much. Let’s use an actual BPA example. This was a study to see if BPA suppressed an obesity-protective hormone in fat samples taken from breast reduction and tummy tuck patients. As you can see, at a hundred nanomoles of BPA (I feel like a weatherman here!), but at a hundred nanomoles of BPA, you can see hormone levels are no lower than they are at 0 BPA. And, since most people have levels like between 1 and 20, then BPA must be safe. But, here’s the actual graph. So, no suppression at 0; no suppression at 100. But, right where levels are in people’s bodies, BPA appears to cut hormone release nearly in half.

learn-about-bpa-and-breast-cancerAs the world’s oldest, largest, and most active organization devoted to research on hormones concluded, “even infinitesimally low levels of exposure—indeed, any level of exposure at all—may cause [problems],” nearly three billion dollars’ worth of problems every year, just counting the estimated effects of BPA on childhood obesity and heart disease alone.

Now, there are alternatives that the industry could use; the problem, though, is that they may cost two cents more.

Doctor’s Note

BPA isn’t the only problem with canned tuna. Check out:

What can we do to avoid endocrine-disrupting chemicals? See, for example, Avoiding Adult Exposure to Phthalates, and How to Avoid the Obesity-Related Plastic Chemical BPA.

Alkylphenols are another group of endocrine disrupting chemicals. Learn more about them here:

Featured Image Source Mother Jones

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous “meat defamation” trial. Currently Dr. Greger proudly serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at the Humane Society of the United

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