Those pesky blood suckers haunt my dreams. I’ve tried bringing in a sharp shooter (not effective) getting them to gang up on each other (better) even enlisted several as allies, however, my supporters weren’t the dominant male or female vampire…and so on it goes every night now in my sleep. Probably because last week, after a number of tests, the hematologist informed me that I have a low-grade chronic leukemia, likely had it for several years and that I could go on as I am for many more without need of treatment. It manifests itself in anemia, fatigue, and some fibromyalgia, which has already improved following medication adjustments the doctor made. It seems certain meds can lower red blood cell count and I was on several that did without anyone realizing.
The official name of this leukemia is T-Cell LGL. There are various forms and I’m extremely fortunate to have the milder kind with none of the autoimmune diseases (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and lymphoma) that can accompany this variety and none of the feared organ damage. Thank God. Good news considering this diagnosis has the dreaded L word in it. But now, I’m besieged by vampires at night. There’s also a monster under my bed that I’m beating back.
My goal is to remain as healthy as possible while hanging in there hoping for a cure. There isn’t one yet, but I’ve come across a number of promising treatments and possible cures on the horizon for various cancers, including leukemia, and autoimmune so keep the faith. Meanwhile, as the doctor refers to my condition as low-grade autoimmune, I’m seeking foods that support the immune system. I’ve spent hours and hours reading up on nutrition and discovered the absolute best foods and supplements to boost immunity and help fight cancer. Eating healthy isn’t a new practice for me. I’m just more strongly inclined now.
We’ve had our own garden for years and our community is blessed with fresh produce stands and a thriving farmer’s market. If you don’t have any room for a garden, consider scouting out produce stands. Aim for organic. If you can’t find or afford organic foods then wash the fruits and vegetables well. If possible, at least plant a little salad garden that will supply you with leafy greens, maybe a tomato and pepper plant or two, and some carrots, radishes, beets, parsley, rosemary…lots of good vegetables and herbs can be grown in a fairly small space or in a container garden.
There is no one magic bullet, but some foods and supplements certainly standout. Probiotics are essential. A link to the Mayo Clinic provides more information about the benefits of probiotics found in such foods as, “yogurt, fermented and unfermented milk, miso, and some juices and soy drinks. Read product labels carefully, looking for a statement that the product contains “live and active cultures,” such as lactobacillus.”
I’m now taking a probiotic I got at the health food store that needs refrigeration to perform at its best. I also suffer from IBS and it’s helping with that. (If you don’t know what IBS is, then you probably don’t have it and we’ll move on 🙂 Yogurt is a fabulous probiotic. Buy the plain or vanilla kinds and avoid the ones made with splenda or other artificial sweetener. Bad for you stuff. Better to use plain sugar than the artificial stuff.
Stevia is a natural sweetener made from a plant. Raw sugar is better than processed. Unpasteurized honey, preferably made from local wildflowers, is good for you while helping you fight allergies. I am the allergy queen, have gotten shots for eons, and for the past several months have been substituting locally grown unpasteurized wildflower honey. My allergies are better this spring and it was a bad pollen season this year. *Pure, quality maple syrup is also better for you as a sweetener than sugar or artificial stuff.
Green Tea is amazingly healthful. From this site (Amazing Green Tea): “The secret of green tea lies in the fact it is rich in catechin polyphenols, particularly epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG is a powerful anti-oxidant: besides inhibiting the growth of cancer cells, it kills cancer cells without harming healthy tissue. It has also been effective in lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and inhibiting the abnormal formation of blood clots. The latter takes on added importance when you consider that thrombosis (the formation of abnormal blood clots) is the leading cause of heart attacks and stroke.”
There are an overwhelming array of green teas which made me wonder which is best. According to Amazing Green Tea, the bottled kinds are not good for you. Nix the instant green tea mix as well. Decaffeinated green tea doesn’t have the full beneficial properties of regular, so maybe just drink the caffeinated kind earlier in the day. Loose leaf green tea has more of the catechins that give green tea its health benefits than those in bags. You don’t even want to ‘go there’ with the flavored green teas. According to this site, “How a tea tastes is an indicator of its quality, and how much catechin and EGCG it has. When you buy an unflavored tea, you can judge its quality by how it tastes. You can always add your own honey, lemon or ginseng later if you so wish.”
I wish. OK, so who has the best green tea?
“The size (age) of the leaves is actually the main criterion for grading green tea, and unlike black tea, green tea quality is directly related to the grading. Teas made of the youngest leaves and the bud are the most expensive…high quality tea tastes sweet and rich rather than tannic.”
So, I have to shell out the big bucks for decent green tea? Hmmmm…I read on. “The highest grade Longjing tea are made from youngest tea shoots. They contain nutritious compounds such as theanine (a relaxant), EGCG (most potent antioxidant), caffeine (stimulant) and gallic acid (antioxidant).”
In conclusion, Longjing is supposedly the best green tea. But it’s pricey. Celestial Seasoning Authentic Green Tea came out near the top of the more commonly available kinds and is far more affordable. I haven’t tried it yet but do like many of their teas, especially Peppermint. I’m not a big fan of green tea, am an Earl Grey gal, but I like one green variety I’ve discovered from The Republic of Tea. It’s available locally in small tins with natural non chlorinated teabags. I can manage a cup or two a day. That company also has really good Earl Grey, which is also full of antioxidants. I drink mine hot with a little milk and sweetened with honey,both the regular and decaff varieties. No caffeine past mid-afternoon for me, sooner if you’re really sensitive.
Fish Oil. Yes, the good kind is highly beneficial to your health for a variety of reasons. High quality fish oil ranks at or near the top of recommended supplements. But not all fish oils are equal. The site I’ve featured is extremely informative, written by a man who spent years researching fish oil and suggests which variety is best. I’ve ordered it, so we shall see.
I”m not a big fan of fish and cannot get enough of the oil that way. I do like tuna and have learned that the lighter varieties have less mercury in them. All fish have trace amounts, but some contain far more than others. Quality fish oil is screened for mercury. If you want to go the route of eating fish rather than taking the supplements, the healthiest choices are: Anchovies, Catfish, Clam, Crab, Crawfish, Flounder, Haddock, Herring, Mackerel, Mullet, Oyster, Perch, Pollock, Salmon, Sardine, Scallop, Shrimp, Sole, Squid, Tilapia, Trout, Whitefish. Eat 2-3 servings a week (pregnant women and small children should not eat more than 12 ounces (2 servings).
From The Cancer Cure Foundation, a non-profit organization. “The National Cancer Institute estimates that roughly one-third of all cancer deaths may be diet related. What you eat can hurt you, but it can also help you. Many of the common foods found in grocery stores or organic markets contain cancer-fighting properties, from the antioxidants that neutralize the damage caused by free radicals to the powerful phytochemicals that scientists are just beginning to explore. There isn’t a single element in a particular food that does all the work: The best thing to do is eat a variety of foods.
The following foods have the ability to help stave off cancer and some can even help inhibit cancer cell growth or reduce tumor size:”
Avocados, Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, Kale, that whole cruciferous vegetable family, Carrots, Chili peppers and jalapenos (no way I’m eating those) Figs, Flax (ground is best) Garlic, Grapefruits (pink is best) and other citrus fruits, squeeze lemon in your water and drinking more water is also advised, Grapes, red or the dark purple are best, green and yellow leafy vegetables (such as spinach, raw, steamed or stir-fried) Mushrooms (Shiitake, maitake, reishi, Agaricus blazei Murill, and Coriolus Versicolor)
Raw Nuts like almonds (or a selenium supplement), Licorice root (may help limit the spread of prostate cancer, but don’t go overboard as it can elevate blood pressure) Papayas, Raspberries (black are the most effective) Strawberries and Blueberries, the whole berry family is a good one, Red wine (like a glass a day of a kind that doesn’t have sulfites) Rosemary, Seaweed and other sea vegetables, Soy products like tofu,Sweet potatoes, Tapioca, Tomatoes (more effective cooked) Red Peppers, Watermelon, Tumeric…
This is by no means a complete list, but an excellent start. There are many helpful books on this subject as well as better eating for autoimmune. One suggestion is Vern Verona’s book on Cancer Fighting Foods. The one I am currently reading is called Foundations for Healing by Richard L. Becker that addresses a wide array of health issues and well being in general. I am trying a modified diet based on his and other recommendations.
My mom was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She has this to say: Last February I had a mammogram that was reportedly clear of cancer, no problems. Well, three weeks later, I was reading a book about the doctor who signed up to spend a year at the South Pole and found a lump in her breast. She did what she could, taking the meds she had on hand, but unable to get surgery til the weather warmed up and a plane could land. While reading, I reached up and felt my left breast. There was a small lump beside the nipple that wasn’t present in the other breast. As soon as I could set things in motion, I did. If you’ve had this problem, you know the scans and further mammograms, biopsy, excruciatingly painful needle insertion, and then the lumpectomy.
I haven’t yet decided on radiation. Those appointments are in two weeks. This is my first time, (at 77 years of age), and I have been feeling kind of besieged. I’d been responsible and had a mammogram. What was this all about? A doctor checked the lymph nodes and they were clear, Even so, the surgeon removed two of them, just for safety’s sake.
A friend lent me a book Anti Cancer: A new way of life by David Servan Schreiber, MD, PhD. In it he describes how his brain tumor was discovered and what he has learned that can lessen one’s chances of having it recur. For various kinds of cancers he recommends probiotics, pomegranate juice, berries, grated citrus fruit skins (organic), several ounces of red wine, grated flax seeds, seaweed (probably not something any of us are used to eating), bitter melon (probably inedible except in extract form). Maitake mushrooms “probably have the most pronounced effect on the immune system.”
Rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, mint, turmeric and curry are all helpful. Dr Servan Schreiber recommends, “Mix 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder with 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil and a generous pinch of black pepper. Add to vegetables, soups, and salad dressings.” He also recommends adding grated ginger to vegetables. Those which contain powerful anticancer molecules are “cabbages, brussel sprouts, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower etc.” Garlic is also high on his list of recommendation foods.
He believes strongly that, if we want to help ourselves, even though not much thought is given to diet yet in connection with cancer, we need to be aware of what not to eat (the usual list of sugars, fatty meats, white bread, cheese and what makes up many of our subsistence food at the fast food restaurants).
I will say, in my own defense, that I have tried to eat well for many years. We spent three years on Taiwan and one year in China and like Oriental food, not the fatty, greasy over-cooked stuff found in many US restaurants, but stir-fried vegetables with bean curd and maybe a little meat. I remember the Chinese downing gigantic quantities of garlic. Maybe that’s the answer. According to articles on the internet it is thought to have curative qualities that bring about well being and ward off diseases. With a prayer for your good health and continued curiosity in what might make it better. ~Pat Churchman
My mom is also in remission from Rheumatoid Arthritis after she underwent an unconventional treatment based on a low dose antibiotic regimen. She has been in remission for years. She tried the conventional treatments but at that time they were more harmful than helpful. The diet for boosting your immune system and helping to fight autoimmune is similar to the one for cancer, but limits or excludes the nightshade family, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and potatoes, as it can worsen joint pain and fibromyalgia. Here’s an interesting post on that subject at Garden Web.
From what I’ve gathered we should all be eating far less of the pre-prepared, processed foods and change our diets to include more simple foods, and those made with fewer ingredients. Choose whole grains wherever possible and more and more are available these days. Look for whole grain pastas and brown rice, rather then white. Whole rolled oats are a big health food. Pepperidge Farm has healthy whole grain and oatmeal breads, just check the label to be certain because they still carry some of the not so good varieties.
Get rid of products with hydrogenated vegetable oils and corn syrup. Very bad for you. As are soft drinks. Limit or eliminate sodas. I still have a little Gingerale for my stomach. Jiff has come out with a good tasting and far better for you peanut butter which has caused much rejoicing in this house. Called Jiff Natural. You don’t have to stir up all that oil that rises to the top and keep it refrigerated like the other more healthful brands and my family will actually eat it without noticing its better for them. The low fat version of Triscuitshave only a few healthful ingredients and seem to be a much healthier choice than most crackers and are readily available. Become a label reader and shop the perimeter of the grocery store where the fresh fruits and vegetable and dairy products, etc, are located.
Only roam the interior if you really need a particular product. Invest more of your food budget in fresh produce and look for what’s in season as it will be less expensive. And, of course, if possible put in at least a small garden. Go organic. Then you know for sure what’s in your food. Just be careful not to plant edible plants near any kind of wood that has heavy metals. Don’t use old railroad ties or treated lumber for making raised beds. Use naturally weather resistant woods like cedar.
Last but not least, Dark Chocolate is good for you! And the daily treat I allow myself. From Chocolate and Health: “It’s more than wishful thinking—chocolate can be good for you. Studies show that eating chocolate, primarily dark chocolate, may contribute to improved cardiovascular health. Packed with natural antioxidants, dark chocolate and cocoa sit in the same good-for-you category as green tea and blueberries. That’s because chocolate comes from cacao beans (or cocoa beans), which grow on the cacao tree and are full of natural plant nutrients. Most of the studies to date highlight dark chocolate’s health values because it has the highest percentage of cocoa solids, therefore more flavanol antioxidants.” My favorite and one of the best varieties of Dark chocolate is Green and Black Organic Dark 70% cocoa. This link is for the economy pack at Amazon. 🙂
Regarding supplements, women especially need to be certain to take Vitamin D supplements as most of us do not get enough. Also Vitamin E, the natural kind, Vitamin C, Calcium, and magnesium, another one we don’t tend to get enough of. Citracal Plus with the added vitamins and minerals has most of these. But don’t overdo the vitamins and try to get many of them from actual food. I know, bizarre.
Here’s a link to The Old Farmer’s Market Directory for Fresh Produce in your area.
OK, I’ve given you and me enough to consider for now. Onward and upward. If you have any suggestions please feel free to comment and share them with me and my readers. Hold hands, stay together and help each other is my philosophy and God bless us everyone.
***Update August 27th, 2012: My blood levels are good and even a little better than before. The hematologist has declared my T-cell LGL leukemia dormant. I think all the green tea I drink and the olive leaf extract I take has quite a bit to do with this. Not to overlook the power of prayer. The leukemia didn’t just go to sleep on its own.