According to Gautam Buddha, Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.
Many times people find themselves shocked at the onset of a disease like cancer. They don’t see it coming. However, we believe that a healthy body can never offer a hospitable terrain to any disease. While people find themselves externally healthy, most of them don’t pay adequate attention to what’s happening inside them.
- Lifestyle choices can contribute to cancer growth and spread, in part by fostering a body environment in which cancer grows and thrives.
- Researchers estimate that more than 50 percent of cancers are caused by lifestyle factors.
- Three anticancer strategies beyond the 7 Healing Practices can further promote health: weight management, smoking cessation, and limiting alcohol consumption.
- Any practice that moves you into your Circle of Health is beneficial.
- Lifestyle changes impact many health conditions beyond cancer; the benefit from positive changes can be widespread.
- Two approaches for making lifestyle change are presented.
We’re already seeing compelling evidence that lifestyle factors may be the missing ingredient of the existing cancer treatment model.
Lorenzo Cohen & Alison Jeffries
Leading a healthy life has different interpretations for different people. While some focus on healthy eating, they probably don’t sleep enough or don’t exercise at all. Here are some habits that contribute to a not-so-good quality of life.
As portrayed eloquently in A Story of Health, many of the risk factors associated with cancer are also risk factors for other diseases:
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise
- Unmanaged stress
- Poor or insufficient sleep
- Social isolation
- Exposures to tobacco smoke, pesticides, radiation, traffic-related air pollution and other toxics
Several or all of these factors are known to increase risks of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and neurocognitive disease. Some are also linked to reproductive difficulties, learning disabilities, asthma, birth defects, depression and other mental health issues.
Viewing health and disease as a result of the “complex ecology of modern life” gives a broader perspective. Doing so also reveals many key leverage points in which preventive actions may improve health and reduce the risk of several diseases simultaneously.
Many of these actions are specifically included in current recommendations from medical societies and other expert medical practice guidance. Addressing these risk factors through lifestyle choices can bring widespread benefits to health and improve symptoms such as pain, fatigue or depression.
“Our daily choices in life have a direct, measurable impact on cancer and other chronic diseases.”
Comprehensive lifestyle change, combined with conventional cancer care, is powerful medicine that can help control, and potentially prevent, cancer.
Lorenzo Cohen & Alison Jeffries
Life is a long journey towards inevitable death. And it is that ‘long’ part that makes people believe in the illusion that fitness is not important. At least not now. Life being so long and full of distractions, it often doesn’t take much to divert us from what is essential in the long run and move towards short-term gratification. This short-sightedness and the search for a small term fix is what makes people indulge in unhealthy and toxic habits. An average person believes that there is much time left in his life and as such plenty of time to take care of himself. He can always take care of his body and his mind at any time without sacrificing his harmful indulgences. He lives in the illusion of that tomorrow, a better and healthy tomorrow, which never arrives.
This is what takes all of us down; believing that tomorrow will be better without putting in the efforts to make it better today.
There are many habits like smoking, unhealthy eating, inactivity, poor sleep, unmanaged stress, and frequent exposure to environmental toxins which has been found to be a major contributor to the development of Cancer. Keeping your body engulfed in too much stress, toxins, and workload without giving the muscles and the mind appropriate time to rejuvenate is what causes diseases in the first place. Leaving these bad habits and adopting good habits is all a person needs to do to make himself less susceptible to outward ailments. Then why don’t they?
First of all, it is not easy to leave a bad habit and start a good one simply because it’s a ‘habit’. Abandoning a habit of any kind takes time, which in turn requires discipline and determination. It takes remembering why you started in the first place and the healthy destination it will take you.
Secondly, good habits more often than not show results in a long-term while bad habits like smoking, drinking, or eating junk food give instant gratification. And as we discussed instant gratification or short-term benefit is something most humans can’t pass on.
Finally, it is vital for the patients with Cancer as well as our healthy friends out there to understand that at the end of the day, it is your choice. Endanger your body for a rush that lasts one or two fleeting seconds. Or be patient and keep your body fit, fine, and ready for anything. It’s all your choice and always has been. You can build and invest in your health slowly and steadily and then reap its benefits as long as you live or enjoy it in 5 or 10 years and then be miserable for the rest of your life.
So, switching from a bad habit to a good one may be done with discipline and determination, but it starts with a choice. Your choice. Some of these choices are:
- Weight management
- Smoking cessation
- Having a good night’s sleep (7-8 hours per night)
- Limiting alcoholic drinks to two for men and one for women per day at most (less is even better)
- Keeping your body active and energetic using fitness techniques like Yoga, Aerobics, Bodybuilding
- Meditating to release the tension and stress build-up from the brain
- Eating a nutritious diet full of essential proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Contrary to popular beliefs, Fats are necessary too, although in limited quantity
- Drinking adequate amount of water and fresh fruit juice to flush the toxins from the body
- Intermittent fasting to give your body a respite from the digestive and respiratory cycle
The Circle of Health
Imagine a circle (or draw one on a page). Imagine or draw the word “HEALTH” in the middle of that circle. Think of some activities or practices that might get you into the center of HEALTH. Write them on the circle, if you wish. Outside the circle, picture or write some things that keep you from getting to the center of HEALTH. Finally, think of what will open up your access to the Circle of Health.
You do not need to overwhelm yourself trying to do too much. Once you commit to your health, it only takes one practice to bring you into the Circle. Once one practice has brought you in, the nature of the circle is that other practices that are right for you will find their way in at the right time. All your practices will flow in an integrated way. This is why Michael Lerner depict the 7 Healing Practices as puzzle pieces forming the perimeter of a circle.
Lots of different ways are available to create healthy habits that stick. Find a strategy for change that works for you.
Smoking and Cancer
- Dana Farber: Insight: How Does Cigarette Smoke Cause Lung Cancer?
- Cancer Research UK: How smoking causes cancer.
- Cancer.net: Stopping tobacco use after a cancer diagnosis
- National Cancer Institute: Tobacco
- American Cancer Society: How to quit smoking or smokeless tobacco
Alcohol and Cancer
- National Cancer Institute: Alcohol and cancer risk
- Cancer.net: Alcohol
- Dana Farber Cancer Institute: Insight. How does alcohol cause cancer?
- The Lancet:
Obesity, Weight Management and Cancer
- National Cancer Institute: Obesity and cancer
- American Institute for Cancer Research:
References and More Information
- Credit: Beyond Conventional Care Therapies
- Anticancer Lifestyle Program: based on the work of Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, this describes a 12-week lifestyle transformation program for people diagnosed with cancer
- Cancer.net: How to make positive lifestyle changes while living with cancer
- Dr. Jeremy Geffen: The Seven Levels of Healing
- Servan-Schreiber D. Anticancer: A New Way of Life. New York: Penguin Group. 2008.
- Gerald Lemole, MD; Pallav Mehta, MD; and Dwight McKee, MD: After Cancer Care: The Definitive Self-Care Guide to Getting and Staying Well for Patients with Cancer
- Jeremy R. Geffen, MD, FACP: The Journey through Cancer: An Oncologist’s Seven-Level Program for Healing and Transforming the Whole Person
- Lorenzo Cohen and Alison Jefferies: Anticancer Living: Transform Your Life and Health with the Mix of Six
- Keith I. Block, MD: Life over Cancer: The Block Center Program for Integrative Cancer Treatment
- Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO, and Karolyn Gazella: The Definitive Guide to Cancer, 3rd Edition: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing
- Neil McKinney, BSc, ND: Naturopathic Oncology, 3rd Edition
- Donald I. Abrams, MD, and Andrew T. Weil, MD: Integrative Oncology, 2nd Edition
- Carol Ann Petersen. Living with cancer: lifestyle changes, nutrition and exercise. May 25, 2018.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. 5 Healthy Habits That Help You During Lung Cancer Treatment.
- World Cancer Research Fund. Healthy Living After Cancer