Monthly Archives: February 2018

February Nutrition Nuggets: Coffee & Alcohol



I have chosen these new studies regarding coffee & alcohol to take a closer look at & to discuss. Are they good for you? Will you live longer if you drink them? What’s the story this month? ūüôā Hopefully you learned¬†from last weeks post,¬†Understanding Clinical Trials, that we need to know if the benefits outweigh the risks before we decide to change our lifestyle & in this case to imbibe or not.

Anything written about coffee interests¬†me ūüôā I¬†have had several emails from fellow coffee lovers about this newest headline. They all wanted to know if they should stop drinking coffee or just ignore the study & enjoy their favorite beverage. I was wondering the same thing.

When coffee beans are roasted they retain a chemical called acrylamide. This chemical is on the list as a carcinogen in California. Acrylamide is in foods like french fries, potato chips, crackers, bread, cookies, cereals, canned black olives, prune juice & coffee. The amount is dependent upon the cooking method, temperature & cooking process. So it varies by manufacturer. This page on the NCI website will give you more detailed information.¬†National Cancer Institute:¬†Acrylamide and Cancer Risk¬†They have based the inclusion of acrylamide, on the carcinogen list, on studies done on rats. The wording is as follows:¬†“The¬†National Toxicology Program‚Äôs Report on Carcinogens¬†considers acrylamide to be reasonably anticipated to be a human¬†carcinogen, based on studies in laboratory animals given acrylamide in drinking water.”¬†The problem with this is that the metabolism & absorption rates differ in rats & humans. From this site you will see that the human study was done with self reporting which is always difficult to know exactly how much acrylamide they actually ingested.¬†

This article is the one that caused the concern.¬†Forbes:¬†Potential California Warning: The Chemical In Your Coffee That May Cause Cancer By ,¬†February 1, 2018¬†¬†Regardless of the fact that there are not any studies yet that back up the idea that coffee can now be linked to cancer, because of California’s Prop 65, coffee vendors ~yep, even Starbucks~, will have to post a warning that drinking coffee is a potential¬†health risk.¬†

Did you know that the same Prop 65 warning is at any establishment that serves french fries & potato chips since a lawsuit by the state in 2005? I have never noticed it! The fast food industry didn’t argue, they just went ahead & posted the sign as required ūüôā Proposition 65: Acrylamide

This next article is a must read if you are still worried about drinking coffee. Based on the results of a meta-analysis, the benefits of coffee outweigh the risks. The only group who should not drink coffee are pregnant women. The Washington Post: After poring over all the evidence, experts declare coffee is (mostly) good for you By  February 4, 2018

I am looking at all the information above & I am thinking that drinking your morning coffee is not the problem here. If you haven’t omitted or sharply curtailed your use of ultra-processed foods, fried foods & sugary products, you may be getting a lot more acrylamide than is healthy. Clean up your diet & enjoy your morning cup of java ūüôā

The earliest record of drinking coffee dates back to the 15th century. Just saying…

Research results are a bit like the IRS; call until you get the answer you want. Even those who have a drink of wine once in awhile would like to hear that it is healthy. I am that way about coffee ūüôā¬†

The subject of consuming alcoholic beverages is as touchy as gun control in the United States. Not sure why this is. Since I rarely drink alcohol anymore, when I ask for water at a party people look at me like I am very odd. It seems that the general consensus is that you can’t have a good time socially if you aren’t drinking with everyone else. Even physicians¬†have¬†a difficult time bringing up a patients alcohol consumption & I am sure, if asked, most of the patients would either underestimate how much they drink or just lie about it.

Take an honest look at your relationship with alcohol & how it fits in with your goals to be a healthier you. I am not suggesting you give up alcohol all together¬†but I am suggesting that you decide if you are in the low to moderate drinking category or in the heavy drinker category. With that in mind, let’s look at these studies.¬†

This first study was done in France & was published on February 20, 2018 in Lancet:¬†Contribution of alcohol use disorders to the burden of dementia in France 2008‚Äď13: a nationwide retrospective cohort study¬†The study was a retrospective¬†look¬† & analysis involving 30 million people with a history/diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder”,¬†discharged¬†from a hospital in France. There are three take-away’s from this huge study.¬†

  1. The study included both genders, 20 years + in age.
  2. 50% of early-onset dementia is caused by heavy alcohol use. That is more than 2 drinks/day.
  3. This link between early-onset dementia & heavy alcohol use can be preventable by cutting back on the intake of alcohol.
  4. This study definitely shows that physicians should include a patients history of alcohol use in their dementia assessment.

With the above study in mind here is a new study about wine & it’s benefits to your brain.¬†CNBC:¬†A glass of wine after work may be good for your brain, according to science, By¬†¬†,¬†

Those 2 studies do not contradict each other, actually they validate each others findings.

This is my favorite article about alcohol. It will clarify the risks & benefits for you. Harvard, T.H. Chan, School of Public Health: Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits

Alcoholic beverages are a problem for some chronic diseases; diabetes for one. Do the benefits outweigh the risk? This is a question that you and your health care team need to discuss. Are you counting carbs or staying away from sugar because of your diagnosis? Then possibly the risks will outweigh the benefits for you. Livestrong: Sugar Content in Alcoholic Beverages, by SHANNAN BERGTHOLDT , 

Another good source for you to look at if you are in treatment.¬†Dana-Farber Cancer Institute:¬†Cancer and Alcohol: What You Should Know,¬†February 13, 2018 “Questions often arise about the relationship between alcohol and cancer: Does it increase cancer risk? Is it safe to drink while in treatment? What about after treatment?”

Bottom line? Do the risks outweigh the benefits for you as an individual based on your age, diagnosis & other chronic diseases you may have. Only you, along with your healthcare team, can decide.

Had to add this one; getting older does have its benefits ūüôā¬†This study was done on people 90+ years young. Those who drank two glasses of beer or wine a day, “were 18 percent less likely to experience a premature death. Meanwhile, participants who exercised 15 to 45 minutes a day, cut the same risk by 11 percent.”¬†¬†Chicago Tribune:¬†Drinking alcohol more important than exercise for living past 90, study says¬†Three results from this study stood out for me

  1. Drinking coffee cut the chance of premature death by 10%.
  2. Those with a hobby they worked on every day cut it by 21% .
  3. And my favorite; those who were slightly overweight by 3% ūüôā

The magic number from all these studies seems to be 2 to 2 1/2 servings of alcohol a day, which can be beneficial. Anything over that raises the risk for a number of chronic diseases including cancer, dementia & heart disease. Remember that the American Cancer Society recommends that people who drink alcohol limit their intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink a day for women. 

What is a standard “drink size” in the USA? The NCI has a website about alcohol:¬†What Is A Standard Drink?¬†In the United States, one “standard” drink contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol, which is found in:

  • 12 ounces of regular beer, which is usually about 5% alcohol
  • 5 ounces of wine, which is typically about 12% alcohol
  • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is about 40% alcohol

I will continue to drink my 2 cups of coffee each morning. The benefits, for me, outweigh the risks.  I will continue to have an alcoholic beverage on special occasions & limit it to one serving. For me, I see that the risks outweigh the benefits to imbibe more alcohol than that. What have you decided?

Until next week…Mary ūüôā

Understanding Clinical Trials


The more research studies that I read the more confused the issues become. Take my post from last week as an example: Asparagus & Cancer Cell Growth Even with my explanations some of you came away confused. I understand that. Because of that post, this week I am going to talk about how research, in particular clinical trials, are done.

The headlines in the news tend to be sensational & scare the **** out of us.¬†I don’t think that the researchers are trying to upset us or confuse us. They are just reporting on their findings. We want¬†to know that studies on mice show that some nutrients, given in larger amounts, will cause cancer or that some, given in smaller than normal amounts, may block the cancer cells ability to metastasize. But…before we go crazy trying to decide what this means to our diet, we need to take a breath & step away. We need to wait for several, not just one, clinical trials on humans to then make adjustments to our lifestyles. Even then we need to talk this over with our health care team to determine if the benefits outweigh the risks for us as an individual.

What is the difference between basic research studies & clinical trials? Research studies are experiments that have been conducted in a laboratory setting usually using non-human subjects. These experiments can be at a cellular level in a petri dish or done on mice/rats etc. 

Clinical trials are done with human volunteers in order to prove a theory that was developed in the laboratory about treatments for diseases. Your healthcare team may be aware of a Clinical trial being conducted that you could benefit from. Talk to them first. 

There are several governmental agencies which oversee clinical trials. They are in place for the protection of those volunteer subjects & also to list the clinical trials that have been done, are currently going on & those which need volunteers.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has a watch-group called the Office for Human Research Protections: The Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) provides leadership in the protection of the rights, welfare, and wellbeing of human subjects involved in research conducted or supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). OHRP is part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health in the Office of the Secretary of HHS.

OHRP provides clarification and guidance, develops educational programs and materials, maintains regulatory oversight, and provides advice on ethical and regulatory issues in biomedical and behavioral research. OHRP also supports the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections (SACHRP), which advises the HHS Secretary on issues related to protecting human subjects in research.

On this page, About Research Participation, OHRP has the following information. If you have an interest in being part of a clinical trial this is a good place to start to understand the protections that are in place.

  • Informational videos about research participation.¬†
  • A list of questions to ask the researchers of the study you are interested in.
  • Information about the regulations protecting you as a subject in a clinical trial.
  • Resources outside of OHRP to help you in understanding research involving human subjects.

There is another safeguard that has been set up. It is called the IRB, Institutional Review Board. The FDA has a site that answers questions about the IRB if you are interested: Institutional Review Boards Frequently Asked Questions -Information Sheet.¬†The first question is probably all you need to know ūüôā

1. What is an Institutional Review Board (IRB)?

Under FDA regulations, an IRB is an appropriately constituted group that has been formally designated to review and monitor biomedical research involving human subjects. In accordance with FDA regulations, an IRB has the authority to approve, require modifications in (to secure approval), or disapprove research. This group review serves an important role in the protection of the rights and welfare of human research subjects.

The purpose of IRB review is to assure, both in advance and by periodic review, that appropriate steps are taken to protect the rights and welfare of humans participating as subjects in the research. To accomplish this purpose, IRBs use a group process to review research protocols and related materials (e.g., informed consent documents and investigator brochures) to ensure protection of the rights and welfare of human subjects of research.

Clinical trials are usually done in phases. I will use the word “drug”, but this applies to drugs, devices, procedures, nutrients, diets…you get the idea ūüôā

  • Phase 0: This phase is more of an “exploratory phase”. Say a drug company wants to speed up the clinical trial process to get their drug approved. They would use this phase to try micro-doses on a few human subjects to determine if they should continue with a full clinical trial.
  • Phase 1: This phase is done on a group of healthy human subjects to determine if a drug is safe. It is also used to decide on the highest dose that causes the least side effects. This may take months.
  • Phase 2: They then move on to this phase to determine if the drug actually works on the targeted disease & its safety at this dose. It is given to human subjects with that particular disease. This phase can also have two groups. One that takes the drug & one that is given a placebo. This phase can last for a year or more.
  • Phase 3: When & if a drug gets to this phase, several hundred or even thousands of human subjects will be used. It is to obtain a more accurate picture of the drugs effectiveness & adverse affects on a broader range of people.¬†
  • At this point the company can apply to the FDA for approval of the drug.
  • Phase 4: The drug has now been approved for use in the U.S. This phase is used if the company wants to compare its new drug to other drugs that are on the market, look at the long term affect on a persons quality of life or look at the cost effectiveness. Thousands of people take part for many years. At this point the drug still may be taken off the market by the FDA after evaluating the above information.

***My resources for the above list:

  1. American Cancer Society: What Are the Phases of Clinical Trials
  2. Center Watch: Overview of Clinical Trials

If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial there are a lot of questions to ask. For example who is responsible for the cost of the trial & do you as a participant bear any responsibility. I found this next site from the NIH: National Cancer Institute, to be the best one to answer those questions. It also has a page to help you find clinical trials for cancer patients.

Clinical Trials Information for Patients and Caregivers¬†¬†“Clinical trials are research studies that involve people. Understanding what they are can help you decide if a clinical trial might be an option for you. Or maybe you have a friend or family member with cancer and are wondering if a clinical trial is right for them.

We’ve provided basic information about clinical trials to help you understand what’s involved in taking part. This includes information about the benefits and risks, who is responsible for which research costs, and how your safety is protected. Learning all you can about clinical trials can help you talk with your doctor and make a decision that is right for you.

Find NCI-Supported Clinical Trials: You begin by entering your type of cancer, age & zip code to locate clinical trials in your area.  NCI-supported clinical trials are those sponsored or otherwise financially supported by NCI.

See our guide,¬†Steps to Find a Clinical Trial, to learn about options for finding trials not included in NCI’s collection.”¬†This page is very important if you want to find a clinical trial specifically for your type & stage of cancer. It shows you how to gather the information needed & how to find a trial.

On this next website you will be able to access clinical studies from the U.S. & other countries. You will choose all studies or current studies underway or those recruiting for a study. You will enter your type of cancer or any disease; any other term you want to search under, for example a particular medication; & then you choose a country. If you want to narrow it down more, then choose Advanced Search.

NIH: National Library of Medicine, is a database of privately & publicaly funded clinical studies conducted around the world.”¬†Not all of the studies on this site have been evaluated by the U.S. Government.¬†

As you can see, it sometimes takes years to get from the initial Phase 0 trial to the approval by the FDA. I also read that the time between the end of the Clinical Trial & the publication in a peer review, a conservative estimate, can be 2 years or more. I couldn’t find any time estimate from the initial idea & research on non-human subjects to the publication after clinical trials. It must be more than 5 years I would think.

I asked Google how much it would cost to get a drug approved from the laboratory to clinical trials to approval. The results referred me to an article in the Washington Post about a study asking that same question done by Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, a research group partially funded by drug makers. Does it really cost $2.6 billion to develop a new drug?  November 18, 2014  

The debate over the actual cost is in the article. Some people claim that this study was done to justify the high prices of drugs. Others say that the Federal Government has grants for studies that are paid for out of our taxes, and this money was not included. Regardless of who is right, it costs close to a billion dollars for drug companies to do these studies. They have a lot invested in the outcome. Hence the oversight committees that are put in place. 

When I look at a study that has made the news, I try to find the original paper. These are the points that I then look at…

  • Who conducted & authored the study.¬†
  • Where was the study conducted. University? Drug Company laboratory?
  • What country was the study done in.
  • If it was a clinical trial I check to see who the participants were, how many were in the trial & how long it lasted. I check for the gender & age group. I also check to see how it was done; self reporting is less accurate than monitored.
  • Who paid for the study. This is very important to find out. If it is a study on sugar & the sugar industry paid for the study, we need to know that.
  • I look at the purpose of the review. Sometimes the news media misinterprets this.
  • I check the Introduction to see what they have to say about this research.
  • I read the conclusions. Usually they say either there needs to be more studies done or that they are now going to clinical trials.¬†
  • At the bottom of an abstract paper is a section that shows “conflict of interest”. Here is an example from a meta analysis that¬†the NIH &¬†NCBI published in 2016 called: Relationship between Added Sugars Consumption and Chronic Disease Risk Factors: Current Understanding¬†¬†Conflicts of Interest:¬†J.M. Rippe‚Äôs research laboratory has received unrestricted grants and J.M. Rippe has received consulting fees from ConAgra Foods, Kraft Foods, the Florida Department of Citrus, PepsiCo International, The Coca Cola Company, the Corn Refiners Association, Weight Watchers International and various publishers.”¬†Now you see why this is important to know.

I am also very selective about which news group I will read after seeing a headline. I am not going to even look at the National Inquirer for example, but I will read what BBC, CNN, a university or cancer center publication, or a trustworthy site that I like, has to say. Then I “fact check” by reading the original study. It is a lot of work, but it weeds out the **** from the the wonderful studies being done on cancer.

I hope that from this post you can see why, although interesting, results of research on mice should not determine how you eat or how you change your lifestyle. Especially if it means going on some fad restrictive diet or crazy exercise program. We need to wait for the clinical trials. Then, & only then do we check to see if these results apply to us. I am not going to get too excited about changing my diet if the clinical trial was done on men in their 30’s ūüôā

Until next week…Mary:)


Asparagus & Cancer Cell Growth


I love asparagus & pig out on it when it is in season; to the extent that my husband is now growing it for me ūüôā This season will be the first time we can harvest it. Because of this, the headlines about how asparagus is a food that breast cancer patients should avoid caught my eye. I wondered why asparagus was being singled out now. I found that the reason for these headlines was due to a new study by the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute¬†that¬†had been published in the journal Nature this past week. What do we do with studies & headlines like this? We take a closer look & see if they apply to us as a unique individual.

This is the first article that I read.¬†Cure:¬†Asparagus Could Kill Me?, “A recent study points to a concerning ingredient in one of our most common foods. Could this potentially help the spread of cancer?”, BY¬†BONNIE ANNIS, FEBRUARY 09, 2018¬†Should you eliminate asparagus from your diet? Let’s take a closer look at the study & what it means.

Here is the actual study as published in Nature: Asparagine bioavailability governs metastasis in a model of breast cancer The information that I gleaned from this study is as follows.

  • The study has only been done on mice with a strain of an¬†aggressive¬†breast cancer.
  • No human studies/clinical trials have been done yet.
  • Not all circulating cancer cells were able to begin new tumors at secondary sites.
  • Those cells that did metastasize were strongly influenced by the presence of the amino acid asparagine.
  • Limiting asparagine by dietary restrictions or by the drug¬†L-asparaginase, which blocks the cells use of asparagine, limited the cells ability to metastasize.¬†

The most important part of this study that you need to remember is that they did not take away all asperigine. It was a low-aspargine diet that was used. This is important to note because it would be difficult to totally eliminate this amino-acid & it would cause other problems if you were able to. Asperigine is important in the protection of the liver & it is important for the health of your nerves. Concise information regarding the role of asparagine in your body from the Asparagine 

Most fruits & vegetables are low in asparagine. What are the food sources with high asparagine content, besides asparagus?

  • Animal:¬†dairy,¬†whey,¬†beef,¬†poultry,¬†eggs,¬†fish, & seafood
  • Plants:¬†asparagus,¬†potatoes,¬†legumes,¬†nuts,¬†seeds,¬†soy,¬†whole grains

As we have seen in other restrictive diets, it is not a good idea to eliminate a food group. Because asparagine is in many foods, restricting our diets to decrease it may be difficult. The more promising outcome of a clinical trial may be the use of the asparagine blocker, l-asparaginase. 

Food may influence cancer spread,¬†By James GallagherHealth and science correspondent, BBC News,¬†7 February 2018¬†¬†This article is very good & explains the study in layman’s¬†language & what it’s effects on diet may be.¬†

As we have seen in previous studies done with mice, it does not always have the same outcome when human clinical trials are done. But then again there are studies that do have the same outcome. The researchers are going to start human clinical trials with healthy individuals first. They will put these individuals on a low-asparagine diet to see if this will reduce the levels of asparagine in their bodies. If it does then the next step would be to use cancer patients in a clinical trial. 

This isn’t the first study that has shown that certain amino-acids may be influencing cancer cells in specific types of cancer. Serine & glycine were the subjects last year.¬†

GEN: Diet Therapy Could Slow Cancer by Cutting Certain 
Amino Acids. April 20, 2017 This study was also done in the UK using mice. The results were that by restricting dietary serine & glycine it can reduce tumor growth in intestinal cancer & lymphomas. It also showed that it may not be effective in other cancers. Clinical trials in humans are needed. The scientists noted that doing the clinical trials would not only show them if it works the same in humans, which types of cancers are affected, but also how restricted the diet needs to be and also remain safe. 

From the Serine This explains the function & importance of serine & glycine in the body.  Deficiency of serine in the diet can lead to depression, irritability, insomnia, anxiety and confusion; thus the concern regarding a safe diet. 

This article caught my eye yesterday in MedicalNewsToday: How Blueberries help to kill cancer cells, Wednesday 3 January 2018, By Fact checked by Jasmin Collier  The lead researcher, Dr. Yujiang Fang & his co-researchers are with the School of Medicine at the University of Missouri-Columbia.  

This study was done with human cervical cancer cells in a petri dish. The researchers used a blueberry extract with radiation on some cells & compared the results with only radiation on other cells. The results showed that the extract killed 25% of the cells & the radiation alone killed 20%. Next will be clinical trials.

These findings are great because we already know that blueberries are high in anti-oxidants, are anti-inflammatory, have a high fiber content for heart health, are low in calories & are readily available. The perfect fruit!

You can read the study & it’s¬†results¬†in¬†Pathology and Oncology Research.

In one of my favorite books, The China Study,¬†on page #226,¬†co-author,¬†T. Colin¬†Campbell PhD, writes about¬†Eating¬†Right: Eight Principles; “Principle #1: Nutrition represents the combined activities of countless food substances. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” In his book, he explains how each separate¬†nutrient works synergistically with other nutrients causing a cascade effect throughout the body. Together they stimulate glands & the production of important¬†hormones & body functions. Where they go in the body & how much is needed in each area or even each individual cell is all very carefully controlled.¬†

What I am saying is that each nutrient alone may influence the growth of cancer cells but it cannot be totally omitted because of its function with other nutrients to keep us healthy. Each nutrient sends out thousands of bits of information. We need them all. Balance!

Visit T. Colin Campbell: Center for Nutrition Studies for more information. Make sure you check out the recipes & the book section. I bought The PlantPure Nation Cookbook By Kim Campbell. Love the recipes. 

I hope that this information will help you decide whether or not you are going to give up asparagus ūüôā As noted by one of the researchers, these types of studies do not mean that they would work safely with a “home-made” diet plan. Again it is all about moderation & balance.

Until next week…Mary ūüôā


Chemo Brain

Photo by Don Hollander


Chemo brain is a term used by cancer patients in treatment & by thrivers/survivors to describe memory & plain old thinking problems. The severity of the problem varies by patient. Usually the symptoms are self-reported & are dealt with as “complaints” rather than a disorder. Cognitive tests are not done on new patients before treatment, so it is difficult for a healthcare team to know if what the patient is experiencing is new or not. This should not make a difference, in my opinion, the complaints should always be addressed. This¬†brain fog does have an impact on a patients daily activities.¬†

After all the research & articles I have read on this subject, this one is my favorite:¬†The Cut:¬†Finally, My Case of ‚ÄėChemo Brain‚Äô Is Vindicated,¬†By¬†, July 12, 2017.

Symptoms of Chemo brain or chemo fog may include the following according to the Mayo Clinic: Chemo Brain

  • Being unusually disorganized
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty finding the right word
  • Difficulty learning new skills
  • Difficulty multitasking
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling of mental fogginess
  • Short attention span
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Taking longer than usual to complete routine tasks
  • Trouble with verbal memory, such as remembering a conversation
  • Trouble with visual memory, such as recalling an image or list of words

As I look at this list, I can’t help but think about how I feel when I am totally stressed out. Do you think that part of the problem is due to the stress of the diagnosis, fear of the unknown, fear¬†of¬†the treatment, feeling helpless & anger?¬† Yes, it is part of the problem & it does confuse the issue.

A very informative article & video I found about chemo brain is from the Simms/Mann, UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology: Countering Chemo Brain, Linda M. Ercoli, PhD, October 14, 2014 The transcript of the video is right below it.

There are no diagnostic tests for chemo brain. There are no definitive causes known to science at this time. Because of this there are no cures. This page in the Mayo Clinic’s: Chemo Brain¬†has many ideas of how to cope with the symptoms. They also talk about¬†the lack of medications to help the patient & list the ones typically used. The section “What Can You Do”¬† has a list of how to prepare for your appointment & a list of questions to ask your physician. This is a very thorough & helpful article.

Another good article is by the American Cancer Society: Chemo Brain I like this one because the author states upfront that this is a very real & sometimes distressing problem.

Looking at the research that has been done so far, I believe that complimentary therapies, exercise & diet can play an important role in relieving some of the symptoms. As I mentioned above, stress can confuse the issue for both you and your healthcare team. Here is a partial list of which of these therapies have science behind their use for stress relief. You can find a list of therapists on our SDCRI/Resource page

  • Massage¬†
  • Acupuncture
  • Energy Work
  • Expressive Art
  • Yoga
  • Zumba
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness¬†

When we look at what can help to alleviate the symptoms or at least give you some relief from them, we should be looking at what helps anyone with cognitive problems. Not just chemo brain. The aging brain may be giving researchers a map of what happens with chemo brain. It is all speculative at this time, but can be a useful tool for those of you with a chemo brain diagnosis. The symptoms of mild cognitive impairment are very similar to those listed at the beginning of this post. What research has shown helps cognitive problems may help you. Exercise & diet have research behind them as being useful.

Exercise is addressed in this article:¬†USNews:¬†Health Buzz: People With Mild Cognitive Impairment Should Exercise Twice a Week, Research Says It involves issues with thinking and memory.¬†By¬†David Oliver¬†, Associate Editor, Social Media¬†|Dec. 29, 2017¬†¬†Exercise is important¬†for anyone trying to rebuild their¬†immune system & it helps to relieve stress. The key with exercise is not how long or how intense it is but how consistent¬†you are. Even 5 minutes every day is helpful. Choose an exercise that you will do everyday. I found going to the gym¬†didn’t last long; too much trouble. We have a lot of rain so I invested in a stationary bike & a tiny stair stepper. I use both every day at the same time for 45 minutes total. I can live with that! You can even break up the time spent. I ride my bike in the morning & do the stepper in the afternoon. On nicer days I get outside & take a walk. You can very the time you spend exercising based on how you are feeling. Listen to your body.

Diet can help in many ways. Chemo brain & cognitive problems may be the result of a chronic inflammation in the¬†brain as well as the body as a whole. We know that chronic diseases are considered inflammatory diseases. We also know that there is a scientifically proven link between the gut & brain. Yep, those gut buddies again. I think I can safely say; we are what we eat ūüôā

There has been an increasing interest in chemo brain in recent years. Here is a sample of the research that has been done.

  • National Cancer Institute:¬†Understanding ‚ÄúChemobrain‚ÄĚ and Cognitive Impairment after Cancer Treatment¬†In this section, the author mentions how until 2012, when a research paper was published about chemo brain & breast cancer, physicians dismissed women’s concerns about their cognitive behavior. It is also suggested that these complaints may be from an “aging brain”.¬† The gist of this article is that it would be of great interest¬†& helpful to be able to predict which patients will get chemo brain.¬†Very interesting article.
  • Cancer Treatment Centers of America:¬†Study finds ‘chemo brain’ persists after treatment in breast cancer patients,¬†
  • MedicalNewsToday:¬†How long does ‘chemo brain’ last?,¬†Published By¬†: “Cancer survivors have long complained of cognitive decline following chemotherapy. This effect has been studied in some depth, but, for the first time, researchers ask how long these deficits might last.”¬†This study on mice shows that the deficits from chemo brain may be long lasting. I think we can confirm that just based on anecdotal evidence.
  • Cure:¬†More Than Chemo Brain: Several Factors Contribute to Cognitive Decline After Cancer,¬†BY LAUREN M. GREEN,¬†PUBLISHED JANUARY 18, 2016, Though patients and survivors often complain of chemo brain during and after treatment for cancer, a growing body of research shows that there are multiple causes behind the cognitive decline many survivors experience.”¬†This is a very good article. The author quotes Tim¬†Ahles, a behavioral psychologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, from his talk at¬†the inaugural 2016 Cancer Survivorship Symposium. Worth the read.

I find it fascinating that the research is so late in coming. Also, that there hasn’t been any definitive conclusions drawn on what, why & how one ends up with chemo brain. Based on that, what do you have to lose by cleaning up your diet & lifestyle! If you have already made these changes to reduce the risk of cancer, build up your immune system or for any other reason, you are also reducing the risk of cognitive impairment¬†in aging & even chemo brain.¬†

Until next week…Mary ūüôā