[ Q ] I am a 45-year-old woman with two daughters. Both my mother and my grandmother had breast cancer. I am physically active and I exercise five times a week. I'm careful about my nutrition, but I know that it's not enough - I still worry.
I continue to go to my doctor to receive regular checkups to monitor any potential developments. My nutrition is pretty good - I avoid eating processed foods - but I'm not sure about supplements.
What supplements can I take to help prevent getting breast cancer?
A. Thanks for your question.
A number of nutritional supplements exist that can help support optimal health and may offer protection against the onset of various cancers - breast cancer included.
These supplements are:
Antioxidants are, by far, your best protection against free radicals that cause oxidative damage to your cells, your muscles, organs and DNA. Vitamin E, vitamin C, alpha lipoic acid and glutathione are among the best antioxidants known to man.
In fact, a study published in 1996 by researchers in Seattle showed that antioxidants and especially vitamin C play a key role in preventing oxidative damage to breast tissue.1
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2. Folic Acid:
Folic acid is essential for many processes in your body, and may reduce your chances of getting breast cancer by up to 27%.2
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Research shows that supplementing with B-Vitamins may reduce your chances of getting breast cancer by up to 30%.2
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Not getting enough beta-carotene can predispose you to the onset of various cancers, including breast cancer.3 So, make sure that you get enough.
EGCG is found in high concentrations in green tea extracts. Many fine green tea extract supplements are for sale on the market. I recommend using them, or increasing your daily intake of green tea. Green tea has many studies to back its use as an effective cancer preventative - in part due to its antioxidants, but also because of its EGCG content. Surprisingly, there is evidence that EGCG may even help reverse the cancer process by encouraging apoptosis in cancer cells.
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My advice to you is that you continue to consult with your doctor as a means of preventing the onset of breast cancer. Be vigilant and follow your doctor's advice. At the same time, I encourage you to expand your knowledge by reading any and all available sources of information with a critical mind. Continue to take your nutrition seriously, remain physically active, and use quality supplements.
[ Q ] I love training, but my joints constantly hurt - I'm 25 and I don't know what to do. What supplements can I take to ease the pain?
A. Joint pain is very common and can be indicative of joint disease - a catch all term that encompasses over 125 distinct joint conditions. Thankfully, however, training induced joint pain usually doesn't indicate serious joint disease, but instead an overactive pro-inflammatory response.
Resistance training places tremendous stresses on your CNS, skeletal muscles and joints and tendons. It is thought that the breakdown of cartilage increases pro-inflammatory matrix enzymes - the same enzymes that are responsible for a host of other training related conditions - Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) being the most well-known.
In the May 2006 IronMan Magazine I wrote an article that gave countless studies that showed that inflammation in both muscle tissue and joint tissues do not result from muscle tissue damage or joint tissue damage per se, but rather from the inflammatory response to exercise that's triggered from training stresses. It is the overreaction of the inflammatory response system that is responsible for excessive joint and muscle pain.
So, with respect to joint pain, understand that you're dealing with two separate issues:
- The physical / structural impact of resistance training on your joint tissues.
- The exercise induced inflammatory response system.
As I indicated, whereas the structural damage to joints and tendons is relatively minor when skeletal muscle tissue is highly adapted, the inflammatory response system that's triggered by exercise may be overactive. While you can supplement with glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin and MSM to help combat and even reverse the physical damage to joint tissues caused by training, when you're dealing with the inflammatory response to exercise, specialized enzyme supplementation is the way to go.
In my May 2006 IronMan article titled "DOMS: Every Bodybuilders Worst Enemy" I featured a product that contains protease and sitosterol enzymes. This product contains protease and sitosterol enzymes that are clinically proven to reduce post-exercise inflammation by up to 65%.
I can attest to the fact that this enzyme formula works; because I powerlift I used to get DOMS and joint pain frequently, but now it is greatly reduced and is a rare occurrence.
The fact is: Clean eating goes only so far for reducing inflammation and soreness. While clean eating can accelerate the structural repair of muscles and joints, only enzyme supplementation can reduce and prevent inflammation in the first place. If you want more information on the inflammatory response system and the effectiveness of enzymes, read my article in IronMan, and check out this PDF.
IronMan: "DOMS: Every Bodybuilders Worst Enemy" PDF (2 MB)
[ Q ] Hello. I've been working out for years but recently, as I've gotten older, constipation is becoming more of a problem. What can I do to fix the situation? Should I lower my protein intake?
A. You're constipated only if you fail to have a bowel movement less than three times per week. When this happens, small amounts of fecal matter become clogged and clump in your stomach, and this can result in bloating, stomach pain, and gas.
Constipation can also indirectly lead to weight gain-not just an increase in the number on the scale, but a real change in body composition, due to the fact that the speed of your food digestion is dramatically reduced. When you digest food slowly, it takes much longer to clear from your system and as a result sugar and fats hang around in your system longer than they should , increasing your chance of gaining body fat.
But constipation can also cause a more serious condition: the accumulation of harmful toxins inside of your body. Experts call this autointoxification.
Constipation has many causes, the most frequent causes include drinking coffee, eating refined sugars and starches, drinking alcohol, not drinking enough water, not eating enough fiber, eating too much protein, and eating processed foods- potato chips, French fries, and burgers, hot dogs and other fast food and junk food products.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce constipation and prevent its onset.
First, you should increase your water intake. Be sure to drink enough water so that your urine is clear - pay no attention to the old advice of drinking eight glasses of water every day. So long as your urine is clear, it's a pretty good bet that you are well hydrated.
Secondly, while you could hypothetically decrease your protein intake, I don't recommend it. Instead, I recommend consuming digestive enzymes that aide digestion. Why do I recommend this? It's simple: it's entirely possible that, due to your age, your body's ability to manufacture sufficient amounts of digestive enzymes to ensure efficient digestion has reduced. In this case, supplementing with digestive enzymes may restore the optimal function of your digestive system.
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Omega Fatty Acids:
Another option to consider is supplementing with Omega Fatty Acids. Omega Fatty Acids play a key a role in maintaining an efficient digestive system. Most people are usually deficient in Omega Fatty Acids, so supplementing with them is a great way to take advantage of their benefits - both on the brain and as an intestinal lubricant - and to maintain an efficient digestive system.
View Top Selling Fatty Acid Products Here.
And, as I hinted at earlier, most people don't eat as much fiber as they should. Because an over emphasis has been placed on protein in recent years, most athletes have lost sight of the importance of eating vegetables with every meal. So, increase your vegetable intake by incorporating a nice salad into one of your daily meals. This should significantly increase the overall bulk of your bowel movements, keeping you regular and preventing blockages.
[ Q ] I'm going to be competing in a bodybuilding contest this June. I am working with someone right now to get into the best shape possible. Do you have any tips on how to come in looking dry and vascular?
A. It's good that you are working with someone who specializes in contest preparation prior to your show. While there are many experienced athletes that choose to work alone prior to contest, the athletes that consistently do the best are the ones that employ the help of contest preparation specialists.
I am sure that your contest preparation specialist has already briefed you on the importance of monitoring your sodium intake in the week leading up to your show. I'm also sure that he or she has briefed you on the intricacies of your nutrition plan and the importance of strictly staying on it. So, I will not address these issues here, and will instead give you a few tricks that are used by competitive bodybuilders to present their best possible physique on the date of their show.
One trick that is quite popular for reducing water retention in troubled areas like the abdominals is the use of a hemorrhoid cream. Many times, bodybuilders carefully monitor their sodium intake and fluid intake prior to the day of their show, and many either come in their best condition the day before the show or the day after the show.
Unfortunately, excess water can be retained under the skin in troubled areas like the abdominals. To combat this, Professional bodybuilders apply small amounts of a hemorrhoid cream to troubled areas that are retaining water. This results in a temporary reduction in the water retention, giving them a leaner and more vascular appearance.
A Homemade Concoction:
Another trick that is quite popular immediately prior to going onstage is drinking a homemade concoction made from glycerol, 12 ounces of water, 4 ounces of red wine, 20 g of dextrose, and a serving of creatine. This mixture serves to induce vasodilation, to increase your muscle pump, to increase your muscularity, to reduce excess water retention and to make you more cut. I've seen guys do this and they come out looking like a biology chart - big and sinewy.
Give these tips a try and, with your contest preparation specialist, see how your body responds. Remember: it's a learning experience, and with every show, as long as you learn something new, you'll be able to come in looking even better the next time.
[ Q ] I'm 25 years old, a university student, and I work out six days a week. Because I'm a student, I don't have a lot of time to cook. I depend upon a lot of frozen and canned foods. I have heard that canned and frozen foods aren't that great for you, but I don't want to spend all of my time cooking. Is there really a difference between frozen foods and fresh foods? Or, is a calorie a calorie?
A. Thank you for your question.
The truth is, there isn't really an easy answer to this question. While some frozen foods are similar in terms of nutritional value to fresh foods, this is not always the case and it can it be difficult to tell the difference when you're at the grocery store.
So, rather than making a generalization about fresh foods versus frozen, you must make your food decisions on a food by food basis.
When it comes to foods like fruits and vegetables, it is obviously best to get these foods fresh. However, many times the fruits and vegetables that you enjoy are out of season and getting them fresh would involve considerable efforts and expense-making it unrealistic and impossible. In these cases, I recommend frozen foods.
However, it is important to buy your frozen fruits and vegetables from a reputable name-the larger and more reputable companies flash freeze their fruits and vegetables while they are still fresh. Flash freezing their produce locks in the nutrients of these fruits and vegetables and almost guarantees that they will be as nutritious as their fresh counterparts.
| Flash Freezing:
American inventor Clarence Birdseye developed the quick-freezing process of food preservation in the early 20th century. He is considered the father of the frozen-food industry. His idea was to keep our food from decay and infection, by turning water to ice this makes it unavailable for bacterial growth and chemical reactions. Freezing since then has become a major part of life for everyday people and is one of the most commonly used processes commercially and domestically.
Flash freezing also prevents the gradual loss of nutrients that occurs in fruits and vegetables during transportation. Many times, fresh fruits and vegetables that are not locally grown must travel on a truck from other places in the country to arrive at your grocery store. When this happens, nutrients are gradually lost as the vegetables age from the time they were picked.
The same thing is true of fruits and vegetables that you buy fresh from the grocery store and allow to sit in your home for several days after their purchase. So, if you're going to need fresh fruits and vegetables, be sure to eat them as soon as possible after purchase to ensure that they retain their nutrients.
One thing to know is that many fruits and vegetables that come in plastic bags may be degraded because of exposure to light. And, many companies that freeze vegetables leach the vegetables prior to packaging them. This process destroys up to 50% of the nutrients in the vegetables. In other words, on a nutrient basis, these vegetables are twice as expensive as their fresh counterparts.
When it comes to canned foods, my advice is to avoid them at all costs. Canned foods are typically loaded with sodium and other preservatives to extend their shelf life. Unfortunately, this is similar to putting a dead person on a life support machine - it only stops the person from rotting. If you want your food, eat it fresh while it is alive.
Another problem with eating canned foods is that the sodium and am can elevate your blood pressure to unsafe ranges. And, contaminants from the metal packaging often leach into the food. This means simply, that every time you eat canned foods you run the risk of ingesting heavy metals that have toxic effects.
For some people, eating food from aluminum cans represents a danger as some people are genetically susceptible for Alzheimer's disease. While there is some debate today on this subject, autopsies on Alzheimer's patients show abnormally high concentrations of aluminum in brain tissue.
It is not known if the aluminum accumulation is due to eating metal or if genetics predisposed the person to collect the aluminum. In either case, and in the name of safety, I suggest you don't take that risk: Heavy Metal is great music, Heavy Metals belong in machines, but they do no good in your body.
Avoid canned foods as much as possible.
So, while a calorie is a calorie, some foods are more nutrient rich than others on a calorie per calorie basis. Avoid foods with drugs/preservatives like sodium and try your best to eat fresh whenever you can.
Come back next month to see YOUR questions answered! From steroids to supplements, workouts to injury prevention, the answers you want are here!
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- Malins, Donald C, et al. proceedings of the national Academy of sciences USA, 1996.
- Zhang, SM, et al. Journal of the national cancer institute, vol. 95, March, 2003.
- Toniolo, Paolo, et al. serum caretenoids and breast cancer. American Journal of epidemiology, vol. 153, June 15, 2001, pp. 1142-51.
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