From high blood pressure, high cholesterol, constipation, breast cancer, and even to flatulence (yes, that means farting), the common thread in the excuses I hear people make when it comes to making significant diet changes that would improve their health is that they believe they have no control. They could not be more wrong.
Here are their assertions and my responses:
“My mom had breast cancer, my aunt had breast cancer, and I have just accepted that I am going to get it, so it doesn’t matter what I eat.”
“Hereditary cancers – these are cancers that are associated with a change in a single cancer susceptibility gene (like BRCA1 or BRCA2). These genes account for a very small percentage of all cancers. In fact, only 5-10% of breast and colon cancer cases are caused by changes in a single gene. Although everyone who carries a change in a cancer susceptibility gene does not get cancer, the risk is increased greatly, usually to 50% or higher.
Inheriting a “cancer gene” does NOT mean you will get cancer.
Having a genetic variant associated with cancer does NOT mean that you will definitely get cancer. Just as non-genetic risk factors like smoking or DIET impact your overall cancer risk, genetic variants also influence your risk of developing cancer. Knowing that you have a genetic risk and understanding what it means may motivate you to make preventive lifestyle and behavioral changes.”
I think the research speaks for itself here. Yes genetics are a factor in some cancers, but not all – in fact most are considered sporadic. Diet and lifestyle are typically larger factors, so yes, it does matter what you eat and how you live, even if your mom had breast cancer, and your aunt, and your sister, and your other sister, and your grandmother. Read The China Study.
“I’m just constipated. Everyone in my family is. It doesn’t matter how much fiber I eat.”
Getting adequate fiber is a very real issue – and if you aren’t have regular bowel movements daily, then your body isn’t getting enough of the right kind of fiber (and water), which does eventually put your colon and digestive health at risk. the USRDA recommends somewhere between 25 and 35 grams a day of soluble and insoluble fiber (both are important) for women and men respectively (loosely based on a 1500 – 2000 calorie daily diet). Some experts recommend up to 40 or 45 grams a day depending on a person’s overall digestive health and needs.
Some top fiber fruits: blackberries, (8 g for 1 cup), pears (about 5 g for medium pear), apples (about 3.5 g for medium apple), blueberries (about 3.5 g for 1 cup), strawberries (about 3.3 g for 1 cup), oranges (about 3 g for medium orange) – all with skin except oranges)
Some top fiber legumes and nuts: navy beans (19 g per cup), lentils, black beans, split peas (all about 15 -16 g per 1 cup), lima, pinto, garbanzo, kidney beans, (13 – 15 g per 1 cup), almonds (3.3 g per 24 nuts)
Some top fiber vegetables: Brussels sprouts, parsnips, sweet potatoes and squash (all about 6 g per cup); pumpkin (7 g per cup). Turnip greens, collard greens, broccoli and okra all contain (all about 5 g per cup).
Some top fiber whole grains (all for one cup): bulgur (8 g) and barley and quinoa (6 g). Foods containing whole wheat, rye or buckwheat flour, oat bran, whole oats, cornmeal, quinoa, millet, amaranth, spelt, kamut, teff, or coconut flour will all add fiber.
“High blood pressure runs in my family. I’ve tried losing weight, making changes, but I still need medicine – there’s nothing I else can do.”
Blood Pressure Response:
“The researchers note that although the effect of each variant is modest (1 to 0.5 mm Hg) their combined influence could be sufficient to change the population’s risk of stroke or heart attack.”
The good news – you do have control and you can change your blood pressure, even if you have a genetic influencer for it, recent research shows that it’s not significant enough to change your risk of stroke or heart attack. So now, what are you going to do about it?
Change isn’t easy, so if you struggle to do it on your own, get someone – a professional – to help you. But you have to decide that you are really ready to make changes to your life. I was always characterized as a “Type A” personality – I had the ulcer 7 years ago. I should have the high blood pressure. I have the genetic excuse – my dad has high blood pressure and has had it since a young age. I had high blood pressure when I was in college and I was headed down the same path he was. But I lost 100 lbs and totally changed my diet, started doing yoga and meditation, and have completely switched careers and schedules. My blood pressure is typically about 100 – 110 over 60 – 70. You can make any change you want to make.
“I was born to have high cholesterol. I’ll be on medicine forever.”
Inherited disorders such as familial (meaning “runs in families”) hyperlipidemia and hypercholesterolemia can lead to dangerously high blood cholesterol, which can be difficult to control. However, high cholesterol levels can be kept at bay with diet and medication.
“Restricting fat and cholesterol in the diet is a necessary part of treatment for these conditions, as well as regular exercise and management with medication. Hypercholesterolemia or hyperlipidemia are serious conditions that can cause fatal complications without careful management. However, following a strict diet and taking medication as prescribed can keep you healthy for years.”
Even if you are one of the rare people who may have a true genetic disorder that has been diagnosed, you can still help your condition with diet. As explained, however, most of us do not have this genetic disorder, and can significantly effect cholesterol with diet and exercise.
“I’m a farter. It’s the way I’ve always been. I blow stinky, loud horrible farts – pretty much all the time.”
It’s not natural or normal to fart all the time. Flatulence, stinky and loud is a sign of digestive weakness and should alert you to a condition or problem that something is awry. When the body is talking to you, don’t ignore it – listen.
Things this could be a sign of:
- Yeast overgrowth – probiotics may help (a good, strong one) and stop eating yeast, fermented foods
- Food intolerances or allergies – your body doesn’t like what you are eating – can try cutting out top food allergens for 3 weeks, see how you feel, then re-introduce one at a time to see if there is a reaction, OR get a blood test
- Lactose intolerance specifically – cut out dairy
- Can’t digest fructose – cut out fruit sugar (all sugar from fruit)
- Cut out wheat – often causes bloating and gas in individuals
- Follow rules of food combining – when digestion is weak, you shouldn’t combine certain foods (I’ll talk more about this later)
- Don’t eat raw vegetables if they give you gas, make sure you lightly steam them – weak digestion will have a harder time breaking down foods, raw vegetables can be difficult until you strengthen digestion again
- Dr. Weil recommends taking Bitters to stimulate and tone the digestive system, something European herbalists use, rating gentian tea as the best
- Chinese herbalists recommend Ginger, Chamomile, or Kombucha tea.
These are just some suggestions to get you started. You may need to visit a health professional for support.