What we know for sure is that there isn’t one sole factor that causes cancer. That fatal disease we all fear. 1 in 8 women have breast cancer and the risk of that number increasing is a concern not only on all healthy individuals, but also on the ones trying to endure a healthy lifestyle. All lifestyle factors that increase chances of cancer are on the rise, and the statistics are scary!
Many studies have confirmed that a woman’s lifestyle: what she eats, her weight, her family history, and many other factors, influence her risk of being diagnosed with cancer in any stage of life. This risk increases in postmenopausal women. Especially in Lebanon, we need to find ways to support mothers who tend to carry enormous stress, without proper support. It’s key that we begin to make necessary lifestyle changes because almost all families are affected deeply by this disease.
To better understand how to do this, I will try to translate some scientific studies to words we all are able to comprehend!
Weight gain, lifestyle factors, and cancer!
Numerous studies have shown that higher body weight and fat percentage are a risk factor to develop breast cancer in any age group. Now let's keep this in mind and look around! Notice the shape of Lebanese women with obesity. They all have big bellies, or scientifically, they are all suffering from central obesity, where fat is mainly accumulated on the abdominals.
What causes this to happen?
This is mostly caused from stress related to our lifestyle, low income and financial struggles that surely influence what groceries and the type of food we usually consume, depression, lack of time to cook, easy access to fast food, emotional eating, cravings high fat, high sugar foods, alcoholism, smoking and shisha, our corrupted medical system and the list goes on… Now, I bet you are remembering someone or some people living this situation.
The most important question is: What should we do? How can we help? Put this awareness campaign into action, not only remembering breast cancer in October.
- Losing Weight: Studies say that losing weight, and being physically active decreases our risks in being diagnosed with breast cancer, because fat cells secrete biochemical markers that influence the development of cancerous tumors. We advise our women to start taking baby steps towards a healthier life without focusing on cancer prevention; we do not want them to do it out of fear, we want them to gain their health positively by engaging in self-loving actions. Because stress is also a marker, so when we stress on weight loss, are we really preventing cancer then?
- Decreasing alcohol consumption: Decreasing alcohol consumption supports prevention of cancer by reducing inflammation in the body. Although alcohol can be a negative coping mechanism commonly used in the presence of stress and general life trouble, finding ways to limit consumption is a great step to decrease these negative side effects that can lead to cancer.
- Health Food Choices: Making women choose healthier food options on a budget can be an excellent community project. Maybe we can help them plant their own veggies, enjoy eating beans and plant based food more than the cheap fatty things.
What food should we include in our daily life?
Go back to Lebanese Traditional Cuisine: It is very simple; get back to our traditional Lebanese dietary patterns, because it’s the healthiest worldwide. Use olive oil, avocados and nuts as sources of healthy fat, colorful fruits and veggies for their fiber and antioxidant powers, focus on beans and “burghul” as sources of vegetable protein.
Decrease red meat consumption: Red meat should be consumed maximum once per week, include more fish and other Omega 3 sources, try to include soy products, and low fat dairy.
Use Anti-Inflammatory Ingredients: Ingredients like turmeric and ginger as spices, green tea, like matcha are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties and should be consumed regularly.
Check your vitamin D levels; we Lebanese suffer from vitamin D deficiency, especially who lives in the mountains; studies show that low Vitamin D levels may be a risk factor to develop breast cancer.
Hoping my first article here not only helps to raise awareness to this topic but also makes you feel the responsibility to start taking actions and taking care of women around you, throughout the year, not only in October.
Hitaf Zwein - @hitafsdietclienic is a licensed dietician, anti-diet advocate and a contributor with Mint Basil Market!