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The latest news: it seems that coffee and exercise together can help fight cancer. In fact, the combination is over three times more effective than exercise alone (see article sources below). How can this be?

Researchers don’t know why this works, but as is so often the case, an explanation can be found in the ancient field of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). According to TCM, cancer is caused by a condition called “excessive dampness”. It’s treated by getting rid of the dampness. There are many ways to do this, but the most effective is exercise. The dampness comes out as perspiration and the activity makes our body work more efficiently.

But not all cancer patients have the energy to exercise. Excessive dampness robs the body of energy and physical strength, which makes it very difficult for some patients to even want to exercise. This is where coffee comes in. All bitter foods and drinks increase heart energy, which is responsible, among other things, for physical activity. So the coffee effectively gives cancer patients the energy to exercise.

It’s important not to overdo it, though. While a bit of coffee boosts heart energy, too much of it will, in fact, increase the dampness in the body. In general, one to two cups of black coffee a day is enough. It can be regular or decaffeinated, or it can be replaced by other bitter foods, such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, dandelion, slightly charred toast or barbecued foods.

Please read the disclaimer before using any of the information presented here.

Article sources:
  • Exercise, Caffeine Fight Skin Cancer (AP)
  • Caffeine and exercise may help prevent skin cancer (CBC)
  • Exercise and caffeine might fight skin cancer (CTV)
  • Eek! Another benefit of caffeine (LA Times)
  • A run to the coffee shop may prevent skin cancer (News-Medical.Net)
  • Caffeine, exercise may help ward off skin cancer (Reuters)
  • Study: Combo of exercise, caffeine can fight skin cancers (USA Today)
  • Doctors and psychologists see it all the time: people who have substantial debts are highly stressed and often in ill health. They can suffer from an inability to focus, lowered performance, depression, relationship problems, frequent colds, poor sleep, overeating, digestive disorders, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease. Although the problem is widespread, medecine doesn’t understand it very well, mostly because of the difficulty in designing appropriate tests (see the Washington Post article “In Over Your Head? Ask Your Body.”). But perhaps a bit of ancient Chinese wisdom can shed some light on the mechanisms involved—and provide a few tips on how to stay healthy in spite of debt and other long-term stressors.

    Central to all ancient Chinese sciences, including Traditional Chinese Medicine, is a view of nature called the Law of 5 elements. It’s a way of classifying things according to their main characteristics and describes how they interact. Things that have the same characteristics reinforce each other. Things that are different influence each other along specific energy patterns.

    Being in serious debt is a situation that causes a lot of worry and anxiety. Because it usually goes on for a long time, chances are that the ongoing attack will eventually affect our health. While the pattern is the same for everybody, the exact symptoms vary from person to person, depending on our individual strengths and weaknesses.

    Directly affected is the digestive system. It belongs to the same group as worry and anxiety, which increase its energy. When we worry too much for too long, eventually our digestion becomes overstimulated. This can trigger all kinds of digestive problems.

    Indirectly affected is the heart. It’s responsible for physical and mental activity, for joy and happiness, and provides energy to the digestive system. But when the digestive system is overstimulated, it drains energy from the heart. Our energy goes down, our activity diminishes, we can’t focus or produce, we feel down, even depressed. And, of course, we’re at greater risk for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. In addition, low heart energy can easily upset our sleeping and make us gain weight.

    These are the most common symptoms, but by no means are they the only possible ones. The excessively high energy of the digestive system increases lung energy and diminishes kidney and liver energy, all of which have their own associations, illnesses and symptoms. Both Chinese and Western medicine agree that stress can cause or trigger all kinds of health problems. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to protect our health in times of great stress, in addition to stress management and other coping systems.

    • Worry and anxiety can be diminished with anger and grief. Sad books and movies, stories about injustices and hitting a sand bag are all useful.
    • Sweet foods and drinks, beef, fruits, dairy products and eggs increase the energy of the digestive system. It’s best to reduce them as much as possible, but without eliminating them completely.
    • Bitter foods, such as coffee, cabbage, broccoli, etc., provide energy to the heart, but it’s likely to be drawn into the digestive system. It’s better to eat vegetables (particularly leafy greens) and sour foods: these nourish the liver, which not only provides energy to the heart but also diminishes the energy in the digestive system.
    • Spices and pungent foods can draw energy away from the digestive system.
    • Fish, seafood, tofu and other soy products, summer vegetables (cucumbers, etc.) and, if allowed, some salty foods, all help restore energy to the kidneys.

    It’s best to experiment with these suggestions and adjust them as needed. Listen to your body; use what works and feels good and eliminate what doesn’t. And with a bit of luck, you’ll be able to weather the stress until the debt problem is solved.

    Ah, to be able to eat all manner of cakes, cookies, candy bars and other assorted sweets without having to pay the price of sugar overload! Such has been the dream of sugar addicts and diabetics—not to mention scientists and manufacturers—since the late 1800s, when saccharine, the first artificial sweetener, was discovered. Since then, there have been many more sugar substitutes, all promising better health and fulfilment of the sweet-tooth dream—but delivering only a dangerous delusion. Although these products provide zero calories, they’re still sweet, and therein lies the rub.

    If these products truly delivered what they promise, if calories truly were the only yardstick by which to measure the effect of sweet foods on the body, then a simple test would show the superiority of artificial sweeteners. Take some people eating something made with sugar and some people eating the same food but made with a sugar substitute, follow them for a while and compare the results. Without a doubt, the second group would be healthier. That’s exactly what researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine did (see article sources below). They tracked some 9,000 people for several years and compared the health of those who drank regular sodas and those who drank diet sodas. To everyone’s surprise, the two groups had roughly the same risk of heart disease. Only people who drank less sodas altogether, whether regular or diet, were at lower risk. Clearly the artifical sweeteners fared no better than sugar. And the experts have no explanation—only theories.

    An explanation can be found in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). According to TCM, the taste of a food, among other things, determines how it affects us. For example, a cheese sandwich, a ham sandwich and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich affect our body differently, even if the sandwiches are adjusted to have the same caloric value.

    Sweet foods have the characteristic of lowering heart energy. Over time, a diet that’s high in sweets is likely to cause heart problems. It doesn’t matter whether the sweetener is sugar, honey or an artificial substitute, the result will be the same.

    There are a few easy steps you can take to minimize the risk to the heart:

    1. reduce the amount of sweet foods and drinks in your diet
    2. choose foods that are less sweet; in general, naturally sweet foods are better than foods made with concentrated sweeteners, such as refined sugar and sugar substitutes
    3. eat more sour, spicy and pungent foods; they counteract sweetness
    4. eat some beef or beans; they help sluggish digestion, which is often the cause of the craving
    5. learn to listen to your body’s signals; it will usually tell you what your body really needs.

    If you try any or all the suggestions above, chances are that you’ll soon be giving up artificial sweeteners for good—and improve your health and well-being in the process.

    Article sources:

    A recent study indicates that a diet low in fat and very high in fruits and vegetables does not prevent breast cancer from returning (see list of articles below).

    According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, cancer is caused by a condition called “excessive dampness”. A diet appropriate for cancer patients would be high in foods that reduce dampness and very low in foods that increase it. Vegetables, especially leafy green vegetables, reduce dampness. So do sour fruits, but sweet fruits increase it and are best minimized.

    But even beneficial foods can have a negative effect if overdone. Too much of a food with a desired effect causes the opposite effect. Excessive amounts of vegetables and sour fruits thus increase dampness, rather than reduce it. To find out exactly how much we need, we only have to learn to listen to our body. When we feel we’ve had enough of something, it’s time to stop.

    Please read the disclaimer before using any of the information presented here.

    Article sources:

    (Corrected 31 Jul 2007: the words “an excess of” were inadvertently left off the title, which changes the meaning significantly.)

    A recent study found that older Chinese women who eat a Western-style diet have a much greater risk of developing breast cancer than those who eat a typical Chinese diet (“Cancer Risk Higher With Western Diet”, “Western diet risk to Asian women”, “Western diet linked to breast cancer in Asian women”, “Western diet increases breast cancer risk in Asian women”, “Western diet ups breast cancer risk among Chinese”).

    According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, cancer is caused by a condition called “excessive dampness”. It so happens that many staple foods of the Western diet increase dampness. Over time, a diet that centres around beef, sugar, wheat and dairy products can raise the risk of cancer.

    Fortunately, it’s easy to reduce the risk. Most vegetables naturally diminish dampness; have some at every meal. Sour foods also reduce dampness. All spices and pungent foods have a drying effect. Physical exercise and sweating help rid the body of excess dampness. And, of course, it's a good idea to cut down on foods that increase dampness.

    Please read the disclaimer before using any of the information presented here. For more information, see blog entry “Western diet and cancer in Korea” and The Chinese Almanac.

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