Monday, February 8, 2016

Cancer Prevention, Gratitude, Optimism, and Food: A Powerful Relationship

by Darra McMullen,
Women’s Health Network Member, and GHWCC Writer/Researcher

What common thread(s) could possibly connect subjects as diverse as breast cancer (or any cancer) prevention, traditional winter foods, and attitudes of gratitude and optimism?  The answer is “plenty” – plenty of “common thread” connections and plenty of healthful takeaway lessons for us all.

            This article could easily be entitled, “Onward from October, Through the Holidays, and Beyond” because of the many dovetailed facts connecting breast cancer (or any cancer) prevention with holiday, or more generally, wintertime food favorites, and the positive mind-set we often have around holiday time and early in the new year.
            As we’ll see as this article progresses, the ingredients common to holiday or winter favorite foods and the positive mind-set common to the new year should become part of a year-round regimen for breast or any cancer prevention, improved overall immunity, and general health improvement.
            To begin, let’s take a look at the importance of mind-set in cancer prevention before getting into the nuts and bolts of nutritional aids against the disease.
            According to scientists at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, a person who regularly gives thanks by daily jotting down three items (or more) for which he/she is grateful, can extend life by up to around 12 years.  The “attitude of gratitude” habit and the optimism it engenders help activate a gene that strengthens the immune system’s ability to destroy cancer cells, as well as helps lower blood pressure and slows aging of blood vessels and organs.  Test subjects’ gratitude lists didn’t have to be extensive; even simple things like viewing a funny video that lifted a test subject’s spirits could “count” as one of the three gratitude items named on the daily list.
            The importance of the daily list was not its contents, per se, but rather the fact that the list served to remind the individual to stop, focus, and think about the positive things in his/her life, and that positive focus and mind-set of gratitude actually improves health, slows aging, and helps prevent cancer development.
            For years, self-help books, various faiths, and anecdotal evidence have encouraged gratitude and positive mind-sets, but now, more and more scientific evidence is backing up the importance of those same attributes by showing the connection to improved health, cancer prevention, and even cancer survival for those stricken with the disease.  Cancer patients are now regularly encouraged to practice gratitude and optimistic attitudes to help them deal with the rigors of treatment, as well as to help keep them from falling into depression over their serious conditions.