The Benefits and Harms of Screening Tests

National Institutes of Health (NIH) | Some screenings can reduce your risk of dying from the disease. But sometimes, experts say, a test may cause more harm than good (image: radiologyinfo.org).
Catching chronic health conditions early—even before you have symptoms—seems like a great idea. That’s what screening tests are designed to do. Some screenings can reduce your risk of dying from the disease. But sometimes, experts say, a test may cause more harm than good. Before you get a test, talk with your doctor about the possible benefits and harms to help you decide what’s best for your health.

Screening tests are given to people who seem healthy to try to find unnoticed problems. They’re done before you have any signs or symptoms of the disease. They come in many forms. Your doctor might take your health history and perform a physical exam to look for signs of health or disease. They can also include lab tests of blood, tissue, or urine samples or imaging procedures that look inside your body.

“I wouldn’t say that all people should just simply get screening tests,” says Dr. Barnett S. Kramer, a cancer prevention expert at NIH. “Patients should be aware of both the potential benefits and the harms when they’re choosing what screening tests to have and how often.”

Teams of experts regularly look at all the evidence about the balance of benefits and harms of different screening tests. They develop guidelines (link is external) for who should be screened and how often.

Choosing whether you should be screened for a health condition isn’t always easy. Screening suggestions are often based on your age, family health history, and other factors. You might be screened for many conditions, including diabetes, sexually transmitted infections, heart disease, osteoporosis, obesity, depression, pregnancy issues, and cancers.

Every screening test comes with its own risks. Some procedures can cause problems like bleeding or infection. A positive screening test can lead to further tests that come with their own risks.

“Most people who feel healthy are healthy,” says Kramer. “So a negative test to confirm that you’re healthy doesn’t add much new information.” But mistakenly being told that you do or don’t have a disease can be harmful. It’s called a misdiagnosis.

A false negative means that you’re told you don’t have the disease, but you do. This can cause problems if you don’t pay attention to symptoms that appear later on because you think you don’t have the disease. A false positive means that you’re told you may have the disease, but you don’t. This can lead to unnecessary worry and potentially harmful tests and treatments that you don’t need.

Even correctly finding a disease may not improve your health or help you live longer. You may learn you have an untreatable disease long before you would have. Or find a disease that never would have caused a problem. This is called overdiagnosis. Some cancers, for example, never cause symptoms or become life-threatening. But if found by a screening test, it’s likely to be treated. Cancer treatments can have harsh and long-lasting side effects. There’s no way to know if the treatment will help you live longer.

An effective screening test may decrease your chances of dying of the condition. Most have not been shown to lengthen your overall life expectancy, Kramer explains. Their usefulness varies and may depend on your risk factors, age, or treatment options.

If you’re at risk for certain health conditions—because of a family history or lifestyle exposures, like smoking—you may choose to have screenings more regularly. If you’re considering a screening, talk with your health care provider.



6 Strategies for Preventing Disease

National Institutes of Health (NIH) | Taking steps to protect your health is the best way to prevent disease and other conditions. Health screenings, vaccines, and guarding yourself from germs and bugs can help keep you feeling your best (image: Paul Bischoff).

1. Get screened for diseases
Some screenings can reduce your risk of dying from a disease. But sometimes, experts say, a test may cause more harm than good. Before you get a test, talk with your doctor about the possible benefits and harms to help you decide what’s best for your health.

To learn about screening tests, ask your doctor:

  • What’s my chance of dying of the condition if I do or don’t have the screening?
  • What are the harms of the test? How often do they occur?
  • How likely are false positive or false negative results?
  • What are possible harms of the diagnostic tests if I get a positive screening result?
  • What’s the chance of finding a disease that wouldn’t have caused a problem?
  • How effective are the treatment options?
  • Am I healthy enough to take the therapy if you discover a disease?
  • What are other ways to decrease my risk of dying of this condition? How effective are they?

2. Guard against germs
For nearly a century, bacteria-fighting drugs known as antibiotics have helped to control and destroy many of the harmful bacteria that can make us sick. But these drugs don’t work at all against viruses, such as those that cause colds or flu. Learn how to protect yourself against germs in the environment.

To block harmful germs:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • If you’re sick, make sure your doctor has a clear understanding of your symptoms. Discuss whether an antibiotic or a different type of treatment is appropriate for your illness.
  • If antibiotics are needed, take the full course exactly as directed. Don’t save the medicine for a future illness, and don’t share with others.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle—including proper diet, exercise, and good hygiene—to help prevent illness, thereby helping to prevent the overuse or misuse of medications.

3. Protect your body’s bacteria
Microscopic creatures—including bacteria, fungi, and viruses—can make you ill. But what you may not realize is that trillions of microbes are living in and on your body right now. Most don’t harm you at all. We tend to focus on destroying bad microbes. But taking care of good ones may be even more important.

To protect good microbes:

  • Don’t pressure your doctor to give you antibiotics. They may cause more harm than good.
  • Know when to wash your hands—for example, when preparing food and before eating.
  • Don’t use antibacterial products you don’t need. Antibacterial soaps have little or no health benefit. And antibacterial versions of household products have not been shown to reduce your risk of infection.
  • Don’t go overboard with hand sanitizers. They’re useful in health care settings, but hand washing is a better option in most situations.
  • Experiment with different skin moisturizers to see which work best for you.

4. Protect yourself and everyone else from disease
We share more than food and culture within our homes and communities. We can also spread disease. Luckily, we live in a time when vaccines can protect us from many of the most serious illnesses. Staying current on your shots helps you—and your neighbors—avoid getting and spreading disease.

To protect yourself and others from preventable diseases, stay up-to-date on shots for these 16 vaccine-preventable diseases:

  • Bacterial meningitis
  • Chickenpox
  • Diphtheria
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b
  • Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B
  • Cervical & other cancers caused by human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Influenza (flu)
  • Measles, Mumps, and Rubella
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Pneumococcal pneumonia
  • Rotavirus diarrhea
  • Shingles
  • Tetanus

5. Prevent mosquito-borne illnesses
Most mosquito bites are relatively harmless. The itchy bumps often last for just a day or two after a mosquito has punctured your skin. But if the mosquito is carrying certain germs, like viruses or parasites, these pathogens might enter your blood during the bite and make you sick. But we can all take simple steps to avoid getting bit by those blood-sucking insects.

To avoid mosquito bites:

  • Use insect repellents. Products containing DEET, picaridin, lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or IR3535 can be applied to skin. Follow label instructions.
  • Cover up. When outside, wear long sleeves, pants, and socks. Mosquitoes may bite through thin fabric, so spray thin clothes with an EPA-registered repellent like permethrin. Don’t apply permethrin directly to skin.
  • Mosquito-proof your home. Install or repair screens on windows and doors to keep insects out. Use air conditioning if you have it.
  • Get rid of mosquito breeding sites. Empty standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, and birdbaths on a regular basis.

6. Block tick bites and Lyme disease
When warm weather arrives, you might get the urge to walk barefoot through the grass. But before you stroll through your lawn or head out on a hiking trail, you’ll want to protect yourself and your loved ones from ticks that often lurk in tall grass, thick brush, and wooded areas. Many ticks carry disease, so do what you can to keep ticks from taking a bite out of you.

To prevent tick bites and tick-borne diseases:

  • Help keep ticks off your skin by wearing long sleeves, long pants, and long socks.
  • Ward off ticks by using an insect repellant that contains at least 20% DEET (for the skin) or permethrin (for clothes).
  • Avoid ticks by walking in the center of trails and steer clear of tall vegetation.
  • If you’ve been in an area where ticks are common, bathe or shower as soon as possible, and wash or tumble your clothes in a dryer on high heat.
  • Check your body carefully for ticks. They dig and burrow into the skin before they bite and feed.
  • Removing ticks right away can help prevent disease.
  • If you develop a rash or fever after removing a tick, see your doctor.


Fats: Can they be healthful?

by Yvette Brazier | Reviewed by Natalie Olsen, RD, LD, ACSM EP-C | People often seek to avoid fats when they want to lose weight, but not all fats are bad, and we need some fats to stay healthy.
Plant-based fats such as olive oil, for example, are rich in antioxidants and may be powerful cancer fighters. Without fats, the body cannot absorb some necessary nutrients.

Healthful fats include plant oils like extra-virgin olive oil, flax seed oil, sesame oil, walnut oil, and fats from whole plant sources such as olives, nuts, seeds, and avocado.

Fast facts about fats

  • Different types of fat can be either healthful or bad for you.
  • Healthful fats can protect against cancer and help with the absorption of nutrients.
  • Unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids can be healthful, including omega 3, which is found in fish.
  • Trans fats should be avoided.
  • You can reduce your health risks by replacing good fats with bad fats in the diet.

Health benefits of fats

Oily fish, avocados, and certain types of nuts are vital sources of healthful fats.

Fat gets a bad rap, and we often try to avoid it. However, fats play a key role in the diet. They not only supply energy, but also help us absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, and carotenoids. They also provide, or help the body to synthesize, essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. All body tissues need these to function normally.

A deficiency in these fatty acids can lead to a range of disorders, including:

  • liver and kidney problems
  • reduced growth rates
  • decreased immune function
  • depression
  • dry skin

Dietary guidelines recommend that an adult should get 20 to 35 percent of their energy intake from fat, and limit saturated fat to less than 10 percent of total calories. A 2,000-calorie-a-day diet should aim for 44 to 78 grams of total fat and no more than 22 grams of saturated fat to be within these guidelines.

The average American adult gets around 33 percent of their calories from fat. Much of the fat in the American diet comes from animal fat.

An excess of animal fat has been linked to higher rates of heart and cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity, and cancer, to name a few.

However, the right kinds of fats bring a range of health benefits, if consumed wisely. Olive oil, for example, appears to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anti-cancerous, anti-diabetic and anti-aging effects.

Fats keep people healthy in other ways, too.

Protection against cancer

According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), walnuts, which are high in fat, may help to reduce the risk of breast cancer. They are also particularly high in omega 3s compared to any other nut. Omega 3s are important for brain and heart health.

There is also evidence that healthy fats can help people manage diagnosed colon, prostate, and breast cancer.

Absorbing nutrients

Healthy fats should be consumed with every meal, because many nutrients are fat-soluble. For example, the body cannot absorb beta carotene, or Vitamin A, D, E, or K without fats.

  • Beta carotene, which functions as vitamin A, is also one of the body’s most powerful antioxidants. It helps to minimize cell damage.
  • Vitamin D plays a role in hormone production and regulation, neuromuscular function, and immune function.
  • Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that is vital for immune function and gene expression, and it works to minimize heart disease risk.
  • Vitamin K is involved in your body’s natural ability to clot blood and is important for bone health and heart health.

Some antioxidants that are present in fruits and vegetables also need fat for metabolism. They can help promote cardiovascular health, maintain a healthy weight, and prevent obesity.

In one study, people who ate salads with fat-free salad dressing absorbed far less of the helpful phytonutrients and vitamins from spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots than those who ate their salads with a salad dressing containing fat.

Cutting out fat can lead to diabetes

People who avoid fats often eat a higher proportion of carbohydrates. Fats can be satiating and deter overeating of carbohydrates. Overeating carbohydrates, especially refined and processed carbs, can raise triglycerides and reduce healthy HDL cholesterol.

Not having a balance of healthy carbohydrates and fats can increase the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. A diet that includes healthy fats, lean proteins, and fibrous, nutrient dense carbohydrates is best.

Maintaining nerves and cell membranes

Fat is needed in nerve transmission.

Myelin is a coating around nerves throughout the body that is composed primarily of insulating fatty tissue. Without proper fat intake, the myelin may be compromised. This can interfere with efficient nerve stimulation and function.

Fat also helps maintain cell membranes, because lipids, or fats, make up most of the cell wall structure.

Which fats are healthful?

The key is to choose the right kind of fat and in the right quantities.

Unhealthful fats
There are two main types of harmful dietary fat: saturated fats and trans fats.

Saturated fats are mainly of animal origin.

They increase levels of:

  • total blood cholesterol
  • low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol

Coconut is a plant-based saturated fat.

Trans fats occur naturally in small quantities, but most trans fats in our diet result from partial hydrogenation, a food processing method.

Trans fats can increase LDL cholesterol, and they can reduce “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Both saturated and trans fats increase the risk of heart disease, but trans fats much more so. It is recommended that saturated fat makes up less than 10 percent of your total calories, but there is no recommended amount of trans fat in the diet. It is best to avoid trans fat.

Healthful fats
Unsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are healthful, in moderation.

They are thought to improve cholesterol levels and to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

They usually come from plants, but omega 3 is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid found in oily fish. It may be good for the heart.

Other good sources of omega 3 include flaxseed, walnuts, and soybeans.

 



I’m Healthy, Why Should I Visit the Doctor?

by Lynn Yoffee | Medically Reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH | Health professionals stress that these regular exams are important to help identify risk factors and problems before they become serious (image: Shutterstock).
When you were little, your parents probably make sure you had an annual checkup with your doctor. But as you’ve grown older, you may have gotten out of this habit.

Health professionals stress that these regular exams are important to help identify risk factors and problems before they become serious. If diseases are caught early, treatments are usually much more effective. Ultimately, having a regular doctor’s visit will help you live a long and healthy life.

Doctor’s Visit: The Prevention Checkup
Depending on your age, sex, and family medical history, a checkup with your doctor may include:

  • Blood, urine, vision, and hearing tests to evaluate your overall health
  • Assessments of your blood pressure, cholesterol level, and weight
  • A discussion about your diet and exercise habits and any tobacco, drug, and alcohol use
  • Immunizations and booster shots
  • Screenings to assess your risk of developing certain diseases, including diabetes (if you already have high blood pressure or high cholesterol) and cancer
  • Depending on your age and sexual lifestyle, testing for STDs and possibly HIV
  • Starting at age 50, or younger if you have a family history, a screening test for colorectal cancer
  • A discussion about depression and stress to evaluate your mental health

Doctor’s Visit: Concerns for Men
For men, in addition to checking weight, high blood pressure, and other basics, your doctor’s visit may specifically include:

  • Starting at age 50, or younger if you have a family history, a rectal exam to check for abnormal bumps in the prostate and a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test to screen for prostate cancer
  • Between the ages of 65 and 75 if you have ever smoked cigarettes, an abdominal exam to check for an enlargement in your aorta; an abdominal aortic aneurysm, a weakness in the lining of the aorta (a large blood vessel in your chest and abdomen), can develop with age and become a life-threatening problem.

Doctor’s Visit: Concerns for Women
For women, in addition to checking weight, high blood pressure, and other basics, your doctor’s visit may specifically include:

  • A test for cervical cancer, called a Pap smear, every one to three years
  • A clinical breast exam to check for any unusual lumps or bumps in your breasts
  • Starting at age 40 (or younger if you have a strong family history for breast cancer), a breast cancer screening with a mammogram every one to two years
  • Ultrasound imaging of the pelvis to produce pictures of the structures and organs in the lower abdomen and pelvis
  • Starting at age 65, a referral for a bone density test to screen for osteoporosis, the disease that causes brittle, fragile bones and typically affects older women; women with more than one risk factor for osteoporosis may start earlier

Doctor’s Visit: Preparation
It’s important for you to play an active role to get the most out of your doctor’s visit. Before your exam, review and update your family health history, be prepared to ask if you’re due for any general screenings or vaccinations, and come up with a list of questions if you have particular health concerns.

During your actual doctor’s visit, don’t be shy about getting your questions answered. Also, if your doctor gives you advice about specific health issues, don’t hesitate to take notes. Time is often limited during these exams, but by coming prepared you’re sure to get the most out of your checkup.

Lynn YoffeeLynn Yoffee manage the biopharmaceutical and medical technology news services (BioWorld, BioWorld MedTech, BioWorld Insight, BioWorld Asia), Incidence and Prevalence Database (an epidemiology resource) and Disease Briefings for Clarivate Analytics.



5 Healthy Fast Food Meals

There are several tasty meals at the fast food chains with less than 500 calories and moderate amounts of salt, fat and saturated fat.

Eating healthy on the road is never easy in this fast paced busy life style that we’ve all caved for ourselves or forced into. But be rest assured you can still find healthy food in those drive-through line and even  lose some extra pounds while you’re at it. There are several tasty meals at the fast food chains with less than 500 calories and moderate amounts of salt, fat and saturated fat. Here are some of the healthiest fast food meals from some of the top fast food chains. For beverage, be sure to go for a zero-calorie drink like water, unsweetened tea, black coffee, or diet soda. Please be aware that the nutrition information is calculated based on data provided by the suppliers who produced the food and beverage items and may vary from season to season due to periodic changes in formulations.

1. Breakfast: Fruit & Maple Oatmeal (McDonald’s)

(290 calories, 4.5g fat)

Fruit & Maple Oatmeal (McDonald's)

Fruit & Maple Oatmeal (McDonald’s)

This fruit and Maple Oatmeal all-day-menu is loaded with red and green apples, cranberries and two varieties of raisins. It has two of the recommended three daily servings of whole grains and is a good source of calcium and iron. You can have it as is and save 30 calories by skipping the brown sugar.

 

2. Large Chili with side of Mandarin Oranges (Wendy’s)

Large Chili with side of Mandarin Oranges (Wendy's)

Large Chili w/side of Mandarin Oranges (Wendy’s)

(330 calories, 7g fat)

This is one of the healthiest chili made with fresh, never frozen beef and kidney beans. This classic tastes rich but has only 7g of saturated fat. A large cup of chili is 250 cal and 80 cal for the side of mandarin oranges which altogether packs 5g of fiber, 24g protein, 19g carbs and a quarter of your daily requirement of fatigue-fighting iron.

3. Grilled Chicken Breast with Green Beans (Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC))

Grilled Chicken Breast with Green Beans (KFC)

Grilled Chicken Breast with Green Beans (KFC)

(330 calories, 7g fat)

KFC offer a grilled chicken breast served with a side of vegetable like green beans and corn that packs low calories. A Kentucky Grilled Chicken Breast is 210 calories (with 7 grams of fat, 38 grams protein), and an individual side of green beans is only 25 calories. If you’re craving for the chain’s classic mashed potatoes (90 calories), don’t forget to order them without gravy to save calories and fat.

4. Breakfast: Egg & Cheese Muffin Melt and Dannon Light & Fit Yogurt (Subway)

Egg & Cheese Muffin Melt and Dannon Light & Fit Yogurt (Subway)

Muffin Melt & Dannon Light & Fit Yogurt (Subway)

(250 calories, 6g fat)

There a few options with this breakfast, (melt with egg whites 30 cal more), Black Forest ham, green peppers, American and Monterey Jack cheeses, and red onion stacked on an English muffin. Don’t forget to add or remove peppers, fresh tomatoes, spinach, or onions if you don’t like them. This meal comes with a side of  Subway’s apple slices or yogurt.

5. Roasted tomatoes, mozzarella, spinach and basil pesto toasted focaccia (Starbucks)

(350 calories, 13g fat)

Roasted Vegetable Panini (Starbucks)

Roasted Vegetable Panini (Starbucks)

This roasted vegetable sandwich is stuffed with zucchini, eggplant, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and baby spinach. Overall it packs 13g fat, 42g carbohydrate, 14g protein and 40 percent of daily required vitamin C.



Pastors Should Take a Vacation for the Good of their Church

Stephanie Dyrness Lobdell | You are not the linchpin holding your congregation together (Images: Our Dream Cruises, Tracy Arm, AK, USA).
I sit on the couch, flipping through my digital calendar, trying to do the math. When can we actually fit in some vacation time? There are so many factors to consider: the launch of the combined summer service, Vacation Bible School, various camps, vacations for other staff members. I also worry about the summer slump, which is already upon us. Can the church really afford not to have their lead pastors present, if only for morale?

My husband and I, co-lead pastors of our church, have the vacation time. All the books and all the ministry blogs and all the professors say pastors must tend to their families, guard their souls, and rest. I know in my heart we need to take more than one week—that in fact we need two in a row—to truly decompress and separate from the beautiful but weighty vocation that is parish ministry.

But so much can happen in two weeks. My mind begins to race. A conflict might emerge, a pressing administrative issue could arise, someone might end up in the hospital with only a good word from my lips able to sustain them. As my thoughts careen out of control, images of a church in tatters, a mass exodus, and possible explosions flood my mind’s eye.

Get a grip, I tell myself.

The irrational fear and anxiety of taking a mere 14 consecutive days away from my parish has unveiled a wound within me that needs attention.

Why the Anxiety?

Vacation anxiety is not unique to ministry, but the pressure does have a unique faith-flavored flair to it. The stakes feel elevated for those in the field of soul care.

Practical concerns
There are, of course, practical concerns. Who will do what in our absence? How will the everyday, unseen tasks be completed? Who will honor the pulpit and preach faithfully when we’re gone? For those of us who feel a sense of scarcity in terms of local leadership, these practical concerns can paralyze us.

Perceptions
But vacation anxiety runs much deeper than the who, what, and how questions that arise when the pastor is out of town. There is also the anxiety of perception. Some pastors are more prone to this anxiety than others, but it merits mention.

As I plan time away, I find myself explaining, almost defending, our vacation. We haven’t taken any time off in 6 months. Or, We’ve been saving up for a long time to take a trip, and we’re doing it on the cheap, so we’re not being extravagant or anything! I secretly wonder, does my congregation begrudge me the time off? Will they perceive me as disengaged, selfish, and uncommitted to the church and the church’s needs? The fact that my paycheck comes from their tithes and offerings adds a new layer of angst, since I often feel the need to prove I’m worth the investment and that I’m not living large at their expense.

An idolatrous heart
But if I am truly honest with myself, my anxiety surrounding taking adequate time off goes even deeper than the practical concerns or the perceptions. I cannot in good faith say, “It’s them! It’s the congregation with their unreasonable expectations!” Because it is also me, with an idolatrous heart that has participated in and perhaps even propagated the narrative that the life of the church flows from, or at least through, the pastor.

In his ever-timely book The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson quotes Hilary of Tours who describes a sin so often committed by pastors: irreligiosa sollicitudo pro Deo, a blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him.

And there it is: the sin of this pastor’s heart. I could blame the constant deluge of images that portray leaders as an organization’s capstone—the source of inspiration, motivation, and momentum. I could blame those highly “successful” pastors who peddle their systems and theories as necessary to salvation and vital to every church’s life together. I could even blame denominational leaders who present stories of visionary, gregarious leaders to mimic and ensure ecclesial growth and vitality.

But my accusations fall flat. I must take responsibility for the state of my soul and the lies I have believed—lies of my own self-importance, lies that my identity is contingent upon my vocation, even lies about the Spirit’s power to move and transform without direction from me. With that in mind, here are a few commitments I am making as I plan my upcoming vacation.

Commitments to Combat Vacation Anxiety

I commit to being honest about my vacation anxiety.
Some anxiety is appropriate. As the leader, I am responsible for ensuring that leadership is being raised up and trained to do the work of ministry. My husband and I are ultimately responsible for having all our bases covered. Pastors who leave town without a thought to what might go on in their absence send a message of disengaged inattentiveness.

However, some types of anxiety are not only inappropriate—they are toxic to my soul and lead to the sin of idolatry. I have to ask myself,

  • Is my anxiety rooted in fear or in a compulsive need to please the people of my congregation?
  • Am I micromanaging the people around me and doubting their ability to do good work without my presence?
  • Have I taken undue responsibility for the Spirit’s movement among the people of God to the extent that I believe that, apart from my physical presence, the Spirit will not (or even cannot) move?
  • Is my identity so rooted in my vocation that the idea of time away from work is disorienting and unsettling?

These are not easy questions to answer honestly, but my answers reveal the ways in which my heart veers toward that “blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him.”

I commit to going.
Yes, I will actually take my vacation. This requires wisdom and discernment. It’s probably not ideal to take two weeks of vacation in the middle of Advent. But I won’t kid myself into thinking every church function requires me to be there in the flesh. I will work to empower my leaders, be they pastoral staff or lay leaders, and then let them do their jobs. Equipping the saints for ministry is sacred work.

I commit to being absent.
When I leave, I will be as fully “gone” as possible. This may not require a costly overseas escape. A simple, affordable “staycation” will work just as well, if I take the call to absence seriously. That means I will need to communicate clearly that I will not be responding to emails, calls, or texts. But that’s not enough. I must follow through and stay off my phone and email! I will probably disconnect from social media as well. It has the power to make us present in mind and spirit to the wrong things, even when we are absent in the body.

I will, of course, leave emergency contact info with someone who I trust to respect my absence—someone who understands the definition of emergency.

I commit to being present.
Being absent is only half the battle. As I embrace the call to absence from work, I must accept the challenge to be present—to my family, to my body, and to my spirit.

Present to my family. I commit to paying attention to my loved ones in intentional ways. Even if I don’t go on a lavish trip or even leave town, I will find a way to spend quality time with my family.

Present to my body. So much of pastoral work is work of the mind. After a long day of sermon prep, I find that I have left my seat perhaps only twice, but I am exhausted from the mental fatigue of studying. During times of increased stress and anxiety, my body lets me know through stomachaches, tight shoulders, and jaw tension—once so severe I could barely chew! I will use the time of absence from work to be present to my body through physical movement and bodily care. Exercise, even a simple walk, reminds me that I am a whole person, not a disembodied spirit or mind.

Present to my spirit. It never fails that when I have a moment of stillness, anxiety pounces on my peace. My initial reaction is to flee or distract. Hurry, get busy! If I’m constantly moving, anxiety can’t slither in. Or, Start that Netflix binge! My mind will be too busy with the steady stream of entertainment for anxiety to get a word in. In her book Don’t Feed the Monkey Mind, Jennifer Shannon says this is the wrong approach to our anxiety. It sends the false message that the fear we are experiencing is dangerous and should be avoided. But it’s not dangerous; it’s just uncomfortable. Shannon encourages her readers to open their minds and hearts to the anxiety and to sit with the discomfort, thereby debunking anxiety’s lies and stealing its power.

As I sit with the discomfort, I ask the Lord to remind me that I am his beloved, and with me, the Lord is well pleased. I confess the ways in which I have sought to do God’s work on God’s behalf. I ask the Spirit to heal the wounds that led me to these anxious behaviors.

Vacation as Co-laboring
Without a doubt, taking vacation as a pastor can be a challenge. But time away is not merely important—it is essential for both the pastor and the congregation. Those of us who bear the mantle of pastor need to be reminded that we are not the head of the church. Christ is.

Pastors are not, as Eugene Peterson puts it, “the linchpin holding a congregation together.” We are co-laborers with our flocks, cooperating with the Holy Spirit who is doing the work of calling, comforting, and convicting. Our congregations need a reminder that pastoral vacations can deliver blessings as well. They are not to be passive consumers of what the “professional” pastor has to offer, but rather to be engaged, contributing members of the body of Christ.

By refusing to participate in the blasphemous anxiety to do the work of God for him and confessing the idolatry in our own hearts, we will shape our congregation to follow Jesus faithfully—more faithfully than 365 consecutive days of work ever could.

Now, you’ll have to excuse me. I need to get back to planning my vacation.

Stephanie Dyrness Lobdell currently serves as co-lead pastor with her husband Tommy at Mountain Home Church of the Nazarene in Mountain Home, Idaho. She blogs at www.stephanielobdell.com.



‘The Happiness Curve’ Proves Life Gets Better After 50

by Jessica Toomer | What mid-life crisis? Author Jonathan Rauch shares the surprising science he uncovered while writing his new book. Most importantly, Rauch wants to shatter the negative stereotype associated with aging. The idea that a person’s life is on the decline once they reach their 40s, that retirement means getting put out to pasture, that happiness can’t be found in a person’s later years, is the worst lie we’ve let ourselves believe according to the writer (images: happinesscurve.com).

When author Jonathan Rauch was in his mid-40s, his outlook on life took a strange turn. Instead of waking up energized, ambitious, and optimistic about the future, Rauch was struggling to find a sense of purpose, a motivating reason to get out of bed every day. What was more puzzling is that Rauch had absolutely no reason to feel this way. He was a celebrated journalist, having just won the highest award given to magazine writers. He was in a loving relationship, he had money in the bank, and he wasn’t facing any monumental tests of faith. No cancer threatened his body, there was no loss to grieve. He was as successful as he could hope to be, more so even. Yet, something was missing.

“I wondered if I’d ever be satisfied,” Rauch tells Guideposts.org. “I wondered if there was something wrong with me.”

The journalist in him hungered for answers. He read books, studies, and journals on the effects of aging, looking into the reasons for mid-life malaise and that dreaded of all clichés, the mid-life crisis. It was in his research he stumbled across something surprising, a new way scientists and professionals in the fields of economics, medicine, psychology and so forth were beginning to view aging. It was called “the happiness curve,” a U-shaped model for charting the trajectory of a person’s relative happiness during their lifetime. It changed the game for Rauch.

“We all imagine we’re supposed to be at the peak of our achievement and glory and happiness at midlife and if we’re not it’s a midlife crisis and there’s something the matter with us,” Rauch explains. “So, surprise number one is: that’s totally backwards. The middle of life is a time of transition and vulnerability and, for many people, difficulty.”

Instead of reaching our peak in midlife, the happiness curve shows the exact opposite. Most people begin their lives relatively happy. When you’re in your 20s and 30s, you’re in a time of ambition, a period where you’re fighting to achieve your goals, to start a family, to begin a successful career. It’s a time of opportunity. Once a person reaches their late 40s and early 50s, instead of happiness peaking as we’ve all assumed, the happiness curve shows that the average person will go through a low-point in their life. It’s a dip in the curve, one that can last years but marks a crucial transition period in a person’s life.

For Rauch and those like him – professionally successful people who aren’t facing overwhelming struggle or tragedy during their 40s and 50s – this dip is usually caused by, well, nothing.

“That’s really true, if you’re someone like me and you’re looking around for the problem in your life to blame it on,” Rauch explains. “There is no problem in your life to blame it on. There’s no science behind that and why that would happen to people.”

Still, the data shows it does happen and often. Rauch worked with revered economists like David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswald who study the patterns of human behaviors as part of their work. He also talked to psychologists, neuroscientists, and everyday people experiencing this phenomenon of “the happiness curve.” While his research proved that a midlife dip occurs rather frequently, what alarmed him most was the ideas of why and how a person should handle feeling depressed during that period of transition.

“The problem with the midlife crisis joke is that it’s not completely wrong, but it’s terribly misleading because most people don’t have a crisis at all. They have a gradual, slow sense of dissatisfaction,” Rauch says. “If it gets mishandled it can become a crisis but for most people, they just soldier through it, often in isolation.”

It’s how Rauch dealt with his own midlife slump. Ashamed that he wasn’t happier with his success, feeling ungrateful for all the blessings in his life, Rauch shut down. He didn’t feel comfortable talking about why he was feeling so low because he know he had no rational reason to feel that way.

“People are ashamed or embarrassed, or they hold it in,” Rauch explains. “They think there’s something wrong with them, they think they’re ingrates. That adds to their unhappiness and it becomes a downward spiral. I keep reminding people, just because this happens to first world people doesn’t make it any less of a problem for the people who are stuck in it.”

As Rauch explains, the happiness curve is just the effect of the ticking clock on a person’s life, and that’s not based off privilege.

Because the author experienced midlife malaise himself, and because he met so many people like him who were suffering through the same doldrums of life, Rauch decided to write a book, The Happiness Curve, to explain what happens to people as they age and how others can avoid the emotional and mental pitfalls of time.

The first thing Rauch wants people in their 40s and 50s, who feel pessimistic about the future and unsatisfied with their past, to know is that they’re not alone.

“Understand there’s nothing wrong with you,” Rauch says. “A second thing is don’t let yourself get ashamed or isolated if you can help it. Lots of people go through this, it’s totally natural. It’s normal, it’s not fun but it’s healthy. So, find people you can reach out to, whether its counselors or coaches or friends.”

Another thing to keep in mind as you reach that crucial period of midlife: Impulsiveness is not your friend.

“It’s really hard to know in midlife, if what you’re feeling is a result of time, the effect of aging, or if it’s the effect of other things,” Rauch explains. “I thought there must be something wrong with my career even though technically there was nothing wrong with my career, and I was tempted to just walk in one day and quit, which would’ve been a bad idea. Because of that uncertainty, not what’s going on, we don’t have clear visibility. So sure, change your life, but do it in a rational, calculated, instrumental way that builds on your strengths and your social capital. Don’t do it in a disruptive or impulsive way.”

Most importantly, Rauch wants to shatter the negative stereotype associated with aging. The idea that a person’s life is on the decline once they reach their 40s, that retirement means getting put out to pasture, that happiness can’t be found in a person’s later years, is the worst lie we’ve let ourselves believe according to the writer.

“What’s going on is a value transition,” Rauch says. “It takes a number of years to get through it. But when you do, you’re in a better place because your values have shifted away from ambitions and the social competition treadmill and towards social connection, cooperation, love, friendship — much better sources of happiness.”

It’s why the happiness curve is U-shaped. Once a person gets through the low point of their midlife, happiness increases to surprisingly high levels, a direct result of that value transition when people learn to place things like relationships, family, friendships, and community ahead of more self-centered desires.

“Adult development continues right to the last decades of life and in a very positive way,” Rauch says. “So, busting that negative stereotype of old age will help people in midlife understand how much they have to look forward to.”



Beverage Calorie Comparison Chart

The recommended amounts of calories needed to maintain energy balance varies based on sex, age and level of physical activity (iStock photo)

Very many of us consume a lot of beverages daily. This chart will help you figure out the approximate number of calories in your daily beverages consumption. Please be aware that the information provided in this article is not meant to replace the advice of a health care professional. If you have specific health concerns, please consult your health care professional.

Common Beverages: Calories per oz. and Calories per 8 fl. oz. serving.

Water & Water Beverages Calories/fl. oz.  Calories/ 8 fl. oz.
Bottled Water 0 0
Municipal Water 0 0
Club Soda 0 0
Tonic Water 10 80
100% Juice Calories/fl. oz. Calories/ 8 fl. oz.
Apple Juice, canned or bottled 15 120
Carrot Juice, canned 12 96
Grape Juice, canned or bottled 19 152
Grapefruit Juice, white, canned 12 96
Lemon Juice, canned or bottled 6 48
Lime Juice, canned or bottled 6 48
Orange Juice (includes fresh, chilled and from concentrate) 14 112
Pineapple Juice, canned 17 136
Tomato Juice, canned 5 40
Juice Drinks Calories/fl. oz. Calories/ 8 fl. oz.
Cranberry Juice Cocktail, bottled 17 136
Fruit Punch Juice Drink, frozen concentrate, prepared with water 16 128
Grape Juice Drink, canned 18 144
Lemonade, powder mix, prepared with water 13 104
Light lemonade, powder (with aspartame), prepared with water 1 8
Light Orange Juice Beverage, bottled 7 50
Orange Juice Drink, bottled 17 136
Vegetable Juice Cocktail 6 48
Milk Calories/fl. oz. Calories/ 8 fl. oz.
Whole Milk 18 144
2% Reduced Fat Milk 15 120
1% Lowfat Milk 13 104
Nonfat Milk 11 88
2% Reduced Fat Chocolate Milk 24 192
Soy Beverages Calories/fl. oz. Calories/ 8 fl. oz.
Soy Milk 16 128
Chocolate Soy Milk 15 120
Soft Drinks Calories/fl. oz. Calories/fl. oz.
Caffeinated Cola 11 88
Decaffeinated Cola 13 104
Diet Cola, caffeinated 0 0
Diet Cola , decaffeinated 0 0
Mid-calorie Cola 6 45
Ginger Ale 10 80
Grape Soda 13 104
Lemon-Lime Soda 13 104
Cream Soda, non-caffeinated 16 128
Tea Calories/fl. oz. Calories/ 8 fl. oz.
Brewed Tea (regular and decaf, black and herb) 0 0
Instant Tea, sweetened with low-calorie sweetener, lemon-flavored, prepared 1 8
Instant Tea, sweetened with sugar, lemon-flavored, prepared 12 92
Ready-to-drink Tea, bottled, sweetened 12 96
Ready-to-drink Tea, bottled, unsweetened 0 0
Coffee & Coffee Drinks Calories/fl. oz. Calories/ 8 fl. oz.
Brewed Coffee (regular and Decaf) 0 0
Brewed Espresso (regular) 1 1
Brewed Espresso (decaf) 0 0
Latte with nonfat milk 10 80
Latte with whole milk 17 136
Sports Drinks Calories/fl. oz. Calories/ 8 fl. oz.
Sports Drink 8 64
Sports Drink, low-calorie 3 24
Energy Drinks Calories/fl. oz. Calories/ 8 fl. oz.
Energy Drink 14 112
Energy Drink, sugar-free 2 12
Alcohol Calories/fl. oz. Calories/ 8 fl. oz.
Beer 15 117
Light Beer 11 81
Red Wine 25 200
White Wine 24 192

There’s more to comparing the nutritional content of beverages than just calories. For a complete nutritional profile of beverages and foods, refer to the USDA online database.

Below are estimated amounts of calories needed to maintain energy balance for various gender and age groups at three different levels of physical activity. The estimates are rounded to the nearest 200 calories and were determined using the Institute of Medicine equation.

Gender

   Age (years)

Sedentaryb Moderately Activec Actived
Child 2-3 1,000 1,000-1,400 1,000-1,400
Female

4-8

9-13

14-18

19-30

31-50

51+

1,200

1,600

1,800

2,000

1,800

1,600

1,400-1,600

1,600-2,000

2,000

2,000-2,200

2,000

1,800

1,400-1,800

1,800-2,200

2,400

2,400

2,200

2,000-2,200

Male

4-8

9-13

14-18

19-30

31-50

51+

1,400

1,800

2,200

2,400

2,200

2,000

1,400-1,600

1,800-2,200

2,400-2,800

2,600-2,800

2,400-2,600

2,200-2,400

1,600-2,000

2,000-2,600

2,800-3,200

3,000

2,800-3,000

2,400-2,800

a These levels are based on Estimated Energy Requirements (EER) from the Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference Intakes macronutrients report, 2002, calculated by gender, age, and activity level for reference-sized individuals. “Reference size,” as determined by IOM, is based on median height and weight for ages up to age 18 years of age and median height and weight for that height to give a BMI of 21.5 for adult females and 22.5 for adult males.

b Sedentary means a lifestyle that includes only the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.

c Moderately active means a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking about 1.5 to 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, in addition to the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life

d Active means a lifestyle that includes physical activity equivalent to walking more than 3 miles per day at 3 to 4 miles per hour, in addition to the light physical activity associated with typical day-to-day life.

Read the original article at The Beverage Institute for Health & Wellness and WebMED

 



Healthy Low-Calorie Lunches

By Laura Schwecherl | By the time noon rolls around, it may seem too easy to head to nearest pizza joint. But hold up: Here are some healthy lunches that are 400 calories or less and can be made in no time! And for those who need a little more fuel to keep on going, each meal also includes an optional side snack to keep anyone’s belly full (up to 500 calories). So say sayonara to take-out or hours slaving at the kitchen—with these options, nobody will go hungry (or unhealthy) again.

1. Turkey Wrap: 365 Calories
Why it rules: Turkey is a tasty and lean source of protein. Bonus points for choosing the low-sodium kind!
Calorie breakdown: 1 whole-wheat wrap: 130 calories, 3 slices deli turkey: 90 calories, 2 tablespoons hummus: 60 calories, 1 tablespoon goat cheese: 60 calories, 1 handful baby spinach: 5 calories
Side snack: 9 Parmesan Garlic and Herb Pita Chips (140 calories)

2. Mediterranean Burger: 400 Calories
Why it rules: Subbing turkey for the traditional beef saves some calories without sacrificing flavor.
Calorie breakdown: 1 whole-wheat bun: 90 calories, 1 turkey burger patty: 140 calories, 2 tablespoons feta cheese: 50 calories, 2 slices tomato: 10 calories, 1 round slice red onion: 5 calories, 1 handful spinach: 5 calories
Side snack: 5 Kashi 7-grain crackers with 1 stick reduced-fat string cheese (100 calories)

3. Spiced Chickpea Pita: 350 Calories
Why it rules: Try this spin on a traditional falafel sandwich without fried chickpeas.
Calorie breakdown: 1 whole-wheat pita: 80 calories, ½ a chicken breast: 100 calories, ¼ cup chickpeas: 70 calories, ¼ cup Greek yogurt: 30 calories, 1 sprinkle parsley: <1 calorie, 1 sprinkle oregano: <1 calorie
Side snack: 1 large peach (70 calories)

4. Grilled Cheese With Tomato and Turkey: 345 Calories
Why it rules: This healthier version of a grilled cheese has no butter and adds in turkey for extra protein!
Calorie breakdown: 2 slices whole-wheat bread: 180 calories, 3 slices deli turkey: 90 calories, 1 slice provolone: 70 calories, 1 small spritz olive-oil spray (to grease pan panini press!): 5 calories
Side snack: 1 small apple (60 calories)

5. Grilled Chicken and Cheese Sandwich: 395 Calories
Why it rules: Low-fat mayo is a great swap for the full-fat version!
Calorie breakdown: 2 slices whole-wheat bread: 180 calories, ½ a chicken breast, sliced: 100 calories, 1 slice Swiss cheese: 70 calories, 2 teaspoons low-fat mayo: 35 calories, 2 slices tomato: 10 calories, 1 leaf butter lettuce: 5 calories
Side snack: ¼ cucumber sliced with 2 tablespoons of hummus (75 calories)

6. Pizza Burger: 360 Calories
Why it rules: Say so long cravings for greasy pizza thanks to this burger that’s also filled with protein.
Calorie breakdown: 1 whole-wheat bun: 90 calories, 1 veggie burger patty: 100 calories, 2 slices fresh mozzarella cheese: 140 calories, 2 tablespoons marinara sauce: 40 calories
Side snack: 1 orange (85 calories)

7. Veggie Sub: 380 Calories
Why it rules: Get your daily serving of veggies and them some with this flavorful sandwich.
Calorie breakdown: 1 6-inch whole-wheat sub roll: 220 calories, 2 tablespoons hummus: 60 calories, ¼ cucumber, sliced: 15 calories, 1 small tomato, sliced: 10 calories, 5 black olives, halved: 40 calories, ½ carrot, shredded: 30 calories, 1 handful alfalfa sprouts: 5 calories
Side snack: 1 large handful of sweet potato chips (80 calories)

8. Curried Chicken Pita With Cranberries and Pear: 375 Calories
Why it rules: No mayo needed for this tasty chicken salad.
Calorie breakdown: 1 whole-wheat pita: 80 calories, 1/2 a chicken breast, diced: 100 calories, ¼ cup non-fat Greek yogurt: 30 calories, 2 tablespoons dried cranberries: 45 calories, 1/2 pear, diced: 45 calories, 1 teaspoon honey mustard: 5 calories, 1/2 teaspoon curry powder: <1 calorie, 1 squeeze lemon juice: <1 calorie
Side snack: The other half of the pear used in the salad! (45 calories)

9. Caesar Salmon Wrap: 364 Calories
Why it rules: Light dressing and heart-healthy salmon make this a winning wrap.
Calorie breakdown: 1 whole-wheat pita: 80 calories, 5-ounce can of salmon: 120 calories, 2 tablespoons light Caesar dressing: 60 calories, 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese: 25 calories, 1 handful spinach: 5 calories
Side snack: ¼ cucumber sliced with 2 tablespoons of hummus (75 calories)

10. Egg, Tomato, and Avocado Sandwich: 385 Calories
Why it rules: This sandwich is leaner and greener than a traditional bacon, egg, and cheese. And delicious any time of day.
Calorie breakdown: 1 English muffin: 120 calories, 1 large egg, fried: 75 calories, 1 teaspoon olive oil: 40 calories, ¼ avocado, sliced: 60 calories, 2 slices tomato: 10 calories
Side snack: 1 medium-sized apple (80 calories)

 



Cooking Comfort Food

by

Former New Yorker editor Emily Nunn has always loved food. It’s what brought her often dysfunctional family together, what propelled her to pursue a writing career as a journalist and food critic, and what helped her heal from one of the most traumatic experiences in her life.

Nunn’s new book, The Comfort Food Diaries, follows the author as she travels the country, visiting old friends and relatives, cooking with them and sharing memories. The journey began as a way for Nunn to reclaim her life after the loss of her brother to suicide, the dissolution of her relationship with her fiancé, and her relapse, when she used alcohol to numb the pain.

“When you’re an alcoholic, turning to alcohol is the equivalent of giving up,” Nunn tells Guideposts.org. “You use it not to ease the pain but to block it entirely, so that you do not have to process it. Or that’s the way it has always seemed to me.”

The death of her brother, the loss of her job, and the end of her relationship left Nunn homeless with no money and a huge amount of grief she didn’t know how to process.

“I had been in rehab once before and sober for many years, but I had slowly begun to dabble in drinking,” Nunn explains. “When my brother died, I went straight back to my worst habits. I gave up and because of that, I also lost my self-respect.”

Nunn checked herself into a Betty Ford clinic with the aim of getting sober again, and along with that, she rediscovered her love for food and her need for familial connection. She began to truly mourn her brother and her old way of life. Then, she made a decision to visit the people most important to her.

“When I finally embarked upon my many trips to visit friends and family and a few cooking professionals I admired, I honestly didn’t have a clear goal in mind, beyond connecting through cooking,” Nunn says. “I was pretty broken, and had no idea how to put myself back together again.”

Some of Nunn’s fondest childhood memories involved cooking. The act of cooking for someone else was a way to show how much you cared for them – something she felt she needed to do for the people in her life she had been neglecting.

“The more I reached out and allowed people to cook for me and the more I cooked for them, the more I began to believe that I deserved love. Because for me, that’s what cooking is: showing people how much you care for them.”

Nunn traveled constantly, cooking salty Virginia ham biscuits, baking her grandmother’s tangy lemon cake, crafting the perfect morning custard, all while communing with people who loved her, people who were able to restore her sense of self-worth through friendship and food.

“It wasn’t really about the dishes as much as it was about the fact that so many people—many of whom I had not seen in decades—opened up their kitchens to me and made me a dish that was special to them, which is the same as opening up your heart in my opinion,” Nunn explains.

The experience left her with a handful of delicious recipes, ones she shares in her new book, but it also taught her a valuable lesson about relationships and turning to those you love in your darkest moments.

“Sometimes the only way to get back up when you fall down into a deep dark hole is to ask for hand up,” Nunn says. “You have the power to create your own recipe going forward. It’s your responsibility.”



Cancer: Early Warnings and Tips to Help Beat it

by Don Colbert, M.D. | Numerous studies have shown that people who exercise regularly have lower incidences of cancer in general. (image, YouTube)

Researchers all seem to agree on at least one point—the Western world is killing itself slowly by choosing to be obese and far too sedentary. As part of the 2009 American Association of Cancer Research 100th Annual Meeting, Harvard School of Public Medicine nutritionist Walter Willet presented an overview entitled “Diet, Nutrition and Cancer: The Search for Truth.” In it, he said:

“The estimate that diet contributes to around 30 to 35 percent of cancers is still reasonable, but much of this is related to being overweight and inactive. At this point, being overweight is second only to smoking as a clear and avoidable cause of cancer. … People should stay as lean as they can.”

Your body mass index (BMI) should be between 18.5 and 24.9 as a healthy weight for an adult. If you are overweight or obese according to the BMI, change your diet and read my book Dr. Colbert’s “I Can Do This” Diet. Also find an exercise routine you can stick with and read my book Get Fit and Live! Getting down to your healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for your body to prevent cancer. Belly fat raises the CRP (C-reactive protein), and elevated CRP is associated with an increased risk of cancer.

Preventing breast cancer begins with Diet

  • Increase broccoli, kale and cabbage. These and other cruciferous vegetables contain a compound called Diindolylmethane, or DIM. DIM is a metabolite of indole-3-carbinol and has several effects on cancer cells, according to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. It blocks division of many different types of malignant cells and even causes some of these cells to die. It may also prevent malignant cells from invading healthy tissue and it may slow or prevent growth of blood vessels in tumors. DIM may also act specifically against breast cancer cells, blocking the positive effect of estrogen on some cancers and causing it to be deactivated and excreted.
  • Eat Pomegranates. Pomegranates contain ellagic acid, a natural chemical that inhibits aromatase, an enzyme linked to the development of estrogen-responsive breast cancer. Pomegranate supplements can also provide a boost for the immune system.
  • Add Walnuts. Walnuts should become part of your anti-cancer diet. Researchers now think that having two ounces of walnuts every day may reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.
  • Drink Green Tea. The special nutrients found in green tea may decrease the risk breast cancer. Green tea is high in a unique class of nutrients known as catechins. Catechins may combat cancerous and precancerous breast cells. By drinking three cups of green tea per day, women under 50 years of age may reduce their breast cancer risk.
  • Eat Oatmeal. Pre-menopausal women who eat at least 20 g of dietary fiber per day may lower the risk of breast cancer. When it comes to fiber, it’s hard to beat oatmeal. A single serving of oatmeal contains nearly 4 g of fiber. Oatmeal can be easily combined with other high fiber and cancer fighting foods such as blueberries, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
  • Add Blueberries. The antioxidants in blueberries may offset breast cancer risk. Blueberries can help fight off cancer cells. It recommends that women looking to lower their breast cancer chances eat about 3 .5 ounces of blueberries per day.

Exercise Daily

How often do you exercise during the week? Did you know that getting out and jogging, walking or bicycling—or participating in any type of regular, moderate form of exertion—can help you avoid cancer? It’s time to get up off that couch and get active! Regular exercise is one of the best ways to maintain good health. Besides, I have a feeling that God takes pleasure in the health of our bodies:

“He gives power to the faint, and to those who have no might He increases strength. … But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint” (Is. 40:29, 31).

Numerous studies have shown that people who exercise regularly have lower incidences of cancer in general. Another great thing about exercise is that it makes our digested food move more quickly through the GI tract. That way it can’t sit there and produce potentially cancer-causing toxins. Exercise also lowers the risks of endometrial and breast cancers by reducing a woman’s body fat (which produces estrogen, an encourager of several cancers).

“Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases” (Ps. 103:3).

The best form of exercise is aerobic exercise, which includes brisk walking, cycling, rebounding, swimming or jogging. Some doctors say that just 30 minutes of exercise every other day can reduce the risk of breast cancer by 75 percent! You see, cancer cells are anaerobic, which means they don’t thrive in high-oxygen environments. Exercise pumps oxygen to your cells, giving your body an added ability to win the war against cancer. I encourage you to read Get Fit and Live!, which includes an entire chapter of exercise workouts for people battling cancer.

Sleep Is a Reward of the Righteous—and Good for Your Immune System!

Research suggests that inadequate sleep and rest may shorten your life by eight to 10 years, if not more, because you have weakened your immune function and probably decreased your natural killer cell count, which is your first line of defense against cancer. A lot of people think of sleep as a time when everything shuts down, but the truth is your body does a lot of important repair work and immune surveillance while you are asleep. Lack of sleep may also raise cortisol levels, which suppress immune function. Melatonin, a compound we discussed in the last chapter, has anticarcinogenic properties and is produced while you sleep, so cutting sleep short over and over again is often what leads to being deficient in it. No wonder the Bible tells us:

“It is in vain for you to rise up early, to stay up late, and to eat the bread of hard toil, for He gives sleep to His beloved” (Ps. 127:2).

All of us need at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night (eight hours is usually ideal), and if you are not getting that, you are not giving your body the time it needs daily to repair and rejuvenate itself. If you are suffering from insomnia, you are weakening your immune system and increasing your risk of cancer. For more information on insomnia, refer to my book The New Bible Cure for Sleep Disorders.

Dedicate Your Days to God

I want to remind you to keep praying and seeking God as you make these dietary and lifestyle changes! Take a lesson from the prophet: “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered the Lord; and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple” (Jonah 2:7).

Even if you don’t feel like praying, keep on approaching the throne of grace every day; your prayers do come before the Lord as much as your daily decisions and behavior do. I know it can be difficult. If you have some form of cancer, the pain and weakness can bring on bouts of discouragement. But those who wrote the Bible learned about God in the same ways that you and I learn about Him. They became discouraged and fearful at times too, so David wrote these words of truth and encouragement:

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and saves the contrite of spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Ps. 34:17-19).

These are certainly words to live by.

A Bible Cure Prayer for You

Father, guide my days and my steps as I seek to follow You with all of my heart. Keep me free of sickness and disease, especially any form of cancer that would try to keep me from fulfilling all You have called me to do on this earth. Guide me to walk in divine health and in ways that prevent disease so it is never an issue. Heal my mind and attitude as much as my body, and make me an example of all I should be as Your follower. As I love You with all of my strength, heart, soul and mind, strengthen each of those areas through the power of Your Spirit. I ask this in the name above every name, Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Amen.

Article derived from The New Bible Cure for Cancer: Ancient Truths, Natural Remedies, and the Latest Findings for Your Health Today by Don Colbert, M.D. Copyright 2010 by Don Colbert, M.D.