Yoga And Chronic Disease
The practice of yoga, which focuses on the energy of poses rather than the complexity of them. The method uses props and modifications for difficult poses, which makes yoga more accessible to beginners of all body types. Each class incorporates sitting, standing and reclining positions, and begins with five minutes of breathing and centering techniques.
Researchers have put yoga to the scientific test for years, and the results so far have been impressive. The practice has been shown to lower risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression.
Yoga can also help those who are already ill feel better. A new study suggests that doing yoga twice a week may improve quality of life for men being treated for prostate cancer and may help reduce the side effects of radiation, which include fatigue, sexual dysfunction and urinary incontinence.
The study, published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, and Physics, followed 50 men with prostate cancer as they underwent six to nine weeks of radiation therapy. Half of the men were assigned to attend two 75-minute yoga classes each week during their treatment.
At the beginning of the study, before radiation had started, men in both groups reported relatively low levels of fatigue. As treatment progressed, however, the men who didn’t take yoga had more fatigue—typical of the fourth or fifth week of a treatment course, the researchers say.
But for those who took yoga, fatigue dropped as the weeks went on. Overall, these men reported less fatigue and a better ability to go about their normal lives, compared to the group that didn't do yoga.
Yoga has been shown to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, which may explain why sexual and urinary function were largely preserved in the yoga group. Yoga, like other types of exercise, can also increase blood flow throughout the body—an important component of muscular and erectile health.
Physical and emotional well-being scores increased as patients in both groups progressed through their treatments, but those in the yoga group had more rapid improvements.
“There could be a number of things going on, and it may not be that all of the mechanisms work for everyone,” she says. “One man may get more of a psychological benefit from yoga, whereas for others it might have a purely vascular effect. Someone else with urinary issues might benefit from a stronger pelvic floor.”
Larger and longer studies are needed to better understand exactly how yoga protects against the side effects of radiation. Tina recommends the practice to all her cancer patients. She urges people to try classes that are for all levels, to tell the instructor that they are new to yoga and to ask about modifications for difficult poses. Don’t count yourself out based on what you think you know about yoga.
Why do vegans have such lower cancer risk? This is fascinating stuff: An elegant series of experiments was performed in which people were placed on different diets and their blood was then dripped on human cancer cells growing in a petri dish to see whose diet kicked more cancer butt. Women placed on plant-based diets for just two weeks, for example, were found to suppress the growth of three different types of breast cancer (see images of the cancer clearance). The same blood coursing through these womens’ bodies gained the power to significantly slow down and stop breast cancer cell growth thanks to just two weeks of eating a healthy plant-based diet! (Two weeks! Imagine what’s going on in your body after a year!) Similar results were found for men against prostate cancer (as well as against prostate enlargement).
How may a simple dietary change make one’s bloodstream so inhospitable to cancer in just a matter of days? The dramatic improvement in cancer defenses after two weeks of eating healthier is thought to be due to changes in the level of a cancer-promoting growth hormone in the body called IGF-1. Animal protein intake increases the levels of IGF-1 in our body, but within two weeks of switching to a plant-based diet, IGF-1 levels in the bloodstream drop sufficiently to help slow the growth of cancer cells.
How plant-based do we need to eat? Studies comparing levels of IGF-1 in meat-eaters vs. vegetarians vs. vegans suggest that we should lean toward eliminating animal products from our diets altogether. This is supported by the new study in which the thousands of American vegans studied not only had lower rates of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, but significantly lower cancer risk as well.