Female Frontier: Finding Health, Pain Relief Naturally

Female Frontier: Finding Health, Pain Relief Naturally

When a woman finds a lump anywhere, she is terrified. Tumors mean cancer. It is second only to heart disease as a killer. All this I learned before having surgery twice between August 1995 and March 1996 to remove breast cysts, a small vascular tumor and a lemon-sized fatty tumor. To my great relief, these growths were benign but at the rate they were appearing, I felt it was only a matter of time before one would be malignant.

I had been health conscious all my life. My mother was a vegetarian. Although I wasn't, I grew up eating fruits, vegetables, and what I thought was a good diet. I was rarely ill, but like most people, had a few minor complaints as I aged. My metabolism slowed, and I'd added 20 extra pounds. After weeks at a gym and switching to a low-fat diet, I lost 10 of them.

Morning stiffness up and down my spine and shoulder pain were ailments i remembered my father also had in mid-life. His shoulders became calcified, "frozen" later. Mine were simply getting so painful I couldn't sleep on either side at night. My internist said nothing could be done and simply recommended anti-inflammatory medication, which I knew wasn't good for long-term use. I assumed the condition was genetic and tried to ignore it.

I developed fibrocystic breast disease but was assured by my gynecologist that this is "normal" for women over 40 and that it is almost always a benign condition. Somehow I wasn't so easily reassured, however, so I began reading on the subject.

Beginning a search

According to Susan Love, M.D., director of the Breast Center in Los Angeles, fibrocystic breast disease occurs in 80 percent of premenopausal women. Five percent of benign breast biopsies reveal excessive cell growth. Only 10 percent of breast cancers are believed to be genetic. The rest are considered caused by environmental factors, meaning poor nutrition, pollutants, pesticides, etc. By far the biggest known risks are a high-fat, low-fiber diet (in other words, our American diet) and aging. What caught my attention was that most breast cancers occur in women over the age of 50 and the more overweight, the higher the risk.

When another series of cysts appeared in July of 1996, six months after my second surgery, I sought out Tara Nelson, N.D., a naturopathic doctor.

"The symptoms of many illnesses are a body's way of saying something is wrong -- something is out of balance," she explained. "Where those symptoms exhibit themselves, however, is very individual. Some people get headaches, some sinus problems, some, like you, grow tumors. I look for what may be causing the imbalance and suggest ways you can restore your body's own natural healing abilities. If you cut your finger, the body has mechanisms for healing the wound. It can heal other conditions, too, if you give it the right support."

She took a detailed medical history, recommended a new way, of eating and suggested I begin taking high potency multi-vitamin and mineral capsules (not drugstore specials -- too many additives and often not enough minerals), calcium citrate chewable wafers, borage oil capsules and marine lipid (Omega 3) capsules.

Dr. Nelson explained in simple terms that excessive arachidonic acid (caused by specific foods) contributes to production of a series of hormones that promote inflammation in the body which, in turn, stimulates tumor growth. Foods which contribute to this "inflammatory cascade" are dairy products, red meats, refined sugars and flours, margarine, hydrogenated oils, processed foods and alcohol.

Armed with lists of foods to eat and foods to avoid, I went to my local health food store and entered a whole new world: grains and beans I had never heard of, bread without wheat, sweeteners from rice, calcium from seaweed. Dr. Nelson had given me a recipe for an "immune boost" cereal which included flax seed and milk thistle seed. To my surprise, the store actually had them. After only one week on Dr. Nelson's diet, my energy skyrocketed. I was hooked. I couldn't believe I could feel so good so fast!

New habits

Somehow I didn't connect my new anti-inflammatory diet with my shoulder pains. I was focused on preventing cancer. But six weeks into my new way of eating, I realized all my pains had vanished. I had no morning stiffness in my back, no vague soreness along my spine nor a trace of pain in either shoulder!

Why hadn't other doctors told me? I learned that traditional physicians in this country receive almost no training in how diet affects illnesses. They are trained to treat symptoms, not causes, with drugs or surgery. They simply do not know the natural alternatives.

For the first two months on the diet I had a very strange body odor, two boils and numerous skin eruptions. I called Dr. Nelson. She explained my body was cleansing itself of toxins at the cellular level. The skin is the largest organ of elimination. "Don't worry," she assured me, "this phase will pass in two to five months." For me it took about three.

The high energy and loss of shoulder pain kept me motivated while trying to adjust to this new way of eating and cooking. Was it easy? No. Was it time consuming? Yes. Cookbooks and magazines are filled with high-fiber, low-fat recipes these days. The trick was to find some with no dairy, wheat or sugar ingredients. I decided it was less time consuming than dealing with cancer, and I kept going. I began to lose weight -- without noticing or trying. I hadn't been counting calories, just eating only those foods on my approved list. When I hit 115 pounds, my high school weight, and continued losing. I learned I had to eat 2200 calories a day to maintain my weight.

New troubles erupt

Six months into the new diet, I began to get a stiff neck that became progressively tighter, eventually causing a migraine-like headache until I'd get it adjusted by a chiropractor. The doctor suggested I stop working out at the gym until this neck problem was resolved. So I took up walking and yoga, 30 minutes every day of one or the other to stay in shape. The problem continued off and on for months. I changed my mattress, my pillow and became very posture aware, doing anything I could think of with little results.

In August of 1997, one year from beginning the diet, I thought the breast lumps were gone. I couldn't feel them. But my gynecologist said the mammograms showed several. I was disappointed. However, the diet had done so many other great things for me, I knew I'd stay on it forever. I thought back to what had changed in my life prior to the tumor growth.

I had sold my public relations agency in California, retired from major stress and moved to a small farm in Connecticut. I'd taken up gardening and tennis. It hardly seemed that being relaxed was the cause.

In 1993 I had learned I was mildly manic-depressive and began taking an anti-depressant, Wellbutrin. Could that be causing the growths? I asked my psychiatrist, who consulted the drug's research. The tests on mice had shown an increase in mammary tumors, but the mice were receiving such high dosage for their weight that it was deemed inconclusive.

I was beginning to experience hot flashes and night sweats. Could shifting hormones be causing the growth of turners and cysts? Because I was concerned about breast cancer, estrogen replacement therapy was definitely out. My doctor didn't recommend progesterone cream. I began drinking Herbal Tip Women's Rite's tea for balancing hormones. My hot flashes and night sweats ceased. The cysts continued.

Old problems return

Upper neck problems were a continuing puzzle, however. My stiff neck bothered me for over two years and I couldn't figure out the cause. The condition started six months after my new diet. The two had to be related but no doctor could loll me how. A healthy diet should help solve back problems, concluded Dr. Nelson and my local chiropractor. It must be coincidental. Overall I felt the healthiest I had in years. People began guessing my age around 40, not 50, and I had a glowing vitality. I stuck with the diet and kept reading and questioning.

In June 1998 my mammogram showed a suspicious lump, shaped like a cyst but different in coloration on the screen. I had a needle biopsy done. It was a benign tumor, not considered dangerous, but it worry to me. And there were five other cysts. I had three large ones aspirated but two were too small and left alone.

When lymph fluid backs up between fibrocystic tissues, a thin sack forms around the fluid and a cyst is formed. So how could I increase the flow of lymph through my breast? Breast Cancer? Breast Health! by Susun Weed suggested doing regular breast massage, apply alternating hot and cold water therapy, jumping on a mini-trampoline or anything strenuous enough to make lymph flow, and to stop wearing tight bras so many hours a day. I also asked the breast center if they observed any increase in tumors and cysts among women taking antidepressants. No, they had not. They had observed, however, that women on antidepressants had an increase in breast discharge! That tiny clue, plus the mammary tumors in mice, stuck in my mind.

Determined not to give up

Rather than feeling defeated, the appearance of another tumor made me even more determined to solve the puzzle. In January 1999 my insurance company stopped paying for Wellbutrin. It was just the motivation I needed. I gradually tapered off, substituting the herb St. John's wort. Since my manic-depression is mild and I had lived with it for 40 years before medication, I knew my mood swings would be difficult and relationships rocky, but perhaps maturity, awareness and St. John's wort would help.

The darkness of New England winters intensifies depression. I went to Florida during March and April. While there redecorating a house, my neck pains and tennis elbow got much worse. Within five minutes of walking into Dr. Daniel Hillis' office in Naples, he explained exactly how my "healthy" diet was causing my stiff neck.

The high levels of fiber and roughage in whole grains, seeds, nuts and raw vegetables were causing my ileocecal valve (of the small intestine) to send distress messages to my brain. Those nerve messages were spilling over into my upper neck in what is known as "Houston's reflex." Dr. Hillis said food allergies could be a cause also. Blood tests soon showed I was mildly allergic to a dozen foods I was eating regularly: lettuce, soy, rye, honey, kidney beans, egg whites, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds (as well as wheat and coffee, which I wasn't eating) -- all healthy enough foods, but obviously not for me. These were "delayed" allergies, with no apparent symptoms. I would never have known about them without testing.

Dr. Hillis ordered a stool analysis to see how well my body was utilizing foods. The results showed I had no acidophilus (good bacteria needed for digestion) in my system. A blood chemical test showed I was low in magnesium. This mineral is necessary for calcium and vitamin C metabolism as well as that of phosphorus, sodium and potassium. It is essential for effective nerve and muscle functioning and for converting blood sugar into energy. It also aids in fighting depression. He ordered cortisol testing and the results showed I was not producing enough melatonin. Why had no other doctors ordered these tests? The information was critical to me if I wanted to become free of these various ailments.

Dr. Hillis did chiropractic adjustments and soft tissue manipulation to stop the nerve messages. I reduced my intake of nuts and seeds, cooked more of the vegetables and eliminated all allergens. Within two weeks my neck and elbow began to improve. I believe the problem has been solved as long as I watch my diet.

Well-earned victory

I still know little about the ileocecal valve, but I did learn there is usually cause and effect with the body. It's essential to get proper tests as early as possible. If one doctor doesn't have the answers, keep trying.

Without Wellbutrin, a full-blown manic episode hit in March, perfectly timed to my redecorating project. I redid a 2300 square foot house single-handedly in five weeks. The depressive downswing that followed in April was relieved by St. John's wort.

It was then I noticed my tumor was gone. During a self breast check I couldn't find any lumps. I rushed to see if my gynecologist could find anything. He only found one tiny cyst using his sonogram. Everything else had disappeared. No tumors! I have finally changed the conditions in my body that were causing cyst and tumor growth and, I feel certain, my cancer worries are history!

I am optimistic. After all, I have reversed fibrocystic breast disease and made a breast tumor disappear, "cured" my arthritic shoulders, dropped excess pounds and maintained a healthy weight without being hungry, and eliminated upper neck pain and stiffness simply through diet, supplements, reduction of toxins and exercise.

It is great to feel energetic, to have discovered ways of eliminating so many ailments naturally. I know that I have control over what happens to me physically, now and as I age.

Measurements & Data Corporation.

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By Gracelyn Guyol

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