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Archive for March, 2009

The Link Between Obesity, Toxicity, and Cancer: Part 2 of 4

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

By Luke J. Terry, MTOM, Dipl.Ac, L.Ac.

In Part 1, statistics linking the rise of obesity to the rising rates of cancer were revealed. The stage was set for a look at the rising level of toxicity, which links obesity and cancer to each other.

Toxicity may be viewed as a byproduct of industrial and post-industrial life. Humans have come to rely up on synthetic chemistry to create the basic necessities of life—packaging and containers for food and drink, as well as myriad household products.

These synthetic products are the end result of chemical processes never seen before on planet earth, resulting in molecules that the human body processes incompletely. Often, the body recognizes man-made chemicals as if they were our own hormones, because the synthetic’s structure is quite similar to the body’s endogenous hormones.

Many of these industrial chemicals mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Compounds that mimic estrogen are called xenoestrogens, (“estrogen from outside.”) These xenoestrogens cause serious problems in the cellular signaling and hormonal pathways. They are all around us, in the form of flame retardants, pesticides, plastics, and many thousands of other chemicals.

Plastic bottles and containers exude dozens of chemicals. Many of these chemicals, for example bisphenol A and phthalates, are xenoestrogens. Bisphenol A, or BPA, causes cellular changes in the male prostate gland cells that lead to prostate cancer. This carcinogen is found in polycarbonate plastics such as Lexan™ and Nalgene™ products. Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer in men, and the number one killer of men over 75. To complete the link described in this article, obesity more than doubles the chances of men getting prostate cancer. Compared to thin men, obese men tend to get much more aggressive forms of prostate cancer, as well as increases in the chances of both recurrence and metastasis.

Compounds found in cosmetics and personal care products also act as xenoestrogens, as do many pesticides and herbicides, including DDT, which, although banned in the US, is still produced domestically and used worldwide to combat malaria.

More than 10,000 chemicals found in cosmetics and personal care products, and over 70,000 chemicals are in use in America today. The chemical and cosmetic industries are virtually unregulated, and many chemicals found in mainstream cosmetic and beauty products are both toxic and carcinogenic.

Most Americans are exposed daily to all of the top seven carcinogenic substances in cosmetic products: hydroquinone, ethylene dioxide, 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde, nitrosamines, PAHs, and acrylamide.

Studies of cancerous breast tumors have shown elevated concentrations of these toxic man-made chemicals, including parabens found in deodorants and antiperspirants.

The previously mentioned studies, only a tiny fraction of a voluminous body of evidence links toxicity with cancer. Their relationship is an inescapable conclusion to anyone who looks deeply at the available research.

To establish the connection between obesity and toxicity, studies of large groups of people have attempted to find lifestyle and demographic factors connecting obesity and toxicity. These studies are called ‘epidemiological’ studies because they look for trends in disease among members of a large population. A major study showed that living near a hazardous waste site increases the risk of being hospitalized for diabetes. Obesity is the most influential risk factor for diabetes. As one would expect, diabetics are at increased risk to be obese, especially as teens.

To complete this unholy triad with the available evidence, several studies have shown that obese people have high levels of toxins stored in their fatty tissue. The theory resulting from this academic work is that the body is using fatty tissue, which has a relatively low level of metabolic activity, as a place to store the toxins away from the body tissues that have high levels of metabolic activity, such as blood, organs, and muscle. In effect, body fat becomes a storehouse of toxins in an attempt to “firewall” the body from toxicity.

Excess adiposity, or fatness, is the source of many other metabolic problems. Obesity is a major cause of liver problems such as non-alcoholic fatty liver. The liver is responsible for over 500 different metabolic functions, so having a liver that is clogged and congested with fat can have health effects that reverberate through the entire body, causing chaos and disorder at every level. For example, the liver is responsible for removing the reproductive hormones from the bloodstream after ovulation. During days 14-28, the uterus, breasts, and other reproductive tissues prepare for the next menstruation. At this time they require an environment that is very low in estrogens and progesterone. When the liver is congested due to toxins and excess fat, it fails to perform its duties, and the blood remains rich with estrogens and progesterone. The female hormones are actually toxic to the other tissues during the final days of the menstrual cycle. That toxicity is experienced as breast tenderness, pain, cramping, emotional lability, and other symptoms that we would identify as PMS.

Most people think that “estrogen” refers to a specific compound. In reality, there is no single chemical compound called “estrogen,” rather the word estrogen refers to a class of related compounds. There are two stable forms of estrogen that are relevant to this discussion and any discussion of feminine disease profiles.

One form of estrogen commonly known as estradiol has protective effects on women’s bodies. Women with greater levels of estradiol compared to other estrogen compounds show decreased risk of reproductive tissue cancers. Another form of estrogen known as estrone is associated with increased risk for reproductive tissue cancers including breast cancer and others. Obese women produce more estrone, and are also at greater risk for PMS. The evidence of the links of the unholy triad continues to mount.

The same trend linking toxicity, obesity and cancer holds true even for young girls. There is a worldwide trend of girls experiencing puberty earlier than ever, a trend that is especially strong in America. Epidemiology shows us that childhood obesity is a probable cause of early-onset or “precocious” puberty, defined as prior to age 11. Research has shown a link to diet because unhealthy eating patterns cause elevated insulin levels, in itself a risk factors for cancer.
There are many suspected links between xenoestrogens and precocious puberty. Children today are fatter today than in years past, just as their parents and other adults are. Likewise, the bodies of young girls contain more xenoestrogens from plastics, pesticides and other industrial sources. One theory states that these xenoestrogenic compounds act as signals to the developing endocrine system, helping to trigger an early puberty.

Other researchers have demonstrated a link between childhood obesity and early puberty. Some researchers hold a hypothesis that the extra body fat is the reason for earlier puberty, since the sex hormones are built out of cholesterol. There is a likely interplay between the two, though this link is still being studied. However, epidemiology yet again demonstrates the unholy triad’s connection with studies showing that for every year earlier that puberty comes, that child’s lifetime cancer risk increases by 4.0%. If this trend prevails for another 40 years, we’ll see the current epidemic of cancer turn into a pandemic. Currently, one in two men, and one in three women will experience cancer in their lifetime.

Of the many theories as to why girls are experiencing puberty earlier, one theory is sociological in nature, because these researchers blame our sex-saturated society. They believe that because girls are bombarded with images and messages of sexuality in culture, their bodies respond to this stimulus by producing more sex hormones earlier, which as described above, is a risk factor for cancer.

Events that effect psychological and emotional health and development are also risk factors for disease. Girls and young women, in western society and worldwide, are still at high risk for sexual assault, rape, and incest. A female’s lifetime risk of some form of sexual assault has been estimated to be as high as one in four. New studies have demonstrated a link between childhood trauma, or what the researchers term “childhood adverse events” including inappropriate sexual contact, is linked to increased disease risk over that child’s lifetime. Childhood traumas increase the risks of eating disorders, addictions, and other maladaptive coping mechanisms, all of which increase a person’s risk of intake of toxic substances, as well as increases in production of endogenous, or internally made toxins, and in turn, increase the risk of obesity.

Psychologically, excess body weight can be seen as a physiological armor, deflecting unwanted attention and decreasing sexual availability. In this way, people may hold onto excess weight as a conflict-avoidance mechanism, a toxic belief in itself.

The holographic theory of the body states that our physical body stores memories of our experiences in our tissues. Tissues become dysfunctional by becoming short, dry, tight, and “gritty” due to the buildup of old traumas, conflicts, and wounds and is stored as toxic compounds of emotional origin. This same toxicity can be stored in adipose or fatty tissue.

Adding complexity is a physiological maxim that sounds like a playground epithet: “the fatter you are, the fatter you get.” Simply stated, it appears that when a person accumulates body fat of an amount equal to more than about 20 lbs over ideal weight, the fatty tissues begins to act like a separate endocrine organ, secreting leptin, cortisol, and other non-beneficial hormones. These hormones accelerate the fat-storage process, and through the catabolic, or muscle-wasting effects of cortisol, the body fat begins to take away the muscle stores while piling on the extra fat pounds. This is a run-away train that is very difficult to stop.

So extremely obese people have toxic stores of fat that are beginning to take over the person’s metabolism. People who are in such poor condition have a very difficult time losing weight, and when they do, they experience many symptoms of detoxification, including skin eruptions, diarrhea, nasal congestion, body aches, and other signs that the body is letting go of toxins. These detox symptoms prevent many people from seeking weight loss. This is unfortunate, because these people are the ones that really need both detoxification and weight loss.

The take-home message is clearly spelled out through the research: you can lower your cancer risk by losing weight. You can lose weight by detoxifying. You can lose toxicity by losing weight. At a deeper and more holistic level, you can process and release old tensions, conflicts, and traumas through a variety of somatic or body therapies, including acupuncture, massage, Feldenkrais and other forms of functional integration, Rolfing and other forms of structural intergration, hypnosis, EFT, and many other therapies.

Vibrant health, or the state of vitality, is characterized by a strong physical body with plenty of lean muscle mass, and appropriate body fat, and relatively low levels of stored toxins. Healthy human beings also demonstrate the ability to easily release both toxins and old traumas, resulting in a state of lowered disease risk, heightened immunity, strength, confidence and clarity. This vitality state is achieved systematically through healthy choices in diet, exercise, healthy introspection, and, increasingly relevant for today, detoxification, internal cleanses, and spiritual or mental fasts from media, noise, pollution and negativity.

Stay tuned for future installments in this series, which will include Part 3, an exploration of the body’s detoxification pathways, and Part 4, the processes and experience of participating in a focused detoxification program to decrease cancer risk as well as for weight loss.


The Yellow Emperor’s Superior Vacation, or Why Breck Locals Do It Better

Friday, March 20th, 2009

More than 2200 years ago, Chinese physician-Emperor Huang Di drew distinctions among health care practitioners that is as valid today as it was then. In one of Earth’s oldest known medical texts, Huang Di said that inferior physicians treat disease, mediocre physicians prevent disease, and superior physicians foster wellness and vitality.
As a group of practitioners, we at Sacred Tree shares Huang Di’s vision. We see it as a necessity, given the challenges we face both as a society and a species.
While we treat our clients to heal sprained ankles, or to enhance digestion or fertility, the most fundamental motivating force of our work is to create in our clients a deep interest and momentum towards deep health, vitality, resilience, peace, and joy.
The most important aspect of creating wellness and vitality is to impress upon our clients the need to create positive lifestyle change—impeccable diet, appropriate exercise habits, emotional presence and vulnerability, getting good sleep, and being deeply rooted in the present moment. Teaching these ideas becomes quite a challenge, which is why Huang Di placed the ‘wellness’ practitioners at the top of the heap more than 20 centuries ago. Even back then, more than two millennia before pharmacological drugs took hold in the marketplace, it was easier to get patients to pop some herbal pills, rather than to look deeply within and make positive changes.
Several Sacred Tree practitioners have made an interesting observation while providing treatments and teaching workshops and yoga classes for our wintertime tourists and visitors. We have observed that people who are outside their normal, day-to-day environment and routine are more likely to absorb and implement lifestyle practices that create a strong health reserve. Being on vacation opens people up because they are processing novel stimuli in a new environment, and are separated from old habitual anchors their home and work environment.
Living in a destination mountain town, this flexibility and openness, the feeling of being on vacation, rubs off on us locals. More than one Breckenridgian has been heard uttering the phrase ‘on permanent vacation’ in describing the local lifestyle. Our local climate also demands flexibility. It may be 60 degrees, calm and sunny, and within hours, it could be 20 degrees, with heavy wind and snow… in June. Our local residents must be prepared to embrace the moment, sun or snow, wind or rain, and enjoy the moment, for the moment is fleeting and is guaranteed to change. This flexibility in mindset and attitude, along with the deep sense of being present fully in the here & now, make for an excellent foundation for creating deep health and well being.
So, capitalizing on our geographic home-field advantage for both locals and visitors, and with nurturing vitality, creativity, and adaptability in mind, Sacred Tree offers bimonthly workshops and retreats, focused on working with the deepest parts of ourselves, facing fears and old patterns, and creating positive lifestyle change.
Attracting nationally recognized speakers is a natural progression growing from Sacred Tree’s dedication to wellness and vitality, as well as its continued success in creating compelling programming.
Our next retreat encourages participants to view the world through Native eyes, draws our attention inward. Using the processes, practices, and metaphors of horsemanship, the Medicine Wheel Model demonstrates that life mirrors our internal environment, and “what you do to others, you do to yourself.” The Medicine Wheel Model will be offered May 9 and 10 at Storm King Ranch in Glenwood Springs, CO, and will be presented by nationally recognized horseman Phillip Whiteman, Jr.

Because the deepest vitality begins prenatally, with a healthy pregnancy and birth, we will be offering a holistic and integrative Art of Birth course. The Art of Birth will be presented in late May. The Art of Birth will be presented by nationally recognized author, midwife, registered nurse, and waterbirthing expert Barbara Harper, and our own Corrie Burr.

For questions, comments, or information on registration, please contact us at Wellness@Sacredtree.com


Virtual Roots and Internet Love

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

For the past few weeks especially, Sacred Tree has been developing its root system in cyberspace as well as here in Breckenridge.

On the web, we’re working to extend our root system to the world, disseminating information on health & wellness throughout the cyberworld. So we’ve begun to create partner sites on social networking sites along with registration sites for local businesses, blogs, practitioners, and anywhere else where we find a niche… as it’s said, got to get in where you fit in.

We’re working on letting the world know about our world-class menu of integrative medicine offerings, including massage, acupuncture, doula & natural childbirth services, natural skin care, and a whole lot more.
Most importantly, we want to let the world know about our immersive workshops, like the Medicine Wheel Model of Natural Horsemanship, found here: http://sacredtree.com/featured-retreats/medicine-wheel-model.php

So we’re on a mission to deepen our root system in Summit County and on the web.

Here’s a sampling of some of our connections online. Please click on the links below visit these sites.

If you’re a client of ours, please rate your visit so others can know about our superior level of service and caring.

Merchant Circle

Get Fave:


Health Professionals:

Trip Advisor:

Google Local:

More to come–we’re on Yahoo, rVita, Manta, and several others that are waiting to be updated & verified by the hosting sites..
Show us some internet love!

With many thanks,



What is Integrative Medicine?

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

The health care crisis in the US continues to challenge our most visionary leaders to come up with effective solutions. In his inaugural speech as well as on other occasions, President Obama made mention of his view of the best solution—prevention. It costs far less to prevent a heart attack with nutrition, exercise, and other lifestyle interventions, than it does to treat a patient for a heart attack in the emergency room. One study shows that focusing on ‘prevention’ will save more than $9,000 per patient per year in health care costs.
The question then becomes, how do we create a culture of wellness and vitality in our communities? For five years, Sacred Tree’s answer has been ‘Integrative Medicine.’ But what exactly is integrative medicine? What exactly are we integrating?
These are fantastic questions, and the answers are still being discovered. The short answer is, we are integrating the skills, philosophy, tools, and modes of practice of many distinct disciplines of medicine, blending them into one seamless whole for the benefit of our clients and community.
Some synonyms for the word ‘integrative’ might be synergistic, holistic, collaborative, cooperative, community. One of my recent favorites is ‘expressive,’ as in Expressive Medicine, vis-à-vis ‘suppressive medicine,’ meaning that we honor the myriad human expressions of all nature. Expressive medicine might mean allowing a patient to be feverish, as long as the fever is below a certain temperature range, instead of recommending herbs or drugs that suppress the fever. This philosophy respects the body’s infinite wisdom, recognizing that the fever is the body’s metabolic response to a pathogenic invasion, and represents an evolutionary adaptation over millions of years. It has a purpose, a goal, and an innate wisdom that would be arrogant or hubristic to believe we know enough about to completely suppress.
The same is true of the range of human emotions and internal experience. Suppressive medical culture seeks to medicalize experiences that may have deeply adaptive reasons for existing. Suppressive medicine may attempt to suppress an emotion such as sadness due to loss of a loved one, through the use of drugs, herbs, or any other method. Yet the expression of that emotion may allow a more full and dynamic experience of life by catalyzing internal processes and recognition of the loss on a deep level. To suppress that ‘negative’ emotion would be to diminish the life and shared experience of the loved one who passed on. The suppression of emotion, sadness or any other, may and likely does have negative effects on health. Therefore, expressing and addressing these emotions directly, in the light of day, will likely benefit health, wellness, and vitality, and prevent disease.
Through this expressive lens, Integrative medicine represents the ability to weave together and integrate a diverse array of human experiences and processes, from biological to emotional, financial, physical, nutritional, and even cultural.
We believe that this integration of diverse aspects of life in a movement characterized by a strong focus on wholeness, vitality, and honor of our body’s innate and natural healing power, vis medicatrix naturae, represents the future of medicine.
We invite anyone interested in a deeper and more personal discussion of what Integrative medicine means and how it serves our clients, families, and community, to attend our roundtable discussion with area medical practitioners.
This roundtable disussion will be held Tuesday March 10, 2009, at 6 PM in the conference room at Blue Sky Breckenridge, 42 Snowflake Drive. It is free for all to attend, and light refreshments will be served.
For more information, call (970) 453-8558, or email Luke@SacredTree.com.