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Our guest today was diagnosed with cancer and a doctor's recommendation to undergo heavy chemotherapy. In his book, Chris Beat Cancer, Chris Wark explains why he didn't follow his doctor's recommendation and still beat cancer.
Allan (1:14): Chris, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Chris Wark (1:18): Allan, good to be with you.
Allan (1:22): When we look at cancer, it’s probably one of the scariest words in the English language. And it’s getting bigger, so more and more of us are getting that diagnosis at some point in our life. I think I actually read a statistic that everybody gets cancer, but some of us don’t live long enough to die of cancer.
Chris Wark (1:44): That’s basically true. Cancers come and go in life without us realizing it, and almost everyone has cancer cells in their body. Cancer cells are simply mutated cells, cells that mutate for a variety of reasons. Your immune system is designed to identify and eliminate those cells, but what can happen and what is happening is that many of us – one out of every two men and almost one out of every two women now are on track to develop cancer because of our diet, lifestyle, environmental choices, and stress. And I can dig into those as we talk more of how those elements are causing cancer and what can be done to prevent and even heal cancer. But we’re already at epidemic levels of cancer.
Allan (2:42): I think now at my age – I’m 53 – I need to be monitoring myself. I need to be doing the things I’m supposed to do at the age-related times I’m supposed to do them, whether I want to or not. And I think women are so much better at this than men. But in your book, Chris Beat Cancer, you did a couple of different things. One that I want to get into is your story, which is extremely compelling, because I could hardly wrap my mind around my 26-year-old self finding out that I had cancer. But you took a step back and you titled the blog originally and now the book Chris Beat Cancer. But you don’t think of it now in terms of actually winning or beating something. It has a different flavor or idea to you.
Chris Wark (3:41): Yeah, that’s right. When people think about cancer, they definitely think about beating it, winning it, fighting it, it’s a battle. And that’s all terminology that was created by the cancer industry. They had to do that in order to convince people to suffer, because the treatments are so brutal that if you can convince someone that it’s going to be a fight, you get them in this mentality where they accept that suffering is involved in the cancer battle. But it doesn’t have to be that way. So, Chris Beat Cancer is the name of my book and the name of my website, but as I’ve thought about it more over the years, it’s not about beating cancer. It’s not about a battle. It’s about healing the body. That’s really what it’s about. And unfortunately, the medical industry, pharmaceutical industry, they’re not interested in healing. They’re more interested in treating a disease. There are over 200 types of cancer. There will never be a pharmaceutical cure for all cancers. So, there’s a lot of misunderstanding in the public eye, thanks to the pharmaceutical / medical industry and the media about what cancer really is and the way you should approach it.
Allan (4:53): I think that’s really important, because as we look at this thing, the C-word, it is hard to sit there and say, “I’ve got to make certain decisions. My doctor’s going to tell me things and I’m going to have read or heard things.” It can be confusing. Like I said, I can’t even wrap my mind around my 26-year-old self making decisions that you made and having I guess the epiphany or the kind of faith – it was probably a little bit of both – to have done what you did. If you don’t mind, can you take us back there and talk through this? You were, like I said, 26 years old, had been married for two years, had your whole life in front of you, until you didn’t.
Chris Wark (5:43): Yeah. So, I’d been having abdominal pain for the better part of a year and I thought maybe I had an ulcer or something. Unfortunately, the pain got progressively worse and I went to the doctor. They did a colonoscopy after a series of other tests and found a golf ball sized tumor in my large intestine. And when I woke up they said, “You got this tumor and we took a biopsy, we’re sending it to the lab. Fingers crossed, hopefully it’s just a benign tumor and it isn’t cancerous.” But it was. This was two days before Christmas, when I found out I had colon cancer, and they said, “We’ve got to get this thing out of you right away, before it spreads and kills you.” And that’s the kind of conversation that every cancer patient has pretty much with their doctors. There’s a lot of fear and urgency, and they’re often rushed into treatment that they don’t understand; treatments that can have life-threatening side effects and long-term debilitating side effects. But because it’s so urgent, or they’re led to believe that it’s urgent, they say “Yes”. It’s sort of a tragedy. When people find out they have cancer, a lot of times they don’t even have pain. Something came up on a scan or a mammogram, a lump, a bump or whatever. They don’t feel sick, they don’t look sick, until treatment starts. That’s actually what makes them sick, is treatment.
So, I said “Yes” to surgery. I didn’t know anything at the time. And surgery, by the way, is not that big a deal for a lot of cancers, so I’m not anti-surgery or anything like that. But I was able to postpone them about a week to 10 days. They wanted to have me in surgery before Christmas. I was diagnosed two days before Christmas; they were trying to get me in there before Christmas. And so I said, “I really don’t want to be in the hospital over Christmas. Can we just postpone it until after?” So I went in on December 30th, they took out a third of my large intestine, they took out the tumor, a bunch of lymph nodes. And when I woke up they said, “Look, it’s worse than we thought. You’re stage 3C.” And stage 4 means it’s in two organs. So the cancer had left the primary tumor site, it was in the lymph nodes, it was on its way to my liver. So they said, “Your next step is 9 to 12 months of chemotherapy if you want to live and survive, because at your stage, we can’t cure your cancer with surgery.” So, I initially accepted that that was my fate. My future was the chemo patient at 26. But a couple of things happened in the hospital, and faith was a big part of my journey. From the very beginning I was just praying and saying, “God, help. What do I do? What’s wrong in my life? Why am I sick?” There’s a verse in Romans that says, “God works all things for the good of those who love Him.” I chose to believe that, that God was going to work this for my good somehow. But I didn’t like it. I definitely would’ve traded places with anybody, but I had no choice. What else do I have to believe in? Luck? “I hope I’m lucky enough to survive!” So I really put my faith, hope and trust in God first and foremost, to lead me in the process.
So I’m in the hospital. They took out the tumor, and then the first meal that they serve me after taking out a third of my large intestines was a Sloppy Joe. The Sloppy Joe is a funny kind of food item. Nobody likes Sloppy Joes, restaurants don’t serve Sloppy Joes. It’s the best worst example of cafeteria food, right? The main place you would find the Sloppy Joe is if you’re at summer camp or in the military or maybe prison. And to my surprise, they’re serving Sloppy Joes to cancer patients in the hospital right after surgery. Even more ironic is the fact that red meat, beef, is a group to human carcinogen, specifically known to cause colon cancer. It’s like giving the guy that has open heart surgery some barbecue when he wakes up. So, I thought that was very strange. Of course, I didn’t know any of this, but I still knew, “Why are they serving this terrible food in the hospital to sick people?” I knew there was a difference between health food and junk food. And that was a little clue; the first little crack in the foundation of the medical industry from my perspective.
And then the day I was told I could go home, my surgeon came in to check on me and we were having a conversation about what was going to happen next. And I said, “Are there any foods I need to avoid?” And he said, “No. Just don’t lift anything heavier than a beer.” So I’m like, “Okay.” Clearly, my abdominal surgeon, who I thought might have some expertise on digestive health, optimal nutrition for healing your gut or something, had nothing to say about it. So again, another little crack in the foundation. My faith, hope and trust in the medical system, which I was placing some there too, was starting to erode. I got home and I was thinking about my life, my future and chemotherapy and what I would become, what chemotherapy would do to me. And it was a scary thought. It was scary feeling to know that in less than a month, we’re going to start injecting you with some very, very toxic drugs that are going to make you sick. Your hair’s going to fall out. You’re going to lose your appetite, you’re going to lose weight. I was already borderline underweight.
Allan (12:14): I think you said you were like 6’2’’ and 155 pounds or something like that. And that was full healthy; generally healthy. Now you were going to get to this emaciated state.
Chris Wark (12:33): At that time I was probably closer to 150, maybe even a little under 150. I had lost weight because I had not been eating very much because eating was causing this pain. So I was already really thin, and my instincts were telling me this is not what I need to do, this is wrong for me. But I didn’t know what else to do. Just the idea of poisoning my way back to health didn’t really make sense to me. So, I prayed about it. My wife and I were sitting on the couch and I said, “God, if there’s another way besides chemotherapy, please show me. I don’t know what to do.” It was just a humble prayer, asking for help. Desperately asking for help. Sincerely, desperately asking for help.
And a couple of days later I got a book that came to my house, that was mailed to me from a friend of my dad’s who lives in Alaska. The guy who wrote this book had found out he had colon cancer, and instead of having surgery, chemo and whatever treatment was offered to him, because he had seen family and friends suffer and die from cancer treatment – he decided to not do it. And happened to have a friend who was a health nut who said, “What you should do is you should go back to the Garden of Eden. You should start eating fruits and vegetables only, just raw fruits and vegetables as your primary source of food. And you should probably drink a lot of carrot juice too.” So that’s what this guy did and a year later his tumor was gone. His name is George Malkmus, and he had written a bunch of books and stuff. I started reading this one book he wrote, where he’s telling his story, and it just blew my mind. I was like, “This is exactly what I’m looking for. I can’t believe this showed up. This is the answer to my prayer. I need to change my diet.”
I had this big epiphany, which was, the way you’re living is killing you. Most of us don’t realize, and we’re not told that only 5% roughly of cancers are genetic. What that means is that up to 95% of cancers, based on available studies, are caused by our diet, lifestyle, environment, like environmental factors, environmental pollution. Those three factors. And stress is underneath them, and I can talk about that as well, but it’s a root cause of cancer. Stress is hard to measure, but it’s easy to measure diet, it’s easy to measure lifestyle, and it’s easy to measure environmental toxic exposure. Those are the main drivers of cancer. The way we’re living, what we’re putting in our mouth and the choices we’re making every day are leading us down the path of health or down the path of disease. There’s a recipe for health and there’s also a recipe for disease. And most people are following the recipe for disease. And I was.
One of the first big light bulbs was in the diet category. In America and most industrialized countries, we’re eating a diet that’s very different than our ancestors and that’s very different than some of the healthiest populations around the world with the lowest rates of cancer. But a lot of people don’t think about things that I think about and researched in great detail in my book. The fact is that there are countries all over the world with much lower cancer rates than us. And it’s not genetic; it’s their diet, lifestyle and environment. So, what’s wrong with our diet? It’s way too much processed food, junk food and fast food. Way too much sugary garbage, artificial processed colors, flavors, additives, preservatives. Soft drinks. Way too much meat, dairy, oils, sugar, salt. All of this stuff is really not natural. I mean you could make a case that meat and dairy is natural, but the high levels of processed sugar and salt, oils and artificial foods – we’re consuming them at unprecedented levels in human history. And our meat and dairy consumption is far in excess of healthy populations around the world. In fact, the populations with the lowest rates of cancer and the longest lifespans…
This is really what’s most important – who’s living the longest. And on every continent, if you look at the isolated pockets of people that have the longest lifespans, they have a lot of things in common. One of them is they eat a diet that’s about 95% plant-based. So they’re not pure vegan, but they eat mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains. Food from the earth; unadulterated whole foods. And the animal foods they eat are very minimal, because they have lack of access to animal food. Just think about poor villages in remote parts of the world. The animals they’re eating are not coming from McDonald’s, Wendy’s, KFC. They’re not even coming from the supermarket. They’re coming because they either caught and killed something, which is not happening every day, or because they raised an animal and killed it. And usually when they’re killing an animal they raised, it’s for a feast, and the whole village is enjoying the cow or the goat or the pig. So, in practical terms, they’re only eating animal products a few times a week, like three times a week. Sometimes in some regions it’s like three times a month, versus in the US it’s three times a day. Huge difference there. So that’s the dietary part.
I was reading this book, and I didn’t learn all that from this book, but I learned some really basic stuff that got me excited about changing my life. And I loved the idea of going back to a diet that was just fruits and vegetables from the earth, organic of course, and eliminating everything from my life that could be toxic and disease-promoting. So I turned my life upside down because I wanted to restore my health, and I took full responsibility for it. The problem in the cancer community, of which there are many, but one huge problem is when a patient is diagnosed with cancer, they’re always like, “Doc, why do you think I got cancer? What caused my cancer? I’m too young to have cancer.” Even if they’re 30 or 40 or 50 or whatever. And the doctors almost always say, “We don’t know what caused your cancer, but it might be genetic. Do you have family history?” “Well, yes. So-and-so, my aunt, my uncle, my mom, somebody had cancer.” “Well, that’s probably why you have cancer. It’s genetic, unfortunately.” Or if you say, “No, I don’t have any family history”, they say, “Well, it may just be bad luck. We’re so sorry about that, but we’ll do our best to take care of you and treat you”, and all this kind of stuff.
Allan (19:44): Quick question though. As I look at it, when someone gets into the medical profession, I have to give them some kudos there because they’re not walking an easy path, particularly when they start going to become an oncologist, because they’re stepping into a career field where their success rate is never going to be high enough. They’re always going to be losing patients to cancer and they’re going to be facing some terrible, terrible things. I have to believe they go into this with a noble intention and saying, “I see this young man. I want to help him.” But your doctor’s trying to talk you in a direction, and of course most of the doctors are in the hospital, so they know what you’re eating. Then you ask for advice and they say they can’t give you nutrition advice, is effectively what he was saying. He just said it, in his mind, in a little bit more of a comical way. Why do you feel that we’re trapped in this thing? Why do you feel that doctors get into this thing and then really don’t have the tools?
Chris Wark (21:00): I cover this in great detail in the book, but to try to summarize it quickly – most doctors I think pursue a career in medicine with noble intentions because they want to help someone. Because so-and-so, “My grandmother, my dad, somebody I know died of cancer, and I want to help people.” That’s great. I love that. But medical school is absolutely soul-crushing. Doctors and med students have the highest rates of suicide of any profession, because the current medical system is like a meat grinder. It takes courageous, loving, empathetic, wonderful people that want to serve humanity, and basically like bootcamp destroys their spirits and turns them into compliant, assimilated cogs in a machine. They’re only trained how to do surgery, chemo, radiation – that’s about it for oncology. They’re not trained in nutrition, they’re not trained in lifestyle medicine, they’re not trained in prevention. And because the pharmaceutical industry has such a stranglehold on medicine, they dictate what doctors are taught. So, what happens is a young person goes into med school and it takes them 15 years to get through med school to get their residency, to go into private practice, to build up their practice and start treating patients, before they realize that the treatments they are giving people don’t really work. Most of their patients are not alive. And by that time they’re trapped in a system that pays them really well, that doesn’t work. And when I say “doesn’t work”, it’s not curing most cancers.
I have great empathy and sympathy for physicians. They’re not the bad guys. There are a few bad ones out there, for sure. You’ve got to keep in mind, doctors are just humans, and there are some awful humans in the world. Some of them are doctors. There are awful plumbers, electricians, flight attendants. There are bad people in every profession. But giving them the benefit of the doubt, most doctors are really good people and they want to help, but they’re trapped. They have a very small number of tools at their disposal and they don’t have training in nutrition, prevention, and true healing modalities. They just are trained, “This patient has this type of cancer – this is the drug you give them. This is how many treatments of the drug they get. This is the dose they get based on their body weight. And cross your fingers and hope for the best.” That’s the way it works. And the system is, like I said, a huge machine. Anybody who’s ever been to the doctor knows you sit in a waiting room for an hour or more, and then you go and see the doctor for 15 minutes. I mean, how much can you help somebody in 15 minutes or 20 minutes? They don’t get enough time because of the way the compensation structure is. They don’t have enough time to really dig into your life and help you solve problems and help you get to the root causes of your disease. They’re not even trained how to do that anyway. So, it’s a vastly poorly constructed system. And I say “poorly constructed”. It’s actually constructed very well to make as much money as possible, but the problem is that doctors and patients are suffering under the weight of this really terrible system.
Allan (24:35): Yes. I recently got this review, because I refuse to take statins, and that’s a personal choice. My doctor continually wants me to manage my LDL. I’m looking at other components in my cardiovascular risk. I don’t think that singular number is worth me dealing with the other things that those medications would do to me, so I don’t want to be on those medications. And so, there was a little bit of flak from a reviewer that I was telling people to not take statins, and that was not my intention. My intention was, just understand in my situation as in your situation, there typically is never just one path. If the doctor is pushing you down a singular path that you’ve seen where that leads for a lot of people, just realize there likely are other alternatives out there.
Chris Wark (25:33): Yeah. It’s the only path they know. It’s the only path they’re trained in and it’s the only path they’re allowed to talk about.
Allan (25:41): The standards of care.
Chris Wark (25:43): It’s the standard of care. Physicians risk losing their reputation, risk losing their license to practice medicine if they deviate from the standard of care. Who wrote the standards? The pharmaceutical industry. Cholesterol is a great example, and we can rabbit on this for a minute. The body produces cholesterol, your liver produces cholesterol, but the biggest source of cholesterol in the body doesn’t come from your liver; it comes from our diets. And so, most people have high cholesterol because they’re eating it. They’re eating cholesterol. When you eat cholesterol, it raises your cholesterol. And the only way to eat cholesterol is to eat animals. If you don’t eat any animal food, then your consumption of cholesterol goes to zero, and then the only source of cholesterol in your body comes from your liver.
There have been two landmark studies on advanced heart disease patients. And of course your doctor is not talking about this, but anyone can easily Google this, read the studies. First one was done by Dr. Dean Ornish, and then it was duplicated by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, both MDs. And they both proved that you can take advanced heart disease patients, and reverse the progression of their heart disease, stop their heart disease, prevent future heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular events, and open their veins back up by putting them on a plant-based diet. And this is a very strict plant-based diet, so it’s no animal food and also no oils. The reason for no oils is because saturated fat also sends signals, triggers the liver to produce cholesterol.
You might try this as a fun experiment, but if you eliminate all animal foods and oils for 30 days – 30 to 90 days, but 30 days minimum – get your blood checked again and look at your cholesterol numbers, you will likely see a significant drop. And the drop will continue for the better part of a year. It’ll keep going down and down and down as your body adapts and starts to self-regulate. Another driver of high cholesterol is heavy metal toxicity – so lead, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic. There’ve been studies that show that when you have high levels of those metals in your body, it triggers the production of cholesterol. So cholesterol is a defense mechanism that your body is producing to protect itself. The more injurious elements, toxic elements circulating in your body on a daily basis, the more your body has to protect itself. So, high cholesterol can also be the result of your body trying to protect you. Just interesting, fascinating kind of rabbit trail stuff, but fun to talk about nonetheless.
Allan (28:37): You made those huge, drastic changes to what you eat and how you manage your environment and those other things. Again, kudos to you for taking that path and putting yourself in that motive of thought, “I am doing this. There’s not another option. I’m not taking this other option.” But in the book, you also talked a lot about mindset and the things you did to basically, for a lack of a better word, positive attitude yourself through this. Can you talk a little bit about some of those mindset changes that you went through to basically have a mindset of health?
Chris Wark (29:20): I call it the “beat cancer” mindset, because cancer is not so much a battle in the body as it is in the mind, and because taking a holistic approach to health is very different than taking a passive approach to cancer treatment. What I was saying earlier about when doctors tell the patients it’s either bad luck or bad genes – that’s some of the most egregious, borderline malpractice advice a doctor can tell a person. What they’ve effectively done is said, “There’s nothing you did to contribute to your disease, therefore there’s nothing you can do to help yourself. We are your only hope.” And what that does is it makes the patient into a powerless victim of disease. It could not be further from the truth. What we have to do is accept responsibility for our health.
So, having a “beat cancer” mindset starts with accepting responsibility for your life, your health and your situation, and that your decisions have led you to where you are today. We all make decisions, those decisions have consequences. Sometimes we make smart decisions and have good things happen, and sometimes we make not so smart decisions and not so good things happen. Sometimes things that happen to us are the result of decisions of others, but most of what happens to us is the result of the decisions we make. There’s an expression: “Everything happens for a reason.” But I like the expanded version of that expression, which is, “Everything happens for a reason, and most of the time the reason is you.” You’re the reason. So, when you start there, you realize, “I’ve got a part to play in my life, in my health, in my disease. I want to take an active role. I want to help my body heal. What can I do to help myself?” And that starts the healing adventure – this process of reeducation on health and nutrition and healing cancer. I went down this deep rabbit hole, trying to figure out who has healed cancer naturally, what do these people do, what are the experts saying, like natural health and wellness experts, cancer healing experts, alternative therapy experts. Who are the players, what are they saying, what do I need to be doing? And I just embarked on this journey of changing my entire life.
The diet was a huge component, but detoxification is huge; removing all the toxic stuff from my home environment – body care products, cleaning products, and cleaning out all that stuff. This was January 2004. Now it’s kind of hip and cool to buy organic body care products, organic cleaning products, non-toxic, environmentally-friendly products. It’s really come a long way in the last 14 years, but back then it was pretty fringe and there were very limited options in terms of non-toxic products and things, and even finding organic food. But I just made a decision I was willing to do whatever it took to get well. And that’s part of the mindset as well: I’m taking responsibility for this and I’m going to do everything in my power to change my life, and I’m not going to make any excuses. I’m going to change my whole life. That meant I was willing to stop eating the food that I liked. I was willing to stop eating cheeseburgers and pizza and drinking Cokes and Dr Pepper. Because my health was more important to me.
There was nothing I was willing to hold on to that was more important than life and health. And I had several people; I had a strong reason to live. Again, it goes back to mindset. Why are you doing what you’re doing? What’s your motivation? For me, it was my wife and my parents. I was a newlywed, been married two years. I’m an only child. So, the idea of my parents and my wife standing at my grave side was so absolutely painful to me, to think about my parents burying their only child, my wife burying me. We’d been together eight years. We dated for six years and we’d been married for two, so we were pretty close. So, those were my reasons to live. I had to organize all this stuff in my head, like, do I want to live? Why? Why do I want to live? And if so, what am I going to do about it? Am I going to cross my fingers and hope for the best, or am I going to take massive action to change my life and help my body heal? And obviously I took massive action. We’ve been conditioned though in our culture to look for the quick fix, the magic bullet, the hack. Biohacking – what a crock.
Allan (34:16): I’m glad you said that, because I thought I might be the only person on earth that actually kind of felt that way.
Chris Wark (34:24): I hope it’s not just us two Allan, really.
Allan (34:30): My book is coming out. I talk about an experiment where you use big rocks, little rocks and sand.
Chris Wark (34:36): Yeah, I know it.
Allan (34:38): Just do the big rocks first. There are so many big rocks in front of us that you don’t have to be worried about the sand right now. That’s not going to help you at this point of your journey. Particularly if you’re dealing with an illness, you need to find that big rock as fast as you can and implement that in your life. You don’t need to be focused on the sand. The big rock is there staring you right in the face and you have to, like you said, take massive action and get that big rock in your jar.
Chris Wark (35:09): That’s awesome. I say something very similar to that often to my group. We have people in a coaching program and I have a large community of people that follow me that I’m trying to constantly encourage and inspire. One of the things that I found myself saying, because I saw these obvious, sort of glaring problems in people’s lives… Or not problems, it was more like stumbling blocks. I don’t even know how I came to this conclusion exactly, but anyway, the expression is, “Don’t let the little things get in the way of the big things.” So many people get caught up in some dumb little detail and they get hung up on it and they can’t take action because they have some kind of confusion or they need an answer on some little quibbling question that just doesn’t matter. Feel free to use that in your book and give me a quote: “Don’t let the little things get in the way of the big things.” You can Google it and make sure no one else said it first. But that’s the truth.
And this thing about hacking, it’s like everybody is looking for a quick fix and a magic bullet. And the medical industry, the pharmaceutical industry and the supplement industry is ready to take advantage of anyone with that mentality. And the truth is, health is not caused by a hack. You can’t hack your way to health. What you have to do is you have to change everything. You have to take massive action. It’s not about, what’s the minimum effective dose? That’s a recipe for failure. Now, having said that, I love it when small changes produce big results, but the reality of it is, massive action produces massive results. Small changes usually produce small results. But if you make enough small changes, they add up to a big result. So all those little changes that I made in my life – removing every toxic thing in my home, replacing my body care products, eating all organic food, cutting out all the junk food, fast food, processed food, all that stuff, exercising every day.
Exercise is so amazing. I mentioned what’s causing and contributing to cancer and what you can do to reverse it. My life’s mission and work is to educate people on this, to help patients take care of themselves and increase their odds of survival and help people that want to prevent it decrease their odds of ever getting cancer. A plant-based diet is a huge part, but exercise is the other big part. It’s this really complicated idea, diet and exercise. But this is the 40+ Fitness podcast. I’m 41 years old. Spoiler alert – I didn’t die. I’m almost 15 years out. My 15 year Cancerversary is in December, and I’m the strongest I’ve ever been in my life. I’m in the best shape, I’m the most fit I’ve ever been, and exercise is the reason. But beyond just being strong and fit, exercise actually flips genetic switches in your body. It flips genes that are anti-cancer genes, cancer-protective genes. It turns them on and it turns cancer-promoting genes off. It doesn’t matter if you inherited some cancer gene. Exercise can keep that gene off – that’s how powerful it is. We know based on numerous studies, which are referenced in the book, you need at least 30 minutes a day, six days a week, up to 60 minutes. So somewhere in that range – 30 to 60 minutes a day of exercise – aerobic exercise, strength training. But get in there, get sweaty, huff and puff, run, walk, do yoga, do karate, rock climbing. Move your body. Sweaty exercise really is the best, because sweating detoxifies your body of heavy metals, namely the big four – mercury, arsenic, cadmium and lead. So, exercise is huge.
The plant-based diet – tons of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables have all these amazing anti-cancer compounds. Americans are only eating one to two servings of fruits and vegetables per day on average, which is terrible. Terrible. It’s abysmal. And when you look at the healthiest populations around the world, they’re eating a minimum of 10 servings per day. That’s actually the new recommended dietary minimum, is 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. It sounds like a lot and people think 10 servings are 10 meals. A serving is only half a cup. So, a plate of veggies is going to be three or four servings. It’s easy to eat three or four servings of fruits and vegetables.
Allan (40:02): And when you’re eating predominantly plants, from a volume perspective, it feels like it’s more. There’s a lot of water, some fiber in there, and all the good stuff. You look at a serving of broccoli – it is going to look about the same as probably the chicken breast you have sitting there. If the chicken breast wasn’t there, and instead you had quinoa, the broccoli, and some beans or maybe a salad, or just even a big salad – you’re looking at picking up, like you said, three to four servings of those vegetables pretty easily, pretty quickly.
Chris Wark (40:39): Easily. Oatmeal for breakfast, a big salad for lunch, cooked veggies for dinner – rice, beans, potatoes. The good starches that have unfortunately been demonized by so many health gurus and weight loss gurus, that starches are the enemy and you need to eat chicken breast and kale or whatever. But the truth is the healthiest, longest living populations subsist on starches. That’s their staple food. They’re eating about 65% of their calories from carbohydrates – so rice, potatoes, and lots of beans, especially beans.
Allan (41:17): But we’re not talking the instant kind. We’re talking they’re growing them, they’re sprouting them, they’re doing their food the traditional ways. It’s a little different than walking in and buying a box of instant oatmeal or instant oats, and calling that your starch. You do have to look at the quality.
Chris Wark (41:36): Quality matters, absolutely. Organic matters. If you can find it and afford it, organic is best because you’re reducing your exposure to toxic pesticides, especially Roundup glyphosate, which is a probable human carcinogen. There’s a really fascinating study that just came out of France where they followed tens of thousands of people over five years and they found that those who ate an organic diet had a 34% reduced risk of breast cancer – obviously women, and had a 70% to 80% reduced risk of Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas. That’s huge. What does that tell you? That tells you that the pesticides used in non-organic food are causing a percentage of those cancers. There are multiple studies linking lymphomas to pesticides as well.
Allan (42:32): In my next episode, I’m actually talking to a woman that wrote a book called Informed Consent, and she deep dives into that topic as well. So, stay tuned. We’re going to be talking about Roundup in the next episode. Another big, I’m not going to call it a major action, but it was something that came across your path, and you’ve been using this successfully in your wellness journey since you were diagnosed. You’ve been doing some fasting. I know that there’s an aspect of apoptosis that’s called “programmed cell death”. Basically a cancer cell doesn’t know what it’s supposed to be doing other than replicating and it gets really, really good at that. That’s where the cancer is, and that’s the growth factor of it. But fasting can help with that process. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Chris Wark (43:27): Fasting is an amazing practice that we’ve gotten away from. Fasting has been used as a religious practice for centuries. It’s also been sort of involuntary; in other words, cultures where they have food scarcity end up fasting, not by choice, going several days without food at a time. It’s wonderful for your body to go without food, which sounds counterintuitive, right? What we know now is the ideal fast is three to five days on water. When you stop eating, your body goes into repair mode and protection mode, and it starts breaking down all this unused accumulated crap that’s built up in your body. Your cells sort of throw up these force field-like defenses that protect them and they start a process called autophagy, which is where they, again, break down parts of them that are not useful and they burn those things for energy.
It’s like if you were trapped in a cabin in a blizzard, and you only had a fireplace for heat and you ran out of firewood. What would you do? You’d start breaking down the table, the chairs, the cabinets. You’d start burning everything in there that was non-essential to survival. You would burn for heat to survive. You wouldn’t throw your food in the fire. That’s the last thing you’d throw in there. You wouldn’t throw your blankets in there, but you would throw everything else in there. Your cells are doing the same kind of process. Healthy cells are really good at this process, autophagy, but cancer cells are bad at it. So, fasting actually weakens cancer cells. During a fast, old and damaged cells in your body, which are known as senescent cells, die off. And this is good, because you have a lot of cells in your body that are senile, and senile cells, especially senile immune cells are not good at their job anymore. So, imagine an army full of senior citizens. That’s not a good army, right? During a fast, all these old and damaged cells – immune cells are the ones that we’re particularly interested in – die.
Again, you want to fast between three and five days. When you start eating again at the end of the fast, your body ramps up production of new immune cells. It’s called stem cell activation. Fasting triggers stem cell activation and regeneration. So, it produces all of these brand new, young, healthy immune cells that are like the 18, 19, 20-year-old soldiers that are like, “Let me at them!” They’re cancer scavengers. That’s what those cells are doing. There are a lot of different types of immune cells – we won’t go into all that – but the point is, just for simplicity’s sake, fasting regenerates your immune system. So, so, so powerful; and among a lot of other benefits in the body. So yeah, I’m a huge fan of fasting. Juice fasting is wonderful. It doesn’t accomplish quite the same thing; it’s great for weight loss and detoxification. But a pure water fast or the Fasting Mimicking Diet, which is developed by a company called ProLon – those are two of the most powerful things you can do for yourself. And fasting costs you nothing.
Allan (47:15): It’ll actually save you money in food. That’s basically 1/10 of the month, so your food budget just went down by 1/10 and you can afford to buy higher quality food.
Chris Wark (47:26): That’s right. You save three to five days’ worth of groceries. That’s significant for some people. That’s hundreds of dollars.
Allan (47:33): I’m definitely going to be doing some more experimentation with fasting in the coming year. I have to leave you with one last question. I define “wellness” as being the healthiest, fittest and happiest you can be. What are three strategies or tactics to get and stay well?
Chris Wark (47:49): That’s good. I like your definition. The big takeaways here, I think… And I hope your audience will read my book because it really goes deep and there’s tons of science in there. But what I think based on the available evidence and research and all these wonderful studies – number one is a plant-based diet. You don’t have to be pure vegan, but if you can cut your animal product consumption… I didn’t get into all the ways that animal protein fuels cancer growth. It’s in the book. But if you can cut it down from three times a day to three times a week, you’re doing a huge favor for yourself. You’re doing yourself so much good. Trust me on this. Number two is going to be exercising 30 to 60 minutes a day. And then the third thing, which I didn’t get to get into, but I know we’ve got a couple of minutes, so I’ll touch on it here – it’s stress.
Stress is a root cause of many diseases. It’s one of those concepts that most people don’t have a great handle on it. They know what stress feels like, but they don’t know what’s causing the stress. They don’t know why they feel stressed. Sometimes they do, but sometimes they don’t, and there’s a lot more to it than they realize. So, stress is a state in the body that is caused by conflict – emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical conflict. To put it very simply, all negative thoughts produce negative emotions, which produce a negative stress response in the body, which is elevated adrenaline and cortisol. When those hormones are elevated, they suppress your immune function and they increase inflammation in the body. And when you have increased inflammation and suppressed immune function, your body is a place where cancer can thrive.
I said earlier at the very beginning, it’s not about killing cancer, beating cancer, fighting cancer. It’s about healing the body and creating an environment where cancer cannot thrive. That involves nutrition, detoxification, and repair and regeneration. Improving your immune function is such a huge part of cancer healing, survival and prevention. So, stress suppresses your immunity. If you have anger, jealousy, envy, prejudice, shame and guilt, if you’re carrying bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness – all these negative thoughts and emotions – if you’re carrying these things through life, what it does is it keeps you in a state of chronic stress. Not to mention work stress, family stress, the problems that come and go in life. It just piles on top of the baggage that you’re already carrying.
I heard a great analogy that I think everyone can understand. If I gave you a five-pound dumbbell and I said to hold it out to your side, just hold it up in the air, and I said, “Is that heavy?” You would say, “No.” If I said we’ll keep holding it; five minutes go by. Is it heavy now? You’d say it’s a little heavy. It’s starting to feel a little heavy now. If you held it for an hour, at some point you’ve got to put it down. It’s too heavy. The weight didn’t change. That’s what bitterness, unforgiveness and all of these negative emotions and thoughts that we’re carrying with us do to us. The longer we hold on to bitterness, the heavier it gets, the more it weighs us down and the more pain it causes us.
I talk about this in great detail in the book, but I want to at least leave your audience with this one thing they can do right now. There’s a lot more you can do to remove stress from your life and you really should make it a priority, but forgiveness is the most powerful stress reducer in your life. The most powerful thing you can do is make a decision to forgive every person who has ever hurt you. That means going back in time and thinking through your life. You have to sit down and focus on this, and let those people come up and let those memories come up. And the painful ones. And one by one, choose to forgive. The way you choose to forgive is pretty simple. Forgiveness is not a feeling. You can still be mad and you can still forgive, even if you’re mad. And you should, because if you’re waiting until you’re not mad, you’re probably waiting a long time. There is an expression: “Time heals all wounds”, and that’s fine, but the longer you wait, the more pain you cause yourself.
So, the way I did it and the way I think everyone should do it is you say, “Okay God, You know what they did. You know how I feel about it. And I’m so mad, but I’m giving it to You. I’m choosing to forgive them and I’m giving it to You. They’re all Yours. You can deal with them. I am not going to carry this. I’m not going to hold it against them anymore.” And we’re doing it by name. Now, I’m not saying, “I forgive everybody” at once. That doesn’t work. You have to forgive John for calling you an idiot or whatever. So, one by one I would give these people to God and just say, “I’m forgiving them. I’m letting it go. They’re all yours. And I’m asking you to bless them.” Which sounds crazy, like, “I don’t want blessing. I want a lightning bolt.” By the way, you’re not being insincere. God knows your heart. He knows you don’t want Him to bless them. He knows, but the fact that you’re asking Him to bless them despite your feelings is so powerful. I’m telling you, it heals your heart. It just opens your heart up to healing like nothing else. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Some of the best life advice, period.
Allan (54:16): Absolutely, and thank you for sharing those. Really, thank you for that. If someone wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about your book, Chris Beat Cancer, where would you like for me to send them?
Chris Wark (54:28): It’s easy to find. It’s on Amazon, it’s in Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million. It’s pretty much anywhere books are sold. If you love bookstores and you want to support your local bookstore, I want to encourage you to call up your favorite bookstore and ask them if they have it or ask them to order it for you. They can all get it. But if you don’t care and you want it right now, you can just get on Amazon and have it in two clicks and have it tomorrow. Or download the audio book, which is read by me. Or the e-book or whatever. So it’s pretty easy to get. My site is ChrisBeatCancer.com. The cool thing about the site is I’ve interviewed I guess over 70 people now, who’ve healed all types and stages of cancer. So, it’s an incredible resource of encouragement, inspiration and support that I’ve built over the last eight years. Tons of articles and videos, interviews with doctors and experts and people who’ve healed. It’s just something I am so proud of and excited about, and I feel like it’s doing a lot of good in the world.
Allan (55:30): Good, good. You can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/355, and I’ll have the links there in the show notes. Chris, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness.
Chris Wark (55:42): Thanks, Allan. It’s a pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Chris is a pretty inspirational guy and I really enjoyed that conversation with him. The book is excellent. A lot of us are dealing with cancer. I think the last statistic I saw was that pretty much every human being on earth at some point in their life is going to have cancer, a diagnosable cancer, and we talked about that. So this is a very important issue. Chris’s approach, while not down mainstream medicine’s bailiwick for the most part, actually is kind of a message of hope. If you are dealing with cancer or someone in your family is dealing with cancer, I think Chris and what he has to offer are great and you should check him out more. So please do that.
The question I’ve got before I cut out here is, have you got your pre-order on The Wellness Roadmap book yet? What are you waiting for? It’s in Amazon right now. You can go to Amazon and you can search for “Wellness Roadmap” and it’s going to come up first. Good, because now people are in there paying attention to it. So, Amazon sees it and they value it. Last time I tried to search my name on there, it still wants to send me to an audio mixer. Maybe that’s just me. I know Amazon’s pretty smart and probably knows that I’m doing a podcast because I buy all my equipment through them. So, they’re thinking I want a mixer, but I’m not a mixer. It’s not an Allen mixer; it’s Allan Misner. So, I have to tell them “No, not mixer. Yes, I actually meant to search for Allan Misner.”
So, if you type in “Allan Misner” and don’t see the book – go ahead… And even if you put “book”, it’s going to put books about mixers, which is bizarre. But anyway, you go in and you can type in my name, Allan Misner, and then actually click on “Allan Misner” and it’ll take you to the book. You can pre-order the ebook right now at an insanely low price. It’s actually the lowest price that Amazon will let me offer the book. I cannot offer it for free at this point. So $0.99 is as low as I can offer it.
It’s probably going to be different in different markets. I know I was hearing from India and the UK that they couldn’t actually pre-order it yet, and I’m sorry. That’s Amazon being Amazon. We’ve done everything on our side to make sure that the book was available, but I guess that’s just their way. It’ll be available December 4th, I think for everybody else. So please do go out, get a copy of the book. I really do think if you enjoy what we’re doing on this podcast, you’re going to love this book.
And please, once you get it, when you’ve had an opportunity to look at it, go give me an honest rating and review. Amazon is that weird, weird one. When I say Apple really cares about reviews, and Google really cares about reviews – Amazon will not show my book for much longer if they don’t see these ratings and reviews. If you’ve been on Amazon, you go to buy a book, you look at a book, you see people who bought this book also bought that book, or people who liked this book also liked that book. That algorithm, that whole recommendation thing – that is all based on those ratings and reviews that you do. So please, please, please, if you enjoy the book, go out and give me an honest rating and review. That’s really going to help boost this book and let me help as many people as possible. Thank you for that.
On episode 335 of the 40+ Fitness podcast, we meet Dr. Neil Baum and discuss his book, How’s It Hanging?: Expert Answers to the Questions Men Don’t Always Ask.
Allan (0:49): Our guest today is a professor of Clinical Urology at Tulane Medical School. He has written several books and many long-running columns for American Medical News and Urology Times, and more than 250 peer-reviewed articles on various urologic topics. He is Dr. Neil Baum. Dr. Baum, welcome to 40+ Fitness.
Dr. Baum (1:11): Good morning, Allan. Thank you for the invitation. I look forward to our discussion.
Allan (1:17): Absolutely. Now the book that you have here – I have a copy of it; I really enjoyed it – is called How’s It Hanging?, which is an apropos title. We’re going to talk a lot about men’s health, but I want to be clear because I do this when I talk about women in menopause and I’ve had a few experts on that. We’re talking about men’s health, but for anyone who has a man in their life, this is an episode worth listening to, because you’re going to learn a little bit and it’ll help you have the right conversations with him so he knows what’s going on. I just want to put that out there first because I think a lot of people will hear this is a men’s topic and think they can tune out. And the reality is, our health and the health of the people around us is really, really important, and this book can be a great resource for the men in your lives, if you don’t happen to be a man. Before we get into it, as I got into the book, one of the things that was really good about it was how you very carefully went through. Some of this is really complex medical information, but you’ve taken it down to, “Let’s just have a conversation, guys. Here are what the basics are.” Pretty scientific, pretty difficult, and really kind of dumb it down for the rest of us, for a lack of a better word.
Dr. Baum (2:25): That was very much intended, that I didn’t want to talk in medical language and be high-brow about it, but I wanted to make it something that everyone could understand, and then take that information, digest it and become more knowledgeable when they go and speak to their physician, so the patient, or the man, and the doctor are on the same page. That was what was intended.
Allan (2:55): I think that’s so important because it used to be a situation where the doctor said, “This is what you should do.” I think the medical practice is that people now are being given decisions, opportunities to choose different paths of how we deal with different medical things. Having a basis of understanding where you can go in and have that conversation with your doctor is really, really important because the doctor won’t necessarily tell you, “This is the treatment you’re going to do.” In many cases, they’re going to give you these different treatments with all the pros and cons, and then you personally have to make the decision that’s right for you.
Dr. Baum (3:38): This has been the shift in thinking in the last four decades of health care. In the past, the doctor had all the knowledge and the patient was at the mercy of the doctor to tell him or her what advice or what they needed to do. In 2018 any patient has as much information as the doctor has. Consequently, the patient can be in the driver’s seat and it can be shared decision making. I think that’s a much better way to have a doctor-patient relationship, when they’re a team working together to help the man or the woman achieve optimal health.
Allan (4:27): That’s why this book is so valuable, because this is going to give you the information so that you can be a valuable team member in your own decisions, so you’re not just going at this saying, “Okay, the doctor says this.” This book will actually give you an understanding of why the doctor’s saying what they’re saying, and as things continue to advance, this is a good primer for you to basically be in the driver’s seat as you’re going through making those decisions. I wanted to shift the conversation, because as you go through the book, you talk about various things that men may or can deal with, particularly as we’re getting older. One of those that I think strikes home for a lot of people is the prostate cancer. Can you tell us a little bit about what’s going on with prostate cancer, why it could be a big problem for us, and what we can do to know whether we have a problem or not?
Dr. Baum (5:14): Can I begin by telling the audience what is the prostate gland? Is that okay to start?
Allan (5:19): Sure, absolutely.
Dr. Baum (5:21): The prostate gland is unique to men; we’re the only ones that have it. It’s a small, walnut-size organ. It’s located at the base of the bladder and it surrounds the tube called the urethra that goes through the man’s penis. It is that gland that secretes fluid that nourishes sperm when a man is in his reproductive years. So, when a man is younger, it’s a gland of enjoyment and pleasure. However, as men age, for reasons not entirely known, the prostate gland grows. And when it grows, it compresses that tube, the urethra, making urination difficult. Most of the time when that prostate gland grows and compresses that tube, it’s benign and it can be treated usually with medication. However, for reasons not entirely known, sometimes the gland grows and develops a malignancy in the prostate gland that can spread locally to other organs in the pelvis, and it can spread to distant sites like bones and liver. These are examples of what we call “spreading” or “metastasis”. 250,000 men every year develop prostate cancer. That’s new cases every year. It usually begins around age 50 to 55, and then it gets more common as men age. By the time a man is 80, most men will have prostate cancer. However, in an older man it is usually not a major problem, and most men die with prostate cancer, not from it. However, if it develops in a younger man, 50-55, in his middle age, then it can be very problematic, and then it requires aggressive treatment. We’re not going to talk about treatment today, but I want to point out that about 35,000 men every year die from prostate cancer. Most of those deaths don’t need to occur, because if a man gets a diagnosis early, when the disease is confined to the prostate gland and it’s slow-growing, it can be cured. Have I explained everything so far?
Allan (8:25): Yeah. One of the interesting things that I got out of the book was, this is not something where you’re going to have really any outward symptoms that you have a cancer. Some cancers, you can kind of sense that there’s a problem early on, but this is one that it can get all the way to the point where it’s spreading and you may not even know that you have a problem.
Dr. Baum (8:47): If there’s one thing I want to leave this program with, it’s that comment – that early prostate cancer has NO symptoms. It does not affect the urethra, it does not affect urination. It may have no symptoms, and that’s why men over the age of 50 need to talk to their doctor about getting screened for prostate cancer. That requires an annual blood test called PSA – Prostate-Specific Antigen. That’s a very simple blood test; the result is available in 24-48 hours. And they have to have a digital rectal exam, and that’s where the doctor inserts his finger into the rectum and feels the prostate gland because it sits right on top of the rectum. Now, what’s the doctor looking for? If I can ask you, Allan, and the audience – if you make a fist and you feel the soft part at the base of your thumb, that’s what the prostate gland normally feels like – kind of rubbery, movable, and soft. Move your finger to the top of the knuckle. Have you done that, Allan? I’m kind of watching you.
Allan (10:20): Yes. I’m here, I’m doing it.
Dr. Baum (10:23): Alright. If it feels like the top of the knuckle – that’s a nodule, and that’s suspicious and it needs to be evaluated. Now, there are certain men who are at a higher risk of prostate cancer. Those are African-American men, and any man who has a brother, uncle, cousin, father – a blood relative who has prostate cancer. Those men are at risk for prostate cancer, and they need to start being tested with that blood test and the digital rectal examination around age 40 to 45. If it is a man with no family history, not African-American, he can begin testing at age 50. And then I recommend at age 70 they stop getting tested. If you have prostate cancer at age 70-75, it’s a very slow-growing cancer, it’s not going to cause a significant problem, and it does not require treatment. But every man should have a discussion, have this communication with his doctor and decide should he agree to a screening or testing program, because if you wait until there are symptoms, like you said a few minutes ago – those cases where it produces symptoms, it’s going to be too late. Then it has spread to other organs in the pelvis, to the bladder, blocked the kidney and spread to bones and to the liver. Don’t wait for prostate cancer to develop symptoms before starting to proceed on a screening or treatment program.
Allan (12:34): I think “cancer” is one of those words for a lot of people, I know for myself, it’s just a scary word, because it seems like your body is going haywire and there are things that you can or can’t do about it, but there’s not a good cancer out there. But sometimes we go out and get these screens, and I understand we can get a positive PSA. That doesn’t mean we have cancer. It’s a marker that we then need to do additional diagnosis on, so I don’t want a person to go out and get their PSA tested, have an elevated PSA and freak out, because two things: One, you said it’s very slow-growing, and there are treatment options.
Dr. Baum (13:09): And also the majority of mild elevation of PSA in men is usually, most frequently not due to prostate cancer. It’s due to inflammation of the prostate, infection called “prostatitis” – easily treated with antibiotics, or it is due to that growth of the prostate gland that most men have after the age of 50. So it is really the trend of the PSA. The normal range is 0 to 4. If you have a PSA that is 3, that’s not alarming. The next year the prostate gland grows a little bit; it’s a little larger and the PSA is 3.5 – really not that alarming. Then if all of a sudden, four or five years later, the PSA is 6 or 7 – that becomes an issue. It’s the trend in the PSA. That’s why it’s good to get a baseline PSA. There are men I see who have a PSA less than 1.0. I don’t want to bog us down in numbers in this program, but they have a normal examination of a PSA less than 1. They can come back every two to three years for a test, if the PSA is that low. But if the PSA is in the 3 to 4 range, they probably ought to come back annually.
Allan (14:43): Okay. Now, another cancer that I think scares a lot of men, because now we’re getting close to home, is testicular cancer. Can you go through the same exercise we just did with prostate cancer, talk about what this is, how we would potentially know that we have it?
Dr. Baum (15:00): The testicle is the organ that is located in the scrotum; there’s one on each side. Most men have two testicles, and the testicles have two functions. One – production of sperm, which is necessary to fertilize an egg and start the reproductive cycle. And the second is, the testicle is responsible for the male hormone, the testosterone, that is responsible for muscle mass, it’s responsible for libido or sex drive, it is helpful for erections, bone mass, wellbeing, controlling the red blood cell production from bones. It is a very important hormone that begins when a boy is in adolescence. Around the age of 12 to 14 a young boy develops pubic hair, hair underneath his arms, and by 16 he starts to grow a beard. That’s all due to testosterone; that’s the male hormone. The counterpart in a woman is called estrogen, and in a man it is testosterone. The testosterone unfortunately peaks around age 22 to 25. Around age 25, the testosterone slightly decreases about one percent a year. So a 25-year-old man, very sexually active and functional, and has good muscle mass – he’s not going to notice that one percent change at age 26. He won’t notice it at age 30. But by the time he reaches age 50 to 55 and his testosterone has gone down 10 to 15 percent, he may become symptomatic.
The symptoms of low testosterone are decrease in libido, a lethargy or a lack of energy, the erections are not as good or as strong as they were when the testosterone was normal. They may notice a decrease in muscle mass and strength. One of the common symptoms that’s often overlooked as a cause of low testosterone is falling asleep after meals. A man usually will report that he just runs out of gas at 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon. He has his dinner meal, and then he’s sitting in a chair watching TV and falls asleep. Often times that symptom is due to low testosterone. Also, I want to point out that testosterone increases the risk of obesity, it increases the risk of diabetes, and it also increases the risk of depression. This is a condition that is very common after the age of 50 to 55 in almost all men, because the normal aging process results in a decrease in testosterone one percent a year. It becomes symptomatic at age 50 to 55. That’s a beginning introduction, and let me turn it back to you and see what questions you have, and then I’ll go on and talk about the treatment, Allan.
Allan (18:50): Okay. Obviously we need our testis to make sure that we’re keeping the tee that our body can produce. And then here we are faced with the potential that we could get cancer. How are we going to recognize that we have a cancer, that we may have a problem there, so that we can know that we need to have a conversation? I’ll go to my doctor and they’ll ask me basic health questions about how I feel, but they’ve never specifically tested me to say, “You might have this problem.” So, I want to take it upon myself to understand what I need to do to, not self-diagnose, but to recognize there’s a problem.
Dr. Baum (19:28): I want to answer that question, and I want to backtrack, because I do want to talk about testicular cancer, but those are two entirely different conditions, because one part of the testicle makes sperm; another part of the testicle – different cells – make testosterone. So let’s talk about the two different conditions. What you have to do regarding testosterone – you say, “I’m in my early 50s and just not feeling quite as peppy as I used to. I’m having difficulty holding my erection. My interest in sexual intimacy has diminished.” You say to your doctor, “Would you please order a testosterone level on me?” I would request it for a middle age man who has symptoms. Now, if you don’t have any symptoms, you don’t screen for testosterone deficiency. If a man is sexually active, strong, energetic, no problem with the muscle mass or energy, not irritable or depressed – you don’t need to get a testosterone. It’s fine; that’s not a problem. But if you’re starting to feel the symptoms of decreased energy and decreased sex drive, falling asleep after meals – you need to ask the doctor for a testosterone level.
Shift gears now for a second. Let’s talk about testicle cancer. Testicle cancer is the most common cancer in men between the ages of 20 and 40. Again, like prostate cancer, early testicle cancer has no symptoms. Now, here’s the suggestion that I hope men get from this webinar. I want to mention again, there are no symptoms for early prostate cancer. There are no symptoms for early testicle cancer. Women are instructed every month, after their period, to do a breast self-examination. The health care profession is deficient in not instructing men between the ages of 20 and 40 to do a testicle self-exam every month. When they’re in the shower and the scrotum is relaxed, they need to feel their testicle and examine it. It feels very smooth and there are no lumps and bumps in the testicle. If they feel that nodule, like I showed you when you make a fist on the top of your knuckle – if you feel that in the testicle, you need to make an appointment with your doctor to get this examined. Often you will get a blood test and a testicle ultrasound examination, and that will make the diagnosis of testicle cancer.
When I began my career as a urologist in the 1970s, testicle cancer took the lives of a lot of young men. Today, the treatment is so effective that very few men will succumb or die to testicle cancer. But they must make the diagnosis, and it is the responsibility of the health care profession to explain to young men. Men in high school and young boys should get health classes and learn how to do a testicle self-exam. There is nothing wrong with men doing it. It is good. Women do it for breast self-exams; there’s a lot of publicity around this. It’s kind of amazing to me, Allan, that every October, the National Football League goes pink. You know what I’m talking about? The breast cancer awareness month. Are you aware of that?
Allan (23:55): Yeah, absolutely.
Dr. Baum (23:57): What happened to the National Football League telling men to check for prostate and testicle cancer? It just boggles my mind that the women, who are much more aggressive about the marketing and promoting of breast cancer awareness, got a boys’ game to put the pink on and get the word out. I think the month of September or November ought to be men’s health awareness month and talk about prostate and testicle cancer.
Allan (24:35): Before we get off that, there actually is a movement to do something exactly like that. It’s called Movember, and it’s an organization I participated in last year that basically you try to grow a mustache for the month of November. You donate money and you’re trying to raise money, so all of us are doing fundraising. We did it at our company; there was a big group of us that got together and we all grew a mustache. The basic thing is, someone is going to comment if you start growing a mustache out of nowhere. If you’ve never had one and you start to grow one, you actually start getting comments on it, and that’s the opportunity to have that initial conversation about men’s health issues that include these two cancers. So, it is happening.
Dr. Baum (25:19): That was a genius idea. I believe it started in Australia. I’m not sure. Does that sound familiar?
Allan (25:25): I’m not sure of the exact origins of it. I just know it was interesting around the office, because people were talking about men’s health issues like they never had before. It was a very interesting opportunity and I’m glad I went through it. I think it’s a growing movement and I hope it does continue to grow, because this is one of those big things. It kind of goes down to that whole point – women seem to be the caregivers in the home, and men want to be these macho tough guys. It’s how we were brought up – we’re here to take care of other people. The women tend to look on the health side. You wanted me to ask you the question why do men live shorter lives, why do women live longer than men? And I do think that’s a big part of it, that there’s much more awareness by women of their health issues.
Dr. Baum (26:08): Women start into the health care arena right after they graduate from high school and college, when they are in their reproductive years. They frequently see their obstetrician and gynecologist, and they are programmed into annual health by getting a pap smear and a mammogram at a very early age. Men, on the other hand, have a void. After they graduate high school, they will seldom see a physician until they’re in their mid-50s, and consequently they’re not programmed to take care of themselves. In the South we have a saying here, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but men apply that not only to their cars and their fishing boats, but they apply it to their bodies. Unless they’re having a symptom, they don’t have to go in to see the doctor, so consequently they can go years with hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, because early on they don’t have any symptoms. So if it ain’t broke, they don’t fix it, and by the time they go in, when it becomes symptomatic and they have full-blown diabetes and they’re overweight and hypertensive and they have high cholesterol, they end up being on four to six medicines a day. The average man, after the age of 50 – middle age – is taking four to six pills a day. He wouldn’t have to do that if he went to see his physician early on, got his blood pressure checked, got his weight down, got an annual examination, and practiced good health habits. Men take on risky lifestyles – they smoke more than women, they consume more alcohol than women, most of the drug abusers are men more than women; and as a result, it’s impacting their longevity, and they die five to seven years earlier than women. I think the playing field is equal when we’re born. We all have two kidneys, one heart, one brain. And what happens, I think, women take much better care of themselves than men do. Men often take better care of their cars and their fishing boats and spend more time planning a vacation than they do taking care of their health. So programs like Movember are absolutely phenomenal in increasing awareness towards men’s health.
Allan (28:59): I agree. I don’t take that same mindset of, “Wait until it’s broke to fix it”, because I’ve seen how bad broke we can get before we actually recognize we have a problem. We hear a screech in our car and it’s in the shop the next day. We get a little sore here or there and we think, “I’ll just work this out and I’ll figure it out”, and then it becomes a bigger and bigger problem as it gets worse. You’re right, Movember is a very good movement, but I really believe that men and women should make a point of what I call “wellness visits”. The doctor is so used to seeing people that are already sick or already in bad shape and need a lot of help. If you make a practice of wellness visits – which I do anywhere between three to four a year, where I’ll go get a blood test and talk to my doctor about it, just to see if there’s anything out there that alarms him or that should alarm me – then we can have those conversations as a part of a wellness visit, not as a part of a care visit.
Dr. Baum (29:56): I would like to see the time come when the doctor would be paid to keep you well, and if you got sick, he didn’t get paid. I think we need to shift gears.
Allan (30:09): I don’t think you’re going to get a single doctor to sign on for that.
Dr. Baum (30:12): I know that’s unlikely to happen. That’s the pie in the sky.
Allan (30:18): That’s where the man, we have to step up and realize our importance in this health team. We have to be the instigator; we have to be the one that manages the situation and drives the car, so to speak, to say, “I am going to have these wellness visits because I want to know that I’m in good health. If my health habits are working, I should see my numbers trending better. And if it’s not working, then I need to maybe readjust and do something because I don’t want to be the guy on four to six medications per day. I’d rather not go through the expense of a surgery or having a foot cut off or whatnot because I have diabetes.” So, I make a point of the wellness visit and I think that’s what we should all do, as men and women, is step forward and say, “How do we become more empowered?” And that’s just by doing, by saying, “I’m going to get the blood tests, and then I’m going to make an appointment with my doctor and we’re going to talk about this.”
Dr. Baum (31:10): You made a good point when we started, right from the get go, when you said women should be listening to this program. And the reason is, even in my own household – I’m a physician – my wife takes responsibility upon herself for my health care. On my birthday every year, an appointment is made for me to go in and get screened and treated on a regular basic. In the Western world, but particularly in America, culturally, women are in charge of men’s health. Consequently it behooves women to be as responsible and as forthright, and maybe even read the book How’s It Hanging?, so they can be on the same language and the same page as the men, and get the men to the health care provider at a much earlier age. I think that’s really important. Our society seems to work that way, and I think women should take part of the responsibility. Ultimately it’s the man; we are in charge of ourselves. We have no excuse. But I think in our society, women control the health care of the children, and it is often that they become responsible for the health care of their spouses or their significant other.
Allan (32:41): And to make your job easier, let’s go in for those wellness visits and we’ll find these things like prostate cancer, testicular cancer early. And he’ll have the discussion with his doctor about fatigue levels, his energy levels, his libido. All those conversations that he would be having with his doctor are going to help him get the treatment so he stays well and he stays energetic and he stays the guy that you may have married 20 some odd years ago, because he’s taking care of his health and he’s keeping his body from aging faster than it needs to.
Dr. Baum (33:15): These men who take testosterone replacement therapy – their lives are like a light switch has been turned on. They just have been living in the dark, and are suffering in silence and not having the quality of life that they should have when it can be treated. I also want to point out about the abuse of testosterone. Let’s talk a little bit about that. Can we do that, Allan?
Allan (33:41): Yeah, absolutely.
Dr. Baum (33:43): For men who have everything, they’re firing on all cylinders – they don’t need a testosterone level, that’s not necessary for screening, and they should not take extra testosterone to make them extra strong or build more muscle mass. This is a dangerous thing to do, and to increase the testosterone beyond physiologic normal can have repercussions. The repercussions are that it tells the testicles you’ve got extra testosterone on board; the testicles will stop producing testosterone for people who are taking testosterone when they don’t need it, and the testicles shrink and they don’t come back. Consequently they’re stuck being on testosterone forever. That is something that should be avoided in normal men. The way to build up muscle mass is get into the gym, work out, lift weights, and not take creatinine and supplements and testosterone when you don’t need it.
Allan (34:58): Actually testosterone is one of those interesting hormones that if you’re in the gym lifting heavy weights, your body is naturally going to want to produce more. So there are things you can do in a natural sense. If you’re eating well and you’re exercising, and particularly lifting heavy things, you’re signaling to your body that you need more muscle mass, and your body will often respond by producing more testosterone.
Dr. Baum (35:20): Exactly. You can’t short circuit it or speed it up. It does happen when you do that, but at a risk. And the risk is that your testicles will stop making testosterone and you’ll be deficient forever. The second thing I want to point out is, testosterone is what fuels prostate cancer. So, if a man has a prostate cancer and he takes testosterone, he is going to fuel the prostate cancer and it’s absolutely contraindicated in men who are getting treatment for prostate cancer. So, before a man who is symptomatic, he has all the symptoms we’ve just discussed, he should have a testosterone level to show it’s low and a PSA to show it’s normal – then he can proceed with testosterone replacement therapy. No man should receive testosterone if they haven’t had a PSA and a digital rectal exam to make sure he doesn’t have prostate cancer. The extra testosterone or replacement therapy can accelerate the growth of prostate cancer.
Allan (36:39): I think the core of this, and the cool thing about this book is that you talk about a lot more than just what we went over today. You really go from one side to the other of men’s general health issues that we’re going to deal with, particularly as we age, and that awareness of what you should be looking for, what it means. And of course you get a little bit into what are some of the current things we can actually do about it. The book is How’s It Hanging? Dr. Baum, if someone wanted to get in touch with you, learn more about the book, where would you like for me to send them?
Allan (37:39): This is a book that I think every man should read, and most women should probably read as well, particularly if you are the head of health at your house. You should know about some of these issues, and this is a really good book to have available so you can help understand them and be a driver in your own health and fitness. Dr. Baum, thank you so much for being a part of 40+ Fitness podcast. I really appreciate you.
Dr. Baum (38:02): Thank you, Allan. I enjoyed chatting with you, and hope we’ve brought some light onto the topic of men’s health.
Allan (38:11): Absolutely.
I hope you enjoyed that conversation with Dr. Baum. Men, we do need to be more proactive in looking out for our own health. I know a lot of us like to let the women in our lives be the ones that nag at us to do those things, but really, we need to be doing that for ourselves. So I hope you got something valuable from today’s session, and if you did, would you please go out and give us a rating and review? You can do that through the app that you’re listening to this podcast on, or you can go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Review and leave a review today. I read each and every one of those and I really do appreciate hearing what you’re getting from the podcast, what you’re learning and how it’s changing and working for you. So please, go to 40PlusFitnessPodcast.com/Review, or leave a rating and review on your app of choice.
As you’re listening to this podcast, if you’re listening to it the first couple of days it’s come out, I’m either in Belize or I’m on my way back. You’ve probably wondered, I’ve talked about taking a couple of trips here and there. I guess I’ll go ahead and somewhat spill the beans. My wife and I are looking to further downsize, further down-stress our lives. It’s no secret that stress has been something top of mind for me for over the past year as I’ve looked at what it’s doing to my health and wellness and seeing it as my next big rock, the next big thing that I need to take care of to get my health and wellness exactly where I need it to be, because my stress level tends to be the one thing that really foils and stumbles up everything else. When I’ve got my stress under control, everything else seems to just fall in place, and that’s what I’m working on doing. So my wife and I may actually move outside the country to find a lower stress, lower cost, lower maintenance level; minimalize some things and get ourselves into a better place. And so, we are checking these places out. If you are living abroad, if you are an expat and you’ve tried different places, I’d love to hear from you, really. You can contact me – firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’d love to hear your stories, love to hear what kind of guidance you can give me on that, because we are looking to do this type of thing in the near future. I’ll still do the podcast, I’ll still work with clients. That is a big part of what makes me happy and where I find joy, so I’m not letting that leave my life just for the sake of living in a smaller, quieter, less stressful location. But I do want to do something like this and I will keep doing this podcast and I will keep doing the training, and God willing, I will get this book out.
As I talk about the book, I wanted to remind you, you can go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com to learn more about The Wellness Roadmap book. It’s due to come out at the end of November, but there are still a lot of things that need to happen between now and then to include getting a launch team together. And I’d really appreciate if you would join me on the launch team. You can go to WellnessRoadmapBook.com, and there on the bottom of that page you’ll find an opportunity where you can go ahead and give me your email address and your name. I am not going to use this email address for anything else other than to give you updates on the book and to ask for your help as a part of The Wellness Roadmap book launch team. So I hope you will go out there today – WellnessRoadmapBook.com. Thank you.