Manila, July 22, 2003 By Ching M. Alano (STAR) That is just one of many meaty revelations made by obstetrician-gynecologist Rebecca Singson of the Asian Hospital and Medical Center during a woman-to-woman talk with us recently.

The caring lady doctor gingerly points out, "Not just any vegetable, you have to go organic because the residues from the pesticides can cause estrogenic effects. People donít realize that commercially grown animals (pigs, chickens, cows) are injected with hormones so they grow bigger, faster, sooner. It used to take a cow seven years to be full grown. Now, you can slaughter a cow at one year and a half. Children now have fuller breasts, even males have breasts because of the hormonal residues that show as estrogenic effects. All over the world, the sperm counts of men have decreased by 40 percent because of environmental toxicity. Thatís just one thing Ė there are 4,000 chemicals that have found their way into our food chain."

The good doctor strongly warns her pregnant clients to stop eating anything with preservatives Ė tocino, tapa, longganisa, hotdog, ham, sausage, luncheon meat, corned beef. "They all have nitrates which get converted to nitrites in our colon by the bad bacteria. Thereís a study that says that a pregnant woman who eats at least three hotdogs a week has a fetus with a double risk of developing brain tumor. Hotdog is the junk of all junk Ė all the 'basura' meat goes into a hotdog."

Dr. Singson always tells women, "It pays to read the label. If thereís a chemical-sounding name you donít understand, itís not natural. Though they make our lives easier and give flavor to food, all these chicken, pork, beef cubes, etc. are loaded with MSG. Nobody likes to crush a 'sampaloc' anymore to make 'sinigang' anymore, they just tear a pack of mix. A mix is nothing but an imitation of the taste made in the laboratory with chemicals."

Dr. Singson would rather do everything from scratch. "I donít even buy tomato sauce, I buy five kilos of tomatoes. Luckily, my husband (an Italian named Luciano Zahar) is an organic vegetarian. Italians have a very high awareness of good food. Theyíre the second longest living people in the world because of their diet."

Dr. Singson never gave her children Ė twins Giulia and Giovanni Ė bottled baby food. She breastfed her twins. "We canít stress enough that breastmilk is best. There are all these lame excuses not to breastfeed. Find me a pediatrician who has breastfed her child. I only know two, one of whom is with the Makati Medical Center. Women should be made aware of the importance of breastfeeding."

It is said in jest that 90 percent of what we eat keeps us alive while the remaining 10 percent keeps the doctors alive. "When you go to a doctor, he will give you medicine," says Dr. Singson. "Doctors donít usually bother advising their patients about the right food to eat. Diet is the key to health."

Japanese women are said to have the lowest incidence of breast cancer because of the miso, tofu and soybean in their diet. "Their diet is rich in isoflavones whose active ingredient genestein prevents the formation of new vessels, and you cannot have cancer growing if there are no vessels to feed it," Dr. Singson explains.

Dr. Singson prescribes probiotics. "Your intestines should only be populated by good bacteria, as found in Yakult and natural yogurt. But watch out because our stomach has gastric juice more potent than muriatic acid. If you have good bacteria, you will have good absorption of nutrients, lower cholesterol levels and less chances of developing cancer."

Every day, Dr. Singson helps her patients battle the Big C like their own bosom buddy. On Saturday, July 26, the Gynecologic Cancer Center of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Asian Hospital and Medical Center is opening its Gynecologic Screening Clinic.

Is the mere thought of going to a gynecologic clinic giving you goose bumps? Well, donít be afraid Ė just step inside Dr. Singsonís very inviting clinic, painted in happy colors of pink, peach and yellow and inspired by an Italian Renaissance garden.

Says the unconventional Dr. Singson, "I want to bring a bit of the outdoors inside my clinic so my patients can feel relaxed."

(Donít worry, you wonít be charged more for the ambience).

Surely, doctorís clinics never looked this warm and friendly youíd actually forget youíre going in for a colposcopy. Colpo-what?

"Colposcopy is now accepted worldwide as the most studied method of detection of early cervical cancer," says Dr. Singson. "The modern colposcope is a binocular microscope with a built-in light source with a magnification that enables the colposcopist to see the tissue being viewed anywhere from six to 30 times its actual size. In the presence of an abnormal pap smear result, the colposcope helps to determine any abnormal lesion, define the borders of the lesion and facilitate directing the biopsy. It therefore helps minimize unnecessary biopsies."

At high risk of developing cervical cancer, according to Dr. Singson, are women who had more than five deliveries, women who had sex earlier than 15, women who got pregnant earlier than 18, women who had five or more sexual partners or a partner who was promiscuous, and women who smoke.

Yes, smoking! "I canít imagine why people still like to smoke knowing all the risks," Dr. Singson says in disgust. "To partly explain that, one theory said that there are several stages of infancy. Those who were not breastfed get locked up in that oral stage so they substitute it with smoking."

Blame it on all those cigarette ads that picture smoking as something to die for (not something youíll die of). "Why donít we change that image?" Dr. Singson suggests. "Why donít you think that everytime you puff that cigarette, those free radicals are floating in your body, entering your tissues and beginning to cause membrane damage and cancer. Itís not relaxation, itís illness. Go and see a dying lung cancer patient."

Is it true that the bars in Makati have been losing money since the smoking ban was enforced and bar owners are drinking their troubles away?

"The bars losing business has nothing to do with the smoking ban," says Dr. Singson who, along with Makati doctors, hails the smoking ban as the best thing thatís ever happened to Makati. "Itís just that people now have less money to spend."

And theyíd rather spend it on more meaningful pursuits.

So, how often should a female get a checkup?

"At lease once a year, on her birthday; make it a special occasion for yourself to prioritize your health," says Dr. Singson. "After all, preventive medicine is always cheaper in terms of money and emotional havoc."

Salamat po, doctora, for that friendly, life-saving reminder. * * *

Dr. Rebecca Singson is at her Suite 202-203 at the Asian Hospital Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3 to 5 p.m. For appointments, call 892-6807, 892-7879, 771-9204, 771-9206.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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