In honor of October and Breast Cancer Awareness Month I want to talk about PREVENTION.
About 90-95% of breast cancer diagnoses are attributed back to lifestyle and environmental factors. Only 5-10% are attributed to genetics. This is much less than people think and are led to believe with so much talk on the BRCA and other breast cancer risk genes. I want women to know regardless of their genetics, they have so much power over their breast health and cancer risk. One of my favorite sayings is… Genes load the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger.
So let’s talk about the choices we can make every day to lower our risk:
Balance Estrogen - Our hormones play a large role in breast cancer development. We want estrogen to be balanced in our body. Too much estrogen can stimulate hormone-receptor positive breast cancer growth. Think of estrogen (and many other hormones and processes in our bodies) like the Goldilocks story. We don’t want too much estrogen, we don’t want too little estrogen, we want it to be just right. Here are ways to balance estrogen..
Optimize your GI tract.
Our GI tract is actually one of our biggest detoxers and hormone regulators. If our microbiome is unhealthy, we can see estrogen being recirculated back into the body which leads to an excess of estrogen. We want our hormones to serve their purpose and then leave our bodies. And bowel movements! We need daily, healthy bowel movements in order to eliminate waste, toxins, and yes - hormones! Constipation can also lead to an excess in estrogen.
If you need help optimizing your GI tract, seeking a Functional Medicine Doctor is a great place to start. Signs of GI dysfunction: bloating, constipation, loose stools, excess gas, nutrient deficiencies, pain, autoimmunities, skin issues, and you guessed it - hormone issues.
Our liver is our biggest detox organ. It is in charge of breaking down hormones and passing them along to the GI tract to be eliminated. If the liver isn't breaking them down or detoxing them, we can see an excess of estrogen. Here are ways to optimize liver health and detoxification:
Get your labs checked. Functional Medicine Doctor's evaluate comprehensive blood panels to assess liver function and toxicity. Many people have sluggish livers (whether it comes from lifestyle choice and/or genetics) that are not detoxing optimally.
Cruciferous vegetables. Vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, onions, garlic, cabbage, and many more contain a lot of sulfur which is a necessary nutrient that your liver uses for its processes.
Limit alcohol, sugar, and processed foods. The more toxic ingredients we take in, the harder our liver has to work to detox those ingredients. This will eventually bog up the liver and slow down its ability to perform its many processes.
Dry brush. This is a great way to naturally support your detox system. Here is an article on how to dry brush and its benefits: https://www.byrdie.com/dry-brushing-body
Sweat! Sweat daily - whether this comes from exercise or the sauna. Infrared saunas are one of my favorite ways to help patients increase detoxification especially from mold or heavy metal illness.
Swap your toxic products for clean products.
The ingredients in thousands of products that we use to clean our house, clean our bodies, make us look prettier, block the sun, and make us smell better are very toxic. Many of the ingredients are known as “estrogen mimickers” which are exactly how they sound. They look like natural estrogen to our body so they have the ability to bind to our hormone receptors. This in return can stimulate the hormone-receptor positive breast cancer growth.
The biggest estrogen mimickers are…
Parabens - most commonly found in hair and body products.
Phthalates - Found everywhere in cleaning products and beauty products.
BPA - Ditch plastic! Plastic Tupperware and plastic water bottles are where we can get some of our heaviest exposure to BPA. BPA also is what makes our receipts shiny… So opt for no receipt or an emailed one.
Are your products clean?
To check your products for toxic load and ingredient safety, head to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to search products. The Think Dirty app is also a great resource for product toxicity.
Some of my favorite clean brands…
Primally Pure - deodorant, face oils, moisturizers, and more
Well People - makeup
Ilia - makeup
Olga’s Organics - makeup, face oils, body oils, and more
Andalou - hair products and lotion
Mrs. Meyer’s - hand soaps, cleaning products, and more
Seventh Generation - dish soap, detergent, and more
Dr. Bonner’s - soaps, toothpaste, and more
Focusing on an anti-inflammatory diet is a great place to start for not only breast health and cancer prevention but also general health and chronic disease management.
Load up with…
Vegetables. Aim for your plate to be 50-75% vegetables of a few different colors. Our major antioxidants, polyphenols, and nutrients come from vegetables and fruits of all different colors. Those antioxidants and polyphenols are cancer fighting molecules and HUGE in prevention.
Healthy fat. Olive oil, nuts, grass-fed and pasture-raised meats and eggs, avocado, olives, seeds, grass-fed butter, wild caught fatty fish like salmon and sardines, and more are great sources of essential fatty acids. The omega3 fats are anti-inflammatory and help reduce the risk of breast cancer cell growth.
Protein. Properly raised meat like grass-fed beef, pasture raised pork and chicken, and wild-caught fish are packed with the most bioavailable protein to support the immune system in regulating cancer cell growth.
Sugar. Sugar is inflammatory and can lead to an imbalance in blood sugar and insulin. Insulin and sugar are a direct fuel for cancer cell growth. The more we can limit this the better.
Processed foods. This is more obvious. Especially gluten and sugar filled processed foods. Both are inflammatory to our body and inflammation can lead to cancer cell growth.
Inflammatory oils. Unhealthy oils like canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, and the rest of the vegetable oils are full of omega6 fatty acids which are generally more inflammatory.
The research behind moderate exercise and breast cancer and colon cancer prevention is thick. Mild to moderate exercise for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week is a great place to aim for.
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