During 2013, a whopping 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed among women in the US; about 2,240 new cases are expected in men (yes, men!). Breast cancer is related to a state of excess estrogens, known as estrogen dominance. Uterine fibroids, breast cysts, PMS, infertility, migraines, and even prostate cancer in men can be related to estrogen dominance.
We really are what we eat, drink, breathe, think, and cannot eliminate! While food most certainly is to be regarded as the best medicine, it can also be the biggest poison. When there's diminished elimination of physical and emotional toxins, they build up, which may lead to DNA damage and ultimately cancer.
Some of the best strategies for breast cancer prevention are:
1. Food is always first!
Eat antioxidant-rich foods like organic fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats and oils like avocado and extra virgin olive oil. Eat your rainbow of 8-10 servings of vegetables and fruits every day to get optimal phytonutrient benefit. Especially include cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and bok choy, which provide indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a phytonutrient which helps metabolize estrogen.
Remember: Sugar is cancer’s best buddy! It activates cancer genes and fuels growth of cancer cells. Eliminate sugar from your diet in every shape or form.
2. Quit smoking.
A study published in early 2013 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that smokers have a 24% higher risk and former smokers have a 13% higher risk of invasive breast cancer than non-smokers.
3. Avoid alcohol.
Alcohol changes the way estrogen is metabolized in our body, which can lead to estrogen dominance. Women who drink alcohol have higher body estrogen levels than those who don’t.
4. Consume a diet low in animal-based foods.
Animal-based products are extremely inflammatory and expose the body to a high dose of arachidonic acid, an inflammatory mediator. Fill half your plate with veggies!
5. Exercise regularly and develop a yoga practice.
Any amount of exercise, mild or intense, will reduce the risk of breast cancer. Aerobic exercise reduce the risk of breast cancer development, by changing the metabolism of estrogen in our body and increasing the ratio of “good” (2-hydroxyestrone) to the “bad” (16alpha-hydroxyestrone) estrogens.
Yoga balances and regulates the endocrine system, and thus our hormones. It also builds the immune system, while promoting lymph flow, the latter being extremely important for drainage of toxins from the breast and the lymph nodes in the axilla (arm pit).
6. Do regular breast self-exams and breast massage.
They can be life saving! Get clinical breast exams at your yearly physicals, and mammograms if appropriate.
7. Maintain the right body composition and fat percentage of your body.
Obesity and visceral adipose tissue (VAT, i.e., the fat accumulated around your abdominal organs) are extremely inflammatory! Find a Functional Medicine practitioner who is trained in First Line Therapy/ Therapeutic Lifestyle Change, a special program specifically targeted to reduce this fat factory of our body.
8. Reduce other inflammation-causing issues in your body.
It's important to get tested for food sensitivities and eliminate from your diet all foods to which you may have allergies or sensitivities. Get checked for, and treat chronic infections in the gut, mouth and sinuses.
Remember, inflammation makes the immune system less effective in doing its job, and a less effective immune system leads to progression of cancer cells!
9. Avoid toxins.
These can take the form of:
- Inflammatory foods that are filled with trans fats, artificial coloring and preservatives.
- Household cleaning chemicals, pesticides and insecticides.
- BPA-containing plastics, which can be used for storing food and water.
- Personal care products and perfumes: these may contain hormone-disrupting chemicals like pthalates and parabens.
10. Consume a good-quality protein at each meal.
Your body needs essential amino acids at every step to function optimally. Work with your physician to get a comprehensive stool analysis, which will tell you whether the protein you're eating is getting digested and absorbed as effectively as it should.
11. Balance mind, body and emotions with meditation, breath control and emotional freedom exercises.
Here are a few tips:
- Meditate daily.
- Learn and practice yogic breathing exercises.
- Practice forgiveness every day!
- Journal before going to bed to detoxify the mind.
12. Sleep is your best friend!
A study published in August 2012 showed an association between less sleep and development of aggressive forms of breast cancers in women.
If you suffer from chronic sleep issues, work with your physician to find the underlying cause and correct it. Using drugs isn't the answer!
I hope to have given you a message of empowerment that you can do something to prevent breast cancer. I would love to hear from you if you've used any of these measures.
You can look for a Functional Medicine practitioner in your area here.
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