Breast Cancer, An Ounce of Prevention Is Worth A Pound of Cure
In Canada, it is estimated that one in nine women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. It is one of the most common forms of cancer in women. One in four cases of cancer are diagnosed as breast cancer and it is estimated that 23,800 Canadian women will be diagnosed in 2013 alone. These statistics from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation are frightening. Many of us have had a friend or relative who has suffered with breast cancer. It has touched all of us in some way.
Prevention is key for breast cancer. Doctors promote mammography screening as a tool for early detection. However, controversy surrounds the radiation exposure that varies from machine to machine and damage to breast tissue from both radiation and compression. Younger women with susceptibility to cancer may be more effected negatively by mammography techniques. Self breast exam is something women can do in the privacy of their own home. Some studies show positive results with thermography. Thermography detects temperature variations in targeted areas of the body. Cells that produce more heat are typically abnormal cells. Although it doesn't detect cancer cells or a tumour, it can detect abnormal heat patterns so one can be more proactive about their breast health. Another way to be proactive to protect yourself from breast cancer is to optimize your diet, hormones and elimination.
Certain diets have been researched and found to have a positive impact on breast cancer. Some diets that have considerable research are found herein:
- High fibre and low saturated and trans-fat diets seem to be inversely related to breast cancer.One study found that dietary fibre prevented breast cancer in pre-menopausal women but not post menopausal women. This finding is interesting because pre-menopausal women are exposed to more natural estrogen during their menstrual cycle and post menopausal women typically have lower amounts of fluctuating estrogen. Another study found a positive correlation to a high fibre and complex carbohydrate diet that included many fruits and vegetables with a lower breast cancer incidence. This study showed that dietary fibre had a protective effect likely due to the phytochemicals from fruits, vegetables, seeds and legumes such as lignans, flavonoids, isoflavones and glucosinalates. These compounds may help to reduce negative estrogen, increase natural anti-oxidants and protect women developing cancer. With this information in mind, it makes sense that a high fat diet (trans and saturated fats) and low veggie and fibre intake are linked to a higher incidence of breast cancer. Studies also found that obesity is correlated to an increase in many cancers, not just breast but pancreas, gastrointestinal and colon.
- Blood sugar seems to related to cancer development. The higher the blood sugar the higher the incidence of cancer. Some research shows that the sugaring of cells from high blood sugar and high glycemic foods cause oxidative damage to cells that cause them to become abnormal and create inflammation. Thus a low glycemic diet isprudent for cancer prevention. Low glycemic means that the food consumed turns more slowly into a sugar in our blood stream than a high glycemic one does. Typically high glycemic foods are white rice, white flour and sugar.
- Pesticides carry a negative effect on the development of hormonal cancers because they are considered endocrine (hormone) disruptors and are called "xenoestrogens". These are negative estrogens our body is exposed to from outside sources. They can load our system with the wrong types of estrogen. Other sources of negative xenoestrogens are hormone replacement drugs, birth control pills, pesticides, recycled water, plastics (BPA, phthalates, DEHP), preservatives as well as many household, personal and toiletry products since they containparabens and phthalates. Xenoestrogens are different from phytoestrogens since one is a negative estrogen and the other are plants that have estrogen effects. The term phytoestrogen leaves oncologists scratching their heads. They are unsure whether they help or hinder. Some studies confirm their protective effect agaisnt hormonal cancers and others not. Phytoestrogens contain compounds such as isoflavones, lignans and coumarins. Soy, flaxseed and beans all contain phytoestrogens. However, much research finds the intake of these foods actually decrease the incidence of breast cancer. One theory is that these foods are higher in fibre and remove negative estrogens. Another theory is that phytoestrogens occupy a spot in our estrogen receptors and thus block negative estrogens or xenoestrogens from entering. The Japanese consume much soy in edamame and miso and have a much lower cancer rate. It is important to choose a non genetically modified version of these foods and to consume them in their whole food form, not a fast food form for optimum health. There is a wise adage that states "everything in moderation". If you have breast cancer consult with your health care practitioner.
- Hormone replacement drugs (HRT)increase one's incidence of breast cancer. Three out of 100 breast cancer diagnosis are from HRT use. Using estrogen alone (without progesterone) increases the risk even more.
- Organic produce is key in reducing one's exposure to toxic xenoestrogens from pesticides that effect our hormones negatively. Given the poor growing season in Canada and the availability of organic produce, when you have to choose only some foods as organic, be sure to do so for the one's that typically contain the most pesticides, called the dirty dozen. The clean 15 have less pesticide residues due to the structure of the plant and absorption.
- Cruciferous vegetablessuch as broccoli, cabbage, rapini, Brussels sprouts, kale and Swiss chard contain glucosinalates that help prevent cancer in general especially breast, colon and prostate cancer. Many supplements have been made from broccoli and/or broccoli sprouts such as diidolylmethane (DIM), indol 3 carbinol (I3C), glucoraphanin and suphurophane. These products are anti-oxidants that aid in detoxification and hormone modulation which makes them excellent for cancer support.
- Iodine rich foodshave been found to be quite beneficial for breast cancer support. Low iodine may be also linked to prostate, endometrial and ovarian cancer. Those with hypothyroidism have two times the risk for breast cancer and interestingly hypothyroidism may improve if low levels of iodine are corrected nutritionally. Fibrocystic breasts may be improved with this mineral as well. Interestingly a few studies on some sea vegetables find that it decreases cancer occurrence. Sea vegetables contain iodine, iron, folate, vitamin C and K as well as compounds such as fucoidins, sulfated polysaccarides, haloperoxidases and other anti-oxidant alkaloids. These substances help to control blood sugar, reduce oxidative damage, improve hormonal function and reduce the incidence of breast cancer. One product that contains two types of sea vegetables is called "InSea". This one works well for weight reduction, thyroid and cancer support.
- Higher alcohol intakeis linked to an increase in breast cancer. Studies do not distinguish the type of alcohol consumed, thus it appears all alcohol increases the risk. Studies find that both menopausal and pre menopausal women are at risk for breast cancer. It appears that the aldehydes in alcohol deplete the vitamin folate and impair liver function. Folate helps the liver to detoxify estrogen. It is recommended that women do not drink more than one alcoholic beverage per day. If you do decide to imbibe, be sure to take a Vitamin B complex that includes folic acid afterwards to replenish your stores.
Improving Organs of Elimination
Further to the statement that alcohol inhibits the liver's ability to properly excrete estrogen, enhancing liver function by eating well, reducing alcohol, trans fats and increasing vegetables and water intake can help to protect one from breast cancer. Some people do a cleansing diet for 21 days, however in the clinic clients are recommended that they always choose whole foods. Cruciferous (see above for their health properties) and bitter vegetables (stimulate elimination, excretion and bile flow) such as dandelion, turnip and collard greens, garlic, onions and eggs (sulphur and choline compounds) help the liver to perform its function. Spices such as rosemary, cinnamon, turmeric are beneficial for the liver. Drink plenty of pure water. If you can invest in a water filtration system. Many now guarantee to filter out prescription drug waste that is recycled through our septic system into our drinking water such as antibiotics, HRT and birth control pills. Some people require additional liver support by supporting both phase one (binding the toxin) and phase two (excreting the toxin) of detoxification. Those who have tried a liver cleanse and suffer from symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, irritability or digestive upset often haven't supported both phases of detoxification. Thus toxins re-circulate instead of being eliminated cause symptoms.
Improving bowel movements helps the body to trap negative estrogens, toxins and aids in general health. Bowel function can be improved by choosing foods that have a higher fibre content, legumes (kidney, garbanzo, navy and black beans), fruits, vegetables and whole grains (such as quinoa, millet, teff, oats and rye). Healthy fats are beneficial and help keep the digestive tract lubricated. These fats are found in coconut, tree nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocados, flax and chia seeds. Drink plenty of clean water to flush toxins and aid in bowel movements. An online water calculator can help you to determine how much water to drink daily. Foods that increase constipation are dairy (especially cheese), white bread, rice and flour, sugar, high protein diets and a lack of healthy fats.
Lymph flow is imperative for healthy fats. The lymphatic system is a network of tissues that are comprised of the adenoids, tonsils, spleen, lymph vessels, lymph nodes and lymph. Its main function is to distribute fluid that contains white blood cells through the lymph. The lymphatic system also removes waste and toxins from the body. Improving lymph drainage in the armpit and breast helps to remove toxins and sends immune system cells to attack wild cells. Bras have been thought to seriously decrease lymph flow however, research has not yet to back that up. A book called "Dressed to Kill" incites curiousity on this issue. On the other hand, countries where bras are not used have much less breast cancer incidence. A simple method of improving lymph flow is to use Kneipp's method of alternating hot and cold shower or massage.There are many herbal combinations used to drain lymph that typically contain ceanthus, cleavers, burdock, phytolacca, prickly ash and lobelia.
Cortisol levels seem to be correlated to the development of breast cancer. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is involved in the flight or fight response, blood pressure, insulin, immune response and inflammatory response. People who have a stressed life can develop both very high cortisol levels or very low cortisol from long term stress. Those who have a flat dinural cortisol level, tend to not have a good survival rate after 7 years. Thus adrenal fatigue, a condition where the adrenals are unable to respond to challenges with a normal output of adrenal hormones is linked to a poor survival rate with regards to breast cancer. The adrenals are small glands that sit ontop of the kidneys. They put out adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol and glucocorticoids. Some signs of adrenal fatigue are:
- cold hands and feet
- inability to get moving in the morning
- fatigue in the afternoon
- sleepy after lunchtime
- high stress levels, anxiety and depression
- insomnia or excess sleeping
- weight gain especially around the abdomen
The HPA axis is a feedback loop in the nervous system that controls the hormone output from the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal gland. In the clinic we recommend doing a few clinical tests to ascertain proper hormone output. Often people ask what these tests are compared to their family doctor's blood tests. The difference between the testing we do in clinic and the doctor's blood test is they are using a scale on their tests that detect pathology or disease. We are using a scale that detects variations in normal function to help ward off disease. If you have an abnormal adrenal gland with standard medical tests, you may have addison's or cushing's disease. With a cortisol test or adrenal function panel, it detects abnormal patterns in cortisol that can be altered proactively with supplementation, stress reduction and lifestyle intervention. One simple questionnaire we like to use in the clinic is the identi-stress questionnaire which detects abnormalities in the HPA axis.
There are a variety of supplements mentioned herein that are helpful for prevention of breast cancer. Each person is unique and should be treated as such. Some of the supplements mentioned are InSea, DIM, Lymph drainage and I3C. Other supplements which may be helpful are B vitamins, melatonin and calcium d glucarate. A healthy regime is best suited to one's individual needs. For an assessment, contact the clinic at 519 827 9237
Caruso Clinic www.carusohomeopathy.com
Guelph Ontario 519-827-9237 Toll Free 1-866-249-5755