It is estimated that 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. Up to 10% of these cases can be linked to inherited gene mutations like BRCA1 and BRCA2, but the most significant risk factors are age (the longer we live, the more opportunities there are for genetic damage and mutations in our bodies), extended exposure to environmental toxins, and poor diet.
There are several things that I have discovered in my clinical practice that are essential to lower the risk of breast cancer; things that are not commonly discussed. In addition to dietary and lifestyle changes like eliminating sugar, processed foods, and GMO’s from your diet, eating organic foods, and not smoking – there are four important elements that must be addressed:
1. Manage your Estrogens
The body naturally makes estrogen. But did you know that your liver is needed to break down estrogen into the healthy kind that supports wellness and helps eliminate the unhealthy estrogens that cause disease?
Like good and bad cholesterol your body also makes good and bad estrogen. When the ratio of “bad estrogen” to “good estrogen” is out of balance, the risk of developing breast cancer increases significantly. As you age, your ability to maintain an optimal ratio of estrogen decreases. Fortunately, this ratio can be easily measured through a simple laboratory test, and with proper support, you can maintain a healthy ratio as you age.
You can assist your body in creating higher amounts of “good estrogen” and support the pathways that eliminate the “bad estrogen” by adding cruciferous vegetables like brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, and cabbage to your diet. Foods like onions, garlic, chia seeds, flax seeds, salmon, avocado, asparagus, and artichokes will also help clear out excess “bad estrogen” from the body.
2. Balance your Hormones
In addition to balancing good and bad estrogen, you also want to make sure that your estrogen and progesterone levels are balanced. Progesterone detoxifies breast tissue and helps prevent the development of breast cancer. If the balance is off, and your estrogen too high, your breast tissue becomes more estrogen dominant and the risk for cancer increases.
The best way to naturally increase progesterone production in the body is to get adequate rest and deep sleep. Make time for daily relaxation – as the body relaxes progesterone levels increase.
3. Decrease Exposure to Xenoestrogens
Xenoestrogens are toxic compounds that behave like “bad estrogen” and cause inflammatory changes in the breast tissue, which can lead to the development of cancer.
The most common xenoestrogens you’re exposed to are found in plastics, pesticides, phthalates, parabens, hormone fed animal products, birth control pills, and chlorines, as you can see they are everywhere. From the makeup you wear to your water bottle and the meats you consume, these chemicals slowly lead to an accumulation of toxic estrogen that increase your chances of developing breast cancer.
You can decrease your exposure to xenoestrogens by choosing reusable glass or stainless steel water bottles, consuming hormone-free grass-fed meat, using paraben and phthalate free skin care products, and choosing chlorine-free cleaning products, when possible.
If you’re curious about your own levels of accumulation, they can be measured using a comprehensive laboratory test. Knowing your levels and identifying their sources will allow you implement changes to reduce your levels and exposure.
4. Manage your Stress
Stress is a natural part of life, but when you’re exposed to it for long periods of time without allowing your body to rest, relax and reset – cortisol is overproduced.
Cortisol is a powerful hormone that your body secretes on a daily basis to help you cope with stress. It helps with focus, gives you energy, lowers inflammation and helps you cope with the daily life demands. When overproduced, however, it can have a detrimental effect on your overall health. Too much cortisol can cause an accumulation of belly fat, increase sugar levels in the blood, deplete the immune system, disrupt the sleep cycle, and cause damage to your cells – making you more susceptible to the development of cancer cells.
To manage your cortisol levels implement a daily regime of exercise, proper sleep, deep breathing/ meditation, and expose yourself to positive, nurturing environments and people – laughter is great balancer of cortisol!
“You have cancer” are three words that no one wants to hear, so let’s all do what we can this month (and every month) to support our health and lower our risk of developing breast cancer.