It’s not uncommon for women around the world to worry about the health of their breasts. And rightly so, because fibrocystic breast disease (FBD) can cause lumpy, painful and uncomfortable breasts, while breast cancer may involve disfiguring surgery, not to mention causing numerous deaths each year. But breast disease needn’t be left to fate or genetics alone. There are ways in which you can help protect yourself, or at least improve the outcome, if your risk of developing breast disease is high.
It’s no myth that cancer has a lot to do with what you eat. In particular, cancer has an insatiable appetite for sugar, because it needs a sugary environment to survive. Dr Otto Warburg, a 1931 Nobel laureate in medicine, first discovered that cancer cells mainly use glucose as fuel – and much more of it than normal cells use. Recent research has confirmed a link between elevated blood sugar levels, as well as increased insulin levels and cancer risk. Too much sugar also suppresses your immune system.
An effective tool in eliminating sugar from your diet is to eat according to glycaemic load (GL). Focus on food with a low GL, such as vegetables, protein and whole grains, but pay special attention to cancer-fighting food, like legumes, and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower. Cruciferous vegetables are particularly beneficial, as they contain components like I3C and DIM, which promote the conversion of estrogen to its harmless 2-hydroxyestrone form, as opposed to its breast tumour-promoting 16-hydroxyesterone form. Also include beta-carotenes found in carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables and squash.
An oversupply of high GL food, saturated fats and omega-6 fatty acids in your diet, may cause your body to become less sensitive to insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar levels. This pre-diabetic condition is called insulin resistance and it raises your risk of developing diabetes and breast disease. Try to reduce the amount of fat in your diet, especially the saturated kind, to less than 20% of your diet, avoid all hydrogenated oils and add a tablespoon of raw flax oil or ground flaxseeds to your food daily.
It‘s true that hormones play an integral part in breast health. Estrogen fuels certain types of breast cancer and excess estrogen has also been linked to FBD.
Pharmaceutical hormones such as the oral contraceptive pill and HRT have been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. But you do not have to take hormones to be exposed to them – they are present in our food and water, and certain chemicals in our environment have hormone-like properties.
Many people don’t realise this, but fatty tissue is a major source of estrogen production in postmenopausal women. High-fat diets may reduce the amount of estrogen discarded by the body, while diets high in fibre and low in fat can reduce the amount of circulating estrogen. The less free estrogen there is in the body, the lower the chances of unwanted lumps in your breasts.
To keep your breasts healthy, it’s also important to reduce the amount of estrogen you might get from your diet. Try to avoid all commercial animal products, which include meats, poultry, dairy and so forth, because they often contain fake estrogens used to breed the animals themselves.
Also avoid food that has been in contact with soft plastics that can give off large amounts of toxins, called polymers. These may leach into food and mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. Instead, increase your dietary intake of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, whey, eggs and nuts, occasionally including hormone-free poultry and hormone-free, low fat dairy products.
Even though studies have not proven a direct link between caffeine and FBD yet, some doctors recommend that women with this condition should avoid coffee as far as possible. Women have reported significant relief from FBD symptoms after eliminating caffeine from their diets. If you suspect caffeine might play a role in your FBD symptoms, eliminate all the possible sources of caffeine – chocolate, coffee, tea, and soft drinks – from your diet for three months to see if your symptoms improve.
Alcohol use, even in moderation, has been linked to an increase in the risk for breast cancer. And folate from green leafy vegetables may help the body to repair the genetic damage caused by the alcohol, which can lead to cancer. Alcohol is broken down in the body into a chemical called acetaldehyde, which has been shown to cause cancer. Without adequate folate, the body may not be able to undo the harm done by alcohol.
You can also think of making genetic screening part of your prevention programme, especially if you have a family history of breast cancer. Certain gene characteristics, called low-penetrance mutations, show which diseases you run a greater risk of developing and are influenced greatly by what you eat, your lifestyle and your environment. This means that, by changing these factors, you can minimise the effects of these genes along with the risk of developing the conditions they might otherwise promote.
The liver plays so many important roles in the body, including as a detoxifying and filtering system for all your body waste. It also binds and eliminates extra hormones, including estrogen. So, if the liver is not working as it should, estrogen levels go up.
You can help the liver with it’s mammoth task by, again, eating more fibre. The more fibre in your diet, the better would be your body’s ability to get rid of toxins absorbed from almost everywhere around you and from many different sources. See the protocols below for the nutrients you could take every day to support your liver and to assist in maintaining breast health.
PLEASE NOTE: Products are ranked in decreasing order of potency. Products listed nearer the top of any particular health need are the most effective and have the most scientific research to support their use in respect of such health need. Multiple products, one from each bullet (•) can be combined with products from other bullets for added effectiveness, if needed, since products from different bulleted lines have different mechanisms of action. However, where more than one product is listed within a particular bullet (•), then only one of these products should be used, since all products listed within the same bullet share an identical or similar pharmacology (mechanism of action) for that condition. This is because whenever a particular condition is treated via multiple different mechanisms of action, the result is generally improved effectiveness. However, when products are combined that work via exactly the same mechanism of action, then no extra benefit is obtained.