Charlene Day, RNC
I'm glad for a scary experience I had 15 years ago. When a naturopath diagnosed an energy imbalance in my chest, I awaited my next visit in fear that it might be breast cancer.
I'm glad for a scary experience I had 15 years ago. When a naturopath diagnosed an energy imbalance in my chest, I awaited my next visit in fear that it might be breast cancer. Although trained in holistic nutrition, I wondered if I lacked crucial information. Before happily learning the problem wasn't breast cancer (my Toronto lungs were), I took the time to really understand how to prevent it.
I know that breast tissue is largely made of fat lobules and is affected by hormones, but it's important to know about the connection between fat, hormones, foreign chemicals and the immune system.
Our fatty tissues store chemical residue from thousands of fat-soluble toxins in our food, drugs, personal care and household products, air and water. Many contain estrogen-like petrochemical ester-chains called xenoestrogens. In the body, they confuse our hormones and can seriously affect our health. They're linked with dramatic global increases in hormone-related effects like impaired neurological and reproductive development, low sperm counts, infertility and breast and prostate cancers.
Our food is one of the most unwitting sources of xenoestrogens like pesticides, antibiotics, veterinary drugs and synthetic hormones as well as environmental chemicals. They're not easily broken down or excreted. They accumulate in fat tissue and biomagnify up the food chain, concentrating in animals (like humans) that consume other creatures. Non-organic animal products contain high residues of them. Even farm-raised fish are contaminated with antibiotics. Wild fish from industrial waterways are so dangerous that government restrictions apply and pregnant or nursing women and children shouldn't eat them at all.
Processed foods now comprise 80 per cent of our food supply. They contain non-organic vegetable fats rendered more toxic by processing with solvents and exposure to heat, light and oxygen. Hydrogenated vegetable oils are the worst: they've got to go! Check food labels for these biochemical counterfeits. Trans-fatty acids (TFAs) are similarly bad, chemically derived from partially hydrogenated oils and found in margarine, shortening, processed and fried foods and refined cooking oils. They cannot be metabolized properly by the body and block the absorption of essential fatty acids. Cell membranes built with TFAs are faulty and more susceptible to cancer.
The Right Foods Afford Protection
To be safe, fats must be from organic sources, processed at temperatures below 120°F (49°C) with no light, oxygen or toxic solvents. They should be bottled in opaque containers, sealed with inert gas, purchased within the expiration date and kept refrigerated. Flax seed oil (a source of omega-3 and gamma linolenic acids) is one that supports the immune system and balances hormones.
Non-organic produce often harbours hormone disrupting pesticide residues, especially harmful from countries where the deadliest, like DDT, are still permitted. Buy organic and local produce whenever possible and wash all fruits and vegetables well. But do eat them! Plant or phytoestrogens help balance hormone levels in the body and appear to protect against xenoestrogens.
Significant amounts of phytoestrogens are found in many foods, including soy products, flax seeds, chick-peas, lentils, cashews, peanuts, oats, corn, wheat, rye, apples and almonds. Isolated soy phytoestrogens have been shown to have cytostatic activity against human mammary cancer cell lines in vitro and to suppress mammary tumours in rats. The Asian diet may well account for their low (three- to five-fold lower) incidence of breast cancer. Prostate cancer is rare in Asia, too.
Building Cancer Immunity
A healthy immune system helps prevent breast cancer. I recommend regular cleansing and detoxifying with herbs and diet. Foods such as yellow and green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit, wheat germ, whole grains, sesame seeds, nuts, onions and garlic are all high in antioxidant nutrients.
Use a good quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement daily. Vitamin C neutralizes carcinogens and boosts immune system macrophages. Vitamin E with selenium is an impressive antioxidant, stabilizing hormones and building the immune system. Beta-carotene (vitamin A) also stimulates immune function as it protects adrenal glands, benefits the thymus and protects against free radical damage. The B vitamins are also important for the production of antibodies. Key immunity minerals are zinc, copper and iron.
Some noted herbs for immunity are buckthorn bark (contains tumour preventive glycosides), echinacea (a natural antibiotic and antiseptic) and milk thistle (protects liver cells from harmful chemicals). Grapeseed extract prevents chromosomal damage and aids in immune system response.
Phytoestrogenic herbs include black cohosh, alfalfa, licorice, red clover and sage. Alfalfa is full of minerals, protein and enzymes, promotes alkaline blood chemistry and absorbs contaminants.
Acidophilus and bifidus bacteria prevent the growth of disease organisms. They lower the pH of the bowel, produce natural antibiotics and help to destroy toxic substances.
The Hormone Hounds: Avoidable Risks
Taking synthetic hormones like the birth control pill and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is an unnecessary danger. They greatly increase lifetime estrogen exposure, a major risk factor for breast and other reproductive cancers.
The pill works by blocking ovulation. But this also blocks cancer-protective progesterone, produced mostly by the egg follicle during half the female cycle and naturally peaking at 140 times the amount of estrogen. With low progesterone levels, estrogen is unopposed. Early and prolonged use of the pill and HRT is very risky. Teen girls' developing breast cells are especially vulnerable.
Excess estrogen helps create problems that can later result in the removal of the uterus and ovaries. Hysterectomies are now done on a million North American women a year. These surgeries and other misinformation are profitable for the makers of Premarin HRT, the continent's most widely prescribed drug.
Other avoidable breast cancer risks include alcohol, which is converted to unstable estrogen by the body and stored in fat and other tissue. Two drinks a day double breast cancer risk as women age.
Avoid plastic containers, styrene cups, food packaging and can liners that may contain xenoestrogens. These migrate into food when heated or stored for long periods. Use
Nonylphenols from dishwasher and laundry detergent, all-purpose cleaners, soaps, shampoos, spermicides and vaginal gels are serious biohazards. Cosmetics and personal care products contain other petrochemicals easily absorbed through the skin (noted carcinogens are found in dark hair dyes). Always use "green" household and personal care products.
It's well within our power to find safe, natural and effective ways to protect and heal ourselves.