on Breast Health
by Dr. Jacqui Fleury, ND, Naturopathic Doctor
It seems we have all been touched by breast cancer—either a friend, a relative, or personally. Breast cancer awareness is on the minds of many of us especially at this time of year, when extra attention is drawn to the current recommendations of breast self-exam, physical exam from a skilled physician, and screening mammography as a means of early detection, since statistics show better outcomes when cancer is detected early. However, early detection is only one piece of the complex puzzle of cancer. Breast cancer incidence is on the rise, and everywhere we turn we see evidence of this, either in the media or in our personal lives. In addition to early detection, it is worth exploring prevention strategies that help to empower women and reconnect them to their bodies and breasts.
The known risk factors for the development of breast cancer include family history, genetics, and prolonged exposure to estrogen. For the most part, these factors represent uncontrollable events and account for approximately 30 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer. Factors affecting the remaining 70 percent appear to be related to choices that we make in our lives, which we individually have the power to change. Cancer is generally the end result of a chronically stressed or depressed immune system. Therefore, we need to put into practice what we know about promoting health, and to use methods to detect early changes in function that can signal developing problems rather than waiting until a lump is detected. Some proactive changes we can make include:
- Increase Your Veggies - 5 to 8 servings a day. Include red, yellow, and orange ones to increase your consumption of antioxidant compounds known to boost immune function. Oxidata is a urine test that can determine if your antioxidant levels are too low. When free radicals attack fats in cells, a compound is produced that is excreted into the urine. This compound is low when anti-oxidants are high and protecting the cells.
- Eat More Broccoli - and cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale, and collard greens. These are high in a plant compound that renders estrogen less dangerous to the body.
- Eat Sea Veggies - these grow in mineral-rich seawater and include iodine which promotes healthy thyroid function.
- Include Fibre from Whole Grains, Beans, and Lentils - fibre decreases circulating estrogen levels by binding up estrogen metabolites in the bowel and preventing them from
- Choose Organic Foods - certain herbicides and pesticides on produce, as well as hormones found in conventional meats have been implicated in breast cancer.
- Eliminate Hydrogenated Fats - choose organic butter instead of margarine, and use olive oil and flax oil.
- Decrease or Avoid Sugar - as little as one tsp of sugar can depress immune function for 2 hours! Sugar and refined carbohydrates appear in many forms—breads, candy, desserts, fruit juices, dried fruits, and any ingredients whose name ends in “ose“ (sucrose, glucose, fructose, lactose). Use only small amounts of natural sweeteners.
- High Quality Multi-vitamin - this provides the minimum daily amounts of vitamins and minerals to maintain healthy immune, adrenal, and thyroid function.
- Improve lymphatic circulation - Rebounder exercises will help your body eliminate toxins.
- Drink Filtered Water - chlorine in the water kills the good bacteria in the gut. As well, chlorine combines with organic matter in water to create cancer-causing trihalomethanes. Filtered or reverse osmosis water tastes better which will make drinking the recommended 1.5 litres per day more pleasurable.
- Take Off Your Bra - wearing a bra for more than 12 hours increases breast cancer risk by a factor of 6. Use cotton stretchy bras without underwire to allow more movement of the breast, thus facilitating removal of breast toxins by the lymphatic system.
- Know Your Breasts - consider massaging your breasts when you apply a natural body lotion (preferably without petroleum products) after a daily bath or shower. (Even better, applying castor oil externally on the breasts will help to increase lymphatic circulation, break down adhesions, and increase immune cell activity in the tissues.) This will get you more comfortable with your breast tissue, for when you perform breast self-exams.
- Limit Radiation Exposure - repeated x-ray exposures may increase the risk of breast cancer. Women in their 20s to 40s might consider using Infrared Thermography as a screening tool since mammography is not seen as being accurate in detecting breast cancer in this age group.
- Early Detection - self-exam, examination by a health care professional, mammography, MRI, and Ultrasound all detect structural changes—lumps or masses that are big enough to be felt or detected by instrumentation. Breast Thermography is a sensitive, non-invasive method that can effectively screen for early functional changes in breast tissue. It can detect tissue that is undergoing functional changes where the cellular chemistry is changing but still capable of reverting back to normal functioning. In Breast Thermography, a digital infrared camera and sophisticated computer program are used to take heat pictures of the breast tissue. The scans detect any areas where abnormal heat patterns are being produced. These patterns signal changes that are occurring in cellular function which can predate the formation of lumps and masses by as long as 5 to 8 years. Thermography can also be used to screen women of all ages and types of breast tissue including young, dense, pregnant, breastfeeding, pre- and post-menopause (even during HRT), fibrocystic, and with breast implants. It is also a very useful tool for monitoring breast tissue in men, in whom breast cancer can also occur.
- Practice Self-Nurturance - the breasts symbolize nurturance. Many times women are so busy taking care of others that they forget to listen to their own needs. Common sense and the latest research confirms that we need rest and revitalization time to recreate ourselves physically, mentally, energetically, and spiritually. Without rest time, we cannot cleanse effectively internally, which depletes our immune systems and causes imbalances in our endocrine hormones.
In addition to these general guidelines your Naturopathic Doctor (ND) can offer more specific recommendations and assessments based on your individual needs. Remember: it takes ten years for breast cancer to grow to the size where it is detectable. There is no time like the present to take charge of your life, for the sake of you and your breasts.
Dr. Jacqui Fleury, ND, is a Naturopathic Doctor and mother of three with a passion for wellness. In her private practice she focuses on family health, with a goal to educate and empower her patients to take control of their health and to strive for optimal wellness. This is supported through nutrition, botanicals, homeopathy, and lifestyle coaching. She can be contacted at (306) 373-5209 in Saskatoon. Also see her display ad and the display ad for Breast Thermography clinics on page 11 of the 11.4 November/December
issue of the WHOLifE Journal.