October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and I wanted to provide some information on what working on cancer prevention with a naturopathic approach looks like. That being said, it’s important to discuss this and any advice with your health care provider to see what’s right for you.
What is the Naturopathic Approach to Prevention?
Working with a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) can support you in many ways that go hand in hand with your conventional prevention methods and screening.
Some of the key components to breast cancer prevention through a naturopathic lens are:
- Hormone Regulation: Some breast cancers are hormonally driven. Due to the rise in birth control use, and estrogen-mimicking environmental toxins in plastics, pesticides, beauty products, cleaning products, and detergents, many women are experiencing the effects of estrogen dominance. Working to regulate these hormones through diet, lifestyle, and vitamin and supplement support is key.
- Inflammation: While inflammation is a normal body response to infection or injury, chronic inflammation is linked with many health conditions. Reducing stress levels, uncovering any food sensitivities, as well as anti-inflammatory diet recommendations, play an important role in prevention.
- Immune System Health: The immune system plays a vital role in overall health. Many harmful cells are actually detected and destroyed by your immune system before they ever pose an issue. If the immune system is not functioning properly, it can fail in this function which can lead to abnormal cell growth.
- Overall Wellbeing: As with any aspect of our health, our overall well-being is one of the most important factors in staying healthy and preventing illness and disease. An ND will work with you holistically, examining all areas of your wellness (diet, stress, sleep, exercise to name a few) to work together to the most healthy, vibrant, you possible.
What are some specific Prevention Tips?
- Choose GOOD fats. Essential fats such as Omega 3s found in flaxseed and fish oils are an important component of cellular function. Trans fats (hydrogenated oils) found in margarine, processed and deep-fried foods are thought to increase the risk for cancer and should be eliminated from our diet.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. Your own body fat can store excess hormones such as “bad estrogens”, which may fuel the growth of breast cancers that need hormones to grow.
- Avoid environmental estrogens. This means do your best to avoid bottled water stored in plastics, avoid microwaving and storing in plastic containers, plastic wraps, and cellophane, minimize the use of the birth control pills/hormone replacement, avoid dioxins (by-products of chlorine bleaching) found in diapers and sanitary products and eat organic whenever possible.
- Avoid refined SUGARS! Most packaged foods contain added refined sugars that can increase inflammation and be fuel for abnormal cell growth. Instead include natural sugars from fresh fruits and veggies in your diet.
- Eat more fruits and veggies, especially from the cruciferous family. Studies show that eating at least 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day may lower cancer rates by 20%. Fruits and vegetables are a rich source of nutrients and disease-fighting phytochemicals that act as antioxidants and have other cancer-protective properties. Broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower all help with the transformation of bad estrogens into more favorable forms of estrogen. Some supplements that also aid in the metabolism of harmful estrogens are indole-3-carbinol (also found in cruciferous veggies), calcium D-glucarate and DIM (diindolylmethane).
- Supplement your diet with antioxidants. Antioxidants such as vitamins C, E, A, and minerals such as selenium and zinc work to combat cellular damage caused by free radicals. Vitamin D as well as CoQ10 may also be helpful preventative strategies.
I hope this article has illuminated some of the ways that Naturopathic medicine can support conventional medical screenings and pave the path for prevention, and wellness.