Opinion

SPOTLIGHT ON NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE: Breast cancer prevention

By Dr. Andrea Hornyak, Spotlight on Naturopathic Medicine

It’s time for the annual Kapuskasing Flyers “Pink at the Rink” breast cancer awareness and fundraising effort.

It’s time for the annual Kapuskasing Flyers “Pink at the Rink” breast cancer awareness and fundraising effort.

It is estimated that in 2017, 26,300 women and 230 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Canada. On average, 72 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer every day, and about one in eight Canadian women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime.

Breast cancer prevention takes dedication, as often times it requires a substantial change of daily behaviours and habits. Approximately 80 per cent of all breast cancers grow in response to the hormone estrogen. Therefore a combination of healthy diet and lifestyle, routine exercise, stress reduction techniques, and limiting your exposure to environmental toxicities all play significant roles.

Improve the quality of your sleep

- sleep for at least seven hours straight without interruption so your body can properly repair its cells

- make your bedroom completely dark so your brain can produce maximum of the hormone melatonin needed for sleep and immunity

- stop looking at electronic devices that emit light as least 30 minutes before going to bed (TV, laptop, computer, iPad/tablet, cell phone) to boost your melatonin levels

- oats, barley, bananas, walnuts, rice, oranges and pineapple help increase melatonin levels

the lower your production of melatonin, the higher the association with breast cancer risk as melatonin has anti-estrogenic effects

- quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke as tobacco lowers levels of melatonin in the body

Exercise

- regulates your circadian rhythm of melatonin

- will help keep your body weight within a healthy range, as body fat generates estrogen which increases breast cancer risk

- 30 minutes of daily exercise will lower your risk of developing breast cancer by 50 per cent

Change your diet

- women who have the highest carotenoid levels have a 19 per cent lower risk of breast cancer

carotenoids are pigments found in fruits and vegetables that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Such foods include: carrots, plums, sweet potatoes, red peppers, tomatoes, apricots, mangoes, cantaloupes, kale, spinach, collard greens, and winter squash

- add insoluble fibre to your diet (apples, oats, lentils, berries, beans) which bind to estrogen in the digestive tract and prevent xenoestrogens from being absorbed.

- include organic flax seeds in your diet by grinding them and adding one tablespoon twice daily to food such as yogurt, cereal, or a breakfast smoothie. Flax seeds contain lignans, which bind to estrogen so you can eliminate it from your body.

- keep hydrated and drink at least six glasses of distilled water per day; more if you choose to drink dehydrating drinks like coffee, tea, soda or alcohol

- eat foods rich in indole-3-carbinol which decreases estrogen production (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, collards, kale, turnip, bok choy, cabbage)

- avoid genetically engineered foods (GMO’s) as they are typically treated with Roundup, a toxic herbicide. Buy organic, locally growth foods.

- you can lower your risk of developing breast cancer by 25 per cent if you eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily

- eat organic, hormone-free or grass fed food when possible to limit your intake of growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, insecticides and herbicides

Reduce alcohol consumption

Women who drink an average of two alcoholic drinks per day have approximately a 20 per cent higher risk of developing breast cancer. Alcohol both decreases melatonin and increases estrogen, so choose occasional consumption of red wines like Pinot or Merlot as they are rich in antioxidants.

Be aware of your environmental toxins - xenoestrogens

Avoid xenoestrogens, which are synthetic chemicals that mimic natural estrogen in our body. Estrogen normally is responsible for controlling abnormal tissue growth, but xenoestrogens decrease this important role. Therefore, xenoestrogens are linked to many detrimental health issues including infertility in men and increased risk of breast cancer in women.

Xenoestrogens are formed from bovine growth hormone in dairy food, BPA (an industrial chemical added to plastics and a known carcinogen), phthalates (chemicals added to plastics that increase cancer risk) and methylparabens (known carcinogens in personal care products).

- read labels and avoid PVC: plastic food wrap, cooking oil bottles, shower curtains, children’s toys, vinyl flooring and wall coverings

- use only stainless steel, glass, ceramic or cast iron for dishes, drinking glasses, cookware, food storage, food heating or freezing

- do not use non-stick cookware as they release toxic chemicals into food at high temperatures

- do not ever microwave or heat plastic as this transfers BPA into your food

- avoid using dryer sheets as they contain toxic chemicals

- avoid long-term use of estrogen replacement therapy drugs or birth control pills that contain both estrogen and progestin, as they increase a woman's risk of breast cancer by 24 per cent

- investigate your personal care products to see if they contain harmful chemicals, especially nail polish, perfumes, hair spray, antiperspirant, aftershave lotion, soap, shampoo, cosmetics (search EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database)

- make your own cleaning products (search the internet for simple recipes) or purchase natural detergents

- avoid using air fresheners and scented candles as they contain toxic chemicals

- check baby soothers, baby bottles and baby cups for BPA

- do not take debit/credit machine receipts unless you have to and wash your hands after touching them

- decrease your consumption of processed and packaged foods including canned foods

Being aware of your food supply and what your body comes into contact with every day can significantly reduce your risk of breast cancer. Manage your time wisely to fit in exercise, sleep, a healthy diet, and stress management. Your health must always remain your number one priority.

Dr. Hornyak has been in private practice as a Licensed Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine since 2006. For more information, phone the Norwich Medical Centre at 519-863-2338 or visit www.vitalforcenaturopathic.ca