Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime (isn't that crazy?), I thought it was a good time to pull together some tips and tools to help you help yourself to keep your breasts healthy. Our health is critical to our quality of life. This is why I feature health related content on a “homesteading” site, and why my first e-book is titled “Common Sense Health: Diet, Detox and Physical Activities“. This post will focus on the diet and detoxification aspects of breast health.
What Foods Help Keep Breasts Healthy?
Vitamin D – While our bodies naturally create vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, most of us spend too much time indoors and/or with most of our skin covered up. The article “How to Cut Your Breast Cancer Risks Naturally” states that optimizing your vitamin D levels may reduce breast cancer incidence by 77 percent in four years. Vitamin D is critical to our overall immune system health as well, which is why colds and flus are more prevalent in winter when there is less sunlight available.
Best Food Sources of Vitamin D – You may not like it, but cod liver oil blows everything else out of the water when it comes to vitamin D at 1,360 IUs per tablespoon. Other good sources include fish such as swordfish (566 IUs – 3 oz), salmon (447 IUs – 3oz), tuna (154 IUs – 3 oz), sardines (46 IUs – 2 sardines), beef liver (3oz – 42UIs) and egg – 1 large yolk (41 IUs). Note the these are approximate values only, as different brands of cod liver oil will vary, and grassfed/pastured animals will usually have higher vitamin D levels than their confined counterparts. Also note that larger fish may have higher levels of mercury.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids – The fish mentioned above are also high in omega 3 fatty acids. In an article from April 2013, Medical News Today notes:
Omega-3 fatty acids, as well as their metabolite products, stop or slow the proliferation of triple-negative breast cancer cells better than cells from luminal types of cancer, researchers from Fox Chase Cancer Center reported at the AACR Annual Meeting 2013.
The scientists explained that omega-3 fatty acids work against all cancerous cell types, but were seen to be much more effective against the triple-negative cell lines. Proliferation in those types of cells was reduced by as much as 90%.
Best Food Sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids – In addition to the fish listed above, you can get omega-3 fatty acids from many sources, including ground flax seeds, walnuts, grass-fed beef and eggs from pastured chickens (or chickens fed flaxseed), beans, winter squash and pumpkin seeds (pepitas). World's Healthiest Foods has an article with more detailed information on the omega-3 content of various foods.
Cruciferous Vegetables – A recent study in China demonstrated that women who ate more cruciferous vegetables (cabbage family plants) had a higher survival rates after breast cancer. Specifically, an article at Science Daily notes:
After adjusting for demographics, clinical characteristics and lifestyle factors, the researchers found cruciferous vegetable intake during the first 36 months after breast cancer diagnosis was associated with a reduced risk for total mortality, breast cancer-specific mortality and disease recurrence.
Cabbage family plants include cabbage, broccoli, turnips, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, radishes, and certain other leafy greens.
Iodine – Iodine is critical for both breast and thyroid health, and is often overlooked. The book “Iodine: Why You Need It and Why You Can't Live Without It” by Dr. David Brownstein provides an in depth discussion on the relationship between iodine and breast health. Iodine deficiency has been linked to nodules and cysts in both the thyroid and breasts. Treatment with iodine has been shown to kill breast and thyroid cancer cells. *Note – always consult a trained healthcare provider for serious illness.
Because iodine is required in both the breast area and the thyroid, Dr. Brownstein notes that treating an under-active (hypo) thyroid condition may actually worsen problems in the breast area because it boosts metabolism and increases the demand for iodine. This may potentially create a downward spiral unless the underlying deficiency is corrected. Dr. Brownstein's book focuses on supplements, and you can work with your health care provider to see if supplementation may be right for you.
In Menopausal Years: The Wise Woman Way, Susun Weed recommends the consumption of natural iodine sources such as kelp (wakame, kombu or nereocystis) to nourish the breast and thyroid. She suggests high-quality powder dry kelp or dried pieces for snacking, 3-5 grams per day, or at least one ounce dry (by weight) per week.
Brightly colored vegetables and fruits, mushrooms, different herbs including parsley and turmeric have also been shown in a variety of studies to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
Avoiding highly processed foods such as hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, colors and flavors is always a good choice for overall health.
Detox – Things to Avoid and How to Clear Out Toxins in our Bodies That Affect Breast Health
Mayo Clinic suggests the following to reduce your risk of breast cancer:
- Limit Alcohol to no more than one drink per day.
- Don't Smoke – really, seriously, just don't, for so many reasons.
- Reduce Excess Weight – more on this in a bit
- Get Up and Move – Exercise promotes good circulation, which promotes healing
- Breast Feed – You may want to check out Breastfeeding in Public, a 4 Part Series from Red & Honey
- Limit Hormone Replacement Therapy
- Avoid Exposure to Radiation and Environmental Pollution
I'd like to focus on the combination of excess weight and environmental toxins.
Did you know that our bodies store toxins in fat cells to isolate the toxins from the rest of the body? This is why when people who have done drugs such as LSD lose weight they can have an acid trip from the drugs previously stored in their bodies as those drugs are re-released into their system. It's also one of the reasons it's so easy to regain excess weight that has been lost. If you don't take steps to remove the toxins while you are loosing weight, your body will try to put weight back on in self-defense.
Thankfully, our body has a waste removal system known as the lymphatic system, as well as the ability to excrete wastes when we use the toilet. Unfortunately, little attention is given to our lymphatic system, which is really important when it comes to breast health.
Our lymphatic system runs throughout our body, like the circulatory system that moves our blood. Unlike our circulatory system, it doesn't have its own pump, so it moves when you move – and most of us are moving less.
We are also putting products on our skin that inhibit sweating (like antiperspirants and heavy lotions and creams) and may introduce more toxins into our system, such as aluminum and parabens, both of which have been found in breast cancer tissues. The majority of breast cancers are found in the upper outer quadrant of the breast – closest to the armpit. There is a concentration of lymph nodes in the armpit area (see diagram). These lymph nodes act as filters and trap foreign materials, which are then destroyed by white blood cells within the node. When things get clogged up it leads to trouble, including breast cysts and potentially breast cancer.
To keep the lymphatic system surrounding your breasts working smoothly to do its job of detoxification, you may want to try:
Herbalix deodorants have been shown to help cure breast cysts. You can view thermographic images of a breast cyst patient treated with Herbalix Detox Deodorant in the post, “Lumpy Breasts? Cure Breast Cysts“. You can also read my review of Herbalix Deodorants in the post Herbalix Deodorants – Heal, Detoxify, Reduce the Risk of Breast Cancer“.
Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any illness. Please see a healthcare professional for medical advice. This post contains affiliate links.
Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D – Office of Dietary Supplements National Institute of Health
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Slow Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Cell Proliferation from Medical News Today
Mayo Clnic – Breast cancer prevention: How to reduce your risk
BreastCancerFund.org – Parabens
California Breast Cancer Research Programs – Locations of Tumors on the Breast
Journal of Inorganic Chemistry – Aluminum and Breast Cancer: Sources of Exposure, Tissue Measurements and Mechanisms of Toxicological Actions on Breast Biology, July 1, 2013
Special thanks to my friend, Leigh, for providing the featured photo in her pretty seasonal top.