From Elizabeth Boham MD, RD
Comment on her blog at
==> http://www.ultrawellness.com/blog, Just look for the post at the top titled:
"Reducing Your Risk of Breast Cancer"
Do you worry about getting breast cancer? Have
you already suffered from the disease and are
now afraid of a recurrence? I understand why.
The incidence of breast cancer is skyrocketing...
Last year over 200,000 new cases of invasive
breast cancer and 60,000 cases of non-invasive
breast cancer were diagnosed. A woman's risk of
getting breast cancer has jumped from 1 in 20 in
the 1960s to 1 in 8 today. Tragically, more than
40,000 women died from breast cancer alone last
Why has there been such a huge escalation in the
rates of this frightening disease? What's the
cause of this epidemic and what can we do about
Getting to the bottom of these questions is of
personal interest to me. When I was 30 years
old, I was diagnosed with an aggressive type of
invasive breast cancer. At the time I thought I
was healthy ...
Before I went to med school my background was in
nutrition and exercise physiology. I was an
athlete, an avid exerciser, and was careful with
my diet. I was young, had no family history of
breast cancer, nor any signs of chronic illness.
So when I was told I should have a mass in my
breast removed, the last thing I thought it
would be was cancer.
How does an otherwise healthy woman get cancer?
What did I do wrong? What can I do to reduce my
risk of recurrence?
Looking for answers to these questions sent me
on a journey through my medical training and
eventually to an education in Functional
What I discovered on that journey is what I want
to share with you in today's blog.
In traditional medical training you don't learn
about the impact that things like diet, toxins,
and digestion have on your overall health.
Certainly the connections between how your gut
functions, your toxic exposure, and your risk of
breast cancer is not something most doctors are
To find real answers to my questions about
breast cancer I knew I would have to dig deeper.
When I finally found Functional Medicine and the
answers it offers it was like a revelation to
Functional Medicine teaches us that imbalances
in the 7 key systems in the body can lead to a
host of diseases, including breast cancer. By
analyzing which of theses systems are out of
balance and learning how to optimize them, you
can decrease your risk of getting breast cancer
or suffering a recurrence.
How do you do this?
There are many pieces to the puzzle, but when it
comes to breast cancer one of the keys is
balancing your estrogen levels. High levels of
estrogen consistently correlate with breast
cancer in most scientific studies.
How do you create and maintain estrogen balance?
The first step is to overcome insulin
Insulin is the hormone released from your
pancreas after a meal. It sends signals to your
cells telling them to absorb sugar from your
blood-which is a critically important job.
However, this finely orchestrated system is sent
spiraling out of control by our modern diet.
Sugar is the main culprit. When you eat too much
of it, in the form of high-fructose corn syrup,
highly-refined and processed carbohydrates, or
the multitude of other forms it comes in, your
body sends out more insulin than it can properly
use and you develop insulin resistance.
What most people DON'T realize is that as your
insulin levels increase your estrogen levels
increase as well. That means your risk of breast
cancer goes up every time you eat too much
However, the havoc that insulin wreaks doesn't
Insulin resistance also increases the amount of
body fat you have. As your body fat increases,
so does an enzyme in your fat called aromatase.
Aromatase turns hormones made in other organs in
your bodies (such as your adrenal glands) into
That means your estrogen levels are raised even
more, making your risk of breast cancer that
This point is especially important for
postmenopausal women. Percentage of body fat is
the number one risk factor for breast cancer in
Excess insulin causes other problems that
contribute to you risk as well: it may stimulate
the growth of tumors in your body and increase
systemic inflammation which is a leading factor
in cancer of any kind.
There are medications available that can help
counteract these conditions. You can take
aromatase inhibitors which are designed to
prevent the aromatase in your body fat from
converting your hormones into estrogen or you
can take medications to balance your insulin and
However, you can achieve the same effect
naturally by choosing real, whole, organic
foods, exercising daily, and maintaining a
healthy body weight.
What are the most damaging environmental toxins
when it comes to breast cancer?
The answer is simple: estrogen and the
substances that mimic it.
From birth control pills and hormone replacement
therapy to eating meat and drinking milk from
cows given growth hormones, we are all exposed
to excess estrogen.
The problem is compounded by the fact that other
environmental toxins like some pesticides and
compounds found in plastics mimic estrogen and
stimulate the estrogen receptor in an unhealthy
Obviously, estrogen isn't a "toxin" in the sense
that DDT is. But too much of it can be nearly as
deadly and we are exposed to extraordinary
amounts nearly every day. At the end of this
blog I will explain how you can eliminate this
Another critical part of your body you need to
focus on if you want to limit your risk of
breast cancer is your digestive system.
What is the connection between your gut health
the health of your breasts?
Your flora-or the good bacteria that live in
These little symbiotic helpers not only
strengthen your immune system and help you
digest the foods you eat, they also help
detoxify the estrogen made in your body after
it's been used.
If your flora aren't in balance, the estrogen
your body needs to eliminate gets reabsorbed.
This increases your estrogen level and exposes
your body to unhealthy estrogen breakdown
It's interesting to note that many studies link
increased use of antibiotics to an increased
risk of breast cancer. This may be because
excess antibiotic use kills off the good
bacteria in your gut.
So let's review what you can do to balance your
estrogen levels, heal from insulin resistance,
limit your toxic exposure, and support the flora
in your gut.
Doing the following will help you limit your
risk of breast cancer:
1. Choose whole foods. This helps increase your
insulin sensitivity and prevents insulin
resistance. Follow the recommendations in Dr.
Hyman's book UltraMetabolism for more tips on
which foods to choose.
2. Get 3-5 hours of exercise per week. This also
helps increase your insulin sensitivity and
allows you to more easily control your
percentage of body fat.
3. Increase your fiber intake. Your goal is 35
gm per day. High-fiber foods include vegetables,
fruits, beans, nuts, and whole grains such as
brown rice and ground flax seed.
4. Have protein at every meal or snack of the
day. Good protein sources include; fish, lean
poultry, beans, nuts, eggs, and soy. Make sure
you include a few vegetarian options in your
daily protein intake.
5. Maintain a healthy weight. This is the best
studied, most agreed upon step a woman can take
to decrease her risk of breast cancer.
6. Get a good night sleep. Sleeping well helps
with weight control, insulin sensitivity, and
supports your immune system. All of this is
important for preventing cancer.
7. Choose organic and hormone-free meat, milk,
and produce. This reduces your exposure to
unwanted pesticides and hormones.
8. Avoid excess toxic exposure. Choose organic
products for your lawn and garden, avoid dry
cleaning, don't use plastic bottles, and limit
your intake of medications (like Tylenol) that
get processed in your liver.
9. Take probiotics. Take 10 to 20 billion
organisms on an empty stomach twice a day, once
in the morning and once in the evening.
10. Limit your alcohol intake to no more than 1
drink per day and 5 per week-less is better.
Remember 1 drink is 5 ounces of wine, 1.5
ounces of hard alcohol, or 12 ounces of beer.
These are just a few simple things you can do
everyday to reduce your risk of getting breast
cancer. There are many others techniques you can
use and I may explore some of them in future
blogs. But by taking just these few steps you
not only enhance the health of your breasts, but
you start down the path of UltraWellness-a path
that promises nothing less than a lifetime of
vital health, optimal weight, and mental acuity.
Now I'd like to hear from you.
Have you struggled with breast cancer and if so,
what has worked and what hasn't?
Do you have any additional recommendations that
might benefit others who are struggling with