Get Easy Health Digest™ in your inbox and don’t miss a thing when you subscribe today. Plus, get the free bonus report, Mother Nature’s Tips, Tricks and Remedies for Cholesterol, Blood Pressure & Blood Sugar as my way of saying welcome to the community!
October is dedicated to breast cancer awareness.
The month is marked with valuable information that is intended to raise visibility about the increasing incidence of breast cancer, and many nonprofit and government organizations provide screening and treatment options to those affected by cancer, information on support services available and educational materials on the importance of early detection.
There is no doubt that there are advocates improving women’s health in the US, however, I’m always struck by what I don’t hear: practical advice on how to keep your breasts protected and healthy all year.
Time magazine published an article highlighting the importance of both nature and nurture in the development of breast cancer…
We sometimes forget about the role our environment plays in our health; from our locally sourced food to our water and air, it all accumulates in our bodies and, specifically, in certain organs. Breast tissue is vulnerable year-round, particularly to environmental toxins as well as to our dietary habits. This is partly because breasts are primarily composed of fatty tissue, which can store fat soluble toxins.
Breast tissue is also highly sensitive to chemicals known to cause endocrine (hormone) disruptions, and many of them are found in environmental pollution. Plus, breast cells are some of the more rapidly dividing cells in the body, putting them at a higher risk for mutations.
Many environmental toxins are not very water soluble. In fact, they absorb into lipids (fats), so they tend to accumulate in fatty tissues throughout the body. Breast tissue has a high fat content, as breasts are composed of ducts and glands surrounded by fatty tissue. As women age and sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone levels decrease, the glandular tissue diminishes and there is a corresponding increase in fatty tissue.
Pesticides and other chemicals, as well as heavy metals, tend to gravitate toward these fatty tissues. High levels of toxins have been found in numerous studies to be present in both breast tissue and breast milk.
Interestingly, countries that have banned specific chemicals such as DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and other dangerous pesticides have seen a corresponding drop in breast milk concentrations. Even with the ban however, many of these chemicals, known as “POPs” (Persistent Organic Pollutants), can remain in the environment for decades and continue to bioaccumulate up the food chain, from plants to humans. Decreasing the levels of these toxic chemicals takes many years and lots of effort from local, state and federal organizations.
The Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) states that there are over 80,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S. and very few of them have been tracked or studied. We have seen a reduction of certain chemicals in breast milk samples, but have also seen an alarming rise in other chemicals such as brominated flame retardants, known as PBDE’s. Bromine has similar properties to the essential nutrient iodine, including how it binds to compounds in the body. When bromine is introduced, it can block thyroid iodine receptors and therefore, thyroid function suffers. Bromine is also commonly used in commercial flour and baked goods and numerous other packaged food products, as well as in pool chemicals.
Another critical factor in breast health is bacteria. Bacteria that live in the body, known as the microbiome, influence many diseases. Most research has been done on the “gut” microbiome in the digestive tract, but researchers have long suspected that a “microbiome” exists within breast tissue and plays a role in breast cancer.
In a newly published study, Cleveland Clinic researchers found distinct microbial differences in healthy and cancerous breast tissue when they compared breast tissue of healthy women to women with breast cancer. The research team has discovered for the first time that healthy breast tissue contains more of the bacterial species Methylobacterium, a finding which could offer a new perspective in the battle against breast cancer. The study provides proof-of-principle evidence to support further research into the creation of targeted treatments of these pro-cancer bacteria.
In addition to toxic chemicals, there is a group of chemicals with another dangerous trait. Known as endocrine disruptors, environmental estrogens, or xenoestrogens, this group of chemicals mimic estrogen and other hormones and trick the body into “using” them instead of naturally occurring hormones.
These estrogen imposters produce excessive stimulation to hormone sensitive tissues. Cells comprised of specific hormone-sensitive tissues, such as breast, uterine and testicular tissue, have receptor sites on their cell surface for specific hormones. These receptors have a definite shape, and like a lock and key mechanism, the hormone fits snugly into the receptor which “opens the door”, allowing a signal to enter the cell and give instructions to the cell nucleus. The shape of environmental estrogen chemicals is similar enough to the native hormone that they can fit into the receptor and activate the cell, producing excessive growth and disrupting the body’s complex communication network. Studies in animals from contaminated lakes and streams have seen reproductive changes that seriously hamper normal reproduction, producing offspring with “feminizing” organ development and other serious developmental issues.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has just published a list of the top chemicals found to be endocrine disruptors – called “The Dirty Dozen.” You can read about these chemicals and where they are most commonly found, here.
Year-round breast support
Before embarking on a new breast health program this month, it’s important you be aware of toxins in your surroundings, including food and water supply as well as household products, and anything else you apply to your skin. This is particularly critical for breast health. Water filters, organic whole food, and natural home and body products are an excellent start.
Next on the list is adding foods and supplements that help remove chemicals and heavy metals. The plant kingdom is a great ally in our efforts to keep breasts toxin free. Sulfur-containing foods, such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, onions and garlic, all contain compounds which aid in detoxification. Modified citrus pectin, derived from the pith of citrus peels, easily enters the circulation and has been shown in human studies to safely remove heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium lead and arsenic from the blood.
I also recommend a researched combination of botanical compounds including DIM (diindolylmethane from cruciferous vegetables), curcumin, quercetin, astragalus, and medicinal mushrooms. This formula provides powerful support for healthy breast cell behavior, immune function and hormone balance.
As always, a proactive, multi-faceted, integrative approach is the best way to support long term health. And for the men reading this article, this applies to you as well! I encourage you take steps this year to protect and enhance the health of your breasts and other hormone sensitive tissues.