Friday, 27 November 2015

Breast Cancer Prevention

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancer diagnosed in women in New Zealand and around the world.  In New Zealand, 1 in 9 women have a breast cancer diagnosis.
We have been told that mammograms are your best detection method.  I would argue that mammogram is a passive surveillance method to detect if you have breast cancer.  What are you doing to prevent or reduce your risk of breast cancer?

We need to commit to proactive prevention.  It is very important for us to take a look at our food.  Sugar is a potent toxin.  Sugar increases our blood sugar hence increasing the production of insulin, which is a growth hormone.  The Harvard Medical School conducted a six year study of over 32,000 nurses found that increased levels of insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1) contributed to the increased growth of tumours, including breast cancers. 

It is well known that fibre is important to maintain good health.  The excessive intake of antibiotics or increased infection in the gut will weaken the immune system and increase your susceptibility to cancer.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the liver meridian travels through the breasts and the growth of cancer tumours show stagnation in liver energy.  A poor liver detoxification profile combined with poor dietary intake with increased sugar and processed food will increase the risk of breast cancer.  The presence of bad estrogens is commonly implicated in breast cancer.  It is therefore important to reduce intake of xenoestrogens, which are endocrine disruptors and behave like estrogen in the body.  Xenoestrogens are present in plastics, flame retardants, cosmetics, pesticides and food colouring.

To engage in active surveillance, you should avoid increasing your intake of xenoestrogens:
  1. Do not heat food up in any plastic containers in the microwave, in fact, do not use the microwave.  Heat it up on the stove or the oven. 
  2. Do not refill plastic drinking bottles, leave them in the sun or freeze water in plastic bottles.  Avoid plastic bottles, use stainless steel or glass bottles.
  3. Avoid using plastic wrap when storing or heating food.
  4. Avoid non-stick Teflon cookware.  When overheated, Teflon will leach into the food and disrupt the estrogen balance in the body.
  5. Avoid pesticides.  Eat organic where possible.
  6. Consume hormone free meats.
  7. Choose cosmetics and skin care products that are as natural as possible without names too long to pronounce and numbers you cannot decipher.  A common estrogenic ingredient found in cosmetics is paraben.
Increasing physical activity, increase intake of detoxifying foods and antioxidants with adequate protein can help reduce the risk of breast cancer.  Cruciferous vegetables, tumeric, rosemary and garlic are great to help detoxify estrogen.  Tumeric is synergistically absorbed with black pepper, so if you are marinating your food with tumeric, add some black pepper too!  If you are overweight, your risk of breast cancer increases.  Lose excess weight.  Being overweight by 7kgs increases your cancer risk as much as smoking!

Get enough Vitamin D, in the summer, do activities in the sun without sunscreen before 11 a.m. until the skin turns pink.  Do not burn.  In the winter, supplement!  Vitamin D acts as a vitamin and a hormone and is a very important vitamin for healthy breasts.

Reducing intake of alcohol to less than 3 glasses a week will help reduce the risk of breast cancer.  Keeping the bowels regular with adequate fibre, prebiotics, probiotics and greens is important to prevent breast cancer.  Your liver and bowels are really important to help reduce your risk of breast cancer, hence keeping liver toxins low and keeping your bowels healthy will help prevent breast cancer.  

Metabolic syndrome may be the cause of your fatigue, diabetes or weight gain

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of signs that can drive many serious diseases in our society.  Some of the indicators of metabolic syndrome include:

  • Waist circumference over 80cm for women and over 94cm for men
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes or prediabetes or poor control of blood sugar
  • Carrying extra weight around the waist – beer belly
  • Increase triglycerides in your blood lipids test

Metabolic syndrome increases your risk of serious diseases such as diabetes, stroke, cancer and Alzheimer’s.  We live in an age of plenty, where our genomics are designed to cater for survival against scarcity.  Average calories per day have increased from 2100 to 2800 over the past 60 years, and energy expenditure from physical activity has reduced by 46% over the same period.  Excess adipose (fat) tissues lead to systemic inflammation.

Every cell is equipped with its own energy sensing mechanism.  Like a fuel gauge, cells can sense states of high or low energy (ATP) and activate the adaptive mechanism accordingly.  When ATP is low, our cells activate an adaptive response to boost cellular energy which stimulates glucose and fat burning and reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.  This also activates the mitochondria (energy production powerhouse in the cell). This is called the AMPK response.  However, if there are large fluctuations with insulin induced from the diet, AMPK levels will be low and there will be less down regulation of inflammation, hence more pain, increase in fatigue and subsequent development of insulin resistance.

The more carbohydrate rich food we eat, the more insulin needs to be secreted. The more processed a carbohydrate food is, e.g. pastries compared to kumara (sweet potatoes), the more insulin is secreted to deal with larger blood sugar fluctuations. Insulin promotes glucose, protein and fat storage, inhibits fat burning and promotes growth of tissues.  Some insulin is essential, some growth of tissues are crucial for cell functioning, repair, growth and muscle building.  With excess carbohydrate intake in modern societies, insulin levels are higher, which by nature of the anabolic function of insulin, is associated with common health problems like acne, polycystic ovarian syndrome, atherosclerosis, hypertension and cancer.

So if you are having issues of weight gain, increasing waist circumference, fatigue, sweet cravings, imbalance in blood sugar levels, diabetes or prediabetes, I highly recommend that you address these problems before it turns into more serious diseases.  Consume foods that increase your satiety, with good fats and protein, rather than carbohydrates.  I can help you with dietary, nutritional and physical activity strategies to reverse your problems and run appropriate tests to monitor your progress over time.