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  • Writer's pictureMartha Calihan MD

Breast Care- What Can You Do?

Did you ever wonder about what you can do to keep your breasts healthy? With the incidence of breast cancer so high, is there something in our lifestyles that we are missing?

There is no simple answer, as cancer is a multifaceted disease process. But the truth is that breast cancer is incredibly common; I doubt that there are many of us who don’t know someone who is dealing with this issue.

Even so, there are some modifiable lifestyle factors we can look to in order to keep our breasts healthy.

One important consideration is where you source your meat. Eating non-organic meat from animals that have been treated with hormones exposes us to high levels of estrogens; and that can be problematic. The estrogen fed to chickens might make for nice large chicken breasts for us to eat, but do we want that hormonal effect in our bodies? I think not…

Choosing to source our food from animals not exposed to additional hormones can help lower our exposure to chemicals that could potentially be harmful to us.

And the same can be said for avoiding meat from animals treated with antibiotics; because having our bodies exposed to additional antibiotics can change the microbiome in our gut, and that can have health consequences to us too. Along with keeping infection rates low in animals who are squeezed too close together, antibiotics are given to animals to fatten them up faster. We also have evidence that higher antibiotic use in children increases their risk of obesity as adults. Increased body fat is a risk factor for cancer, and so we want to do all we can to maintain a healthy weight.

Happily, there are ways that we know to help our bodies metabolize our estrogens more efficiently, including eating plenty of cruciferous vegetables. Vegetables such as broccoli contain sulforaphanes, chemicals that actually help our livers metabolize estrogens. Make half your vegetable intake daily consist of these miraculous vegetables as part of a breast health program.

And of course, eating mostly organic food lowers the overall body burden of potentially toxic chemicals and that too is a good strategy for breast health.

Do you know how your body handles estrogen?

It is possible to measure how we metabolize estrogen, and thus determine if our estrogen is being processed down a pathway that leads to more or less harmful estrogen metabolites. This is an important and yet often overlooked assessment; and can be very helpful in determining an overall breast health plan.

As is true in most issues of health, lowering inflammation, avoiding simple sugars, getting adequate sleep and learning to deal with the effects of stress are important factors to remember to help support overall good health, including breast health.

So this October, as the conversation turns to Breast Cancer Awareness; I hope that we will each take time to focus also on breast health and how we can support our breasts.

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