Breast Wellness by Dr. Elizabeth W. Boham

It’s October, and all of this pink reminds us of breast health. As a Functional Medicine physician and a breast cancer survivor, I want to do more for breast cancer prevention than just focus on early detection. We also need to look deeper and work toward prevention. Early detection includes:

  • Getting to know your body and your breasts
  • Regular breast exams from your physician
  • Screen modalities such as mammography and thermography

Early detection is important and saves lives: it saved mine! And, in addition to the importance of early detection, research studies show there are many things we can do to decrease our risk of getting cancer in the first place.

The most important thing to do for the prevention of cancer is to create a healthy environment in the body so that cancer is less likely to develop and grow. Think of this healthful environment as terrain or soil. If that soil is fed correctly, it won’t support the development or growth of cancer. To achieve this healthful environment, we work to balance many different systems in the body.

First, we work to balance the hormones, starting with insulin. Insulin helps keep blood sugar in balance, and when insulin doesn’t work properly, the risk for many diseases — including breast cancer — increases. (Countless studies show that if we become more resistant to our insulin, then insulin levels increase, and the risk of breast cancer increases, as well. High levels of insulin circulating in the body also cause weight gain around the belly, and cause other things to grow including breast cancer.) See the steps at the end of this article for simple ways to keep insulin in balance, and for a more detailed plan read The Blood Sugar Solution by Dr. Mark Hyman.

Estrogen is another hormone that needs balancing. Breast cancer often grows in times of high estrogen. Because of this, we need to support the body in detoxifying and eliminating estrogen after it does its job. Certain foods are very helpful for estrogen metabolism: cruciferous vegetables should be the focus. Additionally, ground flax seed, fish oil, and a diet rich in fiber all help keep your estrogen in better balance.

When planning your meals: think phytonutrients! These components help plant foods survive in nature and have been found to help our bodies survive. Many phytonutrients strengthen the immune system and help stop cancer-cell growth. Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day. In other words, eat a vegetable or fruit from every color of the rainbow each day. Did you have your red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and white/tan foods today?

Finally, avoid toxins and support the body’s detoxification system. Some toxins in the environment act as hormones and increase the risk of breast cancer. These include BPA (found in plastics, cans, and shiny receptacles) as well as pesticides and parabens.

These 10 tips and Top 10 foods will help you keep your breasts healthy!

  1. Choose whole foods. Whole foods are nutrient-dense, providing vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that promote health. Non-processed foods also help increase your insulin sensitivity and prevent insulin resistance.
  2. Get 3-5 hours of exercise per week. Aim for 45 minutes, 5 times per week. This keeps your insulin working well, and helps you maintain a healthy percentage of body fat.
  3. Increase your fiber intake. Your goal is 35 grams per day. High-fiber goods include vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and seeds (such as ground flax seeds), and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat.
  4. Have protein at every meal or snack of the day. Good protein sources include: fish, lean poultry, beans, nuts, eggs, and whole or fermented soy foods. 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 women can take to decrease the risk of breast cancer.
  6. Get a good night’s sleep. Sleeping well helps with weight control, insulin sensitivity, and supports the immune system. All of this is important for preventing cancer.
  7. Avoid excess toxic exposure in the following ways:
    1. Read labels on all products, avoid pesticides, herbicides, BPA, parabens, and phthalates
    2. Choose organic products for lawn and garden
    3. Avoid dry cleaning
    4. Instead of plastic bottles (especially #7 that has BPA), get yourself a reusable stainless-steel or glass water bottle, and store food in glass containers
    5. Limit intake of medications like Tylenol that are extra work for your liver to process
    6. Look for body-care products free of parabens and phthalates
  8. Take probiotics. Take 10 to 20 billion organisms twice per day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Having the right balance of bacteria in your digestive system helps with the mobilization and detoxification of estrogen and other toxins.
  9. 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.
  10. Eat 8 to 10 ½-cup servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Organic produce is lower in pesticides, some of which can mimic estrogen in the body. Cruciferous vegetables help the body detoxify toxins and estrogen. Ideally try to get 1-2 servings of cruciferous vegetables each day. Cruciferous vegetables include:
    1. Broccoli
    2. Cauliflower
    3. Cabbage
    4. Kale

Top 10 Foods for Breast Wellness

  1. Broccoli
  2. Green tea – organic
  3. Blueberries and other organic berries
  4. Pomegranate
  5. Whole organic soy – like edamame, tofu, miso, and tempeh
  6. Beans and legumes
  7. Ground Flax Seed
  8. Garlic and Onions
  9. Fatty fish like salmon and sardines
  10. Seaweed and Nori

Remember, early detection is very important. And, it’s also important to create a healthy environment in the body to help prevent cancer from growing in the first place. Follow the above 10 tips to help decrease your risk of breast cancer: little things we do each day can make a big difference in breast (and entire body) health!Breast Wellness by Dr. Elizabeth W. Boham

8 Responses to “Breast Wellness by Dr. Elizabeth W. Boham”

  1. Thank you for providing this excellent information; information which is not available to most of us elsewhere. Your advice has helped me immensely. You are improving and saving lives. THANK YOU.

  2. Dr Boham,
    Thank you for this article but now I’m a bit confused. I’ve read in 3 different places in the last month that cruciferous vegetables are NOT helpful if you have a thyroid condition (it may have just referred to hypothyroid…). The vegetables I recall seeing listed were broccolli, cabbage, cauilflower, kale, brussel sprouts, collard greens, mustard greens. (BTW, just found this website which lists even more egetables than what I’ve listed: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/foods/cruciferous/ ). In the link in parenthesis, I also read liisted that eating very high levels of cruciferous vegies caused hypothyroidism in animals.

    • Profile photo of Team Hyman

      When cruciferous vegetables are cooked, most of the compounds in them that could interfere with the functioning of the thyroid gland are destroyed. So if you have an underactive thyroid or are at high risk for having an underactive thyroid, just make sure to cook you cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and brussel sprouts. Then enjoy daily.

  3. Profile photo of Thea

    As an artist and survivor of advanced ovarian cancer (diagnosed in 1997), BRca1 positive, 13 years of a combination of chemotherapy and alternative lifestyle, precancerous lesion removed in mouth, a meningioma removed 2012, and a double mastectomy stage 2 cancer 2013, but forever upbeat,…..
    ,…..I, of course, appreciate any professional who is knowledgable, caring, and sharing. You are clearly
    one of a new breed. Thank heaven for your existence and for sharing your knowledge.

  4. Profile photo of Tandy

    Thank you for this, Dr Boham — and I’m so glad to hear of your healthy outcome!

    If you follow up, or if Dr Hyman does, I’d love to hear more about the soy you include on the list of things to eat. I had thought Dr Hyman cautioned against non-fermented soy, even organic soy, for women, and maybe for everyone. Consequently I stay away from it like the plague! Is this wrong?

    • Profile photo of Team Hyman

      Many studies have shown that soy does not increase a women’s risk of getting breast cancer. Soy has wonderful phytonutrients that can actually decrease a person’s risk of getting cancer. Whole organic soy, such as edamame, tofu and soy beans can be part of a healthy diet. But many concentrated soy products has not be adequately studied. So I advise against hydrolyzed soy protein that is often added to bars and cereals to increase their protein content. I also advise against using soy protein powder.

      – Dr. Boham

  5. Would you consider a medication such as Evista if you were high risk, along with all of these other recommendations

    • Profile photo of Team Hyman

      Medications, such as Evista, for primary prevention
      (measures taken to prevent a disease from occurring in the first place)
      are being recommended for certain high risk individuals. It is important
      that a person’s whole medical history and risk factors are taken into
      account when deciding if the benefits of Evista or another medication
      outweigh the risks. For primary prevention lifestyle modification, as I
      discussed in my article is an optimal place for people to focus. These
      interventions do not have the risks that many medications do and they
      also help prevent other diseases, such as heart disease, at the same
      time.

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