My Top 5 Supplements for Breast Health
Honestly, supplements are not the first place I focus when I am working with a woman who wants to decrease her risk of getting breast cancer. I work with women to improve their lifestyle (which you can read about here) and lower their exposure to toxins, estrogens, and body fat. But, there are a few supplements that I often recommend to women looking to decrease their risk and that I have personally chosen to take myself after reviewing the literature.
Here are my top 5:
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D is more commonly known as “The Sunshine Vitamin”. This is because the body makes vitamin D3 under the skin when it is exposed to UVB light, which is our major source of vitamin D. We can get vitamin D from some of our foods, but it is difficult to get the recommended intake of vitamin D from diet alone. Some foods high in vitamin D include mushrooms, fatty fish, eggs and fortified milk. Many studies have shown an inverse relationship between vitamin D and breast cancer risk and that having a vitamin D level >45ng/mL may protect against breast cancer. When women are low in vitamin D, their risk of getting breast cancer is higher. When we live north of the line from Atlanta to LA, the sun is not strong enough for us to make vitamin D, especially from October to April. Because of this and because so many women are found to be deficient in vitamin D, I recommend that most people get at least 2000 IU of vitamin D3 from supplements daily, which becomes even more important from fall to spring. This is not enough for everyone though,so, ask your doctor to check your 25-OH vitamin D blood level. If your blood levels are still low, you may need even more supplemental vitamin D3. But it’s important to note you can take too much D3—if you are taking more than 5000 IU of vitamin D3 daily, I recommend that you get you vitamin D level checked every few months, until you know what dose is best for you.
- Probiotics: Probiotics are the trillions of healthy microbes that populate our whole body. They line our digestive system, our skin, and now we realize that they populate the breast tissue as well. Imbalances in the bacteria in our body can increase inflammation, change the way our body metabolizes and gets rid of estrogen and toxins, and influence our metabolism. For many reasons we don’t quite understand yet, the types of bacteria in our breast tissue vary when comparing normal breast tissue to breast cancer. Increased use of antibiotics has also been associated with multiple cancers including breast cancer. For many women who have had a history of antibiotic use or who have signs of imbalances in the good and bad microbes in their body (digestive issues, acne, rosacea, or yeast infections) I often recommend a probiotic. Look for a probiotic that comes from a reputable company and has a diverse number of bacterial strains. You often get what you pay for. Look at the number of bacteria per capsule and choose one that has at least 25 billion active live cultures per day.
- Sulforaphane: Sulforaphane is produced in the body after you eat broccoli and it has been shown to decrease the progression of cancer cells and decreases the impact carcinogens can have on the body. That means that if we are exposed to a toxin that could cause cancer, that transition to a cancer cell is less likely to occur when sulforaphane is around. I recommend that people work to get 5 servings of cruciferous vegetables per week. Vegetables in the cruciferous family include; broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale. When people are at high risk for cancer or are not eating enough cruciferous vegetables, I will often add in a sulforaphane supplement.
- Fish Oil: I always focus on creating a terrain in the body in which cancer is less likely to grow. (Learn more here on how to create that cancer fighting terrain in your body.). We know that cancer likes to grow when inflammation is elevated in the body. It is important to focus on lowering inflammation in the body through many mechanisms including choosing the proper diet. Omega-3 fats found in fish oil have anti-inflammatory properties in the body. You can get omega-3 fats in your diet when choosing fatty fish, such as sardines and wild-caught salmon, omega-3-rich eggs and ground flaxseeds. Many people are not getting enough omega-3 fats in their diet and as a result, fish oil is a supplement that I often recommend. Reach for a good quality fish oil with 1000 mg of DHA and EPA per day, or about 2000 mg (2 grams) of total fish oil.
- NAC: N-acetylcysteine is a precursor to glutathione in the body. Glutathione is a major antioxidant that assists with detoxification.. Medications, including Tylenol and chemotherapy, can deplete the body’s glutathione levels. In addition, getting rid of the toxins we are exposed to everyday, requires glutathione. I sometimes recommend glutathione to my patients,but you can’t take any old pill of glutathione and expect it to work. At The UltraWellness Center, we use IV glutathione, creams of glutathione, and liposomal forms (small particles that can get absorbed through the skin in the mouth). An easier way for many people to increase the glutathione levels in their body, is by taking NAC. I typically recommend 600 mg of NAC once or twice a day. Don’t forget that a healthy diet with sufficient protein is necessary for optimal glutathione production as well.
You can’t always control what happens inside your body; you can read my article I Did Everything Right… But I Still Got Cancer for more about my personal journey dealing with a cancer diagnosis. And remember, you can’t expect the above supplements to counteract an unhealthy lifestyle. Eating a whole- foods organic diet, getting regular movement and exercise, getting sufficient sleep, and managing the stress in your life is more effective than any supplement can be. And this is just the beginning—you can learn even more about keeping your breast tissue healthy with my Breast Wellness DVD.