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October’s Focus on Breast Cancer

It is October, and people affected closely or distantly by Breast cancer awareness ribbonbreast cancer pause to pay tribute to those who have met this disease on the battlefield.

From the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure to all the grassroots efforts made by families, huge work goes into finding a cure and funding research for treatment of this disease.

As important as these efforts are, more needs to be done, and it needs to be accomplished by consciously choosing new habits.

Researchers tell us that Breast Cancer cells start their activity 10 or more years before a mass can be detected. By the time treatment is initiated we are way behind in the race to beat this disease and drastic, destructive measures become the common course.

Instead of the limiting reactive approach that we are thrust into, we can be more broadly proactive.

In the language of Functional Medicine, let us look at Antecedents, Triggers, and Mediators:

Antecedents: What set the stage? Genetics, Family history, and Mom’s health during her pregnancy might give some clues.

Triggers: Was there an event that compromised your health? Was there a particular stressor, or is there ongoing stress? We know that stress creates an inflammatory environment for our cells.

Mediators: What keeps it going? These impacts are often lifestyle factors like quality sleep and diet. Is there something you are getting too much of or not enough of? What about exercise?

If I could re-imagine October’s Focus on Breast Cancer, I would keep the Susan G. Komen Race. It is exercise, after all. I would balance Breast Cancer Month equally between the fundraisers for research and efforts toward prevention.

I would ask that all participants focus on a new habit… a small change that they could commit to that would reduce their risks into the future. Each new habit would be publicly proclaimed and celebrated in honor of a loved one who succumbed to or survived the disease. There would be recognition for those who redirect their health trajectory the most dramatically. There would be recognition for families whose lifestyle changes set their children up for reduced cancer risk.

So how do you do this? What are some of the drivers behind cancer? What do we know?

We know that it joins a long list of inflammatory diseases.
We know that those who carry excess body fat are more at risk of breast cancer than those of normal weight.
We know that consuming excess sugar drives insulin and that stimulates the growth of cancer cells.
We know that those with low levels of vitamin D have a higher incidence of the disease than those whose D levels are optimum.
We know that environmental toxins leave residues in our bodies that simulate estrogen and are in fact far more dangerous than our naturally produced hormones.


“The beauty of making small steady lifestyle changes is that the benefits are far reaching. For instance, addressing inflammation in your body reduces the risk of many chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and dementia.”


Here are a few ideas to get you started…

  1. Commit to a month without processed foods. The ‘rule’ here is to avoid foods you could not produce in an average kitchen. So technically, while you may not have the skills to make chocolate, it could be done, so it is a safe food. If you do not have access to the ingredient list, it is probably not on the menu.
  2. Go sugar-free, or mostly so.
  3. If you carry too much weight, reduce by 10 percent. Research shows broad health benefits to a 10 percent loss no matter what the starting weight.
  4. Test your Vitamin D annually… either at the end of summer, which would be your highest natural value or at the end of the winter, your natural low. Supplement if you need to.
  5. Tune up your microbiome. The good ‘bugs’ in your gut support your immune system. Add your favorite fermented foods and supplement with a probiotic.
  6. Eat more fiber! The average diet is very low in fiber, so start counting. Adequate amounts range from 25 to 40 grams. Add slowly so that you digestion adjusts comfortably. Fiber provides fuel for your gut flora. Fiber also helps bind and remove toxins as efficiently as possible.
  7. Beyond the advice to eat more fruits and vegetables, there are specific foods more advantageous than others. In particular, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts and cabbage are powerful foods in the fight against cancer. If these aren’t your favorites, consider supplementing with Indole 3 Carbinol… the cancer-fighting power in those veggies. It helps to tame estrogen, so this is a heavy hitter!
  8. Clean up your household products. Go green. EWG.org is a great site to learn about reducing exposure to environmental toxins.
  9. Protect your sleep. I started going to bed 15 minutes earlier and found an added ‘plus’ in missing the evening news.
  10. Consider your genetics. If you have significant risk, make a significant plan.

A final thought. One in eight women will have breast cancer in their lifetimes. In the 1960’s it was one in twenty. I know we can turn this around!

Call Powell Clinic at (480) 990-0664 to schedule your consultation today!