Nutrition & Integrative Therapies for Breast Health
From the desk of Jessica L. Molleur, Lic.Ac., DNBAO...
In honor of breast cancer awareness month, I've compiled a list of resources for nutrition, supplementation, and other integrative therapies related to breast health and breast cancer treatment.
Integrative Care Recommendations
· In addition to weekly acupuncture which can help with nausea, fatigue, as well as other side effects related to chemotherapy and radiation, breast cancer patients in the Boston area also have the opportunity to access care options at the Lenny Zakim Center. If you don't know what type of treatment to choose, follow your intuition and try options that you are naturally drawn to: http://www.dana-farber.org/Adult-Care/Treatment-and-Support/Patient-and-Family-Support/Zakim-Center-for-Integrative-Therapies.aspx
In general, breast tissue is uniquely sensitive to high-refined carbohydrates (sugar) which in turn raises insulin & blood sugar levels raise resulting in cellular inflammation. A low-sugar diet will eliminate excess estrogen and decreases cellular inflammation. The three main components of an anti-inflammatory diet include: Foods of color (8-10 servings/day), high essential fatty acids (1 serving/meal), and organic proteins (including some vegetarian sources).
Since 1973, the National Cancer Institute has published studies linking animal fat to both an increase both an increase in incidence and and invasive breast cancer rates. However, an Italian study showed a decreased risk of breast cancer with increased fat intake and an increased risk where carbohydrates in the form of starch (breads, pasta etc…) were supplemented. In summary, scientific data is slowly pointing towards the combination of high fat, high sugar diets in combination with low nutrient, low antioxidant diets as being the most problematic for breast tissue.
Additionally, soluble fiber in your diet helps to increase the excretion of excess estrogen. Additionally, some other beneficial foods to include are lentils, beans, and cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, kale, Brussel sprouts, turnips, collard greens). This class of vegetables contains indoel-3-carbinol, which have been shown to bind to breast tissue, thus making the body’s own estrogen less likely to promote cancerous growth.
Another food to include is natto, or other whole or fermented sources of organic soy such as miso, tofu, and edamame which are rich in phytoestrogens. Other foods with phytoestrogens include sesame seeds, oats, yams, flax seeds, wheat berries. Phytoestrogens appear to mimic the body’s own estrogens having a weak estrogenic effect, thereby blocking estrogen receptors from excessive estrogen stimulation.
Lignans are another important component to include in your diet. Flaxseeds have the highest concentration of lignans. There are studies showing that vegetarians and women in areas with low breast cancer rates have high urinary lignin concentrations. Lignans are building blocks for plant cell walls. When eaten, they break down and have an anti-cancer and estrogen balancing effects.
Increasing your intake of iodine may also be helpful. Iodine rich foods include sea vegetables (kelp & seaweeds), cranberries, navy beans, strawberries, and potatoes. Similar to Vitamin D, many women have low levels of iodine. Japanese women have the lowest breast cancer rates in the world. The average Japanese consumption of iodine is about 45 mg/day. The average intake in the US is 240 micrograms. Additional research shows that individuals taking iodine supplements between 6 mg and 90 mg a day feel healthier and have a greater sense of well-being
Foods to eliminate include non-organic dairy products, caffeine, and alcohol. Try to avoid consuming dairy products with hormones. If you consume dairy products, choose only organic sources. Eliminate dairy products for one month to see how you feel. A trial elimination of one menstrual cycle is worth a try. There is no data supporting this recommendation but many women report a significant improvement in cystic breast tissue and breast tenderness after eliminating dairy.
Caffeinated products include coffee, soda, chocolate, and decaffeinated coffee. The mexylxanthines (caffeine and theobromine) can cause the overstimulation of breast tissue in some women. Studies on caffeine are mixed but it is worth eliminating caffeine for one menstrual cycle and seeing how you feel. In regards to alcohol consumption, the data is fairly clear. Alcohol intake is associated with an increased risk of cancer in several studies. In the Nurses Health Study, the risk decreased by 60% for women who didn’t drink more than one or more drinks a day.
- Choose a high-quality multi-vitamin: A multivitamin should contain both magnesium and 200 mcg of selenium both of which have been shown to have benefits in double-blind, randomized cancer trials.
- Additionally, there is compelling data on the importance of Vitamin C and Vitamin D supplementation. Request to have your Vitamin D levels tested as soon as possible and keep them in the upper range of 60-80 ng/mL.
- A general probiotic will help support your immune system and minimize gastrointestinal issues along the way. Lactobacillus acidolphilus is specifically related to estrogen metabolism in the bowel and a general probiotic will help prevent gastrointestinal symptoms down the road.
- Coenzyme Q10: Studies have found that 20 percent of breast cancer patients have levels coQ10 below the normal range. Research has also found it to improve immune system functioning. COQ10 is a natural substance necessary for the production of ATP-the power house of all cells. In one recent study from Denmark, 32 breast cancer patients were given up to 390 mg/day of coQ10 together with antioxidants and an essential fatty acids. Seven participants showed partial or complete regression of their tumors.
- Supplementing with fish oils provides additional insurance that you are getting enough essential fatty acids in your diet. Make sure to choose a high-quality supplement that is third-party tested, molecularly distilled, and tested for common contaminants such as mercury or PCBs.
· Peggy Huddleston, M.S.: author of Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster: A Guide of Mind-Body Techniques www.healfaster.com
· The Cancer Report: The Latest Research in Psychoneuroimmunology (How Thousands Are Achieving Permanent Recoveries) by John Voell and Cynthia Chatfield (Change Your World Press) 2005 and www.cancerreport.com
· Brenda Michaels www.concioustalk.net
· Caroline Myss www.myss.com
Have any questions about this post or optimizing breast health? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Jessica L. Molleur, Lic.Ac., DNBAO
Jessica L. Molleur is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, and massage therapist in Massachusetts and California. She first became interested in acupuncture as a soccer player searching for an alternative to knee surgery and discovered the many benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of California at Davis and a Master of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine from the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, CA. Jessica is a National Diplomate of Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine and Chinese Herbology through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). She is also a Diplomate of Acupuncture Orthopedics, a specialty certification held by fewer than 500 acupuncturists in the United States.
Jessica currently maintains a private acupuncture practice in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, which was awarded Best Acupuncture Center by Boston Magazine. Areas of specialty include women's health, pregnancy, infertility, pediatrics, and sports medicine. If you are interested in learning about the benefits of acupuncture for fertility and IVF, please visit the acupuncture + fertility page. New patients can book online to schedule any acupuncture service including a complimentary consult. Jessica also serves as a health care consultant for a number of integrative medical institutes. Her clients include IVF and infertility centers, functional medicine offices, orthopedic facilities, concierge practices, and green spas. Please contact OMBE for more information about these services.
Prior to her consulting work, Jessica founded an integrative health center in Boston. The eco-friendly center was one of the first twenty-five companies certified as a Sustainable Business Leader in Boston. During its ten-year tenure, the center provided services including acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, naturopathy, nutritional counseling, personal training, Pilates, and yoga. Studio offerings included mom and baby programming, Mongan Method Hypnobirthing, natural childbirth education and the Holistic Moms Network. The center was the recipient of several awards, including Mayor Menino's Green Business Award, a multiple recipient of Boston Business Journal's Best Workplace, Boston Magazine's Best of Boston Award for Massage Therapy as well as Best Eco-Friendly Massage, Eco-Beauty Bar, Nutritionist, Personal Trainer, Pilates, and Workout.