Four Pro-Active Steps You Can Take To Reduce Your Risk Of Breast Cancer

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In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to share with you some pro-active  steps that you can take to lower your risk of developing breast cancer.

According to the Cleveland Clinic Medical Center, in the 1960’s, one out of every 20 women was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Today, one in eight women are likely to develop this disease.  Because breast cancer runs in my family,  I would like to think that I do everything that I can do to prevent it.   Of course I do the “active surveillance” that doctors recommend, meaning that I do self breast exams and go for periodic checks with the doctor with the hope that they don’t find anything.   To me, that seems more “in-active” than “active.”

What else can we do besides wait for breast cancer NOT to happen?  We can try to change the conditions in which the cancer grows in our bodies.  Here are three major steps we can take to keep breast cancer from thriving in our systems.

  • Decrease Sugar Intake:  According to Dr. Mark Hyman, director of the Cleveland Clinical Center for Functional Medicine, the number one driver of cancer is sugar.  In fact, sugar is one of the most potent toxins in our food supply.  On average, Americans consumer 152 pounds of sugar and 146 pounds of flour (which acts even worse than sugar in our bodies) every year.  Sugar and flour both increase the release of insulin in our bodies.  Because insulin is a growth hormone, having more of it in our systems makes cancer cells grow.  It also creates inflammation, both of which help cancer cells thrive.  Therefore, we want to have a low glycemic diet to reduce our risk of cancer.  For more about the glycemic diet, check out this link from Harvard Medical School: http://bit.ly/1uKuys5  .  Don’t wait to become diabetic before getting on a low-glycemic diet.
  • Increase Fiber, Prebiotic and Probiotic Intake.  In case you needed yet another reason to eat a high-fiber diet; a diet rich with fiber is important for your gastrointestinal tract (GI) and gut flora.  Did you know that 70% of your immune system is actually in your gut?  Furthermore, according to Dr. Hyman,  if the microorganisms in your gut are imbalanced, you run a higher risk of cancer.  Research shows that women who’ve take a lot of antibiotics in the past have an increased incidence of breast cancer because antibiotics affect the balance of gut flora.  In order to balance these microorganisms, consider eating more prebiotics, probiotics, and fermented foods, all of which are beneficial for the good bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract.  For more info click here:  http://bit.ly/1MgBv6N  and here:  http://bit.ly/1N26S7R .
  • Get Rid Of Toxins.  Of course we don’t eat toxins!  Or do we?  Nowadays, we are surrounded by toxins:  they are in plastics, pesticides, dry cleaning, and even skin care products.  These toxins act like estrogens in our body, binding to the receptors that are meant for estrogen, which can stimulate the pathways that drive cancer.  How to avoid toxins:
    1. Drink filtered water.
    2. Eat organic food (see www.ewg.org)
    3. Reduce toxic household products, including skin care products (again, see www.ewg.org for more info)
  • Alcohol.  There’s a reason I left this for last – it’s a tough one.  I was shocked to learn from Dr. Hyman that just one glass of alcohol per day increases your risk of breast cancer by 40%!  Because alcohol is a liver toxin, it affects your ability to metabolize estrogen, therefore there are higher levels of estrogen in your system if you drink alcohol. For more information regarding breast cancer and alcohol, check out this link:  http://bit.ly/1m5WHEN

    Here’s the takeaway:

  • Get rid of sugar in your diet.
  • Increase the amount of fiber, pre-biotics and pro-biotics in your diet.
  • Get rid of toxins in your food, water, skin care and household products by eating real food, filtered water, and using clean skincare and household products.  (Refer to www.ewg.org)
  • Limit alcohol to 3 glasses per week.

As I always say, just focus on one of these ideas, get it straight, and then add on another one.  Don’t try to do it all in one day.  What’s your first step going to be?

Can We Stop With the Minutia Already? Five Big Bang Changes

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Have you noticed that everything’s a health hack nowadays?

For example, leeks are good for detoxing your liver. Throw chia, hemp and flax seeds in your smoothie for heart health.  Recently, I overheard someone say, “I drink my water ice cold because it burns more calories than room temperature water.”  That’s the last straw!  C’mon!   Really?  I’m not saying these things aren’t true, but maybe we’re getting carried away here.  After all, my liver would be helped more if I didn’t drink as much alcohol; my heart would be healthier if I got more cardio; and I’d eat fewer calories if I cut back on that daily crappucino.  Just sayin’.

It reminds me of a Weight Watchers meeting a long time ago when the topic turned to salad dressings; which flavor was the best tasting for the fewest calories, or which brand the least fattening (back when low-fat salad dressing was considered a good thing).  As sometimes happens at meetings, the topic digressed – to the point where the group began sharing tips on measuring salad dressings.

 Finally, the leader got everyone’s attention and said, “Look, People.  I doubt any of us are here in this room because we’re putting too much dressing on our salads.”

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The room became silent.  She was absolutely right.  It’s possible that there was one individual with five pounds to lose who would benefit from this discussion, but it was far more likely that we should focus on the big things:  like our mid-afternoon peanut butter binges (me), our nightly bowls of ice cream, or those donuts on the way home in the car.

This is how our attention gets de-railed sometimes.

We focus on the minutia, rather than taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture. The little things matter, but if you want to make a change, it might as well have a larger impact.  If I had to pick my top five, here they are:

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1.  Drink less alcohol.  I’m not even going to suggest drinking NO alcohol because then no one would subscribe to my blog anymore, and all my friends would call me a hypocrite!  But let’s be honest with ourselves; we’re not drinking wine for its anti-oxidants.  My new rule is to only drink when I’m out; no drinking at home.  It’s doable, and it’s in the right direction.

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2.  Eat foods that have 5 ingredients or less.  Better yet, don’t eat any food that needs a label!  With the exception of eggs, oil and nuts, if it has a label, avoid it entirely.

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3.  Get your sleep. Research has proven that 7-8 hours of sleep is ideal for health.  If you have a hard time sleeping, try to figure out the root cause, rather than pop over-the-counter sleeping pills.  It could be pointing to a larger problem.  Talk honestly with your doctor about it.  You might need some yoga!

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4.  Get rid of everyday sugar. Sugar sneaks into everything we eat and drink nowadays.  Even those supposedly healthy Naked drinks have a surprising amount of sugar!  Then go ahead an enjoy a splurge, but only once a week.  I love a dark, rich, chocolate dessert.  I never waste my dessert on an Oreo or some store-bought goodie.  I save it for the real thing, and enjoy every bit of it.

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5.  Drink water. Water is SO good for you; here’s a link to why:  http://bit.ly/1cbimUl   Ideally, drink half of your body weight in ounces of water per day.  (If you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water per day.)  Have even more if you exercise a lot.  In other words, carry a big water bottle with you every day. I doubt that it matters if it’s hot or cold; just drink it!  😉