October is fast approaching and signals Canada’s national breast cancer awareness month. Naturopathic medicine can support conventional medicine in treating breast cancer but of course prevention is key.
There are many factors to preventing breast cancer. Reducing our exposure to estrogenic chemicals known as xenoestrogens is definitely important. These chemicals are found in everyday materials such as BPA containing plastics, parabens in makeup and lotions, and pesticides. These chemicals are notorious for activating estrogen receptors leading to a rise in breast cancer risk.
Ensuring a robust digestive system can also help in the prevention of tumors. We must remember that healthy eating is synonymous with healthy living. Increasing antioxidants in our diet can surely help increase our body’s ability to detoxify harmful compounds. Foods such as berries, dark leafy greens, along with spices such as ginger and turmeric can help with the detoxification process. Speaking of diet, if you have a family history of breast cancer, then you may want to avoid high sources of phytoestrogens found in soy products (such as in tofu and soy milk). Limiting alcohol and tobacco use is also key in helping to lower the body’s toxic load.
Traditional medicine recognizes that emotional and physical stress can impair the liver’s functionality and so activities that can reduce stress are also important tools in ensuring optimal detoxification capacity. These can include walking, meditation, and treatments that increase the state of relaxation such as acupuncture. Acupuncture also has the benefit of increasing blood circulation to ensure cells are well nourished and that toxins are efficiently detoxified.
Remember also that manual screening is helpful in the prevention of breast cancer. Although breast self-exams are no longer emphasized by most health providers, it is still one of the best screening methods I would recommend to patients. Most breast cancer detected in early stages is by the patients themselves and this makes sense since you can track changes in your breast tissue better than any practitioner.
To learn more about breast cancer please visit the Canadian Cancer Society’s page on breast cancer.
We are in the thick of the cold and flu season and so we should take precautions to avoid the latest onslaught of bacteria and viruses trying to attack our immune system.
The first tip I would offer people is to cook and eat easy to digest foods such as soups and stews. Our gut is one of the first areas we can fortify in avoiding pathogens. Therefore, we do not want to burden our gastrointestinal system with hard to digest foods (i.e. fried foods, processed foods, sugary foods). Readily use green onions, garlic, ginger, and turnip in your meals as they contain antimicrobial components. Keeping with the digestive link, I would also highly recommend a good probiotic supplement for increasing our defenses with healthy gut bacteria.
To boost the immune system, Vitamin C and Vitamin D are very beneficial. 1000mg of Vitamin C with at least 1000 IU of vitamin D can go a long way in protecting us during the cold Winter months. Just remember to take your vitamin D with meals to increase its absorption.
As far as herbs go, I often recommend Echinacea as an effective herb in boosting your immune system and helping your white blood cells be on alert for any foreign invaders. You can find Echinacea in many forms such as capsules, tinctures (alcohol extraction of herbs), and teas. Eucalyptus essential oil can also be used in a diffuser to help protect the air you breath at home.
Basic hygienic practices should also not be forgotten. Remember that you can greatly reduce the number of infections by simply washing your hands before making contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth. You should also ensure you keep your hair dry after a shower before going out and if you sweat make sure you do not expose yourself to cold and wind. Proper clothing for the season (i.e. wool socks, toques, gloves) help protect you from the elements. Making sure you get plenty of sleep at night also helps your body repair and regenerate for the following day.
To further enhance your body’s defenses, therapies such as acupuncture and Bowen therapy can also be used. There are points throughout the body that can be stimulated by a healthcare professional to help ward off pathogens.
I hope you will use some of the tips above in helping your family stay healthy throughout the Winter months.