It’s terrifying enough to be diagnosed with breast cancer, but for many people, the fear of a recurrence of the disease also looms large. Fortunately, there are some natural measures you can take to help prevent that from happening. As a bonus, making these changes will maximize your health and help you feel (and look) younger, for longer.
Here are my four natural tips for preventing a recurrence of breast cancer:
1. Limit your sugar intake
There is no doubt that cancer cells need sugars like fructose to grow and survive. Eating sugars causes a decrease in the effectiveness of the white blood cells, which fight infection, for six hours after consumption. Sugar also causes an increase in insulin, high levels of which have been linked to cancer of the breast, prostate, colon and uterus, as well as poor outcomes in cancer therapies. High insulin levels also compound fat gain.
See your doctor and request a fasting blood insulin and blood glucose test, and then a test of both of these two hours after eating breakfast. High insulin levels at either point in time suggest the presence of insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition which increases the risk of breast cancer and heart disease.
Avoid sugar completely and consider supplements such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) or alpha lipoic acid to lower insulin levels by improving your body’s insulin response.
2. Prevent and reduce inflammation
I believe it is absolutely essential for all women recovering from breast cancer to see their doctors to request a highly sensitive C-reactive protein test — C-reactive protein is an inflammation marker, and recurrence may be more likely when the protein is high.
To reduce inflammation take a minimum of four to eight grams of fish oils per day, avoid inflammatory fats (found in dairy products, red meats, vegetable oils, and peanuts), and consider a supplement of Nattokinase or Wobenzyme (an anti-inflammatory enzyme) if your C-reactive protein levels are higher than optimal.
3. Maintain a healthy balance of good and bad estrogens
There are three types of estrogen: estradiol, estrone, and estriol. It is the balance among these three types that is crucial for maintaining healthy cells in the breast, ovaries, uterus, and cervix.
I recommend a specific urine test — Estronex test by Metametrix Labs — for my own breast cancer patients, as well as women who may be at risk for estrogen-related cancers, to test for levels and ratios of estrogen in the urine. It’s important to have a healthy ratio, but it’s also possible to change these ratios to get them closer to optimal.
Nutritional interventions that promote the detoxification of excess “bad” estrogen can help get your estrogen levels closer to where they should be and decrease your long-term risk. Along these lines, you should include vegetables that are high in indol-3-carbinol (I3C), such as broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips, kale, cauliflower, and watercress.
4. Consume flaxseed daily
Some breast tumors are “estrogen sensitive,” meaning that the hormone estrogen makes them grow. Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) help to prevent the growth of these tumors by lowering the amount of estrogen in the body. Estrogen is produced by the ovaries and other tissues of the body, using a substance called aromatase. AIs do not block estrogen production by the ovaries, but they can block other tissues from making this hormone. That’s why AIs are used mostly in women who have reached menopause, when the ovaries are no longer producing estrogen.
Flaxseeds have lignans, which are natural aromatase inhibitors in the body. Take two to three tablespoons of ground flaxseed daily. Try adding them to your oatmeal, yogurt, salads, or smoothies. The fibre in the flaxseeds is also great for reducing inflammation.
Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and her newest release, The Supercharged Hormone Diet, now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique.