10 tips for good breast health

By Jessah Robinson, Adv Dip (Nut Med)

Breast cancer is a complex disease with many contributing factors. While there are some factors that cannot be controlled such as age, family history, genetics, and gender, there are several factors that we do have control over. Here are 10 top tips that may help prevent the development and progression of breast cancer:

1. Get your sweat on

Not that you should need an excuse, but it is extremely important to exercise if you want to have a healthy immune system. Plus, exercise also has the added benefits of reducing body fat and alleviating stress. Fat cells produce oestrogen, and high levels of that hormone are associated with certain cancers. Working out can shrink the size of fat cells which means your body is producing less oestrogen. The great thing about exercise is that there are so many options to suit everyone’s wants and needs. If the gym isn’t your thing, look at doing boot camp or a Zumba class with a friend. Or if you prefer to do something that is easier on the joints you might prefer swimming, yoga or walking.

2. Consume plenty of fresh produce

Eat a wide variety of leafy greens, raw and finely chopped, lightly steamed or roasted. The cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Bok choy, Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower) have proven anti-cancer properties. Fruits and vegetables in general are a rich source of fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals which combined, help to reduce the risk of certain cancers. The best fruits to consume are citrus, tomatoes, kiwi, passionfruit, apples and stone fruits.

3. Go easy on the alcohol

According to a meta-analysis of 53 studies, women who drank more than three drinks per day had 1.5 times the risk of developing breast cancer as non-drinkers did. So not only is alcohol toxic to brain cells, it also plays a role in cancer development. Aim to minimise alcohol intake to no more than one standard drink a day. This equates to approx. 100ml wine or 285ml beer. If you find this difficult, tyrosine could help. Tyrosine is an amino acid that acts on the reward system of the brain to reduce cravings for addictive foods and alcohol.

4. Don’t skimp on sleep

For many this may be easier said than done, especially if you are juggling hectic work schedules, children plus family and social commitments. However, it is important that you make sleep a priority as it is essential for your immune system, rest and replenishment as well as weight maintenance. Aim to get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night. You may benefit from taking magnesium, a powerful mineral that helps to promote healthy sleep. Dr Cabot’s book ‘Tired of Not Sleeping’ explains all the factors that can interfere with sleep and practical strategies to achieve a good night’s sleep.

5. Know Your Body

The National Cancer Institute has said that it is important to familiarise yourself with how your breasts usually look and feel. That way, you will be able to notice any changes and can notify your doctor.

6. Chill out

While stress here and there is normal and healthy, chronic stress can be debilitating on the body and exacerbate every illness or disease. Stress compromises your immune system by causing your body to produce excessive amounts of cortisol, a hormone which reduces the ability of white blood cells to fight infections. Healthy ways to manage stress include meditation, yoga, listening to relaxing music, reading a favourite book or catching up with loved ones. Find a method that works for you and stick to it. For more information see Dr Cabot’s book ‘Help for Depression & Anxiety’.

7. Minimise sugar and refined carbs

These types of foods are considered empty calories, as they contain a high number of calories with zero nutritional benefit. Consume a low sugar diet as sugar feeds cancer and most types of cancer cells cannot survive without sugar. Breads, pasta, biscuits, cereals, crackers, cakes, muffins and pastries are converted into sugar in the liver so these foods should be avoided.

8. Eat more good fats

There is good evidence that omega 3 fats can reduce the risk of many types of cancer. You must obtain omega 3 fatty acids from your diet. Good sources include freshly ground flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds, avocados, raw nuts and seeds, legumes, cold pressed olive oil, coconut oil and oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and tuna. Essential fatty acids reduce inflammation in the liver and strengthen the immune system.

9. Drink plenty of water

Your body’s cells need to be sufficiently hydrated to carry out their functions properly, and ideally you should be consuming between 2 to 2.5 litres of water a day. Water helps your kidneys and liver to remove cancer-causing chemicals from the body. Invest in a good quality drink bottle and get into the habit of taking it with you wherever you go. This way you have a constant reminder to drink more water.

10. Get juicing

Most people’s fruit and vegetable intake is well below the eight recommended servings a day. Juices are a tasty and efficient way to increase fruit and vegetable intake. Fresh juice contains a full range of healing nutrients, as well as beneficial active enzymes. Juicing concentrates the protective antioxidants and anti-cancer substances present in fruits and vegetables. Raw juices contain antioxidants such as vitamin C, flavonoids, beta carotene and other carotenoids, which fight cancer and inflammation. For more information on juicing recipes and their benefits, see Dr Cabot’s book ‘Raw Juices Can Save Your Life’.