Too often, we talk about breast cancer in terms of life expectancy, with statistics that leave women feeling helpless and afraid. We tend to pay very little attention to the profound and positive effects that dietary and lifestyle modifications can have on our health. If we proactively make healthy lifestyle choices, we can shift the focus from treatment to prevention, and greatly reduce our risk factors for cancer and other serious illnesses.
Estrogen: The good, the bad and the ugly
To get started, we need to better understand how estrogen affects the body. Rather than one single hormone, estrogens are a group of hormones (estrone, estradiol, and estriol) that are comprised of “good guys” (weak) and “bad guys” (strong). While weak estrogens, like estrone and estriol, are important for heart and bone health later in life, strong estrogens, like estradiol, are linked to poor concentration, weight gain, insomnia and cancer. And because estrogen dominance is linked to breast cancer, our first step in preventing a positive diagnosis is to implement strategies that reduce or eliminate the bad guys.
Not a simple feat when we are regularly exposed to environmental chemicals that mimic estrogen and lead to an excess in our bodies! These foreign imposters are called xenoestrogens. They are synthetic substances that are so similar to the body’s own natural estrogen that they can fit into the same cell receptor sites—ones that would have happily remained empty. And because our detoxification pathways are incapable of breaking them down, they tend to set up camp in fatty tissue (our breasts!) and stay with us for life. This is why estrogen-positive breast cancer is the most common. But the good news is, it’s also preventable.
Say goodbye to synthetic substances
So how do we stop these unwelcome guests from sticking around? By taking steps to avoid them in our daily life. Find a list of some of the main sources below.
- Chlorinated water
- Cosmetics containing parabens and phthalates
- Fabric softener sheets
- Lice shampoos
- Pesticides, including herbicides and fungicides
- Petrochemicals (derived from petroleum and natural gas)
- Plastics containing Bisphenol A
- Sanitary napkins and tampons
But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are also things we need more of in order to minimize the appearance of cancer-causing estrogens. The best part? We’re talking delicious foods.
Get snacking! Balance estrogens with these foods
The foods listed below help the body maintain healthy levels of weak estrogens, while halting unwanted conversions to strong estrogens. This is exactly what we want to happen, so start snacking!
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Berries (blueberry, cranberry, blackberry)
- Borage, evening primrose oils
- Dried beans, lentils and chickpeas
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Rice bran
- Sesame seeds
- Wheat germ and barley
- Whole grain rice and oats
- Wild yam
Eat your greens! Veggies that inhibit strong estrogens
Cruciferous vegetables contain a plant nutrient called Indole-3-carbinol (or IC3) that helps break down cancer-causing estrogen and eliminate harmful estrogen mimickers. IC3 also improves the liver’s ability to process the estrogen in our bodies. The most heavily researched nutrient to date, IC3 has been shown to inhibit breast cancer tumors—so make sure it has a place in your diet by eating one cup of any of the following veggies each day.
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
Other breast-friendly foods
All veggied out? Here are some other foods that can help fight cancer-causing estrogens.
- A very potent antimicrobial, antifungal and antiviral; plus a natural antibiotic!
- Aim to eat garlic 2-3 times a week
- Pro tip! When cooking with garlic, chop and set aside for a few minutes to activate potent allyl sulfur, a compound that can help suppress tumour growth.
- Contains polyphenols, catechins and flavonoids that have been shown to protect against estrogen-dominant breast cancers
- Aim to drink 2-3 cups each day
- Pro tip! If you don’t want all that caffeine, simply toss out your first cup— but save the tea bag! Since the majority of the caffeine leaches out into your first cup, using the same tea bag to pour yourself another will pretty much eliminate the caffeine.
- Known for blocking the enzyme that makes estrogen from androgens
- Aim to add pomegranate to your shopping list at least once a month
- Pro tip! Cut a pomegranate in half and tap the back of each half with a wooden spoon. Watch as the seeds fall into your bowl in a matter of seconds.
- Contains the essential oil eucalyptol, a potent antioxidant that inhibits breast cancer development and helps detoxify carcinogenic estrogens
- Aim to add it to your meal once or twice a week
- Pro tip! Instead of eating it, you can buy the essential oil and rub it behind your ears to decrease fogginess and increase concentration.
- Powerful anti-inflammatory spice that helps eliminate cancer-causing estrogens and environmental estrogens via the liver, increasing detoxification
- Aim to take 50-100mg each day
- Pro tip! Add 2 tsp to your soup or stir fry for some cancer-fighting flavour!