With 1 in 8 women likely to be diagnosed in their lifetime with breast cancer, it’s important to explore a natural, holistic approach to breast health. There are many popular beliefs leading women astray – it’s time to bust myths surrounding breast health. Let’s empower Canadian women to find natural, holistic breast health habits that support overall-wellness.
How Can I Improve My Breast Health?
Your daily choices play a role in your breast health. Understanding these can empower you, and other Canadian women to take charge of your breast health. A holistic approach to breast health is about making informed choices.
Over the years, there have been significant advances in breast health research. Several notable research findings have emerged. In particular, many risk factors for breast cancer are lifestyle habits addressed by a holistic approach to health.
Here’s what you want to know…
Am I At Risk of Breast Cancer?
Certain lifestyle habits may be putting you at greater risk of breast cancer. While genetics can’t be changed, factors you can control that influence breast health, include food choices, alcohol use, physical activity, stress and weight management.
Lifestyle-Related Risk Factors for Breast Cancer
Understanding which key lifestyle factors play a role in breast health can guide and help you design a personalized holistic approach to breast health:
One aspect of a holistic lifestyle that’s long been recognized as an important preventative measure against many chronic diseases, including breast cancer, is being physical active. Research suggests that in women with health body weights or overweight BMIs, high physical activity (>1 hour of walking/week) was beneficial.
Estrogen is the main hormone linked with breast cancer as it affects the growth of breast cells. The longer breast cells are exposed to estrogen may increase breast cancer risk. Longer breast cell exposure to estrogen occurs if menarche (menstruation) starts at an early age (11 or younger), or menopause happens later in life (after age 55). Late or no pregnancies can also increase estrogen exposure to breast cells.
Drinking alcohol can increase your risk of cancer, as it may cause higher levels of estrogen. In addition, alcohol consumption lowers levels of essential nutrients that protect cells, such as folate, vitamin A and C.
It’s debatable how much stress impacts breast health, as research studies have been inconsistent. However, science does confirm stress can trigger and aggravate factors for many diseases. As such, all women could benefit from reducing stress in their lifestyle. Practices like meditation, yoga, and mindfulness can help manage stress effectively.
Breasts are made with fatty tissue, connective tissue, glands and milk ducts. As such, breasts can be dense. For women with denser breast tissue, it can be harder to see cancerous cells in mammograms. Dense breasts can put you at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Can Mammograms Prevent Breast Cancer?
Mammograms, plus a clinical breast exam, are essential for early detection, but they do not prevent breast cancer. Getting a mammogram can help identify cancer in its early stages, improving the chances of successful treatment.
However, mammograms can struggle to see through dense breasts, a risk factor for breast cancer.
Can You Reduce Breast Density Naturally?
Lowering the density of breast tissue can improve the quality of mammograms, thereby reducing the need to return for additional testing, and improve cancer detection. There’s growing evidence that nutrition and lifestyle habits can improve breast density. Ensuring your vitamin D and calcium levels are optimized may help decrease breast density, according to science.
Is There a Healthier Alternative to a Mammogram?
Firstly, mammograms aren’t unhealthy. Controversy around mammograms surrounds the potential of false positives. In such cases, additional screening helps, and may include MRI, CT scans or PET scans.
Go beyond mammograms – upgrade your lifestyle with a holistic approach to breast health.
How Can I Improve My Breast Health Naturally?
You can improve breast health naturally with a holistic approach. Plus, you’ll promote overall-wellness with a holistic lifestyle as it focuses on good nutrition, daily exercise, mental health and sleep.
7 Holistic Breast Health Tips, Backed by Science
What is a Holistic Approach to Breast Health?
A holistic approach to breast health recognizes that in order to achieve overall well-being you need to address more than your diet, physical exercise, stress and happiness.
Yes, it’s possible! You can take back a sense of control with some focus on your nutrition, exercise, mental-wellbeing, and the use of medical screenings, such as mammograms.
What Foods Promote Breast Health
Plants (berries, vegetables, fruits, seeds, beans, whole grains, sprouts) contain high amounts of antioxidants and vitamins, of which both are known to support breast health. Fiber, present in many plants, while generally lacking in processed foods, is also linked with breast health. Some plants include phytoestrogens, perhaps the most interesting nutrients in terms of breast health.
What Foods Lower Estrogen?
Estrogen is an established risk factor for breast cancer. Fiber from plants reduces the amount of circulating estrogen in the blood, as well as toxins and cholesterol.
Fiber is present in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, grains and seeds. Without enough fiber, women can struggle with constipation. Interestingly, fiber improves bowel movements – a factor research suggests may offer women a slight decrease in breast cancer risk.
Some plants also include phytoestrogens that may help lower estrogen’s impact on breast health.
Breast Health: What Do Phytoestrogens Do?
Phytoestrogens are plant compounds with a similar shape and structure to estrogen. There are two main groups of phytoestrogens: isoflavones and lignans.
Bacteria in the gut can convert these natural compounds into weak estrogens. Weak estrogens can compete with estradiol for receptor sites in breast tissue.
Phytoestrogens also increase the production of SHBG (steroid hormone binding globulin), which is the transport system that carries estrogen in the blood before it attaches to a receptor. The more SHBG around, the less estrogen that is available – that’s good for breast health.
Where to Find Phytoestrogens in Your Diet
Found in many plants, it’s easy to get more phytoestrogens into your diet to support your breast health. One of the highest sources of phytoestrogens are mung bean sprouts. But, since those aren’t always readily available, here is a list of whole foods that contain phytoestrogens:
Does Soy Affect Breast Cancer Risk?
A lifelong diet rich in soy foods reduces the risk of breast cancer in women, according to the Mayo Clinic. Women who eat less soy, or start eating soy later in life, will see a less dramatic protective effect.
As for the ideal amount of soy to eat, as with most foods in a holistic approach, moderation is best. A moderate about of soy is one to two servings a day. The most ideal soy foods to enjoy include tofu and edamame.
What is the Best Vitamin for Breast Health?
There may not be one best vitamin for breast health; however, evidence points to vitamin D3 as being worthy of consideration. Research suggests the biologically active form of vitamin D (the hormone 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D) can suppress cell growth (anti-proliferative action), especially of malignant cells.
Which Herbs are Good for Breast Health?
Some herbs may promote breast health, suggests mounting evidence. Many of these are traditional medicines that are used for their other health benefits. More research is needed to substantiate how these herbs may play a role in breast health promotion. In the meantime, if being used, women should consider their limiting factor: bioavailability. That can be improved in some cases, such as the inclusion of black pepper with curcumin.
Do Antiperspirants Cause Breast Cancer?
A truly holistic approach to breast health should include the products used on your body, and in your home. At this time, research are no strong links between antiperspirants and breast cancer. Although, Aluminum found in antiperspirants have been shown in studies on cell lines to have carcinogenic potential.
In addition, antiperspirants and many conventional deodorants and beauty products contain phthalates, a known toxin, that may have negative effects on breast health. Opting for more natural ingredients may be worthy inclusions in your personalized holistic approach to breast health.
What Can You Do to Naturally Promote Breast Health?
There’s so much you can do to support breast health, naturally. And, you don’t have to wait to start adopting holistic approaches into your lifestyle – you can start today!
Natural ways to support breast health include daily exercise, sleep, taking moments to focus on mental health, and enjoying delicious, nutritious foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, beans and whole grains.
Remember your everyday choices are not just about breast health, they support overall-wellbeing!
A prospective study of bowel motility and related factors on breast cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Res Prev 2008 Jul; 17(7): 1746-1750.
Physical activity and long-term risk of breast cancer, associations with in life and body composition in the prospective Malmo diet and cancer study. Cancers (Basel) 2022 Apr; 14(8): 1960.
Effect of vitamin D3 supplements on development of advanced cancer: a secondary analysis of the VITAL randomized clinical trail. JAMA Netw Open 2020;3(11):e2025850.
Vitamin D exposure and risk of breast cancer: a meta-analysis. Scientific Reports 2018 Jun 13.
The role of stress in breast cancer incidence: risk factors, interventions and direction for the future. Int J Enviro Res Public Health 2021 Feb; 18(4): 1871.
The impact of stress on body function: a review. EXCLI J 2017; 16: 1057-1072.
Medicinal herbs used in traditional management of breast cancer: mechanisms of action. Medicines (Basel) 2020 Aug; 7(8): 47.
The association of bisphenol A and phthalates with risk of breast cancer: a meta-analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2021 Mar; 18(5): 2375.
Correlation between daily life aluminum exposure and breast cancer risk: a systematic review. J Trac Elem Med Biol 2023 Sept; 79(127247).