HEALTHY BREASTS NATURALLY: A Prescription for Breast Cancer Prevention
Breast Cancer Awareness month comes around every October to remind us to take care of our breasts, and to become more informed about the risk factors for breast cancer and ways to reduce that risk. I say, early detection is not enough – why not focus on prevention? There are a multitude of simple proven ways that we can maintain or improve the health of our breasts and decrease this global cancer epidemic.
Women love to gather together over tea, and the support of other women is a powerful health stimulus. Connect with friends, family, and colleagues to review the tips for breast health below as you sip a variety of teas that offer protection, or host a gathering in your community to educate women. Check in with each other during the month to encourage implementation of the tips as you enjoy a new tea.
Tea Medicine for Cancer Prevention
PEPPERMINT – This herb is high in polyphenols which have an important role to play in reducing cancer risk and progression. Dietary polyphenols have the following capabilities: antiviral activity – deter viral infections linked to cancer; anti-angiogenesis – block the formation of a blood supply to tumours; act as antioxidants; reduce the possibility of resistance to chemotherapy; induce cancer cell death (apoptosis); slow down cell division of cancer cells (cell cycle arrest); regulate the immune system; anti-inflammatory; stabilize genetic material, so genes are less vulnerable to carcinogens and aging.
LEMON BALM AND PARSLEY – These herbs contain apigenin which has powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties to protect the breasts. In laboratory studies and at high doses, apigenin inactivated the estrogen receptor and inhibited the growth of HER-2 neu positive breast cancer cells. Apigenin also inhibited NF-κB, a biochemical switch that turns on cancer-promoting genes, and encouraged cell death in breast cancer cells. Parsley is the highest food source of apigenin.
MATCHA GREEN TEA (with Cinnamon as Green Tea Latté) – Matcha is made from green tea leaves that have been stoneground into a fine powder. One of the plant chemicals found in matcha is epigallocatechin 3-0-gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant that helps to protect the kidneys and liver from free radicals. Research on mice has demonstrated the ability of matcha to help the body excrete toxic chemicals such as PCBs.
In breast cancer cells, EGCG promotes cell death, slows down cell division, and enhances cell repair. The concentration of EGCG obtained from drinking matcha is 137 times higher than some other green teas. Thus, one serving of matcha is equivalent to at least 10 cups of steeped green tea. Matcha contains over10 times more antioxidants than pomegranates or blueberries. It even beats goji berries as the antioxidant giant. Antioxidants slow down the aging process and help to prevent and reverse disease.
Studies on mice have revealed that matcha can lower cholesterol and triglycerides; lower blood glucose; improve liver detoxification by increasing something called superoxide dismutase; and reverse damage caused by free radicals. (See Reference List at end of article.)
Recipe: Green Tea Latté
- 1 tsp matcha (green tea powder)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp hot water (not boiling water)
- 1 cup milk (almond, soy, coconut)
- 2 to 4 drops stevia
Sift green tea powder into a mug to remove the lumps in the powder. Add cinnamon. Add hot (not boiling) water and stir until all powder is dissolved, crushing any lumps with the back of a spoon. The green tea paste should be smooth.
Warm up soy, almond or coconut milk and stevia in a small saucepan, heating the milk over medium heat until small bubbles start to appear around the edge of the saucepan. Do not bring the milk to a full boil. Turn off the heat. Add the green tea paste to the warmed milk.
Froth until foamy, about 10 seconds with a frother or in a blender. Add more drops of stevia if desired. Pour the mixture back into your mug.
Recipe: Super Match Golden Milk
First make a paste you can store in the fridge by mixing the following ingredients:
- 60 cardamom pods (1 Tbsp), roll pods under rolling pin and use seeds, discard pods
- 1 tsp cloves ground
- 1 tsp black peppercorns ground
- ½ cup turmeric powder
- 2 tsp matcha powder (use 1-1/2 tsp for each cup of almond milk or soy milk, warmed)
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup ginger juice (10 inches whole ginger)
- 4 Tbsp raw honey
- 2 tsp cinnamon
Blend the green cardamom seeds, cloves, and black peppercorns in a coffee grinder or food processor to make a powder. Add them to the turmeric powder and matcha powder in a bowl. Add the water to turmeric and spice mix and stir to make a paste.
Juice the ginger root and add the ginger juice to the paste. Add the honey to the paste. Cook the mixed ingredients over low heat for about 15 minutes, until well blended, the consistency of toothpaste.
Cool, and keep refrigerated in a covered glass jar. This will keep well in the fridge for at least a month.
To serve: Add 1½ tsp of paste to one cup of organic soy or almond milk in a small pot and heat on the stove until warmed. Blend in a blender to remove any lumps and create a delicious frothy drink.
HOLY BASIL – Laboratory research on Holy Basil confirms that it slows down breast cancer growth and progression. It helps prevent breast cancer cells from invading neighbouring tissues, and reduces the blood supply to tumours, stalling their growth. Three of the protective plant chemicals in Holy Basil are lutein, lupeol, and eugenol. Holy Basil also improves immune function by increasing T helper cells and T killer cells.
TAHEEBO – This South American herb, also known as Pau d’Arco, inhibits breast cancer by binding to the estrogen receptors to displace strong estrogens, by slowing down cell division in breast cancer cells, and by increasing breast cancer cell death.
YOGI TEA – This tea blend contains cinnamon sticks, black peppercorns, cloves, ginger, and cardamom. Each of these spices contains polyphenols and boasts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They all help to inactivate NFkB, a biochemical switch in the body that turns on cancer-promoting genes. Cinnamon helps to keep insulin levels low and prevent diabetes, as well as inhibit Candida overgrowth in the gut.
Recipe: Yogi Tea
For each serving:
- 10 oz water
- 3 whole cloves
- 4 whole green cardamom pods, cracked open
- 4 whole black peppercorns
- ½ cinnamon stick
- ½ cup organic soymilk or other milk
- 2 slices of fresh ginger root
- ¼ tsp black tea, such as Jasmine
Make at least four cups at one time. The measurements may be adjusted to your taste, but only slightly. Do not vary too far on the cloves or cinnamon.
Bring the water to a boil. Add the cloves, cardamom, peppercorn, and cinnamon. Boil for at least 30 minutes, then turn off heat, add the black tea and let steep for five minutes. Stir in the milk and briefly bring to a boil. When it reaches a boil, immediately turn off the heat source. Strain and serve with honey or maple syrup.
Instead of adding the milk immediately, the spice liquid may be stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to drink it. Then, heat up the tea and add the milk.
ROSEMARY, GREEK SAGE – These herbs contain ursolic acid which strongly inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells. Rosemary also helps to neutralize carcinogens. It decreases and helps to eliminate some harmful estrogens the body produces. Both plants are also high in polyphenols and antioxidants.
ROSEHIPS – Hips from the wild rose plant (Rosa rugosa) contain vitamin C, a protective antioxidant, and have been found to have the ability to kill certain types of breast cancer cells.
CHAMOMILE – This herb possesses antioxidant, anticancer, and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps to prevent the invasiveness, spread, and growth of breast cancer cells. The essential oil of chamomile is also effective in killing breast cancer cells. The herb is also effective in tincture form. (Try adding 5 drops of chamomile oil to 1 Tbsp of castor oil or pomegranate oil for a nice breast massage combo.)
DANDELION, BURDOCK – Dandelion supports liver and kidney cleansing. One study found that dandelion leaf decreased the growth of breast cancer cells while dandelion root blocked the invasiveness of breast cancer cells in surrounding tissues. Burdock inhibits growth and enhances cell death in breast cancer cells. It also supports the immune system.
IMMUNE TONIC TEA – The herbs contained in Immune Tonic Tea are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to fortify the immune system and reduce susceptibility to cancer. Astragalus, codonopsis, ligustrum and reishi facilitate a specific Th1 response of the immune system to help defeat cancer.
Recipe: Immune Tonic Tea
This recipe uses Chinese herbs to strongly activate the immune system. The herb mixture will last for approximately one week if 1 cup is drunk daily, or several days if 2 cups are consumed daily.
- 48 grams astragalus (huang qi)
- 24 grams schizandra (wu wei zi)
- 24 grams white atractylodes (bai zhu)
- 24 grams codonopsis (dang shen)
- 24 grams ganoderma (reishi mushroom)
- 24 grams ligustrum
- 12 grams licorice root
Use a non-metal pot. Soak the herbs in sixteen cups of water for one hour. Bring to a boil, then simmer for one hour. Strain into a glass jar. Keep refrigerated. Drink one to two cups of tea daily, warmed, at least one half hour before or two hours after a meal. The above ingredients are enough for several days to one week of tea. Consider purchasing several bags at once from a Chinese herbal store.
RED CLOVER, LICORICE BLEND – Red clover contains formononetin, a phytoestrogen that inhibits the growth and activates cell death of estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer cells. Licochalcone A, found in licorice root, inhibits the growth and activates cell death of breast cancer cells, while glycyrrhetinic acid, also in the plant, helps to inhibit triple negative breast cancer.
Dietary Tips for Breast Cancer Prevention
1. Adopt a primarily organic, vegetarian diet. Minimize or avoid meat, fish, eggs, dairy and sugar. Instead, try using legumes, organic tofu with sea vegetables (avoid if you have autoimmune thyroid disease), fruits, nuts and seeds, vegetables, and whole grains.
2. Add two tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseeds to your cereal, juice, smoothie, salad, or bean dishes. Flaxseeds inhibit the growth of breast cancer. Also, eat two Brazil nuts daily for selenium, a trace mineral which also protects against cancer. (Ed. note: Check for nut allergies before consuming Brazil nuts.)
3. Add two tablespoons of turmeric to your cooking or take 1,000 mg of curcumin in capsule form daily. Turmeric decreases inflammation and inhibits the formation and proliferation of breast cancer cells and helps the liver detoxify chemicals as well as estrogen.
4. Reduce or limit alcohol to no more than three alcoholic beverages per week. Alcohol use causes women to be more susceptible to breast cancer. A weekly intake of up to one drink a day will increase risk. Women who have even one drink a day have an 11% higher risk of breast cancer. In one study the breast cancer risk increase was 250 percent for women who drank two or more drinks daily.
5. Store leftover food in glass, ceramic or stainless steel rather than plastic, and drink water from glass or stainless steel containers. Plastic containers can leach bisphenol A or phthalates, which both act like the hormone estrogen.
ABCs of Cancer Prevention
A – Exercise at least 40 minutes each day or four hours a week, outside of your normal activities. Women who exercise at least four hours a week in their leisure time and are active in their jobs have a 30% to 60% lower risk of breast cancer. (And running regularly after having had breast cancer decreases recurrence rates.)
Find a type of exercise you love to do and schedule it early in the day. Some possibilities include walking, jogging, swimming, rebounding, rowing, yoga, using a treadmill or elliptical machine, or dancing. Mix it up to prevent boredom. Recruit some exercise buddies to make it more fun.
B – Sleep in a dark room, with no light from the street coming into your bedroom. To keep melatonin levels high, avoid turning on a bright light to use the washroom. Use a night light in the hallway and bathroom instead. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by your pineal gland between 1:00 and 3:00 am, but only if you are in the dark. Lower melatonin levels cause women to be more vulnerable to breast cancer.
C – Spend 15 minutes outside exposing your arms and legs to sunlight every day or take 2,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 daily. Vitamin D protects against breast cancer, and higher vitamin D levels at the time of diagnosis are associated with smaller tumour size and better survival in postmenopausal women.
D – Avoid using the birth control pill and/or hormone replacement therapy. When used before age 20, or if used for more than five years before the age of 35, ‘the pill’ can triple the likelihood of developing breast cancer. The risk of having breast cancer diagnosed in a woman increases for every year that she has been on hormone replacement therapy.
E – Avoid cosmetics, nail polish, toothpaste, or shampoo containing parabens or phthalates. These preservatives bind to estrogen receptors and can increase breast cancer risk.
F – Use non-toxic cleaning products, like baking soda and vinegar to clean your sinks, toilets, fridge, stove, floors, and counters. Avoid chlorine, which can combine with carbon in the body and act like estrogen.
G – Spend at least an hour a week in the sauna (or use exercise to sweat) to eliminate environmental chemicals and toxic metals stored in your fat cells.
To implement more prevention strategies, participate in the October breast health challenge campaign of the MammAlive Foundation. Visit: www.mammalivefoundation.org
Catch Dr. Sat Dharam Kaur, ND at the Whole Life Expo where she will have a booth all weekend and give a lecture on Sunday, Nov. 11 entitled: “From Breast Cancer to Fibroids: A Naturopath’s Top 10 Tips for Women’s Health” (2:15 – 3:15 pm). Admission included with the All-Access Pass ($15 Advance/$17 Door). www.wholelifeexpo.ca
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