Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Breast Cancer Prevention Month: Vitamin D

As today is the last day of October, it is also the last day of Breast Cancer Prevention Month here at The Verbal Herbal. There are so many topics that I wanted to talk about this month, but since this is my last post of the month, I wanted to make sure I talked about Vitamin D. Research on Vitamin D has been all the crazy these past few years and for just cause. So much of the population is vitamin D deficient and I feel that this is a contributing factor to breast cancer risk and incidence.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin. There are several different forms of vitamin D. Cholecalciferol, Vitamin D3, is made when cholesterol in the skin is exposed to UV rays of the sun. Ergocalciferol, Vitamin D2, is made by exposing ergosterol, a fatty substance found in plants, to UV light. This form is then used to fortify foods. We produce thousands of units of vitamin D within minutes if the whole body is exposed to sunlight and if we get too much vitamin D through sunlight, the body can de-metabolize it, avoiding toxicity. This is not a protection that we get when taking supplements of vitamin D.
What does it do?
Before it was discovered in 1924, rickets was a common issue among children. This bone crippling disease was thought to be due to either dietary factors (lack of calcium) or due to a lack of sunshine (Vitamin D) and it turns out that both theories were correct. Rickets is due to a lack of calcium; however, vitamin D is needed to help absorption of calcium in the intestine. Until recently, it was thought that Vitamin D was only necessary for bone health; however, it is now shown that every cell in the body has vitamin D receptors, helping to control normal cell growth. It also has an action in the immune system.
Where do you find vitamin D?
  • Sunshine!!!!! It’s free so get yours today!
  • Seafood like salmon, herring, catfisk, mackerel, oysters, sardines and steelhead trout
  • Cod liver oil
  • Fortified milk
  • Supplements: 2,000 to 4,000 IU a day of vitamin D is enough to avoid deficiency
Vitamin D-ficient?
Overall, Vitamin D deficiency has become an epidemic. 40-60 ng/ml of vitamin D are needed to have sufficient levels and anywhere from 50 to 90% of all men and women are vitamin D deficient. The best way to tell if you are deficient is to get a blood test. But most people don’t know about it because it isn’t something that the doctors usually do, or even talk about. Doctors need a wakeup call! Vitamin D deficiency is a serious issue and by making your patients more aware of this issue, you can prevent a number of serious health issues and save lives (end of rant)!
You can also tell if you are deficient based on a symptom picture including muscle pain, weak bones or fractures, low energy and fatigue, lower immunity, depression, mood swings and sleep irregularities. These symptoms can also be representative of other health issues so I would stick with a blood test as the best diagnostic tool.
So the question becomes why is there such an overwhelming incidence of vitamin D deficiency? I feel there are several factors contributing to the problem:
  • A Lack of Sunshine: We have evolved with the sun to the point that is has become a necessary part of our health. Overall, people are now spending more time inside. Kids are playing on their computers and gaming systems instead of playing outside with their friends, and adults aren’t much better. We go from home to car to work and then back to car and home. The sunlight we are exposed to in the car, doesn’t help because window glass blocks vitamin D formation.
  • Sunscreen: When we are outside, we have been brain washed into thinking that sunscreen is necessary to prevent skin cancer. Well, sunscreen also blocks the formation of vitamin D in the skin and low vitamin D is also known to cause cancer. Get the low down on Sunscreen.
  • Lack of cholesterol: Our society is fixated on the fact that high cholesterol causes heart disease (studies have mixed findings on this claim). So as a result, so much of the population is on medication to reduce cholesterol in the body. What the doctors don’t tell you is that cholesterol is found in every cell in the body and it is needed for production of new cells and for the production of vitamin D.
  • Other Factors: Darker skin produces less vitamin D as does locations farther from the equator and places and times of the year that receive fewer hours of sunlight.
The Link between Vitamin D and Breast Cancer
Because vitamin D regulates proper cell growth, a deficiency of this vitamin causes cancer cells to grow and spread. Studies have shown that vitamin D levels and breast cancer risk have an inverse relationship. When Vitamin D levels are high (or at least at an appropriate level) then breast cancer risk is low and vice versa. 2000 IU of Vitamin D daily can decrease breast cancer risk 77%. Decreased risk of breast cancer is associated with higher vitamin D3 serum concentrations especially in younger women.
Out of 166 women with breast cancer, approximately 70% were vitamin D deficient and the most extreme levels of deficiency was found in patients with triple-negative breast cancer, the most aggressive form of breast cancer and the least responsive to treatments.

Overall, the best way to know if you are vitamin D deficient is to go to the doctors and receive a blood test. If you find that you are deficient, 15 minutes of direct sunlight at least 3 times a week or a supplement of 2,000 IU a day of vitamin D3 can be adequate to increase your levels and decrease your risk of breast cancer. Thank you for joining the Verbal Herbal for October’s Breast Cancer Prevention Month. I hope you have found the information helpful and will share it with your loved ones so that we can help put an end to breast cancer.
Silverman, H. M., Romano, J. A., & Elmer, G. (1999). The vitamin book (Rev. ed.). New York: Bantam Books.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Breast Cancer Prevention Month: Hormone Replacement Therapy

When examining breast cancer prevention, I feel that it is extremely important to talk about the association between hormone replacement therapy and breast cancer. Although there is a clear correlation between the use of hormone replacement therapy and increased risk of breast cancer, modern medicine feels that there is not enough evidence to demonstrate cause and effect.
Pause for Menopause
Menopause is the period in a woman’s life when the body produces less female hormone, estrogen, and the ovaries stop releasing eggs. You can also go through menopause if the female reproductive parts are removed from the body, what's called a hysterectomy. As a result of this many women experience some symptoms associated with menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats and osteoporosis.
What is Hormone Replacement Therapy?
Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, is prescribed to women that have intolerable symptoms of menopause. There are two main types of HRT: estrogen progestin therapy (EPT) and estrogen therapy (ET). EPT contains estrogen and progestin and is given to women to increase estrogen in the body. The progestin is added and given to women that have not had a hysterectomy, to protect the uterus and uterine lining from the harmful effects of the estrogen. ET only contains estrogen and is given to women that have had a hysterectomy.
The link between HRT and Breast Cancer
In a society and culture that is already Estrogen Dominant, of course increasing estrogen is going to increase your chances of breast cancer and that is exactly what hormone replacement therapy is doing: increasing estrogen in the body. Hormone Replacement therapy is clearly linked to an increased risk of breast cancer and severely increases your chances of dying from breast cancer. EPT raises your risk by 75%, even if you are only using it for a short period of time and women that took EPT were 2 times more likely to die from breast cancer.  ET has been shown to increase your risk of breast cancer only if it is taken for more than 10 years. If taken for 10-14.9 years your risk of getting breast cancer increases 22% and if it is taken for more than 15 years your risk increases 43%.
Breast cancer survivors that took HRT for menopause had 3 times as many breast cancer reoccurrences than breast cancer survivors that didn’t do HRT. Some forms of chemotherapy cause women to enter into early menopause and because of this association between HRT and breast cancer reoccurrences, it has prevented many specialists from recommending HRT to breast cancer survivors.
A Testimonial from a Survivor
The information listed below isn’t scientific research and some people may not find it important in the evidence against hormone replacement therapy. But it is the account of a woman who is a cancer survivor, the opinion of a woman who tried HRT and was then diagnosed with breast cancer. I feel that it is important to talk to survivors and hear their story. In the end, I feel that we all just want our stories to be heard.
Julia, had a mammogram in September of 2008, which showed some specious signs but after having a core needle breast biopsy, doctors said there was no sign of cancer. In December of 2008 she began hormone replacement therapy and by the following April, 5 months later, she was diagnosed with a breast cancer, having a 1 inch tumor in her right breast. Not only did she receive no warnings from her doctor about the risks associated with HRT before she began treatments but once she was diagnosed with breast cancer they failed to inform her that she should stop the HRT immediately. Julia feels that cancer cells may have been present before doing the hormone replacement therapy but by taking HRT it caused the cancer to grow at an accelerated speed. Julia is now cancer free and strongly advises against HRT for anyone considering the treatment.
Menopause and Yin Deficiency
Not every woman in the world experiences symptoms of menopause and the incidence and severity of symptoms varies among different cultures. This leads me to believe that the “symptoms” of menopause are something that can be avoided. Cultures that eat diets high in Phytoestrogens appear to experience fewer symptoms of menopause.
The Chinese believe that the symptoms associated with menopause clearly show signs of a Yin deficiency. Yin is the energy that cools and moistens the body. When it is deficient the body starts to heat up. This isn’t real heat; it’s just a lack of the cooling mechanism causing false heat. A more accurate symptom picture is as follows:
  • Symptoms: night sweats, hot flashes, afternoon fever, 5 Hots (hot or sweaty hands, feet and sternum), dry mouth and throat, dark yellow urine and dry stool.
  • Tongue: red with little coating.
  • Pulse: thread and rapid.
Herbs are a great way to help tonify Yin and diminish the symptoms associated with Yin deficiency and menopause. Listed below are some herbs that may be helpful:
  • Ophiopogon Root (Mai Men Dong) Ophiopogon japonicas
  • Anemarrhena (Zhi Mu) Anemarrhena asploidis
  • Wolfberry aka Gogi berries (Gou Qi Zi) Lycium chinense
  • Artichoke (Chao Xian Ji) Cynara scolymus
  • Chickweed (Yin Chai Hu) Stellaria media
  • Nettle Urtica diotica
  • Irish Moss Chondrus crispis
  • Marshmallow Althaea officinalis

The good news is that once you stop HRT, your risk of getting breast cancer will decrease and eventually return to baseline. I feel that the risks of hormone replacement therapy outweigh benefits especially when more natural treatments can help diminish the symptoms associated with menopause.
Cohen, B. J., Taylor, J. J., & Memmler, R. L. (2009). Memmler's structure and function of the human body (9th ed.). Baltimore, MD: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott William & Wilkins.

Weed, S. S. (1996). Breast cancer? Breast health!: the wise woman way. Woodstock, N.Y.: Ash Tree Pub.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Breast Cancer Prevention Month: Is your Deodorant causing Breast Cancer?

Continuing on with Breast Cancer Prevention Month, today I’d like to talk about the relationship between deodorant and breast cancer. Studies have yielded mixed results regarding a correlation between the use of deodorant and increased incidence of breast cancer, however; I feel that it’s a topic worth talking about.

What Makes Deodorant so Toxic
The main active ingredient in antiperspirants is aluminum, usually in the form of aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconium. Aluminum is very soluble and easily absorbed into the body where it ionizes and becomes a free radicle. The ion then enters the cell and becomes a plug, stopping perspiration.  Sweating is a natural process that, not only helps to regulate body temperature, but also helps to release toxins from the body. If waste products are not able to be excreted through the action of sweating then there is a buildup of toxins in the tissue and in the lymph nodes. High concentrations of toxins cause the surrounding tissues and glands to become overly acidic which is linked to the cell mutations that can cause cancer.
Aside from causing toxins to build up in the tissue and having a known genotoxic effect (known to damage DNA), aluminum based compounds (the main ingredient in deodorants) and the fragrances in antiperspirants have an estrogenic effect making them a Xenoestrogen. By causing Estrogen Dominance, xenoestrogens are linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Xenoestrogen that are absorbed through the skin are 10 times more dangerous than ones that are ingested and processed through the liver. Topical Xenoestrogens are absorbed directly into the tissue and by using deodorant we are placing xenoestrogens almost directly on breast tissue.
Using Deodorant can Increase your Risk of Breast Cancer
The National Cancer Institute, and many other cancer foundations, states there is no conclusive evidence to show that antiperspirants are linked to breast cancer. Although the findings are mixed, there are many studies being done regarding the topic. Most of the information linking deodorant use to breast cancer is based upon information about parabens, the most widely used preservative in cosmetic and personal care products and a known xenoestrogen. One study showed that 18 out of 20 breast tumors contained parabens but the study failed to show that the parabens are what was causing the breast tumors. But all this talk of parabens is a moot point considering that most deodorants do not contain parabens.
One study of women with breast cancer showed that the sooner in youth that a woman started using antiperspirants, the more she used it and the more frequently she shaver her armpit, the earlier in life she was diagnosed with breast cancer. What’s scary about this is that children are beginning to wear deodorant at younger ages and the buildup of toxins in the breasts can also be exacerbated by Wearing a Bra.
Alternatives to Common Deodorant
There are many products that you can try as alternatives to aluminum containing deodorants and antiperspirants but it is important to realize that sweating is a natural and necessary process. Most of the natural alternatives can help with the odor but don’t hinder your natural elimination processes.
  • Diet and BO: Body odor is a reflection of the toxins that have built up in the body. If you don’t put toxins in your body then the toxins won’t have to come out of your body. By eliminating processed and refined foods and increasing consumption of fruits, veggies, leafy greens and nuts and seeds, you can help to cleanse the body and keep body odor at bay. You also want to make sure your other elimination pathways are functioning properly (i.e. urination, defecation and exhalation). If one of these pathways is not functioning properly, especially if you’re Constipated, the body releases more toxins via other pathways, especially through the skin, causing body odor and acne.  
  • All Natural Deodorants: At most health food stores you can find a number of natural deodorants. Make sure that the product you choose doesn’t contain any form of aluminum. Even the crystal stones that are said to be a better alternative to typical deodorant contain a form of aluminum. The aluminum molecule that the stones contain isn’t supposed to be able to enter the cell because the molecule is too large; however, I prefer not to take the risk and use only product that contain no aluminum.  
  • Baking Soda: Baking soda makes a great and very inexpensive deodorant. Mix 1/8th tsp of baking soda with a little water (not too much water as to dissolve the baking soda) and rub the mixture under your armpits. You can also mix 1 part baking soda with 6 parts cornstarch and dust your pits with it to help prevent odor and wetness.
  • Lemon Juice: Rubbing your armpits with a lemon wedge helps to kill off the odor causing bacteria. Be careful if you have recently shaved as it can burn.
  • DIY Deodorant: There are plenty of DIY recipes for deodorant on the web. Try making your own deodorant. Let us know what works for you.
Overall, I don’t understand how the cancer industry can say that typical antiperspirants don’t increase an individual’s risk of breast cancer. Not only do they cause a buildup of toxins in the tissues that can cause cell mutations and breast cancer, but the aluminum and fragrances they contain are xenoestrogens. Antiperspirants may not be the cause of breast cancer but they certainly aren’t helping it. So why take the chance?
Weed, S. S. (1996). Breast cancer? Breast health!: the wise woman way. Woodstock, N.Y.: Ash Tree Pub.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Breast Cancer Prevention Month: Phytoestrogens & The Fight Against Breast Cancer

Continuing on with breast cancer awareness month, I wanted to talk about phytoestrogens. I have already discussed how Xenoestrogens contribute to Estrogen Dominance and essentially breast cancer. By including phytoestrogens in your diet, you can help to decrease your incidence of estrogen dominance and help in the fight against breast cancer.
What are Phytoestrogens?
Phytoestrogens are constituents of different plants that, in the body, bind to type II estrogen receptors and elicit a weak estrogenic response. Although it seems counterintuitive, by eating more phytoestrogens, it can decrease the amount of estrogen in the body. This is due to the fact that phytoestrogens bind to the estrogen receptor sites, blocking estrogen or Xenoestrogens from binding and having an effect. Even though phytoestrogens do elicit a weak estrogenic effect it is not as great as the one that estrogen or Xenoestrogens have. This helps to combat against Estrogen Dominance.
What Foods contain Phytoestrogens?
More than 300 different foods are shown to contain phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens can be broken down into three main classes:
  • Isoflavonoids: found in beans from the legume family, mainly soybeans.
  • Lignans: found in high fiber foods like cereal brans, beans and flax seeds.
  • Coumestans: found in alfalfa and clover sprouts and in various beans like split peas, pinto beans and lima beans.
Phytoestrogens and the Breast Cancer Debate
There has been an increasing amount of research being done on phytoestrogen and their relation to breast cancer. Many studies have shown that increased consumption of foods containing phytoestrogens lead to decreased risk of breast cancer and prostate cancer.
The amount of phytoestrogens that are excreted in the urine is a good representation of levels in the body. Higher levels of excreted lignans are correlated with a lower risk for breast cancer and women with breast cancer had significantly lower levels of lignans in their urine. The lignan found in flax seeds, secoisolariciresinol diglycoside (SDG), was shown to interfere with breast tumor formation. Isoflavonoids and lignans also have antioxidant properties, making them even more beneficial in the fight against cancer.
Phytoestrogens are not intended to be a treatment for breast cancer. If you are recovering from breast cancer and on the drug Tamoxifen or if you are on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and are interested in using phytoestrogens as a replacement contact your doctor before doing so.
Food is Medicine
Eating foods that contain phytoestrogens is the best way to take advantage of their healing properties. When phytoestrogens are isolated, concentrated and taken in pill form is when they become just as dangerous as hormone replacement therapy, in its ability to cause breast cancer. This is due to the fact that in food form, there are many other constituents that buffer the effects of phytoestrogens making them safe.
It is also very important to have healthy gut flora in order to take advantage of the phytoestrogens. The healthy gut flora helps to convert the inactive phytoestrogens into the active hormone. When you take antibiotics, it not only kills the bad bacteria but it kills the good bacteria as well, causing a decrease in excretion of phytoestrogens. One more reason to make sure your gut flora is flourishing with cultured foods like sauerkraut, miso soup, yogurt and cottage cheese. You can also take supplements. I prefer the liquid forms of probiotics. My body seems to respond well to it.
Phytoestrogens and Herbs
There are also many herbs that contain phytoestrogens. The food-like herbs are the safest to take and Susan Weed suggests taking 1 herb for about 3 month to get the full benefits. Such herbs include citrus peel, dandelion leaves or root, fenugreek, green tea, hops or red clover.
There are other herbs that contain phytoestrogens that are much stronger and should not be taken long term. These herbs include agave root, black cohosh, black currant, black haw, cramp bark, dang gui and wild yam.
Phytoestrogens are an important and valuable asset to the fight against breast cancer and all you have to do is to make sure you have healthy bacteria in your gut and include foods that contain phytoestrogens in your diet.
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press.
Wardlaw, G.M. (2003). Contemporary nutrition: issues and insights (5th ed). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Weed, S. S. (1996). Breast cancer? Breast health!: the wise woman way. Woodstock, N.Y.: Ash Tree Pub.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Breast Cancer Prevention Month: Taking off Your Bra Helps Keep Your Boobies Cancer Free

Since it is Breast Cancer Prevention month here at The Verbal Herbal, I thought I’d talk about bras.  I was never a big fan of wearing a bra. I find them uncomfortable and stiff. If I go to work I’ll wear a sports bra because they are a little more comfortable, but as soon as I get home that thing comes off. I’ve been called out a few times about not wearing a bra, and after some research, I can now say “by not wearing a bra, I’m reducing my chances for breast cancer.”
Breast Movement and the Lymphatic system
We have evolved with subtle breast movement (or not so subtle, depending on how big your boob as) when we walked or ran. This subtle movement gently massages the breast tissue, increasing lymphatic flow and removing waste and toxins from the breast tissue.
Why Wearing a bra can increase your chances of getting breast cancer
First and foremost, I’d like to make it clear that women wear bras for cosmetic purposes not for medical purposes. With that said, bras are very constricting. They close of the breast to circulation, hindering the immune system, slowing lymphatic drainage and trapping energy and toxins in the breast.
The effect that wearing a bra has on the lymphatic system is astounding and I think it is also something that most women are unaware of. Wearing a bra, especially and underwire bra and/or to bed, closes off the lymphatic pathway from the breasts to the nodes, decreasing lymphatic drainage. This lack of lymphatic flow leads to accumulation of toxins in the breast tissue and can cause anoxia (low oxygen content) in the tissue. This is related to fibrosis of the breasts (fluid buildup and cyst formation) which leads to an increased incidence of breast cancer.
The Link between bras and breast Cancer
I think getting women to go braless is a hard sell, but providing some statistics can help to show how much wearing a bra has an effect on you chances of getting breast cancer:
  • In a study of 5,000 women, the ones that said that they got irritated, red marks from wearing a bra were 2 times more likely to get breast cancer.
  • Women that rarely or never wear a bra had a 1 out of 168 chance of getting breast cancer.
  • Women that wore a bra less that 12 hours a day had a 1 out of 152 chance of getting breast cancer.
  • Women that wore a bra more that 12 hours a day but not to bed, had a 1 in 7 chance of getting breast cancer.
  • Women that wore a bra 24 hours a day had a 3 out of 4 chance of getting breast cancer.
What you can do to better your chances
As the statistics above show, the more hours a day that you wear a bra, the more you increase your risk of getting breast cancer. Here are some suggestions to help better your chances.
  • Take off your bra: Go braless as often as you can, especially at night. Many women are in jobs where they have to wear a bra for long hours and taking off your bra during work hours is not acceptable. So when you are not at work make sure to go braless. If you feel uncomfortable being out’n’about without a bra then wear a sports bra. Because they don’t have an underwire they are a little less restricting to lymphatic flow.
  • Breast Massage: Rosemary Gladstar suggests doing a breast massage 5 times a week. It helps keep us connected to our bodies, assists in proper lymphatic flow and aids in early detection of breast cancer. This is how she does it:
    1. Apply massage oil to the breasts. When I have time, I prefer to do it in the shower with some soap. It feels more cleansing and I end up with a killer lather.
    2. Cup one breast in each hand and move your hands in a circular motion away from each other 28 times.
    3. Then move your hands in a circular motion towards each other 28 times.
    4. Repeat step two by moving your hands in a circular motion away from each other another 28 times.
    5. Do this exercise with the speed and pressure that feels comfortable to you.
  • Lymphatic Assistance: Make sure you keep your lymphatic system flowing properly with adequate exercise, dry brushing and herbs like cleavers.
  • Keep Estrogen Dominance in Check: Do your best to notice the signs of Estrogen Dominance and decrease your exposure to Xenoestrogens.
I hope this post has shown how dangerous wearing a bra can be. For more information regarding this topic check out the book “Dressed to Kill: link between breast cancer and bras” by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer. Stay tuned this month for more information regarding breast cancer prevention.  
Gladstar, R. (2001). Rosemary Gladstar's family herbal: a guide to living life with energy, health, and vitality. North Adams, Mass.: Storey Books.
Weed, S. S. (1996). Breast cancer? Breast health!: the wise woman way. Woodstock, N.Y.: Ash Tree Pub.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Breast Cancer Prevention Month: Xenoestrogens

Continuing on with Breast Cancer Prevention Month, today I would like to talk about xenoestrogens. As my last blog post stated, Estrogen Dominance is one of the main causes of breast cancer and xenoestrogens are a main contributor to the problem.
What Are Xenoestrogens?
Xenoestrogens, also known as environmental estrogens and endocrine disrupters or as I will refer to them xenos, are chemicals from outside of the body that act like estrogen inside the body. The amount of products that contain xenos has significantly increased in the last 70 years and, as a result, so has breast cancer and other estrogen related cancers. Xenos can be absorbed in the body by inhalation (lungs), ingestion (GI tract) and topical absorption (skin). Xenos not only threaten our species with medical issues and cause feminizing effect, but the ecological effects may threaten the survival of species world wide.
Organochlorines are one class of xenoestrogens that have been raising the most attention in relation to breast cancer. They are the chemical byproducts of industrial products that involve chlorine and the heating of organic matter (carbon), for example they come from bleaching paper and burning of hazardous and medical waste. They are often found in chlorinated water, pesticides, pharmaceuticals and PVC plastics and are so dangerous because they don’t break down easily in the environment and accumulate in the fat and breast tissue of humans. Their ability to stay in the body is proved by recent samples of breast and fat tissue that were collected from women in the US. These samples reveled the presence of organochlorines banned over 30 years ago, including DDT.
Another common group of xenoestrogen is Nonphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). These are a common detergent for industrial products and can be found in latex paints, cosmetics, plastics and pesticides. One form of NPEs is the active ingredient in spermicide where is can enter the female body and be easily absorbed. Organochlorines and NPEs are just 2 groups of xenoestrogens. There are tons more and the more we have an affinity to developing new chemicals, the more xenoestrogens will continue to be a problem.
What kinds of Products contain Xenoestrogens?
  • Hormones found in Meat and Dairy: hormones added to commercially raised beef, chicken and pork to help the animals “bulk up” can be found in the meat and hormones given to cows to increases dairy production can be found in milk.
  • Pesticides and herbicides: non-organic fruits and veggies contain the residue of agricultural pesticides and herbicides but also products that you use in your own garden to get rid of bugs and weeds are dangerous.
  • Plastic and Styrofoam food and drink containers
  • Household detergents and Cleaners
  • Paints and solvents: including nail polish and remover.
  • Cosmetics: we must remember that anything we put on the skin is absorbed into the blood stream and these xenoestrogens are 10 times more dangerous than xenos that enter through the GI tract. This is due to the fact that ingested xenos must pass through the liver, where as topical xenos are absorbed directly into the tissue.
  • Artificial scents: like air fresheners and perfumes.
Other Conditions Linked to Xenoestrogens
Breast cancer is just one of the problems associated with xenoestrogen exposure. Other issues include:
  • Endometriosis
  • Early puberty
  • Infertility
  • Miscarriages
  • Other female cancers like ovarian and cervical cancer
  • In men xenoestrogens cause: decreased sperm count, mobs (man boobs), prostate cancer and testicular cancer
  • In children, xenoestrogen exposure may be linked to: thyroid issues, diabetes and behavioral issues
How to Limit your Exposure to Xenoestrogens
The bottom line is that each product that contains a xenoestrogens may only contain a miniscule amount, but most people use so many different products, each containing xenos. The effect in the body is accumulative and can be the cause of many of the conditions listed above. So here are some guidelines to follow to limit your exposure to xenoestrogens:
  • Say “No” to Plastic and Styrofoam: do not buy, store or reheat food or drinks in plastic or Styrofoam. I know how easy it is to bring to your lunch in tubaware and just throw it in the microwave but it is also very dangerous. Use glass instead.
  • When it comes to water:
    • Use a food grade stainless steel or glass water bottle.
    • Do not leave plastic drinking containers in the sun.
    • Don’t refill plastic water bottles.
    • Avoid freezing plastic water bottles with the intention of drinking later.
    • Avoid chlorinated water and instead drink filtered or spring water.
  • Natural Cleaning products: natural cleaning products can be expensive, that’s why I’m an advocate of making your own cleaning products. It is cheap and takes no time at all. I suggest getting the book “Clean House, Clean Planet” by Karen Logan. Her cleaning recipes are safe and easy, costing only pennies to make.
  • Buy hormone free meat and dairy and organic produce: This can be expensive but I look at it as an investment in your health. Also take advantage of local farmers markets. You can purchase organic products at a fraction of the supermarket price, plus you are supporting local farmers which is important. There are some produce that are heavily sprayed with pesticides, so if you can’t afford to fully go organic, at least buy organic strawberries, spinach, cabbage, pineapples, green beans, asparagus, apricots, raspberries, cherries, apples, peaches, grapes and peppers.
  • Avoid processed food and drinks: Processed food and drinks contain many different additives, preservatives and artificial colors that are xenoestrogens.
  • Use Natural, Chemical-free Cosmetics and fragrances: anything you put on your skin is readily absorbed into the blood stream. Avoiding these products all together is the best way to decrease you exposure to them.
  • Choose chlorine-free and unbleached paper products: be especially aware of tampons. You may be inserting dangerous xenos and chemicals into a very sensitive and receptive part of your body.
I hope this has brought some awareness to the dangers of xenoestrogens and how they relate to Estrogen Dominance and breast cancer. Thank you for reading The Verbal Herbal and supporting Breast Cancer Prevention Month. These are very important topics this month and I encourage you to share them with as many people as possible. Information this month could help to save lives and beautiful boobies.
Weed, S. S. (1996). Breast cancer? Breast health!: the wise woman way. Woodstock, N.Y.: Ash Tree Pub.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Breast Cancer Prevention Month: Estrogen Dominance and Breast Cancer

It is really hard for me to separate all of the topics regarding breast cancer into different blog posts because the more I learn about some of these issues the more it becomes clear that they are all interconnected. Today I’d like to talk about the issue of estrogen dominance. It is a problem that is causing widespread health issues amongst women and needs to be addressed. But first let’s talk about the role of sex hormones in the body.
Estrogen vs. Progesterone
Estrogen and progesterone are two hormones that are very important to health and balance of the body. During a typical menstrual cycle, large quantities of estrogen are released right before ovulation, which cause another hormone, LH to surge, releasing an egg and starting ovulation. The follicle which the egg was released from, becomes the corpus letum and produces large amounts of progesterone. When the egg does not become fertilized, the egg dies, hormones drop and menstruation begins. The menstrual cycle is a complex balancing act of hormones and if anything is out of balance the whole system becomes compromised. Below is a chart that states the actions of estrogen and progesterone. You can see how a balance of both hormones is needed to maintain health.
Causes the endometrium to proliferate
Maintains secretory endometrium
Causes breast stimulation that can lead to cancer
Protects against fibrocystic breasts and breast cancer
Increases body fat
Helps us use fat for energy
Increases endometrial cancer risk
Prevents endometrial cancer
Reduces vascular tone
Restores vascular tone
Increases blood clot risk
Normalizes blood clot risk
Restrains osteoclast function slightly
Promotes osteoblast function leading to bone growth
Estrogen Dominance
Estrogen dominance is one of the most common hormonal imbalances in today’s culture and I believe it is one of the main causes of breast cancer. Estrogen dominance is the result of too much estrogen in the system causing the ratio of estrogen to progesterone to be skewed. This can be the result of too much estrogen in the system or too little progesterone.
Best Way to Tell if you are Estrogen Dominate
The easiest ways to determine if a woman is estrogen dominant is to take a look at her menstrual cycle. If your menstrual cycle is shorter than 25 days (estrogen excess) or longer than 30 days (progesterone deficiency) then you double your risk of getting breast cancer. The chart below can help you determine if estrogen dominance is an issue:
Cycle Length
PMS Symptoms
Normal Menstrual Cycle
28 Days
Regular flow with no clots for 7 days
No symptoms
Estrogen Dominance
Shorter than 25 Days
Heavy flow for 7-14 days with clots and brown spotting before the flow starts
Cramps before flow starts, bloating with mood swings being snappy and angry, enlarged and sensitive breasts and food cravings
Progesterone Deficiency
30-50 Days
Heavy for 3-4 days
Cramps before period starts, lumps and fibrocystic breasts, no bloating
Causes of Estrogen Dominance
There are many reasons that an individual may be estrogen dominant and the main ones are listed below.
  • Xenoestrogens: also known as environmental estrogens and endocrine disrupters, these are chemicals from outside of the body that act like estrogen inside the body. These chemical include pesticides, herbicides, cleaning products, cosmetics, paints, carpets, plastics and lots of other products and chemicals.
  • Poor Liver Function: If your liver is not functioning optimally it can’t process and break down estrogen.
  • Constipation: If you are not pooping at least 2 times a day, all of the hormones and toxins that are supposed to be excreted are being reabsorbed in the colon.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy: Essentially what hormone replacement therapy is doing is adding more estrogen to the body during times of menopause. I would like to state that menopause is a natural progression of a woman’s life and if you are experiencing symptoms of menopause, it is often due to a Yin deficiency which can be alleviated by herbs that tonify yin like anemarrhena (Anemarrhena asploidis) or ophiopogon (Ophiopogon japonicus)
Conditions Associated with Estrogen Dominance

Estrogen dominance can be linked to many health conditions, including:
  • Breast cancer
  • Fibrocystic breasts and ovarian cysts
  • Endometriosis
  • Accelerated aging
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Infertility
  • Irregular menstruation as shown by the chart above
  • In men estrogen dominance is linked to prostate and breast cancer, infertility, low sperm count, moobs (man boobs)
Ways to Decrease Estrogen Dominance
  • Increase consumption of Cruciferous Veggies: vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, chard, brussel sprouts, and cabbage contain indole-3-carbinole that helps the body detoxify environmental estrogens.
  • Increase your consumption of phytoestrogens
  • Improve your Liver Function: with bitters, lemon water, milk thistle and dandelion
  • Supplement with DIM
  • Avoid exposure to xenoestrogens
Overall estrogen dominance is a huge issue in today’s culture and it needs to be addressed. I feel that is one of the main causes of breast cancer and other issues that are associated with the female reproductive system. The sad part is that there is no “awareness” whatsoever about this topic. My next blog posts will talk more in depth about some of the causes and solutions to estrogen dominance and breast cancer. So stay tuned to this month because it is “Breast Cancer Prevention Month.”
Weed, S. S. (1996). Breast cancer? Breast health!: the wise woman way. Woodstock, N.Y.: Ash Tree Pub.
Cohen, B. J., Taylor, J. J., & Memmler, R. L. (2009). Memmler's structure and function of the human body (9th ed.). Baltimore, MD: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott William & Wilkins.