By now, we all know that the best way to support overall well-being is through a proper diet – one that provides us with all of the vitamins and trace minerals that our bodies need. In an ideal world, we would eat organically and seasonally every day and take the time to experience and savor each meal. In reality, that’s hard for many women. We’re doing the best we can to juggle the demands of careers, family, volunteer commitments, and more. Sometimes we have to grab a bite as we’re running out the door and eat in the car, but we can still prioritize our health! Careful supplement choices can maximize breast health and minimize our risk of cancer. Please keep in mind that it’s essential to have a current physical and to work closely with your health care professional when beginning or altering any course of supplements.
Remember… none of this will take the place of a balanced, plant-based, organic diet. But if you want to make sure that you’re taking in as much goodness as you can to combat some of the toxins in your environment, supplements are a good place to start. Read on to learn more about the most common recommendations, and about some lesser-known, but very effective options.
Where Should I Start?
• Supplement with a multivitamin daily! Take a comprehensive multivitamin/mineral supplement that is rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C, E, B-complex, D, beta-carotene is a must. Choose one that is organic, gluten-free and contains no GMO’s.
• Antioxidants including vitamins A, C, D, and E help the cells in your breasts fight cellular inflammation, which can be a precursor to breast cancer.
• Vitamin D is especially important for breast health. A study from the University of California reported that “Researchers estimate 250,000 cases of colon cancer and 350,000 cases of breast cancer could be prevented worldwide by increasing intake of vitamin D.” Studies show that women with optimal levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of breast cancer. Your Vitamin D blood level should be at least 40 milligrams per milliliter. See your doctor and get a blood test to determine your level. If it’s low, talk with your doctor about the best strategy for to raise it. Sunlight spurs production of vitamin D in the skin, and people who don’t get much sun exposure tend to have lower levels of the vitamin. Get outside and be prepared to take supplements.
• Omega-3 fatty acids have also been associated with a lower risk of breast problems. Populations in countries that consume high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids from fish have lower incidences of breast, prostate and colon cancer than people in countries that consume less omega-3s. The theory is that Omega-3’s work to reduce risk in several ways, from reducing the effect of estrogen-like compounds to decreasing inflammation. Fermented Cod Liver Oil is a good source of Omega-3s as are wild caught fish and grass-fed meats.
I’m Getting All That Already! What Else Can I Add to my Supplement Regiment to Promote Breast Health?
• Iodine and breast health are related, as discussed in Breast Cancer and Iodine by David M. Derry, MD, PhD. As iodine is also often tied to thyroid function, this is another reason that balancing hormones is so important for many women.
• Alpha lipoic acid is a versatile antioxidant that is both fat- and water-soluble. It has the ability to neutralize the toxic effects of radiation and chemotherapy as well as recycle other antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E.
• N-acetylcysteine (NAC), breaks down to glutathione in the body and promotes breast health. The same is true of whey protein.
• Melatonin is a sleep-regulating hormone that decreases with age that may also support breast health.
• Immunomodulators, such as coenzyme Q10, promote a healthy immune system, which is essential for long-term breast health.
What About Herbs?
• Essiac tea contains herbs such as burdock root, sheep’s sorrel, slippery elm bark and others, and is regarded as a potent tonic and detoxifier that supports the body’s natural defenses. You can find it in most health-food stores.
• Fenugreek contains mild plant estrogens that may increase healthy breast tissue. Legend has it that, centuries ago, harem women were fed these seeds to make them more buxom.
• Curcumin, an extract from Turmeric, is a potent antioxidant that has also been found to help boost breast health. It is available in capsule form, or it can be obtained by adding turmeric to the diet in cooking or in a daily cup of Turmeric Tea.
• Astragalus functions in your immune system both as a modulator and as an adaptogen. This means it has the capacity to tune your immune function up or down, as appropriate.
• Saw Palmetto and Wild Yam are often also recommended by naturopathic physicians as natural breast enlargers.