Breast Cancer is growing in staggering numbers – and in younger generations. We can blame hormones in the water, birth control, our food system, toxins in the air, and chemicals in our body products… and of course genetics, but the truth is, we just do not know what causes it. There are many links, and much research to support these thoughts, but the case may be different for each person battling the cancer.
This article is not meant as medical advice, but instead as a way to help those struggling to cross into a more natural-minded lifestyle while battling breast cancer. One person’s “right way” is not the same as another’s, so there is no judgement or shaming, only acceptance and words of guidance as you start to include more organic, back-to-the-earth options into your arsenal.
So, you have breast cancer. You have a team of doctors and surgeons. You have started chemotherapy and radiation. You have never questioned medicine in your life, until now. You have started googling and have become so overwhelmed that you don’t know where to go from here. You are starting to think that you need to change your lifestyle, whether to beat this cancer, or to prevent it from coming back in the future. You may even be worried about some of the things you have already put your body through.
The first thing I can tell you is this: BREATHE. You are being proactive. If you have a slow growing tumor or time in between treatments, then take the time to educate yourself with options and start a list of changes you would like to implement. The hardest battle you will fight is against closed-minded medical professionals. But remember that this is your journey to health, not theirs, and you have the right to include (or not include) what you feel would better your body. If you present your research, hopefully your team will be open to hearing your thoughts.
Everything that I will talk about can be done in conjunction with medical treatments, or whatever path you have chosen thus far. I’ve broken them into basic categories so you are not overwhelmed. You can pick and choose, dig deeper into more research, and go at your own pace. I am in your corner, and am here if you have questions or would like further ideas.
Bridging Gently into the Natural World While Battling Breast Cancer
Detoxing and Flushing Out the Toxins
There is no doubt that your body needs to eliminate toxins. The cancer toxins, and any radiation or chemotherapy that has been used so far. Chemotherapy and radiation does its jobs in killing the bad cancer cells, but they don’t stop there; they kill all of the good cells too. By killing these good cells off, you increase your risk of a second cancer later in life. http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJM199206253262605
Fundamental to detoxification are the main organs of elimination, the liver and kidneys. Special attention is paid to the liver which processes chemotherapy and eliminates it. The safest and most effective natural detox will optimize liver function and restore liver health.
Detoxification during or after chemotherapy should always include the foundational approaches of maintaining high water intake, eating a proper diet rich in fiber and phytonutrients, and appropriate use of exercise. Combining these fundamentals with liver support, antioxidant therapy and the most current research make up the strongest detox protocols.
- Increasing Water Intake: Drinking (in ounces) at least 50% of your body weight allows enough fluid to help flush toxins.
- Detox Baths: Detoxing through a bath is a gentle and soothing way to release toxins. Make sure to shower and rinse off before climbing out of the bathtub.
- o Detox Bath Example:
2 cups Epsom salt 2 cups baking soda (aluminum free) 8 drops of pure Rosemary and Juniper Berry essential oils
Basic Procedure: Add salt and baking soda to a very warm bath and let dissolve for five minutes. Add four drops each of Rosemary and Juniper Berry essential oils, as both are specific for detoxing the body.
Diet and Supplements
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates. Normally, the carbohydrates contained in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported around the body. However, if there is very little carbohydrate in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies.
Cancer is a glucose metabolizer. Your normal cells have the metabolic flexibility to adapt from using glucose to using ketone bodies. Cancer cells lack this metabolic flexibility, so when you eliminate carbohydrates, which turn into sugar, you effectively starve the cancer!
You can create your own diet based on your research, of course, but the top things I would recommend are:
- Ditching Sugar
- Lose the Processed Foods (anything in a box – or with a long shelf life)
- Eliminate Gluten and Dairy as they are inflammatory agents.
- Let go of GMO’s: Nothing chemically altered should enter the body
- Eat the Rainbow: Include all the fruits and vegetables of the rainbow, as many as you can, and on a daily basis.
- Read labels: or better yet, don’t buy things with labels.
Several studies highlight two citrus flavonoids, hesperetin and naringenin, found in oranges and grapefruit, respectively, and four noncitrus flavonoids, baicalein, galangin, genistein, and quercetin. These have been tested singly and in one‐to‐one combinations for their effects on proliferation and growth of a human breast carcinoma cell line. Tumor development was drastically delayed in the groups given unprocessed, organic orange juice or fed the naringin‐supplemented diet. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01635589609514473
o Antioxidants protect healthy cells from damage caused by chemotherapy or the lingering free radicals it creates. Antioxidants are also used by the body to clear waste and cellular debris left in the wake of chemotherapy oxidation. Research shows that antioxidants such as Vitamins A, B, C, E, etc. reduce chemotherapy side effects while increasing efficacy against tumors.
o There are specific phytonutrients that are even more promising antioxidants than these standard vitamins. Grape Seed Extract, for example, has been shown to be about 50 times more effective than Vitamin C at scavenging free radicals and through multiple mechanisms can inhibit cancer cell growth.
o Vitamin D: Studies show that by optimizing your vitamin D levels, you can double the chance of surviving breast cancer. Have your doctors check you levels regularly and supplement accordingly. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/04/13/vitamin-d-breast-cancer-prevention.aspx
Milk Thistle: Milk thistle is known as an elixir for your liver and is the king of detoxifying herbs. It contains the flavonoid silymarin, which is thought to be responsible for many of its beneficial effects, including liver protection and antioxidant, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties.http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/09/14/milk-thistle-benefits.aspx
Curcumin (found in turmeric): Curcumin changes the regulation of DNA to help kill cancer. In fact, curcumin not only influences epigenetic settings, it also manages the downstream consequences, helping to guide multiple steps in the way gene orders are implemented. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/06/13/this-powerful-herb-changes-your-genes-to-combat-cancer.aspx
Omega 3: Omega-3 deficiency is a common underlying factor for cancer, and studies have found that by simply supplementing the diet with animal-based omega-3 fats, you may reduce breast cancer risk by 32%. Studies also show that omega-3 fats influence two genes involved in keeping breast cancer at bay, all while reducing cancer cell growth. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/07/27/omega3s-reduce-your-risk-of-breast-cancer.aspx
Melatonin (only supplement if you are having trouble falling asleep): Peer-reviewed and published research has shown melatonin offers particularly strong protection against reproductive cancers. Cells throughout your body — even cancer cells — have melatonin receptors. So when melatonin makes its nightly rounds, cell division slows. When this hormone latches onto a breast cancer cell, it has been found to counteract estrogen’s tendency to stimulate cell growth. Read more on how to naturally increase melatonin levels: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/03/19/melatonin-benefits.aspx
Several studies show how juicing (organic, whole foods) fruits and vegetables can increase the body’s ability to fight cancer, especially breast cancer. You will come across so many recipes, your head will spin, but don’t over think it. Start with just basic juicing of foods that you know you will enjoy. Juicing allows you to “eat the rainbow” easier on a daily basis.
A few pieces of research to read:
On including wheat grass: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01635580701308083
On including pomegranate: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10549-012-2264-5
Creating a “Green Juice” and incorporating it into your diet a few days a week (4-5 or so) can assist in the rapid removal of metabolic wastes from the body and the rebuilding of damaged tissues. Juicing helps clear the kidneys of toxins and contributes to the proper digestion of food.
A note: All items need to be organic and in whole food form (not powdered).
One example of a “Green Juice” is:
1 apple (to sweeten) 1 orange 2 stalks of celery 1 cucumber 1 carrot 1 bunch of parsley 1 bunch cilantro 8 beet greens 1 red bell pepper 1 green cabbage 1 lemon 1/2 bulb of ginger
- Eliminate Toxic Environments: To the best of your ability, eliminate toxins from entering your body.
o Avoid second hand smoke, or smoking yourself.
o Stop using synthetic products, such as candles and scented items in your home.
o Eliminate skin care products that contain aluminum, other chemicals, dyes, and artificial ingredients.
o Avoid storing food in plastic or styrofoam containers, and limit or eliminate the use of a microwave.
o Turn off electronics whenever possible and do not rest phones, laptops, etc on your body.
o Make your own cleaning products with vinegar, natural soap, and essential oils.
- Exercise: Create more oxygenated blood flow, produce sweat to release toxins, and practice deep breathing to detox the lungs.
- Coffee Enemas: these will aid in detoxing the body by increasing the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Oil Pulling: Pulling with a high quality coconut oil (or other oil) for 20 minutes 1-2 times a day will draw toxins from the body.
- Essential Oils:
o Frankincense (also known as Boswellia serrata): Frankincense has anti-inflammatory properties and, as research shows, is a potential treatment for brain, breast, colon, pancreatic, prostate and stomach cancers. Cancer scientists emphasize that this potency makes frankincense a viable candidate for both cancer prevention and treatment. It can be used in diffusers with ease to treat respiratory conditions, or you can use it as an essential oil or salve directly on your skin. You can also take frankincense (Boswellia) as a supplement with a few essential oil drops placed under your tongue, on the roof of your mouth or in powdered capsule form for treatment of many health conditions. http://articles.mercola.com/herbal-oils/frankincense-oil.aspx
o Thyme: Wild thyme has been used to induce cell death in breast cancer cells. After 72 hours of treatment, thyme essential oil killed 98 percent of human breast cancer cells, with researchers concluding wild thyme “may be a promising candidate in the development of novel therapeutic drugs for breast cancer treatment.” http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01635581.2012.719658?journalCode=hnuc20&
Doctor Selection and Including Alternative Care
Make sure that you trust and feel comfortable with your cancer team. Include a holistic naturopathic doctor who supports cancer patients. Insurance typically do not cover these doctors, and bills can add up very quickly; however, meeting with a naturopathic doctor just once may be enough to help you on your journey.
Alternative Care you may choose to include:
Chiropractic Therapy: http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/comp_med/types/chiropractic
In order to truly restore your health, you will need to ensure that you are detoxing through all pathways of the body. These include:
- Colon: 1-2 Bowel movements a day
- Kidneys and Bladder: Drink ½ your body weight in ounces of water and organic tea a day
- Skin: Sweating or Skin Brushing
- Lungs: Deep breathing exercises
- Emotional Cleansing: Forgiving others and evaluating relationships