By Dr. Isaac Eliaz, MD, LAc.
No one is ever prepared to hear that they have breast cancer — or any cancer, for that matter. The deep psychological stress that normally occurs after being handed a life-threatening diagnosis is very real and must be addressed with the right measures, or patients face a much higher risk for metastasis. This seems particularly true for breast cancer patients, with multiple studies demonstrating the intricate links between emotional state and breast cancer outcome. That brings us to a difficult impasse: stress and fear are natural reactions to a cancer diagnosis, but these reactions can increase the risks of aggressive, metastatic cancer and reduce chances of survival.
So what’s the answer? This is a complex question, but research and clinical observations suggest that a strategic program that combats the risks and development of cancer from multiple angles, while simultaneously supporting overall health, may be the most effective approach. And it all starts with mind-body stress-relief practices. In fact, a recent study shows how stress activates a specific gene in immune cells called ATF3, fueling the growth and spread of breast cancer. Indeed, prolonged stress may be our greatest killer — increasing inflammation and allowing aggressive cancer to grow and metastasize.
What many people don’t realize is that we can reduce our cancer risk, and even the progression of breast and other cancers, with targeted solutions that are proven to make a difference.
Negativity, depression and anxiety don’t just kill our moods; they can actually kill us. More and more research highlights the mechanisms at work on the cellular and genetic levels that turn chronic stress into a dangerous risk factor. Some of the biochemical effects of stress, particularly in cancer, include: shortened telomeres (end caps on the strands of chromosomes that protect our DNA), the activation of pro-cancer and pro-metastatic genes, immune suppression along with immune cell death, and increased inflammatory cell signals. If you are socially isolated and lonely, you also can suffer these physiological effects.
But don’t let these facts get you down! A multitude of studies show that mind-body stress-relief practices such as meditation or yoga can reduce inflammatory markers, strengthen immunity, increase telomere length and reduce pro-cancer gene expression. One study showed that the relaxation response from practices such as meditation, prayer, yoga and other mind-body exercises changed the way genes respond to stress.
This finding is truly a game changer in the field of mind-body medicine. It’s one of many compelling studies demonstrating that certain time-honored, spiritual practices have significant value on the physiological level.
Meditation, in particular, is shown in numerous studies to help address a wide range of health conditions. For tips on getting started with a simple, easy meditation practice, go here to read one of my recent articles on this topic.
Additional proven stress relief practices include walking and other forms of gentle exercise, spending time in nature, being social, doing art, listening to or playing music, spending time with animals and volunteering to help others.
Support Healthy Breasts with Diet and Supplements
Important dietary habits for breast and overall health include following an anti-inflammatory, alkaline diet; emphasizing low glycemic index (low sugar) foods; avoiding high-fat commercial dairy and overcooked meats; and limiting refined, processed foods.
Of all the foods shown to support breast health, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, kale, radish and turnips may be the top players. That’s because these superfood vegetables contain an abundance of compounds called glucosinolates and other phytonutrients that work together synergistically to support healthy cellular growth, detoxify the body, help balance hormones, and promote lasting immunity on the genetic level.
In my practice, a top recommendation for supporting and maintaining breast health is a comprehensive breast care supplement shown in peer reviewed studies to promote healthy breast cell growth and behavior on the cellular and genetic levels. This researched formula contains the active compound found in cruciferous vegetables, DIM (diindolylmethane); along with botanically enhanced medicinal mushrooms; the bioflavonoid quercetin; an enhanced bioavailable extract of curcumin from turmeric root, and high ratio extracts of the herb Scutellaria barbata and astragalus root. Studies show the formula regulates genes that promote healthy breast cell growth.
Each of these ingredients has been found to have multiple health benefits. Further research has shown that the beneficial effects of this breast care formula are increased when it’s used in combination with modified citrus pectin, another powerful cellular health supplement shown in studies to support breast, prostate, colon, skin and other areas of health. Modified citrus pectin is also a powerful natural detoxifier and immune-supporting ingredient.
Medicinal mushrooms offer important support for breast cellular health — particularly a botanically enhanced formula with six species of mushrooms grown on a blend of immune-supporting herbs for increased benefits. With coriolus, reishi, agaricus, cordyceps, umbellatus and maitake mushroom species, this formula has been shown to offer significant support for breast cellular health and enhanced immune support.
Targeted Advancements in Breast Health
Today research continues to refine advancements that aim to support women of all ages in effective breast care and long-term health management. Of particular note is the research pointing to healthy stress relief, an antioxidant-rich diet, regular exercise and weight management — all of which work to support breast health through multiple mechanisms of action, while promoting overall vitality, safely and naturally.