With the recent press surrounding Angelina Jolie’s courageous decision to undergo surgery for breast cancer prevention, the debate over cancer and its prevalence continues. Unfortunately, the discussion on cancer and cancer prevention continues to focus on genes, drugs and surgery, rather than understanding why cancer continues to be our modern day plague.
I am fortunate to meet many women at different points in their cancer journey. What I, and many others before me, are learning is that cancer is about 3 primary concepts: detoxification, alkalization and oxygenation. These 3 concepts ultimately affect estrogen metabolism.
Women and their physicians should learn to assess estrogen metabolism. Women’s breast cancer risk increases when estrogen is not appropriately metabolized. I always warn patients that estrogen is everywhere – it is in our environments, our bodies and our food.
There are patterns and trends that I continue to see in practice. The patterns include heavy hormone use, in the form of oral contraceptives or through repeated IVF treatments, which predispose women to this issue. Nutritional deficiencies contribute to this pattern. Stress, triggering cortisol production and inflammation also plays a role.
There are diet, supplements and lifestyle changes that can decrease breast cancer risk by preventing or treating estrogen dominance. These do not get the press or attention that they deserve. I am not downplaying the importance of genetic testing and family history. I am concerned, however, that we do not ever discuss how these genes are activated, and the important role of toxins, food and hormonal imbalances in gene activation.
As I continue to see women in my practice, I attempt to educate them on these issues. It is time, however, for a national discussion on this topic and increased awareness of the critical interplay of our diet, our toxic environment, our bodies and our medical choices.
Estrogen is a hormone that occurs naturally in the body. It influences the growth and functioning of both female and male reproductive, skeletal and cardiovascular systems.
Xenoestrogens are chemicals present in our environment that mimic estrogen and its affects. These, combined with the naturally occurring estrogen in our bodies, leads to an over-abundance of the hormone. This condition is commonly referred to as estrogen dominance.
Estrogen Dominance is linked to increased risk of breast cancer, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, infertility and miscarriages.
The best way to prevent estrogen dominance is to support the body’s natural pathways for eliminating excess estrogen and avoiding xenoestrogens.
Both the liver and bowel are responsible for filtering estrogen from the body. You can give your liver a helping hand by eating foods that contain sulfur such as egg yolks, onions and garlic.
Your bowel needs a diet high in fiber to remove excess estrogen from the body. Without the fiber, estrogen will not be cleared from the bowel and can be reabsorbed. Eating foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage provide fiber and they contain the phytonutrient indole-3-carbinol which breaks down estrogen its a non-carcinogenic form. I recommend women who are estrogen dominant supplement their diet with the supplement DIM.
The best way to avoid xenoestrogens is to limit your exposure to pesticides, plastics, detergents and perfumes. Buying organic and hormone-free food is also an important step in preventing estrogen dominance. You can take steps to balance your body’s production of estrogen. Eliminating excess body fat, stress, caffeine and processed foods while adding exercise is recommended.
Risk Factors for Estrogen Dominance
- History of Ovarian Cysts
- History of Uterine Fibroids
- History of Fibrocystic Breast Disease
- History of PMS
- History of Migraines
- IVF use
- Long history of oral contraceptive use
Preventing Estrogen Dominance
- Nutritional detoxification with the Estrogen Detoxification Diet
- Assess methylation status
- Understand nutritional deficiencies that lead to estrogen dominance
- Obtain full hormone evaluation including thyroid, adrenal and insulin
- Manage stress, cortisol and inflammation
I encourage women to learn more about their bodies’ use of estrogen and learn to assess their capacity for detoxification, alkalinity and oxygenation. Remember that nutrients, hormones and toxins influence estrogen metabolism and cancer risk. As physicians, we need to expand our vision beyond drugs, surgeries and genes. In the fight against cancer, we must respect the complex but intricate relationship between genetics and choices.
Dr. Tasneem Bhatia
Integrative Health Expert
Founder and Medical Director of the Atlanta Center for Holistic and Integrative Medicine
Author, What Doctors Eat
Dr. Taz is a monthly columnist for Prevention Magazine. As the alternative medicine adviser for Prevention, she shares monthly tips on staying healthy the alternative way. Her preventive practices have been featured on The Dr. Oz Show and The Today Show.
Currently, at the Atlanta Center for Holistic & Integrative Medicine, patients seek to improve their overall health, but Dr. Bhatia also treats Autism, ADHD, Cancer, Diabetes, hormonal concerns, infertility, weight management and many other health concerns. Unique in today’s healthcare system, Dr. Bhatia spends an hour, on average, with her patients trying to get to the root of the problem at hand rather than treating symptoms.
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Dr. Tasneem Bhatia
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