By Gemma Hurditch for CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine).
According to official 2016 statistics, 1 in 8 women in the UK develops breast cancer. So what natural dietary and lifestyle measures can we take to reduce our risk?
Fast. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for developing breast cancer. Maintaining a sensible weight is protective against many forms of cancer. Intermittent fasting or the 5:2 diet is a good way to lose excess weight and keep it off. Nightly fasting of 13 hours without food also appears to reduce the chance of breast cancer reoccurrence.
Eat cruciferous vegetables. Compounds found in members of the cruciferous vegetable family; (broccoli, cabbage, Brussel’s sprouts, kale and turnips), contain anti-cancer properties, currently under investigation for breast cancer therapy. Keep cooking times to a minimum, preferring to steam or eat them raw. Chew well to release the bioactive compounds. Aim to eat 2-3 cups daily, in addition to other fresh veg and fruit.
Get enough Iodine. There are links between low iodine intake, poor thyroid health and breast cancer. Japanese women who eat seaweed daily (rich in natural iodine) have lower rates of both diseases. Low iodine levels in breast tissue is associated with breast disease, so it’s worthwhile adding a teaspoon of seaweed or sea vegetables to your daily diet.
Drink less alcohol. Drinking alcohol is associated with increased risk of various cancers, including breast. To minimise risk, no more than 1 standard drink is advised daily. Alcohol free nights also confer benefits. The risk increases with consumption of alcohol in breast cancer, so try tart cherry juice instead, or reduce alcohol intake by mixing it with soda water.
Live ‘clean’. Opt for a predominantly plant-based organic diet. Avoid processed foods, and cook from scratch. This helps reduce intake of potentially toxic residues from pesticides, additives and packaging. Look for organic personal care products with only natural ingredients.
Exercise. More physically active women have lower rates of various cancers, including that of breast, uterus and colon. Exercise is beneficial to overall health and recommended for both breast cancer survivors and as a preventative measure. Aim for 40 minutes brisk walking five days a week, building up to some higher intensity sessions if it suits.
Get safe sunlight. Women with higher levels of vitamin D, which is made by the action of sunlight on skin, have lower rates of various cancers, including that of breast, uterus and colon.
Self-check. Regular self examination for any lumps, bumps or irregularities in breast tissue or the nipple can alert you to any potential problems.
Naturopath Gemma Hurditch lectures at CNM (College of Naturopathic Medicine). To find out about CNM training in a range of natural therapies visit www.naturopathy-uk.com