Endometriosis and Sleep

Endometriosis and Sleep

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a medical condition, usually marked by pain, in which tissue that normally grows inside the uterus is found in other parts of the body. This misplaced endometrial tissue is usually shed during a woman’s period, but in the case of endometriosis, it ends up trapped and may form cysts. Usually, the misplaced tissue is found in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and tissues surrounding the uterus and pelvis. More rarely, it ends up in the vagina, bladder, rectum, or cervix.

In many cases, endometriosis may lead to fertility problems, including difficulty conceiving and recurrent miscarriages. Endometriosis is one of the leading causes of female infertility in the U.S. Estimates suggest that around 30-50% of women who have endometriosis will be infertile.

Endometriosis is fairly common. In fact, it affects over 11% of American women between the ages of 15 and 44. Worldwide, over 176 million women (about 10% of the female population from the onset of menstruation to menopause) are affected by endometriosis during their reproductive years. It’s most common among women ages 25 to 29.

The primary symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain, especially during periods. Because pain is often associated with menstrual cycles, endometriosis often goes undiagnosed. On average, women wait 8.6 years between the first onset of their endometriosis-related pain and an official diagnosis.

Symptoms

The symptoms of endometriosis are as follows:

  • Pelvic pain/pain during menstruation
  • Pain during sex
  • Fatigue
  • Painful and frequent urination
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or IBS.
  • Nausea
  • Migraines/Headaches
  • Heavy or irregular bleeding

Causes

No one knows for sure what causes endometriosis. There are, however, a few known hypotheses that researchers are continuing to study. Some of these possible causes include:

  • Overproduction of estrogen: Scientists agree that endometriosis is exacerbated by estrogen. Many of the existing treatments meant to curb some of the symptoms of endometriosis are aimed at decreasing estrogen production.
  • Genetic predisposition: First-degree relatives of women who have endometriosis are likelier to develop the condition. This means that there is likely a genetic link when it comes to the onset of endometriosis.
  • Retrograde menstruation: One of the proposed causes of endometriosis is “retrograde” menstruation, in which tissue flows backward through the fallopian tubes during the menstrual cycle.
  • Immune system dysfunction: Because certain cancers and forms of immune system dysfunction are more common in women with endometriosis, some clinicians believe that faulty immune systems cause the disorder.
  • Surgery/physical trauma: C-sections and hysterectomies can cause symptoms of endometriosis if uterine tissue is accidentally moved to another area of the body.

Why does Endometriosis make it Harder to Sleep?

How does endometriosis disrupt sleep? There are many factors relating to endometriosis and its associated symptoms and potential complications that cause it to affect sleep health.

Here are a few of the primary ways that endometriosis can disturb sleep patterns:

Pain and discomfort
Most women with endometriosis report moderate to severe pelvic pain that increases before and during their period, as well as during and after sex. This pain, associated with endometrial inflammation, goes far beyond “normal” menstrual cramping and can negatively affect your quality of life.

If you’ve ever tossed and turned with pain at night, you know how much a painful night can affect your sleep. Pain is the most debilitating symptom on a daily basis for many women with endometriosis, and the associated sleep loss can exacerbate that pain even further.

Hot flashes
Women with endometriosis sometimes experience symptoms similar to the uncomfortable “hot flashes” often associated with menopause. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that this is because of hormone fluctuations, while others experience hot flashes as a side effect of medications commonly used to treat endometriosis.

Because hot flashes cause a corresponding surge in adrenaline, they’re not exactly conducive to sleep! Hot flashes are associated with chronic sleep loss and insomnia, and they’re one of the many reasons that women with endometriosis might struggle with sleep health.

Anxiety
Women with endometriosis experience higher rates of depression and anxiety than women with any other gynecological disorder. The negative effects of chronic pelvic pain and infertility or reduced fertility on mental health can exacerbate that anxiety even further.

Anxiety and sleep disturbances often go hand-in-hand. In fact, two-thirds of patients with sleep disorders have a psychiatric disorder as well. Anxiety activates our fight-or-flight response, ramping up the areas of our brain that helps with sleep regulation. This often contributes to a feedback loop, in which people struggling with anxiety and insomnia suffer from chronic worry about not being able to fall asleep, leading to a domino effect that creates a pattern of sleep loss.

Having to go to the bathroom at night
Endometriosis is associated with a range of bladder and bowel symptoms, including frequent urination. This is because, in women with endometriosis, cells that should be in the womb end up elsewhere–like in the bladder or bowels. The body sometimes responds with negative symptoms like an overactive bladder.

It’s easy to see why urgent, frequent urination could lead to sleep problems. Women with endometriosis are likelier to have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, and they may have trouble falling back asleep due to pain or other troubling symptoms. Anxiety over potential bed-wetting could exacerbate the problem.

Migraines
Women with endometriosis are likelier to experience migraines, and vice versa. Researchers aren’t sure of the reasons for the link, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that migraines and endometriosis often go hand-in-hand.

Unfortunately, migraine sufferers are also 2 to 8 times likelier to experience sleep problems, according to the American Migraine Association.

The link between migraines and poor sleep health is a complex problem: Migraines often make people have a harder time falling asleep. In turn, chronic sleep deprivation or oversleeping to make up for the lack of sleep that often accompanies a migraine can trigger–you guessed it–more migraines.

Longer and heavier periods
Endometriosis causes longer periods, shorter and more frequent cycles, and heavier menstrual flows for many women. It can also worsen PMS symptoms, from cramps and psychiatric symptoms to headaches and bowel-related issues, all of which can disturb sleep.

Because the hormone fluctuations associated with monthly cycles sometimes lead to sleep disturbances, including both hypersomnia and insomnia, it makes sense that women with atypically long periods would experience particularly severe sleep disruption.

Women with heavier flows may also experience anxiety around excessive bleeding. They might also wake up more frequently than normal in order to replace tampons or pads.

Distinguishing Between Fatigue and Sleepiness

Besides pain, one of the main complaints that women with endometriosis have is fatigue. When the body struggles to rid itself of unwanted tissue, it can lead to inflammation and exhaustion. Think about the last time you were really sick: No matter how much you slept, you probably still felt tired to the bone. That’s fatigue.

It’s important to distinguish between fatigue and sleepiness. Sleepiness and fatigue might go hand-in-hand in some cases, but they have distinct symptoms and effects on sleep health.

Fatigue can include both physical and mental exhaustion. If you have endometriosis and you’re feeling tired regularly, better sleep will help, but it might not be enough. Make sure that you’re seeking help from a medical professional to determine whether your exhaustion is due to chronic sleep deprivation or other symptoms associated with endometriosis.

Strategies for Sleeping with Endometriosis

Below we’ll look at three different areas to explore when figuring out how to achieve quality sleep with endometriosis.

Make sure You’re Getting the Best Treatment for You

Endometriosis often comes with a host of symptoms that can lead to sleep disruption. The good news is that there are many kinds of medical treatments available to ease your endometriosis symptoms–and get a better night’s sleep in the process.

Here are a few treatments that you can ask a qualified medical professional about if you hope to improve your sleep health while managing endometriosis.

Pain medication: Pain is the chief complaint of many women with endometriosis, and it’s also one of the primary reasons that sleep is often disturbed. Pain management is key to achieving a better quality of life with endometriosis. Particularly if you’re not experiencing other symptoms like infertility or problematic menstrual cycles, easing your pain is the first step to a better night of sleep with endometriosis.

Over-the-counter treatments for pain and inflammation, such as ibuprofen, might be enough. But if you find that your pain is persistent and severe, ask your doctor about other options.

Hormone therapy: The natural thickening, breakdown, and bleeding of endometrial tissues that happens before and during your menstrual cycle is also what causes many endometriosis symptoms to flare up. Managing the hormonal variations that regulate this cycle can significantly ease your endometriosis symptoms.

Options for hormone therapy that your doctor might recommend include progestin therapies, hormonal contraceptives, and other drugs that lower your estrogen levels. All of these therapies, when used for endometriosis, are designed to lighten, shorten, or stop your menstrual cycles in order to curb abnormal tissue growth and relieve your associated symptoms.

Surgery: The bothersome endometrial tissues can be surgically removed by a doctor, whether laparoscopically (more commonly) or, in very severe cases, via hysterectomy. While the tissue might grow back, many women do experience improved symptoms and a great deal of relief after surgery. And laparoscopic surgery in particular is minimally invasive, so your recovery time should be manageable.

Surgery to treat endometriosis has two primary goals: to ease pain and inflammation and to improve fertility. Surgery might also improve your sleep or any chronic insomnia you experience, especially if pain or anxiety related to infertility is keeping you up at night.

Fertility treatment: If endometriosis is causing you to have trouble getting pregnant, your doctor may recommend fertility treatments to help you conceive. Fertility treatments might include medication to stimulate ovulation, or more complex procedures such as in vitro fertilization.

Fertility treatments most likely won’t have a direct effect on your endometriosis symptoms or related sleep issues. Instead, managing your fertility alongside a medical professional might ease the anxiety and depression that often accompany infertility, thus improving any chronic sleep problems you might have.

Create the Ideal Environment for Sleep

Regulate the Temperature of Your Sleep Space and Body

The effects of painful menstruation, the possibility of hot flashes from prescribed medications, and the general rules of sleep hygiene all indicate that keeping a cool temperature is crucial to getting good sleep with endometriosis.

Keeping your body temperature well-regulated (“thermoregulation”) is key to achieving a good night’s sleep. With endometriosis symptoms, temperature regulation becomes all the more important for quality rest. There are a few ways to achieve thermoregulation while you sleep:

  • Keep your bedroom cool. The best temperature for falling asleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. You shouldn’t be falling asleep shivering or waking up sweating.
  • Use lightweight, breathable bedding and a softer mattress. Firmer mattresses and body contouring mattresses will increase your body temperature at night, so opt for an airbed or innerspring mattress if you can.
  • Keep cool refreshments, such as water, near the bed at night. If you wake up unexpectedly, you can cool yourself down right away.

Practice Excellent Sleep Hygiene

It’s always important to practice good sleep hygiene. It’s especially crucial if you want to ease any disruption in your nightly rest that your endometriosis symptoms may be causing.

There are a few key principles that will maximize your chances of achieving better sleep health with endometriosis:

  • Know how much sleep you need: The average adult needs 7 to 7.5 hours of sleep a night. In general, you should aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night and follow a bedtime routine: Try to go to sleep at the same time every night and wake around the same time every morning. Use a sleep diary or sleep tracker if you’re struggling to keep track.
  • Find a dark, cool, quiet place to sleep: A dark, quiet room that’s kept between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit and as free of noise pollution as possible will give you the best possible night’s sleep.
  • Dedicate your bed only to sleep and sex: Treat your bedroom as a haven for rest. Don’t use your bed for work, texting, talking on the phone, or anything else that might distract you.
  • Limit screen time: It’s tempting, but try to stop using phones, computers, tablets, televisions, e-readers, or any other electronics that use blue light at least one full hour before bed.
  • Eat well, exercise, and get sunshine during the day: A healthy day makes for healthier rest. Getting sunshine during the day will regulate your circadian rhythm, while eating nutritiously and exercising strenuously will help you sleep better when it’s time.
  • Avoid substances like caffeine and alcohol before bed: Caffeine can jump-start your adrenaline, while alcohol disrupts essential REM sleep. Avoid both substances close to bedtime.

Use Relaxation Techniques while Trying to Sleep

Relaxation techniques such as meditation exercises can prove to be a fundamental part of your nightly sleep routine.

In terms of endometriosis, relaxation techniques can have a dual benefit: both in terms of aiding sleep and in easing related symptoms of anxiety and even chronic pain. Here are a few mindfulness meditation techniques you can use to help you drift off to a restful night of sleep.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Begin a progressive muscle relaxation practice by turning out the lights and doing some deep breathing. Focus on any areas of tension in your body. Then, tense and contract each muscle in your body for five seconds, followed by at least 30 seconds of full relaxation of that muscle. Do this with every part of your body, from the top of your head to your toes. Slowly, you’ll drift into a deep state of relaxation and let go of any remaining tension.

Mindful Breathing: Breathing meditation involves being mindful of your inhales and exhales in a relaxed state. Turn off your bedroom lights and get comfortable. Notice any tension in your body, and don’t try to breathe differently than you normally would. Follow the path of your breath, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you meditate, try to gradually make your exhales longer than your inhales. If you get distracted, don’t judge yourself: Simply refocus your attention (gently) back on your breath.

Counting Meditation: Thoughts invade our brain constantly, whether we want them to or not. Counting meditation is designed to get you to refocus your attention to something simple and straightforward: counting. After you get your room dark, cool, and comfortable, start to count slowly. You can count out loud or silently in your head. Either way, redirect your attention to the numbers anytime your mind starts to wander (but don’t be hard on yourself if it does!). Count until you reach a certain number, or until you fall asleep.

Guided MeditationGuided meditations can include all of the above, in addition to repetitive mantras or chanting, music, or storytelling. There are plenty of guided meditations available on YouTube and platforms like iTunes for you to follow along with. Using headphones or simply your phone, set your device to the right volume and follow along. As with the other forms of meditation, make sure that you’ve practiced good sleep hygiene by resting comfortably in a dark, cool room, and redirect your attention gently to the meditation leader’s voice anytime your mind wanders.

Use of Sleep Aids

If relaxation methods and sleep hygiene practices still don’t get you the rest you need with endometriosis, there are many sleep aids you can try. Here are a few of the most popular sleep aids on the market, as well as some of their potential side effects.

SLEEP AID DESCRIPTION AVAILABILITY SIDE EFFECTS
Antihistamines Antihistamines are typically used to treat allergic reactions, but can also cause drowsiness. Medications such as Unisom or Benadryl are most often used. Over-the-counter Side effects include dry mouth, dizziness, nausea, drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating.
Melatonin Melatonin is a hormone that regulates and spurs the onset of sleep. While naturally occurring, it’s available in supplement forms. Over-the-counter in the U.S. Melatonin can disrupt hormonal regulation. There are some cases showing it lowers sperm count in men. In higher dosages, melatonin can cause hypersomnia.
Sleep Teas “Sleep teas” are caffeine-free herbal teas that claim to improve sleep. Chamomile tea and valerian tea are the most popular. Health food stores, online Chamomile tea can cause allergic reactions and is a blood thinner. Valerian root can be addictive.
CBD CBD oil, or cannabidiol, is one of the chemical compounds found in cannabis. It helps with pain relief, relaxation, and sleep. Check your local laws to ensure legality. Side effects can include fatigue, dizziness, changes in appetite, diarrhea, and dry mouth.
Prescription Sleep Medicines Most prescription sleep medications act on the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain to cause sleepiness. “Z-drugs” include medications like zaleplon (Sonata), while benzodiazepine medications, such as temazepam (Restoril) are used to treat anxiety disorders and also have sleep-inducing effects. Prescription only Both non-benzodiazepine and benzodiazepine drugs can be habit-forming. They also may cause central nervous system depression, which can result in coma and death. No prescription sleep medications should be combined with alcohol.

Conclusion

Endometriosis is a common medical condition among women in their reproductive years. The pain and other symptoms that often result can lead to disrupted sleep and chronic sleep deprivation.

Still, ample resources are available. Hormonal treatments, surgery, fertility treatments, and pain management from qualified medical professionals can all help to ease the troubling endometriosis symptoms that often lead to sleep disturbances.

To manage sleep problems, women with endometriosis can practice good sleep hygiene and use sleep aids for a good night’s rest. With endometriosis, symptoms can be difficult, but relief is possible.

Resources for Endometriosis Treatment

If you or someone you know is experiencing sleep disruption associated with endometriosis, here are some helpful resources:

Sleep and Cancer

Sleep and Cancer

Getting a restful night’s sleep is a challenge for many cancer patients. Pain from the cancer itself, fatigue and discomfort from chemotherapy, and medication side effects are just a few of the things that make sleep elusive for cancer patients. Worse, not getting enough sleep weakens the immune system and can exacerbate symptoms or negative side effects.

An increasing amount of research has found links between poor sleep and several cancers. Keep reading to learn what the latest research suggests about the connection between cancer and sleep, and how you can get better sleep if you’re undergoing cancer treatment.

Does lack of sleep cause cancer?

Regularly getting a good night’s sleep is an essential part of your overall health. While sleep itself has not been deemed a causal factor for cancers, researchers have associated certain sleep disorders with an increased risk of cancer. The three main sleep issues correlated with cancer are chronic sleep deprivation, sleep apnea, and shift work sleep disorder.

Sleep deprivation and cancer

Anyone who has missed a night’s sleep understands the reality of sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep worsens your mood, increases fatigue, and reduces your ability to concentrate. Chronic sleep deprivation (getting less than sufficient sleep over a sustained period of time, usually 7 to 8 hours for adults) is associated with:

  • Poorer memory and cognitive processing skills
  • Weakened immune system
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Increased irritability and higher risk for depression
  • Poorer judgment

Individuals may experience sleep deprivation as a result of hectic work-life schedules, comorbid conditions such as depression or insomnia, or environmental factors like noisy bedroom environments.

Unfortunately, multiple studies have linked sleep deprivation with increased cancer risk.

  • Men with insomnia were twice as likely to develop prostate cancer, according to a 2014 study that followed more than 2,000 men over a five-year timeframe.
  • Individuals who averaged fewer than 6 hours of sleep per night (below the recommended amount of 7 to 8 hours) had a 50 percent increased risk of colorectal cancer, according to a 2010 study.
  • Lack of sleep is correlated with more aggressive forms of breast cancer, according to a 2012 study of postmenopausal women. They found that breast cancer patients who regularly slept fewer hours of sleep tended to have more aggressive forms than women who slept longer.

Sleep apnea and cancer

Sleep apnea describes sleep-disordered breathing where the individual literally stops breathing for up to a few seconds during sleep. The resulting gasping, choking, or loud snoring may wake the person up multiple times throughout the night, so they experience disrupted sleep. Sleep apnea is typically caused by an obstruction of the airways.

For some time, sleep apnea has been linked with obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Recent research also suggests a link between sleep apnea and cancer. 80 percent of head and neck cancer patients also have sleep apnea. Spanish researchers found that individuals with severe sleep apnea had a 65 percent increased risk of cancer, and a Wisconsin-based study found individuals with the highest amount of apnea-hypopnea episodes were 5 times more likely to die from cancer than those without sleep apnea.

The chart below from the Wisconsin study shows the correlation between AHI and reduced cancer survival rate. AHI, short for Apnea-Hypopnea Index, measures the severity of an individual’s sleep apnea.

sleep apnea vs cancer survival rate

Animal studies replicate these findings. According to a 2014 study published in the journal Cancer Research, animal researchers linked the fragmented sleep from sleep apnea with accelerated cancer growth in mice. The researchers placed mice with tumors in low-oxygen environments (to mimic the effects of having sleep apnea), and their cancer progressed at an accelerated rate.

Researchers theorize that the oxygen deprivation associated with sleep apnea may be what’s causing the cancer. When the body doesn’t get enough oxygen, it grows more blood vessels as a way to compensate, which in turn enables cancer tumors and tissue to grow faster.

Shift work sleep disorder and cancer

Researchers have established a link between circadian rhythm disorders, in particular shift work sleep disorder, and increased risk of breast, colon, ovary, and prostate cancers.

Circadian rhythm disorders occur when an individual’s biological clock becomes out of synch with the external environment. Many of us have experienced jet lag, a circadian rhythm disorder that happens when you travel across time zones and your body hasn’t quite synchronized with the day-night cycle of your new location. Shift work sleep disorder affects shift workers, especially those on night shifts or rotating shifts, who are awake during times when the body expects you to be asleep. Common symptoms include insomnia, microsleep episodes, fatigue, and poorer mood and concentration.

Multiple studies have studied the effects of shift work on breast cancer risk. Women who worked night shifts for 4 years and those who worked fewer than 3 night shifts per week both had a 30 percent higher risk of breast cancer than women who did not perform shift work at all, according to a 2012 study published in the International Journal of Cancer. In the first group, the women had entrained their bodies to the opposite of the normal day-night cycle, having worked night shifts regularly for several years. The second group of women never got a chance to fully get used to one schedule over the other, daytime or night. Both scenarios increased their risk of breast cancer.

Even if shift workers get sufficient sleep, researchers suspect the issue may be the disruption to their “normal” circadian rhythms. During shift work, the body is exposed to light during times when it should be asleep. Besides regulating your sleep and wake cycle, your circadian clock directs a variety of biological functions, including organ function, hormone production, and body temperature. The impact to these other functions could also create a conducive environment for cancer to grow.

Most critically, though, disrupting your circadian clock can delay melatonin production (the hormone responsible for sleep) and impact the body’s overall levels of melatonin. When scientists alter the sleep wake cycles of rodents in the lab, cancer also grows at an increased rate. Researchers suspect these decreased melatonin levels may facilitate cancer growth.

For example, a 2003 Boston study found reduced melatonin levels were associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Here, the researchers think the issue lies with the increased estrogen production, which occurs when melatonin levels are lower. Increased estrogen production is yet another risk factor for breast cancer.

Further cementing the link between melatonin levels and cancer, a Michigan State University study found that treating breast cancer stem cells with melatonin reduced the number and size of breast cancer tumors, suggesting that the antioxidant properties of melatonin could eventually be used as a treatment for stopping the growth of breast cancer tumors.

The increased cancer risk for shift workers may also have something to do with their cortisol levels. Cortisol production operates in inverse to melatonin – cortisol levels peak in the morning after sleep and decline during the day. Female night shift workers have a “shifted cortisol rhythm” and peak in the afternoon instead of at dawn when they’re supposed to.

How does cancer affect sleep?

Between 30 to 75 percent of people receiving cancer treatment have some sleep problems and about 25 percent of cancer survivors continue to have issues sleeping. Lung cancer patients tend to report the most sleep problems.

The side effects of cancer and treatment cause a host of issues that can make falling and staying asleep more difficult. Individuals with cancer may have increased anxiety and depression, two conditions that go hand-in-hand with insomnia. Extensive treatment can cause excessive fatigue and cancer-related sleep disorders. Hot flashes and night sweats are common side effects that make it challenging to get comfortable enough to fall asleep.

Generally, the three largest sleep issues affecting cancer patients are insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, and restless legs syndrome.

Insomnia

While insomnia isn’t typically a common side effect of the chemotherapy itself, many of the associated medication, especially steroids, can cause disrupted sleep. Worse, insomnia often exacerbates other symptoms and side effects from the cancer treatment. Some estimates report insomnia affecting one-third to one-half of cancer patients, which is two to three times higher than the general population.

Insomnia describes a general difficulty falling or staying asleep on a regular basis. Among cancer patients, the most commonly reported symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Frequent nighttime awakenings (76%)
  • Difficulty falling asleep (44%)
  • Waking up too early (33%)

Chemotherapy drugs can cause fatigue, so patients are more prone to nap during the day, leading to insomnia at night. The drugs used to manage the side effects of chemotherapy can also cause sleep problems: anti-nausea medications may cause drowsiness, while the energizing nature of steroids make it difficult to fall asleep.

Combine all this with the emotional distress of having cancer, and the anxiety and worry which may keep one up at night.

Excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue

Excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue are highly correlated with insomnia. In one study of cancer patients, those who reported fatigue were 2.5 times more likely to also have insomnia.

While fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness are clinically distinct, they can feel similar to the individual living with them. Fatigue refers to a feeling of low energy and exhaustion, which often causes the individual to seek napping as a way of relief. As alluded to above, fatigue is a common side effect of cancer treatment. Individuals undergoing radiotherapy reported nearly double the amount of fatigue after receiving radiotherapy than before treatment. Fortunately, the fatigue returned to normal levels after a period of months.

cancer radiotherapy increases fatigue

As antiemetic medications are prescribed to reduce symptoms of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, they may introduce new sleep-related symptoms of their own, like excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). EDS describes a sense of drowsiness that lingers throughout the day, even after adequate sleep. While EDS is different than fatigue, sufferers seek relief in similar ways: napping. If the individual naps for too long, it makes it much harder for them to fall asleep at night, creating a negative cycle of insomnia.

Restless legs syndrome

Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy may experience disturbed sleep due to restless legs syndrome. Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is characterized by a strong urge to move the lower limbs in order to relieve a “pins and needles” sensation that develops when the individual is in a supine position.

The constant need to move their legs to find relief disrupts the individual’s ability to fall asleep in the first place, as well as their ability to stay comfortably asleep.

RLS may affect between 5% to 10% of people. Some studies have found cancer patients are twice as likely to have RLS, especially women with breast cancer and men 50 and older who have prostate cancer.

RLS also shares a direct relationship with increased levels of anxiety and depression, and lower quality-of-life scores among cancer patients. In turn, both anxiety and depression are highly correlated with insomnia.

Tips for getting better sleep when you have cancer

Getting sufficient sleep on a consistent basis improves your mood and your cognitive functioning, and it keeps your immune system strong. If you have cancer or care for someone who does, some of the following therapies or products may help you get more quality sleep.

Therapeutic approaches to better sleep for cancer patients

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven helpful for cancer patients who suffer from insomnia.

CBT involves techniques that help the patient reframe their emotions and thoughts around sleep. Patients learn relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercise to quiet racing thoughts and help them fall asleep. They may also practice stimulus control techniques, which limit the time spent in bed and retrain the mind to see the bed as only for sleep. Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and relaxing the muscles in an ordered fashion that promotes restfulness.

Sleep restriction therapy

Sleep restriction therapy is another behavioral technique used to addressed insomnia. Individuals decide on a set sleep and wake schedule, and adhere to that no matter what. They don’t take naps during the day, and are only allowed to spend the allocated time in bed, regardless of whether they sleep the whole time. Ideally, eventually their daytime fatigue disappears and the individual trains their body to sleep during the scheduled time frame.

Light therapy

Light therapy employs light boxes, tables, or specialized lamps to help individuals who have an offset circadian clock, whether due to shift work, jet lag, or blindness. The individual sits in front of the light device for a set amount of time in the morning or afternoon, depending on how their circadian cycle is offset. A current clinical trial is testing the effectiveness of light therapy eyeglasses to help lung cancer patients who suffer from insomnia and fatigue.

Sleep products for cancer patients

Cooling mattresses

Cancer patients who experience night sweats or postmenopausal breast cancer patients with hot flashes often have difficulty staying asleep due to overheating. Mattresses with superior temperature regulation, such as innerspring mattresses and airbeds, stay cooler than memory foam mattresses that envelop the body.

Cooling pillows

Patients can also purchase cooling pillows for the home and to take with them to chemotherapy appointments. These pillows are made with more breathable materials—like moisture-wicking wool and gel-infused foam—which are designed to stay cool all night.

White noise machines

White noise machines, available as standalone devices or as smartphone apps, play static white noise, nature sounds, or calming melodies designed to soothe one to sleep. They’re often used by individuals with insomnia. There are even travel-size versions to take with you to chemotherapy. Just make sure you pick a different white noise playlist that you can associate with relaxation, as opposed to sleep. You don’t want to accidentally induce a midday nap.

Anti-snoring products

CPAP machine

Source: Wikipedia

There are many anti-snoring products that help keep the airways open and enable the sleeper to breathe properly throughout the night. Anti-snoring mouthpieces fit between the teeth to reduce symptoms, and nasal vents fit in the nostrils. For individuals with extreme sleep apnea, continuous positive air pressures (CPAP) machines are recommended.

 

CBD oil

CBD oil has been shown to provide various benefits for cancer patients, from pain relief to sleep. It’s also proven to be more effective than traditional medication in relieving chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting Not to be confused with THC, CBD oil is a 100% non-psychoactive hemp extract that’s legal throughout the United States. CBD oils are available in a variety of product types, including oil tinctures, softgel capsules, gummies, and topical products.

Weighted blankets

Individuals with restless legs syndrome often find weighted blankets help reduce symptoms. Experts recommended getting a blanket that weighs 10 percent of your total body weight plus 1 pound.

Behavioral approaches to better sleep

Avoid naps

Naps are very tempting to anyone experiencing fatigue or daytime sleepiness, but they only reinforce insomnia. If possible, do your best to avoid napping during the day. If you absolutely need to nap for relief, limit your nap to 20 minutes at the most. This is short enough to keep you in light sleep, so it won’t disrupt your sleep cycle later that evening.

Practice good sleep hygiene

Good sleep hygiene involves going to bed and waking up at around the same time every day, reserving the bedroom for sleep and sex only, and avoiding heavy meals, caffeine, alcohol, and intense exercise in the hours leading up to bedtime.

Keep the bedroom cool and dark

A cool, dark bedroom is the optimal environment for sleep. Set up blackout curtains or wear an eye mask to block out ambient light at night, and turn the temperature down to somewhere in the mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the recommended temperature for sleep, but if you’re experiencing night sweats, you may want to lower it even more.

Follow a bedtime routine

In addition to following a regular sleep schedule, you can further train your mind to prepare for sleep by establishing a pre-bed ritual. Engage in the same set of activities every night before bed. The activities should be calming, like meditation, aromatherapy, or a warm bath.

Additional resources

For better sleep:

  • Understand more about the unique sleep issues affecting shift workers, and treatment options and resources for individuals with shift work sleep disorder.
  • Learn more about how light therapy helps circadian disorders, and how you can get started.
  • Read more about cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and how it helps insomnia.
  • There are many products designed for helping individuals with disabilities get better sleep. Many of these products may also be helpful for addressing the pain and sleep issues associated with cancer treatment.

For all cancers:

  • The American Cancer Society offers a 24-hour helpline (800-227-2345) and Live Chat, as well as online support communities, local support groups, volunteer events, and research.
  • The National Cancer Institute is part of the National Institutes of Health. As the largest funder of cancer research globally, NCI publishes research and shares training for doctors and health professionals
  • Founded by testicular cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, the Livestrong Foundation provides online resources and community support programs, as well as one-one-one personalized care plans and support for patients and caregivers.
  • The Cancer subreddit connects cancer patients, survivors, and loved ones with each other to share stories, news, and support. There are also many subreddits devoted to specific forms of cancer.
  • The Cancer Forums claim over 50,000 members of cancer patients and survivors, loved ones, and caregivers. The site hosts over 20 forums dedicated to specific types of cancer.

For breast cancer:

  • Well known for making the pink ribbon symbol ubiquitous, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is the largest breast cancer organization in the United States. They host Race for the Cure fundraising events and offer a helpline available during weekday hours ((877-465-6636).
  • The BreastCancer.org Community is an online forum of nearly 200,000 members, including current patients, caregivers, survivors, and family members affected by breast cancer.

For prostate cancer:

  • The Prostate Cancer Foundation is the largest organization focused on funding prostate cancer research and connecting patients with treatment centers and clinical trials.
  • ZERO works to provide education, financial assistance, and free case management to men diagnosed with prostate cancer. The organization also hosts fundraising walk/run events.

Women and Insomnia

Women and Insomnia

Women are more prone to insomnia than men. More women have frequent bouts of sleeplessness (several times a week) than men, and this tendency extends over all periods of life. Not only that, but as people age, the gap between women and men increases. Women under 45 years old have an incidence 1.4 times that of men of the same age. Among older populations, women are 1.7 times more likely to have insomnia.

Women are almost twice as likely to use sleep aids than men, according to the CDC.

Demographic use of sleep aids

Source: CDC

Do hormones cause insomnia? Many women experience insomnia when they have fluctuations in the serum levels of hormones. These times include during their monthly cycle, pregnancy, and menopause.

How does menopause affect your sleep?

Menopausal insomnia can begin with perimenopause – the stage before menopause women experience in their late 30s or 40s. On average, perimenopause lasts about 4 years, and ends when a woman hasn’t had her period for at least 12 months.

Perimenopause and menopause cause hormonal changes, at the same time when women are often undergoing other major lifestyle changes such as retirement and empty nesting. During perimenopause, women’s ovaries begin decreasing hormone production of estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone helps to promote sleep while estrogen affects emotional well-being. Decreased levels of these hormones can make it more challenging to emotionally deal with the stressors of the body changes of menopause, in addition to the lifestyle changes that occur at the same time.

20% of women experience depression during menopause, whether brought on by the loss of estrogen, the lifestyle changes that often accompany menopause, or a combination of the two. Depression is often a comorbid condition of insomnia, as are stress and anxiety.

Menopause causes other bodily changes, most notably hot flashes. 75% of women experience hot flashes during menopause. Hot flashes result in elevated body temperature and night sweats, both of which make it tougher to fall asleep and stay asleep. The energizing heat from a hot flash awakens the mind as well.  Cool temperatures are conducive to sleep, and the body naturally cools down before bedtime as part of the circadian rhythm. Hot flashes, especially ones that contribute to night sweats, interfere with the body’s ability to cool down and stay asleep.

As women transition into menopause in their 40s to 50s, other physical changes occur naturally, thanks to the aging process. Older adults may wake more frequently during the night, due to incontinence and reduced bladder control. Adults also spend less time in restorative REM sleep as they age and rise earlier, which can result in daytime sleepiness and insomnia.

Tips for managing menopausal insomnia

Anyone with insomnia may find relief by following a regular sleep schedule and practicing good sleep hygiene. However, menopausal women suffering from hot flashes and night sweats may find the following additional tips helpful.

1. Lower the bedroom temperature

A cool temperature in the mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for sleep, but menopausal women may want to take it a few degrees cooler.

2. Keep cool reinforcements by the bed

Have a cool glass of water, an extra pillow or pillowcase, and an extra set of breathable pajamas near the bed, so you can easily change or cool down during the night from night sweats. You may keep a washcloth in a bucket of ice nearby as well.

3. Invest in a mattress with excellent temperature regulation

Certain mattresses trap heat more than others and can intensify the effects of hot flashes. The best mattresses for hot sleepers are firm innerspring mattresses or airbeds.

4. Try meditation, acupuncture, and relaxation exercises

Acupuncture has been shown to help relieve insomnia. Breathing exercises and meditation techniques can also help quiet the mind before bed.

5. Manage diet and exercise

Avoid alcohol and stimulants like caffeine, especially before bed. These interfere with sleep onset generally, but can also trigger hot flashes for peri- and postmenopausal women. Eat dinner two to four hours before bed, and exercise earlier in the day if possible (to avoid elevating your body temperature before bed). Exercise improves mood and exhausts the body, making it easier to fall asleep at night.

6. Use a white noise machine or smartphone app

Many people use white noise as a sleep aid to quiet the mind and induce a restful state. White noise machines are widely available, as are smartphone apps with white noise or nature sound libraries.

7. Ask your doctor about other treatment options

For moderate to severe hot flashes that interfere with sleep, some doctors may recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or prescribe low-dose antidepressants like Prozac and Paxil. However, HRT is currently only recommended as a temporary solution, given its connection with increased risk for breast cancer, blood clots, heart disease, and stroke. Some perimenopausal women have found combination birth control pills effective for relieving insomnia symptoms.

Can your period give you insomnia?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) seems to cause both insomnia and hypersomnia. Different women experience different symptoms. Many menstrual symptoms like bloating and cramps cause physical discomfort that make it tougher to sleep. Emotional variability, irritability, stress, and fatigue can also can contribute to insomnia.

In the first half of the menstrual cycle (the follicular phase), the body increases estrogen production leading up to ovulation. After ovulation, in the second half of the cycle (the luteal phase), progesterone production rises and has a soporific effect. In the days before the period begins, both hormones levels drop which can cause insomnia.

Hormone levels during menstrual cycle

Source: BBC

Women experience less REM sleep in the luteal phase of their cycle, which may help explain insomnia during PMS, according to a 2010 study. During this stage, the increased progesterone production after ovulation increases the core body temperature by up to half a degree. Since REM sleep corresponds with the lowest body temperatures during the night, this may explain why REM sleep is tougher to achieve during the second half of the menstrual cycle.

Tips for managing PMS insomnia

Women with insomnia may find relief by following a regular sleep schedule and practicing good sleep hygiene.

1. Keep the bedroom cool and dark

A cool temperature in the mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for sleep. Stop using electronics at least an hour before bed and avoid blue light.

2. Try meditation, acupuncture, and relaxation exercises

Acupuncture has been shown to help relieve insomnia. Breathing exercises and meditation techniques can also help quiet the mind before bed.

3. Manage diet and exercise

Avoid alcohol and stimulants like caffeine, especially before bed. Eat dinner two to four hours before bed, and exercise earlier in the day if possible (to avoid elevating your body temperature before bed). Exercise improves mood and exhausts the body, making it easier to fall asleep at night.

4. Use a white noise machine or smartphone app

Many people use white noise as a sleep aid to quiet the mind and induce a restful state. White noise machines are widely available, as are smartphone apps with white noise or nature sound libraries.

5. Ask your doctor about other treatment options

Sleep restriction has been found to reduce menses-related depression, as has bright light therapy for insomnia. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) also is associated with sleep disruption, although doctors more commonly address the anxiety symptoms than insomnia. Some doctors may prescribe antidepressants or Z-drugs for PMDD and PMS, which may help address related sleep problems.

Insomnia during pregnancy

Pregnancy-induced insomnia can often be caused by physical discomfort, especially during the first trimester, when the body is first introduced to all the physical, mental and emotional changes associated with pregnancy, and the third trimester, by which point over 75 percent of pregnant women report experiencing insomnia. Hormonal changes, reduced bladder capacity, pregnancy-related heartburn, leg cramps, and nerves about labor all contribute to insomnia for expectant mothers.

Tips for managing pregnancy-related insomnia

Women with insomnia may find relief by following a regular sleep schedule and practicing good sleep hygiene. However, pregnant mothers may find the following additional tips helpful.

1. Keep the bedroom cool and dark

A cool temperature in the mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for sleep. Stop using electronics at least an hour before bed and avoid blue light.

2. Invest in maternity pillows

Reduce the physical discomfort caused by pregnancy by stocking up on multiple pillows. Sleep on your left side with a pillow at your back, with pillows to support both your arms and your legs.

3. Try meditation, stretching, and relaxation exercises

Breathing exercises and meditation techniques can help quiet the mind before bed. Stretching and prenatal massage can also reduce discomfort so it’s easier to get comfortable and fall asleep.

4. Manage diet and exercise

Minimize the stress on your bladder by reducing the liquid you drink at night. Avoid alcohol and stimulants like caffeine, especially before bed. Eat dinner two to four hours before bed, and exercise earlier in the day if possible (to avoid elevating your body temperature before bed). Exercise improves mood and exhausts the body, making it easier to fall asleep at night.

5. Use a white noise machine or smartphone app

Many people use white noise as a sleep aid to quiet the mind and induce a restful state. White noise machines are widely available, as are smartphone apps with white noise or nature sound libraries.

Other sleep disorders in women

In general, sleep disorders are more common in women than in men, and they play out differently, emerging throughout the reproductive life cycle. Although men are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than women, postmenopausal women are twice as likely to have OSA than premenopausal women.

Sleepiness leads to weight gain by discouraging physical activity. Depression leads to overeating. Social expectations of women may contribute to the greater prevalence of sleep disorders. They are more likely to be the primary caregiver than men and more likely to shoulder a larger share of the housework. Researchers have also found that on average women get 5% less deep sleep on average than men.

Women are more likely to have restless legs syndrome (RLS), and it’s even more common during pregnancy (by 26%). Researchers speculate RLS could be caused by an iron deficiency, which would explain why women with heavier periods are more likely to have RLS.

Women are also more likely to have depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia all of which can contribute to insomnia.

Additional resources

How Curcumin Targets Cancer

By Dr. Mercola

Turmeric, a yellow curry spice used in Indian cuisine, has a long history of medicinal use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine. Curcumin is one of the most well-studied bioactive ingredients in turmeric,1 having over 150 potentially therapeutic activities, including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and powerful anticancer actions.

Cancer has an incredible global impact and places a vast financial and emotional burden on the families it touches. Nearly 40 percent of American men and women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and over $125 billion is spent annually on medical treatment and patient care.2

The American Cancer Society estimated there would be over 1.6 million new cases diagnosed in 2017, equating to 4,630 new cases and 1,650 deaths every day.3 The most common types of cancer include breast, colon, lung and prostate.4

Despite advances in cancer treatment protocols, scientists realize prevention plays an essential role in reducing the number of people who die from the disease. After 30 years of testing more than 1,000 different possible anticancer substances, the National Cancer Institute announced that curcumin has joined an elite group that will now be used in clinical trials for chemoprevention.5

Curcumin May Play a Multitargeted Role Against Cancer Cells

 

 

In this interview, Dr. William LaValley discusses the interaction curcumin has on cancer and the multiple ways this molecule affects cancer growth. If you have ever been diagnosed with cancer, it may feel as if it grew overnight when, in fact, cancer cells take years to develop.

The progression of a cell from normal growth to cancer happens through several stages. Deregulation of physiological and mechanical processes that initiate and promote the growth of cancer cells makes use of hundreds of genes and signaling routes, making it apparent a multitargeted approach is needed for prevention and treatment.

Research has demonstrated that curcumin has a broad range of actions as it is able to effect multiple cellular targets.6 Studies have found, based on the activities of curcumin in the body, the spice could be an effective method of cancer prevention, or in treatment when used in conjunction with conventional treatment protocols.

The multifaceted action of curcumin has made it useful in the treatments of several different types of diseases, including colon cancer,7 pancreatic cancer8 and amyloidosis.9

Curcumin triggers a variety of actions that affect the growth, replication and death of cancer cells. Cancer cells lose the ability to die naturally, which plays a significant role in the hyperproliferation of cells common to cancer. Curcumin is able to turn on the apoptosis (cell death) signaling pathway, enabling the cells to die within a natural time span.10

Cancer cells thrive in an inflammatory environment. Although short-term inflammation is beneficial for healing, long-term inflammation increases your risk of disease. Curcumin is able to block the pro-inflammatory response at several points and reduce the levels of inflammatory cytokines in the body.11

The strong anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin may match the effect of some drugs.12 Early in development, cancer cells learn to replicate and grow in an environment cells normally find inhospitable. Curcumin may change the signaling through several pathways, and put a stop to this replication.13

Curcumin may also stop the ability of cancer stem cells from replicating and reduce the potential for recurrence after treatment. Curcumin also helps support your immune system, capable of seeking out and destroying early cancer cells naturally.

Curcumin May Enhance Cancer Treatment and Chemotherapy

Some of the same ways that curcumin works in your body are the processes used to enhance your cancer treatments and chemotherapy.

While some chemotherapy has been developed to target specific cells, most therapy drugs are nonspecific and affect all cells in your body. Some studies in the past decade have demonstrated exciting potential for curcumin in the fight against cancer.

In addition to changes to your cells mentioned above, researchers have found curcumin may help protect your body against the damage caused from chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and it may enhance the effect of these same treatments, making them more effective.

These effects have been demonstrated in animal models treating head and neck tumors,14 and in culture of human breast, esophageal and colon cancers.15,16

Patients treated for chronic myeloid leukemia with chemotherapy exhibited a reduction in cancer growth factor when curcumin was added to the treatment protocol, potentially improving the results of the chemotherapy over being used alone.17

Protection against radiation therapy was demonstrated in a study using breast cancer patients receiving radiation therapy.18 At the end of the study those taking curcumin had less radiation damage to their skin.

Curcumin has also been effective against angiogenesis in tumors, or the growth of new blood vessels to feed the overgrowth of cancer cells, and against metastasis.19

Curcumin is able to affect cancer cells through multiple pathways and has fulfilled the traits for an ideal cancer prevention agent as it has low toxicity, is affordable and is easily accessible. However, while effective, it has poor bioavailability on its own.20

Poor Absorption Has One Benefit

In my interview with LaValley, he discussed the poor bioavailability of curcumin in raw form. Only 1 percent of the product will be absorbed; even supplements that have a 95 percent concentration are absorbed at 1 percent.

This means, when the supplement is taken alone, it is a challenge to maintain a therapeutic level. However, in the case of colon cancer, this poor absorption into the bloodstream may be an advantage.

As there is poor absorption, higher levels of curcumin stay in the intestinal tract for longer periods of time, having an effect on gastrointestinal cancers. In one study, participants took a 1,080 milligram (mg) dose per day of curcumin for 10 to 30 days between their initial biopsy and surgical removal.

The patients taking the supplement experienced a reduction in blood levels of inflammatory agent, improvement in their body weight, and an increased number of dying tumor cells.21

A team of scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and at Pondicherry University, India, discovered the bioactive ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, can both prevent and cure bowel cancers.22 The team found the compound triggered cancer cell death by increasing a level of protein labeled GADD45a.23Lead author Rajasekaran Baskaran, Ph.D., who has more than 20 years of experience in cancer research, commented:24

“Studies on the effect of curcumin on cancer and normal cells will be useful for the ongoing preclinical and clinical investigations on this potential chemopreventive agent.”

As an increased bioavailability and absorption may also improve the actions of curcumin in the body, researchers have studied a variety of different delivery methods, including oral, intravenous, subcutaneous and intraperitoneal, as well as different formulations of the product.25

Bioavailability improved when curcumin was delivered as a nanoparticle, in combination with polylactic-co-glycolic acid, liposomal encapsulation26 and when taken orally with piperine, the active ingredient in black pepper.27

Multiple Types of Cancer Affected by Curcumin

Research demonstrates that while curcumin has multiple pathways through which it impacts cancer cells, the substance also has an effect on multiple types of cancer. Studies estimate that genetics may play a role in approximately 5 percent of all cancers, with the majority of cancer growth attributed to lifestyle choices.28

Research demonstrates curcumin exhibits activity against breast cancer and decreases the toxic effect against some of the chemotherapy agents commonly used.29 Mitomycin C is a potent antineoplastic drug. However, prolonged use may lead to kidney and bone marrow damage, with secondary tumor growth. Curcumin appears to reduce the side effects of Mitomycin C and improve the efficiency of the drug at the same time.30

Another study demonstrated that curcumin inhibited the growth and metastasis of lung cancer cells.31One of the deadliest cancers worldwide, pancreatic cancer, also appears to respond to the use of curcumin in preclinical trials.32 The antiproliferative effects on pancreatic cancer appeared to be from a reduction in oxidative stress and angiogenesis and triggering apoptosis of cancer cells.

Apoptosis, anti-inflammatory actions, reduction in angiogenesis and reduction in the adverse effects of chemotherapeutic agents has also led researchers to consider curcumin an adjunctive therapy in the treatment of liver cancer.33 Curcumin also inhibited and slowed the development of bladder cancer in rats,34 stopped the formation of metastasis in prostate cancer,35 and when combined with ultrasound, increased death of cervical cancer cells.36

But not all scientists are convinced by the number of studies over the past 15 years demonstrating the multiple effects curcumin has on the inflammatory response and cancers, as well as the low toxicity profile.37 In one meta-analysis, researchers claimed curcumin could not meet the criteria for a good drug candidate.38

More Benefits to Curcumin

Curcumin offers additional benefits to your health. It may work as well as some anti-inflammatory medications to treat arthritic conditions.39 In combination with aerobic exercise, curcumin was found to improve endothelial cell function in postmenopausal women,40 and was also found to ameliorate arterial dysfunction and oxidative stress in the elderly.41

Disease processes may increase oxidative stress and free radical formation in your body. Curcumin is a potent antioxidant,42 but also may boost the function of your body’s own antioxidant enzymes.43

Your brain can develop new connections powered by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).44Reduced levels of this hormone may be linked to depression and Alzheimer’s disease. However, curcumin can increase your levels of BDNF45 and effectively reduce your potential for suffering from age-related reduction in brain function.46

Researchers have also discovered that curcumin has an effect on several pathways in your body that may reverse insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia and other symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome and obesity.47 The reduced potential for metabolic syndrome and obesity is related to the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin, which may also have an effect on heart disease, atherosclerosis and Type 2 diabetes.48

Genetic Regulation May Be One Powerful Way Curcumin Fights Cancer

It is becoming widely accepted that cancer is not a preprogrammed inevitability, but rather the result of the impact of your environment on genetic regulation that may trigger cancer cell growth. There are multiple influences that may damage or mutate DNA, and consequently alter genetic expression, including:

Researchers have demonstrated curcumin may affect more than 100 different pathways in your cells, helping to prevent hyperproliferation of cell growth characteristic of cancer, and aiding in the treatment of the disease. Through the reduction of inflammation, prevention of the development of additional blood supply to support cancer cell growth and destruction of mutated cells to reduce metastasis, curcumin has great medicinal and preventive potential.

Several studies have demonstrated an impact on transcription factors and signaling pathways, and have reviewed the molecular mechanisms curcumin uses to regulate and modulate gene expression.49,50,51 Overall, curcumin is powerful, cost-effective and has a low toxicity profile.52

Using a Curcumin Supplement

Turmeric is a wonderful spice used in Eastern culture cuisine. It is one spice I recommend for your kitchen as it works well with tomato sauces, soups, leafy greens, cauliflower, stir-fries and stews. Choose a high-quality turmeric powder instead of curry powder as studies have found some curry powders have very little curcumin.

If you are looking for therapeutic effects, you may want to consider a supplement. It is difficult to achieve a dose of curcumin used in research solely from your diet. Typical anticancer doses range between 1,200 and 3,000 grams of bioavailable curcumin extract.

You can increase the absorption by making a microemulsion, combining 1 tablespoon of curcumin powder with one or two egg yolks and 1 to 2 teaspoons of melted coconut oil, as the curcumin is fat soluble. Then use a hand blender on high speed to emulsify the powder.

Absorption may also be increased through boiling. Add 1 tablespoon into a quart of boiling water. (If you add it to room temperature water and then boil, it doesn’t work as well.) After boiling it for 10 minutes, you will have created a 12 percent solution and you can drink this once it has cooled down. The curcumin will gradually fall out of the solution over time, and in about six hours it will be a 6 percent solution, so it is best to drink the water within four hours.

Curcumin is a very potent yellow pigment and can permanently discolor surfaces if you aren’t careful. To avoid inadvertently staining your kitchen yellow, I recommend you perform any mixing under the hood of your stove with the exhaust fan on to make sure no powder gets into your kitchen.

Alternatively, it is far easier to take curcumin in supplement form — just make sure it’s a high-quality brand that is formulated to increase bioavailability. And, look for a turmeric extract with at least 95 percent curcuminoids. Just be aware that these are relatively rare and hard to find.

Your health is under siege from every direction. Environmental toxins, ultra-processed foods, EMFs, government-subsidized GMOs and a host of other threats surround us. It is simply not possible to protect yourself unless you are armed with cutting edge health information.

The most complex tasks can be made easy if you just take one step at a time. Taken as a whole, this 30-tip plan makes for a comprehensive guide that can change your life. Just a few of the topics addressed are:

  • What to eat and when to eat it
  • Exercise strategies that you can implement today
  • The power of emotional health
  • Enhancing your health with essentials like air, sunshine and water
  • How to get the restorative sleep that your body requires

It may seem that health and wellness are no longer the norm. An opioid epidemic sweeps the country, the obesity rate is skyrocketing, life expectancy is dropping and chronic diseases are rampant. Our communities are being damaged at every level and the only way to reverse these trends is through education and personal example. My 30-tip plan provides you with the tools you need to take control of your health. The time is ripe for revolution — a health revolution.

 

Sources and References

Postmenopausal Women With Gum Disease Seem to Have Higher Breast Cancer Risk

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, can range from simple inflammation of the gums, called gingivitis by dentists, to periodontitis, when the gums pull away from the teeth leaving open spaces that become infected. The bacteria causing the infection and the body’s response to the infection can break down the bone and connective tissue that hold your teeth in place. If periodontitis isn’t treated, the teeth may become loose and have to be removed.

Gum disease can be prevented by regular tooth brushing and flossing.

Gum disease has been associated with several other diseases, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Past research has found links between gum disease and oral, esophageal, head and neck, pancreatic, and lung cancer, so researchers wondered if there were any links between gum disease and breast cancer.

A study has found that postmenopausal women with gum disease were more likely to develop breast cancer than postmenopausal women who didn’t have gum disease. If the women had a history of smoking, the risk of breast cancer was even higher.

The study was published online on Dec. 21, 2015 by the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Read the abstract of “Periodontal Disease and Breast Cancer: Prospective Cohort Study of Postmenopausal Women.”

The research is part of the very large Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, commonly called the WHI. The WHI is looking for links between health, diet, lifestyle, and genetic factors and health problems, such as cancer.

In this study, the researchers monitored 73,737 postmenopausal women in the WHI who had never been diagnosed with breast cancer. About 26% of the women told the researchers they had gum disease.

After about 6.5 years, 2,124 women had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Overall, the risk of breast cancer was 14% higher in women who had gum disease compared to women who didn’t have gum disease. So if average breast cancer risk is about 12%, a woman with gum disease had about a 13.5% risk of breast cancer.

“We thought that periodontal bacteria — either the bacteria themselves or the inflammation that’s part of having periodontal disease — has an effect on other parts of the body, including breast tissue. We know there are bacteria in breast tissue and we know there are bacteria in mother’s milk. Women who had periodontal disease had a small increase in the risk of breast cancer overall,” said Jo Freudenheim, Ph.D., distinguished professor of epidemiology and environmental health at the University of Buffalo and lead author of the study.

Because earlier studies have shown that the effects of gum disease can be more severe if a person smokes, the researchers also grouped the women by smoking history:

  • Among women who had quit smoking within the last 20 years, women with gum disease had a 36% higher risk of breast cancer than women who didn’t have gum disease.
  • Among women who had never smoked, women with gum disease had a 6% higher risk of breast cancer than women who didn’t have gum disease.
  • Among women who had quit smoking more than 20 years ago, women with gum disease had an 8% higher risk of breast cancer than women who didn’t have gum disease.

“There’s been an explosion of information recently that makes it clear that many different parts of the body that were thought to be sterile contain bacteria and other microbes,” Dr. Freudenheim said. “These bacteria may influence diseases that were previously thought to have no infectious component.”

The researchers said there are several possible reasons for the association between gum disease and breast cancer:

  • Bacteria in the mouth can get into the bloodstream through tooth brushing, flossing, and chewing. Even though the bacteria are cleared out of the body quickly, the cumulative exposure to tissues can be considerable. It could be that these bacteria affect breast cancer.
  • Inflammation in one part of the body, such as the gums, may have an impact on other diseases.
  • There may be other factors that increase the risk of both gum disease and breast cancer.

“This is a new area, so we have to be careful in how we interpret our findings,” said Dr. Freudenheim. “We can’t say, ‘if you treat periodontal disease it will reduce cancer risk.’ There are new methodologies that allow us to measure things we weren’t able to before. We are now beginning to understand how much the interaction of the microbiome affects our health both in terms of acute infections and chronic diseases.”

Doing all that you can do to keep your breast cancer risk as low as it can be makes good sense. Besides exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, avoiding alcohol, and taking good care of your teeth and gums are steps you can take to control several risk factors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, gum disease can be kept in check by:

  • Brushing and flossing your teeth every day to remove the bacteria that cause gum disease.
  • Seeing a dentist at least once a year for a checkup, or more frequently if you have any of the warning signs of gum disease:
    • red/swollen gums
    • tender/bleeding gums
    • loose teeth
    • bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth that won’t go way
    • gums that have pulled away from your teeth
    • sensitive teeth

(Article Excerpt from Breastcancer.org)   – See more at: http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/gum-disease-may-be-linked-to-higher-risk

Lack of Exercise Can Raise The Risk of Breast Cancer

Research shows a link between exercising regularly at a moderate or intense level for 4 to 7 hours per week and a lower risk of breast cancer. Exercise consumes and controls blood sugar and limits blood levels of insulin growth factor, a hormone that can affect how breast cells grow and behave. People who exercise regularly tend to be healthier and are more likely to maintain a healthy weight and have little or no excess fat compared to people who don’t exercise.

Fat cells make estrogen and extra fat cells make extra estrogen. When breast cells are exposed to extra estrogen over time, the risk of developing breast cancer is higher.

Steps you can take

Exercise is now considered such an important part of daily life that the United States Department of Agriculture added it to ChooseMyPlate.gov, the U.S. government’s guide to healthy eating. The American Cancer Society recommends that women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer exercise regularly (about 4 to 5 hours per week) to improve their quality of life and physical fitness, as well as to reduce the risk of developing new cancers. Research shows that women who exercise the equivalent of walking 3 to 5 hours per week at an average pace after being diagnosed with breast cancer may improve their chances of surviving the disease.

Start slowly: The first thing to do is to talk to your doctor and possibly a certified fitness trainer about a safe and sensible plan designed specifically for you and your needs and physical abilities. It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor about a healthy weight for your age, height, body type, and activity level.

You may want to start gradually, maybe walking for 15 minutes a day and then slowly increasing the amount of time you spend exercising, as well as the intensity level of each session. You may need months to work your way up to 5 hours a week, but that’s OK.

If you’re not sure how to start exercising, you might want to visit a gym or make an appointment with a certified personal trainer to learn about different types of exercise. Some people prefer exercising in their homes using videotapes or DVDs. Others find great joy in gardening or building things, as opposed to organized exercise. Some people love being part of a team and playing soccer or baseball. Walking or jogging with a friend is a great way to socialize AND get the benefits of exercise. Dancing to great music is great exercise. With so many different ways to move, you’re bound to find a way to exercise that suits your personality and schedule. If you can find one or a mix of exercises that you think are fun and not boring, you’ll be much more likely to stick with it.

(Article Excerpt from Breastcancer.org)   – See more at: http://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/exercise.

The Question of Soy and its Effect on Breast Cancer

Soybeans are the most widely used, least expensive, and least caloric way to get large amounts of protein with very little fat and no cholesterol. Soy is the main source of protein for billions of people around the world.

Some doctors are concerned about the safety of eating soy for women diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s because soy contains a protein, called isoflavone, which can act like a weak estrogen. Concentrated soy products, such as powders, pills, and capsules, contain more isoflavones compared to soy foods, such as tofu, soy milk, and the beans themselves (also called edamame). Hormone-like substances in plants are called phytoestrogens. The growth of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers may be turned on by these substances.

Other doctors think soy might protect breast health because the hormone-like strength of isoflavones is MUCH weaker than the estrogen your body naturally makes. So it might be healthier if soy’s weak isoflavones wash out or replace some of your body’s stronger estrogen.

Doctors in the middle say it’s OK to eat soy foods because they are a healthy source of protein. But avoid — or greatly limit — your use of concentrated soy products.

Let’s keep things in perspective: Soy is NOT a major risk factor for breast cancer. At most, there is a concern about soy foods and a worry about soy products. We’re addressing this issue because a lot of you have asked us about things you can do in your everyday life to lower your risk and asked specifically about soy.

It turns out that the research on soy and its effect on breast cancer risk is unclear. You can find studies showing that soy is helpful, harmful, or harmless related to the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer or a recurrence.

It’s not clear why the results are so different. It might be due to differences in a woman’s age, diet history, weight, amount of physical activity, and other aspects of her health.

Current studies are starting to figure out how the many different compounds in soy affect our bodies. In general though, most doctors believe that it’s safe to eat a moderate amount of soy foods, with or without a history of breast cancer.

Soy 101

When I say soy, I mean all forms of soy foods, not byproducts such as concentrated soy protein powder and soybean oil that are found in many processed foods. Those are topics for another column.

Soy is promoted as a healthy option for vegetarians or for people who want to cut back on foods that come from animals.

Soymilk is a popular plant-based alternative to cow’s milk for vegans and people who are lactose intolerant. Unsweetened soymilk is comparable to cow’s milk in terms of calories, protein, and fat. It also has less sugar than cow’s milk. (Most plant or animal milks naturally contain some sugar.) Soymilk also provides important nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12, along with fiber and potassium.

Other substances in soy foods are thought to help keep cell growth and activity normal, regulate cholesterol, and protect cells from harmful chemicals called free radicals.

As discussed above, soy also contains phytoestrogens — weak estrogen-like compounds found in some plants. Isoflavones are a class of phytoestrogens. Some of the isoflavones in soy include genistein and daidzen. Equol is another isoflavone that comes from soy, but it’s only made by certain people when bacteria in their intestines break down daidzen. Not all people have the intestinal bacteria that create equol, so it’s not found in all people.

Because estrogen plays a significant role in the development, spread, and growth of breast cancers, there has been concern that eating a lot of estrogen-like soy compounds might also affect breast cancer risk.

So, is soy good or bad for breast health? 

The question is especially important for women diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers. Big doses of isoflavones could overstimulate hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Small amounts of isoflavones in soy foods are less likely to cause a problem. Isoflavones also may get in the way of hormonal therapy medicine’s ability to do its job. Tamoxifen and isoflavones both work in the estrogen receptors in the body.  IF isoflavones deliver a weaker estrogen signal to the receptor compared to tamoxifen (and your body’s estrogen), then the isoflavones might provide extra protection against this type of breast cancer. But if isoflavones give breast cells a stronger estrogen signal than tamoxifen, that’s a problem. Large amounts of isoflavones could interfere with the goal of the aromatase inhibitors, which are Arimidex (chemical name: anastrazole), Femara (chemical name: letrozole), and Aromasin (chemical name: exemestane). Aromatase inhibitors, another type of hormonal therapy, lower the amount of estrogen available in the body to interact with the estrogen receptor.

So there are reasons why some doctors advise women diagnosed with breast cancer to limit or stop eating soy, while other doctors tell them to eat more.

The research: benefits

Most of the reassuring news about breast cancer and soy comes from studies on groups of people and their consumption of soy foods, not soy products.

There’s an association between eating soy and lower rates of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer in women living in Asia. The link is weaker for Asian women living in Western countries. People living in Asia eat up to 10 times more soy than people living in the West. Because of this, experts wondered if eating a lot of soy helped protect against breast cancer. Of course, there are other healthy aspects to the Asian lifestyle besides soy that could help explain the lower rate of breast cancer, such as less obesity, more physical activity, and less alcohol use.

There are also studies that found no association between soy and a higher risk of breast cancer or its recurrence. For example, a 2009 study of postmenopausal women found that soy isoflavones didn’t increase breast density. This was an important finding since dense breasts are linked to a higher risk of cancer. Another 2009 study on more than 5,000 Chinese women diagnosed with breast cancer found that a diet rich in soy did not increase the risk of recurrence.

More recent, bigger studies and research reviews suggest eating soy foods (not concentrated soy products) can be protective for some people.

  • A 2014 analysis of 35 studies found eating soy foods was linked to a lower risk of breast cancer both before and after menopause for women in Asian countries, but not women in Western countries. Still, when researchers combined results from three large studies involving nearly 10,000 women, they found a lower risk of breast cancer recurrence in both U.S. and Chinese women who ate soy and had been diagnosed with breast cancer. This was especially true for women who had estrogen-receptor-negative disease. Risk dropped by 25% in women who ate about 10 grams of soy daily, an amount similar to what’s in a standard Japanese diet.
  • A study of 15,000 Japanese women found eating moderate-to-high amounts of soy foods was linked to lower breast cancer risk after menopause.
  • An analysis of more than 130 studies on soy consumption found that eating about 1½ cups of soy foods daily was linked to a lower risk of recurrence and dying from breast cancer for women who had been diagnosed, regardless of their ethnicity.

Recent research also suggests that the age a woman begins eating soy foods plays a role in soy’s effect on breast cancer risk. Asian women begin eating moderate to high amounts of soy foods as children. Scientists think that may be why the most protective results have been seen in these women. Eating soy foods early in life might reduce the risk of developing breast cancer because soy seems to contribute to breast-tissue differentiation in developing girls, which seems to be protective. Tissue differentiation is when cells line up to function as they’re supposed to. There’s also some evidence suggesting a link between better survival and eating soy foods a year or more after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

While all these results seem encouraging, other studies offer different results.

The research: risks

Most of the troubling results about soy come from studies on lab animals and cells. Research has shown that certain isoflavones in soy seem to encourage cancer cell or tumor growth and spread, particularly around menopause. For example, lab studies have found that low concentrations of the isoflavone genistein stimulated the growth of estrogen-receptor-positive breast tumors and interfered with the effects of tamoxifen.

Another concern is whether soy’s estrogen-like effects worsen outcomes for women newly diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. A small and short 2014 study suggests that for some of these women, adding about 4 cups of soy milk to their diets turns on several genes that encourage cell growth. The study didn’t last long enough to know whether these genetic changes would cause cancer to grow, and the study also didn’t look at whether soy does or doesn’t reduce the risk of breast cancer.

The research: mixed results

Some research has found that soy has different effects under different conditions.

For example, research done in animals has shown that high concentrations of the isoflavone genistein slow the spread of breast-cancer cells but low concentrations of genistein encourage tumor growth. Still, the amounts of genistein studied were higher than anyone would actually eat. Studies are also looking at how soy affects people of different ethnicities, how isoflavones interact with estrogen receptors, and how the interaction is affected by estrogen levels in the body.

Enjoy some soy

At most, soy’s effect on breast cancer risk is neutral, or small. It’s probably a combination of lifestyle factors (for example, exercising daily, limiting alcohol, not smoking) that all work together to lower risk. Also, people who depend on soy for protein are probably eating a healthy diet.

I’m not trying to be confusing by telling you about all these conflicting results. I just want you to know why doctors are still debating the soy question.

I feel comfortable recommending moderate amounts of soy foods as part of a balanced diet for healthy women and breast cancer survivors. This means two to three ½-cup servings of soy per day, similar to a Japanese diet.

That said, it’s always best to follow the Precautionary Principle:

  • Until the soy question becomes clearer, eating soy or increasing the amount of soy you eat is not a proven strategy to reduce your risk of breast cancer or lower your risk of recurrence.
  • Eliminating all soy from your diet “just to be sure” is drastic, hard to do, and is unlikely to give you any extra protection against breast cancer.

But we recommend that you:

  • Avoid highly concentrated soy products or protein supplements (they come in powders and capsules).
  • Avoid hidden soy, found in many packaged foods in various forms (protein isolate and soybean oil). Real whole foods provide the best nutrients. Packaged foods may affect your body differently than whole soy. Eating hidden soy may mean that you’re eating more soy than you wanted to.
  • Stick to certified organic soy foods. More than 90% of conventional soybeans come from genetically modified seeds. So far, no research shows that genetically modified foods affect cancer risk or cause long-term health problems. But many crops such as soy are engineered to withstand spraying with certain pesticides, and pesticide residues can cause unhealthy cell changes. Certified organic products don’t use genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Special circumstances call for extra precautions. Of course, anyone with soy allergies should avoid soy. Limit how much soy you eat if you’re being treated for low thyroid hormone levels, and don’t take your medicine with soy foods. And if you have problems absorbing minerals, you may want to avoid soy because compounds in soy called phytates can slow or block absorption of important nutrients including iron, calcium, and zinc.

(Article Excerpt and Image from Breastcancer.org)   – See more at: http://community.breastcancer.org/livegreen/the-soy-question-safe-to-eat/.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Just being a woman is the biggest of all breast cancer risk factors. There are about 190,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 60,000 cases of non-invasive breast cancer this year in American women. While men do develop breast cancer, less than 1% of all new breast cancer cases happen in men. Approximately 2,000 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in American men this year.

The biggest reasons for the difference in breast cancer rates between men and women are:

  • Women’s breast development takes 3 to 4 years and is usually complete by age 14. It’s uncommon for men’s breasts to fully form — most of the male breasts you see are fat, not formed glands.
  • Once fully formed, breast cells are very immature and highly active until a woman’s first full-term pregnancy. While they are immature, a women’s breast cells are very responsive to estrogen and other hormones, including hormone disrupters in the environment.
  • Men’s breast cells are inactive and most men have extremely low levels of estrogen.

So hormonal stimulation of highly responsive and vulnerable breast cells in women, particularly during the extra-sensitive period of breast development, is why breast cancer is much more common in women than in men.

Steps you can take

Changing your sex to reduce your risk of breast cancer is not a realistic or reasonable possibility. But there are lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your estrogen exposure and reduce this sex-related risk:

These are just a few of the steps you can take. Review the links on the left side of this page for more options.

(Article Excerpt and Image from Breastcancer.org)   – See more at: http://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/woman

Study Says Breast Cancer Prevention Must Begin Early in Life

Every woman wants to know what she can do to lower her risk of breast cancer. Some of the factors associated with breast cancer — being a woman, your age, and your genetics, for example — can’t be changed. Other factors — being overweight, lack of exercise, eating unhealthy food — can be changed by making choices. By choosing the healthiest lifestyle options possible, you can empower yourself and make sure your breast cancer risk is as low as possible.

A paper strongly suggests that breast cancer prevention should start early in life because nearly 25% of breast cancers are diagnosed in women younger than age 50 in developed countries.

The paper was published online on July 22, 2015 by the journal npj Breast Cancer. Read “Preventing breast cancer now by acting on what we already know.”

The lead author of the paper is Graham Colditz, M.D., an internationally known epidemiologist and public health expert who is a member of the Breastcancer.org Professional Advisory Board. He is the director of Prevention and Control at the Siteman Cancer Center at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO.

In the paper, Dr. Colditz and his colleague Kari Bohlke describe the factors that most commonly influence breast cancer risk:

  • increased exposure to the hormones estrogen and progesterone
  • changes in women’s height growth rate and reproductive patterns
  • lifestyle changes, including diet, that come about because of economic development

The researchers also quote breast cancer prevention task force reports urging people to focus on risk factors during specific time periods in a woman’s life:

  • in childhood, before and during breast development
  • in young adulthood/adulthood before the breasts fully mature with the birth of a woman’s first child

Research has shown that girls who eat a high-calorie, low-nutrient diet that contains few vegetables and fruits and get little or no exercise/physical activity are more likely to start having their periods earlier. This means that the body starts producing more estrogen — so girls who start menstruating earlier are exposed to more estrogen over their lifetimes. We know that estrogen can make breast cancer develop and grow. Girls who eat more vegetables and whole grains are more likely to start their periods later, which means they’re exposed to relatively less estrogen over their lifetimes.

“Timing of prevention therefore matters,” the researchers wrote. “Because 22% of breast cancer is diagnosed in premenopausal women and is often more aggressive than cancers diagnosed in postmenopausal women, it makes sense to start prevention early in life when it can have maximum impact. For example, prevention begun in childhood and continuing through adolescence and early adult years can reduce development of premalignant or intermediate lesions that are on the pathway to breast cancer.”

They recommend the following strategies to reduce breast cancer risk and have calculated how much of a difference each would make in the number of cases diagnosed in the United States:

  • Eat a diet full of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains in childhood and continue eating that way throughout life: would prevent 3% of breast cancers
  • Be physically active as a child and continue exercising throughout life: would prevent 11% of breast cancers
  • Avoid gaining weight as you age: would prevent 25-32% of breast cancers
  • If you do gain weight as you age, lose about 10% of your body weight (and keep it off) after menopause: would prevent 25% of breast cancers
  • Limit or avoid alcohol between your first period and the birth of your first child: would prevent 3% of breast cancers
  • Limit or avoid alcohol throughout life: would prevent 3% of breast cancers
  • Avoid using medicines such hormone replacement therapy that contains estrogen and progesterone: would prevent 3% of breast cancers
  • Women at high-risk for breast cancer because of family history or an abnormal gene should consider taking preventive medicine such as tamoxifen or Evista (chemical name: raloxifene): would prevent 11% of breast cancers

Dr. Colditz urges communities, policy makers, schools, and parents to talk to girls about prevention strategies. Exercising, eating healthy food, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding alcohol all help reduce the risk of breast cancer. If these strategies start in girlhood, before the breasts begin to develop, breast cancer risk can be reduced even more than if these healthy behaviors start in adulthood.

“If we act and act now, shifting the balance and focus to earlier life, supported by additional resources devoted to implementing prevention, bringing messages and bolstering lifestyle and risk-reduction behaviors during the critical time points in life, we stand a good chance of significantly reducing the burden of breast cancer now and for future generations,” he wrote.

Doing all that you can do to keep your breast cancer risk as low as it can be makes good sense. Exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding alcohol are steps you can take to control several risk factors. You can learn much more about breast cancer risk and other steps you can take to minimize your risk in the Breastcancer.org Lower Your Risk section.

(Article Excerpt and Image from Breastcancer.org)   – See more at: http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/prevention-must-begin-early-in-life

The Five Steps of a Breast Self-Exam

Step 1: Begin by looking at your breasts in the mirror with your shoulders straight and your arms on your hips.Here’s what you should look for:

  • Breasts that are their usual size, shape, and color
  • Breasts that are evenly shaped without visible distortion or swelling

If you see any of the following changes, bring them to your doctor’s attention:

  • Dimpling, puckering, or bulging of the skin
  • A nipple that has changed position or an inverted nipple (pushed inward instead of sticking out)
  • Redness, soreness, rash, or swelling
Breast Self-Exam - Step 1Breast Self-Exam — Step 1
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Step 2: Now, raise your arms and look for the same changes.Step 3: While you’re at the mirror, look for any signs of fluid coming out of one or both nipples (this could be a watery, milky, or yellow fluid or blood). Breast Self-Exam - Steps 2 and 3Breast Self-Exam — Steps 2 and 3
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Step 4: Next, feel your breasts while lying down, using your right hand to feel your left breast and then your left hand to feel your right breast. Use a firm, smooth touch with the first few finger pads of your hand, keeping the fingers flat and together. Use a circular motion, about the size of a quarter.Cover the entire breast from top to bottom, side to side — from your collarbone to the top of your abdomen, and from your armpit to your cleavage.Follow a pattern to be sure that you cover the whole breast. You can begin at the nipple, moving in larger and larger circles until you reach the outer edge of the breast. You can also move your fingers up and down vertically, in rows, as if you were mowing a lawn. This up-and-down approach seems to work best for most women. Be sure to feel all the tissue from the front to the back of your breasts: for the skin and tissue just beneath, use light pressure; use medium pressure for tissue in the middle of your breasts; use firm pressure for the deep tissue in the back. When you’ve reached the deep tissue, you should be able to feel down to your ribcage. Breast Self-Exam - Step 4Breast Self-Exam — Step 4
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Step 5: Finally, feel your breasts while you are standing or sitting. Many women find that the easiest way to feel their breasts is when their skin is wet and slippery, so they like to do this step in the shower. Cover your entire breast, using the same hand movements described in step 4. Breast Self-Exam - Step 5Breast Self-Exam — Step 5
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(Article Excerpt and Image from Breastcancer.org)  – See more at: http://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/self_exam/bse_steps

Cancer Prevention Diet – Finding the Healthiest Foods

In the real world, people are busy. Not just “go to work” busy. We are busy in every single area of our lives… work, play, and life in general.

We try to be efficient with our time and plan as best we can. In the interest of cutting corners, it’s so easy to reach for convenient foods. Whether it means driving up to a window or heating up a frozen dinner at home, this can be a dangerous option. It definitely means you aren’t eating the best or healthiest foods possible for your anti-cancer lifestyle.

What Food Manufacturers Don’t Want You to Know

You probably already know some hard facts about food you buy at your local grocery stores and fast food joints. The majority of the population knows (even if they ignore) the dangers of soda, fake meats, and chemical-laden food that comes in a box.

Bad fats and hidden sugars are covered with pretty packaging and words like “low fat,” “gluten free,” “sugar free,” “natural,” and “healthy.” Some food labels list so many chemicals to simulate real food that you’d have to have a PhD in chemistry to understand exactly what you’re eating.

These dangerous foods masquerading as “healthy” foods are the curse of the fast-paced life. You think you’re doing the right thing for your family, that you’re choosing options that might not be as good as “homemade”, but maybe aren’t too bad.

Anything that is packaged, boxed, canned, jarred, or has a label with more than one ingredient (especially any that you can’t readily pronounce) listed has been processed. That means something about that food has been added, taken away, or refined to make it edible, shelf stable, and marketable.

Manufacturers don’t care about your diet or desire to eat the healthiest foods. They want your money and will use pretty pictures and fancy words to get what they want. It works every day, with thousands of foods, and their marketing campaigns result in astronomical profits.

Fresh Foods Aren’t Always the Healthiest Foods 

Fresh food has its own set of obstacles.

In your local market, 90% or more of the fresh produce has been treated in some way. Oranges are dipped in food coloring to make them bright and consistently orange. Apples are waxed and polished like brand new cars to make them universally appealing.

Unless it’s been labeled “organic” or “non-GMO,” it’s been processed just like packaged foods. Perhaps not to the same extent, but in ways you don’t want or need to be consuming. These are not the healthiest foods you can select.

Commercial agriculture is a multi-billion dollar industry. Big corporations and pesticide industries have figured out many ways to corner the market and we’ve allowed them to do it. Sadly, the fallout will affect many generations beyond our lifetimes.

Seeds modified in a lab are planted into soil that’s been chemically enhanced and will continued to be treated as the seeds absorb artificial nutrients during development. Plants grow under a shower of pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides to abate the weeds that refuse to die even in the presence of such adversity. Food is rinsed in water containing bleach and bathed in wax to kill (some) bacteria and make it look pretty for consumers.

By the time it makes it to your kitchen, these foods have spent days and weeks in trains, trucks, and on boats either ripening or being tricked into not ripening by artificial means.

Many of the items that should be the healthiest foods (and that all of us are trying to eat more of in our diet) may instead be speeding along the alarming rise in cancer and other deadly illnesses worldwide.

Is Fresh Meat a Healthy Food?

Perhaps fresh meat is safe? Don’t be so sure.

Local butcher shops are rapidly becoming a thing of the past and even most grocery stores have done away with actual butchers. The majority of meat sold in chain supermarkets is cut in a factory, sprayed to prevent discoloring, injected with salt and preservatives, pre-packaged to look appealing on the shelves, and frozen.

It’s shipped to your neighborhood store, slapped on the shelf, and you think it’s “fresh” when it’s been in transit longer than you’d be comfortable knowing.

Commercially raised cattle (unless you buy more expensive, specially-raised meat that is organic and grass-fed) eat genetically modified grain feed enhanced with growth hormones, grown in pesticide filled soil. This feed is formulated to force the animals to grow to abnormal sizes to feed our appetites. The animals are also injected throughout their lifetimes with antibiotics, growth hormones, and other nasty compounds that infuse the meat you ultimately consume.

Another shocking food fact is that some meat is irradiated (exposed to ionized radiation) before it hits shelves.

Even the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – the people in charge of the safety of our food supply – funded an educational video designed to “influence public acceptance of food technologies.” If the government funds a project to influence the public, you can rest assured that you should be concerned.3

Irradiated food is dangerous. This practice originated in a plan to find a use for spent fuel from the nation’s nuclear reactors. It wasn’t about making your food safer, it was about finding a new use for nuclear waste!

If what the food companies want to sell you is good, why does it need to be irradiated? What are they trying to kill? What do they know that we don’t?

The Bacteria, Funguses, and Viruses that Survive Food Treatments

It is not secret that many foods – despite the chemical treatments, the antibiotics, and irradiation – are still susceptible to dangerous organisms that can cause sickness and even death.

If they can survive all of these methods (that are already dangerous to human beings), how strong are these bacteria? As our chemicals become stronger, so do the bugs. If we can’t kill them on our food, they end up in our bodies. They are clearly stronger than even our most extreme methods of killing them. Once they take root in your body… how will medicines do any good?

Pharmaceutical companies invest in more research for better drugs to counteract the pesticides that build up in your system. They try to produce new treatments for illnesses that rage out of control faster than drugs are produced.

The Healthiest Foods Available: Local and Organic

Consider the food facts about what you usually eat and commit to consume cleaner options. It will build your own immune system and help you to fight stronger and stronger bacteria. It takes w5ork to protect yourself from something as basic as the foods you eat. You and your family deserve the healthiest foods possible that won’t result in bio-accumulative toxins at the cellular level.

Organic products are always the best option when they’re available and affordable. Look for and request your stores to carry better, safer products and buy them.

Explore your local farmer’s market. Get to know the people who grow your food and raise your meat. Ideally, the only hands that touch your food should be the farmer’s and yours. Be aware of what you purchase and say “no” to mass manufactured foods whenever possible.

Money Talks When it Comes to Food Choices

Money is what changes minds. Higher demand for local, organic options will drive healthier foods becoming more readily available.

Invest your hard-earned money in your local food scene. The expense and effort to find safer food options is far less expensive than the cost to your health later on.

Know the facts about the healthiest foods for your anti-cancer diet. Saving time isn’t the only thing to consider when it can take years off your life.

(Article Excerpt and Image from TheTruthAboutCancer.com), article by: Ty Bollinger   – See more at: http://thetruthaboutcancer.com/healthiest-foods-anti-cancer-diet/

Could Eating Pineapple 3 Times a Day Promote Breast Health?

See What Happen to Your Breasts When you Eat Pineapple 3 Times a Day

Do you have a problem with droopy and loose breasts? It is quite a normal phenomenon that occurs with age, but now you can easily change that, and all you need to do is to eat more pineapples. Smoking, excess alcohol and coffee can increase the problem, but pineapples can quickly solve it.

“Pineapples contain a whole range of antioxidants and are also considered to be anti-cancer fruits. However, its use in women is indispensable. It contains substances that restore elasticity of skin fibers and thus rejuvenate it. This is especially visible on female breasts which lose their shape over the years. Drink enough fluids, discard the coffee and alcohol and eat pineapples daily. The results will be noticeable immediately, “doctors recommend.

An amazing smoothy which can be consumes daily:

  • 1 cup finely chopped pineapple
  • ¼ cup pineapple juice
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3-4 ice cubes

Mix all ingredients in a blender and drink the smoothy in the morning or before a meal.

Here is the Benefits of Pineapple :

Arthritis Management: One of the most celebrated uses of pineapple in terms of health is its ability to reduce the inflammation of joints and muscles, particularly those associated with arthritis, a truly debilitating disease that affects millions of people around the world. Pineapples contain a relatively rare proteolytic enzyme called bromelain, which is primarily associated with breaking down complex proteins, but it also has serious anti-inflammatory effects, and has been positively correlated with reducing the signs and symptoms of arthritis in many test subjects.

After You Find Out What Pineapples Can Do To Your Breasts, You Will Never Stop Eating Them !

PineappleImmune System: A single serving of pineapple has more than 130% of the daily requirement of vitamin-C for human beings, making it one of the richest and most delicious sources of ascorbic acid. Vitamin C is mainly associated with reducing illness and boosting the immune system by stimulating the activity of white blood cells and acting as an antioxidant to defend against the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals are dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism that can damage various organ systems and disrupt function, as well as cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous ones. The vitamin C content of pineapples defends against this.

Tissue and Cellular Health: One of the commonly overlooked benefits of vitamin C is its essential role in creating collagen. This is partly the reason why it is seen as a healing vitamin, because collagen is the essential protein base of blood vessel walls, skin, organs, and bones. High vitamin C content helps you heal wounds and injuries to the body quickly, along with defending against infections and illness.

Cancer Prevention: In addition to the antioxidant potential of vitamin C in the battle against cancer, pineapples are also rich in various other antioxidants, including vitamin A, beta carotene, bromelain, various flavonoid compounds, and high levels of manganese, which is an important co-factor of superoxide dismutase, an extremely potent free radical scavenger that has been associated with a number of different cancers. Pineapple has directly been related to preventing cancers of the mouth, throat, and breast.

After You Find Out What Pineapples Can Do To Your Breasts, You Will Never Stop Eating Them !

PineappleImmune System: A single serving of pineapple has more than 130% of the daily requirement of vitamin-C for human beings, making it one of the richest and most delicious sources of ascorbic acid. Vitamin C is mainly associated with reducing illness and boosting the immune system by stimulating the activity of white blood cells and acting as an antioxidant to defend against the harmful effects of free radicals. Free radicals are dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism that can damage various organ systems and disrupt function, as well as cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous ones. The vitamin C content of pineapples defends against this.

Tissue and Cellular Health: One of the commonly overlooked benefits of vitamin C is its essential role in creating collagen. This is partly the reason why it is seen as a healing vitamin, because collagen is the essential protein base of blood vessel walls, skin, organs, and bones. High vitamin C content helps you heal wounds and injuries to the body quickly, along with defending against infections and illness.

Cancer Prevention: In addition to the antioxidant potential of vitamin C in the battle against cancer, pineapples are also rich in various other antioxidants, including vitamin A, beta carotene, bromelain, various flavonoid compounds, and high levels of manganese, which is an important co-factor of superoxide dismutase, an extremely potent free radical scavenger that has been associated with a number of different cancers. Pineapple has directly been related to preventing cancers of the mouth, throat, and breast.

(Article Excerpt and Image from TheTruthAboutCancer.com) See more at: http://www.healthfreedoms.org/see-what-happen-to-your-breasts-when-you-eat-pineapple-3-times-a-day/

Feminine Hygiene Products Can Contain Cancer Causing Toxins

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No one wants to discuss feminine hygiene products. Not ever.

It’s usually embarrassing and the topic can make even the strongest woman incredibly uncomfortable. Mothers purchase their daughters’ products and pray for them to read the directions instead of asking questions.

When a girl hits puberty, it’s automatically assumed that she’ll use pads for protection and sanitary reasons. Eventually, some young women may use tampons as well. They’re convenient, absorbent and, after a learning curve, reasonably easy to use. They’re on hand for when you need them. Women cycle every month from puberty to menopause and use what they require during those times.

But with studies questioning how these goods are made and what toxins they contain, women have new information to consider. The dangers sanitary products pose is a real concern. Ignoring them can lead to bigger health problems in the future.

The Science of Skin

Your skin is your largest organ. It is also the thinnest and most permeable organ. For women, this includes the skin around the delicate vaginal area. Any substance that comes in contact with your skin can be absorbed into your body, directly into your bloodstream.

It is this quality that makes topical medications so effective.

Your digestive system is designed to process compounds and rid your body of potential toxins. When something is absorbed through your skin, it doesn’t go through your body’s natural defense system. Your skin is unable to weed out the good stuff from what is potentially toxic.

A good rule of thumb in regards to skin care is that if you wouldn’t eat something, then you shouldn’t apply it to your skin.5

Skin Health and Feminine Hygiene Products

Let’s talk about how conventional tampons and pads are manufactured. A single sanitary napkin can contain enough plastic to make four plastic bags. Chemicals within the plastic include potentially toxic chemicals, pesticides, and petrochemicals. That’s quite a chemical concoction to put in contact with the most sensitive skin on your body.

Since these products are considered “medical devices,” manufacturers aren’t required to disclose all of the ingredients they contain. Companies typically disclose that a pad contains foam and an absorbent material.

One woman compared a 100% organic cotton pad with a nationally known brand of pad. When burned, the organic pad burned slowly and steadily, leaving behind almost no residue other than the ash from burning. By striking comparison, the national brand pad created thick, black smoke and left behind a thick residue.

This led analysts to suspect that it contained petrochemicals, synthetic materials, and dioxins. Chemicals that have known links to cancer, heart disease, harm to developing embryos, and organ damage.

Tampons are manufactured using a blend of cotton, rayon, or a blend of the two materials. All tampons – organic or synthetic – have to pass the same standards for absorbency and protection.

Could Your Pad or Tampon be Harming You?

How can a clean, white pad or tampon cause damage? Consider whether or not that tampon is made with organic cotton. If not, chances are that it’s made with GMO cotton treated with crop pesticides. It’s a fact that 94% of the cotton grown in the United States is genetically modified.

If it’s an “odor neutralizing” product or contains any sort of fragrance, it contains a chemical soup of contaminates that can potentially cause infertility, neurological defects, hormone dysfunction, and cancer.

The average woman will use between 16,000 and 24,000 tampons in her lifetime, depending on how long her body menstruates. Without the ability to rid these toxins absorbed topically, they accumulate over a lifetime.

Tampons can also create an ideal environment for bacteria to develop and thrive. The walls of the vagina are so thin and delicate that regular use of feminine hygiene products can cause micro-tears. This presents a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a potentially life threatening condition caused by either a strep or staph infection resulting from tampon use.

Do you wonder why feminine hygiene products are so bright white? In order to get that pure white look, manufacturers use chlorine bleach. A by-product that forms from this bleaching process is dioxins. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes dioxins as a serious threat to public health and determined that there is no safe level of exposure.

However, the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that there is no discernible threat to the health of tampon or pad users from these dioxins as they are below detectable limits. They believe that “trace amounts” of dioxins are acceptable and safe to the human body.

If you use a product on your skin as much as 24,000 times during your life, is that considered a “trace amount” by the FDA? Clearly, the cancer-causing effects of these toxins are of very little concern to a government agency that long ago stopped caring about long-term consumer health.

Alternative Feminine Hygiene Products to Consider

There are alternatives that you can choose to lessen your exposure to the materials contained in various feminine hygiene products and nursing pads.

  • Organic cotton tampons. These products must pass an absorbency test so you are not likely to find any reduction in the quality. Organic tampons continue to test well beneath detectable levels for toxins. Look for 100% organic on the label.
  • Organic sanitary pads. Available in health food stores and recognized by more national supermarkets every month, these pads are a safe alternative to traditional pads. Again, absorbency is regulated so you are not losing quality by choosing a safer product. Read the label carefully.
  • Menstrual cup. This is an alternative to tampons or pads altogether. This silicone cup is inserted into the vagina during menstruation. Many women are choosing this option because it can be worn overnight, which is not recommended for any tampon.
  • Homemade products. Before WWII, disposable products weren’t available. Women had to fashion their own re-usable, washable pads for use during their periods. Some were made from absorbent towels, flannel, or similar cotton fabric. There are many resources online that provide information and even sewing patterns to make your own sanitary pads. The environmental advantages aside, you do need to wash these pads so preparation is key.

Whether you choose organic disposable products or make your own, there are alternatives to feminine hygiene products mass-produced with chemicals and plastics.

Contact large manufacturers and push for product disclosure as well. If it goes into or on your body, you have a right to know what’s in it. If you can’t pronounce it, chances are it’s not good for your delicate skin. Using safe feminine hygiene products is another aspect of living a cancer-free lifestyle.

Research is key. Find the solution that’s right for you and share the news with your females friends and loved ones.

No matter what you use, chances are it still won’t be a comfortable topic… but it may help save someone’s life!

(Article Excerpt and Image from TheTruthAboutCancer.com), article by: Ty Bollinger   – See more at: http://thetruthaboutcancer.com/dirty-secrets-feminine-hygiene-products/

Is Your Gut Helping You Prevent Breast Cancer?

Prevent Breast Cancer

Your gut, which houses your digestive system, contains over a billion nerve endings. It has more surface area than your external skin. It is the place where the majority of the absorption of nutrients and water takes place and it interacts with nearly 20 hormones in your body. It also contains 70% to 80% of your body’s immune cells. When it comes to Breast Cancer prevention and overall health, a Healthy Gut = a Healthy Body = Less Dis-ease, including cancer.

Your Digestive System 101

Your gut is the home of all kinds of bacteria, both good and bad. Probiotics are “good” or “helpful” bacteria; “probiotic” literally means “for life.”  They protect your digestive system from unhealthy, opportunist bacteria, viruses and parasites.

To learn how your digestive health is connected to cancer prevention and overall health, let’s start with a visual of when things are NOT working well. We have all experienced the not-so-pleasant effects of a toilet backing up because of a paper clog or too much “you know what” in the bowl. Your colon is no different. It is like a sewer system and is designed to expel the waste matter from food and other metabolic processes.

If you do not have healthy intestinal flora full of happy probiotics, your “sewer system” will literally back up into your body. What should be coming out gets re-absorbed and eventually will push through the intestinal wall and re-circulate into your blood stream.

This plugging up of the digestive system also leads to increased toxicity in the body. And as the body becomes increasingly toxic, proper oxidation cannot take place on a cellular level. Without proper oxygen, the cells become stressed and your Immune System becomes compromised.

Research on Probiotics, Cancer and the Immune System

In the early 1900’s, Russian scientist Ilya Metchnikoff suggested that disease and the aging process came as a result of “auto-intoxication” due to unhealthy bacteria that produced phenols, indols and ammonia in the gut. Improving intestinal flora with fermented foods that contained “lactic acid” bacteria seemed to have many health benefits; including, improving the immune system. Metchnikoff had also observed that certain rural populations in Europe, for example in Bulgaria and the Russian Steppes, who lived largely on milk fermented by lactic-acid bacteria were exceptionally long lived. Based on these facts, Metchnikoff proposed that consumption of fermented milk would “seed” the intestine with harmless lactic-acid bacteria and decrease the intestinal pH and suppress the growth of proteolytic bacteria.

Metchnikoff had also observed that certain rural populations in Europe, such as Bulgaria and the Russian Steppes, who lived largely on milk fermented by lactic-acid bacteria were exceptionally long lived. Based on these facts, Metchnikoff proposed that consumption of fermented milk would “seed” the intestine with harmless lactic-acid bacteria, decrease the intestinal pH and suppress the growth of proteolytic bacteria. Almost a century later, modern science finally caught up.  In 1989, the Journal of Applied Bacteriology stated: “There is good evidence [to support] that the complex microbial flora present in the gastrointestinal tract of all warm-blooded animals is effective in providing resistance to disease.”

And just recently, a University of Michigan study indirectly linked healthy levels of probiotics and a healthy digestive tract to Immune System function in mice.  Researchers in the study gave the mice lethal doses of chemotherapy drugs and at the same time gave them a substance called “Rspo1” or “R-spondon1.” 50-75% of the mice given Rspo1 survived the lethal dose. Why?

Rpos1 produces stem cells that act like “‘super tissue regeneration machines.” These stem cells were able to rebuild damaged tissue faster than the chemo could destroy them.” The study used an injection of Rspo1 to activate stem cell production in the endothelial cells of the intestinal lining of the mice.

Our bodies, however, (and the bodies of the mice) already possess the blueprint to produce this powerful substance if our intestinal flora is healthy. More than anything else, the presence of healthy, probiotic bacteria is what determines healthy gene expression in the epithelial cells of your intestinal lining.

Although the University of Michigan study is questionable from a moral standpoint, since its aim was to prove that patients may some day be able to survive larger doses of chemo and radiation, an indirect consequence of the findings could be scientific proof of your own digestive tract’s ability to kick-start super-immunity naturally if given the ability to do so through the presence of healthy, probiotic bacteria.

Let Food Be Your Medicine

Essential #1 of The 7 Essentials™ System for healing the body naturally is to“Let Food Be Your Medicine.” This statement has never truer than with Probiotics. For thousands of years, fermented foods, the natural and nutritionally-based way to insure plenty of probiotic growth in your gut, have been a part of many cultures. Besides the Russian and Bulgarian peasants of Metchnikoff’s day that inspired him in his research, the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cultures have credited their relatively low rates of chronic degenerative diseases to the daily use of fermented milk and vegetable products. The Asian culture also includes high-probiotic, fermented foods like miso and tempeh in their daily eating.

To sum up, Probiotics work on several levels:

  1. They fight off unhealthy organisms and reduce the risk of infection;
  2. They regulate Immune responses;
  3. They support the healthy function of elimination from the colon;
  4. They have an effect on allergies and obesity; and, most important for you,
  5. They help fight inflammatory responses and reduce your risk of cancer.

Start today to incorporateProbiotics through fermented foods and/or supplementation into your daily regime. If you are proactive with prevention by incorporating Probiotics into your life, you may be on your way to prevent Breast Cancer naturally.

(Article Excerpt and Image from TheTruthAboutCancer.com), article by: Dr. Veronique Desaulniers   – See more at: http://thetruthaboutcancer.com/is-your-gut-helping-you-prevent-breast-cancer/

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