Nutrition for Breast Health

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					Green,J. Nutrition for Breast Health. In “My Breasts, My Choice: Journeys through Surgery” edited by
Brown, Aslin and Carey. Sumach Press.Toronto.2003.

Note: The term women is used below where research has been done on women. Otherwise gender neutral
language is used to include F to M guys.

Nutrition for Breast Health
The following dietary recommendations are appropriate for fibrocystic breast disease, breast cancer prevention,
as well as general health and wellness. The idea is to cultivate a diet that is low in refined sugar and flour, low
on the food chain, high in whole foods and rich in nutrients.

Fruits and Vegetables
Aim to eat 6-9 servings of fruit and vegetables per day where a serving equals ½ cup of cooked vegetables, 1
cup of salad or 1 large piece of fruit. This sounds like a lot of fruit and vegetables, but it ensures adequate
vitamins, anti-oxidants and fiber while leaving less room for junk food. Cancer fighting foods include;
    1. cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, bok choy, kohlrabi, turnips (which all contain
        indoles and isothiocyanates)
    2. tomatoes, red grapefruit (rich in lycopene)
    3. spinach, collards (rich in lutein)
    4. garlic, onions, leeks (which contain allyl sulfides)
    5. parsley, carrots, kale, winter squash, apricots, canteloupe, sweet potatoes (which contain allyl sulfides),
    6. red clover sprouts, broccoli sprouts and mung bean sprouts (rich in isoflavones) i.

Anti-oxidants are essential nutrients found in fruit and vegetables. They decrease inflammation and protect
DNA from the damage of free radicals, thereby reducing the risk of cancer and counteracting some of the
effects of aging. Anti-oxidant supplements include Vit A, Vit C, Vit E, CoQ10, selenium, tumeric, quercetin
and green tea. Total anti-oxidant status reduces breast cancer riskii and cancer risk generally. Organic green tea
is a wonderful anti-oxidant for cancer prevention, and may be especially helpful for women with breast cancer
who are Her-2/neu positiveiii. You can drink 2 cups daily, unless you are sensitive to the caffeine it contains. If
you have fibrocystic breasts, pay special attention to whether the green tea increases your breast tenderness and
stop drinking it if this is the case.

Tumeric (which contains curcumin) is a yellow spice that is extremely promising for fighting breast cancer.
Curcumin prevents new blood vessel growth to tumours (anti-angiogenesis), is a powerful antioxidant,
encourages liver detoxification, decreases inflammation and has been shown to induce programmed cell death
of cancer cells (apoptosis) in vitroiv. Tumeric can be used liberally in cooking (1 tsp daily) or taken as a
supplement. Tumeric SHOULD BE AVOIDED during chemotherapy vvi. However, tumeric is safe for long
term use once conventional cancer treatments are over.

Shitake and maitake mushrooms are other foods that help to prevent cancer by boosting the immune system,
especially natural killer cells. These medicinal mushrooms can be eaten liberally, especially around surgery,
radiation and chemotherapy when the immune system needs support.

Phytoestrogens are plant chemicals that act like weak estrogen in the body. They are amphoteric, which means
that if there is too much estrogen (which contributes to fibrocystic breast disease and breast cancer), they will
block the estrogen receptor site. If there is not enough estrogen (such as in menopause), they will weakly

                                            Jen Green, B.Arts & Sci, ND
                                           Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine
                                                 100 Harbord Street
                                                 Toronto, M5S 1G6
activate the receptor site to help prevent osteoporosis. Types of phytoestrogen include genistein and daidzen
(soy, miso, tofu, clover sprouts) and lignans (ground flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds).

Organic soy products are wonderful because they are anti-oxidants, make platelets less sticky, lower
cholesterol, help liver detoxification, induce apoptosis, prevent cancer cells from multiplying and inhibit blood
vessels that feed cancer (anti-angiogenesis). In Asian countries where breast cancer rates are at least two thirds
lower than in North America, the average soy consumption is 35-60 g per dayvii. In a case controlled study of
Asian American women, women who ate soy at least once weekly during adolescence had a significantly
reduced risk of breast cancer, and those who ate it during adult life showed a trend towards less breast cancerviii.
When increasing soy intake, include a source of iodine (seaweed, fish, iodized salt) to compensate for the way
that soy reduces iodine uptake. Note: If you are on Tamoxifen, use soy ONLY in moderation (1-3 times
weekly) and avoid genistein supplements until more research has been done. In laboratory studies, soy reduced
tamoxifen’s effectivenessix while in animal studies it improved tamoxifen’s effectivenessx. The scenario where
soy is MOST seriously in question is in post-menopausal women with estrogen positive tumors. What is
desperately needed is research done on actual women with breast cancer who are consuming soy.

Ground flaxseeds are another incredible food for the breasts. They are an excellent source of fiber,
phytoestrogens, and omega 3 fatty acids. Flaxseeds were shown to decrease tumour size between the time of
diagnosis and the time of surgery in women with breast cancer who included it in their dietxi. Grind 2 TBSP of
fresh flaxseeds daily and add them unheated over your cereal, salad or vegetables.

Another area requiring research is the effect of phytoestrogens on transgendered men and women.
Phytoestrogens increase steroid binding globulin levels, which are the transport system that carry hormones to
their receptors. This could possibly decrease circulating hormone levels, or increase the way they bind to
receptors. We just don’t know. Either way, every person responds to hormone therapies in a unique way.
Ideally, do a controlled experiment for a month. For F to M guys who still have a menstrual period, experiment
to see if daily flaxseeds and soy increase or decrease menstrual symptoms. For M to F women with breast
tenderness, experiment with daily flaxseeds and soy and assess if it reduces pain. In both transgendered men
and women, soy and ground flaxseeds are helpful for preventing heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis. If
phytoestrogens don’t seem to effect hormone therapies, they are a great idea to include for overall health and

In order to keep your breasts and heart healthy, fat should account for no more than 20% of your total caloric
intake. However, don’t be fooled into eating lots of “lite” and “low fat” processed foods because they are
usually loaded with sugar, which contributes to breast cancerxii. Simply be selective about your fats. Use olive
oil (2 Tbsp daily) as your main cooking and dressing oil because it decreases the risk of breast cancerxiii.

Avoid all hydrogenated fats (fats that have trans fatty acids in them). Hydrogenated fats are found in margarine,
chips, fried food, and many commercial baked goods. Minimize saturated fats, which are found in red meat,
dairy, vegetable shortening, palm and coconut oilxiv.

It is vital to include essential fatty acids such as omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in your diet. These fats should
be stored in the fridge and used unheated. Omega 6 oils to include in your diet are; raw nuts and seeds
(almonds, sunflower seeds, sesame and pumpkin seeds) and evening primrose oil (especially if you have
fibrocystic breast diseasexv). Evening primrose oil causes breast tissue to be less sensitive to estrogen and it
offers a protective effect against breast cancerxvixvii. Evening primrose oil also increases the effectiveness of
tamoxifen in reducing estrogen receptor expressionxviii.

                                            Jen Green, B.Arts & Sci, ND
                                           Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine
                                                 100 Harbord Street
                                                 Toronto, M5S 1G6
Omega 3 fatty acids to include in your diet are fish oils and walnuts. These oils decrease inflammation in the
body, which makes them useful for treating conditions such as cancer, arthritis, and eczema. They also make
hair and nails grow stronger. High fish oil intake is associated with lower rates of breast cancerxix.The best fish
oil to use is herring oil from Norway because it is a smaller fish sourced from clean waters. This means it is less
likely to accumulate toxins. Flaxseed oil, which is another omega 3 fatty acid, has recently become
controversial in breast health. Ground flax seeds are undoubtably good for breast cancer prevention. However,
there is some evidence to suggest that flaxseed oil in very large amounts may encourage tumour growthxx. Until
more research is done, use a maximum of 1 tsp of flaxseed oil daily and consider herring oil instead.

Women with a high fiber diet have 30% less risk of breast cancer than women who have little fiber in their
dietsxxi. Fiber decreases cholesterol, regulates blood sugar, decreases estrogen, and prevents colon cancer. Aim
for 30 g daily in the form of flax seeds, psyllium, wheat bran (if tolerated), legumes, fruit and vegetables.

For transgendered people, stay on a high fiber diet while determining your ideal hormone levels. Be aware that
fiber can decrease the absorption of many medications, including hormones. However, as long as your fiber
intake is constant, you get the best of both worlds – action of the medication and healthy intestines.

Meat and Dairy
Meat and dairy products accumulate toxins as they move up the food chain and are therefore a major source of
pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. The incidence of all types of cancer is 30-40% lower in Seventh Day
Adventists, who are strict vegetariansxxii. Aim to have a primarily vegetarian diet with tofu, nuts and seeds,
almond butter, and beans and rice. If you do not feel healthy on a protein-balanced vegetarian diet, eat organic
meat and dairy in moderation, and fish from clean waters (if there is such a thing). Do not have large fish such
as tuna, swordfish, mackerel or shark more than once a week to once a month because they have toxic levels of

Women with premenstrual breast tenderness should reduce or completely avoid substances containing
methylxanthines. It is suggested that women with fibrocystic breast disease have a genetically determined
sensitivity to methyxanthinesxxiv. Methylxanthines are found in coffee, black tea and chocolate.

Attitudes to Eating
All of us have some emotional issues around food. Whether it is depriving ourselves, overeating to fill empty
places, or eating destructively, diet is a loaded area for most people. Take time to be conscious of your eating
patterns. Are you eating on the run so that your body has no chance to digest? Are you aware of hunger when
you feel it? Are you aware of when you feel full? Is cooking for yourself part of your self care? Try to have a
gentle attitude with yourself around food choices. Too often, healthy foods can be associated with punishment
and poor food choices symbolic of self-love. See if there can be some realignment, where the food that we
know is healthy for us is perceived for what it really is… self nurturing.

Nutrition is a way that we can be proactive about improving our health. We can support our breasts and our
whole body by including phytoestrogens, fruits and vegetables, fiber, and healthy fats in our diet. We can also
minimize fried food, red meat, caffeinated drinks and junky food. Some additional resources and recipes
     “A Call to Women: The Healthy Breast Program and Workbook” by Sat Dharam Kaur. Quarry Health
        Books.Kingston. 2000 and” The Healthy Breast Cookbook” by Sat Dharam Kaur
     “CCNM’s Simply Healthy Cookbook” by Tanis McKaren, available at
     Any of The Moosewood Collective’s cookbooks.
                                            Jen Green, B.Arts & Sci, ND
                                           Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine
                                                 100 Harbord Street
                                                 Toronto, M5S 1G6
  Sat Dharam Kaur. A Call to Women: The Healthy Breast Program and Workbook.Quarry Health Books.Kingston. pp193-229. 2000.
    Ching, Ingram et al. Serum levels of micronutrients, anti-oxidants and total anti-oxidant status predict risk of breast cancer in case
control study. Journal of Nutrition. 132(2):303-6. Feb 2002.
    Pianetti, Guo et al. Green tea Polyphenol EGCG Inhibits Her-2/neu signalling, proliferation, and transformed phenotype of breast
cancer cells. Cancer Research. 62 (3):652-5. Feb 2002.
    Choudhuri, Pal, et al. Curcumin induces apoptosis in human breast cancer cells through p53 dependent Bax induction. FEBS Letters.
Vol. 512 (1-3):334-40. Feb 2002.
    Sriganth, I et al. Dietary curcumin with cisplatin administration modulates tumor market indices in experimental fibrosarcoma.
Pharm Research. 39;175-179.1999
    Somasundaram S, et al. Dietary curcumin inhibits chemotherapy-induced apoptosis in models of human breast cancer. Cancer
Research. 62(13):3868-75. Jul 2002
     Sat Dharam Kaur. A Call to Women: The Healthy Breast Program and Workbook.Quarry Health Books. pp193-229. 2000.
     Wu, AH, Wan P et al. Adolescent and adult soy intake and risk of breast cancer in Asian Americans. Carcinogenesis. Vol 23
(9):1491-6. Sept. 2002.
    Ju,YH et al. Dietary Genistein Negates the Inhibitory Effect of Tamoxifen on Growth of Estrogen-dependent MCF-7 Cells
Implanted in Athymic Mice. Cancer Research. 62(9):2474-7. May 2002.
    Constantinou A etal. Consumption of soy products may enhance tamoxifen’s breast cancer protective effects. Proceedings of
American Association of Cancer Research. 42: 826. 2001.
    Thompson, Lilian. Flaxseed and its lignan and oil components reduce mammary tumour growth in at a late stage of carcinogenesis.
Carcinogenesis. 17 (6):1373. 1996.
     Austin, S, Hitchcock, C. Breast Cancer – What you should know (but may not be told) about prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
Prima Publishing. Rocklin, CA. pp167-189. 1994.
     St Martin-Moreno J, Willett W, Gorgojo L, et al. Dietary fat, olive off intake and breast cancer risk. International Journal of Cancer
58:774-780. 1994.
     Sat Dharam Kaur. ibid.
     Pashby,N. Clinical experience of drug treatment for mastalgia. Lancet. 2:373-77. 1984
     Horrobin D. Nutritional and medical importance of gamma-linolenic acid. Progress in Lipid Research . 31:163-94. 1992
      Hudson, Tori, Women's Health Update: Essential Fatty Acids and Breast Cancer. Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients.190:129-
32. May 1999.
      Kenny F, Pinder, SE, Ellis, IO, et al. Gamma linolenic acid with tamoxifen as primary therapy in breast cancer. International
Journal of Cancer . 85:643-48. 2000.
     Hudson, T. ibid.
     Hudson, T. ibid.
     Rohan, TE et al. Dietary Fiber, vitamins A,C,E and the risk of breast cancer: A cohort study. Cancer Causes and Control. 4 (1): pp.
29-37. Jan 1993.
Baghurst PA . High-fiber diets and reduced risk of breast cancer. International Journal of Cancer. 56 (2): 173-6; Jan 1994
      Mills PK. Cancer incidence among California Seventh-Day Adventists: 1976-1982. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 59 (5
Suppl): 1136S-1142S. May 1994.
      Health Canada. Mercury and Fish Consumption Advisory.
      Minton, J et al. Clinical and Biochemical studies on methylxanthine –related FBD. Surgery. 90:229-304.1981.

                                                     Jen Green, B.Arts & Sci, ND
                                                    Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine
                                                          100 Harbord Street
                                                          Toronto, M5S 1G6

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