By Sarah A LoBisco, ND
A recent interview between Dr. Northrup and Dr. Mercola provided me with inspiration to discuss further discuss the topic of hormonal health for women.
There’s an overwhelming amount of information out in cyberspace regarding what one needs to do for hormonal balance and there are so many questions with different answers!
Once again, it is my belief that optimization of hormonal health, just like any other condition, is dependent on the individual. It is usually a combination between lifestyle factors, diet, genetics, nurturing healthy relationships, and self-care. A magic pill or supplement will not alone bring about true and lasting hormonal balance. One must get to the root cause.
Hormones are such an intricate part of how our body functions and modulate how our body’s wired to respond to the external world. Any slight imbalance in one can create various downstream effects in others. (Hence why some women can be chasing dosages in hormonal replacement for reoccurring symptoms.)
Furthermore, these chemical messengers link with our nervous and immune functions. This explains why research is linking changes in stress hormones to inflammation and immune imbalances resulting in diseases of a variety of organ systems! (Depending on the vulnerable sweet spot of the individual)!
This week’s blog will focus on maintaining healthy hormonal balance and discuss lifestyle factors that are linked to the risk of hormonally mediated cancer.
Lifestyle and Hormonal Health
It increases output of inflammatory mediators, affects liver metabolism of hormones, shuts down nutrient absorption, and robs calming progesterone levels in favor of cortisol. All of these factors affect how the body utilizes hormones effectively.
I’ve written in previous blogs about different lifestyle factors to assist with the stress response.
Stress calming practices, such as mindfulness meditation, have been studied to mitigate stress effects. In fact, it was shown to decrease cortisol in volunteers and improve immune function. A more effective immune response from low stress would provide more balanced immune modulation to prevent cancer.
Meditation Lowers Stress Hormone
At the retreat, the participants learned mindfulness skills such as breathing techniques and “observing the nature of consciousness,” the researchers explained. Individuals who scored high on the mindfulness questionnaire also had low levels in cortisol, both before and after the retreat. Subjects whose mindfulness score increased after the retreat also showed a decrease in cortisol.
Another recent study published in the journal Brain, Behavior & Immunity in 2012 finds that mindfulness meditation can help older adults battle feelings of loneliness while also boosting health. A prior study also found that mindfulness meditation, along with moderate exercise, was linked to a reduction in the severity of colds and flu during winter.
AFP RELAXNEWS. Mindfulness Meditation Lowers Stress Hormone Cortisol. Daily News (nydailynews.com). April 2, 2013. http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/mindfulness-meditation-lowers-stress-hormone-cortisol-study-article-1.1305502?localLinksEnabled=false
Mindfulness Helps Anxiety and Depression in Cancer Patients
Mindfulness can also mitigate the stress of having a diagnosis, according to a recent study:
“[The] summary of the study findings shows that mindfulness has a documented effect as an effective and inexpensive therapy method for cancer patients with anxiety and depression symptoms,” an Aarhus University press release on the research stated. “The positive effect was not only seen immediately after therapy, but was maintained for at least six months following the therapy.”
A 2011 study published in the journal Cancer Nursing also found that the majority of cancer patients who participated in mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy experienced positive effects including increased calm and well-being, better sleep quality, more energy and decreased physical pain.
With the research to back up the effectiveness of mindfulness in helping cancer patients, it’s likely that these types of programs will continue to spread through hospitals, universities and treatment centers in the U.S. and abroad. According to Bell, the Australian programs have been been highly successful so far.
Gregoire, C. Mindfulness-Based Therapies May Help Ease Stress Of Cancer Treatment .The Huffington Post (huffingtonpost.com). April 18 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/17/mindfulness-cancer-treatment-therapies-stress_n_3095435.html?utm_hp_ref=healthy-living
Dr. Northrup’s Top 10 Health Tips for Women
In the recent interview that I mentioned above, Dr. Northrup shares her top 10 tips for women’s health. These include not just the physical components, but the emotional and whole body approach that drives physical responses:
1. Get enough sleep: Proper sleep is essential for optimal health, and it helps metabolize stress hormones better than any other known entity.
2. Meditate for at least 3-12 minutes each day, to calm and soothe your mind.
3. Begin your day with a positive affirmation.
4. Exercise regularly. Ideally, aim for a comprehensive program that includes high intensity exercises and strength training along with core-building exercises and stretching.
5. Breathe properly. When you breathe in and out fully through your nose, you activate your parasympathetic rest-and-restore nervous system, which expands the lower lobes of your lungs, and therefore engages the vagus nerves.
“Relax the back of your throat. So many women have thyroid problems – it’s from chronic tension here; because you’re pretty sure your feminine voice isn’t going to be heard. It hasn’t been heard for 5,000 years. You’re not alone. But it’s being heard now,” she says.
6. Practice self love and unconditional acceptance. Dr. Northrup suggests looking at yourself in the mirror at least once a day, and saying: “I love you. I really love you.”
“After 21 days, something will happen to you. You’ll see a part of you that looks back at you, and you begin to believe it. “I love you. I really love you.”
7. Optimize your vitamin D levels. Get your vitamin D level checked. Ideally, you’ll want your levels within the therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml. According to Dr. Northrup:
“Sunlight is not the enemy. It’s lack of antioxidants in your diet that is the enemy. Natural light is a lovely source of vitamin D; you can’t overdose. But many people – to get their levels of vitamin D into optimal – are going to need 5,000 to 10, 000 international units per day. So, vitamin D is important. You can get your level drawn through MyMedLab.com without a doctor’s prescription.”
Just remember that if you take high doses of oral vitamin D, you also need to boost your intake of vitamin K2. For more information on this, please see my previous article, What You Need to Know About Vitamin K2, D and Calcium.
8. Cultivate an active social life; enjoy some face-to-face time with likeminded people.
9. Epsom salt baths (20 minutes, three times per week) are a simple, inexpensive way to get magnesium into your body.
10. Keep a gratitude journal. Each night, before you go to bed, write down five things that you are grateful for, or five things that brought you pleasure.
“Remember: every emotion is associated with a biochemical reality in your body. So, you want to bring in the emotions of generosity, pleasure, receiving, and open-heartedness. The same things that create heart health create breast health.”
Mercola, J. Dr. Christiane Northrup’s Top Tips for Women’s Breast Health . Dr. Mercola.com. April 21, 2013. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/04/21/breast-health-tips.aspx?e_cid=20130421_SNL_Art_1&utm_source=snl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art1&utm_campaign=20130421
Is More Testing Really Preventative?
The Topic of Mammography
Breast cancer is still the most common and most deadly form of hormonal cancers in women. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently recommended changes in mammogram frequency, causing an uproar in views on its role in prevention that is quite controversial. The summary of their recommendations are as follows:
The USPSTF, which is a group of independent health experts convened by the Department of Health and Human Services, reviewed and commissioned research to develop computer-simulated models comparing the expected outcomes under different screening scenarios.
Here are the USPSTF’s recommendations, based on all that work:
· Routine screening of average-risk women should begin at age 50, instead of age 40.
· Routine screening should end at age 74.
· Women should get screening mammograms every two years instead of every year.
· Breast self-exams have little value, based on findings from several large studies.
Boyles, S. New Mammogram Screening Guidelines FAQ. WebMD Features. 2005-2013. http://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/features/new-mammogram-screening-guidelines-faqMedscape.com.
Dr. Mercola hit another home run with his blog written by Dr. Hamm. Dr. Hamm summarized his viewpoint on the relevance of mammography. Basically, studies have confirmed that for most women, they could be overdone, and although they increase the findings of pre-cancer, they are not linked to decreased mortality rates. (Still, they also shouldn’t be ignored as a screening method for those at risk).
Below are some highlights on his viewpoint and some more healthy prevention tips (which I also blogged about previously):
- Breast cancer has become big business, with the lion’s share of the profit coming from routine mammography, which is touted as the best way to prevent breast cancer death
- A recent study challenges the validity of mammogram screenings, concluding that mammograms have little to no influence in the reduction of the number of women who ultimately die of breast cancer
- According to a 2011 meta-analysis, mammography breast cancer screening led to 30 percent overdiagnosis and overtreatment, which equates to an absolute risk increase of 0.5 percent. There’s also the risk of getting a false negative, meaning that a life-threatening cancer is missed
- The “new and improved” 3D tomosynthesis mammogram still requires mechanical compression and uses 30 percent MORE radiation
- A few simple, yet great options to assist in your efforts to avoid breast cancer are: making sure you are getting enough vitamin D, K2 and iodine; that you utilize lymphatic massage; use stress management techniques, exercise often, and balance your hormones naturally. It is also wise to eat a Mediterranean diet consisting of organic foods. Avoid processed and GMO foods; and toxic environments. Taking DIM may also be helpful.
(Diindolylmethane (DIM) is used to promote healthy estrogen metabolism)
Ham, J. Mammography: Are There Pros, or is It Just a Con? Mercola.com. April 14, 2013. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/04/14/mammography-use.aspx?e_cid=20130414_SNL_Art_1&utm_source=snl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art1&utm_campaign=20130414
The Power of the Fork in Prevention
True prevention isn’t about earlier detection, but preventing cancer to begin with.
This includes some of the basics we discussed above and nurturing the body and mind. As written in my previous blog:
The most effective thing you can do for cancer prevention is choosing the food you eat. Whatever you consume is what your body is made out of. Dr. Hornor discusses that Vitamin D cuts cancer risk in half, but so do many other things.
Certain foods affect cell growth by how they turn up or down cellular functions. They affect the volume of the response at the cellular receptor. (AKA Nutrigenomics!)
This is because food can act as physical medicine as we learn to control other lifestyle factors that can modulate our immune health. For more tips, read on here.
What about Hormone Replacement?
Information on this is posted on my Saratoga.com blog.