5 Empowering Ways To Holistically Care For Your Breast Health by Yasmin Essa, HC, AADP

Like many, breast cancer is a personal topic for me. Two of my maternal aunts fought aggressive battles against breast cancer.

I am sharing these tips with you, so that you can do what is in your hands to take care of your breast health, inshaAllah. As with anything else I share, take what works for you, and leave what does not. Many healthcare options do not empower individuals. My work aims to equip you with knowledge while reminding you that you can be trusted to make the best decisions for you, inshaAllah.

1) Love up your lymph, especially the lymph surrounding your breasts
When it comes to our lymph nodes, my favorite analogy is that they are like the sewage system of our body. Just like a sewage system filters out harmful substances from waste water, our lymph nodes filter out harmful substances from our body. The thing is though, that everything has an upper limit. When we have too many harmful substances in our body, it can contribute to our lymphatic system becoming congested. Lymph node health is strongly linked to breast health.

Here are some ways to love up your lymph:

  • Exfoliate. Consider using a natural bristle dry brush or a loofah to get your lymph moving.
  • Say no thanks to aluminum and other heavy metals. They take a toll on your lymphatic system. Easiest ways to reduce your exposure? Use aluminum free deodorant (my favorite is Primal Pit Paste). Also, consider cookware made from cast iron, ceramic or glass, rather than aluminum or metal.
  • Be mindful of the restriction tight sports bras or wired bras place on your lymphatic movement. This article is about empowerment, so it's your decision to choose what kind of bras you want to wear. Be mindful that these types of bras reduce lymphatic movement and make your decisions accordingly. Make sure to take bra free breaks as often as you can, such as when you are at home or sleeping.
  • Learn how to do a self-breast exam, and do one every few months.
  • Massage. It reduces stress, can serve as a self breast exam (when doing breast massage), and gets lymph moving. Focus on your chest muscles, neck, shoulder, breasts, underneath your breasts, rib cage, and below your armpits.
  • Sweat it out. Find a form of exercise you enjoy and do it consistently

2) Respect your comfort
Trust me, I love a fashionable outfit as much as the next person, but when fashion equals pain, I say no thank you as often as possible. Find the balance that works well for you.

  • Be mindful of the comfort level of your clothing choices. Suffocating your body increases inflammation in the body.
  • Give yourself daily breaks from bras. It's good for you and it feels good. Enough said.

3) Be mindful of your exposure to fake estrogen
Fake estrogen is all around us in the form of phytoestrogens (plants that act like estrogen) and xenoestrogens (substances like plastic that act as estrogen). It's one thing to be existent in small amounts. It's a completely different issue when it's highly prevalent and many women are estrogen dominant. Estrogen dominance is one of the leading hormonal imbalances in today's day and age.

The key problem with fake estrogen is that it acts like estrogen, but does not actually carry out the job that real estrogen does. Imagine how confused your body is when there is an intruder that looks like the real thing, but can't perform like the real thing.

You may not be able to avoid fake estrogen 100%, but you can control upwards of 95% of your exposure. Here are some ways to do so:

  • Be mindful of your soy intake. Soy is a phytoestrogen as well as a goitrogen (inhibits thyroid function), and it's high in phytic acid (an antrinutrient). 
  • Choose glass over plastic when you can.

4) Cherish your cells, daily.
Every single type of cancer starts at the cellular level and then grows. We have trillions of cells in our body and our immune system (when healthy) is fighting off intruders and disease all the time. Wrap your head around that for a second.

    • Alkalize your body on the daily. It has been scientifically proven that cancer cells can not grow in an alkalize environment. Acidic environments provide the proper breeding grounds for cancer cell growth.
      • My favorite ways to alkalize are:
        • fresh squeezed lemon water on an empty stomach
        • homemade dressing using 1 part apple cider vinegar, 1 part extra virgin olive oil
        • eating dark greens at each meal
        • green juices and powders (Remember to choose quality over quantity, and avoid green juices that are loaded with too much sugar)
    • Take a food based vitamin D supplement once a day, after having a meal or snack that contains a healthy fat (vitamin D is fat soluble). In terms of what dosage to take, that depends on your current levels. Your doctor and holistic health coach can help you with this based on your bloodwork.
    • Drink plenty of water on the daily
      • When you don't drink lots of water, you are not taking care of your cells at the most basic physical level. How can you be healthy if you are dehydrated? Aim for at least 1/2 your body weight in ounces. If you're an active individual, drink even more.
    • Be on the lookout for any underlying infections
      • Infectious disease is all around us. In functional medicine, treating underlying infections is key to heal the root cause of chronic disease. When you have a swollen lymph node, it is often your body fighting an infection. You can monitor this by keeping up with bloodwork and monitoring any abnormal white blood cell activity.
    • Get your c reactive protein tested, it is a marker for inflammation in the body. If you find your body is highly inflamed, here are some things you can do to reduce your overall inflammation
      • incorporate fresh ginger into your day
      • incorporate turmeric (both fresh and powder) into your day
      • get tested for food sensitivities that may be causing inflammation 
      • take an omega 3 oil supplement daily

5) Trust your story
Remember: At the end of the day, you can't guarantee anything. Sure, you can follow these tips, but nothing guarantees your full immunity. That's kind of how this life works.

Does that mean you should throw it in the bag and do nothing? Um, absolutely not. These methods are scientifically based methods to increase your breast health. I use them myself and I know they make a difference because I used to a live a not so healthy life years ago.

I used to really fear breast cancer. I don't really fear it anymore. I know I am doing my part and that's all I can do.

At the same time, we must remember that "what is meant for us will not pass us by".

In the Qur'an, Allah SWT tells us that:

{Certainly, We shall test you with fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits; but give glad tidings to the patient—those who, when afflicted with calamity say, "Truly to Allah we belong, and truly to Him shall we return." It is those who will be awarded blessings and mercy from their Lord; and it is those who are the guided ones.} (Al-Baqarah 2:155–157)

Therefore, do your part, and leave the rest in the hands of the Most High, inshaAllah.