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Healthy Breast Lifestyle

Breast cancer is the second most common cancer in women, after skin cancer. About 1 in 8 women born in the U.S. will get breast cancer, causing distress and discomfort, potentially costing lots of money, and leading to many deaths. Having a periodic breast health screening and practicing a lifestyle that promotes breast health can be the difference between living cancer-free and dealing with this debilitating disease!

Screening Options

There are a number of tests available for breast health screening. In America, conventional doctors order mammograms for breast screening and use ultrasound and MRI for further investigation of abnormalities. Thermography is widely used around the world and has a long history of use in Europe. Thermography uses infrared imaging of the breast to detect abnormalities five to eight years before the change would be seen on mammogram. 

The difference between a mammogram and thermascan is simple. Mammography is able to diagnose changes in the anatomy--or physical structure--of the breast tissue such as masses, micro calcifications or dense breast tissue. These anatomic changes result from chronic physiologic changes in the breast. Thermography examines the physiology--or physical and chemical processes--within the breast. Specifically, a thermascan uses a change in the predicted pattern of heat in the breast to identify "hot spots" where there may be either an early cancer or inflammation, or both. A thermascan takes a thermal picture of the outer chest that shows temperatures of tissues, like the color map used to show weather. Healthy breasts are cooler than the rest of the body. Heat is generated by cancer cells and inflammation; inflammation is a high risk factor for cancer. Thermography can detect an abnormality when there are as few as about 300 abnormal breast cells. However, it takes more than 4 billion abnormal cells (an anatomical change) to be detected by mammography. This is the difference of a 2 millimeter spot and a 10 millimeter spot! This is why thermography detects abnormalities five to eight years before mammography.

Many women have breast cysts or lumps. Fortunately, 90% of these are not cancerous. In younger women a single non-tender lump is usually a non-cancerous tumor called an adenoma. Some women have fibrocystic breasts--lumpy breasts that are tender before their period, which are also not cancerous. However, Fibrocystic Breast Disease has been shown to increase the risk of breast cancer. Breast lumps should not be ignored. If a lump is NOT tender and does not go away or get smaller with onset of the menstrual cycle, a woman needs a mammogram or an ultrasound and possibly a biopsy to look at the cells and determine what is causing the lump.

Other Testing options

·                     Genetic testing

·                     Hormone levels

·                     Estrogen metabolism

·                     Methylation

·                     Hemoglobin A1C

In the media and tabloids there has been information about genetic testing for BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 as several actresses have undergone bilateral mastectomy once they found out they had this genetic risk for breast cancer. The function of these genes is to keep breast cells growing normally and prevent any cancer cell growth. Changes to these two genes put a woman at risk for breast cancer as well as ovarian and other cancers. Genetics research has found other genetic alterations that are also linked to breast cancer, but BRCA 1 and 2 are the most commonly tested genetic markers.

There are other tests that can be obtained that might be helpful in determining one's cancer risk. First it is important to know a woman's hormone levels, specifically her estrogens and progesterone. Also, a urine test can be performed to determine how she is metabolizing estrogen. One form of estrogen metabolism is particularly carcinogenic. If a woman is making a high amount of carcinogenic estrogen, supplements can be given to direct metabolism to other forms of estrogen. Methylation is a chemical reaction that happens in our cells to neutralize toxins so that they can be removed from the body. Methylation is also involved at a DNA level to repair and protect DNA and prevent cancer. Some people are not able to methylate effectively and are at increased risk of cancer due to damaged DNA or increased toxins. Integrative physicians can test a person's methylation ability and recommend supplements to optimize this chemical process.

All cancer feeds on sugar. One way to prevent breast cancer, as well as other forms of cancer, is to keep blood sugar low. Conventional doctors test Hemoglobin A1C to determine the average blood sugar over the previous 3 months to monitor and diagnose diabetes. A person is considered to have diabetes when their Hemoglobin A1C is over 6.5. An optimal Hemoglobin A1C to prevent cancer is 5.2 to 5.4. So, people with diabetes are also at risk of developing cancer. A diet low is sugar and carbohydrates is the best way to keep blood sugar down. It is also recommended to avoid processed and restaurant food and eat lots of organic vegetables, organic grass fed meats and healthy fats. 

Breast and Bras

Wearing a brassier restricts the breasts. Let's compare breasts and testicles. A man's testicles are warmer when held close to the body, which reduces testosterone and sperm production. When a couple wants to get pregnant, fertility clinics will tell the male partner to get out of tight fitting underwear to allow the testicles to be cooler and move freely. This increases sperm production and fertility. When young boys have a testicle that does not descend naturally into the scrotal sack, that testicle is either surgically brought into the scrotal sack or surgically removed because it has a 50% greater risk of developing cancer. Breasts, like testicles, are meant to be cooler, as seen in thermography. Bras keep breasts warmer and restrict blood and lymph flow. The lymphatic system is the filtration system for our body--the way to remove toxins and waste. Adequate blood flow in the breasts brings in nutrients and distributes hormones that are made in the breasts. Wearing tight bras, especially those with underwires, compress the tissues and reduce the blood and lymph systems, allowing the buildup of toxins and estrogen in the breast tissue that lead to fibrocystic breast and breast cancer. 

Studies from around the world have shown that women who wear bras have a higher rate of breast abnormalities. A study from Scotland in 2014 reported that breast cancer may be caused by "cleavage-enhancing bras, due to the constricting effect of in-built wiring on breast tissue and the lymphatic system". A study from Brazil in the Spring of 2016 showed the more hours a woman wears a bra and the tighter the bra, the greater the incidence of breast cancer in both pre and post-menopausal women.

This is not new information. The first study to recognize an association between brassiere usage and the risk of breast cancer was published in 1991 by Harvard researchers. They found premenopausal bra-free women had a 50% lower risk of breast cancer compared to bra users. Sydney Ross Singer and his wife, Soma Grismaijer published a book, Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras, which showed how they became interested in breast issues while studying populations of women in Fiji. Women in Fiji who adopted American styles of dress and wore brassieres developed more fibrocystic breasts and breast cancer compared to those who wore native dress, without bras. Singer and Grismaijer returned to America and studied a larger population of women; they found that the longer a woman wore a bra, the greater her risk of developing breast cancer. In the 21 years since the book, Dressed to Kill, many women and some physicians have experimented with not wearing bras or wearing them for only short periods of time. They have found that premenstrual pain and tenderness decreased, and breast lumps diminished. Reportedly, these women had a lower rate of breast cancer.

If you have breast discomfort, breast lumps or are concerned about breast cancer, try going bra free for 30 days or more. See for yourself how much better you can feel. It does not cost money and it does not take a lot of time. It does require you to think about what you wear in a different way. If you do not want to go without a bra completely try something without an underwire like a "shelf bra" or camisole. Use scarves, puckered tops, vests, jackets, etc. to disguise the fact that you are not wearing a bra. If you have a special occasion or outfit for which you really need to wear a bra, get out of the bra as soon as you can. Don't stay in anything restrictive and don't sleep in a bra. Singer and Grismaijer found that wearing a bra for more than 12 hours at a time increases the risk of breast cancer. Once going bra free, most women notice improvement in breast lumps and breast tenderness. Some women notice a transient period of increased breast tenderness or achiness as toxins are moving out of the breast cells and into the lymphatic system. This generally does not last more than three weeks even in large breasted women. If you feel discomfort, massage your breasts to move out the toxins. 

Healthy Breast Lifestyle

·                     Minimize bra use

·                     Keep blood sugar low

·                     Maintain adequate levels of vitamins A and D

·                     Keep cell phones away from breasts

·                     Use iodine

·                     Eat ground flax seeds

·                     Eat a healthy diet

·                     Get moving

Adequate levels of vitamins A and D are essential for optimal breast health. Both of these vitamins keep the cells in our body healthy and have been found to prevent the growth and spread of breast cancer cells. Integrative physicians usually recommend higher blood levels of these vitamins to reduce the risk of cancer. For vitamin D, tested as 25-hydroxy vitamin D, optimal levels need to be between 65 and 100. For vitamin A, optimal levels are 65 to 85. Both are fat soluble vitamins, meaning they can build up in the body, since they are not quickly cleared out in urine, and become toxic. Therefore, periodic testing is important. Vitamin D can be obtained from food such as milk and fish, and our bodies convert cholesterol to Vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight. We can get vitamin A from foods such as mushrooms, carrots and sweet potatoes. But to ensure higher levels of these important nutrients dietary supplements are recommended

Iodine enhances the immune function and lymphatic flow. In experiments using tissue cultures, Iodine has been found to kill breast cancer cells. For generations we have known it is important for thyroid health, which is why in America iodine is added to table salt in very small quantities. Ingestion of large amounts of table salt is not recommended, but iodine can be taken as oral supplementation or as a prescription liquid called Lugol's solution which is put directly on the breasts. Lugol's solution is also helpful in reducing fibrocystic breast lumps and tenderness. 

Cell phones and smart devices give off a form of energy known as radiofrequency (RF) waves as they send and receive signals. Anytime the power is turned on, cell phones emit electromagnetic radiation, even in standby mode. There has been significant research showing that cell phones held near the head causes brain wave changes and that radiation from the phone penetrates through the skull two inches into the brain in adults and further in children. These facts have been linked to the increased rate of brain cancers. As reports, "Many insurance companies are so alarmed by this evidence that they now exclude health issues related to cell phone radiation from coverage." Unlike holding a phone to your ear where there is a skull bone to block radiation and RF, when a cell phone is in a bra, directly against the skin, these harmful energy waves go directly into breast tissue. There is increasing evidence that putting cell phones in bras increases a woman's risk of breast cancer, especially in women under the age of 40. There are several studies of young women with no family history of breast cancer and no BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 gene mutations that have developed breast cancer and they frequently carried their cell phone in their bra. In the legal section of user information for iPhone 5, Apple states, "To reduce exposure to RF energy, use a hands- free option, such as the built –in speakerphone, the supplied headphones or similar accessories. Carry iPhone at least 10 mm away from your body to ensure exposure levels remain at or below the as-tested levels". A woman can reduce her risk of breast cancer by keeping cellular devices away from her breasts and keeping her breasts out of bras. 

Many physicians feel that the exponential increase in all cancers in recent decades is due to environmental factors and an aging population. We can reduce our exposure to toxins and electromagnetic frequencies and clean up our diets to reduce the amounts of toxins in our bodies. We can stay on daily supplements and detoxifying foods to help keep toxins and inflammation low. We can avoid over consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and toxic foods. These steps reduce the risk of breast cancer as well as other cancers and reduce our risk of other chronic diseases.


Is Mold Making You Ill?

That musty smell in a house, that black stain in the corner, are they a problem? For some people, the answer may be yes, it is making you sick and you may not even know it. Take for example Jane and her family. Jane is a business executive with three school age children. She took care to provide the family a healthy diet of home prepared, organic foods. Everyone in the family was healthy, active and did well in school and work.  Suddenly things changed. The youngest child age 8, developed asthma and was hospitalized with bronchitis. The middle child, who was normally active and athletic, complained of fatigue and weakness. He became unusually irritable, depressed and his grades dropped. The oldest, in middle school, developed frequent headaches and abdominal pain. Jane herself, had trouble concentrating at work and was forgetful. She noticed she was having trouble seeing her computer screen, but thought it was because she was getting older.  One day, a plumber called to repair the dishwasher, noticed a dark stain behind the appliance and under the sink. There had been an undetected leak in the water line for some time.  Very wisely, the plumber recommended testing the area for mold. The sample revealed three different kinds of mold, one of which was Stachybotrys, also know as, “Toxic Black Mold”. The leak was repaired, then the area was safely and professionally cleaned. Jane and the children were treated for toxic exposure and most of their symptoms resolved.

Common Symptoms of mold related illness are…

·        Fatigue and weakness

·        Headache, light sensitivity

·        Poor memory, difficult word finding

·        Red eyes, blurred vision

·        Difficulty concentrating

·        Morning stiffness, joint pain

·        Shortness of breath, sinus congestion or chronic cough

·        Appetite swings, body temperature regulation

·        Abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation

·        Increased urinary frequency or increased thirst

·       Mood swings, sharp pains

·       Tearing, disorientation, metallic taste in mouth

·       Vertigo, feeling lightheaded

How could a little leak cause some much illness?

 Water damage is very common, why do we not hear more about mold related illness? As we see from Jane’s story, toxic mold exposure causes varied and vague affects. Each person in the family had different symptoms and Jane’s spouse was unaffected. Some people are genetically more susceptible to the effects of mold. It is estimated that 25% of the American population carry the HLA-DR gene, making them susceptible to mold and toxins. People with this gene cannot clear toxins from theirs bodies and tend to have more allergies.  Some molds are very allergenic. However, allergy to mold is only one of the ways that mold effects the body. Molds also cause irritation to tissues, cause infections, disrupt the immune system, cause diffuse inflammation, and alter hormone production.

Mold is a type of fungus, like a mushroom, that spreads by spores through the air. Mold and spores can be found indoors, outside and in food. Microscopic spores are easily spread and can survive harsh environmental conditions for long periods of time. When mold spores are in warm moist conditions they begin to grow, feed and produce more spores.  Commonly called “Black Mold”, Stachybotrys grows on household surfaces that have high cellulose content, such as wood, fiberboard, sheet rock, paper, dust, and lint. This mold requires constant moisture such as the conditions in Jane’s kitchen with a plumbing leak.

Like most living organisms, mold has mechanisms to protect itself and compete for food. Mold produces toxins called, mycotoxins, to compete with other microscopic organisms. Different molds produce different mycotoxins which can be measured in the body of people exposed to the mycotoxin. For example, Aflatoxin is a mycotoxin produced by Aspergillus mold. It can be found in or on foods that are stored such as animal feed, rice, seeds and peanuts. According to the CDC, Aflatoxin causes liver disease and liver cancer.

Stachybotrys produces a mycotoxin called Trichothecene which is used as a biological weapon because it is extremely toxic and difficult to destroy.  Trichothecene can be absorbed through the skin, ingested and inhaled, causing damage to various organ systems and altering the immune system. A weak immune system allows bacteria and other infections to grow, especially in nasal sinus and lungs.

You may have mold exposure or mold sensitivity if you answer yes to some of these questions.

·         Do musty odors, chemical smells or perfume bother you?

·         Have you worked or lived in a building where the air vents or ceiling tiles were                          discolored?

·         Have you noticed water damage or discoloration elsewhere?

·         Has your home been flooded?

·         Have you had leaks in the roof?

·         Have you experienced a sudden decline in health?

·         Do you experience unusual shortness of breath?

·         Do you experience recurring sinus infections?

·         Do you experience recurring respiratory infections and coughing?

·         Do you have frequent flu-like symptoms?

·         Do your symptoms worsen on rainy days?

·         Do you have frequent headaches?

If you think you have mold in your home

Do not panic! Household mold is common, especially in bathrooms and not all mold cause illness. Most molds can be cleaned up without hiring a professional or using harsh chemicals. However, if you think you are ill from mold you may want to protect yourself or someone else clean. Wear gloves, eye protection and a Half Mask Respirator from a hardware store which costs around $25. Clorox is not recommended because it gives off a strong gas and odor which is irritating especially if someone is chemically sensitive after a mold exposure. Borax mixed with water or made into a paste works well as does hydrogen peroxide. Grapefruit Seed Extract, 20 drops in two cups of water in a sprayer bottle is another natural treatment.  Vinegar or Vodka also work well and are safe around food, children, and pets, as long as they do not drink it.

Moisture control is critical! Mold cannot grow without the right conditions. Leaks need to be completely repaired, and good ventilation maintained. Bathrooms and damp areas need a vent and/or dehumidifier. Basements and crawl spaces may need improved drainage, sump pumps and a dehumidifier.

If you smell a musty, moldy odor throughout your home or have extensive mold growth, an air quality specialist may be needed for professional testing. Do-it-your self mold testing kits are not reliable. In Greensboro, Environmental Solutions Group is a good resource and can also guide in remediation of water damaged areas.

 Recovery from Mold Related Illness

Unfortunately, many conventional physicians are not trained in how to detect and treat mold related illness and exposure to mycotoxins. Therefore, people affected are often treated for mood disorders or other illness and they do not get better. Mold exposure can be confirmed by checking blood for antibodies to certain molds, checking for metabolic markers and checking for the presence of mycotoxins.

If you think you are ill from mold exposure, you do not have to wait for testing. Remove yourself from the building for 3 to 5 days. If your symptoms improve, then investigate the building for mold or water damage. Avoiding the infected location is the first step to treatment. Other treatments involve removing the toxins from the body, treating infections such as sinusitis, and healing affected tissues. Often mold exposed people develop autoimmune disorders such as thyroiditis, chemical sensitivities and new allergies. This is due to an altered immune system which must also be treated. Treatment is not a quick fix with one pill. Recovery time depends on the severity of a person’s illness, the length of exposure and other medical conditions they may have.

~Dr. Ami Ingram 5/2018