What Everyone Should Know About Breast Cancer : A Q&A With Dr. Cheng Ruan Part Two
In part one of our Breast Cancer Awareness Q&A series, our Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Cheng Ruan, broke down what breast cancer is and ways we can be proactive about detecting and screening for breast cancer. Continuing our series, Dr. Ruan details tips on best practices and routines we can all follow daily to help limit the risk of developing breast cancer, and cancer in general.
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What are the overarching themes that help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer or experiencing a recurrence?
For people who want to prevent cancer, for those who currently have cancer, and for those people who may be in remission, it’s the same underlying principles. Stress reduction, a healthy lifestyle, exercise, and clean, colorful eating all play a vital role in reducing risk.
Let’s talk about eating. What types of eating habits do you suggest to help reduce the risk of developing breast cancer, and cancer in general?
There’s not one particular eating style per se, because different genetics dictate different modulations. But as an overall rule, a really easy method to follow is to eat all the colors of the spectrum of the rainbow that occur naturally in nature. You want to get your blues and purples, reds and greens, yellows and all the different phytonutrients and plant-based nutrients.
The reason we like to do this is because each of those colors represents different micronutrients and antioxidants within the actual plants. Instead of having a PhD in nutrition and having to know what minerals and vitamins are in each plant, just go by the colors. That’s an easy thing to do, even my five-year-old can do that. Get all the colors of the spectrum on a weekly basis and be very diligent about it. I guarantee people will start noticing more mental clarity and health differences over time. Just as in hemp, where there’s an entourage effect with the terpenes and cannabinoids, we also want to create that entourage effect within the body with different colored plants, fruits, and vegetables. Specifically, you want to focus on blue, dark red, and purple hues, and even brown. Those are the most common colors that are missing in the standard American diet.
In addition to consuming those colorful phytonutrients, what else can we be mindful of in regard to healthy eating and diet?
I’ve read every single diet you can possibly think of and every one has a commonality. That’s eating all the colors of the rainbow and going organic. It’s really as simple as that, to begin with. Sticking to organic and limiting the toxic exposure our food is subjected to is really crucial. You want to make sure your foods are certified organic because the pesticides are considered quite dangerous when it comes to hormone disruption and especially for breast cancer where there’s a huge link between breast cancer and pesticides. Also, in some areas of the U.S. there are heavy metal contaminants in soil. That’s another reason why keeping to organics is really important. If you really want to eat meats like beef–which is technically a carcinogen—I highly recommend grass-fed and grass-finished red meats because they are fed things that are good for the beef. We have to remember, we’re not what we eat, but what our meat eats.
We also know there are components in chicken that can be toxic. For example, chicken breasts are getting larger and larger these days. It’s because these chickens are fed high amounts of antibiotics and that’s what wipes out the good gut microbiome of the chicken. So the chickens naturally have impaired metabolism and grow bigger and bigger. That may be great for profits, but it’s terrible for the consumer. Chickens are also hormone fed and these hormones have a huge implication in breast cancer and other hormone propagated cancers like prostate. So it’s really important to get chicken raised with no hormones or antibiotics. You’ll notice the breasts are generally smaller and the texture is different too. Organic chicken is actually more palatable.
You also want to listen to your body. If you get upset or diarrhea or constipation from something you eat then don’t force it. Everyone is different. We come from different cultures. Our gut bacteria is different, our metabolism and genetics are different. If you are eating food that makes you feel exceptionally good the next day then that’s a really good sign. If you don’t feel well, then think about what you ate the day before and try to isolate it. Trusting your gut and body is far more important than a diet trend you have found on the internet.
What has cultural history taught us about healthy eating?
It’s no secret or surprise if you look at all the cultures of the world, that these cultures represent the amount of knowledge that’s gathered over the centuries about food. And all the superfoods are colors of dark red, blue, purple, and brown because of the massive amounts of antioxidants they contain. People for centuries have understood what’s good for them overall, what helps their immune system, and what helps the immune system fight off different cancer cells and different processes that inhibit overall health.
How does quality sleep and stress reduction minimize cancer risks?
By far, the most important thing that we teach people about cancer risk prevention is sleep and stress reduction. It’s actually significantly more important than diet and exercise. For example, we know that if you go through a period of transcendental meditation for 20 minutes twice a day, there is research that shows it upregulates one gene that inhibited prostate cancer and downregulated another gene that promotes prostate cancer.
You’re actually affecting your genetics through meditation, mindfulness, and deep breathing practices. It doesn’t matter what genes you’re born with, what matters is the genes you express, and those mindfulness and meditation exercises have a profound effect on the genome and the way our brains are wired. Those people who have had miraculous results in our practice, what makes them successful is that they adopt the mind and body medicine practices like mindfulness, meditation, and deep breathing exercises as part of their daily routine. When that happens their genetic expression is able to change dramatically. With that, other good habits follow along. It becomes less of a chore to eat healthy or to exercise. It’s something that can be ingrained into any lifestyle.
It’s super important to move our body regularly. What do you suggest in regard to exercise and activity?
First, let’s define what exercise really means. In my definition, when it comes to cancer prevention, the point of exercise is to detox. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you sweat for 30 minutes of the day. If you’re one of those people who has a hard time sweating, try to do something that allows you to sweat, like infrared saunas. That’ll allow the detoxification to naturally occur in the body.
Also, for those people who are already proficient in exercising, over-exercising can create huge hormone disruptions. So overtraining can be just as bad as not moving. If you’re going to the gym and killing it for two to three hours a day, listen to your body. If you’re really fatigued after, it’s not because you worked out, it’s because you worked out for such a long time that your adrenaline drive goes kaput. And that causes major issues of hormone disruptions which can promote cancer as well.
If you’re someone who likes the gym, remember that the equipment in the gym can be filthy too. Make sure to clean your hands, and wash with soap, not just Purell or sanitizers. We know there are bacterial spores that are on gym equipment that do not get killed with hand sanitizers. We know specifically Clostridia, for example, has a high association with different cancers like colon, breast, and prostate. So regular old soap and water works great to eliminate these types of bacteria.
How can people limit their exposure to plastics toxicity?
There’s a lot of people who store plastic bottles in their garage or attic where it gets super hot. Those environments promote the leaching of plastic chemicals into the water. That’s not great if you’re trying to prevent cancer. We know for example that components within plastics, specifically BPA or bisphenol A, are harmful. You definitely want to go with BPA-free bottles, cooking equipment, and storage containers.
Also, when you purchase something at a store you want to have them email you a receipt or ask to take a picture of the receipt for your records because the waxy substance on receipts is a highly toxic carcinogen, and of course people touch the receipt and then put their fingers in or around their mouths. Those are simple things that can decrease plastic toxicity.