18 Jan Breast health: because prevention is cure
When I reflect upon advice and guidance on health, nutrition and wellness from the Qur’an and Sunnah – from fasting and the properties of food, to the quantity of food one should consume and the benefits of exercise – everything essentially comes down to the cultivation of good, healthy lifestyle habits to prevent illness and dis-ease.
So when reading about breast cancer and maintaining breast health, I found that much of the advice correlates with what we already practice as Muslims (Alhamdulilah for Islam!). Whilst men can also be affected by breast cancer, it is the most common type of cancer in women, in ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries. 1 out of 8 will be diagnosed with breast cancer subhanAllah, and this number will only increase. Merely 5-10% of breast cancer occurs from genetics, therefore much responsibility falls on how we treat and nurture ourselves.
Breast cancer is known to be associated with excess levels of oestrogen, and the higher the oestrogen exposure, the higher the risk of developing breast cancer. Whilst oestrogen is a vital hormone for healthy nourishment, one can have an excess of oestrogen or poor-quality oestrogen. Breast tissue is rife with oestrogen receptors, and so may be more vulnerable to chemical pollutants, oestrogen-like pollutants and other endocrine disruptors.
Dr Christian Gonzalez, a Naturopath and Functional Medicine practitioner, gave the following advice to protect your breasts:
- Get your breasts checked monthly (ideally by a qualified health care professional) or get a thermography (a radiation free test that can show disease before it is seen on traditional imaging).
- ‘Limit’ alcohol intake – it causes 7 different cancers (breast, pancreatic, kidney, liver, thyroid, bladder, leukaemia). SubhanAllah, clearly one example as to why the consumption of alcohol is forbidden for Muslims – God is certainly the Most Wise.
- Eat a whole food, plant-based diet.
- With the help of a naturopath or functional doctor, rectify any hormonal imbalances.
- Drink organic green tea all day, every day. Green tea turns off the different mechanisms that cancerous tumours use to grow; it helps stop capillaries from growing around tumours to feed them.
- Keep your phone away from your breasts.
- Get toxin and heavy metal lab testing run yearly – again, seek a qualified naturopath or health practitioner for guidance.
- You must have daily bowel movements – this is SO important for the prevention of toxic build-up and dis-eases in the body.
- Avoid oral contraceptives. In 2005, the World Health Organisation’s cancer research group reclassified the Pill from “possible carcinogenic to humans” to “carcinogenic to humans.” Learn to track your menstrual cycle naturally, connect with your womb and body, even if you are not sexually active. There are many safer, natural and cleaner alternatives of birth control, such as apps like my flo, or a thermometer like Daysy (although it is much pricier, it will be worth it the long run inshaAllah). In addition, Jülide Turker considers it obligatory as Muslims to track our cycles, ‘so that we know when to make ghusl and differentiate between a regular bleed and one that is irregular to decide whether or not we are ready to wash up and pray’.
- Stay away from plastic as it is a potent hormone disruptor. Plastic is xenoestrogen, i.e. a compound that acts as oestrogen and can completely throw off hormones. When xenoestrogens enter the body, they increase the total amount of oestrogen, resulting in oestrogen dominance. Symptoms of oestrogen dominance include autoimmune dis-eases, PMS, infertility, irregular periods, depression, anxiety, cancers, allergies, decreased libido, osteoporosis, weight gain, headaches and hair loss. Furthermore, xenoestrogens are not biodegradable, and so they are stored in our fat cells.
- Exercise daily – both aerobic (like brisk walking, swimming) and anaerobic (like weight training, body weight training and HIIT).
- Eat cruciferous vegetables.
- Fast at least 13 hours. We should try our best to follow the sunnah and fast every Monday and Thursday inshaAllah. Even on the days Aunt Flow comes to visit, we can try ‘fasting’ from Fajr to Maghrib, drinking only water and herbal teas to benefit from the detox.
- Cultivate a normal sleep rhythm and always sleep in pitch black darkness.
- Remove all toxic personal care products and replace with organic, clean products. At first, it might seem as if clean, natural and organic personal care products are a lot more expensive than the regular products that one might be used to, but it truly is not that different. Last year, I calculated how much I spent on organic sanitary pads, and compared it how much I used to spend on Always pads, and I found that I only spent £6 more in the whole year!
- Consume mushrooms regularly – it is associated with decreased risk of breast, stomach and colorectal cancers. Studies have shown that women who ate at least 10 grams of fresh mushrooms each day (which equates to one mushroom per day) had a 64% decreased risk of breast cancer. One study showed that the risk of breast cancer was decreased in pre- and postmenopausal women when they ate fresh or dried mushrooms and drank green tea daily. White, Portobello, shiitake, reishi and oyster mushrooms all have anti-cancer properties. Some are anti-inflammatory, some stimulate the immune system, prevent DNA damage, slow cancer cell growth, cause programmed cancer cell death, and inhibit angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels, which is what we do not want around tumour/cancer cell growth).
In the book, Balance Your Hormones, Balance your Life, Dr Claudia Welch dedicates an entire chapter to breast health with a focus on Ayuervedic teachings. Ayuerveda calls the accumulation of toxicity in the body, and therefore dis-eases and cancers, ama, which translates to ‘toxic sludge’. Ama arises from external toxic chemicals (such as BPA found in plastic), poor-quality food, poorly digested food and lack of movement. Ama circulates the bloodstream, lodges in the breast tissue and causing stagnation. This further demonstrates why a high-fibre diet, rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and minimal amounts of organic meat/poultry, and cutting out of processed foods, sugar and white flour, is vital to good digestion, healthy bowel movements and consequently, less excess oestrogen.
To alleviate stagnation and ama in the breasts, Dr Claudia Welch recommends deep, diaphragmatic breathing, massaging your own breasts daily (perhaps during abhyanga – a warm oil, self body massage) to stimulate healthy flow of energy around the chest, avoid wearing underwired bras (there are plenty of good-quality, padded, wireless bras to purchase in most high street stores) and to stop spraying armpits with antiperspirants.
Most, if not all, antiperspirants contain aluminium and parabens which is absorbed by the skin and mimics oestrogen. A lot of popular makeup brands also contains parabens, which are not only carcinogenic but also mimic oestrogen. I have made an intention to change all personal care and beauty products to natural, organic and paraben-free products, and for make-up, this list has been incredibly helpful.
Ultimately, our body is an amanah – a trust from Allah. Taking care of this gift, as well as the physical health of our loved ones, friends and ummah – wherever and however possible, should be an utmost priority. We should not misuse it, nor take it for granted. If Allah chooses to test us with an illness or dis-ease, we hope and pray for expiation through it, pray for ease, seek forgiveness from Allah, make any necessary changes to our lifestyle, seek proper medical attention (holistic where possible!) and trust that He is the Best of Planners.
- Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life by Dr Claudia Welch
- Herbal Detox Tea Recipes by Organic Olivia