How to Prevent Breast Cancer Naturally the First AND Second Time

How to Prevent Breast Cancer Naturally the First AND Second Time

When breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in American women only after skin cancer what can you do to prevent it for the first AND second time?

If you’ve already had breast cancer you’re at a higher risk of getting another breast cancer, or another type of cancer according to the American Cancer Association.

Two-time cancer survivor Kirstin Nussburger knows first hand how important an integrative and functional medicine approach is to preventing and healing from breast cancer even when you are leading an otherwise healthy life. She is a cancer nutrition expert, empathetic mentor and best-selling author of Confessions of a Cancer Conqueror – My 5 Step Process to Transform Your Relationship with Cancer where she offers a roadmap to begin healing from cancer, based on both her professional and personal experiences.

Here’s what Kirstin has to say about preventing breast cancer for the first AND second time:

Kirsi Bhasin: Tell us about how you first got diagnosed with breast cancer and what followed after that.

Kirstin Nussgruber: When I was diagnosed at age 39, that was the exact same age my aunt actually passed away from metastasized breast cancer. She was first diagnosed at age 34 back in the ’90s and then it reoccurred and metastasized to her liver. I kept thinking I’ve got to make it to 39 and boom, I was diagnosed at 39.

At the same time I got diagnosed, my mom was going through her second round of breast cancer and had just started chemotherapy.

I was slowly coming to terms with all this and had all sorts of questions running through my mind like,“is it really my turn?”

For me it was always clear that I have to really tackle this from all angles. It seemed that breast cancer was in our genes, but I soon found out that I did not carry the BRCA 1 or BRCA 2 genes.

I took an integrative approach right from the start. I did conventional treatments and looked at other factors like nutrition. It was important to me, as I was studying it at the time.

In my case, I wasn’t overweight and I lived a pretty healthy lifestyle, but there are so many other things that possibly contribute to cancer. It’s the reason why I wrote my book to share my story and the important areas you need to look at.

Kirsi Bhasin: It sounds like for you it was a real wakeup call both times you got diagnosed to go deeper and think about what is going on and why?

Kirstin Nussgruber: Yes, absolutely. And to realize that we’re all different. We make different choices in terms of how to fight this and we can have different outcomes. There is no direct right or wrong path, but rather the right path for you at the time. I can list people, who went on the journey with me who chose different methods, and some survived and some did not. There are so many different scenarios.

What I would say is understand that we need to tackle this from different angles and we need to listen to why this comes up.

To give an example of why my diagnosis was a wake-up call for me, at least the first time around, is the fact that I had a very difficult relationship as an adult with my mother.

It lingered in the background. It wasn’t really something that could be resolved by just meeting up and talking. That was never ever going to be a possibility. Every now and then, there would be an incident between her and me that would upset me emotionally, but also affected me physically.

If you are emotionally upset, tune into your body and figure out where you are hurting and what is happening in your body. For me, it was the area where my heart Chakra is. It felt like it was on fire whenever I had an incident with my mother.

My wake-up call was that I needed to figure out how to deal with this. I needed to make it my main responsibility. We all have scenarios like that. Whatever is the most painful for you emotionally is exactly what you need to focus on.

I believe that a chronic disease like cancer and other chronic diseases as well sprout up because we’ve ignored these emotionally upsetting situations. We need to focus on treating that just as much as we focus on treating cancer. With the same vigor, dedication and commitment to treating cancer we need to focus on the other pieces of the puzzle, one of them being emotional self- care and releasing emotional trauma.

 

Kirsi Bhasin: Could you talk a little bit about what your top tips are for preventing breast cancer for the first and second time?

Kirstin Nussgruber: We know that what can cause breast cancer can be caused by the lack of true nourishment, meaning physical nourishment of the body in terms of food and the ability to digest and absorb food. We could be eating as healthy as possible, but we’re not absorbing nutrients for various reasons. We need to focus on not just what we eat, but also on our gut.

There are lots of preventative functional tests that can be done if we think we have an issue. We should not ignore signs that indicate something is going on with our gut because it is the foundation of our immune system. We need to focus on how to best support the immune system. It’s not just about eating right, but also about digesting and absorbing our food properly.

That takes me to the second factor we have to manage – stress. If there’s one thing that most people are suffering from in the western world, it’s stress. We always feel stressed and we just accept it. It’s not going to go away easily, not with the types of lives that we’re leading, with the types of expectations that we are placing on ourselves, but we have to understand that we need to find coping mechanisms. It needs to be a priority and not constantly say I don’t have time for that because, the next thing you know, you could be diagnosed and then what?

Let’s not let that wake-up call happen. We need to make time for stress management and figure out how we best de-stress. For some, it’s a hobby. For others, it’s meditation or going to the gym. Let it be something that you enjoy doing that also allows you to switch off the outside world.

We have to learn to set boundaries for ourselves and stick to them. If we don’t set these boundaries, most of us will get diagnosed with some form of chronic illness. It seems to be a very straightforward and very obvious pattern these days. We need to wake up and realize that there are preventative steps that we need to take to manage stress.

You need to tackle the stressful situation. Sometimes, it means a career change, breaking off a relationship or dealing with a teenager. For me, it was about how I could de-stress from the interactions I had with my mother. She wasn’t going to change, she would still say hurtful things to me. Now I only have forgiveness for her because of the work that I’ve done. There was a time when it was very, very difficult, but I learned how to cope with it and forgive.

Lastly, I want to mention environmental toxins. There are so many studies out there showing what people are finding in biopsies of breast tumors, such as the chemicals we find in our cosmetic products and in our cleaning products. We should not underestimate the degree that these toxins accumulate in our bodies. If our detoxification pathways are compromised or if our system is just overloaded, it can lead to problems like hormonal imbalances and cell damage. This can happen over the course of many years. We slather products onto our bodies to look good, to feel good, to smell good, but they contain toxins and chemicals that mimic estrogen. So many of the breast cancers that are diagnosed are estrogen receptor positive, meaning that they are fueled by estrogen.

Even some pesticides mimic estrogen. We need to buy clean, toxin free products. They might cost a bit more, but are worth it in the long run. We are constantly using products on our skin every day. It’s our largest organ and easily absorbs what we put on it. Why would we want to put on a particular lotion that contains certain preservatives that are found in samples of breast cancer tumors?

Kirsi Bhasin: How do you talk to people about breast cancer as a patient? And what would you recommend people who find out they have a family member with cancer talk about it with the patient? I certainly felt at a loss when I first heard my sister had breast cancer. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know if I was saying the right thing and if it would upset her. I’d love to hear your perspective on this.

Kirstin Nussgruber: Its a normal process of shock and grieving, which is necessary. Otherwise, it could lead to a form of post-traumatic stress disorder if we don’t allow these emotions out.

Treat the patient like a human being. Say something like, “you tell me exactly what you need because I want to help you and I don’t want to do the wrong thing and I don’t want to say the wrong thing.” Be very upfront about it.

From the patient’s point of view, be very specific about the type of help you need and the type of reactions you want people to have. Be honest. People don’t know and you need to be vocal about it. Ask them to treat you like a normal human being. They may empathize with you or pity you, or are likely in a state of in shock themselves. You may want to tell them, “In order for me to gather myself again and be strong, I need you to just be yourself and realize I’m a human being. I’m alive and kicking and sometimes I’ll need you to just be there for me and listen.”

When you’re diagnosed, you carry some guilt of asking other people for help. You may think they’re too busy and you can’t ask them to do this or that. But you can, because people actually want to help. Give them an exact list of instructions. Say, “can you make a meal tonight and I want the meal to be this exact recipe.” The last thing you want is for well-meaning people to flood you with things that you can’t use. It can cause a form of resentment because your gratitude is going to be tinged with a certain type of regret. And the giver will pick up on that. So, just be very specific about what you need and want.

Talking about it as a newly diagnosed cancer patient, I think, depends on family dynamics. So I’ve had patients say to me, I absolutely do not want my immediate family to know because that would cause a lot more stress. Generally, my recommendation is understand that you are putting an emotional burden on yourself if you don’t tell them because you’re not going to receive the type of support you need if they don’t know. Sometimes, the family situation could be that you are bombarded by family members who would judge you and want to make decisions for you. You can then decide if you need the space and time to make the decision before you tell them, and that’s perfectly okay. There is no right or wrong. As the cancer patient, figure out the main type of support that you need, and if it means extra time so that you can make decisions without the influence of well-meaning, but maybe too-dominant family members, then that’s how you do it and you can tell them afterwards. That’s okay.

My Top Wellness Books

World Book Day is this Monday and I could not resist sharing some of my favorite books on health and wellness with you. I have to admit I’ve always been a book junkie. I love curling up with a good book. I can be reading anywhere from one to three books a week.

 

If you’re interested in picking up a book to do a deeper dive into improving your health and wellness here are some books to check out:

 

  1. Dirty Genes by Dr. Ben Lynch. A great read. I gobbled this one up in a day. The great thing about the genes he talks about is how we can clean them up and get them functioning better to relieve a lot of symptoms and/or health issues we may be experiencing.

 

 

  1. Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? by Dr. Mark Hyman. Dr. Hyman does it again with yet another best-selling book. He gives a really good general account of what you should be eating and dispels many misleading myths in the food industry.

 

  1. No Grain No Pain: A 30-Day Diet for Eliminating the Root Cause of Chronic Pain by Dr. Peter Osborne. This was a game-changing book for me. If you want to learn more about gluten and gluten sensitivity and how it’s affecting you this is a must-read.

 

  1. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. Did you know clutter can stress you out and affect your health? I used this guide to do a serious tidy up in our apartment and my mom’s house. If you need some relief from clutter this is the book for you.

 

What You Can Learn From My Health Journey

This past year has been a big year for me especially healthwise. I’ve been missing in action and for good reason.

 

I’m all about eating healthy and leading a healthy lifestyle. I eat a lot of organic foods and a lot of veggies. I meditate and manage my stress well. Sleep is a huge priority for me. Yet I felt something was off and what I was already doing was not enough. Little signs cropped up that made me think there was more to it.

 

Signs like feeling tired for no real reason. I thought I just needed to slow down. I only wrote a few pages a day for my upcoming book and limited my speaking engagements. But that still wore me out. Not normal.

 

I needed to dig deeper. I started first by getting my gut tested. I also got tested for toxins, heavy metals and mineral deficiencies. My tests revealed A LOT. I found out I have:

 

  • A gluten sensitivity
  • SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)
  • Copper toxicity
  • Arsenic (it can be found in our drinking water and rice. Eating brown rice was a daily must for me)
  • Mercury (I love sushi so I’m not surprised. Even eating wild caught fish doesn’t help)
  • Severe mineral deficiencies for zinc, potassium, sodium, and magnesium to name a few. (My blood test only showed low zinc)

 

In short, my energy levels were like a car with its tires stuck in the mud. I was stuck.

 

To say the least my health was a hot mess. Healing has become my #1 priority. I’m following a protocol designed especially for my unique needs right now. It’s a journey. Being healthy is a lifelong journey, not a destination where you stop once you reach a specific goal. It’s ongoing.

 

What can you do?

 

I encourage you to listen to your body – really tune in. What signs and symptoms are you getting? Dig deep and become the CEO of your health. Find out what might be at the root cause of your problems. Everyone is different. What works for one person may not work for you.

 

Become your own health advocate. Educate yourself and ask tough questions. I certainly do. While I’m working with a great team of functional medicine and wellness practitioners I update them on what I’m experiencing and what I know and have learned about myself and challenge them. I also know all my test results and have a bird’s eye view of what is happening to my health.

 

Resources you might want to look into

 

If you’re ready to look deeper here are some resources that can help:

 

 

  • Blood test with your doctor, especially a functional medicine doctor. More specifically some things to look out for:
    • Your thyroid (the full panel including TSH, T3, T4, reverse T3 and thyroid antibodies)
    • Your liver enzyme ATL levels (if it’s higher than 19 for women or 30 for men it’s suggestive of non alcoholic fatty liver disease which is reported to affect 38% of the population)
    • Your CRP levels which indicate the amount of inflammation in your body. High levels are considered a non-specific marker for disease.

 

 

  • GI Map is the most reliable gut panel. It gives you a pretty comprehensive report on what is going on in your gut. (NOTE: if you live in NY look for a practitioner out of state who you can work with long distance. NY currently does not allow for testing. You can contact the lab to get a list of practitioners.)

 

  • Hormone testing. Dr. Sara Gottfried’s book The Hormone Cure is a great place to start understanding your hormones (reproductive, adrenal and thyroid). She provides is a quiz to find out where you may need extra hormonal support.

 

  • Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) to test for heavy metals and mineral deficiencies. A HTMA looks at what minerals are reaching your cells, which cannot be seen through most other tests. For example my magnesium levels were normal according to my blood test but the HTMA revealed that I was severely lacking. This is also the most reliable test to find out if you are copper toxic. You could easily be if you’ve ever been on birth control, used a copper IUD, are or have been vegetarian, have copper pipes and/or have adrenal fatigue. The best labs to use for testing are Trace Elements (TEI) and Analytical Research Labs (ARL) through a practitioner. One place you can look one up is here. http://functionaldiagnosticnutrition.com/practitioner-inquiry-form/

 

(NOTE: if you live in NY look for a practitioner out of state who you can work with long distance. NY currently does not allow for testing.)

 

  • Genetic testing. Ben Lynch’s book “Dirty Genes” is a fantastic resource that provides a questionnaire to find out which genes you may need to “clean up” without necessarily going through the testing. The science of epigenetics, which the book focuses on, helps you understand how you influence your genes and health. You can totally support your genes to prevent disease and optimize your health. I found that by doing a real genetic test I got some profound and more detailed insights on my health and root causes of my ailments that the book does not go into. If you really want to dig deeper you can order your genetic test through 23andme and send the raw data for further analysis to Strategene.

 

  • Gluten intolerance testing. The most reliable way to know if you truly are sensitive to gluten and not just to the mold in it, for example, is genetic testing. You can order it here. The GI Map can also indicate whether you are sensitive or not by measuring your antibodies for gliadin, a marker for gluten sensitivity. To know for sure if you are genetically hard-wired to be sensitive to gluten get the genetic test here.

 

Most of your testing can be done through your functional, integrative or naturopathic medicine doctor or practitioner but if not you can order some basic hormone tests at:

 

The Canary Club www.canaryclub.org

Direct Labs www.directlabs.com

 

This is an investment. If you feel off despite your best efforts to lead a healthy life it’s worth it. You are worth it and most of all you deserve it.

One Overlooked Quality That Will Make You Sleep Better and Be Healthier

Rome was not built in a day and neither is your life. Instant gratification is the norm today. We get texts, emails, downloads in a split second but building a career, a relationship or running a marathon doesn’t happen that fast. It requires one key virtue; patience.

 

Especially if you’re the type of person who wants it fast and right now listen up because having patience will be extra helpful to ease the irritability that often comes up for you.

 

Philosophers and spiritual enthusiasts have long been calling patience a virtue. Now there is research to show just how beneficial it is.

 

Patience can:

 

  • Improve our health. A study done at the University of Austin, Texas found that people who exhibit impatience and irritability tend to have more health complaints and worse sleep. Another study by Fuller Theological Seminary professor Sarah A. Schnitker and UC Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons found that patient people were less likely to have health problems like headaches, ulcers, acne, diarrhea, and pneumonia.

 

  • Improve our mental health. That same study by Schnitker and Emmons found that patient people usually are less prone to depression and negative emotions. This is most likely because they can cope better with upsetting or stressful situations. They also consider themselves more mindful. They feel more gratitude, more connection to mankind and to the universe, and a greater sense of abundance. Who wouldn’t want to feel that?

 

  • Help us achieve our goals. It takes consistent effort over time. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you live your life and get closer to your goals? One moment and step at a time. Taking a seemingly insufficient step forward can eventually lead you to the prize.

According to a 2012 study by Schitker patient people reported putting in more effort toward their goals than other people did. In particular, those with interpersonal patience (the type of patience that doesn’t involve waiting but rather simply facing annoying or frustrating people calmly and with a level head.) made more progress and were more satisfied when they achieved their goals compared with less patient people.  The greater satisfaction with achieving their goals explained why the patient achievers were more content with their lives.

 

The keys to unlocking more patience

 

In another 2012 study, Schnitker invited 71 undergraduates to participate in two weeks of patience training. The training included the following steps:

  1. Learning to be aware and recognize feelings and what triggered them
  2. Controlling their emotions
  3. Cultivating empathy for others
  4. Meditating

 

The great news: in just two weeks, participants reported feeling more patient toward the challenging people in their lives, feeling less depressed, and experiencing higher levels of positive emotions. Patience is definitely something you can practice and improve upon.

Becoming more patient

Here is a simple exercise for you to get started on improving your patience that includes one step towards more patience – cultivating empathy. It is a meditation called Metta meditation a.k.a. loving-kindness meditation.

  1. Sit in a relaxed position and take a few deep breaths.
  2. Focus your attention on yourself with each breath. Think of loving thoughts about yourself – may I be happy, may I feel good, may I be safe.
  3. Next, focus your kind thoughts on another individual like a friend or family member. Think the same thoughts about them – may you be happy, may you feel good, may you be safe. (To really step it up a notch think of someone you dislike and try this meditation on them)

By all means, this takes practice, do not rush it or fake it. If you feel anger, resentment or any other negative feeling bubble up don’t worry. These are just signs that your heart is softening. Try directing the same loving thoughts to these feelings.

 

If you like this and want more specific resources to improve your health and wellness download your complimentary guide “6 Wellness Trends You Need to Know About Right Now” here.