Breast Cancer Awareness Month: How Your Body’s Microbiome Can Impact Your Breast Health

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: How Your Body’s Microbiome Can Impact Your Breast Health

It’s October, which means out come the pink ribbons and co-branded, limited-edition Breast Cancer Awareness gear. But even if you aren’t one of the one in eight women in the United States diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime, breast health is tied to your overall health. And that can begin with your body’s microbiome. Here’s how.

Your Breast Bacteria

Once thought to be sterile, the breast tissue actually has its own colony of bacteria that make up the microbiome of the breast. Some of those bugs include Proteobacteria, Firmicutes, Actinobacteria, and Bacteroidetes species. 

What do they do? It’s been hypothesized that the breast microbiome is used for maintaining healthy breast tissue and stimulating local immune system cells if needed. Also, depending on the type of bacteria, it’s been hypothesized that the bacteria’s metabolic activity may be able to degrade carcinogens, or cancer-causing chemicals that have been shown to increase risk for cancers. Furthermore, bacteria that can be normal flora to the breast tissue, including Streptococcus bacteria, can produce its own source of antioxidants and help to quench free-radical inflammation that may damage DNA. Who knew?

In women who choose to and are able to breastfeed, the bacteria that is in your breast ductal system will eventually cross over into your baby. And your bacteria will become your baby’s central immune system support until the infant’s own immune system develops. 



Gut Microbiome + Breast Health

Another surprising link between breast health and bacteria is how your gut microbiome can impact the development of breast cancer. Less diversity of your gut microbiome may be linked to increased breast cancer risk, and while the exact mechanism is not completely known, it may be linked to the estrogen metabolism of certain bacteria.

How, you may ask? Different types of bacteria that can live in your gut have different abilities to control how your estrogens are processed. Bacteria that is considered “abnormal” flora typically secrete high levels of an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. This unpackages the estrogens that were sent to be excreted and allows them to be reabsorbed into the system, adding to the estrogen load of your body. For estrogen-dependant conditions such as (some) breast cancers, endometriosis, and fibrocystic breast disease, having this extra load of estrogens in your system can exacerbate the condition.

Gut bacteria is also important when it comes to regulating your immune system. A lot of research is being shifted towards utilizing and supporting the gut bacteria to enhance the anti-cancer response of medications, having them work together in treatment plans. Mayo Clinic is currently doing a study to try to determine the role of taking probiotics prior to surgery for breast cancer. The hope is that it will positively affect the immune system and improve breast cancer surgery outcomes.

It’s clear that your microbiome is key to your breast, immune, and overall health. Maintaining your microbiome and helping it diversify supports so many of your body’s systems that it’s kind of a no brainer.

Wondering the best way to do that? Schedule a complimentary 15-minute consult with us to get more info on an approach that’s right for you, your breasts, and your complete well-being.

Breast Cancer + Environmental Toxicity: Could What You’re Exposed to Impact Your Risk?

Breast Cancer + Environmental Toxicity: Could What You’re Exposed to Impact Your Risk?

While the month of October (and breast cancer awareness) is nearly over, we think it’s important to continue the discussion for more than one month per year—and not just because an estimated 268,000 new cases were diagnosed in 2019 alone. Breast health, cancerous or not, can be greatly impacted by our environment, and our daily choices. So paying attention to the company you keep in the form of household items, food choices and personal care products, is key all year round. Here’s how what you’re exposed to daily can impact your breast health.

Breast Health + Environmental Toxicity

It should be no surprise that toxins in our system can affect our cellular DNA. Altering cellular DNA can cause the cells to become mutant, and possibly cancerous. Being aware of the toxins you’re regularly being exposed to is important for future prevention of breast-related diseases. One study found that women who lived in areas of higher airborne lead, mercury, and cadmium were at a higher risk of developing postmenopausal breast cancer.

But it’s not just what you’re exposed to as an adult. Breast tissue actually begins to develop in females prior to birth, and continues to mature during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Recent studies suggest that environmental exposures, such as certain chemicals, diet, and social factors, during these critical stages of development, may increase risk of breast cancer later in life.

The lesson? Paying attention to what you’re exposed to, especially when you’re in a critical developmental stage, can help mitigate your breast-cancer risk. That includes well-known environmental pollutants like PAHs and phthalates, which have been shown to have a role in the development of breast cancer.



What You Can Do to Protect Your Breasts

So how can you impact your environmental today? It might seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. You can take it one step at a time, adjusting your choices in phases. Here are a few ideas we’ve discussed in the past:

  1. Clean up your beauty routine. The personal care products you use on your body have an impact in your body—and it’s getting easier every day to make nontoxic, safer choices, thanks to brands that are leading the charge to help change the industry.
  2. Choose cleaner cookware. What you cook and bake with can seep into your food, so why not choose less toxic options? Replace one item at a time, and feel confident that you’re giving your body the best chance it has to avoid disease.
  3. Regulate your stress levels. This is about more than just breast health, but keeping your stress levels to a minimum can impact your overall wellbeing in long and short term ways.
  4. Get enough good sleep. Another easy(ish) and important way to keep your body balanced, and help keep a myriad of health issues at bay.
  5. Balance your hormones. Regulated hormones can provide better periods, less pain, and help protect your breasts. It’s a win-win-win.
  6. Sweat it out. Aiding your body’s ability to detox in healthy ways is key, whether that’s with a great workout or some regular time in a sauna (yep, we’re giving you permission to sit in a hot room and call it “healthcare”). 
  7. Drink clean water + stay hydrated. Getting enough water is key to overall health, but it’s also a great way to aid in your body’s detoxing process.
  8. Eat anti-inflammatory foods. This can also give your body a leg up when it comes to any disease prevention.

The conclusion? Maintaining your overall health through food, exercise, and environmental choices can have a big impact on your breasts. And that’s as important to us to raise awareness about as breast cancer this month.

How Do You Treat Endometriosis? Why Hormone Balancing Isn’t the ONLY Way

How Do You Treat Endometriosis? Why Hormone Balancing Isn’t the ONLY Way

Like we covered before, the original (and somewhat now outdated) thoughts around the causes of endometriosis was that it was purely hormonal and that drove treatment strategies such as hormonal birth control and estrogen suppression. While endometriosis is very much an estrogen-dependent condition, to simplify the condition in that regard makes a treatment strategy too singular.

I also don’t want to ignore the fact that hormonal treatment strategies have relieved the chronic pelvic pain of many, many women who suffered for an average of 10 years before being diagnosed—what I’m proposing is a multifactorial approach for women who don’t tolerate hormonal birth control, who have future fertility goals, or who just want to take on their endometriosis head on.

So let’s break down how estrogen is involved in endometriosis and how this piece of the pie should be treated! 

RELATED: Is there an association between endometriosis and autoimmunity?

What is endometrial tissue?

Maybe you didn’t know, but your uterus has multiple different layers. The same layer that contracts when you have period cramping is not the same as the layer that bleeds every month. The endometrial layer is the layer that sheds once per month for women to have a menstrual period. After you bleed, the layer thickens over the next 2 weeks mostly in part due to estrogen in a woman’s bloodstream.

One would think that endometrial tissue that is outside of the uterus (aka Endometriosis) would act the same if not very very similar to the endometrial tissue that lives in its normal habitat (aka inside your uterus). In fact, they may look the same under a microscope, but the way they act is very different. 

RELATED: Having heavy periods with lots of clots? Ask for these 4 tests, stat.

Ways endometrial lesions act different hormonally than regular endometrial tissue

  1. Endometrial lesions outside the uterus can create their own source of estrogen. Researchers have found that the hormone estrogen was high in biopsy (or samples) of the endometrial lesions, but the serum values of estrogen in the patient were not elevated. This finding demonstrates something I’ve seen again and again in clinical practice—“estrogen dominance” without any evidence of such in a woman’s blood work. With the endometrial lesions creating their own source of estrogen, and having a dense network of estrogen receptors, it’s a recipe for lesion growth, increased pain, and increased inflammatory response in the local endometriotic tissue.
  1. Endometrial tissue outside of the uterus may have the same estrogen receptors as, say, your breast tissue, but when they’re found in the endometrial lesions, they create a stronger estrogenic effect than other estrogen-sensitive tissues (i.e. your breast tissue). Not only that, but researchers are finding that there are additional estrogen receptors in endometrial lesions that aren’t found in other estrogen-sensitive tissues—creating a triple whammy. 
  1. You may have heard the term “hormone balancing” and know that it refers to the balance of estrogen and progesterone in the body that leads to a harmonious menstrual cycle. You can visualize that progesterone is the cooling, calming partner that helps balance out estrogen’s hot, proliferative ways. For women experiencing traditional menstrual cramping, progesterone support (through prescription or herbal support) can provide some measure of relief. However, researchers have found that endometrial lesions outside the uterus don’t have the same progesterone receptors that are found inside the uterus, meaning that our usual therapies for pelvic cramping just won’t work the same. 

RELATED: Breaking down estrogen—what it is, what it does, and why it’s not just a villain in your hormonal story.

So what does this mean to treat endometriosis? 

It means we need to treat the hormonal disruptions of endometriosis differently than traditional hormone concerns. This looks like a multi-pronged approach, which is also tailored to your specific symptoms, your labwork, and your needs. It’s just another reason why personalized medicine, which we provide at MIMC, can be key to alleviating your symptoms and getting to the root of your health concerns.

Environmental Factors That Impact Thyroid Disease

Environmental Factors That Impact Thyroid Disease

There are many root causes to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, or autoimmune thyroid disorder. When someone is diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, we want to start modulating the immune system and treating the root cause. Hashimoto’s can’t be ‘cured,’ but if we can find what is fanning the flame of your immune system, we can calm the autoimmunity and save the gland’s integrity. 

One common reason for the induction of Hashi is the exposure to toxic chemicals. There have been specific toxins that are clearly linked to thyroid disease, though it can still be difficult to determine causation in a specific case because there are often many factors. And it’s hard to pinpoint the exact action that a toxicant has and how that contributes to a disease. Hence, why we know that there are many chemicals that are harmful—but it’s not easy to research why.

Bottom line: It’s never cut and dry with thyroid disorders. When we look for the root cause, we’re finding there are many involved. But, once you identify the toxins found in your body, you can start the elimination process.

Causes of autoimmune thyroid disorder

One common reason for abnormal thyroid function is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. There are several reasons this autoimmune disorder can start in your body. Let’s break a few down.

👉Immune system activation from chronic infections (think Epstein Barr-Virus, Herpes Simplex Virus and others), Lyme Disease, mold toxicity, food allergies, and even chronic gut dysbiosis.

👉Big hormonal fluctuations (think puberty, each pregnancy, and menopause).

👉Nutrient deficiencies.

👉Environmental toxicities. This is the one I want to dive into more, as environmental toxicities can be vast and varied.

RELATED: 3 common chemicals that could impact your thyroid.

Environmental toxins linked to autoimmune thyroid disorder

Ultimately these environmental factors have the ability to increase thyroid volume (by increasing inflammation and creating goiters), increase serum TSH (elevated TSH is criteria to diagnose hypothyroidism), and induce thyroid autoantibodies, especially in women.

Heavy metal toxicity with mercury, amongst others

Heavy metal toxicity inhibits enzymes that convert inactive thyroid hormone to active thyroid hormone, ultimately decreasing the amount of available hormone you have. 

BPA

Yep, that BPA. There are real reasons to avoid it—it can cause a direct induction of thyroid auto-antibodies, and it can bind your thyroid receptors, not allowing your hormone to bind to it.

Triclosan

Though Minnesota was the first to ban this antibacterial soap additive, it’s still available widely, and it can lead to the direct induction of thyroid autoantibodies.

PBDEs (polybrominated diphenylethers)

These compounds found in flame retardants (furniture, clothing, rugs, etc.) can also cause the direct induction of thyroid autoantibodies.

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)

These man-made chemicals that are widely used in electrical equipment can bind the TSH receptor, which alters the brain’s ability to monitor your bodies thyroid needs, binds the thyroid transport protein not allowing it to bring thyroid hormones to your body, and alters the way your liver converts your thyroid hormone, causing issues in your hormone levels. 

Organochlorines such as DDT

These may be banned in the US and Europe but they are still used in developing countries to control malaria-causing mosquitoes, and therefore can be present in imported goods—and they’re directly toxic to the thyroid gland.

RELATED: Clean up your beauty routine in just a few simple steps.

How we determine if your thyroid disease is connected to environmental factors

The challenge with any toxicant is to link exposure in an individual and which specific actions on thyroid function it disrupted. In today’s modern society, one could easily look at a list of thyroid hormone disruptors and check many boxes of possible root causes of their autoimmune disease. So, specifically connecting toxins to an action is very challenging.

When I am doing an interview on someone, I like to ask about their environment and probe with questions that may highlight a further need for environmental testing:

  • Do you live / work in a water-damaged home or work space?
  • Do you live next to the highway?
  • What’s your regular exposure to chemicals? This includes exposure to clearly defined chemicals like pesticides, VOCs (glues, finishers, cleaning agents, etc.), metals (amalgams, soil, stained-glass window making, metal-work/finishing) and chemicals you might not think of through food, water bottles, receipts, or cheap furniture. I also like to ask what you clean your house with (conventional cleaning chemicals can contain toxins that impact thyroid function too).
  • Where are you getting your water (city water, well, etc.) and do you use filtered, reverse osmosis, or tap for cooking and drinking?
  • Do you have any excessive contrast imaging studies?
  • Do you have breast implants? Other bodily implants?
  • What is your access to food like? Do you live in a food desert, or an area without access to organic foods and meats?

And that’s just for starters!

RELATED: How to green your cleaning routine (plus, why it’s necessary).

How to test for environmental toxins

Any toxicant test is only a snapshot at what is being metabolized and excreted at that time. There is no way of testing your full body burden because many toxic chemicals are sheltered in your fat tissue to keep your body safe. However, there are a few lab tests we can do to get a good idea of what types of chemicals are stored in your body and give us a starting point for treatment. I tailor these to each patient, because everyone’s body, symptoms, and lived experience is different.

How we treat thyroid disorders related to environmental factors

Each person is unique and their condition is similar to a pie, meaning your Hashimoto’s may have been induced by multiple things. That’s why treating the whole person and making sure you’re checking in on lab values is important. If toxicants are only 40% of the reason your antibodies are elevated, finding and treating the other 60% is equally important!

This is why personalized medicine is so important. There’s not a one-size-fits-all plan to support and treat autoimmune thyroid disorders, and working with a practitioner who understands that is a key to success.

How to Get Rid of Constipation—For Good

How to Get Rid of Constipation—For Good

a white toilet sits in a white-tiled bathroom

If you’re struggling with constipation, it can feel like you need relief, FAST. And while lots of places on the internet will rattle off “10 home remedies for getting rid of constipation now,” the best bet to address it is to get to the root cause. That includes getting a workup from a knowledgeable doctor, which might include SIBO breath testing, a thyroid panel, or stool testing.

But, if you’re looking for supplemental ways to support healthy digestion and reduce constipation, we can help. Let’s break down some doctor-approved ways to holistically treat constipation, once you’ve begun to understand the root cause.

RELATED: Common causes of constipation.

Supplements that can help remedy constipation

These supplements can be a test to see if you can relieve your constipation without precisely figuring out the root cause—but we recommend getting input from your doctor, regardless of if these work or not. A few things you could try as at-home constipation treatments:

  • Probiotics or fermented foods daily: These can help re-establish a microbiome and hopefully help bad bacteria turn over.
  • Digestive enzymes: These help with food digestion and stomach acid production, which can impact constipation
  • Magnesium glycinate: A common supplemental recommendation that can relax muscles associated with the intestines and allow things to pass. It is also an osmotic laxative, so it can soften your stool and allow it be easier to pass. As with any laxative, it’s important to run this by your doctor before giving it a try.

RELATED: Why ‘inflammation’ isn’t a bad word.

Lifestyle 

If you’re looking for routines to support healthy digestion, these daily lifestyle additions can help.

Increase fiber: Try adding a minimum about 25gm per day of mixed insoluble and soluble fibers. If you have other health factors, this number would be changed and individualized, so check with your doctor on what’s best for you.

Increase water: Yes, we’re saying drink more water—a minimum of 100oz per day, and more if you drink coffee or exercise. 

Biofeedback/bowel training: When you feel the urge to go to the bathroom, go. Don’t let that urge pass. By listening to your body’s messages and getting into the rhythm, your body can feel more in a routine, which can help constipation over time.

RELATED: How fiber builds your gut health and microbiome

Adjunctive remedies for constipation

If you’ve gotten to your root cause AND you’ve employed the above tactics, you still might need supportive care to help your support your bowel. These two manual therapies can help.

Chiropractic care 

There are certain things like previous surgeries or traumas that can cause adhesions of the bowels to any other location in the abdomen. Chiropractic care can perform adjustments to the organs (called visceral manipulation) that can break up these adhesions and cause the poo to physically move better in the abdomen.  

If there has been any degeneration of the spine or herniation of the discs that can cause disruption of the signaling to the bowels, causing constipation. By engaging regular chiropractic care, you can help the nerve signaling in your bowels and reduce constipation. 

Pelvic Floor PT

We often think of pelvic floor pt for women before or after birth, or if someone is having bladder leakage issues, but pelvic floor PT can actually be a powerful tool for women or men experiencing constipation. The muscles in your lower abdomen can be too tight, not allowing for regular elimination. Working with a pelvic health specialist, you can retrain those muscles to relax, allowing proper elimination.