by Rebecca Geiger
October 11, 2016
According to the CDC, the top 5 concerns of women are breast cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, depression and autoimmune disorders. Most of these concerns are affected by stress ad can be prevented with regular self-care. Since October is breast cancer awareness month, let’s talk about that a bit more in detail.
Although breast cancer is most common in women, it does not spare men. So, if you find this information useful, please share with the men in your life. I lost a great uncle to breast cancer years ago, so I know from personal experience.
The best way to prevent the spread of breast cancer is to do self-exams in the shower every month. We are fortunate that we are able to treat a lot of cases, but only if they are detected early. My OBGYN/midwife told me not to think I am going to find a lump, but to just make sure there isn’t one. I think this is encouraging and is great advice. Leading Women’s Health expert, Dr. Catherine Northrup also suggests you use your palm rather than your fingertips during your self-exams so you don’t feel every little gland and striation and freak out.
She also has these recommendations for overall health and wellbeing in women.
- Get enough sleep: Proper sleep is essential for optimal health, and it helps metabolize stress hormones better than any other known entity.
- Meditate for at least 3-12 minutes each day, to calm and soothe your mind.
- Begin your day with a positive affirmation.
- Exercise regularly. Ideally, aim for a comprehensive program that includes high intensity exercises and strength training along with core-building exercises and stretching.
- Breathe properly. When you breathe in and out fully through your nose, you activate your parasympathetic rest-and-restore nervous system, which expands the lower lobes of your lungs, and therefore engages the vagus nerves. "Relax the back of your throat. So many women have thyroid problems – it's from chronic tension here; because you're pretty sure your feminine voice isn't going to be heard. It hasn't been heard for 5,000 years. You're not alone. But it's being heard now," she says.
- Practice self-love and unconditional acceptance. Dr. Northrup suggests looking at yourself in the mirror at least once a day, and saying: 'I love you. I really love you.' "After 21 days, something will happen to you. You'll see a part of you that looks back at you, and you begin to believe it. "I love you. I really love you."
- Optimize your vitamin D levels. Get your vitamin D level checked. Ideally, you'll want your levels within the therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml. According to Dr. Northrup: "Sunlight is not the enemy. It's lack of antioxidants in your diet that is the enemy. Natural light is a lovely source of vitamin D; you can't overdose. But many people – to get their levels of vitamin D into optimal – are going to need 5,000 to 10, 000 international units per day. So, vitamin D is important. You can get your level drawn through MyMedLab.com without a doctor's prescription."
- Cultivate an active social life; enjoy some face-to-face time with likeminded people.
- Epsom salt baths (20 minutes, three times per week) are a simple, inexpensive way to get magnesium into your body.
Keep a gratitude journal. Each night, before you go to bed, write down five things that you are grateful for, or five things that brought you pleasure. "Remember: every emotion is associated with a biochemical reality in your body. So, you want to bring in the emotions of generosity, pleasure, receiving, and open-heartedness. The same things that create heart health create breast health."
In addition to getting ample sleep, regular exercise, a healthful diet, and incorporating some of Dr. Northrup’s tips listed above, you should also perform self-breast massage regularly to prevent breast cancer from forming. Dr. Catherine Northrup also recommended this in a Neural Awakenings article. Don’t make a big deal out of it; just apply lotion to your breasts when you use your body lotion for the rest of your body.
To receive the most benefits from self breast massage, perform circular motions from your sternum to your armpit, down and around your breast and back to your sternum. Also use both hands to gently stroke entire breast from chest wall to areola. Perform this sequence about 3-5 times every day after the shower. These movements will help eliminate wastes in your breast tissue. Wastes and toxin elimination occur naturally via circulation in every cell in the body. Massage will increase the circulation and therefore increase the waste removal rate that will decrease your chance of a buildup of toxins that ultimately foster disease.
I also know of a woman who discovered she had a lump by wiping crumbs off of her chest. I was really baffled by this. I didn’t understand how she could have felt it with a light sweeping action and not by a self-exam which doesn’t involve much pressure either, just intentional touch. As I contemplated it, I thought that it may have been the first time she had touched her own breast. She may not have felt comfortable dong it. It may have been the first time she had touched her own breast. She has since passed, so I will never know the answer.
I know some things we cannot change and that we don’t have control over anything, really. However, I still think it is important to practice good self-care regimens by treating your body well, maintaining a positive mental attitude, and allowing yourself to rest and restore regularly. I joke a lot that self-care is like a full time job because there are many pillars of health and wellness, but it really is just living your life gracefully and with intention. It is loving yourself enough to care about how you truly feel. It is a lifestyle and a journey.
* Always remember to get your annual checkups and consult with your doctor before staring any new health regimens.