It's Breast Cancer Awareness month, and everywhere you look, you'll see "pink washing" - products that change their marketing to include the color pink in support of breast cancer. Beyond possible research funding, how many of these companies are actually supporting breast health though? In other words, creating the best possible landscape to avoid breast cancer?
As a holistic health, hormone + movement coach, I'm working with clients to improve their whole-being health and find a state of optimal functioning in every system of their body, many of which are a function of the endocrine system - including metabolism, fertility, cognitive + immune function, stress adaptability + resiliency, gut health, proper detoxification, along with stable mood + energy to name a few.
When we have optimal functioning, we see a lack of disease (and/or greater opportunity for such) and women who are able to thrive not only physically, but given the ability to also create a landscape for whole-being health mentally, emotionally, relationally and spiritually as well.
Part of creating this state of wellness, includes looking at the various ways we're increasing controllable exposures to toxins that raise the levels of inflammation, dis-ease + stress within the body.
You might be wondering: "Okay Whitney, but how does this relate to supporting breast health?"
Short answer: everything.
If you're concerned about your breast health, then one of the most important things you can do is examine, and ultimately decrease, your exposure to hormone disruptors and known carcinogens - many of which are found in the same products that are sporting pink marketing this month. 😱 And a vast majority of the ingredients / chemicals in said products have been linked to breast cancer.
In fact, there's an actual noun created to describe companies that do this - pinkwashers. Definition: "a company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products containing chemicals that are linked to the disease."
So what should you try to avoid or eliminate? The same endocrine-disrupting substances that wreak havoc on your hormones + menstrual cycle, like*:
pesticides used on crops (glyphosate in particular, learn more about its wide-ranging detrimental impacts here and here)
BPA in plastics
artificial dyes or sweeteners
inflammatory seed oils (canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, peanut, palm oil + soybean oil)
carcinogens like formaldehyde
PFAS (forever chemicals)
I'm talking about beauty products, household cleaning products, processed junk foods (including many "healthy" brands) + conventional produce and meat / seafood / shellfish, menstrual products, kitchen + cooking products, drinking water, plastic water bottles + Tupperwares and clothing, to name a few.
To help support you in optimizing your own whole-being (and breast) health, below are some of my favorite clean swaps + recommendations to decrease your toxic load (which is also going to improve hormone + liver function - your main detoxification organ, as well).
Note that this list is not complete and not meant to be health advice, consult with your doctor before making any changes. If you desire to explore these topics more in a more in-depth + personalized way, email me to set up a Discovery Session!
#1: Swap your deodorant for one that's clean and aluminum-free. Avoid antiperspirants - which block + clog your sweat ducts with lots of chemicals, namely aluminum. PS: while you're at it, stop cooking with aluminum foil, avoid antacids and consider aluminum exposure from vaccines (it's used as an adjuvant). Deodorants also commonly have fragrances, one of the number one toxin offenders out there.
Clean swap recommendation: Primally Pure Deodorant or Beautycounter Clean Deo. These are the two brands that I also recommend for all your skincare, makeup, body + hair needs as well - equally important areas to upgrade to reduce toxic exposure. Check out the list of all my favorite products (and why) here.
Why: "The presence of aluminum in the human breast may also alter breast micro-environments causing disruption to iron metabolism, oxidative damage to cellular components, inflammatory responses and alterations to the motility of cells". - Journal Of Inorganic Biochemistry
#2: Ditch the bleach and toxic laundry + cleaning products. Unfortunately there is no federal regulation of chemicals in household cleaning products, no safety standard and no requirement for listing ingredients. Many conventional products contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals that also pose a threat to our environment as well. I have my clients check all their laundry + cleaning products through the EWG's Guide To Household Cleaning, which rates the safety of over 2,500 products.
Clean swap recommendation: Branch Basics for literally all your household cleaning needs, including laundry, hand soap + dishwasher tablets, but I also love Attitude Laundry Detergent, Dishwashing Soap and even Fabric Softener. For floors, I put a dash of Branch Basics concentrate and water in this refillable mop (avoid Swiffers!).
Why: "Recent studies have linked environmental exposures to breast cancer. By better understanding the role of risk factors like lifestyle choices and chemical exposures in the development of breast cancer, prevention strategies can lower the risk of developing cancer.
Some endocrine-disrupting chemicals are known to contribute to the development of breast cancer, and are found in the foods we eat and the products we use every day, like personal care products and household cleaners." - Environmental Working Group
#3: Support your oral health - flossing daily, brushing after meals, avoiding sugar + processed carbohydrates. And consider going fluoride-free (fluoride exposure can impact your thyroid health, among other things, because as a halogen, it can take up iodine receptor sites in the body).
Clean swap recommendation: RiseWell toothpaste (kids version here), made with naturally-derived hydroxyapatite, a mineral that makes up 97% of our tooth enamel and 60% of your bones and has been proven to strengthen and protect your teeth without fluoride and floss with BPA-free dental floss picks.
Why: "Many oral microbial metrics were strongly associated with breast cancer and nonmalignant breast disease," according to the International Journal Of Cancer Research, including an 11x increased risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer in women who had poor oral health or gum disease.
#4: Support proper liver, lympth + skin detoxification: All of these systems are responsible for removing toxins from your body (the same ones at the beginning of this blog), so it's important to not only reduce your overall toxic load + exposure, but also use detox-supporting practices whenever possible.
Tools To Support Liver, Skin + Lymphatic Detoxification:
Dry brush the skin
Gua Sha for your face, neck and chest
Rebounding for 3-7 minutes per day
Epsom salt baths (1-2 cups bath or 1/2 cup for foot bath)
Avoid wearing tight clothing and bras that restrict lympathic flow, (and even better, upgrade the quality of clothes you're wearing - including organic cotton + bamboo products).
Daily movement that supports your female hormone cycles in Reproductive Years, Perimenopause and Postmenopause, and while you're on an Oral Hormonal Contraceptive. If you're looking for more support on how to do this, get on the waitlist for my online fitness membership Workout Like A Woman, launching this fall (waitlisters get a special early bird offer next week!).
Reduce or eliminate refined carbohydrates - this includes in baked goods, pizza, taco shells // tortillas, bread, bagels, etc., sugar - they not only mess with your blood sugar, but cause fat buildup in the liver.
Reduce or eliminate alcohol. Although not one most of us want to hear, this one is so important, ladies. A recent study found that "alcohol consumption was positively associated with daily endogenous estrogen levels and mammographic density in premenopausal women. These associations could point to an important area of breast cancer prevention" - meaning, the more alcohol you consume, the higher your associated risk of breast cancer (via estrogen dominance). Alcohol, like all other toxins, must be filtered through the liver, but unlike other toxins, it takes 24+ hours to make that happen. And while the liver is working to remove alcohol, it's not removing all other toxins (aka they get recirculated into the body). If you are going to drink, be sure to take organic activated charcoal ahead of time, eat some fiber + protein before your first sip, limit your consumption and be willing to examine why you're drinking and if the alcohol is really serving that purpose.
Foods That Support Liver - try adding these foods into your daily / weekly diet:
Cruciferous vegetables such as rocket, bok choy, broccoli sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, spring greens, kale, radish, and Swiss chard
Glutathione-building foods such as sulfur-rich garlic & onions, selenium-rich Brazil nuts and sardines, and bitter-tasting dark leafy greens such as rocket, chicory and mustard greens.
Foods rich in B Vitamins - dark, leafy green vegetables, liver from grass-fed animals (or this supplement), green veggies like broccoli and Brussels Sprouts, eggs, poultry, avocados, nuts and seeds, wild salmon + other fish.
Foods rich in antioxidants like organic: fruits, vegetables, teas (try milk thistle and/or dandelion root), herbs (especially turmeric), and artichoke, beet, cabbage, carrots and greens and chlorophyll.
Amino-rich foods like 100% grass-fed lamb or beef, pasture-raised chicken, pork + eggs, wild-caught seafood + shellfish, along with 100% grass-fed and/or organic bone broth, collagen and gelatin.
Why: "The lymphatic system is a vital part of our circulatory system. It manages elimination of toxins from our body. It functions as the body’s primary immune defense and it is the body’s primary system for waste elimination through the colon. [...] Most chronic disease problems occur at the junction of lymph vessels, or lymph nodes. You can feel lymph nodes by pressing underneath the arms, just below the collarbone, abdomen, or in the crease between the thigh and the pelvic area. There are 160 lymph nodes located in the face and neck region and over 300 lymph nodes in the trunk of the body. [...] Women have large reservoirs of lymph fluid in their body, which are called breasts. The lymph nodes in the axilla (under the arms) and breast tissue are probably the most palpable nodes in the trunk region. [...] Toxins carry electrical charges with them, some are electrons, others protons. These electrical changes are sometimes referred to as free radicals. Free radicals attach themselves to the neutral lymph fluid. This attachment causes stagnation and pooling of lymph fluid in the nodes. This is what is felt with palpation. This stagnation and pooling causes disease and toxic buildup in the tissues, sometimes referred to as lymphedema."- Synergy Health Associates
#5: Upgrade your menstrual products - you want to avoid environmental toxins + pollutants as much as humanly possible, which includes conventional (meaning non-organic) tampons + pads. They're all made from cotton, which is heavily sprayed with toxic glyphosate + other chemicals (like synthetic fragrances, bleaches, foams, gels, anti-bacterial agents, and surfactants) that goes straight into the ultra-absorbent tissue of your vagina (and did you know the body takes in more toxins through the vaginal wall than through ingestion?). These are some of the *exact* products you see “pink washed” during this month. So just say no to conventional tampons + pads (I'm looking at you Tampax).
Clean swap recommendation: At the very least, upgrade to organic tampons or pads. But for the environment and your V, you could also consider trying out a non-toxic menstrual cup (I love Flex and Saalt Co) and some PFAS-free period underwear (Modi Bodi is great).
Why: Early exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs), such as DDT, BPA, dioxins, glyphosate, the highly-fluorinated chemical PFOSA and air pollution, was associated with a two- to five-fold increased risk of breast cancer. 😳
Other honorable mentions - I could talk about removing toxins for ages (in fact, there's a whole module on it in my one-on-one holistic health + hormones coaching if you're interested in learning more) - and the benefits they offer to your whole-being + hormone health, but for now, these final four are worth upgrading / swapping our for cleaner + healthier options too:
#1: Upgrade your food quality where- and whenever possible. These labels matter, so write them down and use them for your next grocery store trip.
#2: Keep your phone out of your bra (or back pocket for that matter) - cell phones are two-way microwave radios, and the soft tissue of the breast readily absorbs this radiation.
#3: Swap plastics for glass - I'm talking plastic bags, Ziploc bags, plastic tupperware or water bottles, they've all gotta go! I recommend Stasher reusable bags, glass or stainless steel Tupperware and water bottles.
#4: Filter your water - think you've got clean drinking water? See how your water holds up to the EWG's standards here and while you're at it, consider using a filter for all your water - household + drinking. I love Epic water bottles and countertop filters best.
Also, be sure to test your female sex hormones (at least) yearly (a blood serum test can give you a good picture of estrogen if tested on Day 3 of your period, but a Dutch Test is even more comprehensive [but also more expensive test], as it also looks at how well the liver is working to detoxify estrogen). Approximately 80% of breast cancer cases are estrogen-receptor positive, which means that (excess) estrogen is fueling the growth of the cancer. This is why supporting detoxification pathways (liver + lymph included) is so important so that estrogen can be properly metabolized out of your body each menstrual cycle. Dr. Jess MD has some great online resources via her Wellness Plus membership regarding proper detoxification, and it's also something you can work on with your functional medicine doctor or even a naturopath.
As you can see, supporting breast health involves an overall strategy of decreasing your controllable exposure to toxins - that comes through via the food we eat and products we use. I hope that all the resources in this blog inspire you to move towards a toxic-free lifestyle not only for your breast health, so that you can thrive on all levels, because truth is, everything is connected - and your health on the inside will always impact your ability to bring your best self to the outside world.
If you found this blog helpful, please share with your family + friends. And if you're feeling overwhelmed, but desire to learn more, don't hesitate to reach out to me, where we can simplify + customize all this information to fit your unique life.
Here's to the girls!
*Gratitude + credit to Nicole Jardim, Eryn of The Naturally Minded Mama and Dr. Natalie Underberg for supplying information + inspiration for this post.