An important yet often overlooked determinant of breast health is the adequacy of circulation to and from the breasts – not just of blood, but also of your lymphatic fluid. What’s lymphatic fluid and how does it help you prevent cancer? Read on to learn more!
There is an entire community of lymphatic tissue present throughout your body, the majority of which can be found beneath your skin and in the digestive system. Often an overlooked aspect of disease prevention and treatment, the lymphatic system is a key component of our immune system – it identifies foreign invaders and helps launch an immune response to kill infectious agents. The lymphatic system is also an important aspect of detoxification, as it serves to remove toxins and waste products from our skin, organs, glands and other tissue, which are then shuttled to ‘command central’ – our liver – to be processed further and eliminated in stool or urine.
Our breasts have a vast network of lymphatic channels and are highly susceptible to accumulating substances that are fat-soluble, such as hormones like estrogen or toxins that mimic estrogens and can affect estrogen activity in a way that is detrimental to breast health. Such toxins include heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants such as BPA, pesticides and phthalates.
If toxins, hormones and waste products accumulate in the breast, normal cell function can eventually be compromised, thereby promoting abnormal cell function. Of course, we have several check points in our immune system that are designed to identify and destroy abnormal cells, but the more abnormal cells that are present, the more our ‘check point stations’ become overwhelmed and hence, the more likely that cancer will develop. There are other factors involved in this breakdown of checkpoints, but that’s another article!
The lymphatic system is one of the body’s main routes of toxin elimination and it is especially important in the maintenance of a healthy tissue environment for your breasts. Ultimately, the more polluted the microenvironment of a tissue or organ, the more conducive it is to cancer development and growth.
Here are some of the most common barriers to lymphatic circulation, solutions and ways to prevent congestion of lymphatic fluid:
- Anti-perspirants: Sweat is one way the lymphatics eliminate toxins. By blocking the sweat glands with anti-perspirants, toxins will accumulate in the breast. Furthermore, anti-perspirants contain several chemicals that add to the burden of toxins you are exposing your breasts to everyday, including aluminum, phthalates and other cancer-causing compounds. Instead, use a natural deodorant or embrace your ‘scent’ and don’t use anything at all! Body odor is a reflection of your internal environment and that depends on factors such as diet, hormone balance and body burden of toxins. If you know or suspect you have ‘bad body odor’, a naturopathic physician can help you identify and treat the root of the problem.
- Ill-Fitting and Underwire bras: If your bra leaves clear indentations in your skin after you remove it, then it’s compromising your circulation. It’s worth being sized correctly by an expert. Avoid underwire bras and don’t wear a bra any longer than you absolutely have to – ideally, no longer than 8 hours. At least remove your bra when you are at home and definitely avoid wearing a bra at night.
- Lack of Exercise: If you’re not moving, neither is the lymphatic fluid in your breasts or anywhere else for that matter! Whether walking, running, doing yoga or some other form of movement exercise, aim to be active 6 days a week. Engage in physical activity that you enjoy and make it a part of your daily routine. If you are not sweating as much as you think you should be, your lymphatics may be too congested to allow for your sweat glands and pores to respond. Try some of the techniques below to improve your lymphatic circulation.
Maintaining lymphatic circulation for healthy breast tissue is a daily chore. Create a breast care routine for yourself and stick to it. In addition to the tips listed above, do at least one of the following daily to assist the movement of lymphatic fluid:
- Shower Hydrotherapy: Alternate hot and cold at the end of your shower. Sounds awful, but believe me it’s not. 1 minute warm shower, 30 seconds cold and repeat 3 times, always ending with cold. This dilates and constricts your blood and lymphatic vessels, improving circulation – it’s like resistance training for your vessels!
- Dry Skin Brushing: Using a bristle with a natural brush, gently stroke your skin with the bristles from your feet to your head, in the direction of your heart. Don’t forget to include your palms and soles. It takes only 30 seconds to do. Dry skin brushing is best done before you shower and as a bonus it’s a great way to exfoliate your skin leaving it soft and smooth!
- Lymphatic Breast Massage: Easy to learn and a great way to get to know your breasts so you can easily identify when something doesn’t feel quite right.
- Rebounding: Can be done sitting and bouncing on an exercise ball or jumping on a mini-trampoline. It’s fun and energizing. Do this for 3-5 minutes a day. If you don’t have either of these, you can jump rope or pretend you are jumping rope – there are no excuses!
- Far Infrared (FIR) Sauna Therapy: Not only is FIR sauna therapy a great way to stimulate and improve circulation, it helps mobilize and eliminate toxins through sweat such as sodium, fat soluble toxins, sulfuric acid, uric acid, toxic heavy metals, ammonia, and cholesterol. If you find you ‘never sweat’ or have difficulty sweating when exercising, regular FIR sauna therapy is a highly effective treatment strategy for addressing the lymphatic congestion that blocks the sweat response. There are several other benefits to FIR sauna therapy, including muscle relaxation and pain relief, enhanced sleep, mood, immunity and heart health.
It’s never too early or too late to start a healthy breast routine. Young girls should be taught to recognize the importance of taking care of their breasts at an early age and it will also foster greater body awareness and acceptance.
For more of Dr. Gurm’s tips on breast health and cancer prevention, read the following:
To book an appointment with Dr. Gurm, call (604) 949-0077.
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