October is “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) would suggest that energizing and nourishing the Liver promotes healthy breasts. TCM describes the body’s energy as Qi, which circulates throughout the body in pathways, carrying both blood and nutrients to all parts. Cancer is viewed as an extreme case of stagnation, of the Qi, blood and fluids. The Liver has an instrumental role in the healthy movement of Qi, blood and fluids. The breasts and genitals are areas that the flow of Liver Qi can easily become stagnant.
Tips to keep the Liver pathways open and smoothly flowing: Regular exercise; Wholesome, fiber-rich foods; Kind thoughts for yourself and others; Forgiveness. Our society is suffering with a bad case of toxic Liver Qi stagnation, witnessed in the widespread lack of civility and tone of cruelty that exists today.
Food wise, the Liver benefits from fruits and vegetables (especially the green ones), whole grains and beans, and clean animal products. The burdens that we place on the Liver come mostly with bad choices: greasy, fried foods; sugar and other refined foods; artificially flavored, sweetened and colored “pseudo-foods”; and hateful thoughts. These all can cause a sluggish Liver, which leads to a variety of ailments including painful breasts, mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety, eye disorders, painful menses and poor digestion.
Dr Andrew Weil’s newsletter suggested that “one of the best defenses against breast cancer may well be diet. A growing and impressive body of research reveals that what you eat and drink can help protect you from the disease.”
He goes on to suggest that women should regularly eat the following:
~ whole, non-GMO soy foods like edamame, tofu, tempeh and soy milk
~ fruits and vegetables – at least 9 daily servings (especially bright colors)
~ green tea – at least 1 cup, or up to 5 cups daily
~ fish – aim for 2 or 3 servings per week of oily fish such as salmon or cod
~ flax seeds – sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of ground seeds on food daily
Dr. Weil’s “Foods to Limit or Avoid” include: sugar, red meat, charred meats, partially hydrogenated oils, and alcohol.
TCM would also use breathing or stretching exercises that have a calming effect on the mind. A peaceful mind will greatly enhance Liver health, and, in turn, breast health. Relax and breathe in peace and calmness; then, exhale all of the stress, negative thoughts and feelings stuck inside. A few rounds of “in with peace, out with stress” and the world is a prettier place, or at least your Liver thinks so. One of the best resources I have seen for further instruction is Better Breast Health Naturally with Chinese Medicine by Honora Lee Wolfe and Bob Flaws (Blue Poppy Press). They propose that breast health, whether you are dealing with benign cysts, pre-period tenderness, or more serious masses, all comes down to regulating the smooth flow of Liver Qi. Start now, and hopefully, you can avoid a whole range of troubles. The best foods for preventing and treating all types of cancers will follow:
FOODS HIGH IN BETA CAROTENE
This includes yellow and orange vegetables like carrots, yams and pumpkin.
This family includes cabbage, kale, collards, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, turnips, radishes, mustard greens. In their raw form, these can inhibit thyroid function so mostly have them cooked.
DARK LEAFY GREENS
These are rich in minerals, chlorophyll and other cancer fighting anti-oxidants. Include romaine, endive, spinach, dandelion greens, arugula, watercress.
All types of seaweeds, such as wakame, kombu, hiziki, arame, nori, dulse, etc.
ONION FAMILY OF VEGETABLES
This includes onions, garlic, leeks, chives, scallions and shallots. They all contain anti-cancer sulfur compounds.
These foods are used to boost the immune system and have potent anti-cancer properties. The best ones to use as food are shitake, maitake, and enoki. Others may be used in supplements as capsules, tinctures, or teas. These may include ganoderma (reishi), cordyceps, wood ears, polyporus, chaga. (www.mitobi.com)
Apples, grapes, apricots, peaches and berries all have powerful anti-cancer properties. Citrus peels are made into teas to benefit digestion.
WHOLE GRAINS AND BEANS
Brown rice, barley, quinoa, oats and millet are all good choices. Fermented soybean (miso and tempeh), edamame, tofu and soymilk are good proteins, as are lima beans, mung beans, and garbanzo beans. Beans help reduce toxicity.
HIGH QUALITY PROTEINS
Low fat yogurt, fish and beans are the best protein sources. Choose fish that are low in pollutants and environmentally friendly. Wild salmon is rich in Omega 3 oils. For lists of healthy fish: seafoodwatch.org (Monterey Bay Aquarium)
Vegetable juice, green tea, ginger tea, roasted chicory or dandelion root tea, holy basil (tulsi) tea, lemon juice in water, citrus peel tea
BEST TO AVOID THE FOLLOWING: The 3 refined “whites”: sugar, flour and salt; processed foods filled with chemical additives and preservatives; and, poor quality oils and fats, hydrogenated oils, deep fried foods, high fat foods, alcohol
Cathy McNease is a nationally certified herbalist with a Diplomate in Chinese Herbology from the NCCAOM, a B.S. in Biology and Psychology from Western Michigan University and two Master Herbalist certificates from Emerson College of Herbology in Canada and East-West Course of Herbology in Santa Cruz.