There is a great deal of confusion regarding the connection between hormones and breast cancer. I believe that breast cancer can be related to an imbalance between hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. As I have said before, many things can lead to these imbalances such as stress, poor diet, lack of exercise and toxin exposure. One of the interesting experiences I have had since my breast cancer diagnosis is wondering what I “did wrong” to develop breast cancer. I have realized that it is an exercise in futility to beat yourself up over “how” you get something like this; you just move forward and optimize as many parts of your life as you can.
Another interesting thing about breast cancers is that there are different types. Breast cancers are typed by what hormone receptors they express. Some breast cancers express estrogen receptors (known as estrogen receptor positive). These are the breast cancers that are sensitive to estrogens and women with these types of cancer should reduce their estrogen exposure. Other breast cancers express receptors to the hormone progesterone and to HER2 receptors. In normal, healthy breast cells, HER2 receptors receive signals that stimulate their growth. With too many HER2 receptors, however, breast cancer cells grow and divide too quickly. Depending on the receptors expressed, the breast cancers can be classified as positive or negative for estrogen, progesterone and HER2. Treatment options are based on which receptors are positive on the breast cancer cells.
Approximately 10-20 percent of breast cancers do not express any of these receptors. They are known as triple negative breast cancers (TNBC). This is the type of breast cancer I have. It is not hormonally sensitive (so I could take hormones if I needed them). These types of breast cancers tend to occur in younger women (under the age of 40 or 50), black and Hispanic women and women with genetic mutations such as BRACA 1 and 2. Some of the main issues with triple negative breast cancers are that they are harder to treat and more aggressive. However, there are many therapies that show promise in treating TNBC and it is a very hot area of cancer research. I have an amazing team in my corner and am positive that I will overcome this challenge and be around to share information with you for decades to come.
Our sex hormones – estrogen, progesterone and testosterone – work together to build us up, giving us our strength and resilience, however, as we age, these key hormones start to decline. Other factors besides our natural aging cycle can also cause a decrease in levels. Those factors pertain to our lifestyles, such as, eating the wrong foods, living in a state of chronic stress, being overweight, getting too little exercise and being exposed to too many environmental toxins.
Sex hormones play many important roles in our bodies. Estrogen performs more than 400 functions in the female body, such as maintaining memory, mood and muscles, maintaining bone and protecting against osteoporosis and protecting against heart disease. Progesterone has a calming effect and enhances mood, balances blood sugar and thyroid function and rebuilds bone. Testosterone builds muscle, increases energy and libido, enhances sense of well-being and strengthens bone.
This situation of declining sex hormones can be addressed with bioidentical hormones, but in order to sustain long-term health and well-being, certain lifestyle requirements must be followed. Changes in the way we live can be difficult at first, but once it becomes routine, it becomes the new way of living and can be done naturally, without much thought.
Proper nutrition and getting essential nutrients is key. Then comes stress management. We can’t live in a constant state of stress. It is important to stop and evaluate what the major stressors are in life and address ways to control and respond to this stress, not react to it. Taking part in physical activity also helps build up our hormones by eliminating excess weight, which is one of the biggest robbers of testosterone.
Adopting a way of life that fosters optimum functioning of our hormones will lead to a healthier, happier and longer life.
Vitamins to Help Estrogen Fluctuation
There are a lot of factors to take into consideration when keeping your heart healthy – diet, exercise, family history. New research suggests you might also want to keep an eye on your testosterone levels.
Over the last decade, a large body of literature has emerged suggesting that a link exists between androgen deficiency and cardiovascular disease. It has been concluded that testosterone levels are consistently lower in men with cardiovascular disease.
A number of other studies have suggested that reduced testosterone levels are also associated with increased total cholesterol and increased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL). Testosterone replacement therapy for androgen deficiency reduced total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Lower testosterone levels in aging are also associated with elevated triglycerides and increased risk for insulin resistance and diabetes.
So what are some ways you can elevate your testosterone levels?
- Lose the belly fat. Excess weight around the midsection leads to more estrogen, less testosterone.
- Lift weights. Training your muscles by lifting weights has shown to increase testosterone and your natural production of growth hormone.
- Make nuts your snack of choice. Monounsaturated fats help raise testosterone. Good sources are nuts, organic peanut butter, canola oil and olive oil.
- Don’t overtrain. Yes, lifting weights is good for raising testosterone, but you also must give your body adequate time to recuperate. Get eight hours of sleep and never train the same muscles two days in a row.
- Don’t binge drink. Alcohol can cause a reduction in your testosterone production and the higher levels that occur with binge drinking make it worse.
Also, keep a good eye on your testosterone levels by having your physician test them periodically. If your levels are too low and you have symptoms of low testosterone, you may want to speak with your physician about prescribing bioidentical testosterone to fit your needs.