Breast Cancer Prevention: Part 3

06/26/2013 02:59 pm ET | Updated Aug 26, 2013

Well, as I sat down to write this, I realized that on one hand, I was a little discouraged that I couldn't get this information into one or two blogs (seems like a lot, right?). Then I realized that my goal in writing this is to make you feel like you have some power over what occurs in, and to, your body. And (another disclaimer), there may be a few more parts after this, too!

Remember a few weeks ago when we discussed how the renegade bacteria in your gut produce an enzyme that can disconnect the "bound" estrogen from the glucuronic acid? This enzyme is called beta-glucuronidase. To review, one step in the estrogen processing pathway binds the estradiol in your body to glucuronic acid. I think of this like a barbell, with the glucuronic acid on one side, and the estrogen molecule on the other, with a chemical bond in between them.

If you're constipated, these "barbells" sit in your gut. As they sit, there is more time and opportunity for beta-glucuronidase to break the bond between the two. (Remember, this makes the estrogen molecule more toxic, and THEN it gets recycled into your body -- creepy. And the glucuronic acid eventually gets pooped out.)

So in this post, we're going to look at the numerous ways that you can inhibit beta-glucuronidase. Again, this list is not complete, and it also doesn't tell you what's right for you, since you really need to have a functional medicine partner in your healing journey!

First, let's look at constipation, which allows that molecule more time to work. My definition of constipation is failing to have a nice, fully-formed bowel movement at least once every day (more is fine, too). There's a ton of ways to help with constipation, and include: avoidance of processed carbs (e.g., anything out of a package), drinking more water (we review this in a previous post), and increasing fiber. Fiber is a substance that helps increase the "bulk" of the stool, making it less compact and thereby easier to move.

I read this really cool study that, over time, compared the stool bulk and volume of women who ate only a plant-based diet with women who ate meat, and they found that the stools from the women who ate only the plant-based diet were significantly heavier than the other women, AND contained more estrogen in the stools (as opposed to the women who ate the meat, and kept the estrogens in their bodies!). In addition, the vegetarian women had lower levels of circulating estrogens in their bodies, and lower activity of beta-glucuronidase. Lastly, the vegetarian women consumed less fat than the women who ate meat (30 percent vs. 40 percent).

This brings me to the next point. In our house, if a kid is both hungry and tired, it's what we call a "bad combination." In your body, a high fat, low fiber diet is also a bad combination, since beta-glucuronidase activity is increased. Decreasing the percentage of fat in your diet inhibits the activity of beta-glucuronidase. (It does other things, too, but that's a different post!)

Lastly, for today at least, there's a lot of talk about probiotics. There's a lot of debate about probiotics: What's the right dose, when should you take them (e.g., with or without food), should you rotate them or stick with one combination, and for how long? All that being said, I'd still vote in favor of probiotics, if only because they can help normalize the gut flora, and inhibit the bacteria that may not always be acting in your favor. One caveat: When I say probiotics, I'm not referring to yogurt, although those aren't harmful. I'm referring to billions of colony-forming units (e.g., upwards of 15!)

Because a business, four kids, and a blog post weren't "enough," we got the kids baby chickens four weeks ago. As they walk around, they scratch the surface of their pen. Which is exactly what we'll do next week -- continue to scratch at the surface of breast cancer prevention!

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