Sunday, October 12, 2014

Event Recap: An Evening of Empowerment - Holistic Breast Health Empowerment & Breast Cancer Prevention

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend an educational event in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, which is in October. It was kindly hosted by Senspa, a local spa in San Francisco. The event was moderated by Naturopathic doctor Claire Graser, and featured a variety of alternative medicine practitioners, including a Naturopathic Doctor and Oncology Massage Therapist. 

When I received the email invitation with the agenda for the event, I knew I absolutely had to go:

· Learn about external harmful estrogens in our
daily life from Dr. Claire Graser, ND
· Why breast cancer rates in Sonoma and Marin
Counties are among the highest in the world and what you can do
to protect yourself - Chris Holder, Oncology ND
· A participatory class that will incorporate gentle
movement and lecture on lymphatic system function. - Ollie
Lobeck, Fajardo Method® Practitioner

I was especially interested in hearing from Dr. Holder, as he attended the renowned Bastyr University (just outside of Seattle, Washington). Bastyr University is the leading school in alternative medicine in the United States. I was fortunate enough to tour the campus last year, and although I couldn't make it work to attend their RD program, being on their campus had a significant impact in my decision to go back to school to become an RD

Dr. Chris Holder's talk on breast cancer prevention was incredibly thought-provoking and inspiring, as well as backed up by lots and lots of research. He is one of the most eloquent, detail-oriented, yet unpretentious speakers I've come across. There were many take-home points for me, but among the highlights, included the following:
  • At the root of cancer, there are three things: DNA damage, growth signals for cells to keep growing, and immune system suppression
    • Keep in mind, stress suppresses the immune system
    • Certain things can sit on our estrogen receptors and cause unwanted cellular growth - things such as pesticides (many are stored in fatty tissues), phthalates (what makes plastic soft and brittle and is also in many cosmetics, nail polishes, enterically coated pills, just to name a few), Bisphenol A or BPA (did you know this is in receipts?!)
  • Lets shift away from a mammogram being considered the only "preventative" measure but rather, more used for detection. A mammogram detects calcification in the breast tissue. Just because a mammogram is negative, does not mean you don't have cancer, especially if there is a lump; it's not perfect (nothing really is), but we should feel empowered to take preventative measures in other areas of our life. 
    • Note: There is a lot of controversy over mammogram use. Some argue that excess radiation can cause cancer, while others say that mammograms use such a small amount, that the risk is small. However, there are other options for those who choose to opt out of a mammogram. A Thermogram does not expose a patient to ionizing radiation and is considered an alternative to mammograms. It is not perfect either, but uses infra-red technology instead of radiation. Thermograms are FDA-Approved but still considered "investigational" in the US.
    • MRIs are an excellent way to detect cancer, however, they are so expensive that it is not as practical to utilize them in this way.
Though the subject was serious, the tone was educational and empowering. We can all educate ourselves and make small changes to help lead healthier, less toxic lives. Here are some recommendations:
  • Avoid using plastic or styrofoam containers (and avoid heating in them); opt for glass containers
  • Avoid food from cans lined with BPA, especially acidic foods such as tomatoes 
  • Check to see how your cosmetics rate in terms of toxicity 
    • In all honesty, this is the hardest one for me to do because cosmetics are expensive. So rather than do an overhaul of all my cosmetics, I have slowly, over time, purchased less-toxic alternatives. I love 100% Pure facial products, by the way!
    • The Environmental Working Group has a consumer-friendly Skin Deep cosmetics database, which rates cosmetics on a scale of 1 to 9 in terms of toxicity:
  • Buy mattresses that do not have flame retardants
  • Diet: eat real, whole foods. Eat organic and avoid pesticides. Limit refined sugar and processed foods. 
    • Unfortunately, eating organic isn't always available or accessible. Try checking out the Dirty Dozen list to help prioritize which foods should be bought organic:
    • Also, remember that you can often find frozen organic produce for cheaper than fresh. The freezer can be your friend!
When I left the session, I felt inspired, empowered, but also, frustrated. Deeply frustrated. During my time at Bauman College, I learned a lot about food politics and the corruption in the food and farming industries. And attending this session further emphasized how prevalent corruption in these industries is, especially in the United States. Just the simple fact that the European Union has banned so many foods that are sold widely in the US frustrates me. Or that it is nearly impossible in the US to get clean research funded to support alternative health approaches that might not make certain companies billions of dollars. 

But alas, I digress. 

Like I said, I left feeling inspired and empowered to keep educating myself on disease prevention. I believe in approaching health holistically or "wholistically" as my lovely mentor always says. This event was a reminder that we must continue to nurture both ourselves and others, and respect the body, mind, and spirit connection.

*Note: This event at Senspa was free and open to the public. I was not compensated for this post. I did ask permission to post about the event. All opinions are my own. The information discussed in the above post was presented in slides and referenced; I am not a Doctor but simply wanted to share my take-aways.

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