The NY Times recently published an article “What Causes Girls to Enter Puberty Early?” I immediately read the article, especially because I have a 7 year old daughter, and puberty can start as early as 7 years old for some girls. Basically, they sited that stress, obesity and environmental toxins were prime suspects. All of these factors affect the endocrine system causing the body to create too much estrogen, which can lead to estrogen positive breast cancer. The article also sites that early puberty can lead to not only breast cancer, but depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Studies show that mice with cancer under stress are more likely to have metastatic cancer, another reason to manage stress.
It’s easy to link stress to breast cancer from a TCM perspective. The liver and the stomach channels run right through the breasts and can both be affected by stress. The liver channel can be congested with stress and toxins, both which have been linked to early puberty. The stomach channel is associated with stress and worry and can be taxed when people eat too much or eat unhealthy processed foods. When these channels are blocked, stagnant energy arises, causing symptoms like breast tenderness, cystic breasts, or gastrointestinal issues like IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).
So how can we help our daughters, as well as ourselves, prevent early puberty and breast cancer? Below I address the three factors that the NYTimes article states are triggers for early puberty and offer some simple tips to minimize these triggers: Stress, obesity and environmental toxins. Some of these tips may seem obvious while others may be new to you. Either way, hopefully we can minimize our children’s exposure to these unhealthy factors, in the meantime helping ourselves as well!
STRESS REDUCER TIPS
Ear massage – take any finger and press into the ear, pressing inward and slightly downward. Keep the pressure on the ear for 5 seconds or until you feel a deep breathe come your way. You can also rub the outer part of your ear from the top to the bottom.
Breathing exercises – try inhaling 5 quick short breathes 3-5 times to help oxygenate and rejuvenate yourself.
Shoulder shrug - inhale and lift your shoulders towards your ears and then release. The tightening of the muscles is actually like a self massage which should help loosen up your shoulders.
Lion’s roar yoga pose - children’s yoga is a fun and wonderful way to help kids relax and get in tune with their bodies. Try some downward dog to cobra poses, and incorporate the lion’s roar by letting your mouth open wide and sticking out your tongue. What a great way to help kids let out their frustration!
Happy place – Take some time for yourself and think about a time that you felt really happy and blissful. Keep that picture in your mind and make that one of your happy places! Use your happy places throughout the day to decrease your stress and increase your positive mood.
OBESITY REDUCER TIPS
Reduce processed foods filled with empty calories and hard to digest ingredients. Our bodies are made to eat foods from the earth, not from a factory.
Reduce sugar! If you reduce processed foods, you’re bound to reduce sugary foods!
Cook! Make meals with extra vegetables, even if you have to hide them. I use vegetables in chili, burgers, stews, in just about everything I make. Adding lots of small cut up soft vegetables are easy for your kids to digest and taste good when they are mixed in with other spices and flavors.
Reduce sugary drinks, even juice boxes advertising healthy ingredients. Water is what the body wants and needs to detox and energize. If kids don’t learn to drink water when they are young, they will probably not drink water when they are adults.
Eat dinner early if you can. Instead of giving your kids a snack after school, try making dinner early if you can so they have a big healthy meal to come home to. It will likely decrease the amount of snack foods even though they may need a snack later in the evening.
Early to sleep – studies show that the more sleep you get, the less likely you are to gain weight. If you are more rested, you have more energy and aren’t looking to fuel your energy with cookies, coffee, and unhealthy treats.
ENVIRONMENTAL TOXIN REDUCER TIPS (tips come from the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment)
Dust often to reduce lead build up
Remove shoes at the door to prevent unwanted chemical agents attached to dirt and dust
Use non-toxic cleaners. (vinegar and baking soda is a great mixture for sinks, tubs, etc…)
Avoid dryer sheets (Trader Joe’s has a lavender bag for the dryer but be careful not to overuse it because it can break and get everywhere!)
Avoid using plastic, especially in the microwave, even if it says microwave safe. Use glass and ceramic containers for storing food. (I use mason jars! They’re cheap and versatile. I even put them in the freezer.)
Avoid vinyl toys, including bibs, teething toys and bath toys.
Avoid mercury. Mercury, a metal that is toxic to the brain, is prominent in certain types of fish and shellfish, including tuna and swordfish. CPCHE experts recommended choosing fish low in mercury, such as Atlantic mackerel, herring, rainbow trout, wild or canned salmon and tilapia.
***If you already have fibrocystic breasts, you may want to consider the following information I found on St. Luke’s Hospital’s website:
FOODS AND BEVERAGES TO AVOID IF YOU HAVE FIBROCYSTIC BREAST DISEASE
Tea Including Decaffeinated
Cheese (foods containing cheese, e.g., pizza)
Spices (oregano, cinnamon, garlic, chili powder, thyme, curry, basil)
Women with fibrocystic breast disease have been shown to have a deficiency of an enzyme called catecholamino-methyl-transferase. This enzyme breaks down the hormones dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. The above foods contain caffeine, tyramine, or xanthines, which promote excretion of dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Women with fibrocystic breast disease have an impaired ability to break down these hormones. These hormones stimulate the breast to become fibrocystic. Therefore, avoidance of these foods, beverages, estrogens, and cigarettes will decrease the amount of irritating hormones released and hence decrease the fibrocystic breast disease. Of equal importance, however, is the amount of stress in the woman’s lifestyle. Thus, in addition to eliminating the above food, she must make a conscious effort to limit the stress in her life.
Please feel free to contact me, Simone Wan, with any questions regarding this post.