I recently did an interview with Dr. Sat Dharam Kaur on "How to Prevent Breast Cancer and Heal Yourself."
About Our Expert...
Dr. Kaur is a naturopathic doctor practicing in Owen Sound, Ontario, in Canada, at the Grey-BruceNaturopathic Centre. She has taught the Healthy Breast Program since 1996, and has lectured regularly at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine on breast health and stress management. She has been teaching Kundalini yoga since 1979. She lives in Owen Sound with her husband and three children. For more information on the Healthy Breast Program or to arrange a workshop in your area, just call (519) 372-9212. Visit her website: Mamm Alive. She’s also the author of two books. The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health, and the other is The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Breast Cancer.
Dr. Kaur, Thanks for joining me.
Sat Dharam Kaur: It’s my pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.
Nancy: How did you begin your mission with the breast cancer program?
Sat Dharam Kaur: When I was a naturopathic student in my third year and I was pregnant with my daughter, I was living in a large house with lots of people, and one of the women was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She was a friend of mine. This was 20 years ago. There was nothing around then that was a systematic program that would support a person through the breast cancer journey.
There was no natural-based program, even if it was used along with traditional medical care. I started to piece together aspects of an alternative breast cancer program. Then I began to teach it, and that formed a book. People can become Healthy Breast educators, and I’ll have another program for real certification.
It’s a tricky thing when you’re trying to certify someone to work with cancers, so I have to be careful about that word.
People can train under me. I have a workshops at the Naturopathic College in Toronto, Canada.There’s a weekend workshop where I train people to be Healthy Breast educators or Healthy Breast yoga teachers.
Nancy: Who would participate to your weekend workshops?
Sat Dharam Kaur: They're women who have had breast cancer, relatives or friends of women who have had breast cancer, nutritional consultants, naturopathic doctors, medical doctors, chiropractors, or anyone, really. You don't need any great level of experience, because my feeling is that it will take all of us to help to educate and reverse this epidemic.
It’s an urgent mission that we need to climb on board to make a difference in. I think it can happen one woman to another, so I would love to educate as many people as possible.
Nancy: Can We talk about the countries where this epidemic is not known or is not as common as North America. The Netherlands and the United States lead the world in the breast cancer epidemic. We’re not that far behind. Countries with low incidences include most of Africa, Mongolia, Korea, China, India, Costa Rica, and Japan. Why is that?
Sat Dharam Kaur: There are a whole lot of different reasons. One of them would be latitude. We know now that Vitamin-D is very protective against breast cancer.
Sunlight is a big deal, so in northern latitudes like Canada and the northern United States, it’s really important that we either get outside more or take some Vitamin-D. That’s one reason.
Another reason is diet. It’s mostly the richer countries like in Europe, the United States, and Canada where we consume much more meat and dairy than poorer countries, as well as less fiber. One of the reasons will be diet.
Another would be the number of children we have and the length of time we nurse our children. In, say, Africa, they have children at an earlier age. They nurse them for longer, and they might have more children. That’s protective.
Another factor would be industrialization and light at night. We know that when we’re exposed to light at night,
our melatonin levels drop, which is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland.
When those levels are lower, there’s more breast cancer incidence. You could also look at environmental chemicals, nuclear reactors, and nuclear weapons.
All these things are factors. You can look at pharmaceuticals. With the pharmaceuticals that we take, many of those are related to breast cancer risk. You can look at how the wealthier countries have girls who are using the birth control pill more than, say, third-world countries.
That’s another risk. Hormone replacement therapy is a risk. Many things that wealthier countries have are risk factors, whether it’s a richer diet, access to birth control, etcetera. It’s a multitude of factors that are contributing. That’s why it’s such an interesting disease for me. With everyone I work with, we have to try to untangle, “Which were the factors for you?” and then reverse those factors.
Nancy: You mention in your book that a woman whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 40 has about double the usual risk themselves.
Sat Dharam Kaur: Right. That would be a combination of diet, environment, and genetics. We know now there are approximately 32 genes associated with breast cancer.
Maybe two or three of those genes are really strongly associated with breast cancer; other ones are minor. Part of it is genetic, but only about 5% of why women get breast cancer is a genetic link.
Another would be that daughters tend to eat in similar ways as their parents did, and diet has a role in breast cancer. The other would be environmental influences, both when the daughter was in utero in her mother, because the susceptibility to breast cancer begins at conception, actually.
I’ll say that because so many environmental chemicals affect the fetus. If the mother is exposed to those chemicals in her environment when she’s pregnant, that can affect the fetus.
If those chemicals are in a woman’s body from a lifetime of exposure, then those also come out into the breast milk and affect the infant. You’ll see a similarity between the risks for a mother and her daughter, particularly if she’s under 40 years old.
Nancy: You mentioned having more children can protect from breast cancer, but also having children before the age of 20.Sat Dharam Kaur: What happens when we give birth is that the breast cells mature. When they’re fully mature, they’re less susceptible to cancer. We secrete more of a hormone, estriol, which is a weak protective estrogen. The levels of that are higher for about five years after we have a child, so that’s a little bit of protection.
Actually, earlier childbearing, even though that’s not what most people want to do these days, is quite protective. It’s not 100%, but more than if we waited until we were 30 or 40 to have kids.
Nancy: There was another section in your book about breast milk toxicity. I was very surprised to hear that. Can you talk about breast milk toxicity. How can we detoxify the breast milk?
Sat Dharam Kaur: The toxicity in the breast milk is primarily from environmental chemicals, many of which mimic estrogen or are carcinogens.
The ones we have to be particularly concerned about in terms of breast health are pesticides, plastics—like Bisphenol A and the phthalates—strong solvents that might be used in strong industrial detergents, PCBs, which are phased out now in manufacturing but are still around in the environment, and fire retardants.
They’re called brominated fire retardants, or PBDEs, and they’re really common everywhere. Then there’s dioxin, which is a breakdown product of vinyl, polyvinyl chloride. PVC is another problem. That’s polyvinyl chloride. All of these are quite common in the environment now, and many of them act like weak estrogens in our bodies.
Our bodies don’t have really great mechanisms to push them out to detoxify, because they’re fairly new chemicals.
All of these started in the 1940s, and humanity simply hasn’t evolved yet to be able to detoxify them in a satisfactory way. The answer is that we have to try to get rid of our before conception, then we won’t have that in our breast milk, and we won’t pass on that load to the fetus in utero or to the young child in the first six months of breastfeeding.
Some studies have shown that in the first six months of breastfeeding, we dump 50% of our lifetime burden of environmental chemicals into our child, and that’s not acceptable.
The answer is this: if you spend 150 hours in a sauna, you can eliminate approximately 90% of your lifetime body burden of environmental chemicals.
What we need to encourage is teenage girls and young women in their 20s, and even in their 30s, to do that 150 hours in the sauna, sweating out these environment chemicals.
Maybe once every 10 years you do 150 hours. Otherwise, you try to have two to three hours of saunaing a week or vigorous exercise so you sweat. That will help to push out these chemicals so that they don’t interfere with the fetus and so that they don’t cause breast cancer in the woman.
That’s really what we have to do, adapt some of the lifestyle choices that the Finnish may have done. They have family saunas once or twice a week as a matter of course. That’s what we have to encourage.lifetime burden of environmental chemicals before we even conceive.
If we do that before conception, then we won’t have that in our breast milk, and we won’t pass on that load to the fetus in utero or to the young child in the first six months of breastfeeding.
Some studies have shown that in the first six months of breastfeeding, we dump 50% of our lifetime burden of environmental chemicals into our child, and that’s not acceptable.
The answer is this: if you spend 150 hours in a sauna, you can eliminate approximately 90% of your lifetime body burden of environmental chemicals. What we need to encourage is teenage girls and young women in their 20s, and even in their 30s, to do that 150 hours in the sauna, sweating out these environment chemicals.
Maybe once every 10 years you do 150 hours. Otherwise, you try to have two to three hours of saunaing a week or vigorous exercise so you sweat. That will help to push out these chemicals so that they don’t interfere with the fetus and so that they don’t cause breast cancer in the woman.
That’s really what we have to do, adapt some of the lifestyle choices that the Finnish may have done. They have family saunas once or twice a week as a matter of course. That’s what we have to encourage.
Nancy: The breast milk has a lot of fat in it and Sweating removes toxicity, it removes toxicity from the fat cells! Can you explain.
Sat Dharam Kaur: The breast milk has a lot of fat in it, and so what happens as we nurse is the breast milk is made from the blood. After a while, the fat stores of the body are emptied into the blood to provide the fat in the breast milk. Most of the fat in the breast milk happens in the latter part of breastfeeding.
If someone didn’t do all of those saunas before they conceived, another option would be to nurse the child.
Then keep pumping the breast milk out but throw the latter part away. Just nurse a little longer than you would and throw it away so that at least you dump more of your toxins out and fewer are going into the child. I don’t advocate not breastfeeding.
I think we have to focus on real education to try to detox people before they conceive.That’s real prevention. That’s where we need to be putting our money, not so much in research but in prevention. Real prevention is getting rid of that toxic load before conception.
Nancy: Any specific sauna that you recommend?
Sat Dharam Kaur: In Canada, there’s a company called SaunaRay. They’re in Collingwood, Ontario. I think their website is www.SaunaRay.com. In the US there’s a company called Heavenly Heat that’s good. These are both infrared saunas.
You have to be kind of cautious when you’re buying an infrared sauna that there’s no glue and nothing chemicalized in the sauna, and that it’s made from certain types of wood that are ideal for saunas. I have an infrared sauna, and my clients use it.
Most people end up buying their own because if you’re going to do 150 hours, you don’t want to spend them in someone’s clinic. You would pay for your investment just by buying it right off the bat.
Nancy: Are there any other alternatives to the sauna?
Sat Dharam Kaur: It’s sweating, so then it’s exercise. It has to be exercise. I thought about this long and hard when I was writing the book, because it was very depressing realizing how much these environmental chemicals were contributing to breast cancer, and how hard they are to get rid of.
The only thing is you really have to sweat them out. At the same time, you want to improve liver and kidney function, the function of the lymph, and the function of the bowel, because you will also increase their release into the body when you’re doing saunas.
You have to sweat them outside but then improve the function of those organs on the inside to help the body detox and eliminate them.
Nancy: Many medical doctors and alternative health practitioners, especially in Germany, are aware of
a chronic degenerative disease being linked in part to a problem with teeth. In your book, you mention that the teeth that most directly related to the breasts are the two teeth in front of the wisdom teeth on the upper jaw.
Sat Dharam Kaur: Right, and there’s another one on the lower jaw. One of the molars on both sides of the lower jaw is also related to breast cancer. We know that each of the teeth in the body has an energetic association with certain organs, glands, and parts of the body.
If there is a high amount of mercury, a mercury filling beside a gold filling, a root canal, or a tooth that has been pulled in that area, then that associated region of the body could experience distress.
It could be energetically because all of these teeth are along meridians, which is where energy travels. It will change the function of the meridian. More problematic, there can be low-grade infection. There’s often low-grade infection in an area in a tooth where there’s a root canal, and then it gets into the jaw bone around the tooth. From the jaw
bone, it gets into the lymph and the blood supply.
The bacteria that cause these infections in the teeth tend to produce toxins that are considered to be some of the most toxic things that we know. They travel from the lymph and blood and can cause problems in the breast area if it’s those particular teeth.
It can be any tooth, actually, that could cause a problem with the breast area. We have to be really careful. Often, X-rays won’t show that, which is really unfortunate.
There are some specialized diagnostic tools. One is called a Cavitat, which is a sophisticated ultrasound that you can get of the jaw bone that will show where there is low-grade inflammation, infection, and degeneration. It’s often where a wisdom tooth has been pulled or where there’s a root canal. It’s really important that the area is cleaned up. If there’s a root canal, often the tooth has to be pulled.
The ligament that connects the tooth to the jaw has to be removed, the socket in the jaw has to be scraped, and all infection has to be cleaned out, so that it’s not leeching down into the breast area through the lymph or the blood supply. Some of the German and Swiss doctors who work a lot with cancer claim that 100% of the time cancers are related to problems in the mouth and teeth.
I wouldn’t go that far, but I think it is a common thing that often gets overlooked. There was a dentist in the early 1900s whose name was Dr. Weston Price. He traveled around the world looking at people who had the greatest health. He also did experiments and examined their diets to see what it was.
Then he did experiments with people who were sick with cancer.
He would pull out a tooth that was infected, and he would implant that tooth under the skin of a rat or a mouse; I forget which. The rat or mouse would develop the same cancer that the person had. Isn’t that amazing? These toxins of the organisms are specific for certain times of cancer.
He did this many, many times. Hundreds of thousands of times he did this to prove his case that cancer could be caused by an infected root canal or tooth.
The other surprising thing there is this. We know that many environmental chemicals mimic estrogen. What I mean by that is they can bind to the receptor that estrogen attaches to.
All the hormones only work when they attach to a receptor. That’s the key. If they don’t attach to a receptor, they don’t do anything. They need a receptor for the hormone to act.
It turns out that mercury, tin, cadmium, lead, aluminum, and many heavy metals also attach to the estrogen receptor. They’re called metalloestrogens. They can mimic the hormone estrogen, too.
What we have is this huge amount of estrogens—chemical estrogens, metal estrogens, estrogens in our food, estrogens in the birth control pill, and estrogens in hormone replacement therapy.
We just have way too much estrogen affecting us and our breasts, causing breast cysts, breast cancer, uterine fibroids, and ovarian cysts. All of these things are due to excess estrogen. The environmental estrogens the body doesn’t know what to do with, and it hangs onto them so they stay there for decades.
The plant estrogens like flaxseed and soy, on the other hand, are protective. They can attach to that receptor, and they’re about 1,000 times weaker than the body’s estrogen.
They bump off the strong estrogens, and in that way they can be protective. What we have to do is have a regular supply of the phytoestrogens, the plant estrogens, to displace the strong estrogens from the body and the chemical estrogens, so that those receptors have something weak and protective attached to them.
Nancy: Is flaxseed part of your program?
Sat Dharam Kaur: Flaxseed is the strongest of the phytoestrogens. Studies have shown that when women eat one muffin a day with some flaxseed in it and they’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, the growth of the cancer shrinks.
The rate at which the cancer is growing slows down between the time of diagnosis and the time of surgery, which is often only months. The cancer itself can shrink a little bit in that time if women eat just one muffin a day with flaxseed.
Another study on animals showed that the flaxseed strongly inhibits metastases to other organs. We need at least two tablespoons a day of ground flaxseed as protection and prevention. If somebody had breast cancer, I would say to have a little bit more—maybe three, four, five, six tablespoons—of flaxseed a day.
The studies on the animals have shown that when it’s 10% of their diet, there’s this incredible inhibition of breast cancer. We need to do that and eat as much as we can. Grind your flaxseed in a coffee grinder. Try to use it within 15 minutes or else the oil goes rancid.
You can put it in oatmeal or breakfast cereal. I use it in the morning with a fruit smoothie. You can throw it in your salad or stir it into beans.
If you make a bean soup, stir it into the beans after the soup is cooked. You can bake it. There are all kinds of ways.
Nancy: You mentioned that monthly breast self-exams are able to reduce breast cancer by 20% to 30%. When is the best time to perform breast self-exams?
Sat Dharam Kaur: Between five and 10 days after the period starts, so maybe day five, six, seven, or eight of your cycle if day one is the first day of your period. After day 14, the breasts often swell a little bit, and any lumps will be larger because of hormonal changes. It’s good to do it just a few days after the period starts.
Nancy: You have a whole set of DVDs of you teaching the Healthy Breast Program at the Naturopathic College, and one of those is called “Getting to Know Your Breasts.” You demonstrate the breast self-exam on there. One of the facts in your book you mention how dangerous it is to wear a bra with an underwire, can you talk about this.
Sat Dharam Kaur: One of the things that protects our breasts is the flow of lymph, the lymphatic circulation. The job of the lymph is to pull the toxins from the extracellular fluid and to drain them from any area of the body so that they’re eliminated.
There are these very fragile lymphatic vessels. Some of them are deep within the body, but some are just close to the surface of the skin.
Any pressure on those vessels will restrict the flow of the lymph and, hence, decrease our ability to cleanse, detoxify, or remove toxins from that area. The lymphatic system removes things like bacteria, viruses, debris, cellular waste, and cancer cells.
The lymph would be responsible, say, for trying to move things like heavy metals, viruses, or the bacteria or toxins from the teeth from the breast area.
What moves the lymph is regular exercise, deep breathing, hot and cold showers, skin brushing, and jumping on a little rebounder. Those are things that help to move the flow of the lymph. If we have something tight, even if it’s not an underwire bra—any bra that’s too tight so that when you take the bra off you see some red marks on your
skin—what happens is you’ve compressed those lymphatic vessels.
You’ve impeded the flow of lymph and thwarted your breasts’ ability to cleanse themselves through the lymphatic system. It’s not only that, but some people think that the wire itself creates a problem with the electromagnetic field around the breast.
We really shouldn’t be wearing metals so close to the breast area. That’s another piece. There are lots of great bras out there. You’d want one with kind of a wide elastic underneath for women who have large breasts.
You’d want a wide elastic underneath, as well as being firm, cotton, and stretchy so that the breasts can jiggle a little but still be protected. That’s what you want.
Nancy: Many women are suffering with premenstrual breast pain and swelling? Why, and what would be some natural remedies for that?
Sat Dharam Kaur: In Chinese medicine, they would say that’s related to liver congestion. Liver congestion is often caused by stress and the holding in of emotions.
Regular relaxation is so important because relaxation helps to restore balance to the whole hormonal system. That would be piece number one, to take 20 minutes a few times a day to have a nap, do some long, deep breathing, meditate, go for a walk, journal, listen to music or whatever; but to stop and sit, breathe, or tune into oneself.
That helps prevent this liver stagnation. That would be one piece. The other thing that prevents liver stagnation is regular exercise.
We know that exercise can inhibit breast cancer incidence by up to 60%, so if we exercise about four hours a week—at least walking or something a little bit more aerobic than walking four hours a week—it’s what
we need to prevent, to some degree, breast cancer.
That amount is protective. Another thing is that premenstrual breast swelling can also be related to excess
estrogen. Vitamin-B6 helps the liver to break down estrogen. It’s one of the key things, so we want to make sure that we have enough B-vitamins. It also can be related to low progesterone.
Progesterone is another hormone that works in conjunction with estrogen, but helps to put a brake on estrogen’s ability to cause cells to multiply fast.
That’s what estrogen does; it causes increased cell division in breast cells. Progesterone puts a halt to that. Some people have low progesterone, again, because of this environmental estrogen dominance caused by so many things in the environment.
Vitamin-B6 helps to increase progesterone, as well. The herb chaste tree berry can be used also to increase progesterone.
Those are some of the reasons that women might have premenstrual breast swelling. Another could be the adrenal hormones. There’s an adrenal hormone called aldosterone, which can be elevated when we’re under stress. That will cause us to retain water and might cause more breast swelling as well. Again, it’s related to stress.
Nancy: Do You recommend progesterone cream.
Sat Dharam Kaur: I know that’s in the book, but I found that any hormone you use as a topical hormone or an oral hormone doesn’t bring the body back into balance. It’s much better to try to address the causes of progesterone deficiency and find other ways to balance the body rather than using a hormonal cream.
Nancy: What happen to the progesterone and estrogen level when we cleanse our liver?
Sat Dharam Kaur: Cleansing the liver would help to decrease the estrogen so the estrogen and progesterone are in balance. You won’t increase progesterone much by cleansing the liver, but you can definitely decrease the estrogen, and that’s where the problem is.
Most people have too much estrogen. Unfortunately, the progesterone is also often low in people because of some of the plastics. The phthalates, the Bisphenol A and the fire retardants can contribute to low progesterone, so we want to get rid of those.
Nancy: What's the cause of fibrocystic breast disease and what would be natural approach to fibrocystic breast disease
Sat Dharam Kaur: What happens with fibrocystic breast disease is that women, before their periods, will have more swollen breasts with more cystic-like conditions.
Usually they feel kind of like marbles under the skin and are usually quite tender. One of the reasons for this can be low amounts of iodine in the body. Iodine makes the breast cells less susceptible to estrogen.
That’s one of the reasons, I believe, that the Japanese have less breast cancer, because they eat a lot of seaweed. They eat, I think, about five grams of seaweed a day; quite a lot of seaweed, so they’re getting lots of iodine. Iodine reduces the effect of estrogen on the breasts.
That’s one thing that a doctor in Canada, Dr. Ghent, found, that if women with fibrocystic breast disease took kelp or if they took an oral form of iodine, they could totally eliminate that cystic condition much of the time. That’s one of the pieces.
Fibrocystic breast disease also can be due to too much estrogen and not enough progesterone. Sometimes it’s related to an underactive thyroid, and that may also be because of the low iodine. Also, Vitamin-E, the B6, the iodine, co-enzyme Q10, increasing flax seed oil, and maybe a little bit of evening primrose oil might help with the fibrocystic breasts.
Nancy: It's really important that women do monthly breast self-exams, number one, to become familiar with their breasts, to be proactive, to take ownership and to develop self-care habits around breast health.
Sat Dharam Kaur:That’s the first one. A lot of women find their breast cancers themselves just by either noticing something or feeling their breasts. That would be number one. I don’t believe in mammograms.
I don’t really believe in screening mammograms because mammography exposes the breast to more radiation, as we know. Unfortunately, women who get the most mammograms are women who are most vulnerable to breast cancer in the first place, because usually there’s a family history so their doctors are recommending that they have mammograms every year or every two years as a screening tool.
However, that amount of mammography can actually cause breast cancer because Xrays cause genetic mutations, and those women are already susceptible. That doesn’t make any sense at all. It does make sense to use mammography if someone finds a lump and then you want to know what it is.
Mammography can distinguish whether it is a cancerous or non-cancerous lump to a certain degree about 83% of the time. I would say I’m not totally against mammography.
I think it can be used as a diagnostic tool if a lump is found, but I think it’s a poor screening tool. There soon will be available blood tests.
There are studies that have been done that show that if women had these nine blood tests—which are not routinely done right now and you can’t get them right now, but we can voice our opinions that they should be accessible because it wouldn’t be hard to create a panel of these nine blood tests—if women had these nine blood tests done and it was found there was a 90% accuracy rate that there’s breast cancer or not when it’s very small.
That makes a lot of sense to me. However, it’s going to take decades to turn that around because we have invested so much into mammography. Politically, it’s going to be very difficult to say, “No more mammography for screening.
Let’s do these blood tests,” even though it’s much better for women, much better for everyone, but it’s not better for the
healthcare economy. An ultrasound will show whether a cyst in the breast is a cyst or not. Normal cysts are fluid-filled and cancer is not, so the ultrasound is good for showing a fluid-filled cyst.
Then there’s the MRI, which is what I prefer. However, the MRI is a little bit more expensive, and there are a lot of false positives. That means that it might show that there’s a problem when there isn’t, but the MRI will pick things up when they’re smaller.
If you don’t mind a few false positives, you can get an MRI every six months to see if it’s changing or not. That’s also a good tool. There’s also thermography. Thermography is good for showing that a problem may be on its way, and then you can do things to basically detoxify and balance hormones to reverse what the thermography might be showing. Unfortunately, there’s not one technique that’s perfect.
We have to use all of these tools when they make the most sense. As an annual screening tool, or as an every-other-year screening tool, I think the MRI would be the one that I would choose to do. That’s because it’s the least problematic, but more accurate than the ultrasound or the mammogram.
Nancy: You offer in your clinic an herbal massage oil for the breast. Can you talk about that.
Sat Dharam Kaur: I have a beautiful oil in which I mixed up many of those things in my office, and we call it the Healthy Breast Oil. Women absolutely love it.
It works very nicely to help reduce breast swelling and breast cysts. I think it can help to slow down breast cancer. I wouldn’t say it takes it away, but it helps to slow it down. It’s a combination of herbal oils.
That would be the herbs in a base of olive oil that improve the lymphatic circulation in the breast. Those are red clover oil, calendula oil and phytolacca oil. Those three herbs are all lymphatic cleansers. We have those in a base of olive oil.
Phytolacca has a strong affinity for the breasts. It’s also called poke root, and it’s one of the herbs or
homeopathic remedies that also would be used for breast cancer.
Then we add to that certain essential oils. Some of the essential oils contain something called perillyl alcohol, which studies on animals show can inhibit and cause cell death in breast cancer cells. Other herbal oils and essential oils have limonene, which is a relative of perillyl alcohol that also helps to cause cell death in breast cancer cells.
The perillyl alcohol is found in the essential oils of palmarosa, which is an Indian grass, and lavender. The limonene is found in the essential oils of lemon and sweet orange. It’s also in celery.
It’s the essential oil of celery. To that we also add the essential oil of frankincense because that helps improve the circulation and the immune system, as well as rosemary because rosemary helps the liver detoxify. Then I add a little bit of juniper, because juniper also in one study was shown to inhibit breast cancer. I have those all together in
this Healthy Breast Oil. It smells delicious and it’s wonderful.
Nancy: The more menstrual periods a woman has in her lifetime—early onset of menstruation and late menopause—the greater amount of estrogen she will be exposed to and the more likely her chance of developing breast cancer. Can you talk about that?
Sat Dharam Kaur: In our menstrual cycles, we secrete estrogen in the first part of the menstrual cycle. There’s kind of a high pulse of it for a few days, and also in the latter part there’s a lower amount for a few days. It’s the number of the menstrual cycles we have when we have those hits of estrogen in our lifetime that will cause increased cell division in breast cells.
That increased cell division, then, could cause mistakes to be made as the cell divides, which then would form a mutation. It might take a few mistakes in cell division that would form a mutation that would lead to cancer. That’s the link between estrogen and breast cancer.
If something else caused the mutation in a breast cell—for instance, dioxin, which is highly carcinogenic, or radiation, which is highly carcinogenic—then the higher the estrogen, the faster that cell would duplicate.
Then the more that cancer would develop because of estrogen promoting it. It’s the number of spikes of estrogen in our lifetime that are related to more breast cancer, so then the earlier we start our periods, there’s more exposure.
Normally, girls start around age 13, so if they start at age nine there are four extra years of excess estrogen in these
vulnerable breasts, which could promote a cancerous condition. It’s the same with late menopause.
If we have menopause at age 49, 50 or 51, that’s fine, but if it’s 54 or 55, then that’s, again, four more years of menstrual cycles and estrogen.
When we breastfeed our babies or when we’re pregnant, we make more of different estrogen called estriol, which is protective and we have more progesterone, which is protective.
When we breastfeed we’re not having those menstrual cycles, so estrogen levels are lower. The longer you breastfeed and the more children you have, that reduces your risk as well.
Nancy: You talked about the estrogen dominance and the progesterone deficiency and how they’re linked to cystic breasts, breast cancer, and also depression. High estrogen without the opposing balance of natural progesterone is linked to elevated rates of breast cancer.Sat Dharam Kaur: Right. With the high estrogen, you have to realize, there are many things that are contributing to that. It’s the body’s own estrogen, which could be high because we don’t exercise. It could be high because the liver isn’t working very well because it’s not detoxifying the estrogen.
It could be high because we’re not having three bowels movements a day, so you’re not pooping out the estrogen.
It could be high because someone’s eating way too much meat, cheese or eggs, which have estrogen in them. It could be high because they’ve been exposed to a lot of environmental estrogen. There are all of these contributing factors to the excess estrogen that have to be corrected.
Nancy: Can you go into more detail on how we can increase progesterone naturally into our body without using
Sat Dharam Kaur: You want to have enough Vitamin-B6, because B6 helps to increase progesterone. The other things nutritionally that increase progesterone are Vitamin-E and the trace minerals selenium, zinc and boron. We need good enough nutrition that we have enough of those in our diets, or as a supplement.
The best herb is chaste tree berry, which is pretty readily available. You would either take that in tincture form or capsule form, but it has to be taken for quite a long time. You might have to use that a year, and progesterone will slowly go up with using that chaste tree berry for a year. The more soy and ground flax seed you have, also the higher the progesterone.That’s because they increase the number of receptors for progesterone, which is interesting. It doesn’t increase the progesterone, but it increases the number of receptors. The more receptors for progesterone, the more the progesterone can act, so that’s quite interesting.
For progesterone, if people have adrenal fatigue, adrenal burnout or adrenal exhaustion, then progesterone can be borrowed by the adrenal glands to make the hormone cortisol. You have to make sure that the adrenals are okay to keep your progesterone levels optimal.
A lot of people have adrenal fatigue and their cortisol levels are low, so we have to address the stress, do the relaxation, and give them things to help their adrenal glands. The other thing is the thyroid hormones and progesterone work together, too.
You have to make sure that the thyroid is working well, and then the progesterone will be higher. If the thyroid is low, the progesterone is lower. It is a vicious circle. All of these hormones act synergistically like an orchestra. You have to fix the weakest link first, and then keep working around the circle in getting them all up to where they should be.
Nancy: Question from a listener: It’s from Heather, and she’s asking, "Being a second breast cancer survivor, just having a mastectomy three weeks ago, what steps should I take to prevent another recurrence?”
Sat Dharam Kaur: You should buy my book and do everything that it says. Adopt a vegan diet: no meat, no eggs, no cheese and no dairy. The diet should be really high in fiber, really high in vegetables and fruit, high in beans or legumes, and high in seaweeds.
The first thing is diet. Then there are some really key nutritional supplements that are very protective. You could spend thousands of dollars every month on supplements that would help prevent a recurrence of breast cancer, but I’ll give you the top five or 10.
There’s fish oil; about 3,000 or 4,000 milligrams of fish oil a day, or you could use flax seed oil. If you use flax seed oil you have to make sure you also have enough B6 to help utilize the flax seed oil. Definitely eat those four to six tablespoons of ground flax seed a day.Definitely take some iodine, maybe in the form of kelp, a kelp tablet or two a day.
Also use curcumin, which is from turmeric. Add a lot of turmeric to one’s diet, and get supplemental curcumin, which is the active ingredient in turmeric. Take at least 3,000 milligrams a day of curcumin; more, if you can manage to do that. There is an herb in the US, and it’s distributed by Nature’s Sunshine called pawpaw.
That’s showing some good results in preventing breast cancer or killing breast cancer cells. It would be six capsules a day of the pawpaw.
There is a seaweed that is sold by Eden Foods. You can buy it packaged. You can order it directly from Eden. It’s called mekabu. It’s quite tasty. You can make a miso soup and add seaweed to it along with some shiitake mushrooms. Throw a little turmeric in there, and that would be very good. The seaweed also seems to cause cell death in breast cancer cells.
If someone has a history of breast cancer—and everyone actually—they should get their Vitamin-D levels checked to make sure that they’re on the high end of normal. Usually, that means taking 4,000 to 6,000 International Units of Vitamin-D a day to make that happen.
You also have to take very good care of the liver. Some of the things that help the liver detoxify would be N-acetylcysteine, which is a nutritional supplement. Take about 1,500 milligrams a day. Another one is alpha-lipoic acid.
That should be about 300 milligrams a day. You want indole-3-carbinol, or DIM. The indole-3-carbinol would be found in the raw Brassicas: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, etcetera. However, it would take you a third of a cabbage to get 300 milligrams of indole-3-carbinol, which is found in one capsule.
One capsule a day of the indole-3-carbinol, or DIM, is very helpful. There’s often an emotional component to disease, including breast cancer.
That’s important to look at. Really examine your life to figure out why you’re here, what gives you the most meaning, what you have to say no to, and how to become a different person than who you became when you became sick. Then make the changes to really be who you’re supposed to be.
Often that means stepping out of old habits or old ways of relating to other people, and making some changes there. There are a few things.
A cancer diagnosis is a way to say to some person, “Get with the program. Be who you’re really supposed to be.” It’s there to shake a person up to change, not to change out of fear, really, but to change out of accepting an opportunity.
I believe cancer is an opportunity for transformation, and I think we need to embrace every possibility of transformation we can when we have a cancer diagnosis.
Nancy: Why women who have an underactive or unbalanced thyroid gland may have a high risk of breast cancer.Sat Dharam Kaur: It turns out that the breast and the thyroid are the two parts of the body most susceptible to damage or imbalance from environmental chemicals. They’re the two most vulnerable parts of the body.
For instance, fire retardants will damage the thyroid and cause an underactive thyroid, as well as there will be a problem in the breasts.
It’s likely that the same things are causing problems with the thyroid as are causing this epidemic of breast cancer. Both the thyroid and the breast need iodine, so often it’s an iodine deficiency that also could be contributing to a problem.
All we really know is that there is an association between any thyroid imbalance, whether it’s overactive or
underactive, and breast cancer or other breast diseases like the fibrocystic breast disease.
We also know that the thyroid often conks out after the adrenal glands have conked out. Then stress is a factor because the adrenals will be imbalanced with long-term stress when we don’t take enough time to relax and rest and rejuvenate.
The thyroid can be thrown off by that. The answer to the question is it could be a nutritional deficiency, like iodine. The other mineral that the thyroid needs very much is selenium.
Selenium helps the liver make the thyroid hormone T3 from T4, which is produced in the thyroid gland. Without selenium we don’t have enough T3. Without selenium we are also more prone to any type of cancer. When I do toxic metal testing and testing for minerals in the body, many people are commonly low in selenium.
In fact, I would say the most common nutritional deficiency I see is a deficiency of selenium.The deficiency of iodine and the deficiency of selenium are related to both the breasts and the thyroid. The chemicals affect both the breasts and the thyroid.
Also the heavy metals like mercury interfere with thyroid function, as well as act like estrogen in the breast tissue. Then there is the stress factor. It’s a difficult thing. The thyroid is a difficult gland, in a way, to adjust sometimes because we also have to do a fair bit of detoxification before it will normalize long-term.
Nancy: Can you talk about how the thyroid gland is associated with the throat chakra.
Sat Dharam Kaur: Right, so on an emotional level the throat chakra and the thyroid, which are found in the throat, are where we need to speak our truth and express creatively who we are.
If we're shut down in that area and not saying what we really want to say, and if we're not being creative in ways that we really want to express ourselves—whether it's through music, dance, art, singing or anything like that—then that area, and the thyroid gland itself, will be a little shut down.
We want to ask ourselves, "What is it that you need to say that you haven't been saying?” and start expressing that. Then the thyroid can, maybe, rebalance when we express those things.
Nancy: Another interesting thing I read in your book about melatonin. Melatonin levels are low when women who work nightshifts, sleep in the day and don't experience regular nighttime sleep periods.Sat Dharam Kaur: Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland, which is in the center of the brain. It regulates all of the body rhythms. It's the timekeeper of the body. Melatonin is secreted mostly between 1:00 and 3:00 in the morning.
If we are exposed to any kind of light at night at that time, especially between 1:00 and 3:00 in the morning, the melatonin levels will be lower. Melatonin also acts as an antioxidant.
It strongly helps the immune system. It decreases the number of estrogen receptors. It affects the estrogen receptors, so it makes us less prone to breast cancer when melatonin levels are high.
Women who work nightshifts and are exposed to light at night, or who are awake at night, their melatonin levels will be chronically lower. Their body rhythms will be upset, and they will be much more prone to breast cancer. Nurses, especially, are affected by this, and so are airline stewardesses. Both nurses and airline stewardesses have more breast cancer because of the nightshifts.
Nancy: Do you recommend taking melatonin?
Sat Dharam Kaur: Yes. Especially if people are working shift work and they have no choice about it. They could take one to three milligrams of melatonin even while they're working. They have to experiment to see if they're a little groggy with it.Usually, when I've given it to people who work at night, they're okay with anywhere between one
to three milligrams at night.
Since melatonin is particularly useful for women who've had estrogen receptor positive breast cancer, I almost always supplement them with melatonin.
You can increase your own melatonin levels without a supplement by sleeping in a dark room, by exercising about an hour a day, by doing a breathing exercise, prayer, or something really meditative before bed.
You can double or triple your melatonin levels just by doing that. Melatonin is made from the amino acid tryptophan. Some people can eat foods high in tryptophan or take 5-HTP. Both 5-HTP plus Vitamin-B6 help you make more melatonin.
It's a huge thing that we need to optimize melatonin levels, because they're chronically low in a lot of people.
Nancy: You also teach Kundalini yoga, so can you explain how this type of yoga enhances breast health?Sat Dharam Kaur: In Kundalini yoga we have a tremendous variety of breathing exercises, for instance. It takes 11 minutes to turn on the parasympathetic nervous system. You could sit and breathe very slowly and deeply for 11 minutes, concentrate at a point between your eyebrows, just listen to the breath and become calm.
That would be considered a pranayam, or breathing exercise, that would help to balance the glandular system just by doing that. We have literally 100s of different breathing exercises that could be used for various health purposes. That's one piece of Kundalini yoga.
There are also many physical exercises. You might find four, five or six exercises that form a series for glandular balance, for circulating the lymph, for detoxifying the liver, for balancing the nervous system or for eliminating anger.You can tailor your yoga practice to use these series of exercises that have a particular affinity for a certain condition.
That would be helpful. In Kundalini yoga we also use mantras. Those are phrases or words that have a profound effect on the body to bring it up to a higher vibrational state of health.
Nancy: What's the relation between the liver and anger.
Sat Dharam Kaur: This is more because of stagnation. If we've been holding on for decades to something from the past and there's a little seething anger, then it will cause a blockage in the blood flow in the liver. We call that stagnation of the liver blood, and that leads to stagnation of liver energy.
Then that leads to poor function of the liver in terms of detoxification of hormones, chemicals, etc.
That's one of the causes of the breast cyst and of breast cancer, the stagnation in the liver. We have to find healthy ways to release that anger, to forgive, and to move forward. It doesn't help to hang on at all to the past. That's like a death sentence. You have to look at the now, the present, and embrace it fully. Then figure out the future you
want to create, and move toward that future.
That's the way healing happens, not by hanging onto anger from the past. It's really important to recognize these emotional patterns that we hold and are triggered by, and then to consciously say, "Okay. That's not me anymore. I'm going to let that go. I'm going to reach for whatever I really want.
Nancy: What would be some steps to purge anger!
Sat Dharam Kaur: Right. Journaling helps. Sometimes I have people who are angry, and I say, "Okay. Write that letter to your mother, and write it over and over again until it's out of your system. You don't have to mail it. You can burn it or whatever, but just get it out." It's important to express the anger. You can't shove it down.
You want to express it in a healthy way, and then just be done with it and move forward.
Nancy: What would be your top foods to protect Yourself from Breast Cancer.
Sat Dharam Kaur: Ground flax seed, as well as flax seed oil, two to four tablespoons a day; garlic, one or two cloves a day; onions, one a day; organic tofu, as long as you're not allergic to it; some form of seaweed, particularly the brown seaweeds like wakame or mekabu, but any type of seaweed wouldbe great; and the raw brassicas, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, et cetera, can be put into a salad.
The spice turmeric; add that to as much as you can. You can use red clover sprout. They also have phytoestrogens. They're easy to make if you buy the seeds and you sprout them yourself. It's not too hard to do that. Add about eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day, as well as shiitake mushrooms, which help the immune system and strongly inhibit cancer.
Eat two to three mushrooms a day, if you can. They can be sautéed or added to soups and things. Olive oil is also protective. The oil we should be using in our food is olive oil. You can cook it on low heat. There’s also flaxseed oil. Those would be the most important ones.
Dr. Kaur is a naturopathic doctor practicing in Owen Sound, Ontario, in Canada, at the Grey-Bruce Naturopathic Centre.