Covid-19 Update Plus Good News 4/22/20

Greetings!
 
Your best defense against any viral infection is a good immune system. Nutrients that are critical for your immune system to function at its best are Vitamins A, C and D. I discussed these and more in some detail in my previous emails. I also discussed how important zinc is but I want to elaborate on it now. We know zinc is a powerful anti-viral mineral but it needs to get inside the cell to be most effective. Viruses replicate and do their dirty work inside the cell so that’s where we need the zinc to eventually end up. That’s not a simple task to transport zinc past the cell wall and into the cell itself. There are two natural substances that I’m aware of that help to make that happen.  Quercetin and epigallocatechin-gallate (EGCG), an extract of green tea, help to carry the zinc you’ve consumed into the cell. I’ve been using them in conjunction with zinc acetate lozenges for myself. Also, niacin, a B vitamin, and selenium help with this process.
 
Melatonin and mushrooms are also part of my regimen. I’ve personally lowered my melatonin intake. Dr. Berksen had recommended taking 10 to 20 mg of time released melatonin a night. I tried 6 mg time-released but found that to be too much for me. I’ve since decreased that to 1 to 3 mg before bed. That said if I did get sick I would follow her recommendations discussed in my previous email and increase that amount dramatically.
 
Probiotics turn out to be a defense against respiratory viral infections. What!? You thought they were only good for your gut. Me too until I read an article from the May 2020 Life Extension Foundation magazine. They quote a double blind placebo controlled study that demonstrated a very significant decrease of 75% in the number of flu and flu like viral illnesses with the use of certain probiotics. Plus, those that did get sick had shorter durations and less severity than the control group! Pretty impressive. They add something called phages to their probiotic, Florassist, which makes it much more potent by boosting beneficial gut bacteria by an average of 30 times!
 
Now for some great news. Experts now believe Covid-19 is far less fatal than previously thought and far more prevalent. A study just published from Stanford demonstrated that it is about 50 times less deadly and 50 times more prevalent than previous estimates! This study and more like it are going to prove to be a game changer. 
 
My last email quoted the CDC as saying 25% of those with the virus had no symptoms and wouldn’t develop them. Now, I’m seeing numbers that are much higher from 43% to 50% of those with the virus  will never develop symptoms. The same question I asked before is why? My opinion is the answer must lie with the individual’s immune system.
 
Without question supplements are important but you still need plenty of restful sleep, eat nutritious food, stay hydrated, exercise, and decrease emotional stress. Eliminate harmful substances like sugar. It’s worth repeating that even small amounts of sugar significantly depress your immune system. 
 
If you have any questions please feel free to email or call me at the office 714 633 9532.
 
 Yours in good health,
 Charles Hough, DC
 
FDA Disclaimer . The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by  FDA -approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
 

The Best Covid-19 Recommenations

Greetings!
 
This week the CDC said that 25% of people with the virus are silent carriers. Meaning they have no symptoms and will not develop them. This has generated plenty of discussion but my first thought was why don’t they develop symptoms? To me that is the big question. The LA Times thought the same thing and asked 2 infectious disease experts from UCLA and USC that question. Their answer was we don’t know. It’s my opinion that it all has to do with your immune system and the physiology of Covid-19. I talked at length in my last email about the benefits of Vitamin D as I have for the last 15 years. Yesterday The Irish Times quoted research that has linked low levels of Vitamin D to the epidemic. They state that 1-in-4 of those over 70 are likely deficient in Vitamin D and that maintaining an adequate level would be of benefit in the fight against the pandemic. More on Vitamin D shortly.
 
I’m sending you the best article I’ve seen on the virus. It’s lengthy but if you want to know all the details of how the virus gets into our cells, it’s mechanism of action, what we can do to enhance our immune systems, and what we can do if we get it then this is what you’ve been looking for. It’s excellent but technical so I’m going to write a very condensed version of her recommendations. Dr. Berkson’s recommendations mirrored mine that I wrote to you previously plus she adds other very important steps you can take to help yourself and loved ones that you don’t want to be without. I’ll make a few additions that I think are important in this condensed version. I’ll add a bit more on one of her recommendations of mushrooms that is critical to get the most benefit. I will also elaborate a bit more on vitamin C. Click on the link below for her full article.
 
 
The condense version.
If you are at risk and who isn’t then supplementing with these can only benefit your immune system.
Likely one of the most important is melatonin due to its ability to block one of the potential routes of entry into your lung cells known as the  NLRP3 inflammasome  which causes much of the lung damage in this disease.
 
For prevention she suggests:
Melatonin:  10 to 20 mg time-release for adults before bedtime. Kids make their own. If your child gets ill with a documented case of coronavirus, ask your doctor about adding in 1 mg of melatonin to their mix.
 
Anti-viral nutrients : As I mentioned in the previous article vitamins A, C, and D are critical.
Many people have insufficient blood levels of vitamin A and C. These nutrients have antiviral abilities and are able to support the immune system when it is under viral attack.
 
Vitamin C: If you are not ill with the virus but want protection, take 3-5,000 mg/day of vitamin C. At the first sign of an illness, take 1,000 mg/hour until diarrhea develops, then back off for a time period. If and when you get the virus, IV vitamin C has three studies approved for treating COVID-19 mentioned below in the tools for when infected section. Functional doctors have been using high dose vitamin C IV, along with supportive nutrients, successfully for many years. Try to find a vitamin C with bioflavonoids. Personally I want one that is 50/50 vitamin C and bioflavonoids. Let me know if you need help getting one with this ratio. Spread out your intake of C as it has a half-life of 30 minutes. Also vitamin C absorption decreases with increasing amounts taken.
 
Vitamin D  is also very important for fighting infections. Vitamin D is required to activate 1/10 of your genome. This means that these genes are never expressed. Many of them have to do with your immune system as well as moving calcium into your bones. Thousands of studies have been published that document the benefits of Vitamin D. I suggest taking 5,000 international units a day of supplemental Vitamin D. Take it with your fattiest meal of the day or take a sublingual form to make sure you absorb it. You want your blood levels in an optimal range of 50 to 80 not just within normal limits. Blood testing will confirm your levels. We both suggest to not stay on high levels of any of the vitamins recommended. It’s best to work with a physician that knows how to monitor high-dose nutrient anti-viral intake. 
 
Iodine : is essential to fight off infections and for proper immune system functioning. There is no bacteria, virus, parasite or fungus that is known to be resistant to iodine. Dr. David Brownstein is a colleague and dear friend. Dr. Brownstein has written in his amazing book,  Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It,  that most of our population is low in iodine. She finds 90% of her patients are at or below the low end for iodine. Iodine levels have fallen nearly 60% over the last 40 years. The Recommended Dietary Allowance  (RDA) for iodine is inadequate to supply enough iodine for all the bodily tissues.
For protection: taking half of a 12.5 mg iodine caplet twice a week makes sense. At the first sign of illness, increase to 25 mg of iodine for 4 days and then reduce the dose to ½ of 12.5 mg caplet three times a week. Please keep in mind that iodine can cause adverse effects; it is best used under the guidance of an iodine-knowledgeable doctor.
 
Zinc:  Zinc is powerful anti-viral mineral. Zinc is part of the zinc finger proteins that help the body stop growth (replication) of invading viruses. Zinc has been tested and shown to have anti-viral activity against a number of viruses, even Ebola, though it’s not specifically been tested on COVID-19. Sufficient zinc stores inside cells are needed to help successfully fight viruses. Zinc has been shown to help shorten the duration of the common cold. if taken early in the course of the illness. The common cold virus is a member of the corona family. Taking about 25 mg/d of zinc for most people, with a small amount of copper like 2 to 3 mg in a backup multi-mineral, is immune supportive. Zinc’s highest amount in the body is in the brain where zinc “allows” many hormone signals and neuronal actions to protect the brain. Zinc during a viral outbreak helps protect brain tissue from some of the collateral damage. Personally I like Zinc acetate lozenges from Life Extension Foundation. I discussed this in my previous article.They’re inexpensive. Get them from LEF.org or my office.
 
Mushrooms:  Mushrooms contain, in their cell walls, natural polysaccharides called beta-glucans. These substances increase host immune defense by several mechanisms, such as activating a part of the immune system called the complement system, enhancing macrophages (a protective traveling white blood cell that does cellular surveillance), and boosting natural killer cell function. Ill patients, more at risk of the virus, along with the elderly, often have “lower killer cell activity” and thus more viral vulnerability. Getting mushroom supplements is smart. Add them to your diet, too. Paul Stamets is one of the foremost experts in the world on mushrooms and their benefits. He says the mycelia from where the mushroom comes from is by far more potent than the mushroom itself. I recommend his product from Host Defense called Stamets 7. There are others that I mentioned previously that are mycelia based.
In her article she discusses many of the strategies we already know and I talked about previously like social distance of 6 feet or more, exercise, decreasing stress, getting enough fruits and vegetables and high quality protein in your diet.  Avoiding sugar as it’s known to depress the immune system as does stress. Also avoid NSAIDs like advil and ibuprophen as they are known to depress the immune system and have other potentially negative effects.
 
If You Get COVID-19
If you become ill with a viral infection, she suggests these viral protocols that have been used for viruses in functional medicine clinics for many years:
 
  • IV Vitamin C if you can get it. Intravenous vitamin C is already being employed (successfully in a number of cases) in China against COVID-19. You can go to a functional medicine doctor or some cities have walk-in IV rooms where they have doctors on site. This looks like one of the best options to start right away. If you can’t get IV vitamin C, try Vitamin C to bowel tolerance as described earlier in this article.
 
  • Melatonin (30 mg time-release – at this time is my best guesstimate) before bed for one week, you may feel groggy during the day, but you need to sleep anyway and this will give you deep healing sleep; then reduce to 20 mg the next several weeks.
 
  • Vitamin D3 (50,000 U) for four days. After the four days, resume your previous dosing.
 
  • Vitamin A Palmitate (100,000 IU) for 4 days, then reduce to 50,000 IUs for 4 days, and then down to 25,000 IU.
 
  • Zinc (30 mg 4/day) divided into two dosages; this will probably cause a little nausea. Go down to 30 mg each day until at 30 mg. While doing this protocol make sure you have a multi-mineral on board with a bit of copper in it.
 
  • It is best to work with a holistic doctor who can monitor your levels as both vitamin A and D can become toxic.
 
  • Ozone whole blood irradiation is a powerful tool against viruses (and everything else). Hydrogen peroxide IVs are helpful, too. I have not used these, but Dr. Brownstein swears by them.
 
  • Consider clearing nasal passages with a Neti pot (with purified water).
 
  • Consider Afrin nasal spray (3 sprays in each nostril, 3 days at a time, and then 3 days off). This could potentially keep your sinuses clear and prevent the symptoms from spreading to your lungs.
 
Yours in good health,  
Dr. Charles Hough
 
FDA Disclaimer . The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by  FDA -approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Coronavirus. What you must know.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Covid-19 a world-wide pandemic. Many of us will eventually come down with the coronavirus called Covid-19. First, this is a brand new disease to humans and we have no natural immunity to it. Second, it’s highly contagious. From what I read, most of us (80%), will have only mild to moderate symptoms. The time it takes from exposure to symptoms is somewhere between 2 days to possible 2 weeks but typically 5 days. We can pass it on to others during the period that we have no symptoms. You can expect fever, body aches, breathlessness and a dry cough that will last a couple of weeks.  Unfortunately, the rest will be really sick for 3 to 6 weeks and the current estimate is 3% won’t survive. Mostly those of us that are older, those with compromised immune systems and those with chronic illnesses like diabetes fall into that category. Three percent sounds like a small number but multiply that by our population and we have a serious event. A recent news headline from an expert in the field says a worst case scenario in the U.S. would be 96 million infections and 500,000 deaths! I don’t mean to scare you but I hope this inspires you to take action.
 
 
And regardless of what you may have heard, a vaccine will not be available for at least a year and half. Presently, there are no effective drugs to treat it.
 
 
My advice is to prepare now. Get your immune system in tip top condition. Get enough rest, exercise, eat nutritious foods and avoid stress. These are pretty obvious strategies but sometimes we need to hear the obvious. Also, wash your hands a lot. No more shaking hands and high fives. Try to maintain a social distance when around a group of people, three feet minimum and some recommend 6 feet. The virus can live from 12 hours and possibly up to days on a surface like a door knob, gas pump handle or the pen at the post office. You get the idea. Disinfect surfaces with alcohol or other disinfectants. The virus can also be transmitted through the air but the CDC doesn’t recommend using face masks for those that are well. The vast majority of face masks are too porous to be of any benefit except to keep your hands away from your nose, mouth or eyes. That said a high end mask with a rating of N95 or higher is likely to work to filter the viral droplets from the air.
 
 
Keep your throat moist. Gargle often. A solution of salt in warm water will be sufficient. Drink water, a few sips every 15 minutes minimum. The virus infects the throat first. Drinking water may wash a virus down your esophagus and into your stomach where the high acidity will kill the virus instead of migrating into your lungs.
 
 
If you do come down with any illness avoid sugar. Some experts believe 1 teaspoon of sugar depresses the immune system by 50% for 4 to 6 hours!
 
 
There are a number of products that have been shown to benefit your immune system. Begin with vitamin D. I’ve been talking about this for over a decade but if you haven’t heard Vitamin D is required to activate a tenth of your genome, over 2000 genes are never expressed without an optimal amount of vitamin D. Many of those genes have to do with your immune system. The easiest way to optimize your vitamin D level is to supplement. Usually it takes 3 to 5 thousand international units per day to get into that sweet range of 50 to 80 on a blood test. If you don’t supplement with vitamin D and you come down with symptoms Life Extension recommends loading up with a dose of 50,000 IU’s the first day and then decrease the amount you take after that. Check out  Life Extension for more details. Other experts recommend taking 50,000 IU’s of vitamin D for 3 consecutive days beginning at the onset of symptoms.
 
 
Other things that I keep on hand to make sure my immune system is as good as it can be are zinc acetate lozenges from life Extension foundation ( LEF.org ), Echinacea, vitamin C with bioflavonoids, vitamin A, andrographis, and astragulus. Fortunately all those and more are in one product called Viracid from Orthomolecular Products. There are a number of studies that have shown a product called Transfer Factor from Researched Nutritionals has a positive effect on our natural killer cells. These are the immune system’s first line of defense. The over the counter drug cimetidine, as well as garlic, and CoQ10 have been shown to be beneficial to our immune system. A caution is noted on the use of cimetidine, I don’t recommend a young person with a robust immune system to use it. There is a possibility it can over amp the immune system causing a cytokine storm. Think of it as causing extensive collateral damage and possibly death. The one thing I wouldn’t be without is a blend of 7 mushroom mycelia from Host Defense called Stamets 7. These mushrooms have all been shown to augment the body’s immune system by increasing the activity and impact of immune cells. Personally, I’ve already begun taking the mushroom blend, Stamets 7. A very similar product is Mycel Immune Plus from Protocol For Life Balance. Both are great. I’m able to get Stamets 7 in bulk powder form which is more economical. The rest I’ll begin at the first sign of illness or exposure.
 
 
I’ll do my best to keep Viracid, Stamets 7, Transfactor, and Vitamin D in stock at the office. I’m certain there are other natural products that positively impact your immune system. These are the ones I’m using and recommending to my family and patients. The idea is to be prepared.
 
 
If you have any questions please feel free to call me at 714 633 9532 or email me at DrCharlesHough@att.net .
 
 
Yours in good health,
 Dr. Charles Hough
 
 
FDA Disclaimer . The statements made regarding these products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by  FDA -approved research. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Self Breast Exam

According to the American Cancer Society, “The most common symptom of Breast Cancer is a new lump or mass.”

Despite increased use of screening mammography, a large percentage of breast cancers are detected by women themselves. 

Approximately 50% of cases of breast cancer in women 50 years and older and 71% of cases of breast cancer in women younger than 50 years are detected by women themselves. Despite this information, most women are in denial about feeling their breasts for potential lumps. 

Most don’t know what to feel for and others just don’t want to go there.

Even if you are getting yearly exams, there are still 364 days of the year in which changes can occur. A significant number of women are present with palpable breast cancer even with a normal exam within 1 year.

According to the American Cancer Society, “women should be familiar with how their breasts normally look and feel and report any changes to a health care provider right away”.

So … if finding a lump is so important and finding it through touch is so effective, then it only makes sense that the better you are at it, the higher the chances are that you will find your lump sooner than later and smaller than bigger.


There are two critical components to a self breast exam. Only when you combine both, can you expect to achieve the most effective Breast Self-Exam. 

1. Your fingers must be taught what to feel for, what a suspicious lump might feel like. This can only be accomplished by palpating a tactually accurate breast model. It cannot be done by watching a video or reading a pamphlet.

2. The educated fingers must then be brought into contact with ALL of the breast tissue where an unhealthy lump might reside.

Would you rather find a lump the size of a ping-pong ball or the size of a pea?

When you come in for your SureTouch breast exam as the examiner to let you feel our “fake breast tissue sample” it has different types of lumps and can help you locate one if necessary.

Stay Healthy, 
Janice

Cancer Prevention Tip #1 – Vitamin D

Recent studies have identified a superstar of breast cancer prevention – vitamin D.  Women with higher levels of vitamin D have a reduced cancer risk of 50% or more for most cancers including breast. Vitamin D protects against cancer by helping the body regain control over genes that regulate cellular proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis (death of defective cells). These three types of processes: proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis are key factors in cancer. Without a sufficient level of vitamin D the expression of the genes that regulate these processes become defective.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of vitamin D. Many studies demonstrate that women with higher levels of vitamin D have significantly lower rates of breast cancer.

In 2007, a large, double blind, placebo-controlled study showed after four years of vitamin D supplementation with calcium, a 60% decrease in all cancers was attained, compared to the placebo group. On further analysis of the data, eliminating those diagnosed in the first year of the study (since they already had the cancer before taking vitamin D), the reductions were 77%. These are absolutely astounding numbers! 

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because our skin converts sunlight to vitamin D. If you regularly sunbathe or use a tanning bed you may have enough vitamin D. If not the only way to get an adequate amount is to take vitamin D supplements. And the only way to know if you’re taking enough vitamin D is to be tested. 

The blood test for vitamin D is 25, hydroxy vitamin D. An optimal level is 50 to 80. Getting to those levels is likely going to take 5,000 to 10,000 IU’s a day. Some of us, me included, don’t absorb vitamin D well and need a special form called sublingual vitamin D3. My favorite comes from Superior Source and can be found in nearly any health food store. Bottom line, supplement with vitamin D and get your levels checked at least once a year.

My vitamin D level is 82. Janice

Endometriosis and Sleep

Endometriosis and Sleep

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a medical condition, usually marked by pain, in which tissue that normally grows inside the uterus is found in other parts of the body. This misplaced endometrial tissue is usually shed during a woman’s period, but in the case of endometriosis, it ends up trapped and may form cysts. Usually, the misplaced tissue is found in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and tissues surrounding the uterus and pelvis. More rarely, it ends up in the vagina, bladder, rectum, or cervix.

In many cases, endometriosis may lead to fertility problems, including difficulty conceiving and recurrent miscarriages. Endometriosis is one of the leading causes of female infertility in the U.S. Estimates suggest that around 30-50% of women who have endometriosis will be infertile.

Endometriosis is fairly common. In fact, it affects over 11% of American women between the ages of 15 and 44. Worldwide, over 176 million women (about 10% of the female population from the onset of menstruation to menopause) are affected by endometriosis during their reproductive years. It’s most common among women ages 25 to 29.

The primary symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain, especially during periods. Because pain is often associated with menstrual cycles, endometriosis often goes undiagnosed. On average, women wait 8.6 years between the first onset of their endometriosis-related pain and an official diagnosis.

Symptoms

The symptoms of endometriosis are as follows:

  • Pelvic pain/pain during menstruation
  • Pain during sex
  • Fatigue
  • Painful and frequent urination
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or IBS.
  • Nausea
  • Migraines/Headaches
  • Heavy or irregular bleeding

Causes

No one knows for sure what causes endometriosis. There are, however, a few known hypotheses that researchers are continuing to study. Some of these possible causes include:

  • Overproduction of estrogen: Scientists agree that endometriosis is exacerbated by estrogen. Many of the existing treatments meant to curb some of the symptoms of endometriosis are aimed at decreasing estrogen production.
  • Genetic predisposition: First-degree relatives of women who have endometriosis are likelier to develop the condition. This means that there is likely a genetic link when it comes to the onset of endometriosis.
  • Retrograde menstruation: One of the proposed causes of endometriosis is “retrograde” menstruation, in which tissue flows backward through the fallopian tubes during the menstrual cycle.
  • Immune system dysfunction: Because certain cancers and forms of immune system dysfunction are more common in women with endometriosis, some clinicians believe that faulty immune systems cause the disorder.
  • Surgery/physical trauma: C-sections and hysterectomies can cause symptoms of endometriosis if uterine tissue is accidentally moved to another area of the body.

Why does Endometriosis make it Harder to Sleep?

How does endometriosis disrupt sleep? There are many factors relating to endometriosis and its associated symptoms and potential complications that cause it to affect sleep health.

Here are a few of the primary ways that endometriosis can disturb sleep patterns:

Pain and discomfort
Most women with endometriosis report moderate to severe pelvic pain that increases before and during their period, as well as during and after sex. This pain, associated with endometrial inflammation, goes far beyond “normal” menstrual cramping and can negatively affect your quality of life.

If you’ve ever tossed and turned with pain at night, you know how much a painful night can affect your sleep. Pain is the most debilitating symptom on a daily basis for many women with endometriosis, and the associated sleep loss can exacerbate that pain even further.

Hot flashes
Women with endometriosis sometimes experience symptoms similar to the uncomfortable “hot flashes” often associated with menopause. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that this is because of hormone fluctuations, while others experience hot flashes as a side effect of medications commonly used to treat endometriosis.

Because hot flashes cause a corresponding surge in adrenaline, they’re not exactly conducive to sleep! Hot flashes are associated with chronic sleep loss and insomnia, and they’re one of the many reasons that women with endometriosis might struggle with sleep health.

Anxiety
Women with endometriosis experience higher rates of depression and anxiety than women with any other gynecological disorder. The negative effects of chronic pelvic pain and infertility or reduced fertility on mental health can exacerbate that anxiety even further.

Anxiety and sleep disturbances often go hand-in-hand. In fact, two-thirds of patients with sleep disorders have a psychiatric disorder as well. Anxiety activates our fight-or-flight response, ramping up the areas of our brain that helps with sleep regulation. This often contributes to a feedback loop, in which people struggling with anxiety and insomnia suffer from chronic worry about not being able to fall asleep, leading to a domino effect that creates a pattern of sleep loss.

Having to go to the bathroom at night
Endometriosis is associated with a range of bladder and bowel symptoms, including frequent urination. This is because, in women with endometriosis, cells that should be in the womb end up elsewhere–like in the bladder or bowels. The body sometimes responds with negative symptoms like an overactive bladder.

It’s easy to see why urgent, frequent urination could lead to sleep problems. Women with endometriosis are likelier to have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, and they may have trouble falling back asleep due to pain or other troubling symptoms. Anxiety over potential bed-wetting could exacerbate the problem.

Migraines
Women with endometriosis are likelier to experience migraines, and vice versa. Researchers aren’t sure of the reasons for the link, but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that migraines and endometriosis often go hand-in-hand.

Unfortunately, migraine sufferers are also 2 to 8 times likelier to experience sleep problems, according to the American Migraine Association.

The link between migraines and poor sleep health is a complex problem: Migraines often make people have a harder time falling asleep. In turn, chronic sleep deprivation or oversleeping to make up for the lack of sleep that often accompanies a migraine can trigger–you guessed it–more migraines.

Longer and heavier periods
Endometriosis causes longer periods, shorter and more frequent cycles, and heavier menstrual flows for many women. It can also worsen PMS symptoms, from cramps and psychiatric symptoms to headaches and bowel-related issues, all of which can disturb sleep.

Because the hormone fluctuations associated with monthly cycles sometimes lead to sleep disturbances, including both hypersomnia and insomnia, it makes sense that women with atypically long periods would experience particularly severe sleep disruption.

Women with heavier flows may also experience anxiety around excessive bleeding. They might also wake up more frequently than normal in order to replace tampons or pads.

Distinguishing Between Fatigue and Sleepiness

Besides pain, one of the main complaints that women with endometriosis have is fatigue. When the body struggles to rid itself of unwanted tissue, it can lead to inflammation and exhaustion. Think about the last time you were really sick: No matter how much you slept, you probably still felt tired to the bone. That’s fatigue.

It’s important to distinguish between fatigue and sleepiness. Sleepiness and fatigue might go hand-in-hand in some cases, but they have distinct symptoms and effects on sleep health.

Fatigue can include both physical and mental exhaustion. If you have endometriosis and you’re feeling tired regularly, better sleep will help, but it might not be enough. Make sure that you’re seeking help from a medical professional to determine whether your exhaustion is due to chronic sleep deprivation or other symptoms associated with endometriosis.

Strategies for Sleeping with Endometriosis

Below we’ll look at three different areas to explore when figuring out how to achieve quality sleep with endometriosis.

Make sure You’re Getting the Best Treatment for You

Endometriosis often comes with a host of symptoms that can lead to sleep disruption. The good news is that there are many kinds of medical treatments available to ease your endometriosis symptoms–and get a better night’s sleep in the process.

Here are a few treatments that you can ask a qualified medical professional about if you hope to improve your sleep health while managing endometriosis.

Pain medication: Pain is the chief complaint of many women with endometriosis, and it’s also one of the primary reasons that sleep is often disturbed. Pain management is key to achieving a better quality of life with endometriosis. Particularly if you’re not experiencing other symptoms like infertility or problematic menstrual cycles, easing your pain is the first step to a better night of sleep with endometriosis.

Over-the-counter treatments for pain and inflammation, such as ibuprofen, might be enough. But if you find that your pain is persistent and severe, ask your doctor about other options.

Hormone therapy: The natural thickening, breakdown, and bleeding of endometrial tissues that happens before and during your menstrual cycle is also what causes many endometriosis symptoms to flare up. Managing the hormonal variations that regulate this cycle can significantly ease your endometriosis symptoms.

Options for hormone therapy that your doctor might recommend include progestin therapies, hormonal contraceptives, and other drugs that lower your estrogen levels. All of these therapies, when used for endometriosis, are designed to lighten, shorten, or stop your menstrual cycles in order to curb abnormal tissue growth and relieve your associated symptoms.

Surgery: The bothersome endometrial tissues can be surgically removed by a doctor, whether laparoscopically (more commonly) or, in very severe cases, via hysterectomy. While the tissue might grow back, many women do experience improved symptoms and a great deal of relief after surgery. And laparoscopic surgery in particular is minimally invasive, so your recovery time should be manageable.

Surgery to treat endometriosis has two primary goals: to ease pain and inflammation and to improve fertility. Surgery might also improve your sleep or any chronic insomnia you experience, especially if pain or anxiety related to infertility is keeping you up at night.

Fertility treatment: If endometriosis is causing you to have trouble getting pregnant, your doctor may recommend fertility treatments to help you conceive. Fertility treatments might include medication to stimulate ovulation, or more complex procedures such as in vitro fertilization.

Fertility treatments most likely won’t have a direct effect on your endometriosis symptoms or related sleep issues. Instead, managing your fertility alongside a medical professional might ease the anxiety and depression that often accompany infertility, thus improving any chronic sleep problems you might have.

Create the Ideal Environment for Sleep

Regulate the Temperature of Your Sleep Space and Body

The effects of painful menstruation, the possibility of hot flashes from prescribed medications, and the general rules of sleep hygiene all indicate that keeping a cool temperature is crucial to getting good sleep with endometriosis.

Keeping your body temperature well-regulated (“thermoregulation”) is key to achieving a good night’s sleep. With endometriosis symptoms, temperature regulation becomes all the more important for quality rest. There are a few ways to achieve thermoregulation while you sleep:

  • Keep your bedroom cool. The best temperature for falling asleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. You shouldn’t be falling asleep shivering or waking up sweating.
  • Use lightweight, breathable bedding and a softer mattress. Firmer mattresses and body contouring mattresses will increase your body temperature at night, so opt for an airbed or innerspring mattress if you can.
  • Keep cool refreshments, such as water, near the bed at night. If you wake up unexpectedly, you can cool yourself down right away.

Practice Excellent Sleep Hygiene

It’s always important to practice good sleep hygiene. It’s especially crucial if you want to ease any disruption in your nightly rest that your endometriosis symptoms may be causing.

There are a few key principles that will maximize your chances of achieving better sleep health with endometriosis:

  • Know how much sleep you need: The average adult needs 7 to 7.5 hours of sleep a night. In general, you should aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night and follow a bedtime routine: Try to go to sleep at the same time every night and wake around the same time every morning. Use a sleep diary or sleep tracker if you’re struggling to keep track.
  • Find a dark, cool, quiet place to sleep: A dark, quiet room that’s kept between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit and as free of noise pollution as possible will give you the best possible night’s sleep.
  • Dedicate your bed only to sleep and sex: Treat your bedroom as a haven for rest. Don’t use your bed for work, texting, talking on the phone, or anything else that might distract you.
  • Limit screen time: It’s tempting, but try to stop using phones, computers, tablets, televisions, e-readers, or any other electronics that use blue light at least one full hour before bed.
  • Eat well, exercise, and get sunshine during the day: A healthy day makes for healthier rest. Getting sunshine during the day will regulate your circadian rhythm, while eating nutritiously and exercising strenuously will help you sleep better when it’s time.
  • Avoid substances like caffeine and alcohol before bed: Caffeine can jump-start your adrenaline, while alcohol disrupts essential REM sleep. Avoid both substances close to bedtime.

Use Relaxation Techniques while Trying to Sleep

Relaxation techniques such as meditation exercises can prove to be a fundamental part of your nightly sleep routine.

In terms of endometriosis, relaxation techniques can have a dual benefit: both in terms of aiding sleep and in easing related symptoms of anxiety and even chronic pain. Here are a few mindfulness meditation techniques you can use to help you drift off to a restful night of sleep.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Begin a progressive muscle relaxation practice by turning out the lights and doing some deep breathing. Focus on any areas of tension in your body. Then, tense and contract each muscle in your body for five seconds, followed by at least 30 seconds of full relaxation of that muscle. Do this with every part of your body, from the top of your head to your toes. Slowly, you’ll drift into a deep state of relaxation and let go of any remaining tension.

Mindful Breathing: Breathing meditation involves being mindful of your inhales and exhales in a relaxed state. Turn off your bedroom lights and get comfortable. Notice any tension in your body, and don’t try to breathe differently than you normally would. Follow the path of your breath, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you meditate, try to gradually make your exhales longer than your inhales. If you get distracted, don’t judge yourself: Simply refocus your attention (gently) back on your breath.

Counting Meditation: Thoughts invade our brain constantly, whether we want them to or not. Counting meditation is designed to get you to refocus your attention to something simple and straightforward: counting. After you get your room dark, cool, and comfortable, start to count slowly. You can count out loud or silently in your head. Either way, redirect your attention to the numbers anytime your mind starts to wander (but don’t be hard on yourself if it does!). Count until you reach a certain number, or until you fall asleep.

Guided MeditationGuided meditations can include all of the above, in addition to repetitive mantras or chanting, music, or storytelling. There are plenty of guided meditations available on YouTube and platforms like iTunes for you to follow along with. Using headphones or simply your phone, set your device to the right volume and follow along. As with the other forms of meditation, make sure that you’ve practiced good sleep hygiene by resting comfortably in a dark, cool room, and redirect your attention gently to the meditation leader’s voice anytime your mind wanders.

Use of Sleep Aids

If relaxation methods and sleep hygiene practices still don’t get you the rest you need with endometriosis, there are many sleep aids you can try. Here are a few of the most popular sleep aids on the market, as well as some of their potential side effects.

SLEEP AID DESCRIPTION AVAILABILITY SIDE EFFECTS
Antihistamines Antihistamines are typically used to treat allergic reactions, but can also cause drowsiness. Medications such as Unisom or Benadryl are most often used. Over-the-counter Side effects include dry mouth, dizziness, nausea, drowsiness, and difficulty concentrating.
Melatonin Melatonin is a hormone that regulates and spurs the onset of sleep. While naturally occurring, it’s available in supplement forms. Over-the-counter in the U.S. Melatonin can disrupt hormonal regulation. There are some cases showing it lowers sperm count in men. In higher dosages, melatonin can cause hypersomnia.
Sleep Teas “Sleep teas” are caffeine-free herbal teas that claim to improve sleep. Chamomile tea and valerian tea are the most popular. Health food stores, online Chamomile tea can cause allergic reactions and is a blood thinner. Valerian root can be addictive.
CBD CBD oil, or cannabidiol, is one of the chemical compounds found in cannabis. It helps with pain relief, relaxation, and sleep. Check your local laws to ensure legality. Side effects can include fatigue, dizziness, changes in appetite, diarrhea, and dry mouth.
Prescription Sleep Medicines Most prescription sleep medications act on the benzodiazepine receptors in the brain to cause sleepiness. “Z-drugs” include medications like zaleplon (Sonata), while benzodiazepine medications, such as temazepam (Restoril) are used to treat anxiety disorders and also have sleep-inducing effects. Prescription only Both non-benzodiazepine and benzodiazepine drugs can be habit-forming. They also may cause central nervous system depression, which can result in coma and death. No prescription sleep medications should be combined with alcohol.

Conclusion

Endometriosis is a common medical condition among women in their reproductive years. The pain and other symptoms that often result can lead to disrupted sleep and chronic sleep deprivation.

Still, ample resources are available. Hormonal treatments, surgery, fertility treatments, and pain management from qualified medical professionals can all help to ease the troubling endometriosis symptoms that often lead to sleep disturbances.

To manage sleep problems, women with endometriosis can practice good sleep hygiene and use sleep aids for a good night’s rest. With endometriosis, symptoms can be difficult, but relief is possible.

Resources for Endometriosis Treatment

If you or someone you know is experiencing sleep disruption associated with endometriosis, here are some helpful resources:

Sleep and Cancer

Sleep and Cancer

Getting a restful night’s sleep is a challenge for many cancer patients. Pain from the cancer itself, fatigue and discomfort from chemotherapy, and medication side effects are just a few of the things that make sleep elusive for cancer patients. Worse, not getting enough sleep weakens the immune system and can exacerbate symptoms or negative side effects.

An increasing amount of research has found links between poor sleep and several cancers. Keep reading to learn what the latest research suggests about the connection between cancer and sleep, and how you can get better sleep if you’re undergoing cancer treatment.

Does lack of sleep cause cancer?

Regularly getting a good night’s sleep is an essential part of your overall health. While sleep itself has not been deemed a causal factor for cancers, researchers have associated certain sleep disorders with an increased risk of cancer. The three main sleep issues correlated with cancer are chronic sleep deprivation, sleep apnea, and shift work sleep disorder.

Sleep deprivation and cancer

Anyone who has missed a night’s sleep understands the reality of sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep worsens your mood, increases fatigue, and reduces your ability to concentrate. Chronic sleep deprivation (getting less than sufficient sleep over a sustained period of time, usually 7 to 8 hours for adults) is associated with:

  • Poorer memory and cognitive processing skills
  • Weakened immune system
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Increased irritability and higher risk for depression
  • Poorer judgment

Individuals may experience sleep deprivation as a result of hectic work-life schedules, comorbid conditions such as depression or insomnia, or environmental factors like noisy bedroom environments.

Unfortunately, multiple studies have linked sleep deprivation with increased cancer risk.

  • Men with insomnia were twice as likely to develop prostate cancer, according to a 2014 study that followed more than 2,000 men over a five-year timeframe.
  • Individuals who averaged fewer than 6 hours of sleep per night (below the recommended amount of 7 to 8 hours) had a 50 percent increased risk of colorectal cancer, according to a 2010 study.
  • Lack of sleep is correlated with more aggressive forms of breast cancer, according to a 2012 study of postmenopausal women. They found that breast cancer patients who regularly slept fewer hours of sleep tended to have more aggressive forms than women who slept longer.

Sleep apnea and cancer

Sleep apnea describes sleep-disordered breathing where the individual literally stops breathing for up to a few seconds during sleep. The resulting gasping, choking, or loud snoring may wake the person up multiple times throughout the night, so they experience disrupted sleep. Sleep apnea is typically caused by an obstruction of the airways.

For some time, sleep apnea has been linked with obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Recent research also suggests a link between sleep apnea and cancer. 80 percent of head and neck cancer patients also have sleep apnea. Spanish researchers found that individuals with severe sleep apnea had a 65 percent increased risk of cancer, and a Wisconsin-based study found individuals with the highest amount of apnea-hypopnea episodes were 5 times more likely to die from cancer than those without sleep apnea.

The chart below from the Wisconsin study shows the correlation between AHI and reduced cancer survival rate. AHI, short for Apnea-Hypopnea Index, measures the severity of an individual’s sleep apnea.

sleep apnea vs cancer survival rate

Animal studies replicate these findings. According to a 2014 study published in the journal Cancer Research, animal researchers linked the fragmented sleep from sleep apnea with accelerated cancer growth in mice. The researchers placed mice with tumors in low-oxygen environments (to mimic the effects of having sleep apnea), and their cancer progressed at an accelerated rate.

Researchers theorize that the oxygen deprivation associated with sleep apnea may be what’s causing the cancer. When the body doesn’t get enough oxygen, it grows more blood vessels as a way to compensate, which in turn enables cancer tumors and tissue to grow faster.

Shift work sleep disorder and cancer

Researchers have established a link between circadian rhythm disorders, in particular shift work sleep disorder, and increased risk of breast, colon, ovary, and prostate cancers.

Circadian rhythm disorders occur when an individual’s biological clock becomes out of synch with the external environment. Many of us have experienced jet lag, a circadian rhythm disorder that happens when you travel across time zones and your body hasn’t quite synchronized with the day-night cycle of your new location. Shift work sleep disorder affects shift workers, especially those on night shifts or rotating shifts, who are awake during times when the body expects you to be asleep. Common symptoms include insomnia, microsleep episodes, fatigue, and poorer mood and concentration.

Multiple studies have studied the effects of shift work on breast cancer risk. Women who worked night shifts for 4 years and those who worked fewer than 3 night shifts per week both had a 30 percent higher risk of breast cancer than women who did not perform shift work at all, according to a 2012 study published in the International Journal of Cancer. In the first group, the women had entrained their bodies to the opposite of the normal day-night cycle, having worked night shifts regularly for several years. The second group of women never got a chance to fully get used to one schedule over the other, daytime or night. Both scenarios increased their risk of breast cancer.

Even if shift workers get sufficient sleep, researchers suspect the issue may be the disruption to their “normal” circadian rhythms. During shift work, the body is exposed to light during times when it should be asleep. Besides regulating your sleep and wake cycle, your circadian clock directs a variety of biological functions, including organ function, hormone production, and body temperature. The impact to these other functions could also create a conducive environment for cancer to grow.

Most critically, though, disrupting your circadian clock can delay melatonin production (the hormone responsible for sleep) and impact the body’s overall levels of melatonin. When scientists alter the sleep wake cycles of rodents in the lab, cancer also grows at an increased rate. Researchers suspect these decreased melatonin levels may facilitate cancer growth.

For example, a 2003 Boston study found reduced melatonin levels were associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Here, the researchers think the issue lies with the increased estrogen production, which occurs when melatonin levels are lower. Increased estrogen production is yet another risk factor for breast cancer.

Further cementing the link between melatonin levels and cancer, a Michigan State University study found that treating breast cancer stem cells with melatonin reduced the number and size of breast cancer tumors, suggesting that the antioxidant properties of melatonin could eventually be used as a treatment for stopping the growth of breast cancer tumors.

The increased cancer risk for shift workers may also have something to do with their cortisol levels. Cortisol production operates in inverse to melatonin – cortisol levels peak in the morning after sleep and decline during the day. Female night shift workers have a “shifted cortisol rhythm” and peak in the afternoon instead of at dawn when they’re supposed to.

How does cancer affect sleep?

Between 30 to 75 percent of people receiving cancer treatment have some sleep problems and about 25 percent of cancer survivors continue to have issues sleeping. Lung cancer patients tend to report the most sleep problems.

The side effects of cancer and treatment cause a host of issues that can make falling and staying asleep more difficult. Individuals with cancer may have increased anxiety and depression, two conditions that go hand-in-hand with insomnia. Extensive treatment can cause excessive fatigue and cancer-related sleep disorders. Hot flashes and night sweats are common side effects that make it challenging to get comfortable enough to fall asleep.

Generally, the three largest sleep issues affecting cancer patients are insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, and restless legs syndrome.

Insomnia

While insomnia isn’t typically a common side effect of the chemotherapy itself, many of the associated medication, especially steroids, can cause disrupted sleep. Worse, insomnia often exacerbates other symptoms and side effects from the cancer treatment. Some estimates report insomnia affecting one-third to one-half of cancer patients, which is two to three times higher than the general population.

Insomnia describes a general difficulty falling or staying asleep on a regular basis. Among cancer patients, the most commonly reported symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Frequent nighttime awakenings (76%)
  • Difficulty falling asleep (44%)
  • Waking up too early (33%)

Chemotherapy drugs can cause fatigue, so patients are more prone to nap during the day, leading to insomnia at night. The drugs used to manage the side effects of chemotherapy can also cause sleep problems: anti-nausea medications may cause drowsiness, while the energizing nature of steroids make it difficult to fall asleep.

Combine all this with the emotional distress of having cancer, and the anxiety and worry which may keep one up at night.

Excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue

Excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue are highly correlated with insomnia. In one study of cancer patients, those who reported fatigue were 2.5 times more likely to also have insomnia.

While fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness are clinically distinct, they can feel similar to the individual living with them. Fatigue refers to a feeling of low energy and exhaustion, which often causes the individual to seek napping as a way of relief. As alluded to above, fatigue is a common side effect of cancer treatment. Individuals undergoing radiotherapy reported nearly double the amount of fatigue after receiving radiotherapy than before treatment. Fortunately, the fatigue returned to normal levels after a period of months.

cancer radiotherapy increases fatigue

As antiemetic medications are prescribed to reduce symptoms of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, they may introduce new sleep-related symptoms of their own, like excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). EDS describes a sense of drowsiness that lingers throughout the day, even after adequate sleep. While EDS is different than fatigue, sufferers seek relief in similar ways: napping. If the individual naps for too long, it makes it much harder for them to fall asleep at night, creating a negative cycle of insomnia.

Restless legs syndrome

Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy may experience disturbed sleep due to restless legs syndrome. Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is characterized by a strong urge to move the lower limbs in order to relieve a “pins and needles” sensation that develops when the individual is in a supine position.

The constant need to move their legs to find relief disrupts the individual’s ability to fall asleep in the first place, as well as their ability to stay comfortably asleep.

RLS may affect between 5% to 10% of people. Some studies have found cancer patients are twice as likely to have RLS, especially women with breast cancer and men 50 and older who have prostate cancer.

RLS also shares a direct relationship with increased levels of anxiety and depression, and lower quality-of-life scores among cancer patients. In turn, both anxiety and depression are highly correlated with insomnia.

Tips for getting better sleep when you have cancer

Getting sufficient sleep on a consistent basis improves your mood and your cognitive functioning, and it keeps your immune system strong. If you have cancer or care for someone who does, some of the following therapies or products may help you get more quality sleep.

Therapeutic approaches to better sleep for cancer patients

Cognitive behavioral therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has proven helpful for cancer patients who suffer from insomnia.

CBT involves techniques that help the patient reframe their emotions and thoughts around sleep. Patients learn relaxation techniques and deep breathing exercise to quiet racing thoughts and help them fall asleep. They may also practice stimulus control techniques, which limit the time spent in bed and retrain the mind to see the bed as only for sleep. Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and relaxing the muscles in an ordered fashion that promotes restfulness.

Sleep restriction therapy

Sleep restriction therapy is another behavioral technique used to addressed insomnia. Individuals decide on a set sleep and wake schedule, and adhere to that no matter what. They don’t take naps during the day, and are only allowed to spend the allocated time in bed, regardless of whether they sleep the whole time. Ideally, eventually their daytime fatigue disappears and the individual trains their body to sleep during the scheduled time frame.

Light therapy

Light therapy employs light boxes, tables, or specialized lamps to help individuals who have an offset circadian clock, whether due to shift work, jet lag, or blindness. The individual sits in front of the light device for a set amount of time in the morning or afternoon, depending on how their circadian cycle is offset. A current clinical trial is testing the effectiveness of light therapy eyeglasses to help lung cancer patients who suffer from insomnia and fatigue.

Sleep products for cancer patients

Cooling mattresses

Cancer patients who experience night sweats or postmenopausal breast cancer patients with hot flashes often have difficulty staying asleep due to overheating. Mattresses with superior temperature regulation, such as innerspring mattresses and airbeds, stay cooler than memory foam mattresses that envelop the body.

Cooling pillows

Patients can also purchase cooling pillows for the home and to take with them to chemotherapy appointments. These pillows are made with more breathable materials—like moisture-wicking wool and gel-infused foam—which are designed to stay cool all night.

White noise machines

White noise machines, available as standalone devices or as smartphone apps, play static white noise, nature sounds, or calming melodies designed to soothe one to sleep. They’re often used by individuals with insomnia. There are even travel-size versions to take with you to chemotherapy. Just make sure you pick a different white noise playlist that you can associate with relaxation, as opposed to sleep. You don’t want to accidentally induce a midday nap.

Anti-snoring products

CPAP machine

Source: Wikipedia

There are many anti-snoring products that help keep the airways open and enable the sleeper to breathe properly throughout the night. Anti-snoring mouthpieces fit between the teeth to reduce symptoms, and nasal vents fit in the nostrils. For individuals with extreme sleep apnea, continuous positive air pressures (CPAP) machines are recommended.

 

CBD oil

CBD oil has been shown to provide various benefits for cancer patients, from pain relief to sleep. It’s also proven to be more effective than traditional medication in relieving chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting Not to be confused with THC, CBD oil is a 100% non-psychoactive hemp extract that’s legal throughout the United States. CBD oils are available in a variety of product types, including oil tinctures, softgel capsules, gummies, and topical products.

Weighted blankets

Individuals with restless legs syndrome often find weighted blankets help reduce symptoms. Experts recommended getting a blanket that weighs 10 percent of your total body weight plus 1 pound.

Behavioral approaches to better sleep

Avoid naps

Naps are very tempting to anyone experiencing fatigue or daytime sleepiness, but they only reinforce insomnia. If possible, do your best to avoid napping during the day. If you absolutely need to nap for relief, limit your nap to 20 minutes at the most. This is short enough to keep you in light sleep, so it won’t disrupt your sleep cycle later that evening.

Practice good sleep hygiene

Good sleep hygiene involves going to bed and waking up at around the same time every day, reserving the bedroom for sleep and sex only, and avoiding heavy meals, caffeine, alcohol, and intense exercise in the hours leading up to bedtime.

Keep the bedroom cool and dark

A cool, dark bedroom is the optimal environment for sleep. Set up blackout curtains or wear an eye mask to block out ambient light at night, and turn the temperature down to somewhere in the mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s the recommended temperature for sleep, but if you’re experiencing night sweats, you may want to lower it even more.

Follow a bedtime routine

In addition to following a regular sleep schedule, you can further train your mind to prepare for sleep by establishing a pre-bed ritual. Engage in the same set of activities every night before bed. The activities should be calming, like meditation, aromatherapy, or a warm bath.

Additional resources

For better sleep:

  • Understand more about the unique sleep issues affecting shift workers, and treatment options and resources for individuals with shift work sleep disorder.
  • Learn more about how light therapy helps circadian disorders, and how you can get started.
  • Read more about cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and how it helps insomnia.
  • There are many products designed for helping individuals with disabilities get better sleep. Many of these products may also be helpful for addressing the pain and sleep issues associated with cancer treatment.

For all cancers:

  • The American Cancer Society offers a 24-hour helpline (800-227-2345) and Live Chat, as well as online support communities, local support groups, volunteer events, and research.
  • The National Cancer Institute is part of the National Institutes of Health. As the largest funder of cancer research globally, NCI publishes research and shares training for doctors and health professionals
  • Founded by testicular cancer survivor Lance Armstrong, the Livestrong Foundation provides online resources and community support programs, as well as one-one-one personalized care plans and support for patients and caregivers.
  • The Cancer subreddit connects cancer patients, survivors, and loved ones with each other to share stories, news, and support. There are also many subreddits devoted to specific forms of cancer.
  • The Cancer Forums claim over 50,000 members of cancer patients and survivors, loved ones, and caregivers. The site hosts over 20 forums dedicated to specific types of cancer.

For breast cancer:

  • Well known for making the pink ribbon symbol ubiquitous, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is the largest breast cancer organization in the United States. They host Race for the Cure fundraising events and offer a helpline available during weekday hours ((877-465-6636).
  • The BreastCancer.org Community is an online forum of nearly 200,000 members, including current patients, caregivers, survivors, and family members affected by breast cancer.

For prostate cancer:

  • The Prostate Cancer Foundation is the largest organization focused on funding prostate cancer research and connecting patients with treatment centers and clinical trials.
  • ZERO works to provide education, financial assistance, and free case management to men diagnosed with prostate cancer. The organization also hosts fundraising walk/run events.

Women and Insomnia

Women and Insomnia

Women are more prone to insomnia than men. More women have frequent bouts of sleeplessness (several times a week) than men, and this tendency extends over all periods of life. Not only that, but as people age, the gap between women and men increases. Women under 45 years old have an incidence 1.4 times that of men of the same age. Among older populations, women are 1.7 times more likely to have insomnia.

Women are almost twice as likely to use sleep aids than men, according to the CDC.

Demographic use of sleep aids

Source: CDC

Do hormones cause insomnia? Many women experience insomnia when they have fluctuations in the serum levels of hormones. These times include during their monthly cycle, pregnancy, and menopause.

How does menopause affect your sleep?

Menopausal insomnia can begin with perimenopause – the stage before menopause women experience in their late 30s or 40s. On average, perimenopause lasts about 4 years, and ends when a woman hasn’t had her period for at least 12 months.

Perimenopause and menopause cause hormonal changes, at the same time when women are often undergoing other major lifestyle changes such as retirement and empty nesting. During perimenopause, women’s ovaries begin decreasing hormone production of estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone helps to promote sleep while estrogen affects emotional well-being. Decreased levels of these hormones can make it more challenging to emotionally deal with the stressors of the body changes of menopause, in addition to the lifestyle changes that occur at the same time.

20% of women experience depression during menopause, whether brought on by the loss of estrogen, the lifestyle changes that often accompany menopause, or a combination of the two. Depression is often a comorbid condition of insomnia, as are stress and anxiety.

Menopause causes other bodily changes, most notably hot flashes. 75% of women experience hot flashes during menopause. Hot flashes result in elevated body temperature and night sweats, both of which make it tougher to fall asleep and stay asleep. The energizing heat from a hot flash awakens the mind as well.  Cool temperatures are conducive to sleep, and the body naturally cools down before bedtime as part of the circadian rhythm. Hot flashes, especially ones that contribute to night sweats, interfere with the body’s ability to cool down and stay asleep.

As women transition into menopause in their 40s to 50s, other physical changes occur naturally, thanks to the aging process. Older adults may wake more frequently during the night, due to incontinence and reduced bladder control. Adults also spend less time in restorative REM sleep as they age and rise earlier, which can result in daytime sleepiness and insomnia.

Tips for managing menopausal insomnia

Anyone with insomnia may find relief by following a regular sleep schedule and practicing good sleep hygiene. However, menopausal women suffering from hot flashes and night sweats may find the following additional tips helpful.

1. Lower the bedroom temperature

A cool temperature in the mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for sleep, but menopausal women may want to take it a few degrees cooler.

2. Keep cool reinforcements by the bed

Have a cool glass of water, an extra pillow or pillowcase, and an extra set of breathable pajamas near the bed, so you can easily change or cool down during the night from night sweats. You may keep a washcloth in a bucket of ice nearby as well.

3. Invest in a mattress with excellent temperature regulation

Certain mattresses trap heat more than others and can intensify the effects of hot flashes. The best mattresses for hot sleepers are firm innerspring mattresses or airbeds.

4. Try meditation, acupuncture, and relaxation exercises

Acupuncture has been shown to help relieve insomnia. Breathing exercises and meditation techniques can also help quiet the mind before bed.

5. Manage diet and exercise

Avoid alcohol and stimulants like caffeine, especially before bed. These interfere with sleep onset generally, but can also trigger hot flashes for peri- and postmenopausal women. Eat dinner two to four hours before bed, and exercise earlier in the day if possible (to avoid elevating your body temperature before bed). Exercise improves mood and exhausts the body, making it easier to fall asleep at night.

6. Use a white noise machine or smartphone app

Many people use white noise as a sleep aid to quiet the mind and induce a restful state. White noise machines are widely available, as are smartphone apps with white noise or nature sound libraries.

7. Ask your doctor about other treatment options

For moderate to severe hot flashes that interfere with sleep, some doctors may recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or prescribe low-dose antidepressants like Prozac and Paxil. However, HRT is currently only recommended as a temporary solution, given its connection with increased risk for breast cancer, blood clots, heart disease, and stroke. Some perimenopausal women have found combination birth control pills effective for relieving insomnia symptoms.

Can your period give you insomnia?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) seems to cause both insomnia and hypersomnia. Different women experience different symptoms. Many menstrual symptoms like bloating and cramps cause physical discomfort that make it tougher to sleep. Emotional variability, irritability, stress, and fatigue can also can contribute to insomnia.

In the first half of the menstrual cycle (the follicular phase), the body increases estrogen production leading up to ovulation. After ovulation, in the second half of the cycle (the luteal phase), progesterone production rises and has a soporific effect. In the days before the period begins, both hormones levels drop which can cause insomnia.

Hormone levels during menstrual cycle

Source: BBC

Women experience less REM sleep in the luteal phase of their cycle, which may help explain insomnia during PMS, according to a 2010 study. During this stage, the increased progesterone production after ovulation increases the core body temperature by up to half a degree. Since REM sleep corresponds with the lowest body temperatures during the night, this may explain why REM sleep is tougher to achieve during the second half of the menstrual cycle.

Tips for managing PMS insomnia

Women with insomnia may find relief by following a regular sleep schedule and practicing good sleep hygiene.

1. Keep the bedroom cool and dark

A cool temperature in the mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for sleep. Stop using electronics at least an hour before bed and avoid blue light.

2. Try meditation, acupuncture, and relaxation exercises

Acupuncture has been shown to help relieve insomnia. Breathing exercises and meditation techniques can also help quiet the mind before bed.

3. Manage diet and exercise

Avoid alcohol and stimulants like caffeine, especially before bed. Eat dinner two to four hours before bed, and exercise earlier in the day if possible (to avoid elevating your body temperature before bed). Exercise improves mood and exhausts the body, making it easier to fall asleep at night.

4. Use a white noise machine or smartphone app

Many people use white noise as a sleep aid to quiet the mind and induce a restful state. White noise machines are widely available, as are smartphone apps with white noise or nature sound libraries.

5. Ask your doctor about other treatment options

Sleep restriction has been found to reduce menses-related depression, as has bright light therapy for insomnia. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) also is associated with sleep disruption, although doctors more commonly address the anxiety symptoms than insomnia. Some doctors may prescribe antidepressants or Z-drugs for PMDD and PMS, which may help address related sleep problems.

Insomnia during pregnancy

Pregnancy-induced insomnia can often be caused by physical discomfort, especially during the first trimester, when the body is first introduced to all the physical, mental and emotional changes associated with pregnancy, and the third trimester, by which point over 75 percent of pregnant women report experiencing insomnia. Hormonal changes, reduced bladder capacity, pregnancy-related heartburn, leg cramps, and nerves about labor all contribute to insomnia for expectant mothers.

Tips for managing pregnancy-related insomnia

Women with insomnia may find relief by following a regular sleep schedule and practicing good sleep hygiene. However, pregnant mothers may find the following additional tips helpful.

1. Keep the bedroom cool and dark

A cool temperature in the mid-60 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for sleep. Stop using electronics at least an hour before bed and avoid blue light.

2. Invest in maternity pillows

Reduce the physical discomfort caused by pregnancy by stocking up on multiple pillows. Sleep on your left side with a pillow at your back, with pillows to support both your arms and your legs.

3. Try meditation, stretching, and relaxation exercises

Breathing exercises and meditation techniques can help quiet the mind before bed. Stretching and prenatal massage can also reduce discomfort so it’s easier to get comfortable and fall asleep.

4. Manage diet and exercise

Minimize the stress on your bladder by reducing the liquid you drink at night. Avoid alcohol and stimulants like caffeine, especially before bed. Eat dinner two to four hours before bed, and exercise earlier in the day if possible (to avoid elevating your body temperature before bed). Exercise improves mood and exhausts the body, making it easier to fall asleep at night.

5. Use a white noise machine or smartphone app

Many people use white noise as a sleep aid to quiet the mind and induce a restful state. White noise machines are widely available, as are smartphone apps with white noise or nature sound libraries.

Other sleep disorders in women

In general, sleep disorders are more common in women than in men, and they play out differently, emerging throughout the reproductive life cycle. Although men are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than women, postmenopausal women are twice as likely to have OSA than premenopausal women.

Sleepiness leads to weight gain by discouraging physical activity. Depression leads to overeating. Social expectations of women may contribute to the greater prevalence of sleep disorders. They are more likely to be the primary caregiver than men and more likely to shoulder a larger share of the housework. Researchers have also found that on average women get 5% less deep sleep on average than men.

Women are more likely to have restless legs syndrome (RLS), and it’s even more common during pregnancy (by 26%). Researchers speculate RLS could be caused by an iron deficiency, which would explain why women with heavier periods are more likely to have RLS.

Women are also more likely to have depression, anxiety, and fibromyalgia all of which can contribute to insomnia.

Additional resources

How Curcumin Targets Cancer

By Dr. Mercola

Turmeric, a yellow curry spice used in Indian cuisine, has a long history of medicinal use in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic medicine. Curcumin is one of the most well-studied bioactive ingredients in turmeric,1 having over 150 potentially therapeutic activities, including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and powerful anticancer actions.

Cancer has an incredible global impact and places a vast financial and emotional burden on the families it touches. Nearly 40 percent of American men and women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and over $125 billion is spent annually on medical treatment and patient care.2

The American Cancer Society estimated there would be over 1.6 million new cases diagnosed in 2017, equating to 4,630 new cases and 1,650 deaths every day.3 The most common types of cancer include breast, colon, lung and prostate.4

Despite advances in cancer treatment protocols, scientists realize prevention plays an essential role in reducing the number of people who die from the disease. After 30 years of testing more than 1,000 different possible anticancer substances, the National Cancer Institute announced that curcumin has joined an elite group that will now be used in clinical trials for chemoprevention.5

Curcumin May Play a Multitargeted Role Against Cancer Cells

 

 

In this interview, Dr. William LaValley discusses the interaction curcumin has on cancer and the multiple ways this molecule affects cancer growth. If you have ever been diagnosed with cancer, it may feel as if it grew overnight when, in fact, cancer cells take years to develop.

The progression of a cell from normal growth to cancer happens through several stages. Deregulation of physiological and mechanical processes that initiate and promote the growth of cancer cells makes use of hundreds of genes and signaling routes, making it apparent a multitargeted approach is needed for prevention and treatment.

Research has demonstrated that curcumin has a broad range of actions as it is able to effect multiple cellular targets.6 Studies have found, based on the activities of curcumin in the body, the spice could be an effective method of cancer prevention, or in treatment when used in conjunction with conventional treatment protocols.

The multifaceted action of curcumin has made it useful in the treatments of several different types of diseases, including colon cancer,7 pancreatic cancer8 and amyloidosis.9

Curcumin triggers a variety of actions that affect the growth, replication and death of cancer cells. Cancer cells lose the ability to die naturally, which plays a significant role in the hyperproliferation of cells common to cancer. Curcumin is able to turn on the apoptosis (cell death) signaling pathway, enabling the cells to die within a natural time span.10

Cancer cells thrive in an inflammatory environment. Although short-term inflammation is beneficial for healing, long-term inflammation increases your risk of disease. Curcumin is able to block the pro-inflammatory response at several points and reduce the levels of inflammatory cytokines in the body.11

The strong anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin may match the effect of some drugs.12 Early in development, cancer cells learn to replicate and grow in an environment cells normally find inhospitable. Curcumin may change the signaling through several pathways, and put a stop to this replication.13

Curcumin may also stop the ability of cancer stem cells from replicating and reduce the potential for recurrence after treatment. Curcumin also helps support your immune system, capable of seeking out and destroying early cancer cells naturally.

Curcumin May Enhance Cancer Treatment and Chemotherapy

Some of the same ways that curcumin works in your body are the processes used to enhance your cancer treatments and chemotherapy.

While some chemotherapy has been developed to target specific cells, most therapy drugs are nonspecific and affect all cells in your body. Some studies in the past decade have demonstrated exciting potential for curcumin in the fight against cancer.

In addition to changes to your cells mentioned above, researchers have found curcumin may help protect your body against the damage caused from chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and it may enhance the effect of these same treatments, making them more effective.

These effects have been demonstrated in animal models treating head and neck tumors,14 and in culture of human breast, esophageal and colon cancers.15,16

Patients treated for chronic myeloid leukemia with chemotherapy exhibited a reduction in cancer growth factor when curcumin was added to the treatment protocol, potentially improving the results of the chemotherapy over being used alone.17

Protection against radiation therapy was demonstrated in a study using breast cancer patients receiving radiation therapy.18 At the end of the study those taking curcumin had less radiation damage to their skin.

Curcumin has also been effective against angiogenesis in tumors, or the growth of new blood vessels to feed the overgrowth of cancer cells, and against metastasis.19

Curcumin is able to affect cancer cells through multiple pathways and has fulfilled the traits for an ideal cancer prevention agent as it has low toxicity, is affordable and is easily accessible. However, while effective, it has poor bioavailability on its own.20

Poor Absorption Has One Benefit

In my interview with LaValley, he discussed the poor bioavailability of curcumin in raw form. Only 1 percent of the product will be absorbed; even supplements that have a 95 percent concentration are absorbed at 1 percent.

This means, when the supplement is taken alone, it is a challenge to maintain a therapeutic level. However, in the case of colon cancer, this poor absorption into the bloodstream may be an advantage.

As there is poor absorption, higher levels of curcumin stay in the intestinal tract for longer periods of time, having an effect on gastrointestinal cancers. In one study, participants took a 1,080 milligram (mg) dose per day of curcumin for 10 to 30 days between their initial biopsy and surgical removal.

The patients taking the supplement experienced a reduction in blood levels of inflammatory agent, improvement in their body weight, and an increased number of dying tumor cells.21

A team of scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and at Pondicherry University, India, discovered the bioactive ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, can both prevent and cure bowel cancers.22 The team found the compound triggered cancer cell death by increasing a level of protein labeled GADD45a.23Lead author Rajasekaran Baskaran, Ph.D., who has more than 20 years of experience in cancer research, commented:24

“Studies on the effect of curcumin on cancer and normal cells will be useful for the ongoing preclinical and clinical investigations on this potential chemopreventive agent.”

As an increased bioavailability and absorption may also improve the actions of curcumin in the body, researchers have studied a variety of different delivery methods, including oral, intravenous, subcutaneous and intraperitoneal, as well as different formulations of the product.25

Bioavailability improved when curcumin was delivered as a nanoparticle, in combination with polylactic-co-glycolic acid, liposomal encapsulation26 and when taken orally with piperine, the active ingredient in black pepper.27

Multiple Types of Cancer Affected by Curcumin

Research demonstrates that while curcumin has multiple pathways through which it impacts cancer cells, the substance also has an effect on multiple types of cancer. Studies estimate that genetics may play a role in approximately 5 percent of all cancers, with the majority of cancer growth attributed to lifestyle choices.28

Research demonstrates curcumin exhibits activity against breast cancer and decreases the toxic effect against some of the chemotherapy agents commonly used.29 Mitomycin C is a potent antineoplastic drug. However, prolonged use may lead to kidney and bone marrow damage, with secondary tumor growth. Curcumin appears to reduce the side effects of Mitomycin C and improve the efficiency of the drug at the same time.30

Another study demonstrated that curcumin inhibited the growth and metastasis of lung cancer cells.31One of the deadliest cancers worldwide, pancreatic cancer, also appears to respond to the use of curcumin in preclinical trials.32 The antiproliferative effects on pancreatic cancer appeared to be from a reduction in oxidative stress and angiogenesis and triggering apoptosis of cancer cells.

Apoptosis, anti-inflammatory actions, reduction in angiogenesis and reduction in the adverse effects of chemotherapeutic agents has also led researchers to consider curcumin an adjunctive therapy in the treatment of liver cancer.33 Curcumin also inhibited and slowed the development of bladder cancer in rats,34 stopped the formation of metastasis in prostate cancer,35 and when combined with ultrasound, increased death of cervical cancer cells.36

But not all scientists are convinced by the number of studies over the past 15 years demonstrating the multiple effects curcumin has on the inflammatory response and cancers, as well as the low toxicity profile.37 In one meta-analysis, researchers claimed curcumin could not meet the criteria for a good drug candidate.38

More Benefits to Curcumin

Curcumin offers additional benefits to your health. It may work as well as some anti-inflammatory medications to treat arthritic conditions.39 In combination with aerobic exercise, curcumin was found to improve endothelial cell function in postmenopausal women,40 and was also found to ameliorate arterial dysfunction and oxidative stress in the elderly.41

Disease processes may increase oxidative stress and free radical formation in your body. Curcumin is a potent antioxidant,42 but also may boost the function of your body’s own antioxidant enzymes.43

Your brain can develop new connections powered by brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).44Reduced levels of this hormone may be linked to depression and Alzheimer’s disease. However, curcumin can increase your levels of BDNF45 and effectively reduce your potential for suffering from age-related reduction in brain function.46

Researchers have also discovered that curcumin has an effect on several pathways in your body that may reverse insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia and other symptoms associated with metabolic syndrome and obesity.47 The reduced potential for metabolic syndrome and obesity is related to the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin, which may also have an effect on heart disease, atherosclerosis and Type 2 diabetes.48

Genetic Regulation May Be One Powerful Way Curcumin Fights Cancer

It is becoming widely accepted that cancer is not a preprogrammed inevitability, but rather the result of the impact of your environment on genetic regulation that may trigger cancer cell growth. There are multiple influences that may damage or mutate DNA, and consequently alter genetic expression, including:

Researchers have demonstrated curcumin may affect more than 100 different pathways in your cells, helping to prevent hyperproliferation of cell growth characteristic of cancer, and aiding in the treatment of the disease. Through the reduction of inflammation, prevention of the development of additional blood supply to support cancer cell growth and destruction of mutated cells to reduce metastasis, curcumin has great medicinal and preventive potential.

Several studies have demonstrated an impact on transcription factors and signaling pathways, and have reviewed the molecular mechanisms curcumin uses to regulate and modulate gene expression.49,50,51 Overall, curcumin is powerful, cost-effective and has a low toxicity profile.52

Using a Curcumin Supplement

Turmeric is a wonderful spice used in Eastern culture cuisine. It is one spice I recommend for your kitchen as it works well with tomato sauces, soups, leafy greens, cauliflower, stir-fries and stews. Choose a high-quality turmeric powder instead of curry powder as studies have found some curry powders have very little curcumin.

If you are looking for therapeutic effects, you may want to consider a supplement. It is difficult to achieve a dose of curcumin used in research solely from your diet. Typical anticancer doses range between 1,200 and 3,000 grams of bioavailable curcumin extract.

You can increase the absorption by making a microemulsion, combining 1 tablespoon of curcumin powder with one or two egg yolks and 1 to 2 teaspoons of melted coconut oil, as the curcumin is fat soluble. Then use a hand blender on high speed to emulsify the powder.

Absorption may also be increased through boiling. Add 1 tablespoon into a quart of boiling water. (If you add it to room temperature water and then boil, it doesn’t work as well.) After boiling it for 10 minutes, you will have created a 12 percent solution and you can drink this once it has cooled down. The curcumin will gradually fall out of the solution over time, and in about six hours it will be a 6 percent solution, so it is best to drink the water within four hours.

Curcumin is a very potent yellow pigment and can permanently discolor surfaces if you aren’t careful. To avoid inadvertently staining your kitchen yellow, I recommend you perform any mixing under the hood of your stove with the exhaust fan on to make sure no powder gets into your kitchen.

Alternatively, it is far easier to take curcumin in supplement form — just make sure it’s a high-quality brand that is formulated to increase bioavailability. And, look for a turmeric extract with at least 95 percent curcuminoids. Just be aware that these are relatively rare and hard to find.

Your health is under siege from every direction. Environmental toxins, ultra-processed foods, EMFs, government-subsidized GMOs and a host of other threats surround us. It is simply not possible to protect yourself unless you are armed with cutting edge health information.

The most complex tasks can be made easy if you just take one step at a time. Taken as a whole, this 30-tip plan makes for a comprehensive guide that can change your life. Just a few of the topics addressed are:

  • What to eat and when to eat it
  • Exercise strategies that you can implement today
  • The power of emotional health
  • Enhancing your health with essentials like air, sunshine and water
  • How to get the restorative sleep that your body requires

It may seem that health and wellness are no longer the norm. An opioid epidemic sweeps the country, the obesity rate is skyrocketing, life expectancy is dropping and chronic diseases are rampant. Our communities are being damaged at every level and the only way to reverse these trends is through education and personal example. My 30-tip plan provides you with the tools you need to take control of your health. The time is ripe for revolution — a health revolution.

 

Sources and References

Postmenopausal Women With Gum Disease Seem to Have Higher Breast Cancer Risk

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, can range from simple inflammation of the gums, called gingivitis by dentists, to periodontitis, when the gums pull away from the teeth leaving open spaces that become infected. The bacteria causing the infection and the body’s response to the infection can break down the bone and connective tissue that hold your teeth in place. If periodontitis isn’t treated, the teeth may become loose and have to be removed.

Gum disease can be prevented by regular tooth brushing and flossing.

Gum disease has been associated with several other diseases, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Past research has found links between gum disease and oral, esophageal, head and neck, pancreatic, and lung cancer, so researchers wondered if there were any links between gum disease and breast cancer.

A study has found that postmenopausal women with gum disease were more likely to develop breast cancer than postmenopausal women who didn’t have gum disease. If the women had a history of smoking, the risk of breast cancer was even higher.

The study was published online on Dec. 21, 2015 by the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Read the abstract of “Periodontal Disease and Breast Cancer: Prospective Cohort Study of Postmenopausal Women.”

The research is part of the very large Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, commonly called the WHI. The WHI is looking for links between health, diet, lifestyle, and genetic factors and health problems, such as cancer.

In this study, the researchers monitored 73,737 postmenopausal women in the WHI who had never been diagnosed with breast cancer. About 26% of the women told the researchers they had gum disease.

After about 6.5 years, 2,124 women had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Overall, the risk of breast cancer was 14% higher in women who had gum disease compared to women who didn’t have gum disease. So if average breast cancer risk is about 12%, a woman with gum disease had about a 13.5% risk of breast cancer.

“We thought that periodontal bacteria — either the bacteria themselves or the inflammation that’s part of having periodontal disease — has an effect on other parts of the body, including breast tissue. We know there are bacteria in breast tissue and we know there are bacteria in mother’s milk. Women who had periodontal disease had a small increase in the risk of breast cancer overall,” said Jo Freudenheim, Ph.D., distinguished professor of epidemiology and environmental health at the University of Buffalo and lead author of the study.

Because earlier studies have shown that the effects of gum disease can be more severe if a person smokes, the researchers also grouped the women by smoking history:

  • Among women who had quit smoking within the last 20 years, women with gum disease had a 36% higher risk of breast cancer than women who didn’t have gum disease.
  • Among women who had never smoked, women with gum disease had a 6% higher risk of breast cancer than women who didn’t have gum disease.
  • Among women who had quit smoking more than 20 years ago, women with gum disease had an 8% higher risk of breast cancer than women who didn’t have gum disease.

“There’s been an explosion of information recently that makes it clear that many different parts of the body that were thought to be sterile contain bacteria and other microbes,” Dr. Freudenheim said. “These bacteria may influence diseases that were previously thought to have no infectious component.”

The researchers said there are several possible reasons for the association between gum disease and breast cancer:

  • Bacteria in the mouth can get into the bloodstream through tooth brushing, flossing, and chewing. Even though the bacteria are cleared out of the body quickly, the cumulative exposure to tissues can be considerable. It could be that these bacteria affect breast cancer.
  • Inflammation in one part of the body, such as the gums, may have an impact on other diseases.
  • There may be other factors that increase the risk of both gum disease and breast cancer.

“This is a new area, so we have to be careful in how we interpret our findings,” said Dr. Freudenheim. “We can’t say, ‘if you treat periodontal disease it will reduce cancer risk.’ There are new methodologies that allow us to measure things we weren’t able to before. We are now beginning to understand how much the interaction of the microbiome affects our health both in terms of acute infections and chronic diseases.”

Doing all that you can do to keep your breast cancer risk as low as it can be makes good sense. Besides exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, avoiding alcohol, and taking good care of your teeth and gums are steps you can take to control several risk factors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, gum disease can be kept in check by:

  • Brushing and flossing your teeth every day to remove the bacteria that cause gum disease.
  • Seeing a dentist at least once a year for a checkup, or more frequently if you have any of the warning signs of gum disease:
    • red/swollen gums
    • tender/bleeding gums
    • loose teeth
    • bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth that won’t go way
    • gums that have pulled away from your teeth
    • sensitive teeth

(Article Excerpt from Breastcancer.org)   – See more at: http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/gum-disease-may-be-linked-to-higher-risk

Lack of Exercise Can Raise The Risk of Breast Cancer

Research shows a link between exercising regularly at a moderate or intense level for 4 to 7 hours per week and a lower risk of breast cancer. Exercise consumes and controls blood sugar and limits blood levels of insulin growth factor, a hormone that can affect how breast cells grow and behave. People who exercise regularly tend to be healthier and are more likely to maintain a healthy weight and have little or no excess fat compared to people who don’t exercise.

Fat cells make estrogen and extra fat cells make extra estrogen. When breast cells are exposed to extra estrogen over time, the risk of developing breast cancer is higher.

Steps you can take

Exercise is now considered such an important part of daily life that the United States Department of Agriculture added it to ChooseMyPlate.gov, the U.S. government’s guide to healthy eating. The American Cancer Society recommends that women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer exercise regularly (about 4 to 5 hours per week) to improve their quality of life and physical fitness, as well as to reduce the risk of developing new cancers. Research shows that women who exercise the equivalent of walking 3 to 5 hours per week at an average pace after being diagnosed with breast cancer may improve their chances of surviving the disease.

Start slowly: The first thing to do is to talk to your doctor and possibly a certified fitness trainer about a safe and sensible plan designed specifically for you and your needs and physical abilities. It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor about a healthy weight for your age, height, body type, and activity level.

You may want to start gradually, maybe walking for 15 minutes a day and then slowly increasing the amount of time you spend exercising, as well as the intensity level of each session. You may need months to work your way up to 5 hours a week, but that’s OK.

If you’re not sure how to start exercising, you might want to visit a gym or make an appointment with a certified personal trainer to learn about different types of exercise. Some people prefer exercising in their homes using videotapes or DVDs. Others find great joy in gardening or building things, as opposed to organized exercise. Some people love being part of a team and playing soccer or baseball. Walking or jogging with a friend is a great way to socialize AND get the benefits of exercise. Dancing to great music is great exercise. With so many different ways to move, you’re bound to find a way to exercise that suits your personality and schedule. If you can find one or a mix of exercises that you think are fun and not boring, you’ll be much more likely to stick with it.

(Article Excerpt from Breastcancer.org)   – See more at: http://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/exercise.

The Question of Soy and its Effect on Breast Cancer

Soybeans are the most widely used, least expensive, and least caloric way to get large amounts of protein with very little fat and no cholesterol. Soy is the main source of protein for billions of people around the world.

Some doctors are concerned about the safety of eating soy for women diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s because soy contains a protein, called isoflavone, which can act like a weak estrogen. Concentrated soy products, such as powders, pills, and capsules, contain more isoflavones compared to soy foods, such as tofu, soy milk, and the beans themselves (also called edamame). Hormone-like substances in plants are called phytoestrogens. The growth of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers may be turned on by these substances.

Other doctors think soy might protect breast health because the hormone-like strength of isoflavones is MUCH weaker than the estrogen your body naturally makes. So it might be healthier if soy’s weak isoflavones wash out or replace some of your body’s stronger estrogen.

Doctors in the middle say it’s OK to eat soy foods because they are a healthy source of protein. But avoid — or greatly limit — your use of concentrated soy products.

Let’s keep things in perspective: Soy is NOT a major risk factor for breast cancer. At most, there is a concern about soy foods and a worry about soy products. We’re addressing this issue because a lot of you have asked us about things you can do in your everyday life to lower your risk and asked specifically about soy.

It turns out that the research on soy and its effect on breast cancer risk is unclear. You can find studies showing that soy is helpful, harmful, or harmless related to the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer or a recurrence.

It’s not clear why the results are so different. It might be due to differences in a woman’s age, diet history, weight, amount of physical activity, and other aspects of her health.

Current studies are starting to figure out how the many different compounds in soy affect our bodies. In general though, most doctors believe that it’s safe to eat a moderate amount of soy foods, with or without a history of breast cancer.

Soy 101

When I say soy, I mean all forms of soy foods, not byproducts such as concentrated soy protein powder and soybean oil that are found in many processed foods. Those are topics for another column.

Soy is promoted as a healthy option for vegetarians or for people who want to cut back on foods that come from animals.

Soymilk is a popular plant-based alternative to cow’s milk for vegans and people who are lactose intolerant. Unsweetened soymilk is comparable to cow’s milk in terms of calories, protein, and fat. It also has less sugar than cow’s milk. (Most plant or animal milks naturally contain some sugar.) Soymilk also provides important nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12, along with fiber and potassium.

Other substances in soy foods are thought to help keep cell growth and activity normal, regulate cholesterol, and protect cells from harmful chemicals called free radicals.

As discussed above, soy also contains phytoestrogens — weak estrogen-like compounds found in some plants. Isoflavones are a class of phytoestrogens. Some of the isoflavones in soy include genistein and daidzen. Equol is another isoflavone that comes from soy, but it’s only made by certain people when bacteria in their intestines break down daidzen. Not all people have the intestinal bacteria that create equol, so it’s not found in all people.

Because estrogen plays a significant role in the development, spread, and growth of breast cancers, there has been concern that eating a lot of estrogen-like soy compounds might also affect breast cancer risk.

So, is soy good or bad for breast health? 

The question is especially important for women diagnosed with hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers. Big doses of isoflavones could overstimulate hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. Small amounts of isoflavones in soy foods are less likely to cause a problem. Isoflavones also may get in the way of hormonal therapy medicine’s ability to do its job. Tamoxifen and isoflavones both work in the estrogen receptors in the body.  IF isoflavones deliver a weaker estrogen signal to the receptor compared to tamoxifen (and your body’s estrogen), then the isoflavones might provide extra protection against this type of breast cancer. But if isoflavones give breast cells a stronger estrogen signal than tamoxifen, that’s a problem. Large amounts of isoflavones could interfere with the goal of the aromatase inhibitors, which are Arimidex (chemical name: anastrazole), Femara (chemical name: letrozole), and Aromasin (chemical name: exemestane). Aromatase inhibitors, another type of hormonal therapy, lower the amount of estrogen available in the body to interact with the estrogen receptor.

So there are reasons why some doctors advise women diagnosed with breast cancer to limit or stop eating soy, while other doctors tell them to eat more.

The research: benefits

Most of the reassuring news about breast cancer and soy comes from studies on groups of people and their consumption of soy foods, not soy products.

There’s an association between eating soy and lower rates of estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer in women living in Asia. The link is weaker for Asian women living in Western countries. People living in Asia eat up to 10 times more soy than people living in the West. Because of this, experts wondered if eating a lot of soy helped protect against breast cancer. Of course, there are other healthy aspects to the Asian lifestyle besides soy that could help explain the lower rate of breast cancer, such as less obesity, more physical activity, and less alcohol use.

There are also studies that found no association between soy and a higher risk of breast cancer or its recurrence. For example, a 2009 study of postmenopausal women found that soy isoflavones didn’t increase breast density. This was an important finding since dense breasts are linked to a higher risk of cancer. Another 2009 study on more than 5,000 Chinese women diagnosed with breast cancer found that a diet rich in soy did not increase the risk of recurrence.

More recent, bigger studies and research reviews suggest eating soy foods (not concentrated soy products) can be protective for some people.

  • A 2014 analysis of 35 studies found eating soy foods was linked to a lower risk of breast cancer both before and after menopause for women in Asian countries, but not women in Western countries. Still, when researchers combined results from three large studies involving nearly 10,000 women, they found a lower risk of breast cancer recurrence in both U.S. and Chinese women who ate soy and had been diagnosed with breast cancer. This was especially true for women who had estrogen-receptor-negative disease. Risk dropped by 25% in women who ate about 10 grams of soy daily, an amount similar to what’s in a standard Japanese diet.
  • A study of 15,000 Japanese women found eating moderate-to-high amounts of soy foods was linked to lower breast cancer risk after menopause.
  • An analysis of more than 130 studies on soy consumption found that eating about 1½ cups of soy foods daily was linked to a lower risk of recurrence and dying from breast cancer for women who had been diagnosed, regardless of their ethnicity.

Recent research also suggests that the age a woman begins eating soy foods plays a role in soy’s effect on breast cancer risk. Asian women begin eating moderate to high amounts of soy foods as children. Scientists think that may be why the most protective results have been seen in these women. Eating soy foods early in life might reduce the risk of developing breast cancer because soy seems to contribute to breast-tissue differentiation in developing girls, which seems to be protective. Tissue differentiation is when cells line up to function as they’re supposed to. There’s also some evidence suggesting a link between better survival and eating soy foods a year or more after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

While all these results seem encouraging, other studies offer different results.

The research: risks

Most of the troubling results about soy come from studies on lab animals and cells. Research has shown that certain isoflavones in soy seem to encourage cancer cell or tumor growth and spread, particularly around menopause. For example, lab studies have found that low concentrations of the isoflavone genistein stimulated the growth of estrogen-receptor-positive breast tumors and interfered with the effects of tamoxifen.

Another concern is whether soy’s estrogen-like effects worsen outcomes for women newly diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. A small and short 2014 study suggests that for some of these women, adding about 4 cups of soy milk to their diets turns on several genes that encourage cell growth. The study didn’t last long enough to know whether these genetic changes would cause cancer to grow, and the study also didn’t look at whether soy does or doesn’t reduce the risk of breast cancer.

The research: mixed results

Some research has found that soy has different effects under different conditions.

For example, research done in animals has shown that high concentrations of the isoflavone genistein slow the spread of breast-cancer cells but low concentrations of genistein encourage tumor growth. Still, the amounts of genistein studied were higher than anyone would actually eat. Studies are also looking at how soy affects people of different ethnicities, how isoflavones interact with estrogen receptors, and how the interaction is affected by estrogen levels in the body.

Enjoy some soy

At most, soy’s effect on breast cancer risk is neutral, or small. It’s probably a combination of lifestyle factors (for example, exercising daily, limiting alcohol, not smoking) that all work together to lower risk. Also, people who depend on soy for protein are probably eating a healthy diet.

I’m not trying to be confusing by telling you about all these conflicting results. I just want you to know why doctors are still debating the soy question.

I feel comfortable recommending moderate amounts of soy foods as part of a balanced diet for healthy women and breast cancer survivors. This means two to three ½-cup servings of soy per day, similar to a Japanese diet.

That said, it’s always best to follow the Precautionary Principle:

  • Until the soy question becomes clearer, eating soy or increasing the amount of soy you eat is not a proven strategy to reduce your risk of breast cancer or lower your risk of recurrence.
  • Eliminating all soy from your diet “just to be sure” is drastic, hard to do, and is unlikely to give you any extra protection against breast cancer.

But we recommend that you:

  • Avoid highly concentrated soy products or protein supplements (they come in powders and capsules).
  • Avoid hidden soy, found in many packaged foods in various forms (protein isolate and soybean oil). Real whole foods provide the best nutrients. Packaged foods may affect your body differently than whole soy. Eating hidden soy may mean that you’re eating more soy than you wanted to.
  • Stick to certified organic soy foods. More than 90% of conventional soybeans come from genetically modified seeds. So far, no research shows that genetically modified foods affect cancer risk or cause long-term health problems. But many crops such as soy are engineered to withstand spraying with certain pesticides, and pesticide residues can cause unhealthy cell changes. Certified organic products don’t use genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Special circumstances call for extra precautions. Of course, anyone with soy allergies should avoid soy. Limit how much soy you eat if you’re being treated for low thyroid hormone levels, and don’t take your medicine with soy foods. And if you have problems absorbing minerals, you may want to avoid soy because compounds in soy called phytates can slow or block absorption of important nutrients including iron, calcium, and zinc.

(Article Excerpt and Image from Breastcancer.org)   – See more at: http://community.breastcancer.org/livegreen/the-soy-question-safe-to-eat/.

Breast Cancer Risk Factors

Just being a woman is the biggest of all breast cancer risk factors. There are about 190,000 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 60,000 cases of non-invasive breast cancer this year in American women. While men do develop breast cancer, less than 1% of all new breast cancer cases happen in men. Approximately 2,000 cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in American men this year.

The biggest reasons for the difference in breast cancer rates between men and women are:

  • Women’s breast development takes 3 to 4 years and is usually complete by age 14. It’s uncommon for men’s breasts to fully form — most of the male breasts you see are fat, not formed glands.
  • Once fully formed, breast cells are very immature and highly active until a woman’s first full-term pregnancy. While they are immature, a women’s breast cells are very responsive to estrogen and other hormones, including hormone disrupters in the environment.
  • Men’s breast cells are inactive and most men have extremely low levels of estrogen.

So hormonal stimulation of highly responsive and vulnerable breast cells in women, particularly during the extra-sensitive period of breast development, is why breast cancer is much more common in women than in men.

Steps you can take

Changing your sex to reduce your risk of breast cancer is not a realistic or reasonable possibility. But there are lifestyle choices you can make to reduce your estrogen exposure and reduce this sex-related risk:

These are just a few of the steps you can take. Review the links on the left side of this page for more options.

(Article Excerpt and Image from Breastcancer.org)   – See more at: http://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/woman

Study Says Breast Cancer Prevention Must Begin Early in Life

Every woman wants to know what she can do to lower her risk of breast cancer. Some of the factors associated with breast cancer — being a woman, your age, and your genetics, for example — can’t be changed. Other factors — being overweight, lack of exercise, eating unhealthy food — can be changed by making choices. By choosing the healthiest lifestyle options possible, you can empower yourself and make sure your breast cancer risk is as low as possible.

A paper strongly suggests that breast cancer prevention should start early in life because nearly 25% of breast cancers are diagnosed in women younger than age 50 in developed countries.

The paper was published online on July 22, 2015 by the journal npj Breast Cancer. Read “Preventing breast cancer now by acting on what we already know.”

The lead author of the paper is Graham Colditz, M.D., an internationally known epidemiologist and public health expert who is a member of the Breastcancer.org Professional Advisory Board. He is the director of Prevention and Control at the Siteman Cancer Center at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO.

In the paper, Dr. Colditz and his colleague Kari Bohlke describe the factors that most commonly influence breast cancer risk:

  • increased exposure to the hormones estrogen and progesterone
  • changes in women’s height growth rate and reproductive patterns
  • lifestyle changes, including diet, that come about because of economic development

The researchers also quote breast cancer prevention task force reports urging people to focus on risk factors during specific time periods in a woman’s life:

  • in childhood, before and during breast development
  • in young adulthood/adulthood before the breasts fully mature with the birth of a woman’s first child

Research has shown that girls who eat a high-calorie, low-nutrient diet that contains few vegetables and fruits and get little or no exercise/physical activity are more likely to start having their periods earlier. This means that the body starts producing more estrogen — so girls who start menstruating earlier are exposed to more estrogen over their lifetimes. We know that estrogen can make breast cancer develop and grow. Girls who eat more vegetables and whole grains are more likely to start their periods later, which means they’re exposed to relatively less estrogen over their lifetimes.

“Timing of prevention therefore matters,” the researchers wrote. “Because 22% of breast cancer is diagnosed in premenopausal women and is often more aggressive than cancers diagnosed in postmenopausal women, it makes sense to start prevention early in life when it can have maximum impact. For example, prevention begun in childhood and continuing through adolescence and early adult years can reduce development of premalignant or intermediate lesions that are on the pathway to breast cancer.”

They recommend the following strategies to reduce breast cancer risk and have calculated how much of a difference each would make in the number of cases diagnosed in the United States:

  • Eat a diet full of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains in childhood and continue eating that way throughout life: would prevent 3% of breast cancers
  • Be physically active as a child and continue exercising throughout life: would prevent 11% of breast cancers
  • Avoid gaining weight as you age: would prevent 25-32% of breast cancers
  • If you do gain weight as you age, lose about 10% of your body weight (and keep it off) after menopause: would prevent 25% of breast cancers
  • Limit or avoid alcohol between your first period and the birth of your first child: would prevent 3% of breast cancers
  • Limit or avoid alcohol throughout life: would prevent 3% of breast cancers
  • Avoid using medicines such hormone replacement therapy that contains estrogen and progesterone: would prevent 3% of breast cancers
  • Women at high-risk for breast cancer because of family history or an abnormal gene should consider taking preventive medicine such as tamoxifen or Evista (chemical name: raloxifene): would prevent 11% of breast cancers

Dr. Colditz urges communities, policy makers, schools, and parents to talk to girls about prevention strategies. Exercising, eating healthy food, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding alcohol all help reduce the risk of breast cancer. If these strategies start in girlhood, before the breasts begin to develop, breast cancer risk can be reduced even more than if these healthy behaviors start in adulthood.

“If we act and act now, shifting the balance and focus to earlier life, supported by additional resources devoted to implementing prevention, bringing messages and bolstering lifestyle and risk-reduction behaviors during the critical time points in life, we stand a good chance of significantly reducing the burden of breast cancer now and for future generations,” he wrote.

Doing all that you can do to keep your breast cancer risk as low as it can be makes good sense. Exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding alcohol are steps you can take to control several risk factors. You can learn much more about breast cancer risk and other steps you can take to minimize your risk in the Breastcancer.org Lower Your Risk section.

(Article Excerpt and Image from Breastcancer.org)   – See more at: http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/prevention-must-begin-early-in-life

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