Think pink, live green – 5 principles of an Earth-conscious lifestyle that can also prevent breast cancerWiebke Venter
Did you know that 1 in 27 South African women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime? This is why we support this awareness and strive to encourage a healthy way of living. The risk of developing breast cancer is linked to many environmental factors. Following an Earth-conscious lifestyle can help.
Most women who develop breast cancer have no family history of the disease, suggesting an environmental link. Environmental factors are often neglected as risk factors, yet super important. Thus, the responsibility for avoiding the disease not only lies with the individual, but also with society as a whole.
Here are some risk factors in our environment that can play a huge role in the development of breast cancer.
- Carcinogens in the air, in a product you use, or a chemical in foods and drinks
- Endocrine disruptors used in personal care products, food processing, pesticides, and others
- Night light
- Occupational hazards
- Shift work
While it is the responsibility of politics to prohibit the use of certain chemicals in conventional products, we do have the choice to select more environmen AND health-friendly alternatives. This may include rethinking many everyday choices and changing old habits. We want to encourage following the principles of an Earth-conscious lifestyle to lower the risk of breast of breast cancer (and other illnesses).
1. Be mindful about what you put in your body
The first principle of living Earth-conscious is being conscious about what we eat, drink, breathe, take, and use from the kitchen, pantry and cleaning shelf.
Many of the pesticides and other synthetic chemicals used in agriculture, food processing, and food packaging end up in your food. Choosing healthy food, considering the packaging and preparing them at home can make a big difference.
First, choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds as ingredients for most meals. They are your key source of nutrients with relatively few calories, which makes them elementary for a healthy diet and therefore a healthy body. Washing fruits and vegetables carefully but thorough helps reduce the amount of pesticides on the outside. Buying organic foods can reduce your exposure to these chemicals, too. The good thing about focussing on plant-based foods: It is easier to avoid single-used plastic packaging by buying loose produce at a market and they have a way lower impact on your carbon footprint as animal products. If meat replacement products are a big part of your diet, be aware: It is a good and cheap source of protein, however, it’s best to avoid regular consumption of concentrated soy products, such as soy protein powder, because they may stimulate breast cell activity.
The main source for single-used plastics is food packaging. That is why shopping for foods without plastic packaging is such a big thing in the zero waste community. Being more Earth-conscious means buying mainly loose produce or more sustainable options like glass containers. Trying to avoid plastic packaging when shopping for groceries also benefits breast cancer prevention, because of the endocrine disruptors that can enter the food and your body. Only use plastics with the recycling code #1, 2, 4, and 5, and avoid plastics with recycling codes #3, 6, and 7.
,Moreover, cooking for yourself helps you to use higher quality ingredients and have better control over the amount of ingredients and the packaging. Limiting your use of ready-made or processed foods decreases your CO2 footprint and lowers the risk of breast cancer. Win-win.
Being mindful about what we put in our bodies doesn´t only refer to food but also to medications, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes…..and personal care products:
2. Choose safe personal and cleaning products
There are many reasons to make your bathroom and cleaning cabinet more sustainable – both environmental and health-related.
It would be too much to summarize all of the questionable ingredients in personal and cleaning products as well as their harm to the environment and to our bodies. However, we would like to point out one specific example at this point that is directly related to breast cancer: Deodorants!
Did you know that many conventional deodorants contain aluminium compounds? These aluminium compounds in antiperspirants temporarily block sweat glands to inhibit perspiration. That not only decreases the ability to control your temperature, but these aluminium compounds can also build up in breast tissue and produce some oestrogen-like effects. Over the years there were a lot of indications that this antiperspirants and breast cancer are linked.
We suggest switching your regular deodorant with a natural deodorant. Unlike conventional antiperspirants, a natural deodorant like Natural Yogi´s or The Apothecary´s does not block your pores. The main compound is sodium bicarbonate, better known as bicarbonate of soda (for baking). Sodium bicarbonate combats the moist and absorbs the odour. It is very likely that sodium bicarbonate is even antimicrobial. This creates an environment that is not conducive to the odour-causing microbes that grow in perspiration.
With the skin being our biggest organ and being able to absorb whatever we get in contact with, it is best to buy products that are made without fragrances, hormones, and preservatives in general. Natural dental, skin and hair products from local brands like Earthly, Back2nature, The Apothecary or bebare.life are not only harmless to your body, they are also better for the environment in every aspect and use sustainable packaging.
There are many reasons to rethink the cleaning regime in your household, too. Considering many of the hazardous chemicals in conventional products are often carcinogens, neurotoxins, mutagens, teratogens, or endocrine disrupters, it is definitely worth scrapping them in favour of natural green cleaning products. Eco-friendly cleaning products are made using naturally derived, safe, non-toxic, and biodegradable ingredients that don’t negatively impact the environment – and your health.
3. Be open to unconventional medications, procedures and products
Transitioning to unconventional solutions is a big part of living a more Earth-conscious lifestyle. Unconventional; meaning what everybody, or at least majority of the population does. It´s sad to call that unconventional because living more in accord to nature should be the norm!
In regards to the prevention of breast cancer, we are mainly referring to birth control in this third principle. For the prevention of breast cancer, it is best to avoid exposing your body to extra hormones, such as estrogen and progestin, which are contained in birth control pills. Consider non-hormonal solutions, such as an intrauterine device (IUD) for contraception. Imagine all these little plastic pill blisters that you could save from going to landfills too. An IUD also helps with the monthly bleeding. Usually the bleeding gets less, which in return makes you require less of (plastic) sanitary products. Another awesome way for birth control AND getting to know your own is the natural contraception method. If you feel that you require hormonal medication to improve or maintain your quality of life, talk to your doctor, and lower the risk by taking the lowest dose for the shortest time possible.
4. Go outside as often as possible
The best way to connect to Nature and staying conscious about the Earth, the environment and the miracles our eco-systems have to offer is spending time outside. Our favourite activities are walking or hiking – with open eyes of what´s around us. The best thing about spending time outdoors is that it can be your daily exercise as well. Working out, moving your body and strength your muscles is so important when it comes to overall health and cancer prevention.
You should try to get at least 3-4 hours of physical activity per week, better 5-7. The best way is to mix it up and keep it fun for yourself to sustain over time. You can do anything that suits your style and schedule, be it training with a trainer, weight lifting, running, horse riding, walking, biking, dancing or rugby. However, doing it outside is better.
Being outside also has a calming effect on our minds and bodies that ultimately help slow us down. Not only that, but it helps with stress management which is another crucial part of preventing any kind of cancer. Being outside adds so much quality to your lifestyle. In addition, you´ll get fresh air. The outside air is usually much cleaner than the air inside your home, car, or workplace.
Another bonus, being in the sun every day for 20 minutes without sun protection helps with your body’s own vitamin D production. Women who regularly took vitamin D supplements had lower rates of postmenopausal breast cancer, a study suggests. The best sources of vitamin D are sun exposure, vitamin D3 supplements, and oily fish.
5. Every purchase is a vote
Lastly, keep in mind that every conscious purchase and decision you make is a vote for a better world and for an Earth-friendly society. Vote at the till by choosing healthy products and also vote at the polls for laws that require environmentally responsible methods of farming, manufacturing, energy production, food preparation, water treatment, and new product development.