Tag Archives: fermented foods

What Estrogen Dominance Really Is — and How It Can Put You At Risk for Breast Cancer

During our initial consultation, my 34-year-old patient Jennifer brought up a host of health issues that were making her feel less-than-optimal on a daily basis. “The post-lunch bloating, pulsing afternoon headaches, and feeling tired all the time are the worst,” she told me, exhaling with frustration.

Over the past year, Jennifer had gained about 20 pounds and began suffering from irregular periods, frequent mood swings, and almost constant sugar cravings. Her frustration was palpable and she felt her gut health was to blame.

Fatigued Woman Suffering with Headache - Happy Gut Life

All of the symptoms she described pointed to something that I’m seeing more and more often among premenopausal women: estrogen dominance. Her lab tests on day 21 of her cycle confirmed my suspicion: Jennifer had high estrogen levels.

Estrogen Dominance 101: What it Means for Your Health

Estrogen dominance occurs when there is too much estrogen circulating in the body over the course of the monthly cycle. And while estrogen is technically a beneficial hormone and plays a huge role in a woman’s health from puberty all the way through menopause — helping to maintain healthy skin, strong bones and muscle, heart health, brain and mental health, and reproductive health — like all hormones, estrogen needs to stay in balance. When it doesn’t, it becomes that noisy patron at a bar who talks loudly over everyone else, leading to internal chaos.

Estrogen dominance is probably the most common issue with estrogen that I see in my office. It usually impacts perimenopausal women in their 40s but I have seen this condition in women in their 30’s and 50s.

Many of these women didn’t know they were estrogen dominant. What they did know was that they had symptoms of excess estrogen exposure, like:

  • Breast tenderness and swelling starting up to one week before menstruation
  • Extended PMS starting two weeks before menstruation
  • Heavy periods
  • Mood swings
  • Sugar cravings
  • An inability to lose those stubborn pounds
  • Feeling puffy and water retention

These symptoms are miserable on their own. But over time, they can contribute to other problems, including increasing your risk of:

  • Certain cancers, including breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancers
  • Blood clots and stroke
  • Thyroid dysfunction, creating further problems such as fatigue and weight changes

In my last blog, I talked about the connection between breast cancer and the gut microbiome. Well, guess what? Maintaining healthy levels of estrogen is often the factor that connects the two. How? Like I explained in my Gut Detox Masterclass, an unhappy gut can lead to higher estrogen levels, which causes estrogen dominance and eventually can increase your risk of breast cancer.

As I explained to Jennifer during our first consultation, getting estrogen levels under control is critical to managing weight and eliminating symptoms like mood swings and fatigue, but also for preventing bigger-picture issues like breast cancer.

Progesterone — Your Missing Female Superpower in Estrogen Dominance

Progesterone is another important female sex hormone — it basically helps keep the effects of estrogen on your body in balance. Think of progesterone and estrogen as the yin-yang of the female body.

The Balance Between Estrogen and Progesterone

Estrogen would be the activating yang element, while progesterone is the calming yin element. Without progesterone, estrogen becomes a runaway train car. The problem women with estrogen dominance face is inadequate progesterone production.
And you need a healthy menstrual cycle in order to produce adequate amounts of progesterone. You see, your ovaries produce most of the body’s progesterone, which plays a critical role in the menstrual cycle after ovulation.

The effects of progesterone in the body include:

  • Preventing fluid retention
  • Improving sleep
  • Promoting calm
  • Boosting mood stability
  • Supporting bone health
  • Assisting with a healthy libido
Estrogen Molecular Structure
Progesterone Molecular Structure

When estrogen and progesterone are in balance, you feel like a rock star. Life feels good! You maintain a healthy weight, have great energy, and your sex drive stays stellar. When progesterone levels drop, however, estrogen can dominate the scene. Headaches, migraines, mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, and an irregular, shortened menstrual cycle are all signs of low progesterone.

When there’s estrogen dominance, progesterone deficiency is usually part of the problem. That said, rarely does one factor alone fuel estrogen dominance. Environmental exposures also fuel excess estrogen in the body by adding to the toxin load with EDC’s (endocrine-disrupting chemicals), which you can read more about from my blogpost, Avoid Obnoxious Toxins to Build Your Immuno-Resiliance.

Ultimately, a near-constant onslaught of low-nutrient, high-calorie foods (like sugar, refined carbohydrates, and packaged foods) and hormone-disrupting lifestyle factors are what knock estrogen levels out of balance in the first place. The key factors that often drive estrogen dominance include:

The Sneaky Causes of Estrogen Dominance

Gut Dysbiosis - Illustration - Happy Gut Life

Gut Dysbiosis

Probably the most important underlying cause of estrogen dominance is a gut microbiome imbalance, which can allow bound, metabolized estrogen to be released and recirculate throughout the body. We’ll do a deep dive into this relationship later on in the article but for now, know that gut dysbiosis often translates to more estrogen in the body.

Endocrine Disruptors - Happy Gut Life

Environmental Toxins

Everything from the air we breathe to the water we drink bombards our body with toxins, which can disrupt hormone balance. Many pesticides and other toxins can bind to and potentially activate estrogen receptors. We call these toxins endocrine disruptors because they disrupt the balance of hormones. Some act as xenoestrogens, “foreign” estrogens that bind to estrogen receptors and mimic its effects.

An Overwhelmed Liver - Happy Gut Life

An Overwhelmed Liver

Toxins can impair the body’s detoxification process, including its ability to detox excess hormones. This toxic overload can also increase the body’s demand for important antioxidants such as glutathione, which help the body detoxify excess estrogen levels leading to even higher estrogen. Talk about a lose-lose situation! If you want to learn more, I explain more about the liver and detoxification process in my Gut DETOX Masterclass.

Pre-Packaged Farm-Raised Meat - Happy Gut Life

Too Much Farm-Raised Meat

I like to say, “You are what you eat.” The inflammatory foods, hormones, and antibiotics that conventionally-raised animals receive can end up in your food. This happens a lot with red meat, but the same problem exists in factory-farmed chicken and even fish. Sugar, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, dairy, and caffeine are other culprits that in my experience, can exacerbate estrogen dominance.

Stress - Happy Gut Life

Stress

Constantly feeling stressed out can damage the immune system, gut microbiome, and more. Stress can also disrupt hormones, leading to lower progesterone levels and menstrual cycle disruptions. I talk about how to manage stress here.

Subpar Sleep - Happy Gut Life

Subpar Sleep

When you don’t sleep well, critical hormones like insulin can get out of whack, leading to insulin resistance. In my practice, I see how when insulin is disrupted, other hormones, including testosterone and estrogen are quick to follow. Too much estrogen and not enough progesterone can also impair the production of melatonin, which regulates your circadian rhythm. To learn more about the many ways melatonin and gut health are connected, check out my blog about magnifying your melatonin production.

Medications - Happy Gut Life

Medications

Many over-the-counter and prescription drugs can disrupt hormonal balance. A frequent estrogen-dominance offender is birth control pills. Many of the newer pills introduce synthetic progesterone (called progestin) into the body, inhibiting the body from making natural progesterone to balance estrogen levels.

Constipation - Happy Gut Life

Constipation

If you aren’t having regular bowel movements, hormones such as estrogen can go back into circulation instead of being eliminated from the body. Eventually, this can lead to estrogen dominance, which ironically, can cause more constipation. The goal is to have at least one bowel movement daily. Gradually increasing dietary fiber will support the gut’s detoxification abilities and promote regularity.

Clearly, there’s more than one sneaky underlying cause of estrogen imbalance. But as I mentioned, the most important one is dysbiosis, which is why now, I’ll be diving into the details of how the gut microbiome and estrogen metabolism are linked.

The Gut, Dysbiosis and Estrogen Metabolism

Jennifer was absolutely correct when she told me she suspected that her gut health was contributing to many of her symptoms. And that’s because a healthy gut is critical to keeping hormones like estrogen in balance.

In fact, hormone management is such an important part of gut health that we have coined a subset of the gut microbe environment called the estrobolome. The estrobolome contains bacteria that:

  • Metabolize estrogen
  • Regulate the circulation of estrogen
  • Determine how well estrogen metabolites are excreted from the body

Here’s one example of how this works in real life: Gut bacteria make beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme that reactivates metabolized estrogen, releasing it so that it can then re-enter the body and bind to estrogen receptors. When the gut falls into a state of dysbiosis, the amount of beta-glucuronidase-producing bacteria increases, leading to estrogen imbalances.

To maintain hormone harmony, you need the right amount of estrogen-metabolizing bacteria in your gut. When there’s an imbalance between favorable and unfavorable microorganisms in the gut, harmful levels of bacteria can proliferate and lead to excess estrogen, which then build up and go on to circulate throughout the body. This creates estrogen dominance and increases the risk of breast-related problems, including breast cancer.

The gut is a critical and often-overlooked organ for detoxification. To learn more, we’re providing FREE Access to my Gut DETOX Masterclass this month in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness.

Estrogen Dominance, The Gut, and Weight Gain

Weight loss resistance and weight gain are two of the major symptoms of estrogen dominance, as Jennifer discovered when we started working together. Many times, environmental toxins contribute to this type of estrogen overload. The word “obesogens” has even been coined to describe the xenoestrogens that can increase the size of fat cells.

When a female patient carries excess weight, especially in the hips and thighs, I will always check estrogen levels. I also suspect estrogen dominance when a woman tells me she “has tried every diet” but can’t seem to lose weight.

I find that the key to fixing this type of estrogen dominance and finally losing that pesky weight is almost always tending to the gut. That’s because not only does a healthy gut help maintain healthy estrogen levels; estrogen and the gut work together. Besides leading to excess estrogen circulating in the body, an unhealthy gut can create chronic inflammation, a major player in weight loss resistance and obesity. In my practice, I see how dysbiosis can develop into leaky gut, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and other gut problems. Conversely, a healthy balance of gut microbes can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of metabolic diseases. I talk more about how specific gut bacteria can help you lose weight in this blog.

Over time, the relationship between estrogen metabolism and your gut health can either increase or reduce your risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer, depending on how healthy the relationship actually is. And what influences the health of that connection more than anything is — you guessed it! — your lifestyle choices.

How to Combat Estrogen Dominance

Eating a Happy Gut® diet dramatically helped Jennifer rebalance her estrogen levels. We nixed the sugary foods and refined carbohydrates and brought in a lot of gut-healing plant foods, including more fermented foods and root vegetables like sweet potato to support progesterone production in the second half of the cycle. To manage gut inflammation, we brought in omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods such as wild-caught salmon and flax and chia seeds.

I also had her incorporate five key lifestyle factors that are critical to balancing estrogen levels. Along with her upgraded diet, Jennifer saw a big improvement in her estrogen:progesterone balance within two months. I’ve seen these same strategies work wonderfully with other patients who have struggled with estrogen dominance for years.

5 Ways To Fend Off Estrogen Dominance

Skin Care Products Containing EDCs - Happy Gut Life

1. Avoid Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) in Topical Products.

Women use an average of 16 skincare and cosmetic products daily. And in America, there are about 12,500 chemical ingredients that could be hiding in these products. That’s a lot of potential estrogen-disrupting chemicals that you’re adding to your body every day! Sunscreen products are especially notorious for containing estrogen-mimicking ingredients such as oxybenzone and octinoxate. The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) Skin Deep Guide allows you to search specific ingredients, brands, and products to determine whether your skincare products are safe.

Plastic Water Bottles and Food Containers (EDC) - Happy Gut Life

2. Avoid EDCs from the Environment.

We just talked about hormone-disrupting chemicals in skincare products, but these chemicals are nearly everywhere. One of the biggest offenders is bisphenol-A (BPA), which is found in water bottles, food storage containers, and even sales receipts. This endocrine disruptor derived from petroleum mimics estrogen in the body and can cause hormonal abnormalities that are not easily detectable through laboratory tests. BPA can leach into your foods and drinks, especially if you leave plastic food containers or water bottles in the heat or direct sunlight.

Progesterone Enhancing Foods - Happy Gut Life

3. Enhance Progesterone Levels.

Progesterone is the leading hormone during the second half of your menstrual cycle. And as we learned earlier, when progesterone stays balanced, estrogen is more likely to stay balanced, too. With optimal progesterone levels, many women find that symptoms like mood swings are less of a problem during their monthly moon cycle. One way to naturally restore progesterone levels is by eating foods rich in nutrients including vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin B6, and zinc, which you can get from foods like wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, sweet potatoes, cassava, and spinach.

Seed Cycling - Pumpkin, Sesame, Flax and Sunflower Seeds - Happy Gut Life

4. Try Seed Cycling.

Many women find seed cycling to be very effective for balancing hormones, improving fertility, and reducing menopausal symptoms. One study even showed that adding flaxseeds alone, for instance, could improve the regularity of your menstrual cycle. Seed cycling involves rotating flax seeds with pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds at different times of the month. These seeds are high in lignans, powerful antioxidants, and polyphenols that can help the body manage estrogen levels. One specific lignan, called enterolactone, can help manage the populations of estrogen-metabolizing bacteria, which can potentially lower the risk of breast cancer over time. Here’s how seed cycling works:

  • During the first 13 to 14 days of your menstrual cycle (the follicular phase), eat one tablespoon of freshly ground flaxseeds and pumpkin seeds daily.
  • During the second half of your cycle (the luteal phase — this is when progesterone is key), eat one tablespoon of ground sunflower and sesame seeds daily until menstruation.
Quick Fact - Happy Gut Life

Quick Fact: The luteal phase of your menstrual cycle is always 14 days long; so, if you have a short menstrual cycle, it’s very likely you have progesterone deficiency due to a weak luteal phase.

HAPPY GUT® RESET: 7-Day Detox

5. Show Your Liver Some Love.

When the liver is backed up, detoxification can come to a standstill. As a result, hormones like estrogen can go back into circulation rather than being properly excreted. For women with estrogen dominance, a critical step to restoring balance is ensuring that the liver is properly detoxifying. Wondering where to start? I formulated my HAPPY GUT® RESET: 7-Day Detox to get amazing detox results in just one week. That means you can heal your gut, help your liver more effectively detoxify, balance your hormones, and drop those unwanted pounds — STAT.

I’ve used this results-driven program with Jennifer and many other patients, and I’m excited to say that it is now available to the public. The response to the HAPPY GUT® RESET: 7-Day Detox has been overwhelming, and I want to help you get those same results if you think estrogen dominance might be a problem for you. When you reset the gut and detox the liver, you balance hormones, find your happy weight, and prevent breast cancer and other serious health conditions down the line.

The Gut Microbiome-Breast Cancer Connection

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so we’re honoring women’s wellness this month by first taking a closer look at how the gut microbiome and breast cancer may be linked in surprising ways, and then looking at some of the top anti-cancer foods you can start incorporating into your daily diet right away.

1 in 8 Women will get Breast Cancer

Did you know 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer at some point in their lifetime? Odds are you know someone who is a breast cancer survivor. Maybe you are. Or you may have lost someone to breast cancer.

If this is you, then keep reading, because this blog post is especially for you.

About 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are genetic, which means that if your mom or grandmother had breast cancer, your risk for developing it will be higher.

But here’s the good news:

Genetics Versus Toxins Scale - Illustration

The vast majority of breast cancer cases are influenced by the food and lifestyle choices you make every day.

This is called “epigenetics.” In other words, when you eat the right foods (more on those in a minute), exercise regularly, detoxify your body properly, avoid smoking and excess alcohol, take care of your gut health, and manage stress, you can reduce your overall risk of developing breast cancer.

This week, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I want to focus on the one thing often missing in the conversation about breast health — the health of your gut.

Long-Term Breast Health Starts in the Gut

Like all diseases, there is almost always more than one factor involved in breast cancer. That said, when it comes to laying a foundation for healthy breasts (and hormones) in the long-term, gut health is something that can’t be ignored. If you’re been a long-time Happy Gut reader, this won’t come as a huge surprise. After all, supporting the gut microbiome – that diverse ecosystem living inside you comprising trillions of symbiotic bacteria – impacts nearly every system in your body. The breasts and your hormones are no exception. In fact, your breasts actually have their own specific microbiome. And while we’re still understanding how this works, specific bacteria in the breast microbiome can support healthy breast tissue, while imbalances in the make-up of that bacteria can increase your risk of breast cancer.

Woman Holding Her Stomach

Today, though, we’ll be focusing on the gut microbiome, which we know plays many roles in the body. Some important ones that are relevant to breast health include:

  • Supporting immune system development and maintenance, which is key in cancer prevention and recovery.
  • Fermenting  indigestible fibers into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which have been shown to have anti-cancer properties.
  • Producing essential amino acids that are key to a healthy immune system.
  • Producing vitamins, including B vitamins and vitamin K, which have a protective effect against breast cancer.
  • Increasing the absorption of minerals that can prevent key nutrient deficiencies that may put you at higher risk for diseases of all kinds.
  • Supporting regular elimination, which allows estrogen and other hormone metabolites to be excreted from the body efficiently
  • Deactivating toxins and carcinogens that are linked to increased breast cancer risk.

Looking at this list, you can see right away how absolutely critical a healthy gut microbiome is to breast cancer prevention. This is particularly true for the last bullet point because…

It’s suspected that gut bacteria play an important role in our ability to deactivate or detoxify the nearly constant onslaught of toxins that we encounter daily.

Knowing this, it’s not surprising that newer research is showing that a compromised gut can impact the risk of breast cancer.

The Gut Health-Immune System Connection You Should Know About

The delicate balance maintained by the trillions of microorganisms influences so many aspects of our health. For example, when your gut microbes are in harmony, you maintain a healthy weight, you feel great, and you keep disease at bay. Unfortunately, when that delicately orchestrated ecosystem inside your gut loses its state of harmony — as so frequently happens in our modern world — it can have serious consequences.

This loss of harmony is called dysbiosis, which literally means “living out of harmony with,” In dysbiosis, bad gut bacteria take over and throw an unwelcome party in your gut, crowding out beneficial bacteria and disrupting nutrient absorption, perhaps creating constipation, and sabotaging the healthy elimination of excess hormones and toxins. This sounds bad but dysbiosis is usually subtle. It evolves over time and can exist in the background for months or years.

Among many things, dysbiosis causes a domino effect that can lead to leaky gut syndrome and disruptions in the ability of your immune system to fight infections and keep cancer cells in check. Eventually, this can lower the effectiveness of certain immune cells, such as lymphocytes, while increasing others, like neutrophils. Animal studies have found that gut microbiome alterations lead to the development of breast tumors. Researchers have also found that imbalances in the gut microbiome can even affect the survival of patients with breast cancer.

This connection is further proven by what we’ve learned about antibiotics in recent years. Antibiotics, which are often overprescribed, impact the biodiversity and abundance of some bacterial communities and disrupt the balance of the gut microbiome, increasing the risk of diseases, including cancer.

How the Microbiome, Inflammation, and Cancer Are Linked

As it turns out, dysbiosis can play a role in many types of cancer, including breast cancer. In fact, scientists have coined a word, “oncobiome,” to describe the interaction between the gut microbiome and cancer. The microbiome influences the development of cancer formation in several ways:

  • It stimulates cells to increase in number or self-destruct 
  • It regulates the immune response
  • It metabolizes indigestible dietary components, medications, and other xenobiotics or foreign substances in the body
  • It reduces inflammation in the gut and the entire body 

This has inspired an increase in research about the gut microbiome — breast cancer connection. For instance, one study found that the microbe composition of women with breast cancer differs from that of healthy women. The authors wrote that specific bacteria are able to produce estrogen-metabolizing enzymes, that the gut microbiota is capable of modulating estrogen serum levels, and that estrogen-like compounds in the gut may support the growth of certain types of bacteria. In other words, there’s a LOT of interplay between the gut microbiota and estrogen — a hormone that plays an extremely important role in the development of breast cancer.

Estrogen Chemical Formula

From that understanding, we are now exploring how certain bacteria, like the Firmicutes population and Akkermansia muciniphila, could play a part in the development of cancer.

Gut inflammation is another huge driver for cancer, since the inflammation that starts in the gut can eventually impact the entire body.  I mentioned antibiotics as a primary driver of dysbiosis, which can lead to leaky gut and a host of gut problems. In one study, when mice were given antibiotics, their guts became unhealthy and inflamed from the microbe imbalances. With the gut environment messed up, researchers proposed breast cancer could become more invasive and spread faster throughout the body.

Another study looked at a possible link between prolonged gut inflammation and breast cancer. The researchers discovered that mammary carcinoma (a type of cancer that can start in cells that make up the skin) developed within four to six weeks in mice that acquired an infection with Helicobacter hepaticus, a gut-associated pathogen. Mice mature about 25 times faster than humans, so we can’t take the results of this study and directly apply them to you or me, but this study does provide helpful hints as to how specific gut bacteria may create conditions that increase the risk of breast cancer in humans. Studies like these show that specific species of bacteria should be on our radar when looking for the underlying causes of cancer.

But research, without practical, clear actions you can take creates more angst than helps. That said, what can you do if you are worried your gut is imbalanced? What if you’ve been on multiple rounds of antibiotics? What if you suffer from bloating and constipation?

Or you’re simply worried you might be one of the every eight women who is at risk for breast cancer in your lifetime?

Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer, One Bite at a Time

As I mentioned earlier, most breast cancer cases are not caused by genetics, but by lifestyle and environmental factors. What this means is you have A LOT of power when it comes to reducing your risk of breast cancer and maintaining breast health throughout your life.

The best place to start is with what’s at the end of your fork, because what you eat can alter the gut flora, for better or worse.

I talk about the seven worst foods for gut health you should avoid in a blog I wrote for mindbodygreen. When you remove these foods, which are “toxic” to your body because they activate your immune response, it initiates the process that allows your microbiome to become more balanced.

But when I tell my patients what they can’t eat, they’re often baffled and ask, “What’s left to eat? Seriously, what should I eat?” So, let’s focus on the positive — what foods are BEST for preventing breast cancer. And that means nutrient-dense, colorful plant foods that contain important nutrients for supporting overall gut health and detoxification.

The Top Breast Cancer-Fighting Foods

Breast Cancer Fighting Foods - Broccoli

1. Broccoli

Studies have shown that higher intakes of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower are associated with reduced breast cancer risk, especially in premenopausal women. I suggest opting for broccoli because it’s the only cruciferous vegetable to pack meaningful amounts of sulforaphane, an antioxidant which has demonstrated anti-breast cancer activity. Broccoli is an all-around nutrient superstar that makes a great side dish, easily sauteed in coconut oil and garlic. This Creamy Broccoli Soup also makes a warming, savory starter for the cold months ahead!

Breast Cancer Fighting Foods - Avocado

2. Avocado

This delicious fruit is loaded with fiber and important nutrients, like potassium. They are also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower inflammation and support bothe gut and breast health. This Happy Gut Omelet combines creamy avocado with another cancer-fighting cruciferous rockstar — Brussels sprouts. This is my go-to recipe for a quick, delicious brunch or lunch.

Breast Cancer Fighting Foods - Purple Cabbage

3. Purple Cabbage

The bold color makes this type of cabbage more nutrient-rich. Purple cabbage contains two cancer-fighting compounds — sulforaphane and anthocyanins. My Happy Gut® Slaw combines purple cabbage with other cancer-fighting, gut-healing foods, such as garlic and turmeric kraut. It’s also fermented, which doubles the benefits for breast health. Emerging evidence is showing that the probiotics in fermented foods can protect against breast cancer. We are still learning about specific strains, dosage, and regimen. What we’re seeing is promising, though:

  • One study found that the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri, a specific strain of bacteria found in dairy ferments, could inhibit early-stage breast cancer and improve breast cell sensitivity to apoptosis.
  • Metabolites of the lactic acid bacteria found in lacto ferments are jumpstart specific receptors in the body, like the hydroxycarboxylic acid receptor 3, that activate the immune system and help keep chronic inflammation under control.

Learn more about fermented foods, including all types of delicious lacto ferments, here.

Breast Cancer Fighting Foods - Blueberries

4. Blueberries

Organic blueberries are packed with nutrients and fiber as well as antioxidants that can prevent DNA damage. My Wild Blueberry Breakfast Muffins combine blueberries with avocado oil and almond butter in a delicious, easy-to-make snack or breakfast. Because environmental toxins can play a big role in the development of cancer, I strongly encourage you to choose organic produce whenever possible. Learn more about your best choices and more ways to minimize that toxic impact here.

Breast Cancer Fighting Foods - Cauliflower

5. Cauliflower

Besides also being a cruciferous veggie, cauliflower is also high in fiber, which is critical to breast cancer prevention. Why? Fiber is your gut’s best friend. Previously, I mentioned how gut bacteria turn fiber into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). There are other benefits of eating high-fiber foods.

  • Fiber binds to hormones such as estrogen to prevent those hormones from entering the circulation and creating havoc. In my next blog, I’ll talk more about this and how not managing estrogen levels can lead to a condition called estrogen dominance.
  • Researchers found that premenopausal women who ate over 30 grams of fiber daily could lower their risk of breast cancer.
  • Eating raw vegetables can lower your risk of breast cancer by 34 percent.
  • Fiber can help restore gut bacteria, increasing healthy Bifidobacterium and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, which offer anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor benefits.

Sometimes I tell patients to avoid anything white, such as sugar or flour. But there’s an exception to every rule, and cauliflower is that exception. This cruciferous veggie gets spiced up in this very flavorful Curry Cauliflower Rice recipe.

In all fairness, there are a lot of great foods that you can choose among to stay healthy, support gut health, and reduce your risk of breast cancer. Narrowing them down to five was tough. From these favorites, I shared a couple of delicious Happy Gut-approved recipes that you’ll love.

Right now, we have fewer studies on the gut microbiome and breast cancer than with other cancers. But luckily, that’s changing! One current clinical trial is determining whether the gut microbiome plays a role in fighting advanced breast cancer by impacting how immune cells work.

I’m confident that emerging studies will continue to show that supporting the gut impacts many conditions, including breast cancer. But you don’t have to wait for science to catch up. The foundation of great health is in your gut! When you love your gut with healthy food and lifestyle choices, you’re taking a big step towards supporting breast health and reducing your risk of breast cancer.

With school back in session and everyone “falling” back into a routine, you may not always have time to prepare extravagant meals filled with these cancer-fighting foods above. That’s why I love smoothies — they provide fast, filling nourishment and are absolutely jam-packed with nutrients. To inspire you to eat the breast cancer-fighting foods above in the quickest and most delicious way possible, I created this 7 Breast Health-Supporting Smoothie Recipes download. These smoothies make taking care of your breast and hormone health easy and delicious.

CLICK HERE to Download the Free Recipes Today!

7 Breast Health-Supporting Smoothie Recipes
Getting Started with Fermentation - A How-To Guide

Getting Started With Fermentation: A How-to Guide

In last week’s guest blog from Summer Bock, you learned about the many (many!) benefits of functional ferments like water kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha. From helping modulate the immune system to neurotransmitter production, inoculating the gut with fermented foods is one of the most important keys to a Happy Gut (and “happy brain”). 

This week, I’ll be chatting with Summer — a friend, fermentationist, and the creator of her own course on fermentation (which is available for anyone) —  about how to get started with fermentation.

Getting started with fermentation

If you’ve read Happy Gut®, you know that I wouldn’t be able to share this content about  fermentation with you without showing you the practical ways you can get started fermenting at home. This is especially true with fermentation because it can be intimidating at first. Even for me, one of the world’s leading gut health doctors, fermentation can feel like a science experiment that might go awry. 

Summer knows this better than anyone. As she explains it, “fermentation really is an acquired taste.” For most people, it takes a few tries before they learn to love fermented foods. “But once their body gets exposed to microbes in the ferment, that communication through the gut-brain axis helps to change their taste buds and they start to crave them,” she continues. 

That’s one of the reasons I jumped at the opportunity to ask Summer my burning fermentation questions. Let’s jump in!

Dr. Pedre: Last week you mentioned that Kombucha was a good gateway ferment. What does that mean?

Summer: A gateway ferment is a ferment that allows you to acquire the taste for fermented foods — because fermented foods really ARE an acquired taste. For most people it takes a few tries.

When I started my sauerkraut company, I was living with three roommates. I was making extra sauerkraut all the time and people would come over and buy it on an honor system, leaving money in a jar. At the time there was no other way to get raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut. One out of twenty people would try it and say “Eh, no thanks!” but without fail, a week later, those same people would come back and buy a jar. They would tell me: “I know I took a bite and didn’t want it, but I have not stopped thinking about this since I tasted it.” It helped me understand how the body really does tell you what you need.

That’s what happens with gateway ferments.

Dr. Pedre: If you want to try fermented foods from the store before you make them at home. What are some things to keep in mind while shopping?

Summer: With any ferment, you want to make sure it’s fermented in glass, food grade stainless steel, or a crock, which is a container specifically designed for safe fermentation. A lot of industrial companies are fermenting in plastic barrels. And even though they are mostly BPA-free, there are a lot of other chemicals in plastic to be concerned about. One of the 5 ways to leach chemicals out of plastic is acid. You want to ask the manufacturers: Does this touch plastic at any point in the process?

You should also not be buying a ferment if it has vinegar added because that will kill off probiotics. There’s a time and a place for vinegar but it’s not in your ferment. You also want to avoid any added sugar in any products, especially kombucha, water kefir and dairy ferments, like yogurt.

Dr. Pedre: What about companies that add probiotics to their kimchi or sauerkraut? Is that ok?

Summer: With many ferments, if they are adding probiotics to it, it changes the flavor and longevity of the ferment. It can affect shelf life and it’ll change the crunchiness over time in a bad way. Why? Because fermentation is an intricate process and involves many steps of bacteria production and each one is critical to the health benefits of the final product. In other words, you can’t skip ahead by just adding probiotics. Plus, why would you add starter culture to a process that doesn’t need it? You’re putting a bandaid on top of a cast.

Dr. Pedre: Where should you shop for ferments?

Summer: One of my favorite ways to buy ferments is to go to a farmer’s market because then you can ask the producer questions about the process. Ask them what kind of vessel they used. Did they ferment or store it in plastic at any point during its production? If you don’t have any ferments at your farmers market, and you’re buying from a bigger company, check their website. A great fermentation company will be transparent about the process and the equipment they’re using. And they’d definitely understand the detriment of plastic and acids!

Dr. Pedre: Is it normal to be anxious about trying fermentation at home?

Summer: Yes! You have to break through your social upbringing. We were raised to be very sanitary. We are very afraid of germs and we are always trying to KILL off the germs. When you make a fermented food and let it sit on your counter — for anywhere from 7 days to 9 months or even 9 YEARS for certain misos — while bacteria grow in it, you are pushing every cultural boundary you’ve been taught.

It’s normal to feel totally out of your comfort zone. I still experience it the first time I ferment anything new. I call it the “terror barrier.” You’re like: Okay, I’m going to put this in my mouth, even though I was taught not to. You have to bust through this, but once you do it changes the way you see the world. You’re no longer afraid of bacteria. Understanding fermentation allows you to have a relationship with bacteria instead of a fear of them.

Dr. Pedre: I couldn’t agree more about not being afraid of symbiotic bacteria. Next question: Why are homemade ferments better than the ones in the store?

Summer: Big fermentation companies have changed the ferments and made them less beneficial for the sake of mass production. For example, the dairy kefir you buy in the store is not actually kefir. It’s a “dairy kefir-like” beverage. You’ll get some benefits, but it’s not true kefir. There are much greater benefits in real kefir, with a naturally occuring balance of yeast and bacteria.

Dr. Pedre: I’ve definitely seen the healing benefits of homemade kefirs for my patients. So, then it’s better to make ferments at home?

Summer: Yes. You’ll get higher bacterial counts if you make it at home because you get to eat it at its peak. You also get to control what kind of container it’s in and you can make sure to put it in a safe fermentation vessel. You can also make the ferment more friendly to you if you have food allergies or sensitivities. You can also choose the materials and flavors, making it a more personalized experience.

Dr. Pedre: Yum! I’m already dreaming up different spices I can add to a homemade sauerkraut. Speaking of… what are the best ferments for beginners to try at home?

Summer: No question the best place to start is with lacto ferments. Lacto fermentation is a simple fermentation process that breaks down sugars to produce lactic acid and bacteria, mostly from the family Lactobacillus. It includes functional ferments like sauerkraut, kimchi, cucumber, and other pickled vegetables. I recommend starting with lacto ferments because you can make them to your specifications and they require the least amount of supplies and no starter culture. They have the least amount of allergens and they’re the easiest one to make with the best probiotic profile at the end.

My advice is to start with lacto ferments and get really adept and learn all the different kinds. You can add curry flavors, seaweed, nettle herbs. You can make lacto fermented pickles, beans, and okra.

Dr. Pedre: Ok, let’s dive in. How DO you make lacto ferments?

Summer: I’d recommend starting with a simple one. Sauerkraut is probably one of the easiest places to get started.

Fermentation - Getting Started Infographic

Sauerkraut

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A jar
  • A rubber band
  • A paper towel or clean dish towel
  • Salt
  • Cabbage (you can use any kind but usually I like green cabbage)

I’m not going to include a step-by-step guide here, because I always recommend following video instructions instead of written ones. You can check out my amazing FREE Video Workshop for Making Fermented Veggies At Home.

There, I take you through a step-by-step video guide for fermenting veggies, including troubleshooting and commonly asked questions. That way, you can feel totally confident that you won’t miss or misinterpret a step! You want to get started with the right foundation, so you can glean the greatest benefits from ferments. Once you feel comfortable, you can branch out and try these creative sauerkraut recipes.

Dr. Pedre: If you’re not a fan of sauerkraut, is there another option for beginners?

Summer: I’d recommend dairy kefir, which is the easiest dairy ferment. It’s much easier to make at home than yogurt and a great place to start with dairy ferments. Since kefir needs a starter culture, you need to purchase dairy kefir grains. You can get these from a friend, Facebook or Etsy, or my favorite, KombuchaKamp.  I do not recommend that you buy dehydrated ones. In my experience dehydrated kefir grains just have way too many issues and require a lot more troubleshooting than is suited for a beginner. To make kefir, you can check out my step-by-step video guide here.

Dr. Pedre: What are some common questions and concerns when someone is starting to ferment?

Summer: The question that most people have is, “Am I doing it right, or am I going to poison myself?” It’s okay to fail the first time; most people do. It’s a learning curve and that’s why I recommend video guides. A demonstration helps prevent missing a step or misinterpreting a step.

Because this is a process that evolved centuries ago before people used labs, it’s actually fairly safe. That said, I still recommend a ‘3-step ferment check’ when you start fermenting:

How To Enjoy Your First Ferments

Smell Test - Icon

1. Smell…

… it to ensure it smells like food (if it smells like feet, toss it and start again)

Taste Test - Icon

2. Taste…

… some in your mouth and then spit it out (pretend you’re a sommelier and look out for anything weird)

Eat Test - Icon

3. Eat…

… and enjoy it if it smells and tastes right!

This helps you feel more comfortable. Don’t just plop it in your mouth or eat half the jar.

Dr. Pedre: Do we need to worry about botulism?

Summer: People worry about botulism. But the bacteria that causes botulism can’t grow in an acidic environment. If your sauerkraut is sauerkraut, it can’t contain botulism.

Dr. Pedre: What if we see mold growing on a ferment? Has it gone bad?

Summer: If it’s got a little bit of mold growing on the top of it, you can usually scrape it off the top layer and still eat what’s underneath. However, if there’s pink mold on your kefir, you need to start over. If you see black mold on anything, don’t eat it. Toss it!

Dr. Pedre: Should we keep ferments away from sunlight?

Summer: I say put it in your pantry or a cupboard or on a countertop; NOT in direct sunlight. I’m less concerned about sunlight and more concerned with temperature fluctuation.

Dr. Pedre: Okay, last question. You told us what the best beginner ferments are. But what is the most advanced, “out of the box” ferment you’ve ever come across?

Summer: Natto is hands down the craziest one that I’ve ever tried. It smells like stinky socks to some people, and it’s very mucousy. And for a lot of people it can take 8 to 12 times of trying to like it. But I love it! It’s incredibly satiating.

Getting started with fermentation at home can be intimidating for some at first. Imagine putting in the time to get started with your first ferment, to have it fail the ‘smell test’ — and that’s why what Summer does is so important!

Making Fermented Veggies At Home - Virtual Workshop with Summer Bock

Following a step-by-step video guide, you can feel secure knowing that you’re doing it right and not missing or misinterpreting any steps. And the best part is knowing you’ll be on your way to no more bloating, no more brain fog, and optimizing your overall gut health — the key to conquering chronic conditions!

Before we go, I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to Summer Bock for being our guest contributor for the month of September. Thanks to her, we are now all mini experts on fermentation. And I can’t wait to get started at home!