As I’m sure you’re aware, it’s “PinkTober”! The annual campaign to raise awareness and funds about breast cancer vs. breast HEALTH is on. I have repeatedly shared that we, as women, have NOT been served well by the PINK campaign. Instead of providing empowering information to help us keep our “girls’ healthy, the focus has been on Mammogram screening. Most often, simple tips that you and I can do to improve our hormonal, and therefore breast health, have been left out. Today, I’m going to break that trend and share simple truths about movement, how it impacts hormonal balance, and, therefore, breast health.
When I talk of “movement,” I mean more than just “exercise.” – a regular exercise routine or going to the gym a few days a week. To optimize our vitality, our DNA expression, and our breast health, I’m talking about creating a lifestyle of movement. Simple things like taking the stairs, doing housework, tending your garden, walking your dog, parking your car farther from the door, etc., are all good examples of incorporating more movement.
Most of us know that movement is very important to support our mood and our cardiovascular health. However, I’m going to focus this article on lymph flow and hormone metabolism.
Movement Improves lymph flow –
Our lymph nodes provide antigens for purifying fluids containing anything from allergens to cancer cells. That fluid is called lymph. There is more lymph in your body than blood, but there is no pump for lymph. If lymph fluid doesn’t move out of small lymph nodes through their ducts into the kidneys and liver, it backs up like a clogged sewer line. So, what’s the solution? Movement, especially jumping on a mini trampoline.
Each time you bounce, you increase the gravitational pull on your lymph. You’re getting low-level “G’s” or increased gravitational pulls like what you feel from sudden changes in vehicular speed or carnival rides. With intense walking or rebounding, the “G’s” are in vertical alignment with your body and its lymph system.
Improved lymph flow supports your immune system to produce cells that help you prevent and even fight disease. Additionally, improved lymph flow or drainage supports breast health by filtering out toxins that may increase our risk of breast disease.
Movement Improves hormone function & metabolism –
Exercise stimulates the hormones of metabolism-Testosterone, growth hormone, adrenaline, ghrelin, epinephrine, and even the hormones of hunger. And even more importantly, exercise impacts sex hormone metabolism – getting rids of the bad estrogens in the body.
One of the biggest challenges or risks that we have today for hormone-related cancers is poor hormone metabolism. Exercise dramatically improves hormone metabolism and helps to detox the bad foreign estrogens called “xeno-estrogens” or “endocrine disruptors.” In my breast health webinar, I teach about healthy hormone metabolism. Basically, there are 3 pathways that estrogen can metabolize down. The healthy (2 hydroxylation or 2-OH) pathway, an unhealthy pathway (16 hydroxylation or 16OH), and a very dangerous pathway (4 hydroxylation – 4-OH). The 16-OH and 4-OH pathways have been clinically shown to increase the risk of breast cancer.
In this study, young women were randomized into 2 groups – those that did 30 minutes of moderate- to -vigorous aerobic exercise 5 days a week for 16 weeks or into a usual-lifestyle sedentary control group. Urine samples were taken to assess their estrogen metabolites to examine the effects of exercise on the 2-OH,16-OH, and 4-OH pathways. The women in the 2-OH pathways had a significant increase in aerobic fitness, and a significant decrease in body percent fat. More importantly, for breast health and dis-ease prevention, the health 2-OH levels increase significantly (p=0.043) in the experimental exercise group and decreased in the sedentary control groups. That is NOT good!
The conclusion of the study was “our results suggest that changes in premenopausal estrogen metabolism may be a mechanism by which increased physical activity lowers breast cancer risk”.
Excessive exercise is NOT the answer
Now, let me be clear, going to the gym is awesome, and doing a regular fitness routine is awesome; however, sometimes, we as women can actually cause hormonal imbalance by doing tooooo much exercise. If we are doing excessive exercise, we may be increasing our cortisol levels, which in turn lowers progesterone and cause dangerous estrogen dominance. Additionally, if we do excessive exercise, we can tap out our supply of Glutathione, a critical component for healthy hormone metabolism.
I grew up in the “I am woman, I am strong, I can do anything” era of the ’60s and ’70s (some of you may remember Helen Reddy’s song😉). I know that there are women who love cross fit and compete with men. I know there are women who do Ultra marathons too. Awesome for women breaking barriers. Yet, I do worry about the impact of this intense exercise on their hormonal imbalance.
When we are under tremendous stress, sometimes a walk, yoga, the minitrampoline, taking the stairs, or getting up and moving a few times an hour is actually better for our health than strenuous exercise. I’ve tracked my HRV – Heart Rate Variability- and know this to be true for my body.
Tips to Move More
Optimize coach Brian Johnson teaches a lot about movement. He coined the acronym “OTM,” which means Opportunities to Move.” To support our OTM’s he created this powerful “Power of 10” formula to help us consistently get more movement.
1 One deep breath or sun salutation
10 Pick an exercise that will get your heart rate up & do 10 of them
Turning from side-to-side at the waist, jumping jacks, cat/cows, stepping in place, jumping rope, or anything else that you prefer to get your heart rate elevated
100– can you repeat the above set of 10, 10x throughout the day? You may need to create new triggers or creation patterns to do this, but it can be fun
1000– Move your body at least every 1000 seconds. This is every16 minutes (16.20 to be exact) Physiological imbalances, including changes to insulin and blood sugar, can begin as early as 20 minutes of stationary time!
25 – Move for a consistent 25 minutes each day. This does NOT need to be an aggressive “exercise.” A nice walk outside may be optimal. Besides, fresh air and sunshine naturally magnify the effects of the movement.
On the continuum of Yin to Yang energy which end are you typically on? Are you a fast-paced kind of person, with a lot of natural movement, with a high-stress life? If so, adding some milder Yin supportive movements like Yoga or Thai Chi may be the best movement during the day. On the other hand, if you are low on the energy spectrum, a good fast-paced walk or jumping jacks may be the best fit.
Be mindful or even journal about how you’re feeling.
Remember, the more we incorporate movement that we love, the more we will enjoy it. Additionally, if you’re an extrovert and want company, invite a friend, or call someone while you’re on your walk. If you prefer a meditative quiet walk, great. If you prefer listening to music or a podcast, just “DO IT,” as Nike says, and get moving!
Now, what if you are in a long meeting, riding on a plane, or have a long daily commute? There are little things you can still do to have some movement -at least a “floor.” Can you bend your knees? Wiggle your toes? Move at the waist? Flex your feet, stretch your calves, roll your neck? I’ve noticed on recent planes they now have a seated Yoga stretch routine that you can do. If you are creative, you can move.
I hope these simple tips will inspire you to incorporate more movement into your lifestyle to benefit your lymph flow, your hormonal imbalance, your mood, and your heart health too.
P.S. Keep your eyes open for more information in my upcoming book to be released in 2023