Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | Breast Health with Dr. Elizabeth Boham

Podcast Episode #304: Breast Health with Dr. Elizabeth Boham

Diane Sanfilippo Featured, Paleo and Primal, Podcast Episodes 2 Comments

TopicsDiane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | Breast Health with Dr. Elizabeth Boham

  1. Introducing out guest, Dr. Elizabeth Boham [2:01]
  2. Functional medicine and the terrain of the body [8:35]
  3. Antibiotic use and cancer [12:39]
  4. Mind-body strategies [17:51]
  5. Incorporating in the healing journey [24:20]
  6. Exposure to environmental estrogens [29:40]
  7. Perception of control over stress versus stress [36:03]
  8. What would you do, a Liz question [41:21]
  9. Medicinal mushrooms [46:15]


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Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | Breast Health with Dr. Elizabeth Boham Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | Breast Health with Dr. Elizabeth Boham Diane Sanfilippo & Liz Wolfe | Balanced Bites Podcast | Breast Health with Dr. Elizabeth Boham

You’re listening to the Balanced Bites podcast episode 304.

Liz Wolfe: Welcome to the Balanced Bites podcast. I’m Liz; a nutritional therapy practitioner, and author of the Wall Street Journal best-seller Eat the Yolks; The Purely Primal Skincare Guide; and the online program Baby Making and Beyond. I live on a farm in the mystical land of the Midwest, outside of Kansas City.

My usual cohost, Diane, is a certified nutrition consultant, and the New York Times bestselling author of Practical Paleo and the 21-Day Sugar Detox. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and fur kids.

We’re the co-creators of the Balanced Bites Master Class, and we’ve been bringing you this award-winning podcast for nearly 6 years. We’re here to share our take on modern paleo living, answer your questions, and chat with leading health and wellness experts. Enjoy this week’s episode, and submit your questions at http://blog.balancedbites.com or watch the Balanced Bites podcast Instagram account for our weekly calls for questions. You can ask us anything in the comments.

Remember our disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only, and are not to be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Before we get started, let’s hear from one of our sponsors.

Liz Wolfe: The Balanced Bites podcast is sponsored in part by the Nutritional Therapy Association. The NTA trains and certifies nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants (including me; I’m an NTP), emphasizing bio-individuality and the range of dietary strategies that support wellness. The NTA emphasizes local, whole, properly prepared nutrient dense foods as the key to restoring balance and enhancing the body’s ability to heal. Nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants learn a wide range of tools and techniques to assess and correct nutritional imbalances. To learn lots more about the nutritional therapy program, go to http://www.NutritionalTherapy.com. There are workshop venues in the US, Canada, and Australia, so chances are you’ll be able to find a venue that works for you.

1. Introducing our guest, Dr. Elizabeth Boham [2:01]

Liz Wolfe: Friends; today on the podcast, it's just me, Liz. Interviewing my amazing guest, who I'm so excited to introduce to you all.

My guest today is Dr. Elizabeth Boham. She's an MD, an MS, and an RD. She’s the medical director of the Ultra Wellness Center in Linux, Massachusetts. She is board certified in family medicine from Albany Medical School. She specialized in functional and integrative medicine. In addition, she has her undergraduate degree in nutritional biochemistry from Cornell University, and her graduate degree as a registered dietitian from Columbia University. She is the creator of the DVD and streaming resource, Breast Wellness: Tools to Prevent and Heal from Breast Cancer. Her training in nutrition has contributed to her success in helping many patients with insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart health, digestive health, autoimmune conditions, celiac disease, other cancers, as well as those just seeking to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Today, we will be discussing the prevention and addressing of breast cancer, in particular. Including her online resources that are available to all. And given that very impressive bio, I am completely overjoyed and very intimidated to welcome Dr. Boham to the show. Thanks for coming.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Thank you so much, Liz. It’s so great to be with you.

Liz Wolfe: I’m just so excited that we were able to make this connection. And if I could just focus a little bit for a minute on this incredibly impressive bio of yours. I mean. {laughs} An RD, an MD; all of this education that you undertook to get where you are today. I would guess that you're an incredibly hard worker.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: {laughs} You know, it's interesting. So, my parents are very academic. And really encouraged us to continue to get degrees. And it was great. I enjoyed every part of my education, for different reasons. But I was very happy when I decided; ok, I’m done with school. It’s time to actually go to work.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: And actually put this to use.

Liz Wolfe: I can’t even imagine. Well, it’s so nice to talk to somebody with such an amazing, rich background, who also is so active in the functional and integrative medicine world. I feel like that's a rarity, and it’s a huge part of the reason why I was so excited to talk to you. Because I love speaking to medical doctors who; the education is just so robust, but who also choose to bring in some of that mind-body stuff that you do. So I think this is going to be a really fascinating interview, and incredibly helpful to so many people.

And I think that we should start with your personal story. Including recovery from an aggressive form of breast cancer that was diagnosed relatively early in life. So if you don't mind just launching into how you got here, I think we’d love to hear.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Absolutely. Well you know; and honestly, that was the best education I ever had. I mean, not best in terms of wonderful. But it gave me the most knowledge, and it contributed the most to how I am as a physician today, is actually getting diagnosed with a pretty serious disease or cancer at a young age. When I was at a time in my life where I was thinking about having children, and I had just gotten married. I had never thought I was going to be getting sick, because I was Ms. Prevention. I was interested in nutrition, and exercise, and taking care of ourselves. I really wanted to teach people about prevention and wellness. And it was definitely not in my thought that I was going to have an illness at that stage in my life. I didn’t have any family history of breast cancer.

I was only doing breast self-exam because I was trying to learn how to teach other people how to; I was trying to learn how to do breast exams on other women. I was in residency at the time. And you're learning how to do exams on people, so I wanted to figure out how to do them on other women. I was doing it on myself, and all of a sudden, I found this mass that; again I was in complete denial. I didn't think this was cancer, that's for sure. And I went through all the steps that you go through, because I was, “Ok, what’s this? Why is this here? What’s going on?” And then the next thing I know I was told that I had this 1.7 cm triple negative aggressive breast cancer.

I was very lucky, because I found it early. Relatively early, that is. And it was very aggressive, but it had not spread yet to my lymph nodes. And that really influenced my recovery, that's for sure. So I was really lucky in that sense. And it really hit me hard; saying, ok I’ve been doing all the things to take care of myself. What did I do wrong? Maybe I didn’t do anything wrong. But what more do we need to understand about the body and how it all connects and what's going on in the body to understand how to prevent this for women if we can. How to prevent a recurrence for myself. And you know help people really understand what things shift in their body weight when disease can occur.

And I was lucky at that point, because I had soon after residency gotten a job at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires, which is this, you know, phenomenal spa. That’s where I met Mark Hyman and Kathie Swift. And I started to learn about functional medicine. And it was this amazing time where I said, this is exactly what I want to do. This is really putting together all the pieces of my nutrition education, with my medical school training, and digging deeper.

2. Functional medicine and the terrain of the body [8:35]

Liz Wolfe: Ok. So, tell me a little bit about what functional medicine is, and why you're so passionate about it in your practice.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: So, functional medicine is a different way of thinking. So, in conventional medicine, we were taught that you diagnose something, and then you have a treatment. And in function functional medicine, it’s saying we’ve got to look at this differently. We want to really think about what are; we want to first take a personalized approach. Get to understand our patient and their history. Their timeline of when a shift in their body occurred. Look for underlying root causes. Think about how all the different systems in the body are interrelated. And look to see if there's anything out of balance. Because if we can figure out what may be triggers for disease in somebody, and we can remove those triggers, then we can help the body get into better balance and heal much more effectively than if we're just looking at, “Ok, we've got a diagnosis. Let’s just use this medication as a treatment.” We want to really dig deeper, and figure out what went out of balance in somebody’s body to allow this disease to develop. And what can we do we help them put their body into better balance.

Liz Wolfe: So, the word that you used in your DVD, and I believe in your eBook, that folks can go your website and download for free to learn a ton about what we’re going to talk about today. And I'll give folks the URL here at the end. But the word that you used was “terrain”. We're talking about the whole human. Can you go into that a little bit? The terrain piece?

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Absolutely. You know, we spent a long time with, and researchers have spent a long time with cancer research, looking at the individual cancer cell. And that, of course, is important. But what we have realized over the years with the newer research, is that the terrain; the soil that that cancer cell is sitting in is very important as well. So you don't want to just focus on the cancer cell, itself. You want to think about the terrain in somebody’s body that has an influence on whether that cancer cell can grow and become invasive, or if our body can say, “That’s an abnormal cell. Let me go and take care of it and get rid of it.”

And our bodies are amazingly. We have this ability to find these abnormal cells all the time and take care of it. We're doing that every day, all the time. And the issue is, when the body doesn't do that, and the cancer cells can grow and proliferate and then invade, that's when they become really dangerous. So the terrain has an influence on if that happens or not. So that includes all sorts of things, like whether your blood sugar is running high. If you have insulin resistance and your blood sugar is running high, then you're not managing the blood sugar well. Or your body is producing a lot insulin to manage that blood sugar well. We realize that that causes cancer cells to grow. That insulin resistance, high levels of blood sugar, pre-prediabetes, or diabetes for that matter, will create a terrain in the body where cancer will grow.

So, that's just one example. Inflammation is another example. If there is inflammation in the body, cancer cells like to grow. So, we want to work on creating a healthy terrain in somebody's body so that those cancer cells are less likely to grow. And supporting the immune system so that the immune system can identify those cells and get rid of them.

3. Antibiotic use and cancer [12:39]

Liz Wolfe: So one of the things that I learned from you was that, I believe it has been studied. Antibiotic use can contribute to cancer risk. Did I say that correctly?

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Yeah. Absolutely they have found this to be the case. There are studies showing, with women with breast cancer for example, the more antibiotics somebody has needed to take in the last; they’ll look at the last five years or the last 10 years. But the higher need for antibiotics is correlated with a higher risk of breast cancer, for example. And there may be multiple reasons why that is the case. They say, well maybe it's because people who need more antibiotics, their immune systems are not as strong. And that's one reason why we see this correlation. But what’s also important for us to recognize, that the antibiotics as we’re hearing more and more about these days, are influencing our microbiome. All of our good bacteria in our body.

And that had a big influence for me, I learned, as I did more and more research. Learned about functional medicine. Did more understanding of all the different systems in the body, influencing your risk of cancer. For me, when I was between the ages of 5 and 17, I had these chronic urinary tract infections. I was on antibiotics all the time. And I have had; it has shifted, the way my body functions in so many ways, because of it. And I do think it had an influence on my risk of cancer, as well. But what’s happening is the antibiotics are damaging some that good bacteria in your body, and that allows or creates this imbalance in good and bad bacteria. Which have been found; and this research is just exciting, because it keeps growing and growing every day. It's been found that this shift in our microbiota; all those good bacteria in our body. When they shift or get out of balance, that can create more inflammation in the body. It can influence that insulin resistance we were talking about, or prediabetes situation for people. And it influences how well we detoxify and mobilize our hormones.

So, for example, estrogen, when the body is done using its estrogen for all the good things estrogen does, it needs to get rid of it. And one of the ways it gets rid of it is through the digestive system. And when the microbiota gets out of balance, that can influence how well we detoxify, or get rid of estrogen, as well as other toxins. So, antibiotics really have an interesting connection with cancer risk.

Liz Wolfe: That’s so fascinating. And I just hear; as you were speaking, I was just thinking to myself, “This is just a fundamental alteration of this terrain that you talk about.”

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Absolutely.

Liz Wolfe: And I think up until recently, when functional medicine doctors started talking about rebuilding the gut after, say, a round of antibiotics, folks were probably just taking them and never having any information or any idea that maybe they needed to do some rebuilding protocols after a course of antibiotics. Is that something that you advise people to do, if they have to go on antibiotics?

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Absolutely. There are times when you may need an antibiotic. And I think it's important for us to say; ok, we’ve got these antibiotics and we should use them appropriately, when needed.

We also have to recognize that we’re way over using them for situations where they may not be necessary. You have a virus; an upper respiratory infection. You’re kind of tired of being sick, so you just go into the doctor, and the doctor says, “Well, maybe it’s bacterial.” And those situations that we are overusing antibiotics. Acne, for example. They work for acne, so women will go on antibiotics. Men too. For long periods of time to control acne. We need to think about, there’s got to be a better way to do that.

But if you do get in a situation where you’ve got a bacterial infection, like a urinary tract infection, or pneumonia, or something where you do need antibiotics. You definitely want to think about, what can you do to replace those bacteria afterwards, through fermented foods that have good probiotics in them. From taking a good probiotic. And also consuming a lot of foods that are high in prebiotics; fibers that help feed those probiotics in your body, as well.

4. Mind-body strategies [17:51]

Liz Wolfe: Ok. So, we're going to circle around pretty quickly to what you talk about in your video about guided meditation and visualization. All of those, would I be accurate in saying mind-body strategies?

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Absolutely.

Liz Wolfe: Ok. That’s what we’ll call them; mind-body strategies. But, to kind of segue into that, I want to ask you about just that stress of diagnosis. So, when I think about Dr. Elizabeth Boham as a young professional, finding out that she has cancer. Even though; you know, “Oh gosh, I did everything right!” Or, “I'm very health oriented. This is something I never would have expected.” And you get a plan. You're ready to attack this cancer. But what about that just deep stress. I think when we were corresponding via e-mail, I called it fear. How do you deal with the fear of diagnosis, or even just the fear of being diagnosed with something down the road? Because in my heart, I feel like so many of us control all of these things. I think you used the word levers, at some point. All of these things that we try to control. We keep our gut health good. We eat well; we exercise. We do all of these things, but that deep, deep stress that so many of us deal with in our lives. I feel like it can really hamstring our ability to be truly well. Maybe that's what's causing so many people to have lowered immune systems; I don't know. So can we talk a little bit about stress and how to deal with that in everyday life?

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Yeah. I think you definitely hit the nail on the head there. I think that it's important to do things to take care of our bodies. But it's also important sometimes to let it go, right? And finding that balance is tricky. And I knew, when I was diagnosed, I knew I had to deal with how I was reacting to stress. Because it was almost a matter of survival. I realized it had a tremendous impact on my immune system. I realized at that point that the way I was dealing with stress and my joy in my life, or lack of it, was having a big impact on my immune system. And so it became this real important area for me to focus on.

And I started to read more about stress and how we handle stress. And I started to; I remember seeing an Oprah episode when I was off of work, and she just was talking about the gratitude journal, and for me, it was this, “Oh my goodness! What a great idea!” And I started trying to keep a gratitude journal. At first, it was so hard for me. I’m like; I can’t think of anything to be grateful for. {laughs} And I would write down the sun; or you know, food. And over time, it got easier and easier for me to do that. And I practiced. I was like, ok, I’ve got to come up with three things every day to be grateful for, to shift my focus away from all the things; you know, the treatment and the fear.

And my mom gave me this gift with a practitioner in our area at the time, Carol Lovely. And she was a reiki practitioner. And I went to see her once a week for a year. And it changed me. It changed me in this way that I can’t even explain. S I feel that energy medicine is so helpful for people. It was so helpful for me. I find it so helpful for many of my patients, because she really helped me, probably energetically, right? Get rid of some of that fear. And learn how to trust my body again. Because it is hard. I see this with a lot of our patients, who are really driven to be well. But at some point, you try. “Ok, I’m going to do everything right. I’m going to eat organic. I’m going to avoid this food because it does this. And I’m going to exercise.” And it's finding that right balance. Because sometimes the stress of doing all of that is not healthy. It depends on your outlook on the whole thing, of course.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah. That’s great that you brought up Oprah. I think Diane would be really excited about that. Because Oprah is her guru; her girl. She absolutely loves Oprah. I think maybe Oprah said this; or maybe you said it. I’m getting it all mixed up now. But the idea of gratitude as a practice. And you have to think of that word, practice, as it might not come naturally at first, but you're practicing. You're doing it every single day to strengthen that gratitude muscle.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Absolutely.

Liz Wolfe: And that has to be pretty powerful. And energetically, too, right? All of it. I really just had this really powerful take home from your work and from your video, was that these conduits for shifting your energy. And you say, I believe in your eBook, that thoughts and emotions are forms of energy. I mean, we don’t think about that, right; but duh. Of course it is. But these conduits. Whether it’s a reiki practitioner, or a gratitude journal, or breathe work, or whenever it is. These ways of bringing yourself into a calmer state are so important when you're dealing with something that is physical. It's like a continuum, right?

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Absolutely. I mean, the body; we always have to remember that the body has a tremendous ability to heal. And we need to just put it in a place where it can heal. And part of that is resting the body. Giving it time to rest. Giving it time to sleep. Giving it time to calm down the mind through doing things like meditation and yoga and movement and exercise and fun. Right? It’s so important for that healing process, and for wellness.

5. Incorporating in the healing journey [24:20]

Liz Wolfe: Ok. So, I'm going to do a little pull quote from your video, and maybe we can dive into that. You say, and this is a quote. “Through guided meditation, visualization, gratitude practice, breath work, energy balancing, yoga, and deep relaxation, you will become mindful of how your thoughts and emotions, which are forms of energy, affect your physical body. And how you can work with them to promote deep, natural healing.”

I was just smiling when I read this. It was so wonderful. But I also feel like sometimes this type of thinking is relegated to, like the holistic world. I just I want; to hear a highly educated medical doctor say such things, to me is just revolutionary. And just, thank you for bringing this out there, and making me feel like I'm not crazy. That all of the emotional work I've been doing over the last couple of months that have made me feel so much better physically, that it's not crazy. It's just so wonderful to hear. But I want to hear a little bit more about what led you to incorporate these things into your healing protocols.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Yeah. Well, you know I realized that it had such a tremendous impact on me when I started journaling. When I started my gratitude journal. When I started to learn about the chakras, and meditation through the chakras, and releasing some of this, probably stuck energy in my body. I realize that had such a huge impact on my healing process. And even more importantly, it had such a huge impact on the way I lived on a minute to minute basis. Because everything started to shift and I started to have more joy in every moment. And that was so profound for me. So I knew. I was like, I need to speak to this.

And I do every day in my practice, but I also needed, I wanted to incorporate that in my DVD. And that's why I joined and did this whole project with Heidi Spear, who is a meditation leader and yoga provider and really teaches people how to do this all the time. And I incorporated it within the DVD, those sessions. The yoga, meditative, breath work sessions, so that people can start to, if they haven’t already, incorporate that in their daily life. Because it is; it’s so profound in terms of how the body is able to heal when it's calm. And also, as I said, has a huge impact on just the quality of your life, and the joy that you have every day.

Liz Wolfe: I love that word; joy. It's one that I’ve been actively trying to keep my thoughts on. Bringing more joy into my daily life. Because I feel like we just forget. We forgot how to play, and how to take joy in the everyday. And that is certainly the rut that I got into at a certain point. And something as simple as a gratitude journal, or going outside and playing soccer with your husband; just kicking the ball around. Just anything that kind of lifts your spirit and brings you a little bit of joy. I can see how powerful that is.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Yeah. And for me, it doesn't come naturally.

Liz Wolfe: Me either!

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: It’s not how I was raised. And it’s not my natural being.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: My husband’s great, because he reminds me all the time to do things like that. But it is. If it doesn't come naturally, it’s something to work on, right?

Liz Wolfe: It’s just so funny that you have to practice that.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Practice. {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: And looking at my kid, I definitely think; kids can teach us a lot. Just the fact that she can take so much joy in nothing. {laughs} It’s so amazing. So they definitely teach us a lot. I’m curious as to whether; and maybe the people that seek you out as their doctor come willing and open to incorporate these things into their lives. But do you ever have any resistance from folks about those types of things?

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: I think it’s the area I get the most resistance. We put people on pretty restrictive diets, sometimes. And it's much easier for them to do that many times than to start to do some breath work or meditation or yeah. Absolutely. I definitely think there’s resistance there. And it is finding, sometimes, the right time to bring it up. And many times bringing it up again and again and again, and then finally somebody will hear you, and say, ok. I’ll try this. It is absolutely resistance.

And you know what; for me, it was the same thing. I was resistant, too. Until I got to a point where I was like; I have to do this, because I'm not well.

Liz Wolfe: And what’s so amazing, too, about gratitude journals and so many of these things is that it's free. {laughs}

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Exactly.

6. Exposure to environmental estrogens [29:40]

Liz Wolfe: You need pen and paper! Which is pretty amazing. Ok. Well, I'd like to kind of flip the direction a little bit and talk quickly about the estrogen connection. Which is chapter one of your Breast Wellness eBook. I’d like to get your thoughts on our cumulative exposure to environmental estrogens, and maybe some thoughts on what we can do about that in daily life.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Yeah. You know, I think that's important for us to recognize, and to get the word out there, as you're doing, Liz. And have all of us work to make a shift in our environment. Because It’s going to take the demand from the public to continue to shift in this area. Because there are so many toxins out there that act as xenoestrogens, which are these environmental toxins that can impact our estrogen receptor. And are influencing our risk of disease, including breast cancer.

That includes things; we’ve all heard about BPA, right? But other plastics, parabens, phthalates, pesticides. These things can act as estrogens in the body and can stimulate growth of cancers. And they also, some of these have been found to impact our fertility and our other hormone balance. And risk of prediabetes and insulin resistance, right? So they are pervasive, unfortunately in our environment. And we’ve got to continue to demand healthier alternatives. I just did an article on this about our beautiful lawn.

Liz Wolfe: Yes! I was going to bring that up.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Our beautiful lawn harming our health. Because you know, it's like we all; I live in an area where people put a lot of stuff on their lawn to make it pretty. So we’ve got to change our thought of, what is a pretty lawn supposed to look like? And it's ok if there are weeds, and it doesn't have to look perfect. Because we're putting all this junk into the environment. Which is really impacting us hormonally. And you know always choosing organic whenever possible. Again, for the same reasons. Because these pesticides and herbicides are impacting us on many different levels.

Avoiding plastic, right? Using glass whenever possible. Storing your food in glass containers, and using the glass water bottles. Things like that just to avoid as much plastic as possible. And then with our cosmetics and our moisturizers and everything, looking for things that are paraben free, phthalate free. It’s so important.

Liz Wolfe: This episode of the Balanced Bites podcast is sponsored by our friends at Primally Pure Skincare. Primally Pure makes 100% natural and nontoxic skincare products that support radiant skin, a healthy body, and a happy self. They use ingredients like tallow from grass-fed cows; organic and fair trade coconut oil, and organic oils, herbs, and extracts to formulate effective products that also smell amazing and look beautiful sitting on your bathroom counter. At www.primallypure.com, you’ll find their bestselling natural deodorant that actually works; face mists made from locally sourced and organic rose and orange blossom hydrosols, and their brand new baby line. You’ll also find Diane’s favorite Primally Pure product, dry shampoo, and Liz’s favorite, the Everything Spray with magnesium. As a special bonus for you, Primally Pure is offering a free lip balm with your first purchase of one item or more. Simply add a lip balm to your cart along with any one item, and use the code “balancedbites”, one word no caps, during checkout to receive one of their lip balms for free with your order. Head to www.primallypure.com and check out their range of safe and effective all natural skincare products.

Liz Wolfe: Yes. I’ve got that beauty stuff on lockdown. That’s a big part of what I do.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Yeah.

Liz Wolfe: So I’m glad to hear that reinforced. And it's just crazy. I've been to a couple of events; beauty related events with people that are there because they discovered that they had cancer, and their doctors told them that their cancer was environmental. I don’t know if that’s the correct word for it. But it was just such a profound realization for those people that this is not genetic, this is something that was impacted by outside factors. I’m sure there's more to it than that. But, I hope that people can make these changes before they hit that point of diagnosis. And I think that's your mission, clearly.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Absolutely. And you know, it's tricky, and I think it's been tricky to study toxins and risk of cancer many times, because they’ll be like, “Well that person had exposure to toxins, and they were fine.” But we recognize that there are multiple things that have an influence on that, right? So we were talking about how the digestive system. So if your digestive system is out of balance, that might impact how you detoxify. We know that genetically, there are a lot of variations. Some people are really good at detoxifying, and some people, like myself, are not so good at detoxifying, genetically. So, they might need a little bit of support.

And, when we had exposure to these toxins impacts things. If you had exposure during puberty, or actually as a fetus, that can influence you 30, 40 years later, and impact your risk. And with cancer, we recognize that it’s multiple things coming together at multiple different times in your life that impact your risk of getting cancer. It’s sort of like when you get the diagnosis, it’s something that just pushed your body over the edge. It doesn't mean that it just happened within the last year. That exposure may have been 20 years ago.

7. Perception of control over stress versus stress [36:03]

Liz Wolfe: It is so fascinating. I’m going to; this is kind of a straggler question here, but I forgot to ask it earlier. I thought it was so interesting that I don’t want to forget to bring it up. In your work, you discussed a really remarkable mouse study that talked about that what is important is the perception of control over stress, and not the total banishment of stress. Because I can hear people listening to this, and just thinking, “Oh my gosh, now I’m stressed about getting rid of my stress.” You know. “I’m going to try to do everything right, but it’s going to be really be really hard.” But it was the perception of control over stress, and not the total lack of stress that was the key factor for these mice. Is that ringing a bell?

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Absolutely. So, I love always talking about this study, because I think it helps us recognize what’s important here about stress. So what they did is they took mice, and they divided them into three groups. And they gave them enough cancer cells to cause 50% of them to die of cancer. So that’s how they set up the study. And then they divided them into three groups. One group, they did nothing to. They just let them be. And then the second group, they shocked them. They used electrical shocks, and shocked them multiple times. And then the third group, they shocked them, but the mice had this lever that if they pushed on, the shocks would stop. So they ended up learning that if they pushed on this lever and stopped the shocks, they had that control of that stress for them.

And they realized that the mice that had the access to the lever, they could stop the shocks, had the lowest rate of death from the cancer cells they were given. Which is amazing. Because they had less of those mice die than the mice that didn’t get any shocks. So it’s not so much that the stress we have is the issue, it’s our perception of that stress and how we react to that stress and what sort of ways we have to control that stress. So that just really brings us back to having tools in your toolkit to help you manage stress. Whether it’s you're doing your daily breath work for 15 minutes a day before you go to bed. Or you're meditation practice. Or your yoga practice. Or you have reiki done. Or you go out and exercise. All of those things that help us with managing those day to day stresses that do come up.

Liz Wolfe: That is so; I was so fascinated by that study that you talked about. The idea that, we’re not running around trying to completely rid our lives of stress. That’s impossible. There’s always going to be negative experiences and thoughts and emotions. But it’s a matter, like you said, of having those tools and practicing with them that really gives you the opportunities. I don’t know. That was phenomenal. Thank you for sharing that. I thought that was really incredible.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Yeah, I love that study. I always talk about it.

Liz Wolfe: It makes so much sense. Are there any other resources? I believe there was a book recently about controlling stress. I think I bought it, and then I stressed out about the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to read it any time soon.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: But are there any favorite resources you have for giving yourself those tools, besides your, of course, your DVD and eBook.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Oh, wow. There are so many great ones out there. Talking about Oprah, again. She does a wonderful meditation serious with Deepak Chopra, and you can sign up. And they have, I think it's a 21-day, you’ll get these daily meditations that they lead together, which is phenomenal. And lots of fun to do.

There are so many great apps out there now that I’m always recommending to people, you know. Headspace, and Insight Timer, and you put them on your phone. It will even remind you, are you doing your breathing exercises. And then you can go in and spend 10 or 15 minutes. Or whatever that is. Just to be aware; ok, I’ve got to take my time to relax and calm my body.

Diane Sanfilippo: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Vital Choice seafood and organics. Purveyor of premium sustainably sourced seafood and a certified B corporation. Vital choice offers a wide range of fish, shellfish, humanely raised meat, protein rich bone broths, and paleo friendly snacks like organic dark chocolate, super antioxidant trail mix, and bison jerky. As the days get longer and the grilling season heats up, www.vitalchoice.com is your source for real food.

8. What would you do, a Liz question [41:21]

Liz Wolfe: Ok. I have a difficult question for you.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Ok.

Liz Wolfe: And, it’s selfish, because I'm going to give you my personal anecdote to help answer a larger question. So, I'm being very selfish, because I have you here. We always have to make compromises in life, right? So there are tradeoffs with different exposures and stressors and things like that. So I’m going to ask you a little question.

We moved out to a farm. This is a what would you do question. We moved out to a beautiful farm. We don't use any pesticides. We don't have to have a pretty lawn. So it just looks the way it looks. And we are away from a lot of electronic pollution. And it's just beautiful, and the trees, and the sun, and the gardening and the animals and everything. However, I have struggled with feeling kind of lonely and isolated. And that has become a bit of a stressor over the last several years. So we have talked about maybe it's time to do something different for a while. Live in a more populated area, where we would inevitably have more electronic pollution, more pesticides, more daily exposures from whatever, exhaust, transportation, things like that. If you had that kind of a tradeoff, would you look at the physical exposures; for example pesticides, whatever else that you would get in kind of a more neighborhood environment. Or, would you look more at the stress of feeling isolated in a chemically neutral environment? Does that make sense?

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Yeah.

Liz Wolfe: I’m not telling you to tell me to sell my house or anything like that.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: {laughs}

Liz Wolfe: But that kind of a tradeoff. What would you do?

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Oh. It’s such a personal question.

Liz Wolfe: Yeah.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: In terms of what is best for you, and your family, and any situation. But I think what’s important within that question is to recognize that our body can handle stress, and our body is built to detoxify. So our body has all these systems from our liver, from our lymphatic system, from our skin and sweating and our digestive system and our urinary system. We detoxify all the time. So what’s important to recognize, is we don’t necessarily, and we can’t, avoid every single toxin. And we just need to support the body’s detoxification system as much as possible. So lowering the load as much as you can of avoiding toxins, and supporting our body’s detoxification system. And that’s where plant foods are so beneficial.

We always talk about eating from the rainbow. Getting a fruit, or vegetable, or spice, or tea from every color of the rainbow every day. Because the phytonutrients that are in our plant foods, they’re actually in plant foods to help those plants handle stress, their little stress in their life. So plants have these phytonutrients in them to help them survive and grow. And that’s actually why foods that are grown nonorganically have less phytonutrients in them. Because they don’t have to work as hard to survive. So when a plant has to work hard to survive, it creates these phytonutrients in them. And we’re realizing that these phytonutrients are so healthy for us, too. And they help our body detoxify. So there are so many good nutrients in our cruciferous vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, Brussel sprouts. These things; these phytonutrients help the body in its natural detoxification process.

So, it’s good to recognize that; ok. Yep. We want to avoid as many toxins as possible. But we also can do things that can support the body’s detoxification process, through eating all of the colors of the rainbow every day. Getting something that’s red, and orange, and yellow, and green, and blue-purple, and tan. Everything from every color of the rainbow from our natural, colorful plant foods. To sweating, and saunas, and exercise, and having regular daily bowel movements, and eating lots of fiber. All of these things help the body’s natural detoxification system.

9. Medicinal mushrooms [46:15]

Liz Wolfe: Good answer, by the way. I’ll keep that in mind. You talk a little bit about mushrooms in your work. Can you just kind of touch on those a little bit? I’m really fascinated.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Mushrooms are wonderful. And there’s a lot of mushrooms out there. Like maitake mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, reishi mushrooms, that have these natural properties in them that help support our immune system. Help our immune system, and our natural killer cells in our immune system. Which are the cells that go out and say, “That’s an abnormal cell. I’ve got to get rid of it.” So mushrooms really can help support that. And they’re wonderful things to cook with, and eat. And some people, when they really need extra support in terms of their immune system function, may take supplements of these medicinal mushrooms. So they’re phenomenal for our immune system properties.

Liz Wolfe: It’s so interesting. Ok, well I know we only have you for a few more minutes, so I would love to just have you give us kind of a farewell, here are my top three to five things that I want folks to know about breast wellness, about improving your terrain, and things like that.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Probably, you know, the thing that comes up again and again and is the most well studied is avoiding added sugar as much as possible. So really limiting; of course, we all have a little bit of added sugar here or there. But really limited the amount of added sugar we have in our diet, and refined carbohydrates that don’t have a lot of nutritional value, also. And are really leading to higher levels of sugar and insulin in our body, which causes cancer to grow. So, that’s really one of the best things that everybody can do, is cutting out those refined and processed foods.

And then, getting in a food from every color of the rainbow every day. That can really support detoxification, and it can also support our immune system function. And probably the third thing, really, is what we spend a good amount of time on today, is really giving the body time to rest, and heal, and call down through meditation, and yoga, and walks in nature, and exercise, and fun. Which is so critical for our overall well-being.

Liz Wolfe: I love that. And you tackle so much of this and much, much more in your video, in the Breast Wellness video, and the Breast Wellness eBook. There was no way we were going to be able to tackle even a fraction of it in 45 minutes of a podcast. I really, really want folks to go to www.DrBoham.com. You can access the free Breast Wellness eBook, and you can purchase the Breast Wellness DVD, or you can stream it. And you can also, of course, follow her on Facebook. Elizabeth Boham, MD. I really want encourage folks to go check out those resources. This is just so many mind-blowing tidbits in your work that really paint this really broad and encouraging picture about how we can take care of ourselves in so many different ways, including the mind-body connection. I learned so much. So, thank you so much for that work.

Dr. Elizabeth Boham: Oh, thanks so much for having me, Liz. Really, it's been great speaking with you. And your questions were phenomenal, so thank you very much.

Liz Wolfe: Well, we don’t like to make it easy on people, that’s for sure. Well, thank you so much, Dr. Boham for being with us today. Again, you can find Dr. Boham at www.DrBoham.com, where you can access her free Breast Wellness eBook, and purchase the Breast Wellness video on DVD, or you can stream it. Thanks for listening, folks. We’ll see you next week.

Comments 2

  1. Thank you for the interview with Dr. Boham. So many wonderful things were discussed.

    I can relate to your question about weighing the benefits of a cleaner but more isolated homestead life against an urban life with greater exposure to pollution and a better access to a social life.

    I live in a rural area after living in the big city too so I’ve been thinking about your question. I’ve certainly grappled with feeling isolated while loving the natural beauty and fresh air all around me.

    When I first moved here I wanted to understand the native flora and fauna, to be more at home in this place and not be an urban transplant. I studied nature connection practices like wildlife tracking and bird language, which were incredibly nourishing and brought me a greater sense of belonging so that I didn’t feel so isolated.

    In the process of diving deeply into nature connection I began to feel in my bones that people are nature too, and that we have an innate need to be part of a ‘tribe’ or ‘village’ the way our ancestors experienced it. I also saw how modern life, besides serving up artificial food and harming the environment in the process, often made it difficult to have this ‘village’ experience.

    Like most modern people I am super busy and I don’t have a lot of time for community building. At the same time I realize the value of human connection in a way I never did before. I know that a supportive village experience is as important to my health as sourcing organic food, practicing yoga and sleeping 7+ hours a night.

    Often this ‘village’ is not obvious so I choose to see each conversation with a neighbor, each potluck and shared walk as building a line of connection that weaves together my village. My affirmation about this is: ‘I see evidence of The Village all around me.’

    No doubt building one’s own village from the disconnective patterns of modern life is a slow, long-term project. All the same, after a few years of increased village awareness, I have fewer experiences of feeling isolated. I live alone on a 5-acre ridge top property, but I can walk to 5 neighbors’ homes to have a conversation, borrow a tool, or share a meal. I can drive 40 minutes to the mid-sized town and meet with a number of people to discuss shared interests.

    The doctor’s answer was a good one. She essentially said that you can live in the city and be healthy because your biology is amazingly strong. I want to add that you can also live in the country and feel nestled into an active network of community connections because within your ancestral DNA is a powerful drive to do so, and the country people have that in their DNA too.

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