what I know now.” An age-old saying with profound implications. One of my favorite, more philosophical quotes: “the path isn’t a straight line; it’s a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths.”
When faced with my health challenge, understanding the deeper truths of my health story was the most critical part of my journey. Without reflecting on the contributing factors, I would not have known how I arrived at a breast cancer diagnosis. Without knowing, I risk a future diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer.
In my first blog, I talked about the symptoms I had experienced that lead to a self-diagnosis of leaky gut syndrome. Since my symptoms happened over a long period, I wanted to understand where it all started. I began by re-examining my childhood. The food we ate! Wonder bread, American cheese singles, boxed macaroni, and cheese, and bologna. After my parents split, my mom was on food stamps. I have memories of canned meat and powdered milk. TV dinners were a special treat; Salisbury steak was my favorite. It was the era of eating radically different than our parents and grandparents. Convenient, processed foods had taken hold.
Recognizing that most, not all, of the food my family consumed was full of preservatives and lacked whole food nutrition, coupled with the knowledge I wasn’t breastfed as an infant, led to some realizations. Since breastfeeding sets the foundation for healthy gut flora throughout life, (1) and whole food nutrition is mandatory for building and maintaining good health, when I add in the heavy alcohol consumption of my 20s and the NSAIDs I used to prevent hangovers and treat pain, birth control pills, and antibiotics, I understand how I ended up with gut dysbiosis. An issue so severe it led to breast cancer. (2, 3, 4)
Reflecting on my time in Mexico, the microbiologist I worked with told me “cancer is a chronic illness; it’s no different than any other chronic illness. Now that you have it, you have it. Your job now is to prevent it from advancing.” He said to live a long, healthy life; there was no room for anything other than organic, whole-food ingredients. Since I had evolved many years earlier to eating organic, whole-food ingredients, I had to figure out the why, first. Fortunately for me, the “why” revealed itself in a single test result.
The Final Connecting Dot of My Health Story – Gut Dysbiosis
The term “gut dysbiosis” was absent from my vernacular until December 2018 when I received lab results from a test done six weeks earlier. “Intestinal (gut) dysbiosis is associated with GI-related diseases in which alterations in the interaction of the immune system with intestine-derived stimuli and antigens initiate uncontrolled inflammation in the intestinal mucosa, and in some cases beyond. These alterations in the microbiota can result from exposure to various environmental factors, including diet, toxins, drugs, and pathogens.” (5) To learn more about what causes a leaky gut, click here.
When the mucosal lining is affected, the inflammation it causes makes it difficult to absorb nutrients, which can lead to malabsorption and leaky gut syndrome. (6) “Disruption of the microbiome in early life has the potential to influence neurodevelopment, and long-term mental health outcomes, particularly through its interaction with the immune system and the gut-brain axis” (7) and why breastfeeding, and vaginal delivery (8) is so important. It’s safe to assume that in the absence of gut flora promoting infant nutrition, and later consuming a diet lacking essential nutrients, my childhood experiences, along with my ignorance around proper nutrition in early adulthood, heavily influenced my breast cancer outcome. But breast cancer isn’t the only condition linked to gut dysbiosis.
“Based on the evidence, the gut microbiota is associated with metabolic disorders such as obesity, diabetes mellitus and neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, autistic disorders, anxiety disorders, and major depressive disorders.”
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Type 2 Diabetes
Dementia & Alzheimer’s
Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
Since the balance of the intestinal mucosal immune system plays a crucial role in host homeostasis and defense, based on the spiral of my life experiences, there is strong evidence I could have prevented a breast cancer diagnosis. If I knew then what I know now, I would have focused on healing my gut.
However, knowing what I know now, I feel confident I have a better chance of preventing metastatic breast cancer because of the steps I’m taking to bring balance to my microbiome. (11) It’s a process! It takes a concentrated effort; one I have been focusing on since I learned the final connecting dot of my health history.
I’m in the process of writing a page that outlines what I’m doing to heal, so stay tuned!
Disclaimer: Please note that I am not a medical or nutritional professional. I am simply recounting and sharing my own experiences. Nothing I express here should be taken as medical advice and you should consult with your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program. To read my full disclaimer. click here.