It is hard being a woman in a society that disapproves of aging women and favors straight hair. In fact, coloring and straightening hair is regarded as “professional,” “good grooming,” or “taking care of yourself.” But at what a cost — a new study shows hair dyes and relaxers are significantly associated with breast cancer…especially for black women.
The Journal of Cancer article showed the results of a study that tracked more than 45,000 women over eight years. Black women who regularly used permanent hair dyes had a 60 percent higher chance of developing breast cancer than black women who did not. White women had an 8 percent higher chance.
Women who used chemical hair straighteners were 30 percent more likely to develop breast cancer. While some white women straighten their hair, in the study three quarters of the black women straightened their hair.
Why the cancer link? The researchers pointed to toxic compounds in hair dyes known as “endocrine disrupters.” This means these compounds mimic hormones and interfere with normal hormone function, thus causing imbalances and an increased risk of cancer.
The chemicals used in products geared towards black women may be more “hormonally active,” according to researchers.
Women are increasingly being encouraged to choose health and longevity over toxic cosmetic options. For instance, a movement is under foot to embrace silver and gray hair and black women are encouraged to embrace their natural hair, with one state so far banning discrimination against black people who wear their hair naturally (many employers discriminate against black women who forgo chemical straightening).
Black women bear the brunt of toxic hair products
Although most commercial women’s hair and body products are laden with toxins, hair products aimed at black women contain a disproportionate amount of chemicals linked with early puberty, obesity, asthma, and cancer.
A 2016 study showed black women’s bodies contained higher burdens of the toxic chemicals found in hair products than in women of other ethnicities.
Researchers have so far identified more than 70 harmful chemicals in relaxers, root stimulators, and anti-frizz products.
Toxins in these products (and in other beauty products in general) have been shown to have the following impacts on health:
Parabens and phthalates disrupt hormone function and are linked to early puberty and pre-term births.
Nonylphenol is linked to obesity and cancer.
Formaldehyde is linked to miscarriage risk and respiratory issues.
Various compounds irritate the eyes and skin, burn and blister the scalp, damage hair follicles, cause hair loss, and cause respiratory disorders.
Hair relaxers are linked to uterine fibroids in black girls and women at a rate two to three times higher than in other women. Uterine fibroids affect up to 80 percent of black women during their lifetime.
Cosmetologists exposed to these products during pregnancy experienced twice the rate of miscarriages.
Breast cancer is a leading cause of death among black women; they generally have a more aggressive forms of cancer compared to white women.
Just one product alone can contain 30 different toxic chemicals. How these chemicals affect human health when in combination with one another has not been studied.
Toxic hair products could help explain why black women suffer from more endocrine disorders than white or Hispanic women.
While these products harm black women, the Black Women for Wellness Report also points to the complexity and conflict between harmful hair products and the positive role of hair salons in black communities.
Ask my office for advice on how to lower your toxic burden, buffer your body from the effects of toxins in our everyday lives, and improve your overall health and well being.
Whether you’re fat or thin, anxious or relaxed, sickly or resilient — this could all stem from the way you were born thanks to the effects of bacteria in our first few seconds of life. Babies born via c-section are shown to have less desirable gut bacteria, or a gut microbiome, compared to babies born vaginally, who have healthier microbiome “signatures.”
Results from the largest study of the newborn microbiome were recently published. The study found that newborns delivered via c-section lack the healthy gut bacteria found in vaginally delivered babies. Their guts also contain strains of harmful microbes — Enterococcus and Klebsiella — commonly found in hospitals.
In fact, the lead researcher said the levels of harmful hospital bacteria in the c-section newborns was “shocking.” These babies were also deficient in the healthy bacteria that made up most of the guts of the vaginally born babies.
The difference was so profound that he said he can tell you how the baby was born simply by analyzing the bacteria in their stool.
If you would like help understanding Newborn babies relating to gut bacteria, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
C-section babies missing strain vital for health, weight management, and immune resilience
After several months the gut microbiomes between the two set of infants became more similar with one striking difference — the c-section babies had significantly lower levels of Bacteroides, a strain vital to human health.
Bacteroides are a key strain when it comes to health challenges modern societies face. A number of studies have shown Bacteroides levels are lower in people with obesity. Studies in both mice and humans show that when gut bacteria from thin subjects are transplanted into the colons of obese subjects, most subjects lose weight.
Bacteroides has also been linked with preventing anxiety, and boosting and regulating immunity to prevent inflammatory disorders. This may explain why people who were born via c-section are at increased risk for obesity and asthma.
The study is part of a larger Baby Biome study that is following thousands of newborns through childhood.
Why method of birth affects the gut microbiome
Research suggests that the vaginal canal imparts beneficial bacteria to the infant during birth, while c-section babies are deprived of that and instead immediately exposed to the bacteria of the hospital and the people attending the birth. Studies are underway in which babies born via c-section are swabbed with the mother’s vaginal microbes.
Other factors to consider beyond birth
It may not just be the birth that determines a c-section baby’s poorer microbiome status. Women who undergo c-sections also receive antibiotics, which may transfer to the newborn through the placenta and later through breast milk. These babies also tend to stay in the hospital longer and thus are exposed to more hospital bacteria.
How to develop healthy gut bacteria
Developing good gut bacteria is not neccesarily as simple as taking probiotics. You may also be overrun with detrimental bacteria that need to be “weeded.”
Perhaps most important is whether your diet supports a healthy gut microbiome.
What the gut microbiome needs most is an ample supply of vegetables and fruits on a regular basis in a wide, ever changing variety. Eating a diverse and abundanat array of plant foods will help create a diverse and abundant gut microbiome.
Ask my office for more advice on how we can help you improve your gut microbiome and overall health.
Chemicals to straighten and relax hair are a part of life for many black women, for reasons that range from societal expectations to ease of care. But our society’s discomfort with black women’s natural hair comes with a cost — these products contain chemicals associated with early puberty, obesity, asthma, and increased cancer risk.
True, the majority of hair, body, and makeup products aimed at all women contain multiple toxic compounds. However, researchers believe the health disparities that exist between black and white women may be due to the use of more toxic hair chemicals among African American women.
This was demonstrated in a 2016 study that showed black women’s bodies contained more of these toxic chemicals than in women of other ethnicities.
Relaxers, root stimulators, and anti-frizz products contain almost 70 chemicals identified so far that are known toxins to the human body.
For instance, parabens and phthalates have been shown to disrupt hormone function and are linked to early puberty in girls and pre-term births.
Nonylphenol is associated with obesity and increased cancer risk.
Formaldehyde increases the risk of miscarriage and respiratory issues.
Many of these products also cause eye and skin irritation, burning and blistering the scalp, damaging hair follicles, and causing hair loss. They also cause respiratory disorders.
One product can contain as many as 30 different toxic chemicals and we don’t yet know how these chemicals react in combination with one another.
It’s no wonder black women are shown to suffer more health disorders related to these chemicals compared to other ethnicities.
Black women are more likely than white or Hispanic women to suffer from disorders related to the endocrine system, or their hormonal system.
In fact, hair relaxers have been linked to uterine fibroids in black girls and women at a rate that is two to three times higher than in other women. It’s estimated uterine fibroids affect up to 80 percent of black women during their lifetime.
Other studies have shown that cosmetologists exposed to these products during pregnancy experienced twice the rate of miscarriages.
Breast cancer is a leading cause of death among black women, who generally experience more aggressive forms of the cancer compared to white women.
Additionally, studies show a link between the use of these hair products in girls and early puberty.
Although the black hair care market is an industry estimated to account for $500 billion in sales, very few products are tested for toxicity or the effects they have on human health. In the few cases when they are tested, they are found to be the most toxic hair products on the market.
The Black Women for Wellness Report addresses the complexity around the harmful and toxic nature of black women’s hair products, cultural expectations for black women’s hair, and the positive role of hair salons in black communities.
Other factors that cause early puberty and disrupt hormone function and balance
Although scientists have established a clear link between the synthetic toxic compounds and hormonal imbalances such as early puberty, other factors play a role as well.
One of the most common is consistently elevated blood sugar from a diet high in processed carbohydrates (such as pasta, bread, pastries, etc.) and sugars. These foods raise the incidence of obesity, insulin resistance, and diabetes, which in turn raises the risk of early puberty and other hormonal disorders.
Excess body fat and high insulin stimulate the production of estrogen. Both diabetes and obesity are prevalent among African Americans. Genetics play a role in this, as does the fact that many black people in the US do not have access to healthy foods, nutritional education, or safe outdoor spaces to exercise.
Also, compounds in common foods are estrogenic. One study showed infants fed soy formula had estrogen levels 13,000 to 22,000 times higher than normal (soy is a known estrogen mimicker). Also, sex hormones are given to beef and dairy cattle, and the antibiotics given to animals may be a factor.
Puberty also begins earlier in populations who live further from the equator and more prone to vitamin D deficiency. Studies show black people and people with dark skin in the US tend to be deficient in vitamin D due to insufficient exposure to the sun. Taking 10,000 IU a day of vitamin D can be helpful.
A whole foods diet that restricts sugar and limiting exposure to chemicals can help prevent hormonal disorders.
Ask my office for advice on how to reduce the toxic burden on your body, support the organs that help remove toxins, and how to reduce your risk of chronic and serious health disorders.
After assurance from breast implant makers that concerns about silicone leaks were a thing of the past, more than 10 million women worldwide have received silicone breast implants in the past decade. However, a growing body of research — supported by increased symptom reporting by women —links silicone breast implants to autoimmune disorders and a rare form of immune cancer.
Silicone breast implants linked to autoimmune disease
Doctors commonly advise potential breast implant candidates that the risks are minimal, yet multiple recent studies indicate otherwise.
A recent study at the University of Alberta comparing nearly 25,000 women with breast implants to nearly 100,000 without them confirmed that nearly one in four implant recipients is at risk of developing an autoimmune disorder.
The risk for women with breast implants developing an autoimmune disease is 45 percent higher than for those without implants.
While former studies on the topic have been criticized because they were based on self-reporting by subjects, this study used doctor-based diagnoses to confirm results.
Previous research has also found surgical mesh implants used for gynecological or hernia repair may be linked to autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Additionally, patients with allergies prior to the procedure were significantly worse afterward.
In the Alberta study, the strongest links were shown between silicone implants and these autoimmune conditions:
Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder of the salivary and tear glands.
Sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disorder of the lung, skin and lymph nodes.
Systemic sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder of the connective tissue affecting the skin, arteries, and visceral organs such as lungs and kidneys.
The theory behind these findings is that foreign material of the mesh and silicone implants causes an activation of the immune system. The body continues to fight the “invader” and over time autoimmunity develops.
Emerging form of breast implant-related cancer on the rise
Individuals with breast implants are also at risk of developing breast implant large cell lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL. BIA-ALCL is not breast cancer but a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.
In most cases BIA-ALCL is found in fluid and scar tissue near the implant, however there are cases where it spreads throughout the body.
The FDA states, “At this time, most data suggest that BIA-ALCL occurs more frequently following implantation of breast implants with textured surfaces rather than those with smooth surfaces.”
Plastic surgeons have identified 615 cases of BIA-ALCL worldwide with the disease occurring at higher rates among women with textured implants. French authorities have recommended against the use of textured implants due to the cancer risk.
At present, however, the risks are difficult to determine due to significant limitations in world-wide reporting and lack of data.
Lax reporting rules at fault for lack of patient awareness
Prior to 2017 the FDA allowed breast implant companies to report breast implant injuries as routine events that did not require public disclosure. This effectively kept the information from the public and may have skewed opinions on the safety of using them.
In 2017 reporting rules were changed and reports of injuries soared. At the current rate, they are slated to increase more than 20-fold in the last two years from the previous two-year period.
According to an ICIJ analysis of FDA data, after the rule change the number of suspected breast implant injuries skyrocketed from 200 a year to more than 4,500 in 2017 alone.
In just the first half of 2018, that number almost doubled to more than 8,000 filed reports.
The increase in reports doesn’t mean implants are suddenly going bad but that they may never have been as safe as patients were told in the first place.
The FDA has acknowledged a “transparency issue” regarding the undisclosed injury reports and that the increase in numbers reflected the change in reporting rules.
Changing the system to better protect breast implant recipients
The FDA warns that as many as one in five women who receive breast implants will get them removed within a decade due to complications such as rupture, deflation, and painful contraction of scar tissue around the implant, but currently there is no warning about autoimmunity.
The good news is that in response to the new information, the FDA and agencies around the world acknowledge that more research needs to be done to determine the autoimmune and cancer risks of implants.
While current studies do not prove breast implants cause these diseases, they do show that women with the implants suffer them at significantly higher rates than women without implants.
It’s proposed that bacterial infection of a biofilm that surrounds the implants is the likely cause of implant-related illness, including BIA-ALCL.
Patient advocates propose rules requiring breast implants to be sold with “black box” label warnings, which are reserved for life-threatening and other serious risks.
Undoubtedly, it will take much larger and longer studies to root out the details and bring about protective actions, and in the meantime, doctors and patients need to have deeper conversations about the benefits and risks of silicone breast implants.
Fats are a hot topic of debate in the health-conscious community, and recent reports have made it hard to separate facts from fear-mongering. Canola and coconut oils are two popular fats that have received a lot of attention over the years, and thankfully recent studies are showing us more clearly which fats to embrace, and which to avoid.
To understand which fats are healthy, it’s helpful to understand “good” HDL and “bad” LDL cholesterol, small fat and protein packages that transport cholesterol throughout the body.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol helps protect your arteries from cholesterol and removes excess arterial plaque.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol can accumulate in the arteries to form plaque that narrows them and makes them less flexible (atherosclerosis).
Triglycerides. Elevated levels are linked to heart disease and diabetes. Risk factors include smoking, physical inactivity, excessive drinking, overweight, and a diet high in sugars and grains.
HDL, LDL, and triglycerides come in small and large particles. While the large particles are practically harmless, the small, dense particles are more dangerous. They can lodge in arterial walls, leading to inflammation, plaque buildup, and damage that eventually leads to heart disease.
When considering test results, your doctor will note:
HDL levels versus LDL levels
The ratio between triglycerides to HDL
The ratio between total cholesterol and HDL
The size of the particles
Here’s where the former warnings about fats and cholesterol have been misleading: We now understand that more important than knowing your total cholesterol is knowing the ratio between your HDL and your LDL, and especially the size of the particles.
In addition, the Mayo Clinic says many doctors now believe that for predicting heart disease risk, total non-HDL may be more useful than calculating your cholesterol ratio. Non-HDL cholesterol is figured by subtracting your HDL cholesterol number from your total cholesterol number.
Finally, either option appears to be a better risk predictor than your total cholesterol level or simply your LDL level.
Note: In some cases, people have a genetic tendency toward extremely high cholesterol. In those situations, it may take more than diet to manage cholesterol levels.
Should I consume saturated fats?
Sourced from tropical oils and animal products, saturated fats are typically solid or semi-solid at room temperature. Common dietary sources include beef, pork, lamb, poultry skin, high-fat dairy, palm oil, and coconut oil.
Saturated fat sits at the forefront of the debate about dietary oils. Why? For years, we’ve been warned that it increases the risk for cardiovascular disease because it raises LDL, the “bad” type of cholesterol.
This recommendation was based on four hand-picked studies done nearly 40 years ago and doesn’t reflect recent studies that shine a different light on fat intake. What the studies didn’t do is take into consideration other things saturated fats do to help balance the equation:
Raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
Change LDL (“bad”) cholesterol from small, dense particles — dangerous for heart health — to large particle LDL, which does not increase heart disease risk.
Support brain health.
Possibly reduce stroke risk.
In fact, a recent meta-analysis of studies showed there is no significant evidence that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease.
For some people there are legitimate reasons to moderate saturated fat intake:
Saturated fat intake can be associated with lighter, less restorative, more disruptive sleep (yet increased fiber can help increase sleep quality).
ApoE4 carriers (increased Alzheimer’s risk) see a much higher spike in LDL cholesterol from high saturated fat in the diet, without a matching rise in HDL. They may benefit from lower intake of saturated fat which can lower LDL cholesterol and improve HDL/LDL ratio.
A small percent of the population does experience a skyrocketing increase in LDL concentrations along with increased inflammation levels measured by C-reactive protein.
Ask meabout a diet that is sufficient in healthy fats, void of bad fats, and customized to your dietary needs.
Many of us start the day with a small breakfast as we run out the door, followed by a medium sized lunch and a large dinner. We also tend to snack throughout the day and even grab a bite before bed. However, while what we eat is important, a growing body of research suggests when we eat matters too.
The digestive system’s circadian rhythm
While you have likely heard of the circadian rhythm, the master “clock” in the brain that governs our sleep-wake cycle, we actually have a variety of circadian clocks that govern the daily cycle of activity for every organ.
These rhythms exist because every organ needs downtime for repair and regeneration.
The digestive system is no exception. During the day, the pancreas increases production of insulin, which controls blood sugar levels, and then ramps it down at night.
Circadian clocks optimize our health by aligning our biological functions with regular and predictable environmental patterns. Disrupting our circadian clocks — such as by skipping breakfast or eating at midnight — can result in health issues such as weight gain, metabolic syndrome, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and more, and if you want to know more about YOU and YOUR health, schedule a FREE 15-minute consultation with Dr. Celaya.
Eat breakfast daily
About 20 to 30 percent of American adults skip breakfast. Some do it to save time, many do it in an effort to lose weight. However, studies show that people who eat breakfast daily are less likely to be obese, malnourished, suffer from impaired blood sugar metabolism, or be diagnosed with diabetes.
They are also less likely to have the heart disease risk factors of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Even the American Heart Association recently endorsed biologically appropriate meal timing to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Just eating breakfast isn’t the only important thing, however. It’s critical to start the day with a breakfast that provides plenty of protein and healthy fats, and a minimum of sugars. This helps support blood sugar balance and proper brain function throughout the day.
Make breakfast the largest meal for weight control and fat loss
The timing in relation to the size of our meals is also important.
Research shows having the largest meal in the morning appears to help with weight control compared to having a large meal in the evening.
In fact, a person eating the identical meal at different times of day might deposit more fat after an evening meal than a morning meal.
This is partially because insulin, a hormone that helps with blood sugar control, appears to be most efficient in the morning. In addition, we burn more calories and digest food more efficiently in the morning than later in the day when most of us eat our largest meal.
In one study, a group of overweight women with metabolic problems were put on a 1400 calorie-per-day diet. Half consumed 700 calories at breakfast, 500 calories at lunch, and 200 calories at supper and the other half reversed that pattern.
Women in both groups lost weight and experienced reduction in fasting glucose, insulin, and ghrelin (a hunger hormone), but in the same time frame the large-breakfast group experienced added benefits:
They lost 2.5 times the weight compared to those who ate the largest meal at dinner.
They had a significantly greater decrease in fasting glucose, insulin, and triglyceride levels.
Their satiety (sense of fullness) scores were significantly higher.
They also lost more body fat, especially in the belly.
According to the researchers, a high-calorie breakfast and a reduced calorie dinner is beneficial and might be a useful alternative for managing obesity and metabolic syndrome.
The body needs fasting periods for optimum health
Fasting signals to the body to start burning stores of fat for fuel. Most of us eat meals and snack from the time we wake up until shortly before bed — or even in the middle of the night. In fact, studies show the average person eats over a 15-hour period during the day. This short fasting time period may interfere with optimal metabolism and increase weight gain.
Researchers put a group of prediabetic men through two eating cycles. In one phase, they ate meals within a 12-hour window for five weeks.
Then in another phase, they ate the same meals in a time-restricted six-hour window starting in the morning.
They ate enough to maintain their weight, so they could assess whether the time-restricted regimen had benefits unrelated to weight loss.
In addition, the men who ate only one or two meals per day fared better than those who ate three meals.
A recent review of the dietary patterns of 50,000 adults over seven years provides added evidence that we should ingest most of our calories early in the day, including a plentiful breakfast, a smaller lunch, and a light supper.
The researchers said that eating breakfast and lunch five to six hours apart and making the overnight fast last 18 to 19 hours may be an effective method for preventing long-term weight gain.
Another recent study found that subjects who added snacks to their daily meals tended to gain weight over time, while those who had no snacks tended to lose weight.
Light exposure is key for proper metabolism
Sufficient exposure to natural light and darkness also play an important role in how we metabolize food for either energy production or fat gain.
At night, the lack of sunlight signals our brain to release melatonin, the hormone that prepares us for sleep. In the morning, the light stops melatonin production and we wake up.
When we change that signaling — whether from a late-night meal, artificial lighting at night (especially blue screen light), shift work, flying and travel, or changing our eating patterns — it confuses our bodies’ circadian clocks. Eating at the wrong time of day strains the digestive organs, forcing them to work when they are supposed to rest.
Shift workers, who account for about 20 percent of the country’s workforce, have a particular problem with disturbed circadian clocks. Many frequently work overnight shifts, forcing them to eat and sleep at odd times. Nighttime shift work has been linked to increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and breast cancer.
Studies have linked poor melatonin activity and disrupted sleep-wake cycles with an increased risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s, cancer, autoimmune flare-ups, obesity, and more.
Low blood sugar may require a before-bed snack
One important exception to the “don’t eat right before bed” rule is for those who have chronic low blood sugar. For these people, keeping blood sugar stable throughout the day — and night — is critical for brain health, energy level, and more.
If you suffer from the following chronic low blood sugar symptoms, it may be best to take a small, high-protein low sugar snack just before bed:
Constant sugar cravings
Nausea or lack of appetite in the morning
Irritability, light-headedness, dizziness, or brain fog if meals are missed
Craving caffeine for energy
Eating to relieve fatigue
Afternoon energy crashes
Waking around 3 a.m.
Daily habits to maximize your dietary rhythm
To help maximize your meal timing and metabolism, incorporate the following habits into your day:
Make breakfast your largest meal and make dinner your smallest. While this may prove difficult for those with a busy social life or family that sits down to a big dinner every evening, make the evening meal smaller whenever possible.
Prioritize protein and healthy fats with breakfast, and minimize sugar and caffeine intake especially before lunch, to stabilize blood sugar and regulate metabolism.
Avoid between-meal snacks and bedtime goodies. The exception is for those who have chronic low blood sugar as mentioned above.
Try a time-restricted eating pattern, or intermittent fasting, to maximize weight management.
Manage exposure to blue light at night:
Avoid screen light in the evening
Install the f.lux app on your phone and computer
Read a book
Wear blue-blocker glasses at night
Install amber or red light bulbs for evening use
If you have chronic low blood sugar, a small before-bed snack with plenty of protein may be a good idea to keep your blood sugar stable all night and prevent that 3 a.m. wake-up.
While studies suggest that prioritizing larger meals early in the day helps support metabolic health, it does not necessarily mean that you should skip dinner. Instead, have your dinners earlier and make them relatively light.
The take-home message here is like the old proverb, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper.” Schedule a FREE 15-Minute Consultation with Dr. Celaya.
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