Today’s episode is a special one for my fellow breast cancer survivors. We’re going to explore the world of mitochondrial health, and the impact of synthetic fragrances, and discover how natural essential oils can support our metabolic health.
Our focus begins with the mighty mitochondria, these tiny organelles are crucial for energy production, and we discuss how their health is vital, especially for breast cancer survivors.
Then, we shift gears to discuss the hidden impact of synthetic fragrances. While these fragrances may seem harmless, they can have unseen effects on our health, particularly on our sensitive mitochondrial function. I share insights into how these synthetic elements can disrupt our body's natural processes and why being mindful of what we inhale is as important as what we eat or drink.
We explore how natural fragrances not only uplift our spirits but also provide health benefits. From their mood-enhancing properties to respiratory benefits.
If you’re a breast cancer survivor or someone interested in holistic well-being, this is your invitation to learn, grow, and thrive. Let's embrace the natural solutions that surround us and use them to fuel our journey towards optimal metabolic health.
Referred to in this episode:
Better Than Before Breast Cancer™ Life Coaching Membership
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Read the full transcript below:
Laura Lummer 0:00
You're listening to better than before breast cancer with the breast cancer recovery coach. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. I'm a certified life coach, and I'm a breast cancer thriver. In this podcast, I will give you the skills and the insights and the tools to move past the emotional and physical trauma of a breast cancer diagnosis. If you're looking for a way to create a life that's even better than before breast cancer, you've come to the right place. Let's get started.
Laura Lummer 0:33
Hey, friends, welcome to episode 308. Team. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. And we are here with today's Tuesday terrain talk. I love these Tuesday terrain talks. Because they just give you so much opportunity to do simple things to support your health. That's what this is all about to really focus on small changes that you can make in your life to have big impact in supporting the health of your body. So you feel better, less pain, less fatigue, more energy, more joy, I want you to feel as good as you possibly can. One of the tools that I've shared recently to help you understand more about what you can do to support your body is called the terrain 10. The terrain 10 is assessment that was developed by Dr. Nisha winters, you can find it in the front of the metabolic approach to cancer, the book that she wrote, but it was recently made into an electronic version. And I released the link to that allowing you to take the assessment online and see for yourself where you score in these 10 terrain buckets. Now what I say score is that you answer questions. And then you get a score from zero to 100. In each of these categories. The higher the score, the more you know, you have the opportunity to address things here. Or better yet, even before we get to address him before we get to changing, you get to understand a little more about what is going on in your body. I think that's something we struggle with tremendously as people who've been diagnosed with breast cancer is the why why did this happen? Why me? Did I do everything right? I know definitely I went through that. But this assessment gives you an insight into that. I think that sometimes we just accept a lot of things we get exposed to and go through in life as just part of the normal human life experience. And a lot of it is part of the normal human life experience. But even a part of the normal experience has an impact on us physically and emotionally. And the terrain 10 assessment helps you to get a better understanding of that. And then once you can get an understanding of what's going on, you can have some little bit of a direction, what things to prioritize, and how you can know what to prioritize is by the things you scored the highest. And the higher you score, the more opportunity you have to address things in that area. And I want to share with you something really interesting. I've had a really great response to people coming in and taking the train 10. And I went back and I looked because I got curious, and I started to wonder if I would see some commonalities. Is there something that across the board people score higher on Are there a top three categories that we could address that I could address that I could support you more in? And I found some pretty fantastic stuff. One of the things that really, I don't know that it really surprised me. But I guess it excited me, because I know from all the coaching I do, I know that this is important. And now you all are taking the train 10. And I have data showing this is so important. And what it is, is in the top three, the top three categories, meaning that people scored the highest and that they have the most opportunity to address to help themselves feel better and improve their health. 78% of people who completed the terrain 10 assessment, had stress in the top 370 3% had mental and emotional health in the top three. So this is so interesting, right? Because one of the things we gravitate to the most most commonly and we beat ourselves up about and we shame ourselves about is food and exercise, diet and exercise. And yes, they are important, super important, and I love them and I would never want to minimize them. But I think that in putting so much energy into diet and exercise, we do minimize the impact the importance of mental emotional health and the effect that stress and our bio rhythms have on our bodies. So you can look forward to hearing a lot more about that. Because it is absolutely so critical. And I feel like this compulsion, this obligation this purpose to help women understand, it's okay. To address these things, it's okay to say they're real. And I'm going to do another show all about that, because that's not what this is on. So I don't want to go on too much of a tangent. But I just want to help, I just want to share that information. I just wanted to say, Wow, let's think about that 78% of people scoring the top three stress, that is having a huge impact on our wellness, my friends, and we need to accept it, we need to address it. And then 73% emotional health. And fantastic. I love seeing this data. But what today's show is about is another very high scoring category. So 67% of people who finish the terrain 10 And I say completed because it's a little bit lengthy. So there are a lot of people who started it, and I think kind of went oh, oh, that's a lot of questions. But out of everybody who completed it 67% had toxic burden in their top five, and 22% of that 67 had it in the top three. And toxic burden is a big area. And I love how mental emotional health ties into this. Because I think often when I speak about toxic burden, people go right into here, people go right into anxiety, and very much into overwhelm. Because there's this idea that everything is toxic. So what can I possibly do. And as I talk about all the time on the show, once we're in overwhelm, our actions stop, we freeze, we don't address things. So I'm not going to talk about everything toxic in the world. This show these episodes are about small things we can do. And I want to help you understand the importance of small changes, because small changes can really have a big impact. So today, we're not going to talk about everything in the world that's toxic, and everything in the house that you can change, I mean address one particular area. And I want to help you understand why this particular area is really important. We're going to talk about home fragrance. Because home fragrance is a big deal. Candles, air fresheners, those little sticks. I don't know what you call them a kind of a diffuser, but I guess I think of a diffuser as something with water going in it but the little sticks they put in the liquid bottles, so they're diffusing fragrance in the house. I mean even cleansers and things like that, but that's a whole nother category. So let's just stop and think about home fragrance in the sense of scented candles, plug in air fresheners and those kinds of diffusers, so anything that's just putting fragrance constantly out into your home. Now, I love fragrance. I love things that smell good. I don't want my house to smell stale or forbid have any foul odors in it. I love fresh smelling things. I love nice smelling things. But I also have what's referred to as multiple chemical sensitivity. And it I don't think I really had very much of it until I went through chemotherapy and then it got really intense. So when I walk into somebody's house, and they've got scented candles, or oh my gosh, there's this place that I go to do my scans and they have plug in air fresheners, I think in every day outlet in that place. So literally as soon as I walk in, I started having a cold sweat, I get clammy, I get a cold sweat, I started to get a headache. It actually blurs my vision it makes me feel terrible. And I actually did a podcast about this and I'll link to that in the show notes for this episode too is way back in the beginning episode number 27 where I talked about multiple chemical sensitivity, because it is a big deal. It is an issue. And it isn't just because you feel like crap. You don't just feel like crap for no reason. Something's happening inside of our bodies physically. That results in us having this cold sweat, this cleanliness these headaches. And even if you are not someone who has a chemical sensitivity and you don't react that way, when you're smelling fragrance, it doesn't mean that it is not causing physical damage to your body you just maybe are not as sensitive to it. So I want to talk for a minute about the importance of considering home fragrance even where you go into places when I go into this place where I do my scans. I asked them to unplug those fragrances and sometimes if I get someone of that attitude, I literally unplug the fragrances myself I just go sit in that chair reach under it and I unplugged the fragrance because I've complained to place to I've called them and said listen, I mean, I'm in there getting scans because of cancer but I look around me and I see people who do not look well. They do not look healthy and when we're in that state in that condition. We don't need more chemicals. We don't need to be inhaling chemicals while we're waiting to be having skin And to see what's going on in our body. So anyway, if you have that situation, I'm just saying stand up for yourself advocate for fragrance free places, or at least what we're going to talk about here, non harmful fragrance in places because there are so many options. So let's talk about why this is important. Why first of all, is just considering small changes to reduce the toxic burden in your environment. And one of the really important reasons for considering this and I keep saying considering because I do not want you to be overwhelmed by this topic, I want you to know, you can do small things. There are things in my home still, there are things that I use from time to time that people would consider to be toxic. I know that I haven't gotten every toxic exposure out of my life. Can I get better? Yes. Have I gotten better? Yes. And that's okay. All right. So realize that you don't have to sweep through your house like the Tasmanian devil, right, we get to decide for ourselves what we're ready for, and what feels right. But an important reason for this is because when we have had cancer, where we have gone through cancer treatments, and when we are trying to get as metabolically healthy as possible, there's a little teeny tiny part of us that we want to make sure we're taking care of. And that is called our mitochondria. Now, I've referred to mitochondria in in other episodes, and if you took the train 10, you'll get an email from me that goes in depth talking about mitochondria and mitochondrial health. So I'm not going to go heavy into science here or anything like that, that if you aren't aware of what mitochondria are, they're a little organelles inside of ourselves. And mitochondria have always or often been thought of as the power house of ourselves, because they're responsible for making energy for making ATP. And so when our mitochondria are functioning optimally, they're doing their job really well. But more than just being powerhouses of the cells, mitochondria have a lot of roles in our body. And we're discovering this more and more, especially in cancer research, which I'll go into in just a sec. But some of the roles that they play are in cell signaling, in cellular differentiation, in the role of cell death and the cycle of the cells death and growth, which you know, is very important when it comes to cancer. So, here's how mitochondrial health is particularly important when we think about those of us who are recovering from living with healing from going through and wanting to prevent future diagnoses of breast cancer. So first of all, as I refer to mitochondria have a big role in energy metabolism, and in cell growth. And so what this means is that breast cancer cells and many other types of cancer cells rely very heavily on glucose for their energy. And that's what's known as the Warburg effect, right? The Warburg effect is kind of what the whole metabolic approach to cancer is based on saying that cancer cells want more glucose, they want more blood sugar, they function differently and make their energy in a different way than normal, healthy cells. And part of the reason that happens is because of mitochondrial damage. Now, there are many reasons for this, this is part of it. And again, this is why we can address small things, maybe we can't address all the things. But if we can address little things are the parts of things we understand and that we do have some control over, we can make sure we're doing a better job to support our health. So the function of healthy mitochondria is very important when it comes to the dysfunctioning. Right and supporting the growth of cancer and the spread of cancer. Even and this is a huge issue with those of us who have been through breast cancer and breast cancer treatment. Even some of the fatigue experienced during an after breast cancer treatment can be related to mitochondrial damage. Because mitochondria are essential for energy production. Any impairment in the mitochondria can decrease our energy levels, and contribute to us feeling fatigued. And so I'm gonna go off the rails a little bit here and talk for a second about the things that can contribute to that fatigue for us and how mitochondria play a role in it because I want you to understand how significant how important it is to be able to support the health of our body, the health of mitochondria. If you went through chemotherapy as part of your cancer treatment, many chemotherapeutic agents cause mitochondrial dysfunction and they do it on purpose. It's they're targeting it as a way to destroy the care sensor cell. So we want that but at the same time, it is causing damage that may not be supporting us feeling really great, right? So it can these chemotherapeutic agents cause oxidative stress, they damage the mitochondrial DNA, they can damage proteins and membranes of the mitochondria. So the actual like outside, let's call it the skin, right? The outside of the mitochondria can get damaged. And that can really have a major effect on the mitochondria is ability to produce energy. So that can lead to fatigue, radiation therapy, how does it make us so tired? I mean, come on, you've been to radiation, you know, it is I've never felt such fatigue in my life. As I did. When I hit about day 1516 of radiation. I was like, Whoa, I couldn't keep my eyes open if my life depended on it. And part of that is because we have go through part of it. Again, this is not all of it. Part of it, is we go through tremendous amount of mitochondrial damage during radiation because it causes this damage. It induces what's called oxidative stress and inflammation. And then that disrupts again, the normal functioning of mitochondria. And anytime that's going to happen is going to affect our energy. Cancer itself. Cancers are so active, these little cancer cells do a lot of things on their own. And part of it is that they alter the body's metabolism. And the way that our body uses energy, as I just talked about a minute ago, cancer cell mitochondria use energy differently than normal cell mitochondria. So cancer cells can end up competing for energy, right, they're fighting to get more energy, and to take those energy resources. And that can lead to fatigue. So for me, my own personal experience, and the experience of many women that I've talked to over the years, experienced before their diagnosis just felt really tired all the time, or they kept getting sick, they kept getting colds and sick. And if I think back on that, it makes total sense, right, because I had cancer going in my body. So my immune system was trying to fight it cancer was fighting for energy, there was all kinds of stuff going on. So cancer itself can be a part of that to cause that fatigue. And then of course, we're gonna have systemic inflammation. I mean, that's kind of the root of cancer, right is inflammation, it's one of the roots of most diseases that I've ever read about. So we can look at this and say, okay, having had cancer, and then having had cancer treatment, all of that together causes a lot of inflammation, which is associated with mitochondrial dysfunction, because it produces certain proteins that interfere with mitochondria dysfunction, and it just makes us more tired. And then we stuck on that everything that happens to us the hormonal changes, the emotional stress, difficulty sleeping, all the damage to the mitochondria, is it any wonder that it causes a tremendous amount, tremendous amount of fatigue to go through this experience. And so after cancer treatment, the recovery of our mitochondrial function can take a lot of time. And we can have really persistent fatigue for a long time, even after finishing our active treatments for cancer finishing radiation, surgeries, chemotherapy. And so what's really important is that we support our mitochondria, through lots of ways, nutritional support, eating good whole healthy foods, physical therapy, exercise, and lots of different lifestyle interventions that reduce inflammation, and getting good sleep, staying well hydrated, and doing all the things we can to support our new cells as they're developing, so that they have healthy mitochondria. But we do have to be patient with ourselves, right. And as we're being patient, and we're giving our all of our billions or trillions of little mitochondria, chance to get healthy chance to recover, we can be doing things to support them. One of those things is we can be reducing environmental toxins as much as possible. So why do I pick scented candles, which are so lovely, which is a huge, huge, huge industry. That's exactly why because it's so popular and it seems so harmless to so many people, that chemical fragrances can be very disruptive to the health of our mitochondria and to our hormonal system. So they're known to be and there's a lot of concern and studies about how they are endocrine disruptors. I refer to that. I don't know, I know that I talked about it in some previous Tuesday terrain talks. But it's important to understand that endocrine disruptors are these chemicals that interfere with our hormonal system, and they can cause cancers tumors, birth defects, developmental disorders, and there's a lot of growing evidence that shows that they have an impact on our mitochondrial function. So this is kind of a newer area of study. But there's definitely evidence that supports it. And I just want to share with you a couple of ways in which these fragrances chemical fragrances that have specific chemicals in them how they disrupt our mitochondria. One of the ways is that they produce what's called reactive oxygen species, our O 's, free radicals, you may be more familiar with that term free radicals, and free radicals damage mitochondrial DNA.
Laura Lummer 20:32
So again, what happens when we damage mitochondrial DNA, we affect our levels of energy, we affect the way mitochondria make energy. And that is one of the contributing factors in cancer. And when that happens, we can see that mitochondrial DNA proteins, and even the little fat cells in mitochondrial membranes get damaged. And when endocrine disrupters cause mitochondrial damage, they can trigger other things like triggering these pathways that lead to cell death. You've probably heard the term apoptosis, programmed cell death is where cells are supposed to work. But when the mitochondria get damaged, endocrine disruptors play a role in that, then these cells can die when they're not supposed to, or not die when they are supposed to. And both are problematic. Because if we have rapidly dividing cells, or cells that are really critical for normal bodily bodily functions, we don't want them dying off when they're not supposed to be dying off. So all of this can cause metabolic disruptions. And it can manifest in things like changing the way we metabolize fats, whether or not we're insulin sensitive or insulin resistance, our overall energy balance, and even contribute to things like obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. So the potential for scented candles for home fragrance to act as hormone disruptors, it is a topic of debate, but it is a topic of concern. And the primary concern is the chemicals that are in these things, especially in scented candles. So synthetic fragrances, what does this term mean? Well, it's a really interesting thing, because I can't really tell you, because people who produce synthetic fragrances or products with synthetic fragrances don't always have to disclose exactly what's in that fragrance. Because it can be proprietary, this is how they get their scent. So you may just see fragrance or synthetic fragrance on a label. And that means they're not that their formula is proprietary, and they don't have to disclose everything that's in it. And so that can be even more concerning, because it can be really difficult to understand how much of an impact this certain product might have on your health. But some of the things that we know that are in a lot of not all scented candles, not all and I'll talk about that too. But the things we want to look out for are things like paraffins. So parabens are a byproduct of petroleum. And when they're burned, they release volatile compounds, known carcinogens. Then there's pellets and some scented candles. Again, I keep saying some because I want to enforce it's not all but some dilates. These are a group of chemicals that are used to make fragrance last longer. And they are known endocrine disruptors, they affect our hormone systems, particularly reproductive hormones. So not all scented candles have have satellites in them. And an important thing to do is look for ones that say, Sally free products. Now sell it when you look at this word, it doesn't sound like the way I'm saying is PHTHAL a t le. And so you want to look for candles that do say they're fairly free because we know these are carcinogens and they do impact our health. And also, we have to be thinking about the level of exposure that we have to these chemicals, right if you burn a candle now and then that's going to be different than if you're a person who kind of like me, like a lot of people I know like to have candles going all the time you come home you unwind put on candles. When I'm sitting down doing work. I have unscented candles, but I usually use an essential oil diffuser, I like scent, and we're going to go into that in just a second. So exposure and duration of exposure definitely has an effect. So if you do have a candle you're not willing to part with you know it has synthetic fragrance in it. Something you might want to consider is keeping a lot of ventilation in the room when you are burning that candle keep some windows open and keep a fan on or something like that so you can minimize some of the risks to your health. Look for candles that are made from natural waxes like soy or beeswax because those burn cleaner than those that are made with paraffin wax. And if your candles are scented with essential oils And they're labeled as salad free, then you're doing a much better service for your overall health. And this is just I'm saying candles, but any home fragrance, and especially those kinds that you plug into the wall like, I cannot Well, I told you my story, and then I'm gonna go I mean, those things are so intense. And I think, you know, people like me that have a chemical sensitivity, we're kind of like the canary in the coal mine. Right? The Canary dies first and the people is sensitivity, we react first. But again, it doesn't mean that other people who don't have a reaction aren't being impacted by it, you just don't have the same sensitivity and as much of a reaction to it, but it's definitely something that you should be considering. So using clean scents in your house is important. Who doesn't love a good smelling house? Right? So what about essential oils? Now, using essential oil diffusers can fragrance your house and not only will it not damage your health, but essential oils come directly from plants. They're like the plasma of plants, right. They're called oil, but they're not really an oil. They're extracted from plants in a certain way. So we refer to them as essential oils. The beautiful thing about them is they have the qualities that they display in the plant. And so when we're using essential oils in our home, when we're using an essential and essential oil diffuser, they can actually be doing good things for our health. One of the ways that I sent my house often, especially when it's cold outside is taking citrus peels and putting cinnamon sticks and things like that into just a pot of water on the stove, a little bit of vanilla to that. And add herbs, rosemary, thyme, like all those herbs have these powerful essential oils in them. And so when you get them into heat, that fragrance gets released. But the beautiful thing is when those fragrance get released, we don't have to worry about them, disrupting our hormones, because they can have some really beneficial attributes. Now, you also want to make sure you get a good source for your essential oil. Or if you're using products with essential oils. And I have some on my website and my website shop. They're all vetted through Dr. Nisha winters, they all have her stamp of approval. But when I say a good essential oil, that means that some essential oils are extracted with solvents, or they put additives in them. So if you're finding essential oils that are really cheap, you know, if you say oh god, that's so expensive, and then I just found it for like five bucks, that probably has additives in it. So you want to make sure you have a good source for your essential oils. And also know that just because they're natural doesn't mean that some people won't have allergies to them. Just like we have allergies to plants. Some people can have allergies to essential oils. So does it mean that they're actually safe for everybody know that it means they don't have toxic things in them that are disrupting the way our hormones and our mitochondria work inside of our body. Okay,
Laura Lummer 28:07
so some of the benefits of essential oils are that they've been shown to be mood enhancing. So various essential oils like lavender oil is very calming, peppermint oil is very energizing, lemon oil and citrus oils have been shown to help people focus. So we can use different things in our environment to actually support the way we want to feel and support our emotions. Lots of essential oils have respiratory benefits, like eucalyptus and toolsy. These essential oils are things that I've used for my children who couple of my children have struggled with asthma. And if I get sick, I use them for myself by putting some drops in my hands and inhaling them. They can be put on our bodies. So these things are safe. And they can really help us in many ways. So eucalyptus can even help with breaking down some congestion opening up our airways. And most essential oils have some really great antibacterial benefits. So essential oils can help improve the quality of our air, they can actually remove toxins from the air. Some essential oils like tea tree and thyme, in addition to eucalyptus can repel certain bacteria, and they can help prevent the growth of mold so they can make your home environment even healthier. And isn't this a nice option when we think about something like toxic burden and releasing toxic or reducing toxic burden? Because it does seem so overwhelming. And because we enjoy it and that's what makes it hard I think to make changes when there are things in our lives that we resist because we think I enjoy that and especially after going through cancer if you're living with cancer. Sometimes we adopt this mentality says haven't I been through enough already? Do I have to go You up something else I enjoy. And so I want to offer these alternatives because I know how much I enjoy fragrance. And I know a lot of people do or wouldn't be the billion dollar industry that it is. But do we want to enjoy it to the detriment of our health, especially when there are other options. So offer this to you today, let's take better care of our mitochondria. Let's address some of these high scoring areas in the terrain 10. And look at how we can reduce them and still enjoy the things that we like in our life. All right, I put links in the show notes to this podcast, on some studies that talk about your mitochondrial health, even a really cool video by the Khan Academy that helps you understand mitochondria a little more, if you are more science minded and want to learn a little bit more about it. There's also a link to a wonderful book that I just thought was absolutely fascinating. And it's all about our mitochondria. And again, my hope is that the more you know and understand about how your body works, the more fascinated you can be by that. And the more you can understand how making small changes can support your overall wellness. And if you want more help with even the mindset around making these changes, come and join me in the better than before breast cancer membership. Because we work on all of this stuff. And the way that we think about the changes that have to be made because this is critical. What did I tell you at the very beginning of this episode 78% and 73%, respectively, of us of the people who took that terrain 10 are affected by stress and mental and emotional health. It's really hard to get physically healthy, when we're struggling mentally and emotionally. So when we get that in check, it helps us so much, little by little tired that energy to be doing things to support us physically as well. And heck, just getting that in check. Just serving ourselves, taking care of ourselves, loving ourselves and getting the emotional, mental and stress aspects of our life into balance in and of itself supports our metabolic health. All right, I will talk to you again very soon and until then, be good to yourself. Take care