#87 A Mindful Approach to Alcohol and Breast Cancer Recovery

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Reports say that 63% of people in the United States consume alcohol on a regular basis, and many other studies say that even small amounts of alcohol consumption can increase your risk of breast cancer. 

But the American Heart association and the arthritis foundation say that one drink a day can have heart health and anti-inflammatory benefits. 

So who’s right…maybe they both are. 

When it comes to alcohol consumption it’s up to you to decide what role it will play in your life and why. 

In this week’s show I’ll share my own story ad realizations with you along with what the science says and some simple questions you can ask yourself when it comes to your relationship with alcohol. 


Breast cancer prevention: How to reduce your risk

The national institute on alcohol abuse and alcoholism


MD anderson Cancer center

MD Anderson website

arthritis foundation

The Breast Cancer Recovery Coach Facebook Group

Read the Full Transcript Below:

#87 A Mindful Approach to Breast Cancer and Alcohol


 Welcome, subscribe, leave a review- TheBreastCancerRecoveryCoach.com


Alright let's get right to this show. I want to share a little story with you to set the scene for why I picked this topic.


If you listen to the show regularly you know I have a ten week coaching program called REVIVIFY. 


One of the modules in that program is called renew and in the renew module we focus on several things to restore the mind and body. Part of that module is focused on mindful eating, where we practice shifting the relationship we have with food from one of popular diets and measuring macros to really noticing how our bodies react to food.


Now I believe in practicing what I preach and I go through this work with my members because I know there's always something more I can learn about myself.


So this time, as we were digging in deep to mindfulness I started to pay attention to when and why I drink alcohol.


I grew up in a house where alcohol was rarely ever seen. I don’t know if my parents just didn’t like it, or it would be nearly impossible to have a cocktail and take care of 6 kids, or if it was just too expensive for an 8 person family on a one working parent income, but it just wasn’t a thing in my life growing up. My parents, grandparents, any adult relatives...I can count on one hane the times I saw an adult in my life have a beer or a glass of wine.


Then as a young adult, raising kids, it just wasn’t my thing. It wasn’t that I was against drinking but again, it was expensive, I was super busy with little kids, work, and late night house cleaning and work outs in the living room. Fitness was my thing so alcohol was just never a part of my lifestyle.


Then I met my now husband. We started dating just a couple of months before my breast cancer diagnosis and having a beer or a cocktail in the evening or when we went out to dinner was a part of his lifestyle. 


He didn’t have a problem by any means, let me be really clear about that. I should also say at this point that this whole show is not about judgments around alcohol, it’s about mindfulness around alcohol nor is it intended for anyone who may have an addiction or need professional help with drinking. I’m only referring to drinking socially.


So, when we started dating he introduced me to having a dirty martini which I learned to enjoy and then we had a lot of fun exploring craft cocktails. I even bought a mixology class for my husband for christmas one year and he had so much fun experimenting with making craft cocktails…


So alcohol became our part of our lifestyle in terms of trying new places that make craft cocktails or sitting down in the evening together and talking over a martini. Meeting friends for margaritas...you know what I’m saying. I think one of my friends stated it well when she said she drinks frequently but she doesn’t drink a lot.


Now, when I was taking tamoxifen, any cocktail or wine was not an option because it made me feel so bad to have just a sip or two and it knocked me on my butt which is a feeling I do not like!


So, over the past couple of months, I would have a drink and think, why am I having this? I said to my husband. You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I like the taste of a side car or a cosmopolitan but if every night when I was done working you offered me a creme brulee or banana pudding, I wouldn’t eat them. 

So why am I approaching alcohol differently?  It doesn't support my health goals, it’s empty calories and it increases my risk of a breast cancer recurrence.


In fact, I have to be careful when I have a drink because if it’s too late in the evening I’ll have horrible heartburn all night or I’ll feel really tired when I get up to work out in the morning and I hate feeling like that. And yet, i continue to approach it differently than I do food. 


So this was on my mind and I started noticing what I’m thinking about having glass of wine or a martini, I started paying more attention to why I chose to have one when I do and how it makes my body feel. 


A couple things I realized are that, I don’t really think about it when I have a drink. We’ll be sitting down to dinner or walk out on to the patio to relax and chat and my husband will say, can I make you a cocktail and I’ll just say sure...it’s become somewhat of a loving offering from him and I’ve conditioned myself to just say yes. 


Or, a friend will call and say hey, do you want to meet me for a drink and I’ll say sure...and the funny thing is. I might go meet someone for a drink and if we’re offered food and I’m not hungry I’ll always turn it down...but again, I’m just not really thinking about why I’m having alcohol even when I was being mindful of my food.


The third realization I had is that I just enjoy the experience of sitting and having a tasty beverage with my hubby or a friend. And it's not so much the alcohol effect as it is the cocktail or wine taste. If its a yucky drink or a cheap wine...I'm not interested..not to be bouji just because I don’t like the taste.


So, as I was working on being more mindful of this area of my lifestyle,

I came across a wonderful coach named Rachel Hart. She was a guest coach in a mastermind group that I’m a part of and her entire business is coaching women to drink less. I was fascinated by this because it got me thinking that we generally perceive three types of drinkers. 


Those who don’t drink, those who drink socially and those who are alcoholics. 


But here was a woman with a podcast and a thriving coaching business who just worked with women who wanted to drink less. She even published a book called why can’t I drink like everyone else, a step by step guide to understanding why you drink and how to take a break.


Then I got to thinking this might be something I need to talk with my ladies about. Not only because some of you may be wondering about the role of alcohol in your life after breast cancer, it’s not at all uncommon to turn to alcohol during the time of transitioning between treatment and getting back to life. That’s a very difficult space to navigate and sometimes you just don't want to do it...and also I can’t ignore all the day drinking stories I’m hearing as a result of shelter in place orders and I think it’s a good time to approach the subject.


First let's take a look at what the science tells us about alcohol and breast cancer.


The Mayo Clinic says alcohol  intake should be limited to less than one drink a day because studies show that even small amounts of alcohol increase the risk of breast cancer


 The national institute on alcohol abuse and alcoholism defines a drink as 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.


Have you ever measured your glass of wine? I have... and 5 ounces isn’t a very big glass.


Breastcancer.org says that women who have 3 alcoholic drinks in a week compared to women who don't drink at all, have a 15% higher risk of breast cancer. And it’s estimated that the risk increases by an additional 10% for each additional drink each day….yikes...that can add up fast!


But before you shut off the show because you don’t want to think about giving up your glass of wine, know that MD anderson Cancer center says most of the studies that have been done associating breast cancer risk and alcohol consumption have been observational studies which don’t carry the strongest scientific weight.  


However, when observational studies arrive at the same conclusion repeatedly...that does give more reason to take notice of the results.


Therese Bevers, medical director of MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention Center. In an article on the MD Anderson website says “You need to be more concerned if it becomes a routine in which you drink more than one drink each day.”


The author of that article also points out that other studies have shown one glass of wine a day to be beneficial for heart health.

And some more good news from the arthritis foundation

On the Anti-inflammatory Benefits Of alcohol and I quote


“Enjoying a drink with some regularity might reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a few studies. “Moderate alcohol consumption reduces biomarkers of inflammation, including c-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6, and TNF-alpha receptor 2,” says  Dr. Karen Costenbader... a rheumatologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Alcohol’s anti-inflammatory effects are also thought to be one of the reasons it appears to lower cardiovascular disease risk in moderate drinkers. The key word is moderate, which most people overestimate when it comes to alcohol.”

So this brings us full circle and we find ourselves in the same place that we find ourselves with other lifestyle factors like food, sugar consumption, exercise or the lack of it, and good sleep hygiene…which is, you have to stop and notice how alcohol is serving you or how it isn’t. 


Breast cancer.org, Susan G. Komen, the CDC and many other credible sources, all have alcohol consumption listed in the top five breast cancer risks that can be controlled by you right along with controlling your weight, and exercising.


Both of which can be affected by alcohol consumption. If you drink at night, you’ll have a more difficult time getting up to exercise in the morning, you’ll consume extra calories because let’s face it, some cocktails are heavy on calories and they go down easy so calories can add up quickly.  


A 5 ounce glass of wine depending on the type of wine and the alcohol content can have anywhere from roughly 100 to 150 calories, 200+ calories in a margarita and a 12 ounce beer has, on the average, about 150 calories. 


In addition to that, we tend to make poor dietary decisions when we’re drinking, because I don’t have to tell you that french fries, chocolate, chips and nuts go better with alcohol than tofu and sugar snap peas.


So you can see how easy it is for alcohol to add to the weight gain.


Now you may be thinking come on, are you seriously suggesting that I never have a drink again… and the answer is no, I’m not suggesting that just like I don’t suggest that you go forever without another desert. 


I am suggesting that you rethink your relationship with alcohol by approaching it in a mindful way.


Meaning how do you think of alcohol consumption?

Do you drink out of boredom, or to help yourself sleep?

Do you drink because you feel social pressure in certain situations, or as a tool to unwind or escape or numb emotions.


Or has having a glass of wine or a drink in the evening just become a habit? 


Could it be what’s standing between you and attaining a healthy body weight?


Is the choice to sit down and have a drink taking the time that you could earmark for some physical activity or meal prep? And if so could you rethink that schedule?

The bottom line is treat alcoholic beverages with the same mindfulness that you would treat anything else you put into your body. try to pause before your next drink and check in with yourself.


 Just like when you’re walking to the fridge and you ask yourself if you’re really hungry or are you about to eat just because you can?


Check in with yourself  in the same way when you reach for a drink. Ask if you really want alcohol and why. Is it moving you closer to the life you want to enjoy, is it supporting your well being and I know some of you are laughing and saying it’s keeping you sane, but honestly, if you’re using alcohol to relax could you practice a stress reduction technique that would be of more benefit to your health?


If it's a social thing could you replace it with a non alcoholic beverage? One of the things I’ve discovered that I love is coconut and key lime La croix sparkling water.

There are also tons of mock tail recipes out there that you can try. OR if you really want an alcoholic beverage, you might want to try having one drink and then using mocktails or sparkling water rather than having two drinks,


Think about how alcohol makes your body feel...aside from buzzed which you can also ask yourself if you really like that feeling, notice if alcohol gives you heartburn, do you feel more groggy in the mornings after you’ve had a drink compared to when you haven’t?


The important thing in creating a health lifestyle is that you make informed choices. I heard a saying the other day that makes so much sense to me. 


You look outside yourself for inspiration, but look inside of yourself for answers. 


I am a big believer in the fact that you are the expert on you. My work isn’t to tell women what’s best for them, my work is to guide women to look within and discover what is best for your unique life and for your happiness and then to offer support as you make what are very often, difficult shifts in your life...but they’re always worth it if you’re paying attention and finding your own answers.


So, as some of us begin to emerge from long weeks of quarantine, and some of us are looking at a few more weeks of sheltering in place and we may be carrying a few extra pounds or in the habit of consuming a few extra drinks.


I hope you’ll give some thought to everything you allow into your body.

Thats food, alcohol, and your thoughts. Because everything counts. But never forget, you’re not in this alone. 


If you feel like you want more support when it comes to drinking less, i’ll post the link to Rachel hart’s website in the show notes for this episode which you can find at ...bcrc.com/87


And if you want more community of understanding women who’ve been through or are going through breast cancer. Come to facebook and find the breast cancer recovery group...also posted in show notes.


And if you’re ready to take things to a really deep level and dig into some lifestyle transformations, go to my website and get on the waitlist for REVIVIFY, my ten week online coaching program. 


It will be starting up again soon and I’ll have an important update for you next week.  So  stay tuned for some exciting stuff.


I’ll talk to you again next week and until then, be good to yourself.


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