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Meet Dr. Kristi Funk: Breast Cancer Surgeon, Author, and Women’s Health Warrior

10.23.2020 — The Frenshe Editors

As Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to a close, we wanted to highlight one of the fiercest voices in women’s health—Dr. Kristi Funk. As a breast cancer surgeon and co-founder of Pink Lotus Breast Center in Beverly Hills, Dr. Funk has pioneered breast cancer treatment for women without insurance, or whose health insurance doesn’t cover all breast cancer-related treatments. Apart from her work in the field, she wrote Breasts: The Owner’s Manual to help further educate women when it comes to the realities of breast cancer and what can be done to prevent it. We caught up with Dr. Funk to discuss everything from her work in women’s health to breast cancer education to her fan-favorite antioxidant smoothie recipe. Frenshes, meet Dr. Kristi Funk.

FRENSHE: Dr. Kristi Funk, can you introduce yourself to our audience and share a bit about what you do for a living?

KF: Hey Frenshe fans, it’s so nice to meet you! My name is Dr. Kristi Funk, happily married mother of triplet 11-year-old boys, entering my third decade as a breast cancer surgeon, practicing at the Pink Lotus Breast Center in Los Angeles, which I co-founded. I am also very engaged in our global women’s health community at pinklotus.com.

F: What encouraged you to become a breast cancer surgeon and a specialist in women’s health?

KF: Well, this won’t be the answer you expect… you see, once I finished my general surgery residency in Seattle, I had fallen in love with the esophagus and stomach. I began a minimally invasive surgery fellowship at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles to hone my skills. Once there, the Director of their newly established breast center suggested that I change my life’s course, do a surgical breast oncology fellowship, and then become a Director of their breast center … because it was currently run by 5 men over the age of 50 and they could clearly use some estrogen!

He gave me until Friday to make up my mind. “Breast surgery is easy,” I thought. “I can put your heart on bypass all by myself, or take your colon completely out, and now I’m supposed to operate on a glorified sweat gland for the rest of my life?” As I considered my future and prayed about the decision, it occurred to me that I needed to drop the hubris. While breast surgery may have seemed easy to me, navigating breast cancer is a most difficult journey indeed. I changed course. And ever since then, my deepest honor has been to come alongside women during one of their darkest, most frightening hours. Together, we travel a path that allows them to feel in control and confident, until they eventually emerge from their journey victorious – oftentimes, in fact, more whole and healed than before it all began.

F: There are several pillars to your brand and business, can you tell our audience a bit about each?

  • Pink Lotus Power Up: As an online social community with over 30,000 members, Pink Lotus Power Up unites women with a common goal of living their best lives. To achieve your “perfect life,” you only need two things: (1) evidence-based information that inspires action, and (2) supportive, loving friendships. Power Up brings something for every woman: an active online social network, podcasts, blogs, breaking breast news, resources, crowdfunding, events, and my personal favorite: Breast Buddies. A 10-year study of early breast cancer patients showed that those reporting low levels of social support were 58% more likely to have died during that decade than those with high levels of connection. Enter… Breast Buddies! BB pairs newly diagnosed women with those who have been there/done that, age for age, stage for stage, treatment for treatment, solely for the purposes of support and friendship. So while not everyone has a BFF – or a family that they like – everyone can have a Breast Buddy! If you’re a breast cancer thriver, be sure to join BB, and also, add your name to our SurvivorWall where we celebrate that you have conquered cancer, and at the same time, you become a messenger to encourage others to reduce their risk factors. If you’ve never had breast cancer – and plan to keep it that way – sign up at SurvivorWall to receive my free risk reduction video.

 

  • Pink Lotus Elements: We originally birthed the Elements store as our solution to the fact that you could readily find pink ribbon earrings and other gimmicks online, but had no idea where to buy functional health products that actually improve a diagnosed woman’s situation both during and after breast cancer. I have listened to so many patients express frustration over the years about where to buy which products to enhance their challenging journeys. Pink Lotus Elements not only offers the solution to this dilemma, but the store has become a women’s health powerhouse that now goes well beyond the C word, featuring over 150 SKUs including a wide variety of nutritional products and supplements that address a multitude of health concerns at any age (PMS, mood swings, menopause, joint issues, alcohol consumption, and the list goes on). In addition to glowing customer reviews and plenty of media attention, many of the products have vigorous clinical research and science behind them to back up every single claim. Entrepreneur magazine called the Elements store “a growing women’s health brand to watch”, and I know the team’s innovative spirit soars higher than ever to find and vet even more robust solutions that women can depend on.

 

  • Lets Beat Breast Cancer Campaign: Everyone should join this fun and free campaign! I’ve teamed up with celebs including Alicia Silverstone, James Cameron, Jon Stewart, Alec Baldwin, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Tig Notaro, and more, along with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine to encourage women (and men) to simply take a pledge to follow a four-pronged approach to breast cancer risk reduction:
  1. Choose Plant-Based Foods
  2. Exercise Regularly
  3. Limit Alcohol
  4. Maintain a Healthy Weight

You will receive a free e-cookbook, chances to win giveaway swag (including a Vitamix and the popular Multi Must Have women’s vitamin from Pink Lotus Elements, and you will get weekly newsletters with practical advice on how to integrate the above steps into your daily life.

  • Cancer Kicking Summit: Sign up now for my Virtual Summit April 2021 and/or live 2-day oceanfront retreat on October 16-17, 2021. I take the wisdom I’ve gathered from my 25 years as a physician and distill it all down to 12 hours of teachings that will dramatically improve your health and transform your life!

87 percent of women with breast cancer do not have a single first degree relative with cancer, and around 80 percent have no affected relatives at all

F: What’s one thing you’d like everyone reading this to know about breast cancer?

KF: Breast cancer doesn’t care AT ALL about whether or not it “runs in the family”. In fact, 87 percent of women with breast cancer do not have a single first degree relative with cancer, and around 80 percent have no affected relatives at all! Less than 10 percent of breast cancer can be attributed to an inherited gene mutation such as BRCA. If you are a woman, and you continue to age as years go by, then you are at risk for this killer disease.

F: Are there any breast myths you can debunk?

KF: I devote an entire chapter to debunking breast myths in my national bestselling book, BREASTS: The Owner’s Manual (it’s in 10 languages and over 30 countries). I back up every fact I write with scientific research. Ready for some top myths? Underwire bras? No. Microwaves, television, radio, or infrared? No, no, no and – all together now – no. Cell phones?  Wrong energy waves. You can tuck it in your underwire bra, if you want to. Antiperspirants and deodorant? Nah. But, you do you (even if we can all smell you). Caffeine? Don’t care, drink away. Hair relaxers? You can relax. Breast implants? Would we reconstruct after mastectomy with something that causes the cancer we just removed? IVF? Don’t worry, baby. Birth control pills?  A teeny weeny breast cancer bump, but you’re way more likely to have an unwanted pregnancy between 15-40 years old than a breast cancer, so don’t mind me, I’m just answering the question with statistics in mind. Hormone replacement therapy? Yes. Medical x-rays? Yes. But I still want you to get a mammogram every year starting at age 40. Benefit > Risk.

F: Because prevention is so important, are there any actionable steps we can take to reduce our risk? 

KF: You nailed it here. This is what matters most, isn’t it? What can I do – right here, right now? What can I do to reduce my cancer risk? The most evidence-based and action-packed answer to this question is the entire focus of the Lets Beat Breast Cancer Campaign!

You have so much more control over this disease than you probably think. Remember, if less than 10 percent of breast cancer can be attributed to inherited mutations, then up to 90 percent comes from your choices and exposures. Imagine four boulders sitting on the scale of health tipping you towards or away from breast cancer (and frankly, from all of life’s major killers: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, obesity , and cancer): (1) nutrition (2) exercise (3) alcohol, and (4) weight. Pebbles and grains of sand can tip the scales, but they won’t budge anything if a boulder already exists. Environmental toxicities (BPA in plastics, phthalates, ubiquitous endocrine disruptors…), emotional stress, and hormone replacement therapy constitute the little rocks – don’t misunderstand, these gritty guys matter, and they can weaken your immune system or destroy your happiness, but they pale in power compared to the Big Four.

So add tons of fruits and veggies, 100% whole grains and legumes to your meals; get sweaty 3-4 hours a week (but just moving more makes huge strides towards health); pour one of my fun mocktails into your usual martini or wine glass to feel festive without the carcinogens; and maintain a healthy body mass index.

F: How does food affect how we can approach breast cancer risk reduction?

KF: Every time you lift fork to mouth, you are making a nutritional chess move in the game called, Health. I’ve spent years researching what science has to say about which antioxidant-rich foods release molecules that can scavenge free radicals, eliminate carcinogens we consume and encounter, prevent and repair DNA damage, identify and destroy harmful cells in our bodies, inhibit new blood supply required by tumors to grow (angiogenesis), stimulate the immune system, regulate hormone metabolism, and reduce inflammation.

 Only plants, legumes, and 100% whole grains provide nutritional armor for your cells. On the other hand, meat, poultry, fish, dairy, and eggs create chinks in that armor where breast cancer cells settle and thrive; animal products increase estrogen, growth hormones (IGF-1), angiogenesis, free radicals, immune system dysfunction, and inflammation.

If this concept is new or a bit overwhelming to you, start with just one whole food plant-based meal a day. I’ve been perfecting the ingredients of my Antioxidant Smoothie since 2012. I am pretty sure it contains the most cancer-kicking compounds found in one single glass of goodness on Earth! I suggest you drink it every morning to light a little anti-cancer flame within you as you enter into the day.

F: How do exercise and weight play into this?

KF: I’ll answer this one with a few facts, and then I will just let them sit there on the page, staring at you.

Exercise:

  • Being sedentary increases breast cancer by as much as 40% over those who bust a move at moderate levels for 3-4 hours a week.
  • Walking briskly for a mere 11 minutes day drops breast cancer incidence by 18%.
  • Even when obese, the combination of walking thirty minutes six days a week with consuming five or more servings of daily vegetables confers a 44% survival advantage over those who adhered to one or neither of these lifestyles.
  • Exercise not only boosts the immune system, but it also can reduce stress, prevent weight gain, and improve sleep.

Weight:

  • Overweight and obese adult women have a 50 to 250% greater risk for postmenopausal breast cancer than normal-weight women.
  • In the United States, up to 50% of postmenopausal breast cancer deaths can be attributed to obesity.
  • If you have already been diagnosed with cancer, gaining more than 5-10% of your initial weight – irrespective of baseline BMI (body mass index)—increases the risk of recurrence and reduces survival by up to 400%.
  • Cue the good news. If you are overweight and lose that fat, you will lose your risk.

F: Is there anything else we can do to ensure we’re staying in a healthy and positive lane for our futures?

KF: I think love and forgiveness are all too often unrecognized requirements for a healthy, purposeful, joyful life.

 

 THE FRENSHE FIVE

What’s something toxic you’re trying to get rid of in your life? Focusing on tomorrow, and missing today.

How do you keep yourself balanced? Daily routine: pray, exercise, work, family time +/- friends or church… and always vegan.

One health or beauty trend you’ll never do again? Low carb, high protein diets.

Top 3 favorite skin products? CE Ferulic Acid, Senté Bio Complete Serum, and TopicAloe (I know the bottle says it’s for radiated skin, but it’s an amazing anti-inflammatory, clears blemishes, and moisturizes! I use it every night.)

Quote you live by? “You’re doing one thing right now. One Thing. Do it right. Why would you do it wrong when you could do it right?” – John A. Ryan, Jr., MD (said while teaching me how to remove ¾ of a liver during my 3rd year of residency)

 

Watch Dr. Kristi Funk’s Signature Smoothie Recipe Below!

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The Frenshe Editors