Natural Ways to Balance and Manage Hormones for Breast Cancer

In Alternative Cancer Therapies, Alternatives Cancer Treatment, Alternatives to Anti-Hormone Therapy For Breast Cancer, Alternatives to Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer, Alternatives to Tamoxifen, Anticancer diet, Anticancer foods, foods for colon cancer, foods for breast cancer, aromatase inhibitors, BPA and breast cancer, Breast Cancer, Cancer, Cancer Coach, Estrogen, Estrogen and Breast Cancer, Hormone Balance, Integrative Oncology, Natural Alternatives to Aromatase Inhibitors, Natural Aromatase Inhibitors, Uncategorized on August 4, 2020 at 7:17 am

Hormone imbalances occur when we have to much or too little of a hormone in your bloodstream. While your body secretes about 50 different hormones that control many critical functions, for the purpose of this article, I will be discussing only estrogen and progesterone. When estrogen is high and progesterone is low, we have a condition known as estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance is often a strong risk factor for breast cancer. Fortunately, there are many natural ways to balance the hormones and manage risk of cancer.

Even small hormonal imbalances can create side effects, including increased risk of breast cancer. What women with breast cancer hear most from their doctors is that estrogen is the villain, the cause of our cancer. However, while estrogen can fuel breast cancer, there is more to the story. Estrogen can fuel a tumor’s growth, but progesterone may put the brakes on that growth.

To be clear, estrogen is not bad, and in many cases, should not be reduced without due care. Estrogen plays a major role in numerous processes including blood sugar balance, as well as bone, eye, and heart health. But it needs to be balanced by progesterone, something that drops dramatically with age and increased stress.

To recap an article I wrote for The Truth About Cancer, estrogen and progesterone receptors are proteins found within many of the cells of our bodies, including cells in the breasts. Both receptors are directly involved in switching genes on and off − some 470 different genes. When estrogen and progesterone are present, these hormones stick to their respective receptors. They can then attach to specific regions of our DNA and turn genes on or off, changing the cell’s behavior.

Hormone receptor-positive breast cancers have many hormone receptors. In the case of breast cancer, tumor cells become overly sensitive to estrogen. When estrogen activates its receptor, it turns on a panel of genes that tell cells to keep dividing, encouraging tumor growth. However, the body also has progesterone receptors. When breast cancer cells have working progesterone receptors, and when there is sufficient progesterone available, progesterone will slow down estrogen-fueled growth and division of these cells. According to the late John Lee, Md, author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer, when progesterone receptors are activated by progesterone, they attach themselves to the estrogen receptors. This essentially puts the brakes on the estrogen receptors, telling them to stop turning on genes that promote the growth of cancer cells, and turning on genes that promote the death of these cells.

A 2016 study led by Cambridge-based Cancer Researcher Dr. Jason Caroll of the University of Adelaide in Australia found that progesterone, via the progesterone receptor, is affecting how the estrogen receptor works. He found that the progesterone receptor actually ‘reprograms’ the estrogen receptor, changing the genes that it influences.[i]

Importantly, Carroll found that progesterone seems to cause cancer cells to stop growing as quickly. That said, what I am referring to is natural progesterone. While natural progesterone has an anticancer effect, synthetic progesterone does not and can actually make cancers more aggressive and deadlier. Further, synthetic progesterone does not activate tumor suppressor gene p53 when it attaches to progesterone receptors. P53 is a repair gene, which protects cells from becoming cancerous.

Toxic Substances Act Like Estrogen

We are bombarded daily with chemicals in the air, our food, and the products we use in our home and on our bodies. These chemicals, also known as xenoestrogens, are considered endocrine or hormone disruptors because they interfere with the production of hormones. They cause wide-ranging damage in the body. For example, bisphenol A (BPA) and bisphenol S (BPS), found in plastics, can liners, cash register receipts and most paper products mimic estrogen and can disrupt multiple hormonal pathways. Unlike our own estrogen, chemical estrogens (xenoestrogens) are particularly harmful. Read more HERE.

Fortunately, there are many natural approaches to ease hormones back into balance and reduce your risk of breast cancer.

Natural Approaches for Balancing Hormones

Let’s take a look at some herbs and natural approaches to balancing hormones.

Phytoestrogens modulate estrogen levels. Phytoestrogens work similarly to tamoxifen, blocking the effects of estrogen in breast tissue.[ii]

They act more like estrogen blockers than like estrogen; they modulate the production, availability, and action of hormones and slow down cell division. This is important as many oncologists illogically warn women to avoid them.

Phytoestrogens bind preferentially to estrogen receptor sites in the body. However, they are 99% weaker than our own natural estrogen, which means that they have very little estrogenic effects in the body. It also means that by binding to the receptors, more aggressive natural estrogen or xenoestrogens from the environment will be less able to bind to the receptors. Therefore, phytoestrogens might limit the negative estrogenic impact of those estrogens. Instead of fueling estrogen-dependent cancers, phytoestrogens tend to reduce the risk of these cancers. Even the NCI (National Cancer Institute) acknowledges that the plant-based hormones may have anticancer effects.[iii]

Meanwhile, if you are post-menopausal with very low estrogen levels, phytoestrogens may help reduce the resulting effects, such as bone loss, eye damage, and heart damage. Soy and flaxseed are two of the most powerful phytoestrogens, but herbs such as red clover, sage, hops, and fenugreek are also helpful.

Soy blocks cancer-promoting estrogens from attaching to the estrogen receptors on breast cells. It has also been shown to stop tumor growth, prevent metastasis, and shut off new blood vessels in growing tumors.  Fermented soy, such as tempeh and miso are preferred over unfermented versions such as tofu. This is because the fermentation process increases free radical scavenging activity and removes the nutrient blocking effect that soy can have—the phytic acid in unfermented soy can block absorption of key minerals such as magnesium and zinc. Soy in a highly processed form (like soy protein isolate or soy protein concentrate) should be avoided as they have the greatest ability to block nutrient absorption. Due to the fact that most soy is genetically altered, it is highly recommended to consume only organic and non-GMO. (My only issue with tempeh is that it is commonly ‘shrink-wrapped’ in plastic’)

 Flaxseed modulates the production, availability, and action of hormones—and does so much more (flax –and sesame seeds– offer anti-cancer lignans which can significantly reduce tumor growth by increasing cell death and decreasing the growth of new blood vessels that allow cancer to advance). As for hormones, the lignans in flax lower the production of estrogen by blocking the aromatase enzyme (similar to aromatase inhibitors) and block the estrogen receptors (similar to Tamoxifen). When lignans are consumed, intestinal bacteria convert them into enterolactone and enterodiol, weak estrogens. They attach to estrogen receptors, stimulate them weakly and block estrogen binding. This prevents estradiol or estrone from attaching to the estrogen receptors and strongly stimulating them, and includes not just the estrogen we produce, but also environmental toxins, thus making breast tissue more resistant to these environmental toxins.  One long-term study reported that relatively high circulating enterolactone levels are associated with lower risk of death after an early-stage breast cancer diagnosis. Please read my articles — Flaxseed: Better Than Tamoxifen and Demystifying Flaxseed and Estrogen.

Licorice root and Vitex (also known a chaste tree berry), focus more on raising progesterone. Progesterone tends to fall sharply as we age and are no longer ovulating. While bio-identical progesterone supplement progesterone directly, licorice root and vitex are thought to lower estrogen levels while simultaneously raising progesterone, thus helping to relieve hormone imbalance and estrogen dominance. (use caution if you have elevated blood pressure)

Combining vitex with stress-reducing adaptogens such as ashwagandha or Schisandra can be helpful as stress tends to lower progesterone. Some people have reported that vitex worsens depression, so discontinue if that happens. (Do not take Schisandra with Tamoxifen).

Red clover can bind weakly to estrogen receptors, standing in for estrogen when levels are low and lowering high estrogen levels, helping to balance the hormones and correct estrogen dominance.

White peony root, something often used in traditional Chinese medicine, also supports progesterone. Black cohosh seems to support healthy estrogen levels not by actually boosting estrogen, but by improving brain-ovary communication and modulating cell receptors. This can help reduces menopausal symptoms and ease depression.

Adaptogens such as maca support hormone balance and may boost libido and mood while decreasing anxiety.

Vitamin E is crucial to maintaining a healthy balance between progesterone and estradiol. Vitamin C plays an important role in preventing the degradation of steroid hormones into toxic and cancer-promoting metabolites. It also regenerates estrone and significantly regenerates progesterone.

Vitamin B6 has been shown to help increase levels of progesterone in the blood naturally. Magnesium is another key nutrient for increasing progesterone levels, as it plays an important role in maintaining a healthy hormonal balance in the body.

Probiotics support gut bacteria and improve digestion, helping to prevent constipation. This is important because when poop remains in the bowel for extended periods of time, excess estrogen is re-absorbed and re-circulated into the bloodstream. Plus, immune function depends on healthy gut microflora—and gut flora effects cancer genes too!

Consume GLA (gamma-linoleic acid), which is found in evening primrose oil and in hemp seeds.  Research shows that this type of omega-6 may support healthy progesterone levels.

Get more sleep—lack of sleep disturbs hormone balance. Try to get to sleep by 10 pm as melatonin production peaks between 10 pm and 2 am. Melatonin stimulates tumor-suppressor genes and counteracts the effects of aggressive estrogens, including xenoestrogens.  Cell phone EMF exposure can suppress the production of melatonin—limit use before bed and do not keep near your bed, and preferably out of your room.

If you are overweight, lose weight. Fat cells increase estrogen production. Increased weight often means insulin resistance and this is a common cause of high estrogen levels. Insulin resistance leads to an up regulation of the aromatase enzyme leading to high estrogen. Plus, over-consumption of calories leads excessive free radical formation. Free radicals damage cells and cause genetic mutations, which ultimately can lead to cancer.

Your Liver and Estrogen

Be sure that your liver and gut are functionally efficiently as estrogen is metabolized in the liver and excreted out of the bowel. Think of your liver as a filter that neutralizes toxic substances so that they can safely be excreted from the body.  By enhancing liver function, more estrogen is broken down in the body, reducing the overall estrogen load.

When the liver and colon have become sluggish due to low thyroid function, stress, and an overburden of toxins, the body cannot break down and remove excess estrogen adequately from the system. The excess unbalanced estrogen gets stored in the fat cells of breast tissues when it is not properly eliminated. Nutrients derived from cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts as well as sulforaphane supplements  help with the detoxification of estrogen through the liver (Read about Sulforaphane HERE)

Supporting the liver with supplements such as N-acetylcysteine (NAC), Milk Thistle, and SAMe can be very helpful. DIM and Indole-3Carbinol,  two other extracts of cruciferous vegetables, can encourage proper metabolism of estrogens in the body and help to clear excesses and xenoestrogens from the system. Dandelion, herbal bitters, artichoke extract, also support the liver in detoxifying, metabolizing, and excreting hormones. Fiber binds to bile (liver’s waste) to support excretion.

For more on detoxification and liver function, please request my Estrogen and Detoxification Handouts or visit the Estrogen Management and Detoxification Sections on my supplement page.

Natural Aromatase Inhibitors:

Pumpkin seeds, button mushrooms, and supplements such as DIM, vitamin K2, calcium d-glucarate, zinc, gingko biloba, and  grapeseed extract (organic please)  are natural aromatase inhibitors. Research done at the State University of New Jersey demonstrated that a 2% concentration of rosemary extract was able to inactivate excess estrogen[iv] Apigenin – found in parsley, celery, and chamomile—is another aromatase inhibitor and is a potent estrogen metabolizing compound.

Read more on Natural Aromatase Inhibitors HERE.

Note: while herbs are powerful, it may take at least 4 months of use to begin to show benefits. Further, herbs can interact with one another or with various medications, so always consult your doctor before use.

Testing: If you are looking to lower your estrogen levels, you may want to test your hormone levels first. You can be low on estrogen and still be estrogen dominant, so it may be important to acquire this information. Also note that it is possible to have ‘normal’ estrogen levels when tested via blood or saliva, but still have high estrogen symptoms.  This can happen if your body is not detoxifying estrogen correctly.

In your everlasting good health,


~~If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any~~

ej portrait 150resElyn Jacobs is a breast cancer survivor and holistic cancer strategist who helps people make healthier, less-toxic choices for their healing. She emphasizes the importance of not just surviving cancer, but surviving well and reducing the risk of recurrence. Elyn specializes in understanding the role of estrogen in breast cancer and debunks the myths associated. She is a Contributing Editor for The Truth About Cancer and is on the Medical Advisory Board for BeatCancer.Org and the Advisory Board to the Radical Remission Project. Elyn has written for numerous journals and publications. She was the former Executive Director of the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation and the creator and host of the Survive and Live Well Radio Show. To contact Elyn, visit http://www.elynjacobs.com. Elyn offers consults via Skype, phone, or in-person. Elyn does not provide online advice.

Elyn Jacobs does not provide medical advice. The information provided is for general information only. No online site should be used as a substitute for personal medical attention.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not a recommendation to forgo medical advice and treatment. This post is not intended to treat, cure, prevent, or diagnose any disease or condition. This post does not represent medical advice nor should it be considered to be medical advice or a replacement for medical advice. I encourage you to discuss this information with your integrative oncologist, naturopathic doctor, or conventional oncologist. The information provided is from my research and not to be taken as scientific evidence.

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Some product links on some posts are affiliate links. This website is monetized in part through the use of affiliate links. This means that if you were to click on a link that is an affiliate link and purchase an item after clicking on that link, I may receive a small percentage of the sales price. I only recommend products that I love and use often. Thank you for your support!

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[i] http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2015/07/08/solving-a-breast-cancer-mystery-why-do-double-positive-women-do-better/


[iii]   https://marylandoncology.com/disease-drug-info/glossary/P/P1080/

[iv] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9806165/

  1. What are your thoughts on L-glutamine

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. I am feeling the severe lack of estrogen in many ways since having ovaries removed, due to breast cancer. Wondering how to help with that now?

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