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What to Do if You Have Low Estrogen Levels and Your Doctor Prescribes an Aromatase Inhibitor

In Alternative Cancer Therapies, Alternatives to Anti-Hormone Therapy For Breast Cancer, Alternatives to Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer, Alternatives to Tamoxifen, Anticancer foods, foods for colon cancer, foods for breast cancer, Boosting Estrogen, BPA and breast cancer, Breast Cancer, Natural Aromatase Inhibitors, Uncategorized on May 17, 2018 at 9:00 am

Despite the fact that estrogen is essential for both quality and quantity of life, aromatase inhibitors (AIs) are regularly prescribed to most post-menopausal women with estrogen-sensitive breast cancer — even if they have low estrogen levels. AIs are associated with numerous life-challenging issues such as heart damage, osteoporosis, musculoskeletal symptoms, and increased risk of bone fracture. AI treatment reduces nearly all circulating estrogen which exacerbates post-menopausal symptoms and increases mortality.

Most of my post-menopause clients have VERY LOW ESTROGEN LEVELS. This is important to note as the last thing they need is even lower estrogen levels. Many, in fact, have low estrogen across the board (meaning the pro-cancer as well as protective estrogens). Often they have low progesterone as well, so their hormones are actually in balance, offering protection against breast cancer.  (While progesterone, in most cases, is protective, it is good to be balanced). However, low hormone levels leave these women with unpleasant symptoms and an increased risk of debilitating and life-threatening issues. Plus, when I look further at their labs they often even have favorable estrogen metabolism, which is also associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer. (More on estrogen metabolism in a pending post). It simply makes no sense to block the production of estrogen in most post-menopausal women even if they have breast cancer. (For more information on why aromatase inhibitors may not be right for you, please read: Why You May Want to Reconsider Estrogen-Blocking Aromatase Inhibitors and Tamoxifen).

So, what can you do if you have estrogen-receptor positive breast cancer? First of all, it is important to resolve the real reason for the cancer. Estrogen may feed it, but does not really cause it. Environmental toxins, emotional trauma, and viruses such as Epstein-Barr are some of the most common triggers. Lowering estrogen with a harmful drug will not resolve any of these issues and may be detrimental to your health. If you have high estrogen, there are natural alternatives to AIs; please read: Natural Alternatives to Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer. If you have low estrogen or even if you don’t, read on:

Estrogen is Essential

We need estrogen for aiding in the prevention of heart disease and for strong, healthy bones. In fact, estrogen is essential to the health of all parts of your body, from your eyes to your heart to your brain to everywhere else.  Estrogen also increases insulin sensitivity and is protective against diabetes.

In general, estrogens are not always bad, and some are even protective, particularly Estriol (E3).  True, Estradiol (E2) can stimulate cancer cell proliferation, but not when opposed by sufficient progesterone. Keeping one’s progesterone levels up will offset your own more aggressive Estradiol. Sad that most doctors do not order hormone panels prior to subjecting patients to aromatase inhibitors.

Xenoestrogens (chemical estrogens), however,  should always be avoided. Xenoestrogens are chemicals that mimic natural estrogen compounds. They are close enough in molecular structure to estrogen that they can bind to estrogen receptor sites and stimulate proliferation of human breast cancer cells. Some examples of xenoestrogens are BPA (bisphenol A), found in plastics, paper products, cash register receipts, plant pesticides, and can linings, and parabens, which are found in many personal care products, cleaning products, and scented candles.

Boosting Estrogen

If you have low estrogen and would like to increase it, consider consuming more flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, and other phytoestrogens (plant estrogens). Phytoestrogens are plant derivatives that have a similar structure to estrogen and can bind to the estrogen receptor sites. They are weaker endogenous estrogens and, through competitive inhibition, can prevent the receptor binding of more potent estrogens. These will not raise your risk of breast cancer, and can actually lower it.

Importantly, research conducted by the Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University indicated that eating plant-based foods that contain phytoestrogens may  help women raise estrogen levels, relieving symptoms of low estrogen.[i]

herbs Estrogen

The increased cancer risk associated with anti-hormone therapies has encouraged many women to seek non-hormonal alternatives. Many foods, such as herbs, grains, vegetables and fruits provide compounds with estrogen-like effects.  Below is a list of some plant-estrogens you may wish to add to your diet:

  • Seeds such as flax, pumpkin, poppy, sunflower, and sesame
  • Apricots, oranges, strawberries, peaches, many dried fruits
  • Yams, carrots, alfalfa sprouts, kale, celery
  • Soy foods such as tempeh, tofu, miso soup, and soy yogurt (all soy should be organic and with no sugar added).
  • Dark rye bread
  • Lentils, peas, lima beans, pinto beans
  • Olives and olive oil
  • Chickpeas
  • Fresh herbs, such as parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme
  • Licorice root*

 

Here’s what you really need to know. Estrogenic cancers can be managed with a sensible diet and lifestyle changes. Drugs are not necessary to manage estrogen, and in fact will often fail for many reasons, as addressed in the links below. What women with breast cancer are rarely told is that in lieu of taking harmful medication (which creates its own set of problems and serious side effects), they can adapt diet and lifestyle strategies which can effectively reduce high levels of the antagonistic estrogen, estradiol.

If you still suffer from low-estrogen symptoms despite a change in diet or other lifestyle activities, then you may want to consider bio-identical hormones or an inexpensive paraben-free estriol cream.

*I want to highlight one phytoestrogen that seems to worry many women with breast cancer–licorice root. There is no cause for alarm. In fact, licorice root has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antiangiogenetic (meaning it inhibits cancer cells from generating their own blood vessels), and other anti-cancer properties. Licorice root is toxic to human cancer cells, but not to healthy cells. It also promotes an increase in progesterone by inhibiting the enzyme necessary for its breakdown, which helps to block the cancerous activity of estradiol, the most potent form of estrogen created within the body. Further, it is an adaptogenic herb, so if your estrogen is too low, it will increase it, and if it is too high, it will bring it down.  Licorice root tea is a delicious way to enjoy this herb. It is not advised to take licorice root during pregnancy or for those with high blood pressure, or for extended periods of time unless under the direction of a professional. Use of any medicinal herb should always be done under the direction of a knowledgeable physician or professional.

You may also wish to read:

Why You May Want to Reconsider Estrogen-Blocking Aromatase Inhibitors and Tamoxifen

Natural Alternatives to Hormone Therapy for Breast Cancer

Vitamin D Better than Aromatase Inhibitors

Natural Alternatives to Tamoxifen

Natural Alternative to Aromatase Inhibitors

Why Aromatase Inhibitors Fail Women

You may wish to read my articles on flaxseed:

Demystifying Flaxseed and Estrogen 

Flaxseed: Better Than Tamoxifen for Breast Cancer

Flaxseed: The Anti-Cancer Power Seed

To read about one of the major contributors to most cancers, please read this article on Epstein-Barr and Cancer.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not a recommendation to forgo anti-hormone therapy. It 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 and make your own decisions.  The information provided is from my research and not to be taken as scientific evidence.

Elyn

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

Elyn Jacobs is a breast cancer survivor and holistic cancer strategist who helps people make better, healthier, non-toxic choices. She emphasizes the critical nature of addressing the root cause of cancer and not just its presenting symptoms (such as the tumor). 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 was creator and host of the Survive and Live Well Radio Show on the Cancer Support Network. Elyn is on the Medical Advisory Board for BeatCancer.Org and is on the Advisory Board to the Radical Remission Project. Elyn was the former Executive Director of the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. Contact Elyn via her website. Elyn offers consults via Skype, phone or in person.

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[i] https://www.aao.org/eyenet/article/watch-ocular-effects-of-breast-cancer-drugs

[i] http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/lignans

BPA: The Bathroom Toxin that Fuels Breast Cancer

In BPA and breast cancer, Breast Cancer, Inflammatory Breast Cancer on October 9, 2017 at 6:08 pm

Most people worry about the BPA (bisphenol A) in plastic water bottles, but did you know that this dangerous chemical is in your toilet paper? Even the ‘greenest’ toilet paper you find in your health food store is contaminated.

BPA is also found on cash register receipts, paper napkins and towels, copy paper, in dental fillings, and more.  Remember how years ago the registers at the grocery store would always jam? The addition of BPA made things go much smoother (and helped stabilize the ink), and that is the same for toilet paper and other paper products.

Why the fuss?  Studies show that BPA and other endocrine disrupting chemicals help promote the development of breast cancer tumors through the proliferation of estrogen receptor (ER)-positive human breast cancer cells. BPA mimics estrogen, and understanding the effects of it has helped scientists and researchers to understand how cell proliferation happens in an estrogen independent manner. In other words, once again I remind you that the estrogens your body makes cannot always be blamed for your cancer—but that is a whole other topic.  Chemical toxins must be acknowledged and addressed.

Importantly, for those who choose conventional treatments, BPA has been found to prevent chemotherapy drugs from inducing apoptosis (cancer cell death) in breast cancer cells — hence, rendering them rather ineffective.[i]

Furthermore, BPA appears to aid the survival of inflammatory breast cancer cells, the most lethal and fastest-growing form of breast cancer. A recent study performed by researchers at the Department of Surgery at Duke University School of Medicine and the Duke Cancer Institute found that BPA increases the cell signaling pathway MAPK (mitogen-activated protein kinases) in inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) cells. This offers valuable insight as to how the disease grows. Plus, the presence of BPA may actually lead to resistance to cancer drugs targeting this pathway, which helps explain why conventional medicine is so often ineffective against IBC. (See also the note on this below).

The researchers also found that BPA inhibits the efforts of cancer drugs that normally work to kill IBC cancer cells by inhibiting EGFR signaling. They determined that when the cells were tainted with BPA, EGFR (epidermal growth factor receptor) activation nearly doubled and signaling to the MAPK pathways also increased. The result was a rise in cancer cell growth.

Despite efforts to find a safer alternative to BPA, so far not so good. One substance, BPS (Bisphenol S) also acts like estrogen in breast cancer cells. A study done on the effects of BPS found that not only did BPS induce the proliferation of breast cancer cells, but may also cause breast cancer to be more aggressive.  That study also found that those who have the BRAC1 mutated gene and are exposed to BPS may have an even greater risk of developing breast cancer.

What can you do? Fortunately, BPA can be flushed out of the body in about a day or so—assuming you do not expose yourself in the meantime. BPA is metabolized rather quickly, but that doesn’t make it any less dangerous. Further, if you have impaired detoxification, say from the MTHFR or other mutation (or just an over-worked liver), you may not metabolize toxins as efficiently.  Here are a few tips for extracting and excreting BPA:

  • Consume probiotics, whether in supplement or fermented food form (kimchi, natural sauerkraut, etc.)
  • Drink black tea
  • Consider brisk exercise and saunas
  • Consume quercetin, found in apples, red grapes, tea, and onions, as well as in supplement form
  • Get adequate folate from foods or supplements (not folic acid, which is toxic)
  • Take royal jelly
  • Maximize melatonin (get to bed by ten or take a low-dose supplement)

Importantly, while curcumin does not necessarily flush BPA out, it does inhibit the proliferative effects of BPA on human breast cancer cells. Treatment with curcumin, a miR-19 inhibitor (miR-19 is  involved in BPA-mediated MCF-7 cell proliferation), leads to suppression of proliferation, growth, and invasion/metastasis of cancer cells. Sadly, most oncologists tell their patients not to take supplements, including curcumin, during treatment.

I also recommend overall detoxification strategies. If you would like a copy of my Estrogen and Detoxification Handouts, you can order them via my Contact Page.

So now that you are BPA free, how can you further avoid exposure?

Keep in mind that breast cancer rates have soared in the last 50 years.  Not coincidentally, the replacement of glass and cotton items with plastic and other chemical laden products has also soared—the connection is clear. Give a few of these suggestions a try:

  • Use glass or stainless-steel containers for water and storage. Again, BPA-free alternatives my not be any better, and could be worse.
  • Use cotton cloth napkins and kitchen towels instead of paper napkins and paper towels.
  • Cut up old cotton tee shirts, towels, bed sheets, and diapers to make disposable or washable toilet paper sheets. Place a diaper pail or washable waste can next to the toilet.  When you run a hot wash, toss them in. (Your mother managed, so can you).
  • Pee in the shower. It’s not as grody as it sounds. Pee as soon as you get in, and by time you soap up and shave, all will be fine.
  • Buy cotton hankies to blow your nose.
  • And of course, never, ever touch cash register receipts. Simply decline them, or wear disposable gloves. You may also want to discuss this with your merchant for their protection as well. Many stores have made changes because of this.

Elyn

~~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 better, healthier, non-toxic choices. She emphasizes the critical nature of addressing the root cause of cancer and not just its presenting symptoms (such as the tumor). 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 was creator and host of the Survive and Live Well Radio Show on the Cancer Support Network. Elyn is on the Medical Advisory Board for BeatCancer.Org and is on the Advisory Board to the Radical Remission Project. Elyn was the former Executive Director of the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. Contact Elyn via her website. Elyn offers consults via Skype, phone or in person.

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[i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2649250/

Other resources:

Science Daily

Science Daily

 

Note: IBC, an aggressive, metastasis-associated, therapy resistant type of breast cancer, is often resistant to radio-therapy and may actually progress with chemotherapy.

  1. Creighton CJ, Li X, Landis M, et al. Residual breast cancers after conventional therapy display mesenchymal as well as tumor-initiating features. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2009;106:13820-13825.