Posts Tagged ‘Flaxseed and Estrogen’

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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[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/

Demystifying Flaxseed and Estrogen

In Uncategorized on June 23, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Flaxseed, the tiny plant with powerful anticancer properties—why are people so afraid of it?  Breast cancer is thought to be a hormonal disease.  This means that a hormone may cause cancer to develop by encouraging cells to grow and divide; therefore the mere mention of the word estrogen strikes fear in many.  Although the conventional medical community identifies all estrogens, including phytoestrogens, as carcinogenic and surely to be feared, plant estrogens may actually reduce estrogen activity in the body. In fact, phytoestrogens are not really estrogens, they are anti-estrogens. Plant estrogens protect us from the stronger estrogens our bodies produce as well as the xenoestrogens found in environmental chemicals—they actually contain compounds that have been shown to reduce the growth and spread of cancer cells. Flax, being a phytoestrogen, is simply misunderstood.

flax on blue

What we know:

Phytoestrogens such as flax act more like estrogen blockers than like estrogen; flax helps modulate the production, availability, and action of 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–and experts now believe that flaxseed may work even better than Tamoxifen, with side benefits not side effects). When lignans are consumed, intestinal bacteria convert them into enterolactone and enterodiol. 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.

Think of it this way.  If you flood your system with phytoestrogens such as flax, they have the opportunity to block the receptors and only weakly stimulate cell proliferation.  While estrogen may cause 1000 cells to divide, phytoestrogens cause only one cell to divide.  Further, because compounds in flaxseed act as weak estrogen imitators, your body reacts by decreasing its production of estrogen. If you have too much estrogen, you may see your estrogen levels drop when you eat flaxseed. Additionally, the estrogens that your body naturally manufactures may be a less active form.

Flax also increases programmed cell death (apoptosis), prevents new blood vessels from growing into tumors, decreases hot flashes, decreases HER2 expression (HER2 leads to growth factor signaling pathways that play a role in cell proliferation, differentiation, apoptosis and metastasis), decreases breast cancer proliferation, reduces tumor growth and protects against radiation damage–flaxseed may play a role in mitigating and protecting other healthy tissues and organs before exposure to radiation from x-rays and CT scans, and significantly reduces damage even after exposure.

Women who consume 25 grams of ground flaxseed per day showed decreased tumor cell proliferation (up to 30%), decreased HER2 expression (up to 70%) and increased apoptosis.  Flaxseed can inhibit the growth of both estrogen receptor positive and negative breast cancer cells.  It also reduced metastasis of ER negative breast tumors.  Decreased cell proliferation rates, decreased angiogenesis and increased apoptosis seem to account for the decrease.

But there is more…..

Flaxseed is a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids.  Research has found that women who eat the highest amounts of omega-3’s have the lowest risk of breast cancer.  Omega-3’s have been found to help shrink breast tumors and prevent them from spreading to other parts of the body.  Omega’s also help calm inflammation and decrease the rate at which breast cells divide in response to estrogen.

What some others have to say about flax:

In Confirmed: Flaxseed Contains ‘Estrogens’ That Regress Cancer,  Sayer Ji reports on how dietary flaxseed has the potential to reduce tumor growth in patients with breast cancer.  As reported by Dr Michael Greger in Flax and Breast Cancer Survival , flaxseeds appear to have the potential to reduce tumor growth in just a matter of weeks and can help to increase survival.  In this article, Greger speaks of the first side by side study comparing Tamoxifen to flaxseed to effectively starve tumors of their blood supply. One of the ways the chemotherapy drug Tamoxifen works is by boosting the levels of angiogenesis inhibitors like endostatin, which is a protein the body makes to try to starve tumors of their blood supply. In the study they gave women tamoxifen for 6 weeks; the levels of endostatin within the breast tended to go up, but the same thing happened when they added three and a half tablespoons of ground flaxseeds to their daily diet. This is exciting news and further supports embracing nature in the management of cancer. Please read the article for more studies.

MSKCC agrees that Flaxseed inhibits the growth and metastasis of breast and other cancers and can lower tumor biomarkers, and can reduce radiation therapy-induced lung damage and increase survival. Of course, I would like them to rethink the contraindication warning that patients with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer should consume flax with caution as this makes no sense, but then perhaps they are cautious of conflict of interest.

You will also find an in-depth discussion on flax in Dr Christine Horner’s book, Waking the Warrior Goddess, Third Edition: Dr. Christine Horner’s Program to Protect Against & Fight Breast Cancer.

Embracing Flax:

Flaxseed is easy to eat. While flaxseed oil should not be heated because it can easily oxidize, heating flaxseeds does not measurably change the nutritional content.  Grind the seeds and bake them in muffins or add them to your cereal; add them to your smoothie. Aim for 2-4Tbs freshly ground daily.  Freshly ground is important to avoid oxidation and in order for your body to digest and utilize flaxseeds, they must first be ground. Need a new idea?  Make some oatmeal flax pancakes. Hemp seeds have gamma-linolenic acid, a powerful anti-inflammatory. They also offer all of the nine essential amino acids your body can’t make on its own, maybe add some chia seeds as well. Still don’t see yourself eating flaxseed daily or travel frequently?  Try a supplement: Brevail Proactive Breast Health Capsules, 30-Count Box.  While not a perfect solution, it is an option.

oatmeal flax pancakes with blueberries

Oatmeal Flax Pancakes

  • ¼ cup organic oats (whole or pulsed lightly)
  • ¼ cup flaxseeds (freshly ground)
  • 1 organic egg
  • 5 Tbs almond milk or milk of your choice
  • ¼ tsp baking powder (aluminum free), optional
  • Dash salt, optional
  • ½ tsp cinnamon (cinnamon is known to inhibit the formation of new vessels within the body as well as reduce the growth of tumors, and helps to manage blood sugar levels)
  • Dash of cloves and nutmeg (heavy dash of the cloves as they have strong anticancer benefits and nutmeg is anti-inflammatory)
  • Splash of vanilla
  • Small handful of walnuts
  • Dash of stevia (optional)
  • 1 small ripe banana, sliced
  • Butter or coconut oil for cooking

Grind walnuts (if using) with Flaxseed.  Stir into oats.  Add remaining ingredients except butter,  slightly mashing banana (if using).

Note: If you eat whey powder, add one tablespoon vanilla whey and omit the vanilla and stevia (whey boosts glutathione levels; for more information, click here.)

Warm pan with butter.   Spoon batter into pan, making thick pancakes.  Yield, 2 large or 4 small.

Serve with fresh berries, honey (try buckwheat honey), or topping of your choice.

I never overlook an opportunity to allow nature to heal; flaxseed is proving to be one such powerful agent to embrace for breast cancer management and survival.  Never sacrifice health for the sake of a cure (old Ayurvedic principle). Treatments should not create imbalances or disease. As we learned during my show with Peter Gotsche (Deadly Medicines and Organized crime-what you need to know about prescription drugs and your health) prescriptions drugs are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer, and most come with the risk of potentially toxic side effects and contribute to further disease, not wellness; drugs do not cure imbalances, they create them. Anytime you can find a natural substance that works as well or better than a pharmaceutical drug, go for it.

While a comprehensive anticancer plan is beyond the scope of this post, there is much we can do to support the body against cancer; flaxseed is just one very important part of the puzzle, and estrogen is not the main culprit.  Endnote…estrogen is our friend, not our enemy, it’s all about balance, metabolism and management.

Part of knowing your options is speaking with the experts who offer more than just the standard of care. How to find them?  Visit my guide to Integrative Oncologists and Naturopathic Doctors or schedule a consult to learn more. Click here for more information on Natural Alternatives to Tamoxifen.

Find whole flax seed at your local market or health food store or find it here: Bob’s Red Mill Golden Flaxseed, 24-Ounce Bags (Pack of 4).  If you cannot eat flax, consider a flaxseed supplement: NuLignan 90t or  Brevail .

For more on the benefits of Flax:

Flax and Breast Cancer Survival

Chia Seed: The New Superfood

Natural Alternatives to Tamoxifen: Interview with Elyn Jacobs

Flaxseed Can Prevent And Kill Breast Cancer, Meta-Analysis Reveals

Confirmed: Flaxseed Contains ‘Estrogens’ That Regress Cancer


This article was also printed in my column, Options For Life in the Natural Healing, Natural Wellness magazine, Summer 2014


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

Elyn Jacobs is a breast cancer survivor, professional cancer strategist, speaker, and the Executive Director for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. Elyn empowers women to choose the path for treatment that best fits their own individual needs. She is passionate about helping others move forward into a life of health and well-being. Elyn has been featured on CNN Money, Talk About Health, and Breast Cancer Answers and has written for the Pink Paper, Breast Cancer Wellness, Integrative Oncology Essentials, Surviving Beautifully, Body Local and more, and writes the Options for Life column for the Natural Healing-Natural Wellness Magazine. Elyn hosts the Survive and Live Well Radio Show on the Cancer Support Network. Elyn lives in New York with her husband and two young boys. https://elynjacobs.wordpress.com/about/

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