Posts Tagged ‘phytoestrogens and breast cancer’

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.


~~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

Flaxseed: Better Than Tamoxifen for Breast Cancer

In Alternative Cancer Therapies, Alternatives to Tamoxifen, Breast Cancer, Cancer, Hormone Balance, Tamoxifen, Uncategorized on February 28, 2016 at 5:00 pm

Phytoestrogens such as flax seed are cancer-preventive, not causative. Regular consumption of flax seed helps prevent breast cancer, reduces tumor growth, inhibits the progression of the disease, and dramatically increases survival time.

Your Doctor is Wrong

Many doctors tell their patients to avoid flaxseed as they believe that phytoestrogens are bad for women with breast cancer. The ‘logic’ behind the notion that flax is a weak estrogen and therefore could potentially stimulate hormone dependent cancers is simply, well, not logical. On the contrary, studies have found that the more flaxseed a woman eats, the less likely she will get breast cancer. If she has already been diagnosed, flaxseed has the potential to reduce the growth and invasiveness of her cancer.

While it is true that a high concentration of plasma estrogen is associated with breast cancer, the lignans in flaxseed actually help reduce estrogen’s effects. Phytoestrogens compete with natural estrogen for binding to the receptors on breast cells, yet they exert much milder action than the body’s own estrogen. While the chemotherapy drug tamoxifen also blocks estrogen receptors, it comes with a host of dangerous side effects.

flax vs tamoxifenOne of the other ways the tamoxifen works is by starving the tumor of its blood supply. However, once again, researchers have found that flaxseed provides the same response.

A landmark study led by lignin expert Dr Lilian Thompson, a professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto, showed that just two tablespoons (25 grams) of flaxseed daily can significantly reduce tumor growth. The researchers further concluded that the effect of flaxseed on cancerous cells was comparable to that of tamoxifen, sans the side effects.

In this infamous study, women with newly diagnosed breast cancer were given either a muffin laden with 25 grams of flaxseed  or a placebo muffin that did not contain flax. The researchers found that in those participants who had eaten the flax muffin there was a 34% reduction of the Ki-67 index expression (a cellular marker for proliferation) a 71% decrease in Her2/Neu expression (Her2/neu is a genetic marker that predicts the aggressiveness of the cancer) and a 30.7% increase in apoptosis (cell death).  Mighty impressive results.

When the tumors were removed, the researchers found that the women who had eaten the flax seed muffins had slower-growing tumors than the others. And what is really cool is that the researchers found that the effect of  flax on the cancerous cells was comparable with that seen using chemotherapy (tamoxifen).

Flaxseed inhibits breast cancer whether the tumor is estrogen receptor positive or negative, and the response is dose-dependent. The more flax you consume, the more effective it will be. In fact, one study determined that women who eat the most flax reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by a whopping 62 percent!

 Key Benefits of Flaxseed

  • Decreases cell proliferation rates
  • Significantly reduces tumor growth
  • Decreases angiogenesis and increases apoptosis (which seem to account for the decreased tumor growth)
  • Influences ER-negative and ER-positive tumors by decreasing insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), HER2 and the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) which supports angiogenesis
  • Reduces metastasis of ER-negative breast tumors
  • ALA from flaxseed reduces growth of breast cancer, including ER-negative and triple-negative breast cancer
  • Rich in Omega 3’s with have been found to positively influence the tumor suppressor genes—BRCA. When properly functioning, these genes prevent tumor growth by repairing DNA
  • Radio-protective (consuming flax can help prevent the body from damaging mammograms, radio-therapy, CT and PET scans)

I encourage you to read my post Demystifying Flaxseed and Estrogen for more on flaxseed and breast cancer.

For an excellent discussion on the distortion of the efficacy of tamoxifen, please read Tamoxifen; the Manipulation of Statistics and Natural Solutions to Balance the Hormones.

Some of the studies suggest two tablespoons daily is enough, but others recommend slightly more than three.  Interestingly, the summer before my re-diagnosis, I  cut back on consumption.  This past summer, however, I not only consumed flax — I consumed a great deal of it.  Most days I had 5-8 tablespoons.  I hadn’t originally thought about this when I was considering what, of all the things that I did, turned my cancer around.  Now that I look back, it could very well be that flax was a key player.

So how exactly did I end up eating so much flaxseed?  If you remember my post on Food Fatigue, I suddenly had a hankering for pizza, made with a garbanzo bean crust as I had given up wheat. It wasn’t long before I used that crust to make ‘toast’ to go with my eggs, and before long, I modified that crust to be mostly flax (and some chia seeds too!). Since then I have come up with some amazing recipes, so look for Part II for those.

Clearly oncologists should be advising their patients to eat copious amounts of dietary flax.  I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice, but you might want to consider including flax in your daily diet. Flaxseed is only one of the components of an anti-cancer, estrogen management protocol, but it is an important one.flax grinder

Remember that flaxseed oxidizes quickly, turning it rancid.  To ensure the stability and nutritional value of flax, please grind the seeds just prior to use. This can be easily done in a simple coffee grinder.

If you are interested in learning about natural alternatives to tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors, please contact me for more information.

Click here for Recipes

More Studies and Posts on Flaxseed:










Nothing in this post is intended to be medical advice, nor is it a replacement for medical advice. This information is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, cure, prevent or diagnose any diseases or conditions. Always consult with your medical team before making treatment choices.


~~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 brings a plethora of knowledge to her practice and will help you think outside the box so you can incorporate every lifeline you may need for long term survival. Contact Elyn via her website, www.elynjacobs.com. By doing so you can ascertain exactly how she is able to assist you as you optimize your health. Elyn offers consults via Skype, phone or in person.

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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