Category Archives: Aromatase Inhibitors

Searching for Tamoxifen Alternatives?

Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / stockimages
Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / stockimages

Searching for Tamoxifen Alternatives?

One of the most searched phrases on the Internet for women fighting breast cancer is “tamoxifen alternatives”.

For those of you who have been prescribed the estrogen blocking drug Tamoxifen because your breast tumor had estrogen receptors on it, one of the first things you undoubtedly did was Google something like “Tamoxifen side effects”. And what you read scared you, with good reason. The list of side effects, as well as women complaining about those side effects, is pretty darned long.

When I was going through breast cancer in 2004, I was prescribed Tamoxifen as well, even though I didn’t have an estrogen-receptor-positive tumor – mine was progesterone-receptor positive (which in itself is odd, nobody knew quite what to do with me). I couldn’t see how blocking my body’s estrogen was going to help that situation and all my doctors could say in response was to mumble something about “well, it may have some therapeutic benefit anyway.” I found that hard to believe, especially after I learned a few things about it – and back in 2004 there was nowhere NEAR the amount of research available, or chat rooms, or online support groups, that we have available to us now. What I did find was pretty distressing, so I refused Tamoxifen. Then I went in search of other, better things I could do to support my health, well-being and ability to stay healthy. I will share some of those things later in this article.

Those Pesky Side Effects

As a breast cancer coach I am in regular contact with women who took Tamoxifen and some of the other inhibitors like Femara, Arimidex, Aromasin and Evista. With the rare exception, everyone complains about the side effects. Apparently only a small percentage of women taking the drug do NOT have any side effects.

What are some of the most common side effects? Here’s a partial list (and inside the parentheses are comments made to me by others taking these drugs): joint pain, muscle pain, bone pain, joint stiffness, feelings of arthritis (“I felt like I was 85 years old on this drug!”), hot flashes (“You could fry an egg on my head!”), leg cramps, vaginal dryness (“It’s a desert down there!”), tiredness, anxiety, depression (“I felt like killing myself”), vision changes, uterine lining abnormalities (“I had to have a hysterectomy.”), insomnia, weight gain, loss of mental acuity (“I couldn’t think straight while taking it.”), hair thinning and, most worryingly, unexplained blood clots.

And we MIGHT be prepared to put up with some of those side effects if the drug actually worked well. I don’t know what the statistics are, but what I am discovering with my clients is that many of the women who took this drug still had recurrences of breast cancer, despite putting up with the side effects and toxicity. I hear this all the time! Now we also are finding out that some women don’t metabolize them well.

What Does the Research Tell Us?

Plenty of studies have been done on Tamoxifen, far too numerous to list here. Several studies have established that there is an increased incidence of endometrial cancer among women taking Tamoxifen [1], [2]. In 1993, British researchers found that Tamoxifen administered to rats induced liver cancer and several subsequent studies confirmed those findings. [3] In other animal studies (again there have been many of them) Tamoxifen caused all sorts of reproductive organ cancers including testes, uterine, cervical, and vaginal cancers. In 2000, one researcher found that a key metabolite of Tamoxifen is mutagenic (DNA damaging) when particular conditions for its metabolism are met. Those conditions are discussed at length (if you can wade through the terminology) in the research paper listed at [4]. Notably, this researcher stated: “tamoxifen presents something of a problem in the arena of regulatory testing of pharmaceuticals for genetic toxicity: negative in the battery of short-term tests, but demonstrably genotoxic (and carcinogenic) in vivo.” (In vivo means inside a living body, either animal or human, not just a test tube.)

Of course, there do exist numerous studies which indicate Tamoxifen saves lives. Indeed one recent Lancet study [5] (funded in part by the pharmaceutial company making the drug) indicated that taking it for up to ten years substantially reduces breast cancer recurrence. We all heard about that not so long ago. However, all is not what it seems. I will point you to my learned friend, Sayer Ji, of GreenMedInfo.com, who has spent some time with the facts and figures on Tamoxifen, which culminated in his 2012 comment on this research: Tamoxifen: Praised As “Life Saving” But Still Causing Cancer.

It’s clear that the medical establishment believes that Lancet study because Tamoxifen continues to be one of the most-prescribed drugs for hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer. It irritates me that they remain stubbornly blind to the fact that natural medicine has many wonderful (and side-effect free) ways to stay well that can both help to prevent and also to treat cancer safely.

For those in the natural medicine arena, the bottom line is still what we see out there in the trenches – the terrible side effects from these drugs, the fact that so many women taking it are still having recurrences, and the fact that it is classed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the State of California as a human carcinogen.

So What Should an Empowered Survivor Do?

I can share with you what I did and what I am teaching others to do.

First of all, I disagree that our body’s own estrogen (a hormone we both want and need in our bodies) is causing breast cancer. If that were truly the reason, it seems to me that breast cancer would have been a problem since ancient times and it has only really become the huge problem that it is in recent decades, with the advance of processed foods, chemically-laden body products and cosmetics, environmental toxins and rising stress levels. Breast cancer is a multi-factorial disease and must be addressed on many other levels, not just hormonal. The medical establishment seems to be totally focused on the presence of estrogen receptors on breast cancer tumors. Of course they are there, estrogen plays a huge part in breast health. But complicating the problem is that there are synthetic estrogens in our body products, our drinking water, our cosmetics, our environment — they are coming at us from all directions – and I believe these synthetic estrogens, termed xenoestrogens, are just part of what is making us sick. For more about xenoestrogens, see my articles Protect Yourself From Xenoestrogens and Estrogen Dominance and Unraveling the Mystery of Xenoestrogens and Estrogen Dominance.

So my plan involved, firstly, detoxing my household of chemicals. I got rid of all that crap and began using only natural, organic products. If I couldn’t find them, I made them myself.

I began using some very particular essential oils, massaging them, undiluted, into my breast tissue on a daily basis. See my page Essential Oils for Overall Health and Specific Health Problems for a list of the oils I use.

I had my husband fit a filtration system to the kitchen sink and filtered the drinking water. I also had him install a shower filter.

I began buying only organic produce and when I couldn’t get it organically grown, I either learned how to grow it myself or washed the hell out of it (for things I really wanted/needed) or avoided it completely (I mean who really needs a rutabaga?).

I began working on building up my immune system. Here’s my page on how to do that:  8 Ways To Build a Super Strong Immune System.

I found out which supplements really made a difference in breast cancer and I discovered which foods had real research on them indicating they had anti-cancer activity and began eating those foods. Lots of them! See my page Diet and Cancer.

I got my hormone levels checked periodically. Even though I don’t believe our body’s own estrogen causes breast cancer, it made sense to me to keep an eye on things. When necessary, I use a natural wild yam cream trans-dermally to boost progesterone levels and I take certain supplements that contain wild yam and other things for breast health.

I also got my vitamin D levels checked periodically. When low, I take supplements. See my article: Why Vitamin D is So Important for Breast Health.

I amped up my exercise after reading a study called The Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) study [6]. It involved 1,500 women from 1991-2000 who had early stage breast cancer. It found that women who ate plenty of vegetables and fruit every day as well as got regular physical activity were nearly 50 percent less likely to die. So I began getting more regular exercise (in addition to all those lovely plant based foods)!

I learned meditation, because I felt very strongly that a long period of badly managed stress was what undermined my immune system to such a degree that it let cancer in the door. I even created a downloadable how-to-meditate course to help others who don’t have access to meditation classes like I did. Here’s the link: Change Your Life Meditation Course

I learned how to improve my sleep because I found out that bad sleep also undermines the immune system, messes with your hormones and just generally makes you feel crappy. See my page about that: Want To Sleep Better?

I also learned how to do cleanses. A yearly or twice yearly bowel and liver cleanse is one of the best ways to get toxins and xenoestrogens out of your body and keep things running beautifully.

I am still well, healthy and here to tell the story.

References:

[1] Endometrial Cancer in Tamoxifen-Treated Breast Cancer Patients: Findings From the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) B-14 – http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/86/7/527.abstract?ijkey=f6e51d3ed6a435030236801eb63df2f1c9279a5d&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha

[2] Risk and Prognosis of Endometrial Cancer after Tamoxifen for Breast Cancer. Comprehensive Cancer Centres’ ALERT Group. Assessment of Liver and Endometrial cancer Risk following Tamoxifen – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11036892

[3] Two-year Carcinogenicity Study of Tamoxifen in Alderley Park Wistar-derived Rats – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8358718

[4] Understanding the Genotoxicity of Tamoxifen? http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/22/6/839.full#content-block

[5] Long-term Effects of Continuing Adjuvant Tamoxifen to 10 Years Versus Stopping at 5 Years after Diagnosis of Oestrogen Receptor-positive Breast Cancer: ATLAS, a randomised trial – http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2812%2961963-1/abstract

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

What Is Aromatase And Why Inhibit It?

http://MarnieClark.com/What-Is-Aromatase-And-Why-Inhibit-It

What Is Aromatase And Why Inhibit It?

One of the pages of my website that is visited a lot is 18 Natural Aromatase Inhibitors and I suspect the reason for this is that people with hormone-driven breast cancer, known as estrogen-receptor-positive (or ER+) breast cancer, are being prescribed drugs known as aromatase inhibitors. There is a lot of interest in using natural medicine and nutrients to do this job. So what is aromatase and why would we want to inhibit it?

What Is Aromatase?

Aromatase, also known as estrogen synthetase, is an enzyme that is responsible for the synthesis of the hormone estrogen in the body.  Aromatase plays a key role in the conversion of testosterone and androstenedione to various forms of estrogen (see diagram above). You can see that aromatase is required for the conversion to take place.  Aromatase is located in special cells in the ovaries, adrenal glands, testicles, placenta, fat cells and the brain.

Why Inhibit Aromatase?

In the search for drugs that will offer people the best chance of living without breast cancer recurrence, science offers us aromatase inhibitors (AIs).

Two approaches have been developed to reduce the growth-stimulatory effects of estrogen in ER+ breast cancer:

1.  Interfering with the ability of estrogen to bind to its receptor
2.  Decreasing circulating levels of estrogen

AIs are unable to stop ovaries from creating estrogen, however, so AIs are generally only offered to postmenopausal women.

Three Aromatase Inhibiting Drugs

There are currently three main aromatase inhibiting drugs:

letrozole – Femara, made by Novartis
anastrozole – Arimidex, made by Astra-Zeneca
exemestane – Aromasin, made by Pfizer

Exemestane (Aromasin) was approved by the United States Food & Drug Administration for those who have already been treated with tamoxifen.  The other two drugs, letrozole (Femara) and anastrozole (Arimidex), have been approved as either first-line treatment without prior use of  tamoxifen or for use following tamoxifen treatment.

The Problem Is… Those Awful Side Effects

As with many pharmaceutical drugs, there are side effects associated with taking AIs. Estrogen plays a huge part in a woman’s wellness and depriving our bodies of its effects can have some fairly serious complications.

In 2008, Breast Cancer Action, an education and advocacy organization dedicated to supporting people living with breast cancer, released a report entitled Side Effects Revisited: Women’s Experiences With Aromatase Inhibitors 1. BCA sent out a survey to 1,199 women taking aromatase inhibitors to discover what some of the side effects were and how debilitating they might be. See the results of the study at reference 1 below.  In particular see Table 3 on page 7.

The most common side effects  were pain, particularly joint pain, stiffness, and arthritis but other common side effects included hot flashes, bone pain, muscle pain, tiredness, insomnia, weight gain, loss of mental acuity, anxiety, depression and hair thinning. Only 2.3% of women reported they experienced NO side effects. If you are considering taking AIs, you owe it to yourself to read this report.

Estrogen is Important

Estrogen is a hormone we need in our bodies. Outside of its huge role in reproduction, estrogen also exerts major effects on the health of our bones. It works closely together with vitamin D and minerals to build and maintain our bones. All aromatase inhibitors moderately enhance bone loss. 2

Estrogen is also necessary for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and offers protective benefits by increasing triglyceride concentrations in the bloodstream, which helps to guard against atherosclerosis.

Remember reading that some of the side effects of the AI drugs is loss of mental acuity? That’s because estrogen is very involved in brain health. It plays a role in memory retention, increasing serotonin levels, production of endorphins, and it even has a protective effect for nerves.

There are also estrogen receptors in the eyes, and vision changes are often one of the side effects people complain about after taking AIs.

Natural Medicine Approach

When we inhibit the biosynthesis of estrogen in every tissue of the body, no wonder the side effects are so life altering. Is it worth it? Are AIs really helping to keep recurrences at bay? Or are we suffering these side effects and still having recurrences?

Studies indicate that AIs are helping to keep recurrences at bay.  A 2005 study, Aromatase Inhibitors in the Treatment of Breast Cancer 3 indicates that the above three drugs are very effective, in vivo (meaning in the body) inhibition of whole-body aromatization ranged between 96.7% – 98.9%.  Most oncologists feel that AIs are the most effective hormonal therapy available for post-menopausal women.

But those side effects are very real and for many women, unendurable. These drugs are toxic to the body and could have repercussions down the line that we have no idea about because they have only been used since about 2000.

As a breast cancer coach, I can tell you that I am in contact with quite a few women who have taken these drugs and still suffered with recurrences and while I don’t possess statistical data, I can tell you that it does happen, all too frequently. No, it won’t happen for everyone, obviously, but I do believe there is a much better way to move forward.

Within the archives of this website you will no doubt read my words “it’s not all about estrogen” several times. What I mean by that is that having breast cancer, even ER+ breast cancer, is not all about having an overabundance of estrogen floating through our bodies. Cancer is a multi-factorial disease, with genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors interacting to create the havoc that cancer can be.

Natural medicine offers other ways of dealing with this problem, for instance:
1.  Looking into why estrogen levels are high in the first place and then managing that. Is it the body’s own estrogen, or is it an overabundance of xenoestrogens?
2. What is the patient’s diet like?
3.  What factors in the patient’s life may have contributed to the development of breast cancer?
4. What kind of stress was the patient under prior to diagnosis?
5.  What is the status of the patient’s immune system? What can we do to support it?
6.  What therapies has the patient already undergone to address the cancer? (Knowing this helps to establish the level of toxicity present.)
7.  What natural foods and supplements can assist the patient with blocking aromatase if that proves necessary?

These are just some of the questions a natural medicine practitioner will ask, looking at the patient as a whole and not just treating one small aspect of the disease.

References:
1. Side Effects Revisited: Women’s Experiences With Aromatase Inhibitors –http://bcaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/AI-Report-June-2008-Final-ONLINE.pdf

2. The potency and clinical efficacy of aromatase inhibitors across the breast cancer continuum – http://annonc.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2010/07/08/annonc.mdq337.full

3. Aromatase Inhibitors in the Treatment of Breast Cancer – http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.327.1025&rep=rep1&type=pdf

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right. You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates. I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.


Disclaimer: The information provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or other health care professional. You should not use the information on this site for diagnosis or treatment of any health problem and please be sure to consult your chosen health care professional when making decisions about your health.

The Best Benefits Of Chia Seeds For Breast Cancer

http://MarnieClark.com/The-Best-Benefits-Of-Chia-Seeds-For-Breast-CancerThe Best Benefits Of Chia Seeds For Breast Cancer

Since it’s the middle of winter here in Australia, we are enjoying hot bowls of organic oatmeal at my house and we always toss in a teaspoon or more of chia seeds. Since I haven’t shared anything with you about the great benefits of chia seeds for breast cancer patients and survivors, today I am going to remedy that oversight.  Here are some of the best benefits of chia seeds for breast cancer.

The ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures recognized the importance of these tiny little seeds – they were important during times of famine, for long journeys when food was scarce, and before intense exercise. “Chia” means strength in the Mayan language. We are discovering that chia seeds are quite wonderful for more than just times of famine!

1. Calcium Content – Since most of us are trying to limit our dairy intake due to the fact that most dairy products – at least in some parts of the world – are filled with the growth hormones and antibiotics fed to our cattle (unless organic), calcium intake can be a problem. Yes, we can get it from our greens, but chia seeds are an amazing source of calcium, higher than most dairy products, serve for serve. 100g  of chia seeds (about five tablespoons) contains a whopping 631 mg of calcium.

2. Protein – Chia seeds are a wonderful source of good quality protein, important for those who are trying to cut down or eliminate meat from their diets.  We also have a higher demand for protein after surgery to help repair surgical incisions.  By weight, chia seeds are about 14% protein and full of essential amino acids.

3. Help Weight Loss – Chia seeds help with weight loss in several ways. One, when combined with liquid they absorb about nine times their weight – they swell up and become gelatinous and this slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Two, after eating chia seeds your blood sugar levels tend to stabilize. Three, they help you to feel full so that you are not looking for the next snack. And we all know keeping our weight down after breast cancer is important because being overweight is a risk factor.

4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Chia seeds are a decent source of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). White chia seeds tend to have more omega-3 fatty acids than the black seeds do.

5. Plant Lignans – Chia seeds are a great source of plant lignans which studies show are excellent for breast health and their anti-cancer effects.  Plant lignans are broken down in the gut to create enterolignan, which is known (among other things) to inhibit the aromatase enzyme, 1 making it a NATURAL AROMATASE INHIBITOR (did you catch that?).  I could link to a bunch of research here, but I see Dr Joel Fuhrman has already done that in his don’t-miss-it article about chia seeds and flaxseeds on his website, see 2 below in References.

6. Antioxidants – Chia seeds are a great source of antioxidants 3, which protect the omega-3 fats in the seeds and aid in reducing inflammation in the body, and since cancer is nothing if not an inflammatory process, this is important! Black chia seeds tend to contain a bit more protein and antioxidants than the white ones do.  Getting antioxidants from our foods is a much better and more natural source than taking them as supplements.

7. Caffeic Acid – Chia seeds contain caffeic acid (one of the antioxidants mentioned above) which studies show inhibits estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) AND estrogen-receptor negative (ER-) breast cancer. 4

7. Minerals – Besides calcium, chia seeds have oodles of other useful minerals like potassium, iron, phosphorus, zinc and magnesium.

8. Binds To Toxins In Digestive Tract – The  fiber content of chia seeds binds to toxins in the digestive tract and helps to usher the toxins out of the body.

Tip: Some people can get a stomach ache after eating chia seeds – to avoid that let the chia seeds sit in filtered water or freshly prepared juices for several minutes up to half an hour.  The reason for this is their ability to absorb up to nine times their weight in liquids – soaking them first means they are absorbing the liquid you put them in rather than swelling in your stomach.

References:

1.  Inhibition of human aromatase by mammalian lignans and isoflavonoid phytoestrogens – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8382517

2. Fighting Breast Cancer With Flax and Chia Seeds – https://www.drfuhrman.com/library/cancer_flax.aspx

3. Phytochemical profile and nutraceutical potential of chia seeds (Salvia hispanica L.) by ultra high performance liquid chromatography – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24811150

4. Caffeine and Caffeic Acid Inhibit Growth and Modify Estrogen Receptor and Insulin-like Growth Factor I Receptor Levels in Human Breast Cancer — http://clincancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/21/8/1877

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

A Natural Aromatase Inhibitor – the Common White Button Mushroom

Image Source: Freedigitalphotos.net / SOMMAI

Image Source: Freedigitalphotos.net / SOMMAI

A Natural Aromatase Inhibitor – the Common White Button Mushroom

I am always on the outlook for natural aromatase inhibitors, because of the fact that most of us can’t stand the hormone blocking drugs we are almost all prescribed after a diagnosis of hormone-driven breast cancer.  When I came across this interesting bit of research I knew I had to share it with you.

If you aren’t familiar with the lingo, the aromatase enzyme is responsible for a key step in the biosynthesis of estrogen, and the aromatase inhibiting (AI) drugs block that activity, the thinking being that less estrogen circulating in the body adds less fuel to the tumor.

The problem is, however, that these drugs all have fairly serious side effects, or at the very least can create so much havoc in your body that you feel utterly miserable.  I discuss some of those side effects in my article Why I Chose Against Hormone Blocking Drugs.

Lately I have been noting that women newly diagnosed with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer are being told by their oncologists that less than 5% of women taking the AI drugs will have these side effects, but in my experience it’s a MUCH HIGHER percentage.  I believe the drug companies are minimizing the data, but that’s a whole other story.

The Common White Button Mushroom (Agaricus bisporus)

It seems that the common white button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) is involved with the suppression of the aromatase enzyme.  In a 2006 study done by Dr Shiuan Chen at the City of Hope in Duarte, California, researchers concluded that white button mushrooms effectively suppressed aromatase activity and estrogen biosynthesis in estrogen receptor-positive/aromatase-positive MCF-7aro breast cancer cells isolated from hamster ovaries. 1  Other mushrooms including shiitake, portabello and crimini also had an anti-aromatase effect when tested but Dr Chen’s efforts have mainly focused on the white button mushrooms as they are the most commonly available and easy to obtain.

I also located an older study from 2001 that indicated diets high in white button mushroom may “modulate the aromatase activity and function in chemoprevention in postmenopausal women by reducing the in situ production of estrogen.” 2

What Is An Effective Dose?

Far from conclusive, but the best study I have been able to locate so far is a 2011 study 3 to determine the optimal dose to effectively reduce aromatase and circulating estrogen.  The study followed 24 postmenopausal women diagnosed with breast cancer at least five years previously, all of whom were free of recurrences, and had completed all breast cancer treatment (including any aromatase inhibitors or tamoxifen) at least three months prior to enrolling in the trial.  The women were treated with 5, 8, 10, or 13 grams of white button mushroom extract per day for 12 weeks.  The researchers reported that white button mushroom extract up to 13g per day was found to be well tolerated, with no adverse side effects.  They were unable, however, to significantly reduce estrogen levels from baseline during the 12 week trial period.  Subtle reductions in aromatase activity were noted, but nothing like the 50% reduction the researchers had hoped for.

Was a 50% reduction too much to hope for?  Is a 50% reduction in aromatase activity even necessary?  Hard to say. This research begs for more research to be done.

Perhaps the anti-aromatase and anti-breast cancer effects are cumulative, and maybe they are partially reliant upon other foods – some sort of synergy happening there.  Other studies have indicated that eating mushrooms is associated with a reduced risk of cancer 4, 5. which I believe is a strong enough reason to be taking them.  I recommend them on my page Diet and Cancer.

I just know that I will take my chances with the white button mushrooms rather than the hormone blocking meds, together with a few other natural compounds like ground flaxseed, Belle Vie ® and grapeseed extract.  These things, along with quite a few other diet and lifestyle changes have been working for 11 years for me so far!  Contact me if you’d like more information about any of these.

References:
1.  Anti-aromatase activity of phytochemicals in white button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) –   http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/66/24/12026.long

2.  White button mushroom phytochemicals inhibit aromatase activity and breast cancer cell proliferation – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11739882

3.  A dose-finding clinical trial of mushroom powder in postmenopausal breast cancer survivors for secondary breast cancer prevention – http://meetinglibrary.asco.org/content/83362-102

4.  White button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) exhibits antiproliferative and proapoptotic properties and inhibits prostate tumor growth in athymic mice –  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19005974

5.  Macrophage immunomodulating and antitumor activities of polysaccharides isolated from Agaricus bisporus white button mushrooms — http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22217303

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) to get my inspirational snippets, news and updates.  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Coping With Tamoxifen Side Effects

http://MarnieClark.com/ Coping-With-Tamoxifen-Side-EffectsCoping With Tamoxifen Side Effects

As a breast cancer coach, one of the most asked questions is how to cope with Tamoxifen side effects, so today I’m offering assistance!

Tamoxifen is a drug recommended for people whose breast cancer cells exhibited estrogen receptors, termed ER+ breast cancer.

The Action of Tamoxifen

Tamoxifen is in a class of drugs called “SERMs” – selective estrogen-receptor modifiers.  Tamoxifen’s action is to occupy an estrogen receptor on a cell, thus paralyzing the receptor and preventing it from triggering the events that result in cell division.  It does not kill cancer cells, rather it disables them or puts them to sleep.  Tamoxifen targets not only the estrogen receptors in breast tissue, but also all of the other cells in the body that have estrogen receptors.

Tamoxifen Side Effects

Tamoxifen is currently the “gold standard” treatment recommended for all women with hormone driven breast cancer, regardless of the stage.  The recommendation of most oncologists for women with ER+ breast cancer is that taking this medication for 5 years after a breast cancer diagnosis can supposedly reduce the risk of recurrence by up to 50%, which is a very persuasive figure.  They are now recommending Tamoxifen use for up to 10 years.

I am not convinced that Tamoxifen is such a wonder drug, and I discuss why in my article Why I Chose Against Hormone Blocking Drugs.

Part of my problem with Tamoxifen is the wide range of side effects which include headaches, dizziness, nausea, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, leg cramps, hair thinning, brain fog, pins and needles in hands and feet, joint pain, moodiness, depression and anxiety.

Tamoxifen may also put a patient at a higher risk for blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) and the lungs (pulmonary embolism), endometrial cancer and overgrowth of the lining of the uterus.

Since women are recommended to be on this drug for 5-10 years, their concerns about the side effects and loss of enjoyment of life are very real.

It Doesn’t Work For Everyone

What we are finding out here in the trenches is that this drug works for some but definitely not all.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been told by a woman that she took the Tamoxifen for the prescribed amount of time and is still battling her second or even third round of breast cancer.  So it is clear that the drug doesn’t work for everyone.

Are There Alternatives To Tamoxifen?

At this time, there do not appear to be any good research studies that directly compare specific diets or nutritional strategies with the use Tamoxifen to prevent breast cancer recurrence.  Having said that, we do know that a healthy diet and plenty of exercise are truly important, they do make a big difference, and this has been proven by research studies.

The Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL) study followed 1,500 women with early stage breast cancer who were treated between 1991 and 2000, and found that women who both ate plenty of vegetables and fruit every day as well as got regular physical activity were nearly 50% less likely to die during the study follow up.  In this study both women taking Tamoxifen and not taking Tamoxifen were included, so it is clear that diet and exercise are incredibly important for staying well.

For those who choose to take Tamoxifen, some of the side effects can be quite troublesome and these people really need some help.

Here Are My Best Recommendations For Coping With Tamoxifen Side Effects:

Headaches – Having a regular deep tissue massage and/or acupuncture from qualified practitioners can make a huge difference with headaches.  Also, as simple as it may seem, drinking plenty of filtered water can assist your body to clear the drug from your system a little better.  So make sure to drink plenty of water (and not tap water!).

Dizziness – As odd as it may seem, meditation can be very helpful with the dizziness associated with Tamoxifen use.  If the dizziness becomes severe, however, seek the advice of your doctor.  You may need to go off the Tamoxifen or reduce your dosage.  As with headaches, drinking more water can often help to ease dizziness.

Nausea – Drink ginger tea.  You make it with organic ginger root (not the dried spice), slice off a small chunk of it and put it in hot (just off boiling) water and let it steep for several minutes.  Sip as needed.

Hot Flashes & Night Sweats – These are more difficult to solve – these symptoms show that the Tamoxifen is doing its work.  You may find that certain herbal remedies like Remifemin assist with the frequency, intensity and duration of hot flashes and night sweats.  Traditional Chinese Medicine has a number of herbs that are helpful, so seek the help of a qualified Chinese medicine doctor.  For a list of other helpful hints, see my article Tips Tricks and Support For Hot Flashes.

Vaginal Dryness – This is one of the most distressing of the side effects and not often discussed.  There is one very safe product I can recommend, a natural lubricant called Sylk.  Highly recommended.  Also organic coconut oil is very useful.

Leg Cramps – Take 500 mg of magnesium citrate twice daily.  Magnesium is also found in plenty of green leafy vegetables, so eat your salad!

Brain Fog – Essential oils are extremely helpful here because they help to clear off the neuron receptor sites of any accumulated gunk (which can result in brain fog).  Deep breathing of oils like basil, peppermint, and frankincense helps to clear your mind, improves memory and brain function.  Meditation is also very helpful.

Pins & Needles in Extremities – Again, I recommend the use of massage therapy and/or acupuncture, drinking plenty of water, and it would also be helpful to do a bowel cleanse and a liver cleanse because Tamoxifen is a toxic drug, and cleansing will help you clear chemical residues which may be building up in the tissues of your body.

Joint Pain – This is one of the more widely experienced side effects of Tamoxifen.  Yoga is helpful, as is massage therapy, and I also recommend a good quality glucosamine sulfate supplement for joint health, together with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet.

Moodiness, Anxiety, Depression – Sometimes associated with Tamoxifen use, but often these problems arise just from the fact that you are going through cancer.  It’s better not to ignore them and I recommend getting some counseling.  Meditation is extremely helpful for anxiety and moodiness.  For depression related to Tamoxifen, check with your doctor to see if you can reduce your dosage of Tamoxifen.  Some women are taking it every other day, rather than daily, and still getting good results.   Dietary assistance for these problems includes eating lots of fresh organic veggies and fruit, omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamin B complex – all of these are surprisingly beneficial.  One last word about depression – it can come on slowly over a period of several months, and some women will not realize that they are depressed.  Pay close attention to this please and get some help if you need it.  You may want to discontinue the use of Tamoxifen if the symptoms are severe (discuss this with your doctor).  I would not recommend the use of anti-depressants because they may make Tamoxifen less effective.

If you are having problems with any of these side effects (or anything not mentioned above) associated with Tamoxifen and would like more information from me, please feel free to contact me.  I have plenty of information about all of the things I have recommended and would be happy to share it with you.  I also have a more holistic protocol for staying well without the use of hormone blockers, so please contact me if you would like information about that.

GET MY BEST TIPS on getting through breast cancer and preventing recurrences by signing up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right.  You can also “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Vitamin D May Assist Some Side Effects Of Tamoxifen

 

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / Grant Cochrane
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net / Grant Cochrane

Vitamin D May Assist Some Side Effects Of Tamoxifen

One of the things that most women who are going through breast cancer treatments complain about (and being a breast cancer coach, I do hear these complaints every single day) is all of the side effects of Tamoxifen and other aromatase inhibitor drugs. Things like terrible hot flashes, joint pain, muscle pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and even trigger finger (a painful painful condition that causes the fingers or thumb to catch or lock when bent, it happens when the tendons in the finger or thumb become inflamed) are quite common side effects.

A chance conversation with one of my subscribers this week led me to do some research on vitamin D because she shared with me that she was on Tamoxifen and had been recommended to take some higher-than-normal doses of vitamin D for her joint pain, and it was helping!

Vitamin D3 is one of the supplements I already recommend because it has great benefits for breast health (see my article Why Vitamin D Is So Important For Breast Health). 

Studies Indicate Vitamin D May Assist Musculo-Skeletal Pain

Spanish researchers at the Hospital Del Mar in 2011 discovered that the bone and joint pain associated with taking aromatase inhibitors like Tamoxifen was responsible for many women discontinuing their use.  They studied 290 breast cancer patients undergoing treatment with Tamoxifen or another of the aromatase inhibitor drugs.  At baseline, 90% of the women had serum vitamin D levels under 30 ng/ml, which is considered a deficiency.  All of the patients were given 800 iu daily of vitamin D, and those who were especially deficient also got an additional 16,000 iu every two weeks.

Of the women who were pain-free at baseline, those who reached serum levels of 40 ng/ml were 50% less likely to experience drug-associated joint pain than those who remained vitamin D deficient.  The authors noted that it is challenging to raise blood levels to the protective level, noting that at 3 months, 50% of the women treated with the booster doses were still deficient.  The researchers stated that a vitamin D deficiency was quite common in women treated with AIs but felt more research was required to ascertain whether AIs actually cause the deficiency. 

In an article appearing in the Annals of Oncology website titled “Aromatase Inhibitor-Induced Arthralgia – A Review” I found the following helpful information which goes a long way toward explaining how a lack of estrogen caused by AIs could certainly cause suboptimal levels of vitamin D:  “Vitamin D is closely tied to estrogen because estrogen increases the activity of 1-α hydroxylase, the enzyme responsible for conversion of 25OHD to the biologically active 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D form. Estrogen also increases the activation of the vitamin D receptor. Thus, it seems logical that the drop in estrogen levels caused by AIs may cause a decrease in vitamin D, and thus, a vitamin D deficient-like arthralgia syndrome.

Another study titled “Non-herbal Nutritional Supplements For Symptoms Relief In Adjuvant Breast Cancer: Creating A Doctor-Patient Dialogue” indicated that vitamin D had been “shown to be effective in reducing the incidence and severity of arthralgia resulting from treatment with the aromatase inhibitor letrozole.”  No dosages were recommended, however.

A more recent study released in March 2014, “Hypovitaminosis D Is A Predictor Of Aromatase Inhibitor Musculoskeletal Symptoms” appearing in The Breast Journal agreed with the Spanish study, finding that women with vitamin D levels under 40 ng/ml and taking AIs were much more likely to suffer with musculo-skeletal pain, concluding that “Further research should be carried out on identifying additional modifiable risk factors for this syndrome.

Yes, indeed.  Or maybe we could just get our vitamin D levels checked before starting the aromatase inhibitors and, if they are found to be suboptimal, start supplementing with vitamin D3.  The test you want your doctor to perform is 25(OH)D, also referred to as 25-hydroxy-vitamin D. 

The Bottom Line

Dosages will depend upon how deficient you are, but up to 4,000 iu/day have been well tolerated by most healthy people.  If you are taking AIs, however, you may be able to tolerate more than that.  I would highly recommend seeking the advice of a qualified professional because vitamin D is one of the fat soluble vitamins, meaning that it can accumulate in your body, it isn’t flushed away like excesses of water soluble vitamins such as vitamins B and C.

Not only will the vitamin D most likely assist in the joint pain associated with taking aromatase inhibitors, it just might also reduce risk of recurrence.

My own personal preference was to avoid these drugs and I explain why in my article “Why I Chose Against Hormone Blocking Drugs” (in case you’re interested).  I feel it’s much more important to keep my immune system nice and strong so that it can be doing its job effectively, keeping stress levels down, and eating lots of super foods.

I’d be glad to teach you how too – just sign up for my free newsletters and e-books on the right hand side of this page.  It would be my pleasure and my honor to assist you.

Research:

Vitamin D threshold to prevent aromatase inhibitor-induced arthralgia: a prospective cohort study

Non-herbal nutritional supplements for symptom relief in adjuvant breast cancer: creating a doctor-patient dialogue

Hypovitaminosis D is a Predictor of Aromatase Inhibitor Musculoskeletal Symptoms

Aromatase Inhibitor-Induced Arthralgia – A Review

Why I Chose Against Hormone Blocking Drugs

 

Photo courtesy of MorgueFile and Aidairi
Photo courtesy of MorgueFile and Aidairi

Why I Chose Against Hormone Blocking Drugs

Every single day I am contacted by women who are either going through breast cancer treatments or have finished their treatments and have been prescribed estrogen blocking drugs like tamoxifen (Nolvadex), anastrozole (Arimidex), exemestane (Aromasin), letrozole (Femara), raloxifene (Evista).

Many of these drugs are also known as aromatase inhibitors because they deactive a key enzyme (aromatase) that is responsible for a key step in the biosynthesis of estrogen.

Why Women Are Prescribed Hormone Blockers

A breast tumor is called “estrogen receptor positive” or “ER+” if it has receptors for estrogen – this suggests that the cancer cells, like normal breast cells, may receive signals from the hormone estrogen that could promote their growth.  The cancer is termed “progesterone receptor positive” or “PR+” if it has progesterone receptors.  Again, this means that the cancer cells may receive signals from progesterone that could promote their growth. According to BreastCancer.org, roughly two out of every three breast cancers test positive for hormone receptors.

The women who are contacting me are very concerned about the side effects of such medications, they are researching and wanting to know more and they are wondering if there are any natural products that will do the same job without the side effects.

My Personal History

I went through breast cancer in 2004.  If you’d like to read my whole story, check out my Breast Cancer Diary page.  Briefly, however, I had a 2.5 cm tumor, about the size of an olive, and it was a rapidly growing tumor known as infiltrating ductal carcinoma.  I had a large lumpectomy and a latissimus-dorsi flap reconstruction.  I was recommended to have chemotherapy right away, but being a natural therapist I needed to be convinced of the necessity of that, so I went home to heal up and work on my immune system.  Eventually both my oncologist and my natural therapists convinced me that it would be beneficial for me to undergo chemotherapy and I did 6 months worth.  I chose not to have radiation for various reasons, and although both my oncologist and my regular doctor tried hard to get me to say yes to the hormone blocking drugs, I just could not be convinced that this was a good route for me to follow.  For one thing, I was progesterone receptor positive only, which is somewhat unusual.  I couldn’t see how tamoxifen, which is used as an estrogen-blocker, was going to help me since I was PR+.  My doctors argued it would “still have some therapeutic benefit.”  I wasn’t convinced, and especially when I read about the side effects of these drugs.  Instead I went home and went into deep research mode.  Here’s what I found.

1.  Some research indicated that tamoxifen was more useful in elderly and frail women and it removed the need for surgery in a high proportion of those women. (Akhtar SS, et al.  A 10-year experience of tamoxifen as primary treatment of breast cancer in 100 elderly and frail patients.  Eur J Surg Oncol. 1991; 17:30-5.)

2.  The Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen studied 3,500 post-menopausal women who received surgery for breast cancer. About half of these patients were considered to be low risk and received no further treatment.  The high risk patients received either radiotherapy or radiotherapy plus tamoxifen.  After about 8 years, the scientists looked at the incidence of cancer in these women.  All 3 groups had more cancer than the general population and for those who had received radiotherapy there was a higher incidence of leukemia.  There was no difference in cancer incidence in the high risk group that  received tamoxifen plus radiotherapy compared to those who just received radiotherapy, indicating that tamoxifen did not confer any special protective effects.  In fact, there was a tendency to an elevated risk of endometrial cancer. (Andersson M, et al. Incidence of new primary cancers after adjuvant tamoxifen therapy and radiotherapy for early breast cancer: J Natl Cancer Inst. 1991; 83:1013-7.)

3. The McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research of the University of Wisconsin studied rats given tamoxifen.  At first, all appeared okay, but when the rats were also given a small dose of chemicals and then fed tamoxifen, the livers of these animals showed an increase in the size and number of altered liver lesions compared with the animals that had been fed the chemicals but not the tamoxifen.  The researchers felt that tamoxifen acts as a tumor promoter in the rat liver, that it was four times the strength of phenobarbital (a drug commonly used as a representative promoting agent in experimental carcinogenesis). (Dragan YP, et al. Tumor promotion as a target for estrogen/anti-estrogen effects in rat hepatocarcinogenesis. Prev Med. 1991; 20:15-26).

4.  There were too many disturbing reports of eye damage from the use of tamixofen.  In one article that appeared in the Annals of Ophthalmology, I read about toxicity to the cornea, retina and optic nerve.  And though it seemed that the damage did not progress once the drug was stopped, it could not be repaired. (Gerner EW. Ocular toxicity of tamoxifen. Annals of Ophthalmology 1989; 21:420-3).  I had enough problems with my vision, I certainly didn’t need any more.

I could go on and on here, citing all of the research that I did – and yes this research is a little older, I went through breast cancer in 2004, as I mentioned. 

Possible Side Effects of Hormone Blocking Drugs

The list of possible side effects of these drugs is lengthy:  hot flashes, vaginal dryness, headaches, muscle, joint and body aches, dry mouth, nausea and vomiting, changes in bowel habits, muscle weakness, fatigue, increased risk of liver cancer, precancerous changes in the uterus, blood clots which could travel to the lungs and cause pulmonary embolism or a stroke, cataracts and other vision changes. 

I just wasn’t willing to submit my body to any of that.

It’s Time To Wake Up

What I am seeing as a breast cancer coach is a large quantity of women (more than I ever thought possible) who have taken the hormone blockers for the prescribed length of time (usually 5 years) and are coming to me with a new breast cancer.

We need to wake up people!  These drugs are not working.  They are toxic to our bodies and there are better ways of regaining our health.  The thing is, you can’t just say no and do nothing else.  You really need to be very pro-active with your health.  If you don’t know what to do, feel free to sign up for my e-books and newsletters, I provide them as a free service to people going through breast cancer and I share all of my best tips and information in them (see the sign-up form on the right side of this page).

It’s Not All About Estrogen!

I have said this so many times lately, it’s starting to become my slogan.  Estrogen is a hormone we want and need in our bodies.  The doctors are so focused on the fact that there are estrogen receptors on our breast cancer cells but part of the problem is that there are synthetic estrogens in our body products, our drinking water, our cosmetics, our environment, and these are part of the problem with our health (see my article Protect Yourself From Xenoestrogens and Estrogen Dominance).

In her book “Molecules of Emotion“, author and scientist Candace Pert shares with us “… accumulated environmental pollutants within our bodies are mimicking and disrupting the action of our sex hormones — estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone — which run the male and female reproductive systems.”  She goes on to state that “A recent report on receptor binding in Science, for example, has shown that environmental toxins have estrogenlike effects and bind to estrogen receptors, where they can stimulate breast cancer tumor growth.  Similarly, various toxins can act like testosterone in the male body and stimulate prostate cancer, which is embryologically similar to breast cancer.  Although this has been suspected for a long time, only recently have we gotten the hard proof that accumulation of these toxins in our bodies chronically stimulates our estrogen and testosterone receptors, putting them into a state of overdrive and leading to cancer.”

There are many other factors which put us at a higher risk for breast cancer, and right up there at the top of the list is STRESS.  You can do little to avoid it but you certainly can change the way that you react to it.  Try meditation to relieve that stress.  Get yourself into a meditation group, or if you live in a remote area download my meditation course.

I also believe that it’s vitally important to build up your immune system to be as strong and healthy as it can be, since our immune system is our first line of defense against cancer cells.  Why don’t the doctors tell you that?  Any natural therapist certainly will.  Have a look at my page 8 Ways To Build A Super Strong Immune System.  How important are these 8 items?  I believe they’re absolutely crucial.   Give proper attention to each of the 8 items on the list and you will be much happier and healthier than if you are taking toxic drug therapies.

References:

http://www.webmd.com/drugs/drug-1555-anastrozole+oral.aspx

http://www.webmd.com/breast-cancer/tc/breast-cancer-comparing-hormone-blocking-treatments-topic-overview

http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/hormonal/serms/tamoxifen

Cancer Therapy, The Independent Consumer’s Guide To Non-Toxic Treatment and Prevention by Ralph W Moss, PhD.

Molecules of Emotion by Candace B Pert, PhD.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-book on the right, and/or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this so that you emerge from breast cancer feeling better than before, thriving!

 PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THIS BLOG POST IS INFORMATION I HAVE DISCOVERED FOR MYSELF. IT FEELS TRUE FOR ME. THE INFORMATION PRESENTED HERE IS NOT MEANT TO DIVERT YOU ON YOUR HEALING PATH, IT IS ONLY INTENDED TO RAISE AWARENESS OF OTHER WAYS OF THINKING. YOU MUST DO WHAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU.

18 Natural Aromatase Inhibitors

Artwork courtesy of rgbstock.com and Idea Go

18 NATURAL AROMATASE INHIBITORS

The number one topic in breast cancer communities, and the thing I get asked about most often, is definitely about natural aromatase inhibitors.  People are suffering from the effects of hormone blocking drugs like Tamoxifen, Raloxifene, Faslodex.  The list of side effects these drugs are capable of producing is seemingly endless and as a breast cancer coach I hear it all and have a lot of sympathy.

It’s a subject near and dear to our hearts and we can spend plenty of time trying to dig up research on new natural alternatives – I know I do because I chose not to take Tamoxifen, much to my oncologist’s annoyance.  I just wasn’t willing to risk the side effects, such as cardiotoxicity and blood clots, etc. 

Update: I recently wrote an article sharing why I chose not to (in case you’re interested): Why I Chose Against Hormone Blocking Drugs

It worries me that the side effects of these drugs can be so debilitating and disruptive to quality of life.  More than that, I know quite a few who were on AIs for the requisite period of time (usually 5 years) and suffered recurrences anyway.  That indicates to me these drugs aren’t working as well as they are meant to.

A Good Article

While doing some research today, I came across a lengthy article, “Natural Products as Aromatase Inhibitors” at the NIH website.  Click here to view that article, but be warned, it will do your head in, unless you are a doctor, researcher or medical professional! 

I will attempt to boil it all down into layman’s language for you – you can read for yourself all of the reasons why AIs are prescribed, how they work in breast cancer, and how scientists are actively researching many natural products to discover which ones can be utilized to help breast cancer patients.  I know what you are really after — the list of natural things that exhibit AI activity. 

18 Natural Aromatase Inhibitors

  1. Dioon Spinulosum – or gum palm, a cycad which grows in Veracruz and Oaxaca, Mexico
  2. Encephalartos ferox – also a cycad which grows mainly in Africa
  3. Riedelia – a genus of plants in the Zingiberaceae family, comprises approximately 75 species that are distributed among New Guinea and the Maluku and Solomon Islands
  4. Viscum album – a species of mistletoe, also known as European Mistletoe or Common Mistletoe to distinguish it from other related species. It is native to Europe and western and southern Asia
  5. Cycas rumphii – also a cycad, commonly known as queen sago or the queen sago palm, it grows in the Moluccan island group (New Guinea, Java, Indonesia)
  6. Cycas revoluta – also a cycad, native to southern Japan
  7. Alpinia purpurata – also known as Red Ginger, a native to Malaysia
  8. Coccothrinax Sarg – Coccothrinax is a genus of palms in the Arecaceae family, there are more than 50 species described in the genus, plus many synonyms and sub-species, and they grow in a variety of places
  9. Five red wine varieties, the most active being Cabernet Sauvignon from Tanglewood (France), the other mentioned was Pinot noir from Hacienda (Sonoma, CA)
  10. Brassaiopsis glomerulata – a deciduous tree found in North Vietnam
  11. Garcinia mangostana L. (Clusiaceae) – also known as mangosteen, has a long history of use as a medical plant, found mostly in Southeast Asia
  12. Euonymus alatus – also known as winged spindle, winged euonymus or burning bush, it’s a species of flowering plant in the family Celastraceae, native to central and northern China, Japan, and Korea
  13. Isodon excisus Kudo var. coreanus – a small herbaceous plant that grows in Western Asia (Japan, China, Korea)
  14. Scutellaria barbata – a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine, other names include ban zhi lian’, scullcap or skullcap, it grows in Korea and southern China
  15. Camellia sinensis – also known as green tea
  16. Vitis L. sp – also known as grape seed extract, the report cited a study where a water extract of grape seed extract was utilized and it had AI activity
  17. Agaricus bisporus – also known as white button mushrooms
  18. Trifolium pratense L. – also known as red clover flowers.  There is a lot of misinformation out there about red clover, please read my article Red Clover Controversy – Safe For Breast Cancer Or Not?

The article also mentioned that coffee, cocoa, collards, stout beer, tomato leaves and even cigarette smoke (!) strongly inhibited aromatase using a microsomal assay.  I don’t know about you but I’m not eating tomato leaves or breathing in cigarette smoke intentionally!

Many of the above listed things are not currently being produced as natural supplements, however some are.  I would suggest you print out this list and take it to your naturopath to see which ones would be safe for you to use.  Some of the listed items will be easily available (like #9, #15, #16, #17 #18) and you could easily incorporate them into your diet. 

Something not listed is selenium, we do have research indicating that it acts as a natural aromatase inhibitor, see my article  Why Iodine and Selenium Are Useful For Breast Cancer.

The above list is not exhaustive – the report did also discuss 125 flavonoids, 36 terpenoids, 19 peptides, 18 lignans, 16 xanthones, 15 fatty acids, 10 alkaloids, and 43 miscellaneous compounds having been evaluated but there was not sufficient information for me to feel it was worth listing them all.

Unfortunately, there is no information on dosages for any of the above nutrients, more information is clearly needed.

Just Remember Estrogen Is Not The Only Factor Involved In Breast Cancer

The important thing I would like you to take away from all of this is that we can drive ourselves crazy looking for the tiniest things that will give us an edge over this disease.  I hope you don’t get bogged down in this. Please remember, estrogen is not the only factor involved in breast cancer.  An overall anti-cancer strategy is to eat a healthy diet full of super foods, build a super-strong immune system (see my page on how to do that), include some of the things from this list where they make sense (and are available) to you, limit your exposure to toxic skin care products, get plenty of exercise and keep your stress levels down through the use of meditation or prayer. 

I am continually on the outlook for natural aromatase inhibitors (AIs) and have written a few articles you may find useful: The Down & Dirty on Aromatase Inhibitors for Breast Cancer Treatment, Acupuncture: How It Helps With Cancer Treatments , Aromatase Inhbitors Natural vs Toxic, Researchers Discover Mushrooms Could Be Potent Natural Aromatase Inhibitors, Why Vitamin D is So Important for Breast Health and Is Chrysin a Good Natural Aromatase Inhibitor?

Feel free to sign up for my free newsletters – they include a free copy of my e-book which is all about preventing recurrences and my holistic approach to healing.  Go ahead, don’t be shy – I will do my absolute utmost to help you through this.

 

More Information on DIM, Estrogen Metabolite Ratios

 

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and David Castillo Dominici

Image source: freedigitalphotos.net / David Castillo Dominici

Further to my article of December 11, 2012 “Dim Is NOT The Wonder Supplement We’ve Been Led To Believe“, the article written by Dr Jacob Schor, for which we were waiting publication in the Townsend Letter, the Examiner of Alternative Medicine,  has been published and I wanted to share that link with you:  Estrogen Metabolite Ratios: Time For Us To Let Go

Dr Schor is a gifted naturopath in Denver, and is also President of the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians.  Fair warning – the article is not an easy one to read – I suggest you print it out and go put your feet up in a quiet place to digest the information.  It will probably require several readings to fully appreciate what Dr Schor is telling us about estrogen metabolite ratios.

I found the information fairly depressing, because I (and many like me) had been relying on DIM to keep circulating estrogen levels at a safe range without having to resort to the toxicity of Tamoxifen.  Having said that, I really appreciated Dr Schor’s review of the research, and his courage to publish an article that goes against the current thinking.  We need more fine minds like his in this fight.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (Marnie Clark, Breast Health Coach).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this.

Is Chrysin A Good Natural Aromatase Inhibitor?

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and anekoho
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and anekoho

Is Chrysin a Good Natural Aromatase Inhibitor?

I did have chrysin listed in a previous article, Aromatase Inhibitors – Natural vs Toxic, but in my continuing quest to find natural aromatase inhibitors I have done a bit more research today in hopes of finding something for those of us who refuse the side effects of Tamoxifen and other similar drugs.

Chrysin – What Is It?

Chemically, chrysin is 5,7-dihydroxyflavone.  It is a naturally occurring, polyphenol compound found in a number of plants (such as passionflower), also honey and propolis, which is the resin-like glue bees use to construct their hives.

A polyphenol (for the uninitiated) is a generic term used for plant compounds that have two or more “phenol” (C6H5OH) groups. They contain a large number of compounds, and the reason they are important for health is that some of these compounds have potent antioxidant and anti-cancer properties.

Chrysin is one of a class of polyphenols known as flavonoids or bioflavonoids when they occur in foods or supplements. Other well-known flavonoids include quercetin and epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) found in green tea.

The Research on Chrysin

I found one two-year old German study, “Facile synthesis of chrysin-derivatives with promising activities as aromatase inhibitors” that indicated “the reaction of chrysin with various isonitriles and acetylene dicarboxylates results in a new class of flavone derivatives, tricyclic pyrano-flavones which also inhibit human aromatase” (emphasis added).  Reading the study abstract, I can only assume that the research was done in vitro (on cell lines in a test tube), not in humans or animals.

Another, older, in vitro study, “Aromatase inhibition by synthetic lactones and flavonoids in human placental microsomes and breast fibroblasts–a comparative study” published in December 2007 by Dutch researchers indicated that chrysin did exhibit aromatase inhibition.

The distinction between “in vitro” and “in vivo” research is vital because while in vitro studies (done in test tubes) involve the cells or tissue samples being directly exposed to the compound in question, thus allowing biochemical reactions to be studied directly, in vivo studies (those done on actual living creatures or humans) will tell us whether a compound will work if ingested.  The compound really needs to be exposed to stomach acid, digestive enzymes, metabolism in the liver, etc – all of which occurs with oral administration.

The newest study, done in Brazil last year, “Evaluation of the mutagenic activity of chrysin, a flavonoid inhibitor of the aromatization process” indicated that while chrysin had anticancer, antioxidation, and anti-inflammatory activity, the researchers called chrysin a “mutagenic and cytotoxic compound in cultured human HepG2 cells and Salmonella typhimurium”.  Mutagenic means capable of inducing mutation and cytotoxic means toxic to cells.  That sounds rather alarming, but for the cells they were using – HepG2 cells (a perpetual cell line derived from a 15-year old Caucasian male with liver cancer) and Salmonella typhimurium (a toxic bacteria) cytotoxic and mutagenic activity would be a good thing I would think.

I was unable to draw any conclusions from the research I found as to whether chrysin is safe to take as a natural aromatase inhibitor.  Hardly any human trials have been done with this supplement to determine if this flavonoid has any side effects.  If you want to take it, make sure you run it by your naturopath first.  The fact that it has anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties might make it a good anti-cancer supplement, but there doesn’t seem to be enough evidence to back up its aromatase inhibition activity, at least in humans.

For now, I’d scratch chrysin off the list, people.  My own personal opinion is that it’s much more important to keep your immune system as strong as it possibly can be because it’s your first line of defense against disease.  For some good tips on how to do that, see my page 8 Ways To Build A Super Strong Immune System.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters and e-books on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor and my goal to help you through this.

Why Vitamin D Is So Important For Breast Health

 

Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and alex bruda
Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and alex bruda

Why Vitamin D Is So Important

Because of the fact that women with breast cancer are generally deficient in vitamin D – and this is the time of year when we start to get deficiencies, when sunlight is less available or we’re all covered up, I wanted to raise awareness that this is a good time of year for vitamin D supplementation.

Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because certain amounts of it come from sunshine in an interesting chemical reaction that happens in the skin. While soaking in the sun may seem like a great idea for getting the vitamin D we need, as you are probably aware, it can create problems for us by giving us wrinkly skin and increasing our risk of skin cancer.

Vitamin D is required for a healthy, functioning immune system.  It is also required for the proper absorption of calcium and phosphorus — two minerals that are crucial to bone health. Vitamin D also contribute to brain and heart health, as well as maintaining a healthy weight.

The importance of vitamin D cannot be stressed enough.  It is no ordinary “vitamin”, it is in fact a steroid hormone that influences nearly every cell in your body.  Receptors that respond to vitamin D have been found in nearly every type of human cell, from the bones to the brain, which is why it has such a powerful part to play in the human body.

Vitamin D’s Role In Estrogen Receptor Positive Breast Cancer

As we know, many breast cancers are fueled by estrogen and for those whose tumor cells have estrogen receptors (known as ER+, meaning that this sort of tumor appears to depend on estrogen to grow) there is some really great news about vitamin D.

In a recent study done on mice, researchers reported that calcitriol (the hormonally active form of vitamin D) inhibits the growth of many cancerous cells including breast cancer cells by arresting the cancer cells’ replication cycles.  Researchers also found that vitamin D suppressed aromatase, the enzyme that assists with estrogen synthesis in breast cancer cells.  Now that’s exciting news!   We’re always looking for natural aromatase inhibitors.

The Top 6 Food Sources of Vitamin D

  1. Fatty fishes like salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, catfish, oysters, trout, halibut (fish oils and cod liver oils have the highest concentrations)
  2. Fortified orange juice (make sure yours has vitamin D in it)
  3. Plain yogurt, milk
  4. 100% whole grain cereals such as oatmeal
  5. Eggs
  6. Soy milk, tofu

What I wanted you to be aware of is that most foods do not contain sufficient amounts of vitamin D, so supplementation is advisable, especially at this time of year.

So How Much Is Enough and What Kind of Vitamin D?

According to mercola.com: “When you do supplement with vitamin D, you’ll only want to supplement with natural vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Do NOT use the synthetic and highly inferior vitamin D2, which is the one most doctors will typically give you in a prescription unless you ask specifically for D3. According to the most recent findings, which involved research on nearly 10,000 people, shows the ideal adult dose appears to be 8,000 IU’s a day to get most into the healthy range.”

If you are concerned about your vitamin D levels, get them checked.  The best way to determine the correct dose for you personally is to get your blood levels of vitamin D tested.  Accordingly to Dr Mercola, the correct test to ask for from your doctor is 25(OH)D, also called 25-hydroxyvitamin D, which is the better marker of overall D status. This is the marker that is most strongly associated with overall health.

Source Articles

  • http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000102000000000000000.html
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22801352
  • http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/08/01/vitamin-d-for-breast-cancer.aspx

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  When you’re in a desperate situation, you need an ally.  You can depend on me to help you through this.

Researchers Discover Mushrooms Could Be Potent Natural Aromatase Inhibitors

Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and salsachica
Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and salsachica

Studies at the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope Cancer Center in Duarte, California, suggest that fresh white mushrooms contain substances that could make them potent natural aromatase inhibitors.

I have been investigating natural aromatase inhibitors for several years because controlling the enzyme aromatase helps to decrease estrogen levels and this is important because the bulk of breast tumors are reliant upon estrogen to fuel their growth.

On June 6, 2012, I wrote an article titled Aromatase Inhibitors – Natural vs Toxic and listed the problems with the pharmaceutical variety of various aromatase inhibitors, as well as introducing quite a few natural ones that don’t produce the side effects that so many are struggling with.

Last week I was watching a PBS program titled “Dr Joel Fuhrman’s Immunity Solution”.  Dr Fuhrman is an American board-certified family physician who specializes in nutrition-based treatments for obesity and chronic disease and his presentation included a discussion of particular nutrients that exhibited anti-cancer benefits, so of course I took notes!

One thing he mentioned – and it was the first time I’d heard it – was that mushrooms are natural aromatase inhibitors.  So I went online to discover where the research originated and found the City of Hope research.

The Parameters of the Study

“Postmenopausal breast cancer survivors who were cancer free after completion of their treatments were enrolled in the trial.  Groups received a 12-week course of white button mushroom extract at 5, 8, 10 or 13 gram doses.  Because aromatase inhibition leads to a decrease in estrogen levels, a specific estrogen called estradiol was monitored and response was defined as a greater than 50 percent decrease in free estradiol levels in the blood circulation. Mushroom extract was well tolerated at all doses. However, no dose could be identified that met response criteria. In spite of this, a measurement of aromatase activity developed by Dr. Chen suggested some modest transient aromatase inhibition that lasted longest at the highest dose level (6 hours), suggesting that weak aromatase inhibition by mushrooms is achievable in patients, but that likely much higher amounts would be needed to achieve a clinically significant result.

That didn’t sound too hopeful, so I read a bit deeper and discovered that over the course of the 12 week study, while the researchers were able to observe phytochemical activity of the mushroom extract, it wasn’t at high enough concentrations to significantly reduce estrogen levels in patients.  They admitted that future studies should focus on more highly concentrated preparations of mushroom extract and perhaps change their focus to watching tissue levels of estrogens rather than circulating estrogen levels.

The unknown factors are dosage and whether we should take the mushrooms via extract in a vitamin form or by eating them fresh.  I have sent an email to the researchers at City of Hope and if I get a response, I will let you know!

Obviously further research needs to be done (and it may be underway right now) but I believe that since mushrooms are yummy anyway, they should be included in our daily diet, particularly because mushrooms have two other anti-cancer activities:

(1) they have antigen binding lectins which inhibit the growth of cancer cells; and

(2) they are angiogenesis inhibitors – tumors rely on the formation of new blood vessels to keep them growing and mushroom extracts have been shown to inhibit this growth.

Read my other articles on natural aromatase inhibitors.

Reference:

http://www.cityofhope.org/about/publications/news/Pages/city-of-hope-researchers-demonstrate-anti-cancer-effect-of-mushrooms-in-studies-at-2011-asco-annual-meeting.aspx

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Dr John Lee Hated Tamoxifen, He Advocated Progesterone

 

Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and lusi
Photo courtesy of rgbstock.com and lusi

Dr John Lee Advocated Progesterone

Dr John Lee, a rather amazing renegade Harvard educated doctor, internationally acknowledged as a pioneer and expert in the study and use of the hormone progesterone, and on the subject of hormone replacement therapy for women, absolutely hated tamoxifen, a well known breast cancer drug.

He stated “In my opinion, progesterone alone opposes the undesirable effects of estrogen very effectively, and if oncologists understood this they would be prescribing progesterone for their breast cancer patients instead of tamoxifen and Femara.

Dr Lee was worried about the harmful side effects of tamoxifen and said that it doesn’t address the underlying issues of DNA damage and lack of progesterone, which he felt were some of the root causes of breast cancer.   In 2002, Dr Lee co-wrote “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer – How Hormone Balance Can Help Save Your Life“, along with David Zava, Ph.D. and Virginia Hopkins.

Partly based on what I read in this book, I decided against Tamoxifen.  I just wasn’t willing to risk the side effects.

Instead, Dr Lee advocated hormone balancing and treating imbalances with natural progesterone rather than synthetic estrogen (which you won’t be given anyway if you’ve had breast cancer).

An Interesting 2001 Study

There was an interesting article on Dr Lee’s website (johnleemd.com) where he discussed the results of a study done in 2001:

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center released study results in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (July 2001) showing that women taking tamoxifen for treatment of first breast cancer are more likely to develop estrogen receptor-negative tumors in the other breast. These tumors are particularly aggressive and difficult to treat with conventional medicine.

The study looked at 9,000 women who survived breast cancer, about half of whom were being treated with tamoxifen. Some 27 percent of the tamoxifen group had estrogen receptor-negative tumors in the other breast, while only 4 percent of the tamoxifen-free group developed estrogen-negative tumors.

It’s frustrating to me that this huge study didn’t look more closely at the relationship between progesterone receptors and tamoxifen. Estrogen and progesterone are dependent upon each other for keeping their respective receptors active. In other words, estrogen is needed to maintain progesterone receptors, and progesterone is needed to maintain estrogen receptors. Thus, a drug like tamoxifen that blocks estrogen would be likely to severely down-regulate progesterone receptors, which would in turn down-regulate estrogen receptors, which would of course create a hormone receptor-negative milieu in the breasts.

The researchers said that this study should not discourage women from using tamoxifen, but to me it’s just one more reason to run from it. Tamoxifen also increases the risk of uterine cancer, blood clots and eye problems, and its benefits don’t last beyond about three to five years.

In Memoriam

Dr Lee passed away in 2003 but his work lives on.  From his website: “Dr. Lee s colleagues, family, and friends will carry on his legacy, as will the millions of others whose lives he touched over the years. We know that many of you will write, asking What can we do? The most meaningful way to remember John R. Lee, M.D. and carry on his work is to educate others, one-to-one, and give them the gift of optimal health, as he gave us.

That’s what I’m doing here – my best to educate others.

If you’d like to stay connected, sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey.

Aromatase Inhibitors: Natural vs Toxic

 

aromatase inhibitors natural vs toxic
Photo of passionflower courtesy of stock.xchng and rdcock

Aromatase Inhibitors: Natural vs Toxic

I wanted to follow up my post of May 1, 2012 – The Down & Dirty on Aromatase Inhibitors for Breast Cancer Treatment – with more information for you.

In that blog post, I’ve already described what aromatase inhibitors are, how they work, why doctors prescribe them and how the women that take them feel about them, so I won’t be covering those topics here. I want to present information on the differences between synthetic and natural aromatase inhibitors (let’s call them AIs for the sake of brevity).

Synthetic Aromatase Inhibitors

The main problem with synthetically produced AIs is the fact that they have unpleasant side effects.  One of the most prescribed, Arimidex, has a list of side effects that includes hot flashes, nausea, weakness or fatigue, headaches, arthritis, general pain, joint pain, sore throat, bone pain, back pain, cough, difficulty breathing, osteoporosis, vomiting, broken bones, insomnia, swelling or water retention in the arms or legs, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, high cholesterol, infections, weight gain, breast pain, dizziness, urinary tract infections, and loss of appetite.

Some of these side effects such as bone pain and arthritis may not go away even when use of the drug is discontinued.  Not particularly pleasant, by any means.  But then (I hear you saying) neither is BREAST CANCER!  Stay with me here.

Drugs are foreign substances that do not occur in nature.  Your liver must detoxify them and that places a strain on it.  Livers that are stressed from prolonged drug use can become enlarged and even cancerous.  Because drugs are foreign substances they don’t work synergistically with your body and your immune system mounts a defense against them.  Since the drug is taken daily, your immune system is continuously overworked and not available to do the job for which it was intended, which is keeping your body healthy and well.

Eventually the immune system is able to render these drugs ineffective.  Women who have relied on AIs to keep them safe from a recurrence of breast cancer are then left unprotected and uneducated as to what to do to protect themselves.

A research study done at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto compared AIs to Tamoxifen in post-menopausal women.   More than 30,000 breast cancer patients were involved in multiple trials to obtain their data. It was found that longer use of AIs led to more bone fractures and heart disease, while prolonged use of Tamoxifen resulted in higher rates of cancer of the womb and blood clots.  Although AIs were found to prevent breast cancer recurrence, they were not found to prolong life.

There is still one more problem regarding AIs.  They take the focus off the real issue which is why a breast cancer developed in the first place.  Since cancer is an obvious wake up call that something is radically wrong in the body, this something needs to be addressed!

AIs may keep breast cancer away for awhile, but how about the rest of the body?  If the conditions that promoted the breast cancer have not been addressed, there is danger of cancer to other organs and tissues as well as chance for other degenerative disease to get started because this is a body that has already exhibited a willingness to promote disease.

8 Natural Aromatase Inhibitors

These are the things found in nature – the things with which we were provided by nature for our pharmacy.  They don’t come with a myriad of side effects.  Most natural therapists agree: natural AIs are the only good choice for preventing breast cancer.

They work as effectively as drugs with none of those aforementioned side effects!  According to research conducted at the University of Munster in Germany, when women who have estrogen imbalances consume foods rich in natural AIs, breast cancer never gets the opportunity to begin.  Eating an unhealthy diet of processed and refined foods high in unhealthy fats, simple sugars, artificial sweeteners and other food chemicals will have the opposite effect.

      1. Quercetin – a powerful flavonoid easily obtainable from apples, cabbage, onions and garlic.
      2. Apigenin – another powerful flavonoid, found in ample supply in celery, parsley, artichokes, basil, and chamomile.
      3. Naringenin – a flavonoid with potent antioxidant benefits, you can get it in all citrus fruits.  However, be warned that you shouldn’t eat too much grapefruit or grapefruit juice because it has an inhibitory effect on cytochrome P450, an enzyme which is involved in breaking down and metabolizing sex hormones and preventing their excess accumulation in the body, so inhibiting it is not something you’d want to do.
      4. Oleuropein – a flavonoid that comes from the olive tree, found in abundance in olive leaves and oil.
      5. Vitamin D3 – the latest research indicates that vitamin D3 interferes with aromatase – see this article for the best way to obtain vitamin D3
      6. Mushroomscheck out my article on how mushrooms are being used as aromatase inhibitors.
      7. Keep your weight in check – The aromatase enzyme resides in fat cells. This is why being overweight is linked with breast and other hormone sensitive cancers. With fewer fat cells in the body, less unbalanced estrogen is produced.
      8. Prevent estrogen dominance – Natural therapists recommend getting your hormone levels checked and limit your exposure to xenoestrogens (see a list of them by clicking here).

Sources:
Website:http://www.annieappleseedproject.org/arindom.html
Book: “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Breast Cancer” by John R Lee, MD
Research paper: B Ebert et al, Phytochemicals Induce Breast Cancer Resistance Protein in Caco-2 Cells and Enhance Transport of Benzo [a] Pyrene-3 Sulfate, Toxicology Science, April, 2007.
Research paper: Pelissero C, Lenczowski MJ, Chinzi D, Davail-Cuisset B, Sumpter JP, Fostier Effects of flavonoids on aromatase activity, an in vitro study.  J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 1996 Feb;57(3-4):215-23.

If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com).  It is my honor to help you through this.

Acupuncture: How It Helps With Cancer Treatments

 

acupuncture
Photo courtesy of stock.xchng

Acupuncture: How It Helps With Cancer Treatments

While acupuncture has been around for millennia, the form of acupuncture practiced today is mainly based on a standardized system which evolved in China around 50 years ago.

How Acupuncture Works – the Simple Explanation

Acupuncture treatment involves the stimulation of defined points on the body using tiny, ultra-thin needles (or sometimes electricity).  In Traditional Chinese Medicine (“TCM”), the surface of the human body and  its internal organs are thought to be connected by meridians through which “qi” (pronounced “chee”), or energy, flows.

In TCM, when the flow of qi is blocked, it is thought that pain and disease soon follow.  Acupuncture is a complex subject but primarily acupuncture works by inserting the special ultra-thin needles into the specific points on the surface of the body (“acupoints”) along the meridians where qi is blocked, thus restoring the flow of qi.

Acupuncture Studies Show Its Effectiveness for Breast Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Acupuncture has been one of the most studied forms of complementary medicine.  Especially exciting is some of the data coming in about how it can help with cancer treatments.  For example, acupuncture has been shown to be effective in controlling chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.  In fact, in one study acupuncture was more effective than anti-emetic drugs in controlling nausea.

In another study, it was demonstrated that acupuncture was as effective as prescription drugs in controlling the hot flashes caused by anti-estrogen drugs and it also helped increase libido in these women.

Some breast cancer survivors are treated with drugs known as aromatase inhibitors to help prevent recurrence, but a common side effect of these drugs is joint pain and stiffness. One study found that acupuncture is quite effective in reducing these side effects, thereby allowing the drug regimen to be continued.

There are also reports showing acupuncture reduced the nerve pain associated with neuropathy, it reduced swelling and discomfort caused by lymphedema, and it effectively assisted patients who complained of dry mouth and muscle weakness.

Does It Hurt?

I often get asked if acupuncture hurts.  I have to say (for the most part) NO, especially not when the needles are inserted.  You can feel it, of course, but it’s not uncomfortable.  Once in awhile, one of the acupoints might be sore, especially if qi is particularly blocked, and it might ache for a few moments when the needle is first inserted, but that goes away.

I went to a TCM doctor during the entire 6 months of my chemotherapy treatment – she gave me herbs that helped my immune system stay strong, and I often got acupuncture to help with energy levels.  Having a treatment is ultra-relaxing, you’re generally laying in a comfortable position for about 45 minutes and falling asleep is quite common.  It’s a nice experience.  I highly recommend acupuncture and TCM!

Acupuncture treatments are generally affordable and are covered by some health insurance policies.

A good resource:  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=acupuncture%20and%20breast%20cancer

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