Category Archives: Flaxseed Benefits

Fatigue In Breast Cancer Survivors Linked To Inflammation

Image source: / Marin

Image source: / Marin

Fatigue In Breast Cancer Survivors Linked To Inflammation

A common complaint amongst breast cancer survivors, especially if they have been through the gamut of conventional medicine treatments, is fatigue.  I hear this all of the time and, indeed, suffered through it myself after going through 6 months of chemotherapy.

The Link Between Fatigue, Inflammation and Chemotherapy

An interesting study reported in 2012 [1] found that high levels of inflammation may promote fatigue in women treated for breast cancer.

The study followed 633 women, all breast cancer survivors with an average age of 56 years and treated for stage I, II or III breast cancer.  It was discovered that 40% of the women in the study had elevated levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in their blood, which is a marker of inflammation.  40% of the women also suffered from fatigue.  Interestingly, women with elevated CRP levels were 1.8 times more likely to feel fatigue.

“Fatigue is common among breast cancer survivors and may persist for years after cancer treatment, clustering with comorbid symptoms such as depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and pain that reduce participation in life activities and quality of life”, researchers reported.

This makes sense, especially in view of the fact that chemotherapy and radiation are both associated with increasing inflammation in the body.  In fact, a recent study [2] indicated that chemotherapy leaves a long-lasting epigenetic imprint in the DNA of the blood cells of breast cancer patients and that imprint is associated with inflammation up to 6 months after treatment is completed!

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fats Play A Role In Inflammation

Going back to the first study and those 633 women [1] the researchers investigated the intake of omega-3 fats, which are highly anti-inflammatory, as well as omega-6 fat intake, which tends to be pro-inflammatory.  It was found that a higher intake of omega-6 fats (found in most cooking oils and processed foods) was associated with both higher CRP levels and a 2.6 greater likelihood of feeling fatigued.

Conversely, women who were including omega-3 fats in their diet had the lowest levels of CRP and reported feeling less fatigue.

Inflammation Is Associated With Reduced Survival

It is well known that inflammation is associated with reduced survival among women with breast cancer [3] and inflammation also increases the risk of atherosclerosis and development of further cancers.  Cancer is, after all, an inflammatory condition.

The good thing is there is something we can do about all of this.

Good Nutrition and Omega-3s Are Helpful

Both inflammation and fatigue can be improved with simple dietary changes.  Follow the recommendations on my page Diet And Cancer and include plenty of fresh salads, vegetables, whole grains and modest amounts of fruit in your diet. And most especially, get those healing omega-3 fats into you!

Omega-3 fats are easily included in the diet and the best source is freshly ground organic flaxseed.  Freshly ground is best because the fats have not degenerated as with some commercially prepared flaxseed oils and freshly ground includes the best quality fiber and lignans.

The 15 Best Reasons To Take Flaxseed

Flaxseed has been shown to have wonderful health benefits – here are 15 of the best things it does for us:

  1. May protect against primary breast cancer [4], [6] 
  2. Decreases incidence of hot flashes [6]
  3. Increases cancer cell death [6]
  4. Decreases HER2 expression (a protein associated with breast cancer malignancy) [6] 
  5. Decreases breast cancer cell proliferation [5], [6]
  6. Improves normal cell membranes
  7. Improves breast density
  8. Exhibits anti-invasive properties [5] 
  9. Decreases risk of primary breast cancer [4], [5], [6]
  10. Reduces risk of breast cancer mortality by 33-70 percent [5], [6]
  11. Increases effectiveness of tamoxifen [5]
  12. Increases effectiveness of Herceptin [5]
  13. Improves mental health and depression [6], [7]
  14. Good for bowel health due to high fiber content
  15. Great for cardiovascular health

16 Tips For Including More Flaxseed Into Your Diet

A common complaint among breast cancer survivors is that they simply forget or can’t be bothered grinding up the flaxseed and finding ways to incorporate it into their diet, so here are my best tips on delicious ways you can use it:

  1. Sprinkle it on salads
  2. Add it to freshly prepared juices
  3. Put it in smoothies
  4. Put it in sandwiches by mixing it with mustard, mayo or mashed avocado (that way it doesn’t fall out!)
  5. Mix it into muesli, granola, or oatmeal
  6. Mix it into hummus or dips
  7. Mix it into guacamole
  8. Mix it into protein shakes
  9. Add it to organic yogurt
  10. Combine it with organic cottage cheese for some extra special anti-cancer properties (see the Budwig Diet)
  11. Sprinkle it on vegetables
  12. Sprinkle it on soup just before serving
  13. Mix it into baked goods
  14. Mix it in with any nut butter
  15. Sprinkle it into casseroles
  16. Mix it into pancake batter

1. Fatigue, Inflammation, and Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acid Intake Among Breast Cancer Survivors —
2. Epigenetic changes associated with inflammation in breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy —
3. Elevated biomarkers of inflammation are associated with reduced survival among breast cancer patients —
4. Consumption of flaxseed, a rich source of lignans, is associated with reduced breast cancer risk —
5. Flaxseed and its lignan and oil components: can they play a role in reducing the risk of and improving the treatment of breast cancer —
6. Flax and Breast Cancer: A Systematic Review —
7. Omega-3 fatty acids and major depression: A primer for the mental health professional —

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.

Nutrients That Offer Protection Against The Damaging Effects of Xenoestrogens

Image source: / M Bartosch
Image source: / M Bartosch

Nutrients That Offer Protection Against The Damaging Effects of Xenoestrogens

As a follow-up to my two articles on xenoestrogens, Unraveling the Mystery of Xenoestrogens and Estrogen Dominance, in which I explain pretty thoroughly what xenoestrogens are, and Protect Yourself From Xenoestrogens and Estrogen Dominance, in which I offer a list of things you can do to protect yourself against them, I thought it might be useful to share with you a list of the best nutrients that offer protection against the damaging effects of xenoestrogens.

There are many lifestyle changes you can make to protect yourself against xenoestrogens and there is a big list of them in that second article (above).  It’s reasonably easy to change your body products, your household cleaning products, stop wearing perfume, etc.  However, I know that some of you work in environments which constantly expose you to xenoestrogens, and if changing jobs is not possible you need to know which nutrients and dietary changes will offer some protection for you.

Nutrients That Offer Protection Against The Damaging Effects of Xenoestrogens

Calcium D-Glucarate – a calcium salt which helps detoxify xenoestrogens and blocks the body’s reabsorption of estrogen and xenoestrogens.  Recommended dosage: 400–600 mg per day, divided into two doses. Found in abundance in apples, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, lettuce and alfalfa.

Probiotics – help to decrease the enzyme beta-glucuronidase, made from bad bacteria in your gut.  Beta-glucuronidase increases estrogen recirculation so you definitely want to keep that one under control.  Good quality probiotics help you in so many other ways too!  Look for probiotics that contain 10-15 billion colony forming units.

Cruciferous Vegetables – first of all, they contain potent anti-cancer compounds, but the most important one is sulforphane which has been shown to stimulate the body’s production of detoxification enzymes that help to eliminate toxic estrogens and xenoestrogens.  Found in abundance in broccoli and broccoli sprouts, Brussel sprouts, kale and cabbage.  For optimal effect they should be eaten raw because heating them inactivates the enzymes.  Also chew them well so the enzyme that activates sulforaphane is released.

Curcumin – a powerful anti-inflammatory for the body, curcumin also helps the liver eliminate and detoxify cancer-causing estrogens and xenoestrogens.  Recommended dosage: 600-800 mg per day.

Milk Thistle – one of the best herbs for the liver, milk thistle is extremely helpful for maintaining proper estrogen balance in the cells of the body. It detoxifies a wide range of hormones, drugs, and toxins, including xenoestrogens.  Recommended dosage: 50–100 mg per day (just make sure that your supplement contains at least 80% silymarin, which is the  active ingredient in milk thistle).

Green Tea – the polyphenols in green tea help eliminate xenoestrogens and support the liver in metabolizing fats and hormones.  The easiest way to derive the benefits is just to drink green tea throughout the day.  It’s nice both hot and iced and you can add ginger and lemon to enhance the flavor and get more anti-cancer benefits.

Flax Seeds – freshly ground organic flax seeds provide so much protection for women (see my article Flaxseed Benefits and a Delicious Source) but for the purposes of this article, the most important thing you need to know is that the lignans in freshly ground flax seeds block harmful xenoestrogens in the body.

Other good practices to adopt:

Drink Plenty of Filtered Water – every cell in our body requires water to function optimally, which includes waste elimination.  Water helps you to flush out excess cellular waste, lubricates our bowels (thus preventing constipation) and will help you to eliminate xenoestrogens much better.  Try to drink at least 4 large glasses of water a day (approximately 2 liters).

High Protein Diet – eating plenty of good quality protein protects you against xenoestrogens in a very special way.  The presence of ample dietary protein increases the activity of cytochrome P450, an important enzyme needed to detoxify both estrogen and xenoestrogens.  In particular, the amino acids lysine and threonine (found in meat, fish, beans, eggs, and some seeds, particularly sesame and fenugreek) especially support the liver and since xenoestrogens are metabolized by the liver, it is thought that these two amino acids can help the liver get rid of xenoestrogens more efficiently.

Eat Plenty of Fiber – to ensure adequate removal of xenoestrogens, you need to avoid constipation.  Having regular bowel movements keeps xenoestrogens from getting recirculated back into your body.  Fiber is found in plant foods: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.  You need at least 25 grams per day.  Please remember to drink more water when you increase fiber!

Buy Organic Produce and Meats  – whenever and wherever you can because they will help you to reduce the load of xenoestrogens coming into your body with conventionally grown and raised items.

I have found an excellent supplement that contains 4 of the 7 nutrients listed above, as well as immune stimulating ingredients, so if you’d like to know what it is just contact me.

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 (  I promise to do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.

Flaxseed Benefits and A Delicious Source Benefits and a Delicious Source

I write frequently about the health benefits of flaxseed because they are such a great source of omega-3 fats (and our body does not produce omega-3’s, we have to get them via our food and supplements), but many still have not embraced this wonderful little superfood, so here are the 7 best benefits:

  1. Powerful Little Lignans – flaxseed is broken down by your body into chemicals called lignans, which are similar to the hormone estrogen.  At first blush, if you have estrogen receptor positive breast cancer this might seem like a bad thing but what seems to occur is that lignans compete with estrogen for a part in certain chemical reactions.  As a result, natural estrogens seem to become less powerful in the body. Some researchers believe that lignans may be able to slow down the progress of certain breast cancers and other types of cancers that need estrogen to thrive. Additionally, lignans do not appear to interfere with the breast cancer drug tamoxifen.
  2. Fiber – flaxseed contains both soluble and insoluble fiber which is lacking in the average diet. They can assist with constipation.
  3. Natural anti-inflammatory – two components in flaxseed, alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and lignans, reduce inflammation in the body, making it an important nutrient for conditions such as arthritis, cancer, and even asthma.  Women who have tender breasts just prior to menstruation often obtain good benefits and relief from taking flaxseed.
  4. Cardiovascular health – again due to the lignans, which have been shown to reduce atherosclerotic plaque buildup by up to 75%, flaxseed also seems to help reduce cholesterol levels.
  5. Blood sugar – preliminary research suggests that the lignans in flaxseed may modestly improve blood sugar (as measured by hemoglobin A1c blood tests in adults with type 2 diabetes).
  6. Hot flashes – a 2007 study of menopausal women, reported that 2 tbsp of ground flaxseed mixed with juice, cereal, or yogurt two times daily cut their hot flashes in half and reduced the intensity of hot flashes by 57%.  The women noticed a difference after taking the daily flaxseed for just one week.  It doesn’t work for everyone – there are a lot of other factors involved, but give it a try if you’re suffering from hot flashes.
  7. Weight loss – taking 1-2 tbsp of flaxseed before a meal can make you feel less hungry and make it easier to cut back on what you eat.

How Much Do We Need and Best Ways To Get It

So how much flaxseed is recommended?  1-2 tbsp per day is sufficient to get great benefits.  You can mix it in juice, sprinkle it on cereal or yogurt, it’s delicious sprinkled on a salad, you can reduce some of the white flour in cakes or muffins or breads and replace that with flaxseed, you can tuck it into dishes like casseroles, and even sprinkle it inside a sandwich.  I sometimes apply flaxseed oil on patches of dry skin – mixed with other oils like almond and avocado and essential oils – after all, our skin absorbs nutrients just like a sponge!

It’s best not to eat the seeds whole as the hard shell of the seed protects the oil inside pretty well, they are likely to just pass through you undigested.   The best way to obtain the benefits of flaxseed is to grind the seed yourself in small amounts – using a small coffee grinder – and then store the meal in the freezer.

A Delicious Source

I wanted to share with you a great product that has some nice health benefits.  I’m not affiliated with the company in any way, nor will I benefit from the recommendations – I just like to give out kudos to companies when they make great products.

Linwoods are producing a really great ground flaxseed product in lots of different flavors – the flaxseed and goji berry combination was my favorite but they also have a flax, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame seed and goji combo that is pretty great.  Their ground hemp seed meal is also nice.

Flaxseed products can tend to taste a bit more like oily cardboard that anything you’d like to sprinkle on yogurt, oatmeal, fruit, etc., but this is truly yummy.  It’s nutty and full of flavor and the goji berries (high on my list of anti-cancer fruits) give it a nice zing.

Linwood’s products are available at Whole Foods, Bed Bath & Beyond, Shaws and Hyvee stores around the nation.


My other articles on flaxseed benefits: Flaxseed Oil Enhances Effect Of Herceptin Against Her2+ Breast CancerOmega 3 Fatty Acids May Improve Chemotherapy for Metastatic Breast Cancer

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 (  It is my honor to help you through this.

Flaxseed Oil Enhances Effect Of Herceptin Against HER2+ Breast Cancer

Flaxseed Oil Enhances Effect Of Herceptin Against HER2+ Breast Cancer
Photo courtesy of and Stoonn

When my mother had breast cancer in 1996-98, I took her to see a naturopathic doctor, Dr Jacob Schor, here in Denver.  I am a subscriber of his very interesting newsletters and today’s newsletter was exciting enough to share with you because it discusses a study done on mice that shows flaxseed oil enhances the effect of Herceptin for those with HER2+ breast cancer.

Dr Schor admitted that he prefers to write about human trials and, indeed when he writes papers for publications such as Naturopathic Doctors News and Review and the Natural Medicine Journal, they prefer that he only write about recent human clinical trials.  But he says “…I printed out a paper this morning that describes a mouse study that I feel compelled to write about because the information, if it holds true in human trials, is so clinically relevant that it seems silly to wait until those studies are published.”

This research came out May 21, 2010 in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology by Julie Mason and her colleagues at the University of Toronto and it examined the effects of flaxseed oil on select breast cancer cells and how it reacted to the chemotherapy drug Herceptin.

Both Dr Schor and I agree that flaxseed oil is not the best way to get the protective lectins that it provides – it’s much better to take flaxseed meal or, better yet, grind flaxseeds yourself and create the freshest, most bioavailable lectins in your own little coffee grinder.

The Exciting Study Results

The 2010 study looked at how flaxseed oil interacts with the drug Trastuzumab, better known as Herceptin.  Herceptin is the drug of choice to treat HER2 positive breast cancer.  As Dr Schor’s newsletter states, “anything that may help in treating this particular subgroup of women is of interest, even if the research was only done in mice.”  I agree.

For the study, Dr Mason implanted HER2+ human breast cancer cells in immune-deficient mice.  The mice were given flaxseed oil as part of their diet and various doses of Herceptin.  In the control group of mice who received neither oil nor drug, the tumors grew unchecked, some increasing in size by 187% over the four weeks the experiment lasted.

Herceptin was given at two different doses.  The tumors in the mice receiving the lower dose (2.5 mg/kg body weight) did not grow, staying the same size through the course of the study.  The higher dose of Herceptin (5mg/kg body weight) worked better than the low dose – the tumors decreased by 75%.  That’s remarkable enough, but read on.

The mice who received flaxseed oil did even better.  The tumors in the mice who got the drug at low doses but also received flaxseed oil regressed by 89%.  For mice receiving the high drug dose plus flaxseed oil, the tumors regressed 84%.  So for these mice, more drug was not necessarily better.

Dr Schor reports “Tumor sizes were tracked for several weeks after the drugs were stopped and the results got even more interesting.  The benefit seen in the low dose drug plus flax seed oil mice continued to increase even after stopping the drug so that two weeks after the drug was stopped the tumors in the low drug dose plus oil mice were 87% smaller than in the mice that only received the drug at low doses. They tied with the mice that had been given the drug in high doses.  The concerns often expressed by medical oncologists that the supplements prescribed by naturopathic doctors seem in this particular situation to be unfounded.  The study abstract reaching the conclusion: ‘Flax seed oil did not interfere with Trastuzumab but rather enhanced its tumor-reducing effects and combined flax seed oil and low dose Trastuzumab was as effective as high dose Trastuzumab treatment.’ “

Recommended Dosage

Dr Schor admitted that “translating dosing information obtained from mice to humans is never an easy task but if the data obtained in this study were to hold true in humans, adding flax seed oil to a patient’s regimen might enhance the effect of the chemo during the 12 weeks of 2 mg/kg dosing.”  He recommends dosing at 1-2 tablespoons per day for a person.

Now obviously we would much rather see the results of a human trial but since flaxseed meal (or oil) is so good for you anyway, there seems little reason to wait until such data has been published.

If you are HER2+ I’d say “Get it in you!”

Dr Schor’s contact details: Dr Jacob Schor, Denver Naturopathic Clinic, 1181 S Parker Road, Suite 101, Denver CO 80231, website:

Food Chem Toxicol. 2010 May 21. [Epub ahead of print]
Flaxseed oil-trastuzumab interaction in breast cancer.
Mason JK, Chen J, Thompson LU.
Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, 150 College Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3E2, Canada.
Flaxseed oil (FO), which is rich in n-3 fatty acid, is commonly consumed by breast cancer patients because of its potential anti-cancer effects. Trastuzumab (TRAS) is the primary drug for epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) positive breast cancer. We investigated in athymic mice whether combining dietary FO (8%) with TRAS treatment (2.5 or 5mg/kg body weight) can cause better or adverse effect on established human breast tumors overexpressing HER2 (BT-474). Control tumors significantly grew 187%, TRAS2.5 treated tumors did not change, while TRAS5, FO+TRAS2.5 and FO+TRAS5 treated tumors significantly regressed 75%, 89% and 84%, respectively, after 4 weeks treatment. Two weeks after stopping TRAS treatment while continuing on same diet, tumor size in FO+TRAS2.5 group was 87% lower than in TRAS2.5 group and was not different from TRAS5 group with or without FO. Combined TRAS2.5 treatment with FO caused a significantly lower tumor cell proliferation and higher apoptosis compared to TRAS2.5 treatment alone and showed similar effect to TRAS5 treatment with or without FO. Hence, FO did not interfere with TRAS but rather enhanced its tumor-reducing effects and combined FO and low dose TRAS was as effective as high dose TRAS treatment. Copyright © 2010. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

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