Tag Archives: natural 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.

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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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.