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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.
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
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I am with you on your decision to NOT take estrogen blockers. I took them for 19 months and did my homework on natural estrogen blockers. I am also taking ground flaxseed and turmeric (to fight inflammation). I have also made a few life-style changes.
My question is: Would it be a good idea for those of us who have intolerances to foods in the night-shade category to add button mushrooms to our diets? Somehow, this does not make sense to me. What are your thoughts?
Sorry for the delay in responding to you. I get so many messages on my website, I tend to fall a little behind. If you have an intolerance to foods in the night-shade category, you should be able to tolerate button mushrooms as they are not in this category. Be sure to check out Dr Axe’s article on the subject, it’s a good one: https://draxe.com/nightshade-vegetables/
Marnie, I am just getting started on aromatase inhibitors. I don’t have a problem with breast cancer, thank goodness, but I do have a form of epilepsy where my estrogen triggers seizures. I have had this problem since July of 1966. At a support group once, someone asked if I knew how to stop the seizures. My answer was “stay pregnant”. Everyone thought I was joking, but it turns out that progesterone (which is higher than at any point in your life during pregnancy) is an anticonvulsant, while estrogen is proconvulsant. I thought when I reached this point in my life that I wouldn’t have to worry about hormones. Unfortunately, I learned that fat cells convert to estrogen, as does testosterone. I have been using licorice root and mushroom extract with some success. Ihave added Vitex to my daily dosages, but have not been taking it long enough to know if it will help. I cannot get a prescription for arimedex because I don’t have breast cancer.
You are right about the fact that fat cells make estrogen. I had not heard of Arimidex being used for this purpose. You say that you can’t get Arimidex, however, so I assume you found me because you were looking for natural aromatase inhibitors. There are a number of foods that naturally lower estrogen levels, and those include eating lots of high fiber fruit and vegetables, whole grains (if you can tolerate them), beans and legumes, freshly ground flaxseed, oat bran, soybeans and soy milk, black rice, seeds including pumpkin, sesame and sunflower, quinoa, fresh berries (or frozen) including raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries etc, goji, avocados, broccoli and other crucifers, broccoli sprouts, cucumber, pomegranates, red clover, thyme, turmeric, rosemary, apples. Bitter greens like arugula (rocket), dandelion, kale, mustard greens and beet greens also help as they stimulate the liver to excrete excess estrogen. Good luck with it!