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  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  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  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  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:
May protect against primary breast cancer , 
Decreases incidence of hot flashes 
Increases cancer cell death 
Decreases HER2 expression (a protein associated with breast cancer malignancy) 
Decreases breast cancer cell proliferation , 
Improves normal cell membranes
Improves breast density
Exhibits anti-invasive properties 
Decreases risk of primary breast cancer , , 
Reduces risk of breast cancer mortality by 33-70 percent , 
Increases effectiveness of tamoxifen 
Increases effectiveness of Herceptin 
Improves mental health and depression , 
Good for bowel health due to high fiber content
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:
Sprinkle it on salads
Add it to freshly prepared juices
Put it in smoothies
Put it in sandwiches by mixing it with mustard, mayo or mashed avocado (that way it doesn’t fall out!)
Mix it into muesli, granola, or oatmeal
Mix it into hummus or dips
Mix it into guacamole
Mix it into protein shakes
Add it to organic yogurt
Combine it with organic cottage cheese for some extra special anti-cancer properties (see the Budwig Diet)
Sprinkle it on vegetables
Sprinkle it on soup just before serving
Mix it into baked goods
Mix it in with any nut butter
Sprinkle it into casseroles
Mix it into pancake batter
1. Fatigue, Inflammation, and Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acid Intake Among Breast Cancer Survivors — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3341143/
2. Epigenetic changes associated with inflammation in breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy — http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889159114000567
3. Elevated biomarkers of inflammation are associated with reduced survival among breast cancer patients — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2717751/
4. Consumption of flaxseed, a rich source of lignans, is associated with reduced breast cancer risk — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23354422
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 — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24869971
6. Flax and Breast Cancer: A Systematic Review — https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24013641
7. Omega-3 fatty acids and major depression: A primer for the mental health professional — http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1476-511X-3-25.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 (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.
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:
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.
Fiber – flaxseed contains both soluble and insoluble fiber which is lacking in the average diet. They can assist with constipation.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and Kittikun Atsawintarangkul
A recent study from France indicates that supplements of omega 3 fatty acids (DHA) may improve outcomes for patients with breast cancer metastases undergoing chemotherapy.
How DHA works
According to the French study, the omega 3 fatty acid known as DHA appeared to sensitize tumors to chemotherapy, making the chemotherapy that much more effective.
Omega 3 fatty acids (oils) have long been known to have an anti-inflammatory action within the body, among many other health benefits like improved cardiovascular health, brain and vision development of infants, and natural joint flexibility and mobility. Omega 3 oils are the building blocks of every living cell in the human body. They are absolutely necessary for normal health and development. Without them, cells can’t function, renew, or maintain themselves properly.
A cell membrane made with building blocks that come primarily from saturated fat has a different structure and is less fluid than one which incorporates more Omega-3 oils. This loss of fluidity makes it difficult for the cell to carry out its normal functions and increases the cell’s susceptibility to injury and death.
Women with metastatic breast cancer were given 1.8 grams per day of DHA for between 2-6 months, as part of their anthracycline-based chemotherapy regimen (FEC). The study noted that women with the highest DHA levels in their blood tended to have longer survival rates.
Best Source of DHA
The absolute best source of DHA comes from cold water fish like trout, salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna. But they must be FRESH and come from safe waters, which is not always easily found these days. Some people really don’t like to eat fish, which poses a problem.
I’ve found a great source of DHA and it’s combined with EPA (another omega 3 fatty acid). The company I’ve found uses only the highest-quality raw materials, you can rely on their purity and concentration. This company’s scientists voluntarily joined with 23 other international companies, under the guidance of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, to work on developing standards for ensuring a supply of consistent, high-quality raw materials. Applying those standards, they start with high-quality fish oils from ocean fish like anchovy, mackerel, and sardines. They use a proprietary 6-step process to extract the Omega 3 fatty acids and purify them. Finally, they test the refined oil for purity, free from PCBs and other contaminants. No one else does this. Need more info? Contact me.
I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. 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) and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.
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About Marnie Clark
Hi I'm Marnie Clark, breast cancer survivor, and breast cancer coach. I have 20+ years of experience in natural medicine. In 2004/05 I battled breast cancer myself. You can see more about my journey on my page Breast Cancer Diary.
I've been healthy and recurrence-free since 2004 and in 2012 I became a Breast Cancer Coach because I became aware of the fact that whilst there is now a wealth of information on the Internet, much of it is confusing, conflicting, and sometimes just wrong!
Why should you work with me? Because:
(1) You don't want to go through this journey alone, feeling unempowered, frightened or just plain
clueless about what to do to help yourself.
(2) You will have someone working tirelessly on your behalf, putting together a healing plan for
you so you don’t have to lose your precious energy researching what food you should eat,
what supplements you should take, and what other things you can do that will give you the
best chances for survival. Instead you can spend that time resting, meditating, healing.
(3) You will learn what questions to ask your doctor (and have someone to turn to for the
questions they can't or won't answer).
(4) You will be armed with the tools and strategies you will need to get through the therapies you
choose so you can make your body hostile terrain for cancer.
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.