Over the past few months I have been asked many times if I know of a natural substitute for Tamoxifen. I apologize that it has taken me so long to write this post, but it has required extensive research and obtaining the knowledge of many experts. Many are not convinced that Tamoxifen is the wonder drug it is made out to be. I am one of those people. However, it is not my opinion that matters. My job is to give you information and options, not opinions. There are many others who believe that Tamoxifen is a beneficial drug. You and you alone can decide what is best for you, for your needs and concerns.
Tamoxifen is a synthetic drug that competes with estrogens for binding to the estrogen receptors in the body. When estrogens bind the estrogen receptors in the cells of the breast or uterus, for example, this activates cell growth and division. When Tamoxifen occupies the estrogen receptor in place of an estrogen, it paralyzes the receptor, preventing it from triggering the events that result in cell division. It does not kill cancer cells, but in some respect, puts them to sleep or disables them. Scientists call this a cytostatic drug; the word cytotoxic means toxic to cells, or cell-killing. However, Tam does not kill the cancer cells, but rather only stops them from growing; therefore there is no offer for a cure, only a band-aid. When you remove the band-aid, the cells can then begin to divide again. Tamoxifen also comes with a host of potential side effects so many doctors suggest a time limit of five years, after which the negatives may outweigh the positives.
Ok…so is there a natural substitute for Tamoxifen? The short answer is no. Many women seek out a natural replacement for this drug, but the replacement is really an overall lifestyle approach – including diet, exercise, stress management, avoidance of toxins and adding the support of herbs and supplements. In other words, the best thing really is to follow an anti-cancer strategy. In doing so, you will naturally incorporate an anti-estrogen strategy. Your endocrine and immune systems will be in balance and you will be optimizing the other systems in your body to join you in your defense of cancer. However there are some things you can concentrate on.
The first thing you can do to reduce estrogen is to avoid unnecessary exposure to hormone- influencing toxins. Be aware that most commercial home, garden and beauty products contain hormone-like compounds in them. Purchase safer, chemical-free products, and please, do not use plastic containers or plastic wrap in the microwave (better yet, toss the micro, but that is a story for another day) and avoid BPA exposure as much as possible.
Please view the following links for the how-to of reducing the toxins in your world:
Exercise and maintaining a healthy weight play a crucial role in cancer prevention. Exercise helps to reduce excess estrogen from the body and being overweight boosts the body’s estrogen levels. Obesity increases the body’s insulin levels and insulin-like growth factors (IGFs) that have a growth promoting effect on cells, especially on cancerous cells. Further, recent studies have proven that overweight and obese women have higher levels of inflammation, which provides a cancer promoting environment in the body. Try to exercise for at least 30-45 minutes a day. Any exercise is better than none, but a brisk walk or run will give you more protection.
“Let Food be thy Medicine, and Medicine be thy Food” Hippocrates
Hippocrates was right, and in this case, specific food choices and supplements offer natural ways to inhibit cancer growth and balance hormones.
Flaxseed–The lignans in flax are phytoestrogens, but they actually bind to estrogen receptors in the body and work a bit like Tamoxifen, as they hop on the estrogen and bind up these hormones and carcinogens and remove them from the body. Although lignans are found in most unrefined grains (barley, buckwheat, millet and oats), soybeans, and some vegetables (broccoli, carrots, cauliflower and spinach), flaxseed is the richest source. I recommend eating 2 tablespoons freshly ground golden flaxseed daily.
More on the benefits of flaxseed:
Love your liver—No, not liver, your liver. Your body depends on a fully-functioning liver to break down and eliminate hormones and toxins in the body. Calcium d-glucurate, a natural ingredient found in certain vegetables and fruits that helps detoxify the liver and promote estrogen metabolism. Vegetables rich in glucaric acid include those in the cruciferous family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, etc. –please eat several servings of these every day), as well as in the gourd (think squash, watermelon and pumpkins). For fruits, look for oranges and apples, and consider legumes such as peas, lentils and bean sprouts. Calcium d-glucurate can also be found in supplement form. Silymarin or milk thistle also prevents damage to the liver by acting as an antioxidant and enhancing the detoxification process. NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine) is also a liver fortifier and detoxification tool. (NAC is also useful in the removal of the lead and mercury from dental fillings as well as the toxins in paint). Limit alcohol and avoid drugs that can damage the liver.
Adding bitter greens, such as arugula and chicory, to salads will also help the liver excrete excess hormones. (Arugula is also a member of the cruciferous family)
Pomegranate– are a potent source phytonutrients, and antioxidants like polyphenols, ellagitannins (ellagic acid), tannins and anthocyanins. These compounds are strong free-radical fighters, providing added protection against cellular damage, and research has suggested that these phytochemicals may suppress estrogen. Researchers now believe that it is specifically the ellagic acid in pomegranates that inhibits aromatase, the key enzyme used by the body to make estrogen. Thus, as breast and ovarian cancers require estrogen to grow, AIs are offered to either block the production of estrogen or block the action of estrogen on receptors; pomegranates and their bioactive metabolites may act as a natural aromatase inhibitor. Other sources of Ellagic acid are raspberries and Marion berries.
Please note: I do not suggest that you take ellagic acid supplements, but rather whole food sources of Ellagitannin. When you eat foods that contain ellagitannins, your body converts these ellagitannins into ellagic acid much in the same way your body converts Beta-carotene into vitamin A. When you eat beta-carotene rich foods, you get the full benefit of Vitamin A without the potential health risks of the synthetic form of vitamin A. The same is true for Ellagic Acid which is not as available to the body and comes with potential side effects, such as high blood pressure.
Limit Caffeine– Those who consumed at least 500 mg of caffeine daily, the equivalent of four or five cups of coffee had nearly 70% more estrogen than women who consumed less than 100 mg of caffeine daily.
Choose only organic animal products from grass-fed livestock that has not been fed estrogen, progesterone or testosterone. Fats from milk and meat are loaded with estrogen, but at least try to avoid products with added hormones.
Eat apples, every day. Quercetin, found in apples, red wine, onions, and green tea, has anti-estrogenic effects and may reduce the metastatic potential of cancer cells. Red wine you say? Yes, red wine may lower estrogen levels. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/240065.php?utm_medium=twitter&utm_s
Diindolylmethane (DIM) is a phytonutrient and plant indole found in cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale, with many powerful anticancer properties. Dim also promotes estrogen metabolism. Estrogen can be metabolized in two different pathways in the liver, which results in two different kinds of estrogen, “good” and “bad” estrogen. “Good” estrogen metabolites are released into the bloodstream there they cause many of the benefits estrogen provides, such as prevention of heart disease, and strong, healthy bones. “Bad” estrogen, in large quantities, can result in many health problems including autoimmune disorders, breast cancer, cervical dysplasia, fibroid tumors, magnesium deficiency, osteoporosis, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and zinc deficiency. ***Please read the following article for an update on DIM, posted April 8th 2013. DIM-New Thoughts on an Old Story.
Manage Stress—the adrenal gland is where stress is expressed. Chronic stress leading to adrenal fatigue is a leading cause of progesterone depletion and thus estrogen dominance. Stress, per se, is not the true enemy, but rather how we respond to it. For more on stress and cancer, please visit: http://elynjacobs.wordpress.com/2011/12/09/changing-the-cancer-environment/
My post on Chinese Herbal Medicine highlighted the point that CHM looks to individually assess each person’s condition, identifying excesses, deficiencies, and imbalances – as understood within the TCM diagnostic framework – and to prescribe a combination of herbs to bring the system as a whole back into balance. With that said, a lot of research has been done on the physiological effects of various herbs, particularly on estrogen and other hormones, so a visit with an herbalist might be a good part of an anti-estrogen strategy.
Simply put, estrogen can be reduced or managed using exercise, diet and relaxation modalities, but there is not one magic bullet. That said, I know I have mentioned embracing the cruciferous family, but I cannot stress this enough….raw is best, juicing fantastic, and freeze-dried fine if that is the only way to get them. I strongly recommend the use of super-food powders such as Completely Green, Barleans Greens and similar formulas….these supplements are a great way to bridge the gap between great intentions and actually getting the nutrients and enzymes we need. Take time for yourself everyday for exercise, laughter, relaxation and love, and benefit from a monthly massage. Embrace every day and remind yourself everyday that you matter, that you deserve to be loved and cared for.
Please understand that nothing in this post represents medical advice, and I encourage you to discuss this information with your integrative oncologist or naturopathic doctor. I have compiled this information solely for those seeking an alternative to Tamoxifen and cannot endorse either protocol.
You may find the following article helpful, but please discuss any and all of the suggestions here with your doctor before utilizing them. http://www.drlam.com/articles/estrogen_dominance.asp?page=1
Herbal Medicine, and Healing Cancer , by Dr Donald Yance, is an excellent resource for balancing hormones and healing cancer naturally, as well as for support during conventional cancer treatments. For a list of specific herbs that help to balance hormones, please see page 334.
You may also be interested in Natural Alternatives to Aromatase Inhibitors: http://elynjacobs.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/natural-alternatives-to-aromatase-inhibitors/
Elyn Jacobs is a certified cancer coach, a breast cancer survivor and the Executive Director for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. She empowers women to choose the path for treatment that best fits their own individual needs. Elyn helps women to uncover the nutritional deficiencies and emotional stress patterns that may have contributed to their cancer and to support their body as it activates it own natural ability to fight the disease. She is passionate about helping others move forward into a life of health and wellbeing. To learn more about Elyn’s coaching services or to learn more about eating for life, please visit: http://elynjacobs.wordpress.com.