Dear Pharmacist, My older sister had a mastectomy earlier this year. I understand that breast cancer runs in families, so now I’m scared to death so I’m getting tests done myself. Can you offer advice from your natural perspective? --R.Y. Seattle, Washington
Answer: Let me say upfront that an anti-cancer lifestyle -and there is such a thing- is also an anti-breast cancer lifestyle. It includes eating fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, less meat, less processed food (way less!), no smoking, losing weight and exercising. There are many things one can do to erect a powerful protective barrier. At or near the top of my supplement list is flax seed.
Besides serving as a great source of detoxifying fiber and essential fatty acids, flax seeds contain a whopping portion of “lignans”--a plant chemical that your body converts to a hormone-like compound that resembles estrogen (termed phytoestrogens). Many studies show that people who eat a lignan-rich diet have a lower incidence of breast, colon, and prostate cancer. Phytoestrogens fit nicely into your cells’ estrogen-receptor sites, thereby preventing dangerous estrogens from causing problems like breast cancer. This is a much simplified explanation, but you get the idea. Ground up flax seeds provide hundreds of times more lignans than any other plant.
Flax seeds pack such an anti-cancer punch that they may benefit women with active breast cancer. One randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study (that’s the most rigorous kind of scientific study) found positive results in post-menopausal women who had breast cancer. Participants had to eat muffins that were baked either with flax seeds or without (placebo). The cancer cells stopped growing aggressively in the group of women who ate muffins containing flax seed, and some of the cancer cells even died (apoptosis). Of course, I’m not advocating flax seeds as the cure for breast cancer, but it’s clear that flax can zap cancer cells to some extent.
You can buy the fresh seeds at health food stores and even some grocery stores. Grind up one tablespoon daily and sprinkle it on salads or greens, or into your fruit smoothie. Do bother to grind them up. Don’t try to save time by swallowing a mouthful of seeds because you’ll chew for an hour! I use both the seeds and flax seed oil several times a week, but I prefer the ground seeds because of the higher lignan content and fiber.
If you have breast cancer in your family, I completely understand your urgency to do anything you can to keep this dreaded disease at bay. Flax seeds are just one of more than a dozen superfoods and supplements that I recommend to prevent breast cancer (and prostate cancer). For a full account of other helpful supplements, please see my ebook Breast Cancer Protection, which is available through my website.
Did You Know?
Mirena is a new intrauterine device that can prevent pregnancy for up to five years.