Flax Seed for Breast and Prostate Protection (online only)
By Suzy Cohen, RPh
My sister has breast cancer and is taking tamoxifen. She would like to take flax seed supplements (or eat the ground up seeds/oil) but she doesnít know if it will help or interfere with her treatment. Her doctor said it was fine, but wanted her to double check with you, since they both read you in the local paper in Florida. Thanks for your help. --T.R. Albany, New York
Answer: Lots of women have asked me if flax seed is safe to take if they have a history of breast cancer because they are a form of estrogen. First off, you should know that flax seed is a natural plant-based estrogen that is considered beneficial to the breast and prostate. It helps process estrogen to safer by products in the body.
Regarding your sister, the final approval to use flax must come from her physician, but since he has asked me to weigh in, I say yes. Flax protects the breasts, and studies today show that it enhances the activity of tamoxifen.
Flax seed is full of nutrients your body needs to be healthy, such as omega-3 essential fatty acids, lignans, and fiber. It reduces the risk of various types of cancer, as well as lung and heart disease. One 2007 study even showed that menopausal women noticed fewer hot flashes after adding the seed to their diet!
How exactly does the magic happen? Itís due to lignans, which are complex carbohydrates found in plants. When digested, they offer us natural plant-based estrogens (termed phytoestrogens) and antioxidant power, so they have the ability to replace dangerous estrogens,with safer ones as well as sweep away toxins. Lignans are well known to reduce risk of breast and prostate cancer. Flax seed contains hundreds of times more lignans than most other plant-based foods, making these tiny seeds a gigantic resource for your health. We know that seeds create life on Earth, and they can do the same inside your body.
A recent eight week trial, published in the Molecular Nutrition & Food Resource journal, just got to the nitty gritty of it all. Researchers were trying to flesh out which part of the flax seed it is that makes tamoxifen so effective and as it turns out, itís the oils within that help the most.
Another recent study in May 2010 of Nutrition and Cancer just found that key compounds in the naturally occurring oils of flax seed (such as secoisolariciresinol diglucoside) could slow the growth of established breast tumors. By the way guys, that same compound is known to prevent balding.
Thatís not the first study to prove the power of flax seed in protecting the breasts though. In 2005, a study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that flax seed halted growth of developing breast cancer cells, and therefore slowed the spreading (metastasis) of it.
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