The problem with tamoxifen
Tamoxifen is a drug that is often prescribed for patients who have been diagnosed with estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancers in order to block estrogen from binding to the hormone receptor sites with the assumption that it will prevent future estrogen-fueled breast cancers. It is being used in both metastatic and in adjuvant settings, with tens of thousands of premenopausal patients being prescribed this drug every year.
We often hear how drug companies manipulate studies in order get their pharmaceutical products approved. One prime example of this distortion is found when we take a closer look at the actual numbers regarding the studies relating to tamoxifen.
The final results from the Breast Cancer Prevention Trial reported that high risk women who used tamoxifen for five years reduced their risk of death from breast cancer recurrence by 49%. According to the study, your odds of getting breast cancer without using tamoxifen were 1.3%, and with tamoxifen it dropped to .68%. While there is is a 49% difference between the two numbers, in reality we are talking about 86 women out of 13,388, or just a little over one-half of one-percent (or 0.64%) of the total, which is vastly different from the implied studies and certainly not worth the health risks that are associated with tamoxifen.
Side effects of tamoxifen may include:
- In 1996, a division of the World Health Organization, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, declared that tamoxifen is a Group I carcinogen, meaning that it can cause cancer.
- Tamoxifen can increase your risk of developing cancer of the uterus, ovaries, and gastrointestinal tract while only reducing the risk of secondary breast cancer by less than 1%
- For the study on endometrial cancer: 1400 women were given tamoxifen, while another 1400 women were given a placebo for 5 years. The women were carefully followed for 7 years. During this time, 15 of the women taking tamoxifen developed endometrial cancer compared to only 2 in the control group. A similar increase of endometrial cancer was seen in another breast cancer prevention trial. For this second trial, the women taking tamoxifen had 33 cases of endometrial cancer compared to only 14 cases among participants receiving the placebo. Women older than 50 years of age had about a four fold risk of developing endometrial cancer, and there was a doubling of risk for the younger women. Because of the increased risk of endometrial cancer it is recommended that women taking tamoxifen should have an annual gynecologic exam.
- A study at Johns Hopkins found that tamoxifen can increase the risk of developing liver cancer.
- It can increase the risk of developing life threatening blood clots in the lungs or other major blood vessels
- Significantly increases the overall inflammation of the body as measured with a CRP test, and women report experiencing pain as a result of this inflammation.
- Increases the development of mental confusion, memory loss and depression
- Source to statistical information for tamoxifen (this is a pdf document)
Reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens
Estrogen, like every hormone that is produced in the body, is a much needed chemical messenger that transports a signal from one cell to another. Xenoestrogens are environmental estrogens that have the ability to change the rate at which estrogen is broken down by the body and it can mimic naturally produced estrogen and bind to its receptors. Both of these scenarios can result in an overabundance of estrogen and an increase in the overall effects that it has on the body and can lead to hormonal imbalance.
When foreign estrogens combine with natural estrogen, this can create a situation known as “estrogen dominance.” Some of the negative effects can include early-onset puberty, infertility issues, miscarriages, decreased sperm counts, mood swings, headaches, foggy thinking, fatigue, sleep disturbances, hot flashes, digestive issues, gynecomastia (the development of breasts in males), estrogen-fueled breast cancers, as well as prostate and testicular cancers in men.
Xenoestrogens are very prevalent in our environment, some examples of them include: gasoline, automobile exhaust, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs were banned in the 70’s, yet remain prevalent in our environment), Bisphenol A from plastic water bottles and containers that are commonly used to store and heat foods, birth control pills, herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides, ingredients in nail polish, makeup, sunscreens, and perfumes, etc.
Ways to balance your hormones naturally.
- Eat a whole foods, mostly plant-based diet that eliminates all processed foods, flours, dairy products and red meats.
- This diet can include limited amounts of pasture-raised organic eggs, wild-caught salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines and anchovies a couple of times per week, as needed.
- Fresh vegetables– are some of the most nutrient dense foods that you can eat. Some cancer-fighters include bok choy, broccoli, spinach, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, collard greens, beets, eggplant, green beans, kale, leeks, onion, peppers, radish, scallions, mustard greens, Swiss chard, leafy greens, tomatoes, summer squash, mushrooms, etc.
- Fresh fruits – if you are excluding fruit from your diet, you are missing out on an abundance of antioxidants, flavonoids, and anthocyanins that can prevent and reverse cellular damage and reduce overall inflammation. Some powerful fruits to include are: blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, grapes, cherries, pomegranates, cantaloupe, papaya, pineapple, watermelon, lemons, limes, and oranges. Fruits are very easily digested, therefore they should be eaten separately or about 1/2 hour before your main meals, or they can easily be blended into smoothies along with leafy greens.
- This diet includes juicing fresh vegetables. Read more about juicing
- This diet includes making nutritious smoothies. Read more about smoothies.
- Complex carbs can include sweet potatoes, yams, black rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and adzuki beans.
- Add broccoli sprouts on your daily salad as they are high in nutrients and can also help the body to eliminate excess estrogen. You can buy broccoli seeds and a Seed Sprouter online and begin to sprout your own.
- A variety of raw nuts such as walnuts, cashews, pecans, and almonds, along with nut butters (except for peanuts and peanut butter), and a variety of seeds including hemp seeds, flax, chia, black sesame, pumpkin, sunflower. Read how to soak and sprout these.
- Acceptable fats can include unrefined coconut oil, organic butter, and ghee, while olive and avocado oils are for cold uses only such as making salad dressings.
- Use herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, cumin, freshly grated ginger root, cayenne pepper, and turmeric
- Eat organic whenever possible as pesticides and herbicides can also promote estrogen dominance.
- Stay hydrated by drinking a minimum 1/2 ounce of purified water for every pound of body weight in order to help the body to flush away the excess estrogens and toxins.
Supplements that can help to balance the hormones naturally
- Adequate iodine supplementation helps the body to produce the hormones that it needs in the proper ratios. Consider taking a quality iodine supplement such as Lugol’s Iodine Solution. Many things can interfere with iodine absorption, some of these include goitrogens, glutens, fluoride, bromide, pesticides, and viral infections. Read more about iodine here.
- DIM, or Diindolylmethane helps to support detoxification and healthy estrogen balance.
- Make sure you are getting adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals. These can be difficult to obtain from the diet alone, so supplementation will help to cover any nutritional shortfalls.
- Take quality probiotics to replenish the beneficial gut bacteria and assist with digestion.
- Ashwagandha is an aptogenic herb that has the ability to improve various hormonal issues and reduce inflammation.
- Supplement with Calcium D-Glucarate. The recommended dosage is 400–600 mg per day, taken in divided doses, but those with cancer can take 1000-2000 mg per day, taken in divided doses. Calcium Glucarate facilitates the removal of estrogen and other toxins from the body, and improves estrogen by-product formation so it may help with prostate conditions, PMS and other hormonal imbalances. Women with estrogen-dependent tumors (and men with prostate cancer) may benefit from taking glucarate since it can reduce total estrogen load and improve estrogen metabolite ratios. Animal studies suggest that calcium glucarate not only reduces cancer risk, but may also prevent tumor growth in the skin, breast, liver, colon and lung.
- Grapeseed Extract blocks estrogen synthesis by inhibiting the aromatase enzyme. Link to study. Other aromatase inhibitors include stinging nettles, quercetin, and passionflower, which can be taken in supplement, tea, or extract form.
- Liquid Chlorophyll is a natural detoxifier of the blood and also helps to transport oxygen into the cells.
- Supplementing with a higher CBD to THC ratio of cannabis oil is recommended for those with estrogen positive breast cancers as research has shown that oil that is high in THC can cause estrogen fueled cancers to spread. Patients with ER+ or triple-positive breast cancers have better outcomes when given lower ratios of THC to CBD, such 1:1 or 1:4 (THC:CBD). This recommendation comes from United Patients group from feedback received from their doctors and patients. You can read more about that with this post.
- Using essential oils such as myrrh, myrtyl, sandalwood, geranium, clove, rosemary, and clary sage can also be helpful in balancing the hormones. Read more about essential oils here.
- You can buy Hormone Testing Kits online that will test 5 hormones so you can find out what changes you need to make and then track your progress.
The liver is the most important organ for eliminating excess estrogen so look at ways to help it run more efficiently. These can include detoxification and herbal remedies that support liver function.
- Supplement with Magnesium as it is a crucial mineral involved in Phase II detoxification in the liver. During this process estrogen metabolites are made water-soluble so that they can be excreted from the body in the form of urine or stool. If you don’t have sufficient magnesium levels your liver may be less able to complete the Phase II detoxification and this may contribute to estrogen dominance. Magnesium is best taken before bed on an empty stomach and as an added benefit it can help you relax and sleep better. Look for magnesium glycinate when supplementing.
- Liver Supporting Herbs can assist the body in detoxifying a wide range of hormones, drugs and toxins, including xenoestrogens. Some herbs that are helpful for the liver include milk thistle, dandelion root, chanca peidra, licorice root, and burdock root.
- Bio-available Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory and also helps the liver to eliminate and detoxify cancer causing xenoestrogens.
- Psyllium husks can assist the liver by absorbing old bile and eliminating it from the body. Bile is not excreted from the body as you might expect, it is repeatedly recaptured and recirculated to be used continuously for digestion. Because of this, it becomes more concentrated with toxins (including estrogens). Psyllium husks absorbs this toxic bile and eliminates it from the body which forces the liver to produce fresh bile.
- You can read more about how therapies that support the liver with this post
- Read about how to cleanse and flush the liver and gall bladder with this post
- Have long soaks in an Epson salt/sea salt/baking soda bath which can help those on a mostly vegetarian diet to mobilize toxins out through the skin. Add one cup of Epson salts, 1/2 cup baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and 1/2 cup of sea salt to a warm bath and soak for 20 to 30 minutes. Rinse with plain water when finished soaking to prevent the salt from drying your skin.
Exercise and emotional well-being
- Get moderate exercise daily- walking, yoga, biking, hiking. This also helps the body to remove excess estrogen
- Sweating by way of daily exercise or with the use of a sauna can also help the body to release excess toxins and estrogens as well.
- Lose excess weight as fat cells also have the ability to produce estrogen.
- Learn stress relieving techniques- such as Meditation or Emotional Freedom Technique
Health coach and patient advocate Elyn Jacobs reports on her experience using Tamoxifen and shares some natural alternatives that patients can use instead.
Dr Bob on balancing hormones naturally