February 2007 | Supplements to Help Prevent Breast Cancer

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By Dr. Matsen

In addition to healthy lifestyle practices like those recommended on the Eating Alive Program, there are supplements that may help to prevent, and even aid in the treatment of, breast cancer.

Support Your Liver

One of the most important things you can do to help prevent breast cancer (and other diseases) is to support your liver, which has hundreds of jobs to do, including detoxification. Your liver is responsible for breaking down hormones and for neutralizing toxins, including those that may be cancer-causing.

Liver detoxification uses a two-step process involving Phase I and Phase II enzymes. Glutathione peroxidase is your body’s key Phase II detoxification enzyme. It is found throughout the body, particularly in the liver, thyroid, and immune system.

Supplements that support the liver are listed below: 

Milk Thistle Extract contains a compound called silymarin which activates glutathione peroxidase, thereby enhancing liver detoxification.

Selenium is one of the components that is crucial for glutathione peroxidase to perform its duties. SeMC (Se-Methylselenocysteine) is the least toxic form of selenium, yet is the most potent for preventing and reversing cancer. Studies have shown that SeMC has direct anti-cancer properties by inducing cancer cells to commit “suicide” (called apoptosis), without harming nearby healthy cells. The maximum dosage for adults is 200 mcg per day.

Whey Protein Powder supplies glutathione peroxidase with another crucial component, namely sulfur, from the amino acid cysteine. Choose an unsweetened whey powder that contains cold-processed, micro-filtered whey protein isolates. Isolates are considered the best form of whey protein because they are pure protein with no fat, no lactose, and very low sodium. Some other brands of whey protein powders are blended with heat-treated whey protein concentrates, milk protein (casein), and soy protein.

Indole-3-carbinol (I-3-C) is a natural ingredient found in the cruciferous family of vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc.). Scientific research has shown that I-3-C may play an important role in cancer prevention.

There are two main pathways in the liver in which steroid hormones, such as estrogens, are broken down. The 16-alpha pathway results in biologically active estrogens that can contribute to: infertility; breast, cervical, and prostate cancers; and all kinds of menstrual problems, such as irregular periods, cramping, moodiness, and irritability. The C-2 pathway results in biologically inactive estrogens that are excreted via the urine.

I-3-C is most noted for its ability to aid the breakdown of strong hormones (estrogens) into milder forms through the C-2 pathway. I-3-C activates the liver’s detoxification enzymes and helps to convert the hormones into a water-soluble form that can be neutralized by the Phase II enzymes.

Sulphoraphane is also found in cruciferous vegetables. It enhances Phase II enzymes and directly stimulates the immune system.

Calcium D-glucarate is a substance found in some fruits and cruciferous vegetables. Steroid hormones and chemical carcinogens that are neutralized by the liver are passed into the large intestine (colon) to be eliminated. However, certain bacteria that live in the colon can produce an enzyme that causes these toxins to be reabsorbed rather than excreted. Excess activity of this enzyme is associated with increased risk of cancer, particularly breast, colon, and prostate cancers. Supplementation with calcium D-glucarate has been found to inhibit this enzyme so that the toxins are more likely to be excreted, thereby reducing the body’s load of deadly hormones and carcinogens.

Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids helps to neutralize peroxides created by liver detoxification. It also supplies the liver with much-needed antioxidants.

Curcumin is the substance that gives the spice, turmeric, its yellow color. It is a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to have anti-cancer properties.

Include Essential Fatty Acids

To promote breast health it’s important to choose the right types of fats in your diet. Avoid trans fats and include essential fatty acids (EFAs) instead. EFAs are those that your body cannot synthesize itself—they must be supplied from your diet. Your body needs EFAs to maintain and regulate normal cell growth and repair. EFAs are found in the membranes of every cell of your body and they’re important components of your nervous, immune, and hormonal systems, among others. EFAs aid in transporting and storing the fat-soluble vitamins, and in energy production. And scientific research has found that many EFAs may help to prevent and treat certain types of cancer, including cancer of the breast.

Foods and supplements that contain EFAs are listed below:

Flaxseeds are an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which has powerful anti-cancer properties. ALA has been shown to protect against breast cancer and stop the growth of breast cancer cells.

Flaxseeds are also the best source of lignans, a natural compound found in plants. When lignans are eaten by your intestinal bacteria, they are converted into plant estrogens called phytoestrogens. These phytoestrogens look and act like very mild estrogens—they balance out your hormones and help protect against cancer.

And as an added bonus, flaxseeds are also rich in fiber. Fiber pulls the hormones released in the bile out with the stool before intestinal bacteria can convert them back into strong, potentially harmful hormones. Flaxseeds are protected by a tough seed coat that won’t be broken down by the digestive process, so if you swallow them whole you won’t benefit from all the nutrients they contain. You can grind whole flaxseeds in a coffee grinder or in a small blender. Grind them just before consuming them so that the oil remains fresh—it is easily spoiled by heat, oxygen, and light.

Fish Oil is high in the healthy omega-3 fats eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which also have a protective effect against breast cancer. Choose fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines, and/or take a fish oil supplement.

Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid, is found in borage oil and evening primrose oil. GLA has been shown to kill cancer cells and it works well in conjunction with TamoxifenTM, a drug commonly used to treat breast cancer.

Conjugated Llinoleic Acid (CLA ), another healthy fat, has been found to exhibit anti-cancer properties against breast, prostate, and colon cancers.

Drink This for Many Health Benefits

Green tea contains bioflavonoids that stimulate the antioxidant activity of liver enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase. These bioflavonoids can also bind and neutralize toxic epoxides and they inhibit the formation of toxic nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic compounds. In addition to its anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects, green tea has been found to aid in fat loss. It also contains L-theanine, which inhibits the side effects of the small amount of caffeine in green tea and it has a non-drowsy, calming effect on the body.