Enhancing Tamoxifen Increases its Effectiveness
As a chemopreventive agent, tamoxifen has been shown in two studies to reduce breast cancer by as much as 50% for women at high risk for breast cancer. In addition, tamoxifen reduces the incidence of osteoporotic fractures in postmenopausal women.
Whereas tamoxifen can reduce your risk for breast cancer, especially if you are high risk, it does have negative side effects. Some of the side effects are due to low estrogen or estrogen being blocked at the cellular level. But you can enhance the effectiveness of tamoxifen and reduce some of the negative side effects with the right nutrition.
What is Tamoxifen, and How Does It Reduce Breast Cancer Risk?
In 1966, tamoxifen was initially developed to be used as an emergency birth control but was not effective in controlling women's fertility. However, during research, it was discovered that tamoxifen inhibited the growth of ER-positive breast cancer cells.
Tamoxifen is a drug often used to treat women who have had estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) breast cancer or at high risk for breast cancer. It is usually prescribed as therapy for 5-10 years to prevent or reduce the risk of recurrence.
As a selective estrogen modulator (SERMs), tamoxifen has the ability to be an “antiestrogen” in breast tissue. By being a SERM, tamoxifen can reduce your breast cancer risk while preserving estrogen's positive actions throughout the body.
Is Tamoxifen an Antiestrogen Drug?
Tamoxifen is often referred to as an antiestrogen drug or thought of as reducing estrogen production. In reality, it acts by modulating or changing how the estrogen cell receptor receives the hormone estrogen.
Estrogen receptors are found throughout the body, including the breast and uterine tissue. As a hormone, estrogen has various types of action. For instance, estrogen decreases cholesterol levels (LDL), maintains bone density, regulates hormones, and controls the menstrual cycle.
Because tamoxifen blocks the estrogen receptor, some of the side effects are related to low estrogen, like hot flashes. By enhancing tamoxifen effectiveness with the right foods you can reduce some of these side effects. In addition, these top 5 foods help to promote healthy metabolism of estrogen reducing your risk for breast cancer.
Tamoxifen Helps Increase the Good Estrogen Receptor
In addition to reducing estrogen's effects on the target tissue, tamoxifen also promotes a healthy balance in the types of estrogen receptors. There are two types of estrogen receptors – alpha and beta.
Alpha estrogen receptors are often referred to as the “gas” and promote cell growth and proliferation. Increased expression of the alpha receptor is good, especially when pregnant, but not so much if we have a breast cancer tumor.
Beta estrogen receptors, on the other hand, are the “brakes” on cell growth. Tamoxifen helps balance these two types of cell receptors, thereby reducing the risk of tumor development and cancer.
Can Foods Enhance Tamoxifen Reducing Risk for Breast Cancer
Food contains chemical compounds, like sulforaphane, that enhances the way that tamoxifen works. These compounds help improve tamoxifen by reducing the estrogen burden and safely detox estrogen from our bodies. Also, these compounds can help to balance our alpha and beta estrogen receptors.
Other compounds like epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG, found in green tea, actually increase the bioavailability or absorption of tamoxifen. This helps to improve the effectiveness and the metabolism of the tamoxifen.
What are The Top 5 Foods That Enhance Tamoxifen?
Recent studies have shown that flaxseed, along with tamoxifen, reduced tumor size by more than 53%! Flaxseed contains lignans, a phytoestrogen that blocks the estrogen receptor, similar to what tamoxifen does. It also helps create a healthy balance between the alpha and beta estrogen receptors, reducing your breast cancer risk.
Flaxseeds are found in two types; brown and golden. Golden flaxseed grows in colder climates, with brown being grown in warmer, more humid climates. Brown flaxseed should be ground for better digestion and absorption. Make sure to buy fresh seeds, grind them at home, and keep them in the refrigerator. You can easily ground seeds in a small coffee grinder set aside for that purpose. The ground flaxseeds can be added to smoothies, yogurt, muffins, and other baked goods.
You can also consume flaxseed oil but remember flaxseed oil is very volatile – in other words, it can go bad very quickly. Make sure to buy high-quality, fresh-pressed, and sold in dark bottles. A brand that we like is Barleans Flax Oil with Lignans, as they stated the date of when it has been pressed and have been known for their quality products. Make sure to store it in the fridge to maintain freshness.
Like all cruciferous vegetables, broccoli contains high amounts of sulforaphane. Research has shown that sulforaphane increases the sensitivity of tamoxifen. Sulforaphane also promotes the healthy detoxification of estrogen!
One of the highest sources of sulforaphane can be found in broccoli sprouts. To assure quality sprouts, make these nutrition powerhouses easily in jars as shown using one of my favorite Mountain Rose Herbs Organic Sprouting Seeds.
A simple tip to get more sulforaphane from your cruciferous vegetables is to chop them up and let them rest for 30 to 60 min before cooking. During this time, your broccoli will form more sulforaphane!
Green tea contains EGCG, a compound known to not only enhance tamoxifen but has many other cancer-fighting properties. It is one of our master foods in our Breast Cancer Answer program as it helps to reduce inflammation and upregulate the master gene known as Nrf2 – a known cancer-fighting gene.
Is green tea and matcha the same? Matcha is just the ground leaves of green tea, therefore, much more concentrated in EGCG, making it a more potent tamoxifen enhancer. It is also higher in caffeine, so you are sensitive to caffeine, limit matcha, or go with green tea. You can drink matcha as a tea or use it in cooking like this recipe for Gluten Free Matcha Green Tea Banana Bread.
Garlic & Onions
Garlic and onions are in the same family known as alliums and contain many different anti-cancer fighting compounds. In addition to enhancing tamoxifen, these compounds help to promote the healthy detoxification of estrogen.
A recent study was done in Porto Rico that showed consuming a diet high in onions and garlic, which included one of their favorite sauces, sofrito, may be protective against breast cancer.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil contains a compound known as oleic acid, which has been found to reduce the expression of a particular breast cancer gene by 46%! In addition, it is high in anti-oxidants, protective against all cancers.
When choosing olive oil, make sure to choose an extra virgin, unrefined, and preferably organic. By being unrefined, the olive oil will retain the cancer-fighting compounds. Unrefined olive oil, however, will have a lower cooking temperature or what is called smoke point.
Can These Super Foods Take the Place of Tamoxifen?
The simple answer is no! The information in this blog is not intended to take the place of your doctor's prescription and advice. Instead, it is information on nutrition and lifestyle factors that greatly enhance the chemo preventive qualities of tamoxifen. And, to reduce some of the side effects of this drug.
Want to Learn More About How Can Reduce Your Risk for Breast Cancer?
Are you struggling to try to figure out just how you can prevent breast cancer or recurrence? Are you confused with all of the nutrition advice out there? It might be time to look at Nutrigenomics that provides a truly personalized approach to reducing your risk for breast cancer.
Nutrigenomics is the science of how you can address your genes through nutrition and lifestyle changes reducing your risk for breast cancer. Clinical research shows that there are genomic variances that go beyond the BRCA gene that you can help support through nutrition.
Offering my Nutrigenomics & Breast Cancer Solutions package the begins your journey in personalizing your nutrition to reduce risk. Want to learn more? Book your complimentary Discovery Chat today!
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- Nutrition Influences on Estrogen Metabolism, Douglas C. Hall, MD, 2001
- BRCA Mutations: Cancer Risk & Genetics Testing
- How Common is Breast Cancer?
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- Molecular Targets for Bioactive Food Components, J. A. Milner, Nutritional Sciences Research Group, American Society for Nutritional Sciences, 2004
- Nutrigenomics and Breast Cancer; State-of-Art, Future Perspectives and Insights for Prevention, Sellami, et al Nutrients 2020
- Cancer Chemoprevention by Dietary Polyphenols: Promising Role for Epigenetics, Link, et al, Biochem Pharmacol, 2010
- Additive and synergistic effect of phytochemicals in prevention of oral cancer, Chandra, et al, European Jounral of General Destistry Vol 1, Issue 3, 2012
Eileen Schutte, MS, CN, FMN – One of my biggest passions is to help clients overcome food intolerances like histamine intolerance and sensitivities so that they can enjoy food again. My other passion is nutrigenomics, speaking to your genes through nutrition with focus on digestive health, autoimmune conditions, and skin health. I hold a master's degree in functional nutrition from the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut graduating Summa Cum Laude. After completing my masters I went on to get my certification in functional nutrition medicine, and am a Certified LEAP Therapist (food sensitivities program).