March 24, 2014

Controversy: Flax Seeds and their role in Cancer Prevention

When we ask our patients if they use flax seeds in their diet, most will say “YES, I have been using ground up flax seeds for years!”
Most often people eat them for their fibre, while others only know that it’s a healthy habit.
Well, they are right! As it turns out, they are much more than just a great source of fibre, they also help prevent cancer.

At Vive Integrative Health Group, our doctors recommend ground flax seeds for many reasons.

Flax Seeds Help to Regulate the Effects of Estrogen
Flax seeds have a special group of nutrients within them called lignans.
These lignans act like a very weak form of estrogen, and when in the body, they occupy estrogen receptors preventing stronger estrogens from binding.
This is good because most women are “estrogen dominant”, meaning that the body has an excess of estrogen. These may come from a number of sources – birth control pills, chemicals in our environment, natural hormone production and more.

The flax effect reduces “estrogenic dominance” and can have amazing effects on the body, from reducing menstrual cramping and PMS to prevention of breast cancer.
Lignans and Breast Cancer Prevention
It is well known that various cancers are dependent on estrogen for their growth, so reducing our estrogenic potential will reduce our risk of cancer.
The regular use of flax seeds to prevent breast cancer been proven unequivocally through years of research.
So, the more lignans in the diet, the less the risk of Breast Cancer.

The controversy of Flax Seeds, Lignans and Breast Cancer Survivors
Naturopathic Doctors have recommended flax seeds to prevent recurrence of breast cancer for years, while oncologists have typically been more hesitant. Research has now been published supporting the benefit of lignans in breast cancer survivors.

The Final Word
Flax seeds, a phenomenal source of lignans (and fibre), help to both prevent breast cancer and also prevent recurance of breast cancer in survivors.
The recommendation for breast cancer patients and survivors to avoid flax seeds and other ‘phyto-estrogens’ is out-of-date, but unfortunately still very common.
Please help to enlighten your doctors about the importance of these foods in the prevention of cancers!
Note!! Flax Seeds must be ground up to release the lignans!! (A coffee grinder works very well.)

Reference:
Dietary lignan intakes in relation to survival among women with breast cancer: the Western New York Exposures and Breast Cancer (WEB) Study. SE McCann. Breast Cancer Res Treat (2010) 122:229-235

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