Natural healing, natural wellness

Archive for March, 2010

Synthetic Aromatase Inhibitors – Dealing With Side Effects

For various reasons, women go on aromatase inhibiting drugs to help inhibit the production of hormones like estrogen. Like many drug solutions, the results can be swift and impressive, much faster than if you were to opt for a natural way to inhibit estrogen, such as by having a diet rich in natural aromatase inhibitors. However, like many drug-based programs, there are usually side effects.

All of us are different, our ailments are different, the pathways are different and there is no one simple solution for everyone. Whether one chooses conventional medical treatment and/or alternative therapy is not for others to dictate or question. As long as your decision is based on well-researched information and you have peace with it, it should be respected.

Many women today are on synthetic aromatase inhibitors like Femara or Armidex to help stop the aromatase function where androgen is converted to estrogen, the hormone feeding two-thirds of breast cancers worldwide. Here’s a selection of tips (gleaned from various message boards) from some of these women on how to deal with certain side effects:

Pain

  • Exercise, no alcohol, healthy diet helped with the pain and general well-being. Had to rest mid day, taking Femara at night reduced the pain, Supplements: calcium+ Vit D and Fosamax for the bones, glucosamine for the joints.
  • I have to thank two people who posted on this board that they take their Femara with food and that they experience less side effects. I was taking it at night, just before bed. That night I took it with a granola bar and a yogurt and the VERY NEXT DAY the pain was 75% better. By the day after that the pain was gone.
  • My oncologist advised me to take Glucosamine and Condrointin 3x daily from the beginning and it has helped so much it is hard to describe.
  • Glucosomine/chondroitin/MSM has helped joint pain,
  • I have found that taking TURMERIC (a natural ingredient in curry with anti-inflammatory properties) along with the glucosamine-chondroitin has helped a lot with the joint and bone pain.
  • My feet hurt me so bad I could hardly stand and then I started taking Glucosamine, Chrondroitin and MSM Complex. It has helped a lot.
  • Got relief for most of the side effects by taking Glucosamine, Chondroitin, MSM pills for joints and it helped greatly
  • I started taking 1200 mg Caltrates and 1000 IU Vitamin E daily. This has helped me with joint pains.
  • I started taking Pilates 4 years ago and it has helped enormously w/joint pain.
  • I exercise 3 times per week and found yoga to be most helpful to reduce joint pain
  • Strenuous exercise along w/increased calcium/vitamin D can help to reduce joint pain
  • Never been an exerciser but started aqua-therapy which has all but eliminated muscle and joint pain. The key is range of motion and water therapy does the trick. The temptation is to slow down because of pain but exercise has made a difference for me.
  • I am exercising 5 days a week, and exercise class in the pool with styrofoam weights two of those days. Water exercise is very soothing on joints and muscles, and can be as strenuous as you want it to be.
  • Exercise regimen by riding my bicycle 14 or 20 miles round trip to work, depending upon the location. This has helped tremendously with my achy neck and right hip. I find that movement is much easier upon wakening.
  • So many have mentioned foot pain. The only shoes I can wear are called ‘crocs’. if i try to go barefoot, i cannot walk more that four steps without flinching. these shoes are a godsend. however, they don’t look good with dresses!!! but, at this point, who cares? i take one vicodin in the morning as well as meloxicam, an anti-inflammatory med.; folic acid with b vitamins rid the migraines. i take one tylenol-3 at night for foot pain, as well as one extra strength tylenol, plus 100mg trazadone and 1/2 benedryl to help me sleep.
  • After two years or so, I started having pain in my right hip and down my leg where it was uncomfortable to walk. I also developed neuropathy in both feet. ended up going to an acupuncturist only because I was desperate! The next day my pain was gone which absolutely amazes me. I still have the neuropathy, but I can deal with that.
  • I was referred to a Certified Lymphedema therapist, and have been working with him for 6 months now. The diet changes he recommended included taking cod liver oil, it relieves the joint pain; taking vitamin C; and removing dairy products from my diet. It helps.

Inflammation

  • Taking mobicosa, calcium. Vitamin D, glucosomine, fish oil and juicing daily adding spinach and other fresh greenery to juices to help reduce inflammation. Physiotherapy is helping somewhat.

Osteoporosis or Bone Loss

  • I take extra calcium, glucosamine and antioxidants and eclasta [iv] once a year for osteporosis and misc antioxidants and fish oil tabs.
  • Fossamax works very well (checking on dexa scan): 1 pill weekly.

Brain Fog

  • Omega 3 for the brain!
  • Take fish oil
  • I have starting doing crosswords, Sudoku, even DS Brain Age, and it seems to make a difference.

Fatigue, Drowsiness, Depression & Sleeplessness

  • I started taking Femara with a full stomach at night daily. I discovered that helped reduced my drowsiness for the following day.
  • Exercise reduced drowsiness.
  • Try Clonasepine+Trazadone for depression and GOOD sleep at night time.

Weakness

  • I needed to add exercise to try to regain some strength in my body. I just began Qigong, a form of Tai Chi.

Hot Flashes & Night Sweats

  • The night sweats were the worst! I found a solution in a product called “Chilipad” It is a pad that is placed between the mattress and top sheet. You just set the temperature to your liking and are cool throughout the night. This has been the greatest discovery as there is nothing like a good night’s sleep.
  • It’s the hot flushes I find difficult to deal with so I am having acupuncture and Chinese herbs at the moment and it seems to have reduced the fierceness and number of them.
  • I went on Clonodine (used for high blood pressure) AND IT STOPPED THE HOT FLASHES.!!

Vaginal Dryness

  • Lubrication, lubrication, lubrication for the sex.
  • Replens, lubricants and persistence for sex life
  • Use Replens applicator every 3 days and lots of lubricant to have sex- no condom and really lather it on both of you.
  • Am taking Replens and Ovestin cream for vaginal dryness, and have succeeded in having a sex life, even though less exciting.
  • KY works somewhat for vaginal dryness.

Weight Gain

  • I have been able to maintain my weight with exercise three times a week, yoga and a diet with mostly vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts and less than 20% of meat daily.
  • Aquafit (working out in the pool puts less stress on your joints) really helps to control weight and keep fit
  • EXERCISE (join the gym: be disciplined!) even with a joint pain. This is the best for those of you who gained weight: more weight – more work for joints…. I was on the treadmill even while on 6 months of chemo and 3 months of radiation.

Thinning Hair

  • I went to the dermatologist about my hair. She gave me a special biotin, zinc piccolinate and suggested I use Rogaine. Something worked because my hair has stopped falling out and looks thick again. The zinc piccolinate interfered with my synthroid (throid cancer 9 years ago) so I now take it at a different time than I take the synthroid and that has worked out fine.

General Side Effects

  • I take numerous supplements to counteract known side effects. I hardly feel the effects of Femara
  • I take a multivitamin, vitamin D, red yeast rice (managing cholesterol level), glucosamine (easing joint stiffness), three ibuprofen three times a day for aches and pains, a stool softener and, most nights, Ambien. When I travel I need a separate bag for the medications and supplements. Considering getting a softer mattress.
  • I exercise whether I feel like it or not, a walk…..even a stroll seems to help.
  • I switched my diet to all organic animal products, especially dairy. Why take a pill to remove the estrogens and eat someone else’s?
  • Keep the body moving – I have taken up water aerobics for fitness which does not affect the joints. I also have an ion cleanse detox & reflexology weekly which has me helped enormously. A soft bed has assisted & an understanding family & network of friends.
  • I exercise in the morning, as well as in the evening. That definitely helps.
  • stay as active as you can because I find that has been helping me. I used to be an avid rollerskater and I had not been since surgery. I recently went back about 1 month ago and can feel a difference. (2) PHYSICAL THERAPY – I started going two days a week and it has been working wonders. I feel like a new person.
  • Most side effects have gone away entirely since I started to eat Oatmeal and Buckwheat 30 min. prior to taking Femara. I am also taking B12 vitamins.
  • 50,000 icu Vitamin D, hot spa tub for fee/ankles, Requip for RLS, Effexor for hot flashes, STAY ACTIVE!
  • DRINK TONS OF WATER DAILY and stay away from alcohol which makes your liver work too hard trying to process that in addition to all the drugs. Also, we know the drill – EAT RIGHT – fruits, vegetables – it makes a difference. I eat right – I don’t hurt so much. Eat crap – feel like crap. Yes, exercise too! I know it hurts, but just WALK if you can – keep moving! The Femara WILL take a toll on your bone density as well, take a calcium supplement.
  • I have been able to control all side effects sufficiently. I take Osteo BioFlex (over the counter), 2 tablets once a day, which eliminated the soreness and stiff neck. I took red yeast rice extract, 2 capsules once a day, and that lowered my cholesterol even lower than it was before taking Femara.
  • My oncologist, who is Chinese, put me on Omega 3 fish oil, acidophilus,(both 3 times per day) and melatonin almost immediately when I began my treatments and I was already taking milk thistle 2 or 3 times per day. I stayed on these all during chemo and kept them up after I finished it and radiation. I feel that these supplements have helped me. I do have some joint stiffness and a little pain but it’s not terrible and I plan to ask my oncologist about taking glucosamine for the joint pain.
  • I take fish oil (4000 mg/day), glucosamine chondroitin (Metagenics ‘ChondroCare’ w/ 1500 mg/day of D-Glucosamine sulfate & 1200 mg/day of Chondroitin sulfate), zinc (100 mg/day), calcium citrate w/ magnesium (1500 mg/day), vitamin D3 (1000 mg/day), Ester C w/ bioflavanoids (4000 mg/day). Whenever I run out of any one of these, my symptoms worsen. It takes a while for them to improve after I replenish my supply.
  • I feel GREAT…no joint or bone pain, no weight gain, have tons of energy. I exercise for a minimum of 60 minutes every day and have lost 26 lbs in the past year from weight watchers and exercise. I do a weight bearing exercise class 3x a week.

Of course, there are women who do not want to use aromatase inhibiting drugs. They choose, instead, to try to keep the cancer from recurring through various alternative remedies and lifestyle changes. Here’s an account from one such lady:

No Aromatase Inhibitors At All

  • I must be a renegade here because I refused chemo and am now refusing Femara. After surgery (partial mast) and radiation I have gone on doctor-recommended fruit-vegetable diet, exercising 30 mins day at least 5 days a week. Vit D-3 (also doctor-rec) and doing Eastern methods to boost immune system (acupuncture, Qigong, Reiki). I’ve lost 15 pounds (wasn’t heavy anyway) just about given up alcohol and look and feel better than past 10 years. I read Ralph Moss “Questioning Chemotherapy” prior to my decision to decline that and am now reading what everyone here is saying about A/I. As a biologist I also appreciate the seriousness of totally upsetting the balance of the endocrine system It seems counter-intuitive to go on a drug that will age me and make me fat and crippled when the NCI itself says exercise and weight management are key to prevention. I understand that there is a risk of getting breast cancer back. But that risk is always there. Right now I want to choose wellness.

Reduce Estrogen Levels Naturally

There are various ways to lower estrogen levels naturally. People with estrogen-sensitive disorders like estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer and endometriosis can benefit from the following tips:

Lose Weight
The most dangerous form of estrogen, estradiol, is manufactured in fat cells as well as various places in the body, so it stands to reason that the less fat you carry, the lower your estrogen levels will be. Through a process called aromatization, fat cells actively convert precursor hormones to estradiol, and will continue to do so even after menopause. Excess fat stores both endogenous (produced naturally within the body) and exogenous (originating from outside the body) estrogens. Avoid consuming large meals, as these cause insulin surges in the body which, in turn, wreak havoc with hormones, estrogen in particular.

Increase Consumption of Phytoestrogens
Phytoestrogens are plant chemicals which mimic estrogen. Estrogen facilitates the binding of certain cancer chemicals to receptor sites on good cells and this feeds the cancer. Phytoestrogens are a weak form of estrogen which compete with your body’s natural estrogen to fill these receptor sites, so that the harmful form of estrogen cannot take over these sites. Without the harmful type of estrogen feeding the cancer, the cancer cells starve to death.

Beans (including soybeans), lentils, pulses, peas (including chickpeas), green vegetables, carrots, red peppers, herbs and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage are good sources of phytoestrogens and protective carotenoids. Asians, particularly Orientals, eat lots of soy foods. The Japanese diet, as well as the traditional Chinese diet, is rich in soy foods, and adherents of such traditional diets are known to have a low incidence of cancer. Modern diets typically do not include enough phytoestrogens to protect us from cancer. Be greedy with these foods; eat an abundance of them.

Eat More Estrogen Blockers
There are foods which help to block estrogen from dominating your body. Increase your intake of these estrogen inhibitors.

Reduce Consumption of Animal Fat
Numerous studies have reported that consumption of animal fat, including dairy products, causes many health problems, such as heart disease and cancer. In countries where growth hormones are given to dairy herds, milk has been found to contain high levels of Insulin Growth Factor (IGF 1), which has been shown to affect insulin, estrogen and other hormone levels. Swedish researchers have identified a link between the volume of dairy consumed and the risk of prostate and testicular cancers.

Animal fat also contributes to weight gain (remember the documentary “Super-Size Me”?) which, in turn, produces more fat cells in the body where estrogen can be manufactured and stored.

Vegetarians have half the cancer rates of meat eaters. There are lots of delicious non-animal based foods to enjoy nowadays. There are even mock meats, or vegetarian meats which taste and feel amazingly like real meat. Check them out at Asian grocers and supermarkets. There are plenty of yummy alternatives to dairy products too. Go discover!

Use Natural Progesterone
Natural progesterone acts to balance out and control estrogen levels. Use safe progesterone creams like those made from wild yam, such as Neways’ Endau.

Boost Your Melatonin Levels
Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the body when we practise good sleep habits like sleeping at regular times and sleeping in darkened rooms (light prevents the production of melatonin). This hormone is a potent antioxidant as well as an estrogen balancer, and our bodies produce it about an hour after we fall asleep in a darkened room. Interestingly, people who are blind rarely have breast cancer, whereas people with irregular or poor sleeping patterns , and night shift workers, are more cancer-prone.

Melatonin in supplementary form, like Megatonin, can also be used to boost melatonin levels.

Xenoestrogens – Linked To Cancer

A large number of cancers are categorised as being hormonally responsive, and the hormone responsible in many of these cases is estrogen. Commonly known as the female sex hormone, estrogen is a major driver of many cancers for both men and women. Breast cancer, endometrial, cervical, ovarian, colon, brain tumours and testicular and prostate cancer are just some examples. Estrogen has been found to be the culprit behind even some lung cancers.

Estrogen is actually not a single hormone, but a family of hormones with varying chemical strengths. Some are dangerous, others are less so. Estradiol, an aggressive form of estrogen, is one troublemaker. Research shows that some prostate cancers are driven by a chemical called DHT – produced when estradiol attacks the male hormone, testosterone.

Two in three breast cancers are driven by estrogen, specifically estradiol. This troublesome hormone can cause healthy cells to mutate and stem cells to stay in their rapidly dividing state. It can lower oxygen levels in the cell by 40 per cent, cause malfunctioning of the transport systems across the cell membrane, poison the cell and even help the spread of the cancer message. Trouble starts when dangerous forms of estrogen bind to cell receptor sites, feeding the cancer.

When you have an estrogen-receptor positive (ER+) cancer, you need to avoid adding to the estrogen pool in your body. However, we are constantly exposed to chemicals in our environment, personal care products, household products and our foods which act like estrogen in the body. Examples of some external estrogen-like chemicals are pesticides, BPA, phthalates, toluene, perfumes, and parabens. These exogenous estrogens are called xenoestrogens. Some can be just as harmful as the more aggressive natural estrogens like estradiol.

Xenoestrogens are not the same as phytoestrogens, which are natural estrogens or estrogen-mimics derived from plants. Typically, xenoestrogens are far more potent and dangerous. They can wreak havoc on our endocrine system, creating a host of health problems.

What are some sources of xenoestrogens? Here are some bad guys to watch out for:

Nail varnishes and cleaners – these may contain xylene, formaldehyde and toluene, ingredients associated with health risks like damage to DNA and the liver, skin and respiratory irritation, and neurotoxins. Toulene, an estrogen-mimic, also affects the endocrine system.

Perfume and products with synthetic fragrances – these can be a mixture of over 100 different ingredients, and they are not all required to be named on the label. You need to be vigilant, as several are potent endocrine system disrupters and estrogen mimics. Toluene, for instance, is used in the manufacture of many perfumes.

Swedish research shows that 75 per cent of ordinary, everyday perfumed products used on the body produced DEHP – a very powerful estrogen mimic – once in the blood stream. The researchers discovered that that three-quarters of toiletry products tested contained DEHP and phthalates. Synthetic fragrances, perfumed body sprays, hairsprays and hair products were the main culprits. US research with pregnant women found that DEHP was so powerful that 11 per cent of male offspring born to mothers with high DEHP levels had genital defects. Another study concluded that some testicular cancers can start in the womb because of the use of synthetic fragrances or other xenoestrogens on the skin during pregnancy.

Men should not be complacent as DEHP is also found in soaps, shaving foam and aftershave. Practically all these products contain synthetic perfumes.

Cleaning agents, textiles, plastics, cosmetics and some kinds of paper – these are typical sources of a chemical called 4-nonylphenol (4-NP), an endocrine disrupter as well as an estrogen-mimic. 4-nonylphenol has proven to be a breast cancer threat , as reported by the Journal of Applied Toxicology in 2005. It has also been reported to affect semen quality.

Plastics and plastic additives – bisphenol A (BPA) is an ingredient previously used as a fungicide which is now used to manufacture many plastics and plastic additives. It is an endocrine disrupter, mimicking hormones like estrogen. Epoxy resins containing bisphenol A are used as coatings on the inside of almost all food and beverage cans, including bottle caps. Even water supply lines are coated with this chemical.

Bisphenol A is a key component in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic, a clear and nearly shatter-proof plastic used to make a variety of common products including baby and water bottles, sports equipment, medical and dental devices, dental fillings and sealants, eyeglass lenses, CDs and DVDs, and household electronics. Bisphenol A is a popular color developer in thermal paper and in carbonless copy paper.

Flexible plastics, toys, toiletries and other personal care or beauty products – these widely contain phthalates, another endocrine disrupter and estrogen-mimic. Like other endocrine disrupters, phthalates can elevate estradiol production and cause chromosomal damage. Phthalates leach from certain plasticisers used in plastic bottles, used to contain anything from drinking water to hair shampoo and other personal care products.

Cosmetics like face creams, lipsticks etc – many contain estrogen mimics. Dr Ana Soto of Tuft’s experimented with 10 such estrogen mimics, all normal product ingredients designated as safe levels by the US Government. In studies with rats she got a full estrogen response, the sort of effect you might see from the most potent form of estrogen, estradiol. That was just 10 ingredients! How many more estrogen mimics are you exposed to each week in your own home? Probably hundreds.

Finally (for this post any way) sodium lauryl sulphate in soaps, bubble bath, shampoos, dishwashing detergent and so on can increase the permeability of the skin by up to 40 per cent. This just allows more hormone mimics to pass into the blood stream. If you’re still using personal care and household products with sodium lauryl sulphate, for goodness sake WAKE UP! There are alternative, safe toiletry, skin care and household products available today. At least one brand, Neways International, avoids using 3,000 questionable ingredients, including the estrogen-mimics mentioned here.

If you haven’t already done so, switch to using personal care and household care products which are free from questionable ingredients, like xenoestrogens. It could save your life.