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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.!!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.