Flaxseed and Estrogen Dominance: A Recipe for Hormonal Harmony
Posted by Andrea Nakayama
While October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, that does not mean that breast cancer awareness and action should be relegated to one month out of the year. This is especially true because several types of cancer, as well as low thyroid function, PCOS, and a host of other signs and symptoms, have one big thing in common that deserves our attention… estrogen dominance.
The prevalence of estrogen dominance
Approximately 80% of breast and chest cancers are estrogen receptor positive. What this means for both self-care and client or patient care, is that one of our best cancer prevention techniques is addressing estrogen dominance. This comes with an understanding that estrogen dominance can impact individuals of all ages and diverse gender identities.
Estrogen dominance doesn’t just result in the formation of cancer, it has also led to a significant increase in reproductive disturbances including infertility. It’s a modern-day epidemic influenced by both environmental factors and our body’s ability to break down, process, and eliminate the excess estrogen we’re exposed to.
Anything excess in your body functions much like a toxin. This is referred to as an endogenous toxin, a surplus occurring within the body due to compromised digestion or inefficient metabolism. Estrogen has reached this toxic level in many of us.
Consider these facts and figures related to widespread hormonal imbalances:
- the age of puberty has dropped to as low as 10 years of age
- endometriosis plagues approximately 10% of all peri-menopausal women
- PMS symptoms are increasing, afflicting a minimum of 30% of all menstruating individuals
- uterine fibroids affect close to 25% of women and those with uteruses between the ages of 35 to 50
- approximately 10% of people are diagnosed with breast cancer
- the symptoms of menopause are getting tougher to navigate as the root causes of those manifestations are getting overlooked
Scientific data now supports the fact that hormone disruption is at the roots of all these seemingly separate but related conditions.
Flaxseed and estrogen levels
Some people have questions about flaxseed being a phytoestrogen, meaning a plant estrogen. Does it increase the levels of estrogen in our body? Likely not. In fact, it helps detoxify the more harmful forms of estrogen.
According to Dr. Lise Alschuler, author of the Definitive Guide To Cancer: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing, studies on flax lignans demonstrate safety and efficacy in their use against breast cancer, “inhibiting the growth of human estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells in mice and strengthening the tumor-inhibitory effect of tamoxifen”.
With that myth out of the way, I do promote the use of 1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh ground flax per day. This flexes just the right amount of flax muscle!
The powerful little seed: flaxseed
Hormonal balance may not come in a snack bar, but I’ve got a tip that will most certainly help you on your way. The FxNA Flaxie Maxie Bar is one of my favorite snacks for hormonal harmony. Flaxseeds are a nice source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids and can be a great addition to your diet. Learn more about why I love flax below.
Flaxseeds: a rich source of nutrients!
- Flaxseeds are rich in alpha linolenic acid (ALA). This is an omega-3 fat that is a precursor to the form of omega-3 found in fish oils called eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA.
- Flaxseed oil provides a higher concentration of the ALA than the seeds.
- Whole flaxseeds provide a host of other nutrients that are lost in the oil, including manganese, magnesium, and especially fiber!
Health benefits of consuming flax include:
- bone protection and health
- support for cancer prevention (particularly estrogen dominant cancers)
- reduction in formation of blood clots leading to heart disease
- increased insulin response, beneficial for diabetics and all those with blood sugar imbalances
- blood-pressure regulation
- cholesterol management
- hot flash reduction
How to buy and store flaxseed
- Flaxseeds can be purchased whole, pre-ground, or as an oil. Whole flaxseeds, stored in the freezer and ground weekly is my favorite way to incorporate flax into my everyday routine.
- Whole flax seeds will last longer than pre-ground flax.
- If buying in bulk, be sure the store has a good turn-over rate and the seeds are not sitting too long to ensure freshness.
- Whole flax should be stored in an airtight glass container in your refrigerator or freezer.
- Grind small amounts of whole flaxseeds in a coffee-type grinder and store in a separate airtight container in your refrigerator or freezer.
- Ground flaxseeds are more prone to oxidation.
- Purchase in vacuum-sealed or refrigerated bags and store in an airtight glass container in your freezer.
- Flaxseed oil is especially perishable and should be purchased in opaque bottles that have been kept refrigerated.
- Flaxseed oil should have a sweet nutty flavor.
- Never use flaxseed oil in cooking; add it to foods after they have been heated.
Easy ways to boost flax intake for hormonal harmony:
- Sprinkle ground flax on hot or cold cereal.
- Add ground flax to smoothies.
- Add flaxseed oil to smoothies.
- Use flaxseed oil in place of other oils for salad dressings.
- Dip your bread into flaxseed oil instead of olive oil.
- Add ground flaxseeds to your homemade energy bars Hello Flaxie Maxie Bar recipe below!
- Sprinkle ground flax between the halves of an almond butter and jelly sandwich.
- My son’s favorite breakfast: Gluten-free bagel with flaxseed oil, avocado, tomato, smoked salmon, capers and some good-quality sea salt.
Flaxie Maxie Bars
This low-glycemic version of my original Flax Max Bars was created by one of my clients who’d been experimenting with snacks to maintain blood sugar for better hormone balance. Thanks El!
- 1½ cups almonds (soaked and toasted in the oven is ideal)
- ½ cup walnuts
- ½ cup cacao butter, coconut oil, or a mixture of the two
- ½ cup crunchy almond butter
- ½ cup goji berries
- ¼ cup shredded coconut
- ¼ cup fresh ground flax
- a little vanilla extract
- a couple pinches of salt
- handful of cacao nibs
- 6 drops liquid stevia (add the stevia, mix and taste to bring it to your liking)
- Pulse the nuts, flaxseeds, coconut, nut butter and salt in a food processor.
- Gently melt the coconut oil or cacao butter by placing the glass jar into warm water to soften enough to scoop or pour and measure.
- Add coconut oil or cacao butter (or desired combination) to the food processor along with remaining ingredients.
- Pulse to create a coarse and pasty mixture.
- Press mixture into an 8 x 8 glass baking dish.
- Chill in refrigerator for 1 hour, until mixture hardens.
- Cut into bars and store in refrigerator.
Note from the chef: “I have used cashews, sunflower seeds, and sunflower seed butter. All are yummy. I like using cacao butter instead of coconut oil because of the flavor and it doesn’t melt when traveling.”
More Functional Nutrition posts to consider:
Lumachi F, Santeufemia DA, Basso SM. Current medical treatment of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. World J Biol Chem. 2015;6(3):231-239. doi:10.4331/wjbc.v6.i3.231
Patel S, Homaei A, Raju AB, Meher BR. Estrogen: The necessary evil for human health, and ways to tame it. Biomed Pharmacother. 2018;102:403-411. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2018.03.078
Marquardt RM, Kim TH, Shin JH, Jeong JW. Progesterone and Estrogen Signaling in the Endometrium: What Goes Wrong in Endometriosis?. Int J Mol Sci. 2019;20(15):3822. Published 2019 Aug 5. doi:10.3390/ijms20153822
Wall EH, Hewitt SC, Case LK, Lin CY, Korach KS, Teuscher C. The role of genetics in estrogen responses: a critical piece of an intricate puzzle. FASEB J. 2014;28(12):5042-5054. doi:10.1096/fj.14-260307
Piazza MJ, Urbanetz AA. Environmental toxins and the impact of other endocrine disrupting chemicals in women’s reproductive health. JBRA Assist Reprod. 2019;23(2):154-164. Published 2019 Apr 30. doi:10.5935/1518-0557.20190016
Guinter MA, McLain AC, Merchant AT, Sandler DP, Steck SE. A dietary pattern based on estrogen metabolism is associated with breast cancer risk in a prospective cohort of postmenopausal women. Int J Cancer. 2018;143(3):580-590. doi:10.1002/ijc.31387
Delgado BJ, Lopez-Ojeda W. Estrogen. [Updated 2021 Apr 15]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538260/
Brix N, Ernst A, Lauridsen LLB, et al. Timing of puberty in boys and girls: A population-based study. Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2019;33(1):70-78. doi:10.1111/ppe.12507
Reid RL. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (Formerly Premenstrual Syndrome) [Updated 2017 Jan 23]. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279045/
Borahay MA, Asoglu MR, Mas A, Adam S, Kilic GS, Al-Hendy A. Estrogen Receptors and Signaling in Fibroids: Role in Pathobiology and Therapeutic Implications. Reprod Sci. 2017;24(9):1235-1244. doi:10.1177/1933719116678686
Parikh M, Maddaford TG, Austria JA, Aliani M, Netticadan T, Pierce GN. Dietary Flaxseed as a Strategy for Improving Human Health. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1171. Published 2019 May 25. doi:10.3390/nu11051171
Parikh M, Netticadan T, Pierce GN. Flaxseed: its bioactive components and their cardiovascular benefits. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2018;314(2):H146-H159. doi:10.1152/ajpheart.00400.2017
Kajla P, Sharma A, Sood DR. Flaxseed-a potential functional food source. J Food Sci Technol. 2015;52(4):1857-1871. doi:10.1007/s13197-014-1293-y
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