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Proactive Breast Health With Plant Lignans

We’ve all heard our mothers and grandmothers say it, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Ladies, when it comes to breast health, this statement is true in spades. According to Ross Pelton, Ph.D., it is estimated that one in eight women will be afflicted by breast cancer in her lifetime. Perhaps the largest misconception concerning breast health is that if there is no family history of breast cancer, the patient is at low risk. On the contrary, in the majority of newly diagnosed cases, there is no family history of the disease.

The most commonly documented cause of breast cancer is an excessive lifetime exposure to natural, synthetic and environmental forms of estrogen. Undue exposure can both initiate and fuel breast cancers. One way to eliminate excess estrogens is to bypass hormone replacement therapy in treating menopause symptoms in favor of the naturally occurring phytoestrogens found in plants. Medicinal studies have concluded the plant-based diet of Asian women is most certainly a contributing factor to their low rate of menopausal symptoms, breast cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis.

In keeping with this theory, the National Cancer Institute has begun to place a large part of their focus on a diet as a preventive measure when dealing with hormonally driven cancers. Of the recommended foods, perhaps the most essential is flaxseed. This ancient grain contains phytonutrients called lignans, which compete with estrogen for binding sites on estrogen receptors. The result is a flushing of excess estrogens, linked to high incidence of both breast and colon cancers, from the body. In addition, lignans have anti-tumor, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. These lignans also contribute to a woman’s overall good health in several ways including: prevention of metastasis of cancerous tumors, reduction of hot flashes, reduction of bloating, reduction in breast tenderness, regulation of menstrual cycle, improved nail strength, improvement in skin texture and appearance, and improvement in hair sheen.

According to the Tufts University Health and Nutrition Letter: “Today’s studies focus on foods containing phytoestrogens. The notion is that phytoestrogens my relieve symptoms of perimenopause and reduce the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis with fewer adverse effects than hormone replacement therapy. In other words, we may be able to eat our way through menopause rather than medicating ourselves against it.”

Unfortunately, modern food refinement and a departure from whole foods have diminished dietary intake of lignans to nearly nil in Western diets. The good news is that you can get your lignans in a couple of ways to ensure the proper amount is being delivered daily. If you choose flax seed oil, it is recommended that all women consume at least one tablespoon of the lignan-rich variety every day. The oil is typically refrigerated and should be labeled Lignan Rich. If you prefer a tablet, the first standardized lignan-based product to provide a clinically determined dosage is now available. This product, sold under the trade name Brevail, was researched and developed scientifically to raise lignan levels in blood and urine to those shown in women who demonstrate an exceptional history of breast health.

Nothing can replace the importance of breast self-examination and regular check-ups with a healthcare provider. The odds of beating breast cancer can be improved, regardless of family history, by taking a proactive approach to breast health.

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