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flax seeds

  • Dear Pharmacist,

    My older sister had a mastectomy earlier this year. I understand that breast cancer runs in families, so now I’m scared to death so I’m getting tests done myself. Can you offer advice from your natural perspective?

    --R.Y. Seattle, Washington

    Answer: Let me say upfront that an anti-cancer lifestyle -and there is such a thing- is also an anti-breast cancer lifestyle. It includes eating fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, less meat, less processed food (way less!), no smoking, losing weight and exercising. There are many things one can do to erect a powerful protective barrier. At or near the top of my supplement list is flax seed.

    Besides serving as a great source of detoxifying fiber and essential fatty acids, flax seeds contain a whopping portion of “lignans”--a plant chemical that your body converts to a hormone-like compound that resembles estrogen (termed phytoestrogens). Many studies show that people who eat a lignan-rich diet have a lower incidence of breast, colon, and prostate cancer. Phytoestrogens fit nicely into your cells’ estrogen-receptor sites, thereby preventing dangerous estrogens from causing problems like breast cancer. This is a much simplified explanation, but you get the idea. Ground up flax seeds provide hundreds of times more lignans than any other plant.

    Flax seeds pack such an anti-cancer punch that they may benefit women with active breast cancer. One randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study (that’s the most rigorous kind of scientific study) found positive results in post-menopausal women who had breast cancer. Participants had to eat muffins that were baked either with flax seeds or without (placebo). The cancer cells stopped growing aggressively in the group of women who ate muffins containing flax seed, and some of the cancer cells even died (apoptosis). Of course, I’m not advocating flax seeds as the cure for breast cancer, but it’s clear that flax can zap cancer cells to some extent.

    You can buy the fresh seeds at health food stores and even some grocery stores. Grind up one tablespoon daily and sprinkle it on salads or greens, or into your fruit smoothie. Do bother to grind them up. Don’t try to save time by swallowing a mouthful of seeds because you’ll chew for an hour! I use both the seeds and flax seed oil several times a week, but I prefer the ground seeds because of the higher lignan content and fiber.

    If you have breast cancer in your family, I completely understand your urgency to do anything you can to keep this dreaded disease at bay. Flax seeds are just one of more than a dozen superfoods and supplements that I recommend to prevent breast cancer (and prostate cancer). For a full account of other helpful supplements, please see my eBook Breast Cancer Protection, which is available through my website.

    Did You Know?

    Mirena is a new intrauterine device that can prevent pregnancy for up to five years.

  • Dear Readers,

    Happy Father's Day

    Welcome to the June 2019 issue of TotalHealthOnline Magazine.

    Charles K. Bens, PhD, asks “Is Cholesterol The Cause Of Heart Disease?” Statin drugs do lower cholesterol, but it is very clear that they do not save many lives. And, this would seem to answer the question in the title of this article. The main cause is the presence of inflammation in the body. Inflammation can be caused by many factors including the following: nutrition, toxins, genetics, exercise, and stress. Read Dr. Ben’s recommendations on what you can do to protect your heart.

    Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, RH(AHG), presents “Organic Foods: Are They Really Better?” Bruno explains the difference between non-organic and organic food, the farming, and the food production. The conclusion reached is yes—organic foods are more expensive but when you look at the big picture—if a person can afford the prices—the organic food is healthier for you, your family and the world environment. Thank you Gene for your take on the subject.

    Smart Tips: Estrogen,” by Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS. If you are a follower of Dr. Gittleman you know she is a fan of flax seed. She explains the benefits to the body, how to prepare it and how to incorporate flax into your diet. Smart Fats are one of the top strategies for natural hormone therapy. You will not be disappointed with her sharing her expertise with you.

    Sherrill Sellman, ND, reports on skin care in “Yes, You Can Create Youthful Skin at Any Age.” Many skin and personal care products contain many of the 10,500 toxic chemical ingredients that have been known to cause inflammation, free radical damage and aging to the skin. Become an educated consumer and choose only the purest products. It sounds familiar to other articles in this issue. A more youthful appearance is possible for all of us. Nourishing our skin with an organic diet, adequate water intake, plenty of rejuvenating sleep, regular exercise and daily de-stressing strategies are the foundation for healthy skin.

    Gloria Gilbère, CDP, DAHom, PhD, contributes “Crust-Less Zucchini Spinach Quiche.” In addition Gilbère offers several variations in the recipe as well as several serving suggestions. The article is followed by her new cookbook and video offer free to our readers.

    Shawn Messonnier’s, DVM, topic this month is "Parvovirus in Pets". Commonly it affects young puppies. Certain breeds such as Doberman Pinschers, Rottweiler’s, Pit Bulls, and Labrador Retrievers may be more severely infected than others.

    Thank you to our authors, readers and advertisers. You make TotalHealthOnline possible.

    Best in health,

    TWIP—The Wellness Imperative People

    Click here to read the full June 2019 issue.

    Click here to read the full June 2019 issue.


    1. Learn to love or at least like flax seeds and high lignan flax oil. Their estrogen-modulating effect is well documented, but what is not well known is their possible connection to hypothyroidism. So, here’s the glitch: While lignan-rich flax seeds are extremely healthy, they do contain a substance known as cyanogenic glycosides, which metabolize into thiocyanate, a chemical that has the potential, over time, of suppressing the thyroid’s ability to take up sufficient iodine. This biochemical occurrence raises the risk of developing goiter.

    These are two easy ways to avoid this problem. One is to consume a maximum of three to four tablespoons of milled flax seeds per day. The other is to lightly bake or toast your flax seeds, which deactivates and decomposes the cyanogenic glycosides but preserves the beneficial omega-3 properties. To toast them, spread flax seeds on a baking sheet or pan and bake in the oven at 250 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes or until crispy. (Please note: Using any temperature above 300 degrees F will damage the seeds’ oil and convert it into the unhealthy trans form.)

    Flax oil, on the other hand, is free of cyanogenic glycosides.

    If optimum breast health is a goal, then you may want to know about “quark.” According to researchers in Germany, the sulfur-bearing amino acids in dairy combined with the essential fatty acids in flax oil are a potent breast cancer fighter.

    Which one is preferred—seeds or oil? Keep in mind that the seeds, regardless of whether they are golden yellow or brown, provide the highest amount of lignans, as well as lots of soluble fiber and protein, which are not typically found in the oil. The high lignan flax oil on the market contains lignans, which have been added back into the original oil, unlike regular flax oil. Regardless, flax seeds still contain significantly more lignans than their high lignan flax oil counterpart.

    If you do choose seeds over high lignan flax oil, you should know that it takes about three tablespoons of milled flax seeds to equal one tablespoon of oil. Flax seeds should always be ground up or cold milled because whole seeds contain a tough outer layer that is hard to digest unless chewed extremely thoroughly. You can grind them yourselves in a coffee grinder—after they are lightly toasted—or buy them already cold milled. The ground seeds allow the complete range of nutrients, especially the omega-3 component to be readily absorbed.

    For those who do not care for the taste of flax seeds or oil, about nine flax oil capsules is the equivalent of one tablespoon of oil.

    Flax oil should be kept in the fridge after opening and away from heat, air and light, which can oxidize the oil, promoting nasty free radicals—which you don’t need at ANY stage of life.

    While flax seeds can be used in baking, flax oil should only be used in no-heat recipes or drizzled onto foods after they are cooked—as in smoothies, oatmeal, baked potatoes and all veggies.

    2. Concentrate on choline. With enough estrogen, this powerful B vitamin can accelerate fat burning, as well as decongest a fatty liver. As I mentioned before, egg yolks and lecithin are my top choices, but if you do choose to supplement, make sure your choline is accompanied by a full array of the other B vitamins which all work in harmony.

    3. Consider a natural topical progesterone body cream. I personally prefer the use of transdermal creams, which can bypass the liver. A bio-identical progesterone body cream that is identical to the progesterone molecules your own body produces can help thwart hormonal weight gain, revive vitality, relieve PMS symptoms, rid you of hot flashes and spark your sex drive by balancing your progesterone/estrogen levels. There are many high-quality products on the market today. But before they were so prevalent, I developed ProgestaKey cream for my own use over 20 years ago and have used it ever since. One full press of the pump dispenses the recommended 20 mg of natural USP progesterone from wild yam.

    Frequency of application depends upon your age and stage of life, so very specific recommendations are provided for menstruating, perimenopausal and menopausal (and beyond) women. The application should be directed to the hands, chest, inner arms, inner thighs and thyroid area on a rotating basis to target the body’s progesterone receptor sites.

    Note: As therapeutic as progesterone can be for most women, it may be contraindicated for some. I recommend testing especially if you have a family history, or if you are BRCA 1 and 2 positive for breast cancer. My office offers state-of-the-art salivary hormone testing which can assess biochemically active progesterone as well as five other hormones. The test results from a certified lab are accompanied by an explanatory letter from my office.

    4. Get enough Fiber. Try for at least 35 grams a day from your veggies, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Add flax seeds and/or chia in your smoothies and salad dressings, as well as use them to create a “bread-like” crust to replace wheat. Chia seeds are the world’s most fiber-rich food. Once a sacred food of ancient cultures, chia seeds contain nearly 50 energizing nutrients in one small seed. They have twice the protein of any seed or grain, eight times more omega-3s than salmon, three times more antioxidants than blueberries, and eight times more calcium than milk!

    5. Curb the copper. Foods like chocolate, nuts (especially cashews), seeds (especially sunflower), soy, shellfish, and black teas are naturally copper-rich. Unbound copper is closely associated with estrogen dominance so women cooking with copper-lined pots and pans, drinking water out of copper pipes or using copper IUDs or birth control pills are at higher risk for this condition. Also, prenatal vitamins can contain a high amount of copper (higher than the 2 mg of the RDI). I wouldn’t take these after your baby is born. You can check out your tissue copper load through a hair tissue mineral analysis.

    6. Wash fruits and veggies thoroughly to remove estrogen-mimicking pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides. I use the Chemist Formula for my fruit and veggie wash. It was created by my friend Larry Ward, a biochemist. The recipe makes one quart of soak that should be prepared fresh each day. The ingredients are 18 drops of grapefruit seed extract with four ounces of three percent hydrogen peroxide and one teaspoon baking soda per quart. Blend and soak all produce (can soak eggs as well) for at least 15 minutes, then rinse well, at least three times.

    7. Get rid of BPA. Do not reheat food in plastic containers and choose a water bottle made of glass or stainless steel to circumvent BPA (bisphenol-A), an estrogen-like substance. Choose wax paper instead of plastic food wraps. And, wash your hands after handling gas, cash register, or ATMs receipts which have surprisingly been found to contain high levels of BPA.

    8. Check the labels. Avoid personal care products that include endocrine disruptors like parabens and phthalates.

    9. Spice it up! Season soup, stews, chili, or other bean dishes with two to three cardamom seeds. Cardamom is a digestive aid with the unique ability to cleanse and detoxify the liver, which is essential for hormone balancing.

    10. Optimize estrogen metabolism by supporting your liver. Beets can’t be beaten for thinning out toxin-removing bile. They can be shredded, steamed, or juiced in a blend of two ounces carrot juice, two ounces celery juice, and two ounces cucumber juice. Also consider an ox bile supplement (like Biotics Beta Plus) and a gallbladder cleansing product like Liver-Lovin Formula, which also contains taurine to clean up bile ducts.

    Lots of cruciferous veggies (preferably in the cooked state to avoid the goitrogens that interfere with iodine uptake by the thyroid) like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and kale contain a compound called indoles, which helps facilitate estrogen metabolism. The product DIM (Diindolylmethane) a stronger substance than the indoles, can also help break down estrogen build up.

    Next month we will look at the hormones progesterone and testosterone.