Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mushrooms Inhibit Aromatase. That's Good.

Because aromatase makes female hormones - estrogens. And too much estrogen - whether from what we make in our bodies (men make estrogens too) or what we absorb from our environment, and truth be told we're eating, drinking, and breathing more estrogenic compounds now than at any other time in human history (sunscreens, moisturizers, pesticides, herbicides, commercially raised beef/chicken/pork, plastics) - "have been implicated in a variety of medical problems."

(See this post for background on aromatase and how bodybuilders, women at risk for breast cancer, and men as they enter middle age benefit from its inhibition. With the surge in environmental endocrine disruptors (e.g. BPA), aromatase inhibitors are becoming more important for everyone.)

Another food that can inhibit aromatase is the mushroom. Although grapes, grape seeds, and red wine also inhibit aromatase, their consumption has a downside: the alcohol in wine is implicated in breast cancer and drinking grape juice means intaking lots of sugar and associated calories.

Dr. Shiuan Chen1 has devoted his career to aromatase, and to investigating foods that inhibit it. A few of his studies:

From early 1998:
"The phytoestrogen studies will help to determine which fruits and vegetables (those containing the appropriate phytoestrogens) should be included in the diet of postmenopausal women in order to reduce the incidence for breast cancer by inhibiting estrogen biosynthesis in breast tissue."
- Aromatase And Breast Cancer, Frontiers in Bioscience, 1998
"The present study was undertaken to screen and evaluate a number of vegetables as potential natural sources of aromatase inhibitors.
Using an in vitro human placental microsome aromatase assay, the white button mushroom was found to be a potent inhibitor of aromatase.
Of the other extracts evaluated, celery had a modest inhibitory effect. Extracts prepared from green onion, carrot, bell pepper, broccoli and spinach did not inhibit aromatase under these experimental conditions.
The white button, shiitake, portabello, crimini and baby button mushroom varieties demonstrated the ability to inhibit aromatase activity in an in vitro assay. The work presented here focused on the white button mushroom because it demonstrated potent inhibition and is easily available during all seasons. Furthermore, the white button mushroom is less costly than other varieties of mushrooms, making it more readily purchased by the average consumer.
These results suggest that diets high in mushrooms may modulate the aromatase activity and function in chemoprevention in postmenopausal women by reducing the in situ production of estrogen."
- White Button Mushroom Phytochemicals Inhibit Aromatase Activity and Breast Cancer Cell Proliferation, The Journal of Nutrition, 2001
"White button mushrooms are a potential breast cancer chemopreventive agent, as they suppress aromatase activity and estrogen biosynthesis.
Consumption of 100 g* of mushrooms per day would be sufficient to suppress breast tumor growth in women."
- Anti-Aromatase Activity Of Phytochemicals In White Button Mushrooms (Agaricus Bisporus), Cancer Research, 2006
* 100 g is a little over 1 cup of raw, whole, white mushrooms. One portabella cap is about 50 g. Chen also said, "the anti-aromatase effect of mushrooms remains even after they are cooked."

Translating science into reality, here's Mark Bittman preparing bok choi with shiitake mushrooms:

His accompanying article in the New York Times' Dining Section:
Vegetables Dressed in Chinese Robes

Don't miss 3:59 minutes: "That's a big shiitake."
1 Shiuan Chen PhD is Director and Professor, Division of Tumor Cell Biology, Beckman Research Institute, City of Hope, Duarte, CA
A few more of Dr. Chen's studies.
Dr. Chen answers some layman's questions.
Photo: Bix


Ruby said...

Thanks for this, Bix. You may recall several weeks back I mentioned I was having a breast issue. Well guess what! It rhymes with Prancer and Dancer, but it's not happy like Santa's reindeer.

The good news: it's highly treatable and I'll be fine.

The bad news: well, it's cancer. (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ aka DCIS) We removed the duct, and according to the MRI it seems like we got it all. We're going to do one more surgery to get a larger margin between where the cancer was & the healthy tissue. Then I'll heal for a few weeks and begin radiation after that. It was estrogen-driven, so I'll do 5 years of tamoxifen too. I'm 37.

How do you like THAT!?

Good thing I love mushrooms!

Santa Clara divorce lawyer said...

Lovely video. Your site is awesome... keep up the fabulous blogging.

Bix said...

I'm really sorry to hear that, Ruby. It's traumatic, everything about it. But it sounds like yours was contained. Whew. And you had it removed already? That was fast. I hope scarring is minimal. (Is it?) You deserve some major stocking stuffers this Christmas!

Bix said...

Thank you to the video lover up there.
Bittman is so raw when he cooks. Love him.

Manu said...

"broccoli and spinach did not inhibit aromatase"

I remember really eating like 500grs a day of broccoli when a gym friend told me about indole3carbinol and how it would boost your testosterone and inhibit est production... mushrooms have been criminally absent from my nutrition and if you think about it I think they were present in a major way throughout human history because treking around spanish, portuguese, german and french woods and forests you see lots and lots of mushrooms everywhere

Ruby said...

Thanks Bix. Yep, it was removed a month ago. (Scarring is pretty minimal.) This all went backwards for me because we didn't know it was cancer until after we did the surgery & got the pathology report back. We already knew that I had a duct that went haywire, but before surgery all indications were that it was going to be a benign condition. (Nothing showed up on any diagnostics.)

Anyway, now that we know what it is, my excellent surgeon wants to go in and take more tissue out to be on the safe side.

It's been quite a weird few weeks around here, let me tell you. All in all, I know I'm one of the lucky ones, because it seems like we caught it early and it's already out. I just need to finish the rest of this process to make sure it doesn't come back.

Not super thrilled about having to blast all that radiation into my body, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Dr. Mel said...

Really sorry to hear about that, Ruby. That's a lot of stress and physical discomfort to go through. Hope you're feeling great soon and have gotten over the radiation treatments.

Bix, thanks for this post on mushrooms. I love them but have avoided them ever since Andrew Weil said they're carcinogenic (though he didn't say what about them caused that). I will comment, however, that whenever possible it's worth looking for organic mushrooms, as, in another (farming) context, I've heard recently that mushroom soil (which used to be regarded as a good soil amendment) is packed, nowadays, with toxins of various sorts used in growing agro-industry mushrooms.

Dr. Mel said...

Re Ruby's problem, it just goes to show that it's not a good idea, probably, to change the mammogram guidelines....

Ruby said...

I'm actually rather agnostic on that issue, believe it or not. My cancer was not detected on mammograms--or ultrasounds, for that matter. (I've had several of each.) At my hospital the radiologist sends you away with a piece of paper after a diagnostic mammogram. I have a stack of them that say I don't have cancer.

I think each woman needs to consult with her physician about what her level of risk is and what amount of screening she's comfortable with. The most important thing is to know your body and know when something doesn't seem right. I *knew* something was wrong with me. It took a little while to convince the surgeon, but here we are. When we got pathology report back, she even admitted she was wrong!

I like her though because she is very analytical and evidence-based. I'm 100% gut, so we balance each other out in this process. She calms me down when I start inventing wild scenarios in my head, and my strange case has been keeping her on her toes.

Calvin said...

Great post Bix,

I totally agree with the premise's in Bix's post here that in the modern world, we're being exposed to more unnatural estrogenic compounds (xenoestrogens) than ever before, and that increasing our consumption/us of aromatase inhibitors can help to prevent many of the diseases attributed to excessive estrogen--e.g. breast cancer.

The causes of breast cancer, in addition to uterine fibroids, and I'll add prostate cancer too, are multifaceted--for instance, lifestyle which includes things like too much stress, poor diet (excess glucose/acidity),and chemical detox overburden, lymphatic congestion due to wearing tight fitting clothing (bras, underclothing); however, the one factor these diseases all have in common is estrogen dependence. This can be excess estrogen from either natural (from our own bodies production of, or even feedbacks from, other hormones which normally would keep estrogen levels in balance), or environmental sources (xenoestrogens and I'll add here many phytoestrogens too), which regardless of the source, or synergy, all exacerbate estrogen dependent cell growth growth. Now, when the naturally occurring balance between mitosis (cell division causing cell growth) and apoptosis (programed cell death) loses homeostasis, favoring mitosis, as excessive estrogen causes in breast, uterine, and I'll add prostate too cells, you can end up with cancerous cells--which pathway (benign, malignant), and how rapid the growth-- depends.

I just read Ruby's comments and I'm sorry to hear about her diagnosis. That said, I'm also saddened by her lack of acknowledgment of possible causes, in addition to her choice of treatment (surgery, radiation, and chemo--urrggggghhhhh), but also her compete faith in the industrial medical establishment's system--which doesn't even address the cause of her disease--hello?? And to quote Ruby "my excellent surgeon wants to go in and take more tissue out to be on the safe side." . . . Of course, I fully respect her choices, as they are her's alone (of course, not counting the societal health insurance burden), but I still can't help but think that she has a typical disconnect here. Critical thinking where one considers cause and effect relationships. Does anyone else see the disconnect here too? Of course, I don't just mean Ruby's individual case here. . . my comments go way beyond that with the ubiquitous chemical pollution, and I'll use the oxymoron here "health care", or how about the other oxymoron "health insurance" as practiced here in America-- whose reform is currently being debated, or should I just say lobbied by the insurance industries for their benefits in Congress right now.

virginia said...

Sorry, but only one thing (padded bras) came to mind when I read this phrase: "You deserve some major stocking stuffers this Christmas!"

Two cousins with breast cancer, one at 37. The 37 year old's mother was diagnosed around the same time, and tissues were compared. Same type...

The other cousin, after hours of research into "why", opted for chemo, a double mastectomy and radiation. Comment on radiation below:

"The worst part is a calendula extract in petrolatum ointment – smells like marigolds (which it is – there’s a reason you plant it in the garden to repel bugs) – and is pretty gooey. "

So, if the cause was the contaminated creek water running through her home town, what other action could she possibly take now, 40 years later? Sometimes you just deal with the problem at hand, with the solutions at hand. Time, money, proximity to care, job concerns and family support place limits on your final decision, and you just choose among the options presented, even if you'd like to check into a German medical spa, and hire a private chef and nurse.

Good luck, Ruby.

Bix said...

There is absolutely a disconnect between the causes of disease, especially in our modern industrial setting, and some treatments for those diseases. Not always, not entirely, but it exists. It exists because it's lucrative.

The human body has a spectacular ability to heal itself, when given time, clean food/water/air, and nurturing. Therapies, alternative and conventional, have an element of placebo. We think it was the chiropractor, the surgeon, the homeopathic remedy, the antibiotic that cured us. In actuality it was our body's natural healing apparatus ... our immune system that dissembles foreign molecules, our ability to form scar tissue and to regrow skin/neurons/other tissue, our ability to repair our DNA, the awe-inspiring mechanisms behind homeostasis (e.g. our ability to keep our blood within a tight pH).

We perform all these tasks without drugs and surgery every minute of every day. We are alive because we do. Therapies are merely often aids to these processes.

Ruby said...

Hi Calvin,

You've made some erroneous assumptions about me in your post--not to mention talking about me in the third person as if I'm not here. I don't know why you think I haven't considered causes and weighed my treatment options. I have a family history of other cancers, and for as long as I've been able to think for myself, I've been trying minimize my own risk. I've been (mostly) vegetarian for 20 years and try to eat a diet of whole, non-processed foods. I exercise 5x per week. I try to reduce the stress in my life. I've been reading Bix's blog for years now because I learn so much about health, prevention, and balance.

And yet, sometimes sh*t just happens.

I'm not doing chemo. I'm doing a lumpectomy with radiation. If I chose to take my whole breast off I could probably get along without radiation--and I've considered it. I don't know what the right choice is, given those options. They both suck, and I hope you never have to make a similar choice.

I don't have complete faith in the "industrial medicine establishment." They certainly don't have all the answers--which they readily acknowledge! Because my case was unusual I have challenged their assumptions & conventional wisdom. (It's a teaching hospital too, so now I have a swarm of doctors & residents examining me when I'm there.) I DO have faith (not complete) in my team of doctors, because they are caring people who are in it for the right reasons and want to help me continue to live a long and healthy life.

My doctor and I have discussed possible causes, but I'm also not going to sit here and do all this soul-searching and woulda-coulda-shouldas. I'm going to deal with this and move on with my life, making the behavior modifications I think are necessary.

Might I respectfully recommend that you don't make such wild assumptions of people and try to be a little more compassionate and less judging?

Virginia, thanks for the info. I've heard that the lotions they give you do help a lot, but I wasn't aware that they were stinky! My mom's best friend went through this and said that pure aloe also helps.