If you’re a breast cancer survivor, you may be looking for natural ways to boost your energy, improve your fertility, and relieve side effects of treatment.
Maca powder, derived from a root vegetable native to Peru, has been touted as a natural remedy for all of these concerns. But is it safe for breast cancer survivors to consume?
In this article, we’ll explore the potential benefits and risks of using maca powder and what you need to know before adding it to your diet.
Is Maca Powder Safe For Breast Cancer Survivors?
While maca powder is generally considered safe for consumption when consumed as part of a food product or in small doses medicinally, due to the limited scientific knowledge of its effects, it is recommended that breast cancer survivors avoid consuming the root to stay on the safe side, as the root may affect estrogen levels.
Breast cancer survivors often have hormone-sensitive conditions, and extracts from maca might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by estrogen, it is best to avoid using these extracts.
Additionally, maca may interfere with lab tests that measure testosterone levels. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider if you took maca before your labs.
What Is Maca Powder And How Does It Work?
Maca powder is derived from the root of the maca plant, which is native to the Andes Mountains in Peru. This plant has been used for centuries as a food source and for medicinal purposes, particularly to enhance fertility and sexual performance. Maca powder contains glucosinolates, which are compounds that may have estrogenic activity. Depending on the phenotype, maca may be associated with different biological effects.
In vitro studies have shown that maca or its constituents have antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, or neuroprotective activities. Animal studies suggest that maca may increase endurance, enhance sexual function, and improve memory deficits. It has also demonstrated antidepressant and postmenopausal hormone-modulating effects.
However, only a few small trials have been conducted in humans. Maca consumption was associated with lower serum IL-6 levels and higher health status. In men, preliminary findings suggest supplementation may enhance subjective sexual well-being, but data are mixed on whether it can affect various parameters of semen quality. In women, several studies suggest maca improves both antidepressant- and menopause-induced sexual dysfunction.
While maca powder is generally considered safe for consumption when consumed as part of a food product or in small doses medicinally, due to the limited scientific knowledge of its effects, it is recommended that breast cancer survivors avoid consuming the root to stay on the safe side, as the root may affect estrogen levels. Breast cancer survivors often have hormone-sensitive conditions, and extracts from maca might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by estrogen, it is best to avoid using these extracts.
Potential Benefits Of Maca Powder For Breast Cancer Survivors
While maca powder may not be recommended for breast cancer survivors, there are potential benefits that could be explored with caution and guidance from a healthcare provider. Maca root is known to contain flavonoids, which have been shown to improve mood and reduce anxiety. A study conducted on postmenopausal women found that maca may reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. Additionally, a 2015 study found that maca could reduce symptoms of depression in Chinese postmenopausal women.
Furthermore, as a medicinal aid, maca root has been consumed as a treatment for various health issues, including chronic fatigue, hormone imbalances, menstrual problems, issues with fertility, sexual dysfunction, and certain types of cancer. While the scientific evidence is limited, some studies have suggested that maca root may have anti-tumor effects and could potentially be used as an adjunct therapy for breast cancer treatment.
However, it is important to note that breast cancer survivors should not self-medicate with maca powder without consulting with their healthcare provider first. Maca may interfere with ongoing treatments or medications and could potentially worsen certain hormone-sensitive conditions. Therefore, it is crucial to discuss any dietary supplements or natural remedies with a healthcare provider before consuming them.
Risks And Side Effects Of Maca Powder
While maca powder is generally safe for most people, it may have potential side effects that can be mild or severe. Some people may experience gastrointestinal symptoms or headaches, while others may report altered menstrual cycles, moodiness, cramps, gastritis, and insomnia. Maca’s effect on hormone levels is not fully understood, and some studies have found no effect on sex hormones, while others have reported higher levels of luteinizing hormone, progesterone, and testosterone.
Breast cancer survivors should avoid maca powder because of its potential effects on estrogen levels. Extracts from maca might act like estrogen, which can worsen hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids. It is best to avoid using these extracts if you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen.
Excessive intake of maca root powder may lead to worsened sleep quality, digestive issues, increased heart rate or mild headaches for some people. If you experience these symptoms, the solution is simple – reduce your dosage.
It is also important to note that maca may interfere with lab tests that measure testosterone levels. If you are taking maca and need to undergo lab tests, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider.
Allergic reactions to maca are rare but possible. Those with a sensitive digestive system may not tolerate raw maca root powder that well and should consider taking the gelatinized (pre-cooked) form of maca root powder instead.
Maca Powder And Hormone-Related Concerns For Breast Cancer Survivors
Breast cancer survivors may have concerns about consuming maca powder due to its potential effects on hormone levels. Maca root contains compounds that can mimic the effects of estrogen, which may be a concern for those with hormone-sensitive conditions.
While there is limited scientific research on the effects of maca powder on breast cancer survivors, it is recommended that they avoid consuming it to err on the side of caution. This is particularly important for those who have had hormone-sensitive cancers such as ovarian, breast, endometrial, or uterine cancer.
In addition, some women have reported changes in their menstrual cycles after consuming maca powder. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also avoid maca powder as there is insufficient information about its safety during these times.
It is important to note that maca powder may also interfere with lab tests that measure testosterone levels. If you are a breast cancer survivor and considering taking maca powder, it is recommended that you speak with your healthcare provider first to discuss any potential risks or concerns.
How To Incorporate Maca Powder Into Your Diet Safely
If you are a breast cancer survivor and still want to incorporate maca powder into your diet, there are some precautions you can take to ensure that you use it safely. It is important to start with a small amount and gradually increase the dosage over time. A teaspoon (approximately 5g) is a good amount to start with, particularly as you get used to the flavor.
It is also recommended that you avoid taking maca powder in supplement form and instead incorporate it into your diet through food products like smoothies or energy bars. When using maca powder in food, it is best to avoid baking or cooking with it as it may lose its nutritional value. Instead, try adding it to raw foods like no-bake energy treats or smoothies, or sprinkle it on top of cooked foods like oatmeal.
When using maca powder in smoothies, start with 2 to 3 teaspoons and experiment with different flavors like chocolate, vanilla, or fruity flavors. You can also try adding maca powder to energy balls or no-bake sweets for an added nutrient boost.
If you are interested in using maca powder for its energy-boosting properties, it is important to note that red maca powder is said to have stronger energy-boosting properties than black maca powder.
As with any dietary supplement, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider before incorporating maca powder into your diet, especially if you are a breast cancer survivor or have any hormone-sensitive conditions. Your healthcare provider can help determine if maca powder is safe for you and how much you should consume.