It is important to modulate oestrogen metabolism to avoid a variety of health conditions, including life-threatening diseases.
The term oestrogen is used to collectively describe the female hormones, the most potent of which is oestradiol. Oestrogen affects the growth, differentiation and function of diverse target tissues – not only those involved in the reproductive process, but tissues throughout the body. Although we think of declining oestrogen as the hallmark of menopause, it’s actually common for women to experience a surge of abnormally high oestrogen levels during the menopausal and premenopausal periods as well as earlier in life.
THE OESTROGEN/HEALTH LINK
Improving oestrogen metabolism can be of benefit in women with various conditions and a family history of breast, uterine or ovarian cancer. Beneficial modulation of oestrogen metabolism can be accomplished through dietary and lifestyle modifications such as increasing fibre, reducing fat and increasing exercise.
The following diseases or problems are related to or affected by excess oestrogen and deficient progesterone in women:
- Fibrocystic breast disease
- Menstrual disturbance – irregular and heavy bleeding
- Ovarian cysts
- Breast cancer.
SIDE EFFECTS OF HIGH OESTROGEN LEVELS
- Thyroid dysfunction can result from high oestrogen levels.
- 2High levels of oestrogen can activate a woman’s appetite and result in weight gain.
- Fluid retention.
- BreastCancer.org reports that a high level of oestrogen is associated with an increased risk of developing breast cancer. The clear reason for this remains unknown.1
SYMPTOMS OF HIGH OESTROGEN LEVELS
Symptoms of high oestrogen levels include bloating, swelling and tenderness of breasts, headaches, mood swings, hair loss, cold hands and feet, lack of energy and trouble sleeping. Fortunately, beneficial modulation of oestrogen metabolism can be accomplished through dietary modification and supplementation with selected nutrients.
HOW TO HELP YOUR HORMONES
Nutrition that will lower oestrogen levels
- Dietary fibre and legumes such as flax seeds, whole grains, beans and seeds. This dietary fibre can have a beneficial effect on the composition of intestinal bacteria, resulting in a lower deconjugation of oestrogen and reduced reabsorption.
- Always choose low glycaemic foods which are high in fibre; this will decrease oestrogen levels in the body and close the relative oestrogen/progesterone imbalance, thereby helping to reduce the symptoms associated with it.
- Some foods will decrease oestrogen levels by increasing or improving elimination levels. These should be consumed regularly:
- The brassica family of vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, cabbage and kale
- Dark leafy greens: dandelion greens, collard greens, mustard greens
- Liver-supportive foods: onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, basil, cumin, fennel, dhal, black pepper, rosemary, beets, strawberries, peaches, cherries and turnips
- Lemon juice
- Isoflavones – soy is perhaps the most common food source of isoflavones. Higher intake of soy products and isoflavones, such as consumed in traditional Japanese diets, is associated with low rates of hormone-dependent cancers.
Foods that increase oestrogen levels and should be avoided:
- Dairy products
- Refined sugar
- Processed foods
- Caffeine, more than 100 mg daily
- Excess alcohol and drugs
- Non-organic animal products.
Avoid environmental oestrogens
Phthalates are another chemical oestrogen that is used in plastic, personal care products, such as shampoo, and food produced using pesticides. It is wise to reduce phthalates from plastic by drinking water out of a glass bottle; store food in glass containers; and do not microwave anything in plastic containers. The parabens from personal care products can be reduced by using organic cosmetic perfumes.2
Some evidence suggests that circulating levels of oestrogen are lower in women who exercise regularly. Prolonged aerobic exercise can however cause oxidative stress and early cell death. It is better to be engaged in moderate regular exercises. Stretching, walking and jogging will not only improve your overall health, but also reduce your oestrogen levels.
Improve gastrointestinal health and liver function
Poor gastrointestinal health can inhibit excretion of unwanted oestrogen from the body and promote its reabsorption. However, if the gut is healthy, dietary fibre, can bind to oestrogen in the digestive tract so that it will be excreted from the body. Eat adequate fibre; include legumes, leafy greens, bran, oats, and barley. A good probiotic is essential because it will increase the good bacteria in the gut and support neurotransmitter function.
While a healthy gut can help to eliminate excess oestrogens from the body, an unhealthy digestive tract which is fuelled by refined carbohydrates, processed foods, gluten and alcohol can lead to leaky gut and an upregulation of an enzyme called ß-glucouronidase – this breaks apart the bound oestrogen that is being excreted from the body through the intestines, making it easier to reabsorb into the body.3
Food that contains sulphur aids in liver detoxification because it can get rid of toxins and medicate the damaged liver, thus increasing the organ’s efficiency in filtering harmful substances from the blood. These foods include onions, green vegetables (spinach and leafy greens), garlic, egg yolks and food that contains lemon. It is wise to eat organic food. It is critical to incorporate a pure, clean diet consisting of organic foods whenever possible in an effort to decrease exposure to harmful xenoestrogens. Examples of everyday items that may include xenoestrogens are: fruit and vegetables sprayed with pesticides, Tupperware, nail polish, makeup, etc.
Nutrients from supplements
Nutrients that are important for detoxification of oestrogen include the B-vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids and a substance called DIM, which is found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, but it is better to get DIM in a supplement form. Supplements that may help to excrete oestrogen are magnesium and folic acid, by promoting excretion via the healthier C-2 pathway. Other beneficial phytonutrients include a combination of curcumin and the soybean isoflavone genistein, which has shown synergy in reducing xenoestrogens-induced growth of ER-positive and ER-negative cancer cells.
Sleep and stress
Sleep in a fully darkened room. Melatonin has been shown to balance oestrogen excesses in the body and it may be a supplement to consider.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, is released in moments of high stress. Cortisol competes for the same receptors as progesterone, which can lead to a relative oestrogen dominance. Reduce stress by lifestyle adjustment, coping skills, meditation, yoga and exercises.2
- Nnama H. What are the side effects of high oestrogen levels? 17 September 2011. Available from: www.livestrong.com/article/164740-what-are-the-sideeffects-of-high-estrogenlevels/
- Gayley M. 10 tips to help your hormones. Honestly Healthy Food. Available from: www.
- Smith M. How to reduce high estrogen levels. 16 July 2015. Planet Naturopath. Available from: www.planetnaturopath.com/hormones/how-toreduce-high-estrogenlevels/