Excess estrogen is a problem for both men and women due to many factors. In fact, your body’s ability to eliminate estrogen safely helps you lose excess body fat, and reduces your risk for cancer. We are exposed to huge amounts of chemical estrogens in our daily lives from things like plastic bottles, personal care products, cosmetics, oil-based coatings, animal hormones and pesticides. However, the negative effects of estrogen on the body come from things other than just our environment, including ineffective estrogen metabolism which is directly linked to the risk of prostate and breast cancer, poor body composition and an inability to lose body fat.
30 percent of the cancers that affect the sex organs (prostate, breast, ovarian) are contributed to by genetics and obesity, but it is still unclear what causes the remaining 70 percent. Exposure to chemical estrogens and problems with metabolism due to a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet are the likely culprits. What you can do to combat this is to make lifestyle changes that both improve the elimination of estrogen from the body, and minimize your exposure to chemical estrogens.
You can do this now by changing the following 10 things:
1) Improve Your Gastrointestinal Health
2) Improve Your Diet
3) Decrease Your Body Fat
4) Improve Estrogen Detoxification with Phytoestrogens
5) Prevent Testosterone from Converting into Estrogen
6) Improve Your Estrogen Metabolism
7) Ensure Complete Elimination of Estrogen
8) Properly Supplement With Essential Nutrients
9) Watch What You’re Drinking
10) Limit Your Exposure to Chemical Estrogens
Estrogen is primarily produced by the ovaries in women and the testes in men, but in both it is also produced by other tissues including the brain and body fat. Most people think estrogen is only used by women, but it also plays an important role for men when it comes to sperm production and bone maintenance. Men only need a small amount of estrogen to support these functions, and there are two main reasons that can cause them to have excess estrogen in their system.
The first is due to an enzyme called aromatase, which is found in tissues like body fat throughout the body and converts testosterone into estrogen. Because of this, men who have a higher body fat percentage produce more aromatase, and therefore have higher estrogen levels and lower testosterone levels. You can naturally reduce aromatase by including specific nutrients in your diet with food or supplements, and there are also medications that are used to help prevent breast and prostate cancer by inhibiting aromatase. However, it is best to go the natural route and avoid consuming synthetic drugs whenever possible.
Secondly, chemical estrogens found in the environment, such as BPA and phthalates, can cause excess estrogen levels. BPA mimics estrogen in the body, and studies have found that BPA exposure leads to lower testosterone levels and reduced sexual function in men because it inhibits the production of the hormone from which testosterone is produced – androstenedione. Another chemical estrogen found in plastics, as well as personal care products like shampoo and lotion, are Phthalates. In order to minimize the damage to tissues, these chemicals that contribute to excess estrogen levels need to be eliminated from the body as quickly and safely as possible.
How Estrogen Is Metabolized By The Liver
Estrogen is metabolized by the liver, where excess estrogens are converted into compounds that can be excreted by the body. The complicated thing is that there are three different pathways through which this process can occur. One of these pathways is “toxic,” and is linked to the development of cancer, another is not favorable for health and the third is preferable because it is most benign.
Your body will be healthier if it can use this third, 2-hydroxy pathway to convert estrogens, and you will also decrease your risk for cancer. You can help to support conversion of estrogen along the C-2 pathway instead of the unfavorable 16 pathway and the C-4 pathways by using nutrition to ensure that you maintain a healthy gut.
1) Improve Your Gastrointestinal Health
When you have poor gastrointestinal health, it inhibits the excretion of unwanted estrogen from the body while promoting its reabsorption. Obtaining a healthy gut is very helpful in the elimination of estrogen, but dietary fiber is also important. Dietary fiber, especially from lignan like flaxseeds, binds to estrogen in your digestive tract so that it is then able to be excreted from your body. Fiber also reduces the amount of B-glucouronidase, an enzyme that breaks apart bound estrogen while it’s on its way out of the body, which allows it to become free in the large intestine and then re-enter circulation. This is something you definitely do not want to happen!
You can prevent this by ensuring that you get enough fiber, especially from lignans, in your diet (flax, leafy greens, oat, rye, barley). It is also essential to increase good bacteria in the gut and support neurotransmitter function by eating plenty of probiotic foods or taking a probiotic supplement.
2) Improve Your Diet
- Manage your insulin levels – Consistently high insulin levels create a poor endocrine profile that can inhibit your estrogen metabolism. Because of this, you need to manage your insulin in order to avoid excess estrogen, and doing so is also better for your body composition.
- Aim to get all of your carbs from vegetable and fruit sources – This will provide the lignans and fiber your need to maintain a healthy gut health, and increase your antioxidant levels. Antioxidants get rid of free radicals that are produced by estrogen when it travels down the undesirable C-16 pathway.
- Get enough Omega-3 fats – These are found in fish, and have been shown to promote estrogen using the C-2 pathway over the 16 pathway. This is particularly true for EPA omega-3 fatty acids. When you have a diet low in omega-3s, it results in estrogen primarily being metabolized through the C-16 pathway.
- Include plenty of protein in your diet – A high-protein diet improves body composition for most people, and low protein diets have been shown to decrease estrogen metabolism by reducing the activity of something called cytochrome P450.
- Be sure to include the amino acids lysine and threonine – Both of these support liver function, which in turn can help get rid of estrogen from the body since estrogen is metabolized by the liver. Good sources of lysine and threonine meat, fish, eggs, beans and certain seeds (sesame, fenugreek). Sesame seeds are also a good source of fiber and fenugreek can help with lowering the insulin response to carbs, which make both of these good additions to your diet.
3) Decrease Body Fat
Having more body fat tissue increases your levels of the aromatase enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen, which means the more fat you have on your body the more estrogen you’ll have as well (and less testosterone). By decreasing your body fat and building more lean mass you will not only look and feel better, but also reduce your risk of cancer.
4) Use Phytoestrogens
Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that bind to estrogen receptors, just like true or chemical estrogens do, but they only have about 1/1000th of the effect on the body. Phytoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors taking the place where a true estrogen would be able to, which keeps it from exerting its effect on the body. Incorporate foods with phytoestrogens into your diet to help keep natural and chemical estrogens out of play in your body.
The main phytoestrogens are Lignans and isoflavones. They not only bind with estrogen receptors, but they also can increase SHBG (which binds to estrogen), decrease aromatase (which turns testosterone into estrogen), and shift estrogen metabolism away from the C-16 pathway to the safer C-2 pathway. The best phytoestrogens to include in your diet are: flax, leafy greens, sesame, kudzu, clover, alfalfa, licorice root, and legumes.
5) Block Aromatase
Blocking aromatase is key for getting rid of estrogen, especially in men where it is the main factor for producing excess estrogen. When aromatase is present in the body, there are two chances for estrogen to be produced. Normally, the hormone androstenedione is turned into testosterone, but when aromatase is present it is turned into estrogen instead. After that, aromatase also turns existing testosterone into estrogen as well.
There are some nutrients that have been proven to help lower aromatase including selenium, zinc, melatonin, green tea and citrus flavonones (found in grapefruit and orange rinds, tomato skins). Flaxseed hulls are also great to incorporate into your diet because they inhibit aromatase, as well as increase sex hormone binging globulin (SHBG), which both help to protect your tissues from circulating estrogen. Estrogen binds to SHBG, which makes it unavailable to bind with other cellular receptors.
6) Improve Your Estrogen Metabolism
Possibly the most important thing you can do to prevent cancer is to promote the C-2 pathway of estrogen metabolism. Estrogen elimination begins when enzymes initiate metabolism by joining the estrogen molecule. This occurs at either the molecule’s 2-carbon position or the 16-carbon position, which is what determines the pathway the estrogen will go down. The C-2 pathway produces very weak estrogenic activity that is referred to as “good” estrogen. On the other hand, the C-16 pathway produces robust estrogenic activity, which is what promotes the tissue damage that can lead to cancer.
You can support the C-2 pathway with nutrients like EPA fish oils, phytoestrogens, and more importantly B vitamins and DIM. B vitamins, primarily B12, B6, and folic acid, promote the C-2 pathway, and B6 also decreases the gene activity once estrogen binds to a receptor, which means it inhibits cell damage and related cancer development. DIM is a compound that is found in cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and cauliflower, but it is best to take as a supplement because you would need to eat very large amounts of these vegetables each day to get a sufficient amount DIM to help aid in estrogen elimination.
7) Ensure Complete Elimination of Estrogen
Shifting your estrogen elimination to the C-2 pathway is a great start, but then you still need to make sure it actually gets eliminated from the body. There are still two things can happen as estrogen is on its way out that can cause big problems.
When estrogen is heading down the C-2 pathway it can easily be turned into “highly reactive” quinones, which can damage DNA and lead to cancer. Methylation is the process of metabolizing estrogen to avoid quinones, and this is also the first place where things can go wrong on the estrogen elimination pathway. A good way to avoid the production of quinones is with adequate amounts of magnesium and SAMe.
The next place that things can go wrong with estrogen detoxification is while the estrogen heads out of the intestine. In order to be eliminated, estrogen needs to be bound to glucuronic acid, but “bad” intestinal bacteria called glucouronidase contains an enzyme that breaks estrogen apart from the glucuronic acid, which allows it to re-enter circulation. This raises estrogen levels in the body, leading to tissue damage. You can avoid this by obtaining a healthy gut, supplementing with probiotics and including plenty of fiber and lignans in your diet.
By now you already know that supplements can help aid in the metabolism and elimination of estrogen, especially when it is difficult to get enough of essential nutrients from our diet alone. The nutrients that are most essential include B vitamins, omega-3 fish oils, DIM, zinc, green tea, selenium, magnesium and melatonin. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that you can also add to your regimen to aid in estrogen elimination. Low vitamin E levels have been associated with elevated estrogen, and it has been shown to help with inhibiting the growth of prostate and breast cancer cells.
9) Watch What You Drink
The first problem with alcoholic beverages is that a lot of them tend to be high in sugar content. Also, alcohol on its own increases estrogen levels in both men and women, and has been shown to decrease testosterone. In order to have optimal estrogen metabolism, you should eliminate all alcohol except for certain red wines. When you have them in moderation, some Spanish and Sardinian wines are rich in antioxidants that can actually help to remove estrogens. Other good choices for wine would be Merlot and Pinot.
10) Limit Exposure to Chemical Estrogens
One of the most important strategies for lowering estrogen, preventing cancer and protecting your health is avoiding chemical estrogens in your environment. If you could completely avoid contact with chemical estrogens, and you had good nutrition and a lean body composition with a large proportion of muscle mass, it would be highly unlikely for you to have excess estrogen or the associated risk of cancer. Unfortunately, today that is nearly impossible because chemical estrogens are everywhere. Recently the mainstream medical community has started to look at the connection between cancer and the lax regulation of estrogenic chemicals in our daily lives. Although there is now more awareness about the issue, the reality is that it is still your responsibility to do what you can to avoid exposure and eliminate estrogen from your body.
Here is a list of 10 things you can do to limit your and your family’s chemical estrogen exposure:
1) Eat organic produce to avoid ingesting estrogenic pesticides, and organic meats to avoid exposure to growth hormones.
2) Use only all-natural cleaning products in your home, and opt for plant-based cleaners when possible. Regular chemical cleansers contain toxins, as well as estrogen-mimicking compounds. Be sure to always check the ingredients, and don’t trust a product just because it says it’s “green” on the label.
3) Go all-natural when it comes to your personal care products as well, like shampoo and conditioner. Just like with cleaning products—don’t trust the label without reading what’s in it just because it says “natural” on it. Specifically look out for DBP, DEHP, DEP, DMP and BzBP in the ingredients, because all of these are chemical estrogens.
4) Some scented candles and air fresheners could be safe if they only contain essential oils, but avoid ones that use the word “fragrance” because it could be referring to hormone-disrupting chemicals.
5) Use glass and/or stainless steel instead of plastic containers for your food or water. Plastics contain BPA, which mimics estrogen in the body.
6) Never heat up plastic or put it in the microwave because BPA is most easily transferred from plastic to food under high temperatures. If you need to heat something, use a glass container instead.
7) Don’t take your receipt from your purchases unless it’s really necessary. About half of the paper receipts we receive contain BPA, which is why it’s not surprising that there’s evidence cashiers have very high BPA levels.
8) Help the environment and avoid exposure to plastics by using cloth bags when shopping. If you don’t remember your cloth bags, try to opt for paper ones if possible.
9) Take Curcumin, which is found in the spice tumeric, to reduce the growth of cancer cells due to chemical estrogens. This antioxidant also helps prevent the production of damaging quinone during the detox process.
10) Increase the enzymes your liver needs to detoxify estrogen with Limonene. This antioxidant is found in the oil of tomatoes and citrus fruits. If you get a supplement to aid in estrogen detox, it will most likely contain limonene.