Today we are going to get a little more in depth and talk about some real nutritional and lifestyle adjustments that can and should be made to treat estrogen dominance. Most people that suffer from estrogen dominance also have an acid / alkaline imbalance and generally are affected by chronic inflammation. They are almost always hypothyroid and have some sort of adrenal insufficiency. About 65% are overweight and over half of that 65% are obese. They can also be insulin resistant.
Why am I running down the laundry list of other health issues when I am supposed to be talking about estrogen dominance? I am attempting to illustrate, again, how you can cannot heal selectively just as you do not get a health condition selectively. It’s what conventional medicine either doesn’t get or doesn’t WANT to get but whatever the case, a few pills or creams isn’t going to magically heal you if you are doing/eating/using the same things/foods/products you have always used. So many people are estrogen dominant in part because the water supply is polluted with enormous amounts of hormones from women on birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy already. They are not only literally being flushed down the toilet every time they eliminate but hundreds of pounds of unused medications are being dumped into landfills and absorbed into the earth.
So you have a diagnosis, or, at the very least, an inkling that you are estrogen dominant. You have 10 out of 11 symptoms and you just don’t feel well. If you are one of my US or Canadian readers, getting treated my a medical doctor conventionally is a headache and a half because they just don’t want to run those types of test to diagnose. If you are in the US, the doctors are more than happy to run the tests but push creams and/or pills made of the urine of a pregnant horse. It might be natural but your body does not metabolise it in the same way it would say, if it were bio-identical.
Please remember that women have ten times the rate of autoimmune disease as men – due to imbalanced and excess levels of estrogen (hence, the high number of women with fibromyalgia, MS, Grave’s, etc.). This is because estrogen (estradiol) suppresses T suppressor cells, leaving them out in the circulation longer and more likely to adversely react to inflamed tissue. (Caused by chronic inflammation!) The cases of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis along with fibromyalgia and polymyositis being diagnosed in women in their 30’s, 40’s and early 50’s is sky rocketing due to estrogen dominance and the so called “HRT” treatments being given as a result. I paint a very dark picture, don’t I?
The fact of the matter is it is possible to treat Estrogen Dominance holistically with nutrition and lifestyle changes right alongside more conventional medicine. I say MORE conventional medicine because I am absolutely convinced women need to be consulting doctors that are schooled in Functional Integrative Medicine and are well versed in bio-identical hormones. Your GP is probably or even run of the mill OB/GYN is probably not the one you want to ask about nutrition, lifestyle changes and rational hormone replacement. We will be focusing on nutrition and lifestyle adaptations to treat estrogen dominance and the ensuing conditions that surround it. To recap the definition of estrogen dominance, it is exactly as it sounds. Estrogen dominance is when the estrogen produced by and circulating in the body far outweighs the other hormones, namely progesterone. This imbalance causes a multitude of symptoms and, if those symptoms weren’t bad enough, it causes weight gain which can make the estrogen even more unbalanced. It’s a Catch-22. The fact is that good nutrition is the absolute best medicine for estrogen dominance. Then there are a few lifestyle changes such as reducing stress through exercise, (and my favorite all-time exercise for hormone balancing happens to be yoga), meditation/prayer, and breathing techniques.
Let’s get down to business and discuss how to tame the estrogen dominant tiger with nutrition. Reducing estrogen dominance is not only about foods with anti-estrogenic effects but foods with fibre that is going to help eliminate excess estrogen through the bowels, which is where excess estrogen ends up to be excreted.
Let’s first discuss what to avoid, shall we? These are particularly important to avoid in the first 21 days of undergoing a holistic shift because our aim is going to be reducing the amount of estrogen produced AND helping eliminate the excess from the body.
Commercially raised meats and poultry are particularly problematic in the issue of estrogen dominance. First, they are fed on a diet of hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals mixed in with their feed. Second, that feed is grain, which the animal is not able to metabolize in the first place. Like in humans, who are, by and large, not able to tolerate grains, when the bacteria and gluten in those grains becomes too much, leaky gut and other malabsorption issues occurs in the livestock causing not only vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the animal, but all those toxic hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals are leached into the blood stream causing inflammatory immune responses. The bodies of the animals are not able to detox properly and those chemicals are stored in the fat of the animal. Never mind about the grains that the animals can’t metabolize in the first place are genetically modified. That goes without saying these toxins and pathogens are going to find their way into every organ of the animal and those organs and slabs of meat are going to be eaten by the consumer. Dairy products add insult to injury by not only having high levels of puss and blood from the immune responses raging in the animals but then are pasteurized killing every single enzyme that could ever hope to make it digestible.
Eat animal protein, but make sure it is pastured and grass-fed, limit your chicken to once a week and stick to wild, line-caught cold water fish. Young cod, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and tuna in small amounts a few times a week will not hinder estrogen reduction. If you want to eat eggs they absolutely must be soy-free, free-range and foraging hens that have access to a rooster. You can usually find these at farmer’s markets. These are the healthiest eggs around.
Eliminating grains will help restore insulin sensitivity and, as you add more whole grains back into your diet you will find which ones trigger responses and which ones are more tolerable. I strongly urge everyone to give up modern wheat as it is has been bred to contain up to 40 times the strength of glutens present in heirloom grains. Great for Wonder Bread, BAD for digestion and one of the prime reasons the incidence of Celiac’s Disease is rising to epidemic proportions. In fact, if you are caucasian you are probably gluten intolerant. If you have hypothyroidism and estrogen dominance you are probably, at the very least, gluten sensitive.
So if you can’t eat meat, and you can’t eat modern wheat or many grains, what can you eat?
Avocados, sprouts, radishes, asparagus, artichokes, celery, carrots, squashes, tapioca, pineapples figs, pears, green beans, are all produce that has an anti-estrogenic effect on the body.
Citrus fruits contain D-Limonene, a naturally occurring substance found in the oils. Along with onion and garlic they also contain flavanoids and indoles that are estrogen inhibiting compounds found in plants. D-Limonene, a naturally occurring monoterpene found in the oils of citrus fruits, promotes the detoxification of estrogen by triggering Phase I and Phase II enzymes in the liver (the primary detoxification pathways in the liver). This compound has also shown great promise in the prevention and treatment of breast and other cancers. Try drinking ginger lemon tea and grating the peel of the lemon or lime into salad dressings, puddings, and into salads.
Seaweeds contain a live source of iodine that can effectively and rapidly detoxify xenoestrogenic compounds. North Atlantic Dulse, Nori, Uniradiated kelp, and other seaweeds make great additions to salads and soup.
Sweet Potato is a natural progesterone stimulant, it works on the pituitary gland.
Rosemary contains a potent antioxidant, inhibits breast cancer development and it helps to detoxify carcinogenic estrogens. Rosemary may also enhance estrogen detoxification.
Thyme and Oregano can increase the body’s progesterone levels.
Grapes contain Resveratrol- a naturally occuring bioflavonoid (but shouldn’t be eaten if you have candida overgrowth).
Seeds such as flax, and hemp, sprouted pulses and beans, legumes, and vegetables such as broccoli and kale containing lignans are natural plant compounds containing important insoluble dietary fiber. They can interrupt the circulation of estrogens in the liver and digestive tract in two ways. Because of their phytoestrogenic properties they bear a strong resemblance to estrogen, which enable lignans to compete against estrogen for estrogen receptor sites on breast cells. (It is through estrogen receptor sites that estrogen may cause cancerous mutations in DNA.) Once displaced, excessive or bad estrogens are harmlessly flushed from the bowels as waste. They also inhibit aromatase activity, thus decreasing conversion of testosterone and androstenedione into estrogens in fat and breast cells.
Sunflower seeds contain vitamin E which has been shown to inhibit the growth of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer (the type of breast cancer caused by estrogen dominance) cells by as much as 50%.
Dark Green Leaves (and wheatgrass/ barleygrass) contain alpha lipoic acid (ALA) – Since we know that fat cells store toxins, detoxing the fat cells with alpha lipoic acid is another key factor reducing estrogen dominance. These foods also enhance the potency and life of vitamins C and E and other antioxidants, recycling them and making them much more effective. Alpha lipoic acid also aids in the conversion of carbohydrates to energy. This, in turn, helps improves energy metabolism.
Red Peppers,garlic, onions, broccoli, brussels sprouts and oats contain N-acetylcysteine a powerful antioxidant.
Green Tea extract contains polyphenols, catechins and flavonoids shown to inhibit breast tumor growth, improves liver detoxification of estrogen, reduces aromatase enzymes and lowers levels of damaging estrogens, protects against estrogen-specific free radicals and carcinogens
Tomatoes, pink grapefruit, papaya, guava and watermelon contain lycopene a powerful antioxidant found which was recently shown to reduce a women’s risk of breast cancer by 36 percent. Lycopene inhibits cancer cell proliferation and reduces DNA damage from estrogen.
Apples, Oranges, Broccoli, Spinach, and Brussels Sprouts contain Calcium D-glucarate which is a powerful detoxifier of excess estrogens from the liver. This compound binds to excess estrogen and inhibits the unfriendly bacteria in the gut that is present as a result of a low-fiber, high glycemic diet that allows estrogen to be recirculated from the bowel into the blood stream. Calcium D-glucarate has been found in animals to lower estradiol levels and inhibit the initiation, promotion, and progression of cancer. There really is something to the saying “An apple a day….”
Cruciferous vegetables ( Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Cabbage, Kale, Mustard, Turnip, Bok Choy, Kohlrabi, Rutabaga, Swede) are rich in zinc, vitamins A, B, C, D and E and contain Indole-3-Carbinol (l3C) I3C and DIM (diinodylmethane), naturally occurring compounds that actively promotes the breakdown of estrogen to the beneficial metabolite, 2-OH. Sulfurophane, from broccoli, has been shown to stimulate the body’s production of detoxification enzymes that eliminate harmful xenoestrogens. Sulfurophane is also a powerful antioxidant slowing the aging process, which, in my book, is a major reason to eat my broccoli.