Helping your body eliminate estrogen safely can help you lose excess body fat and reduce cancer risk. Excessive estrogen is a problem for men as well as women due to multiple factors, especially the huge amounts of chemical estrogens we are exposed to in our daily lives.
Did you know that there are chemical estrogens in plastic bottles, cosmetics, shampoo and personal care products, oil-based coatings, pesticides, and animal hormones?
That’s right, but the negative effects of estrogen on the body don’t just come from the environment. The ineffective way we metabolize estrogen is directly linked to prostate and breast cancer risk. It also produces poor body composition and inhibits fat loss.
Studies show that genetics and obesity contribute to about 30 percent of the cancers that affect the sex organs (breast, prostate, ovarian), but the cause of the remaining 70 percent is still unclear. It is likely due to chemical estrogen exposure and problems with metabolism due to diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
The solution is to live a lifestyle that both improves elimination of estrogen and minimizes exposure to chemical estrogens. This article will tell you why and how you can do this by changing your lifestyle in the following ten ways:
- Improve Gastrointestinal Health
- Improve Diet
- Decrease Body Fat
- Use Phytoestrogens To ImproveEstrogen Detoxification
- Stop Testosterone From Turning into Estrogen
- Improve Estrogen Metabolism
- Ensure Complete Elimination
- Supplement With Essential Nutrients
- Watch What You Drink
- Limit Chemical Estrogen Exposure
Estrogen: The Basics
Estrogen is a hormone that is produced primarily in the ovaries in women and in the testes in men. For men, it plays an important role in sperm production and bone maintenance. Estrogen is also produced by other tissues in both men and women, including fat and the brain.
The amount of estrogen needed by men to support these functions is very small, and men tend to have excess estrogen in their systems for two reasons. First, an enzyme called aromatase that is found in tissues throughout the body will turn testosterone into estrogen. Aromatase is found in body fat, so men with a higher body fat percentage will produce more aromatase and therefore have higher estrogen levels and lower testosterone.
It's possible to reduce aromatase by eating or supplementing with nutrients that do this naturally. There are also drugs that inhibit aromatase that are used to prevent breast and prostate cancer, but it’s best to take the natural route without consuming synthetic drugs.
Second, men have excess estrogen because of the chemical estrogens in the environment, such as BPA and phthalates. BPA is a petroleum based chemical that mimics estrogen in the body. For example, one stud found that BPA exposure led to lower testosterone and poor sexual function in men because it inhibited the production of androstenedione—the hormone from which testosterone is produced.
Phthalates are another chemical estrogen that are used in plastics and many personal care products such as shampoo and lotion. They contribute to excess estrogen levels and need to be eliminated from the body as safely and quickly as possible in order to minimize the damage they have on tissues.
How Estrogen Is Metabolized By The Liver
Estrogen is metabolized by the liver. The liver converts excess estrogens into compounds that can be excreted by the body. The catch is there are three pathways through which estrogen can be metabolized. One is a “toxic” pathway that is linked to cancer development, the second is unfavorable for health, and the third is more benign and preferable.
If your body can convert estrogens along what is called the 2-hydroxy pathway it will be healthier and you’ll decrease your cancer risk, whereas if your body converts along the 16-alpha-hydroxy pathway it will be at greater risk of cancer.
Don’t worry about the chemical names of the pathways, just remember that the C-2 pathway is healthier and the C-16 pathway and the C-4 pathway are unfavorable. The solution is to nutritionally support conversion of estrogen along the C-2 pathway, which can be initiated by ensuring you have a healthy gut.
1. Improve Gastrointestinal Health
Poor gastrointestinal health can inhibit excretion of unwanted estrogen from the body and promote its reabsorption. A healthy gut with dietary fiber in the form lignan, such as flaxseeds, can bind to estrogen in the digestive tract so that it will be excreted from the body. Dietary fiber also reduces the amount of an enzyme (called B-glucouronidase) that uncouples or breaks apart bound estrogen that is on its way out of the body. When the estrogen breaks free in the large intestine, it re-enters circulation and is not removed from the body. This is a bad situation.
The solution is to eat adequate fiber and include lignans in the diet, including flax, leafy greens, and bran (oat, rye, barley). Eating plenty of probiotic foods or taking a probiotic is often helpful because it will increase the “good bacteria” in the gut and support neurotransmitter function.
2. Improve Diet With Low Carb, High-Protein, Omega-3 Fats
To avoid excess estrogen, you need to manage insulin because doing so is better for body composition. Body fat itself secretes estrogen, so it is important to keep body composition in the optimal range and avoid obesity. Additionally, persistently high insulin produces a poor endocrine profile that can inhibit estrogen metabolism.
Getting your carbs from vegetable and fruit sources will provide the lignans and fiber needed for gut health and increase antioxidant levels, which can abolish free radicals that produced by estrogen that goes down the C-16 pathway.
Omega-3 fats, which are found in fish, have been shown to promote the C-2 pathway over the 16 pathway, particularly EPA omega-3 fatty acids. On the flip side, diets low in omega-3s have resulted in estrogen being metabolized primarily through the C-16 pathway.
A high-protein diet will produce a better body composition for most people. Plus, low protein diets have been shown to decrease activity of something called cytochrome P450 that metabolizes estrogen. The amino acids lysine and threonine have been shown to support liver function and since estrogen is metabolized by the liver, it is thought that these proteins can help get rid of estrogen from the body.
Lysine and threonine are found in meat, fish, beans, eggs, and some seeds (sesame, fenugreek). Sesame seeds also provide fiber and fenugreek helps lower the insulin response to carbs, making both good additions to your diet.
3. Decrease Body Fat
The more fat you have, the more estrogen you’ll have because fat tissue increases levels of the aromatase enzyme that turns testosterone to estrogen. Decreasing body fat and building lean mass are key to cancer prevention and estrogen elimination.
Another way to protect the tissues from circulating estrogen is to keep it bound to sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). When it is bound to SHBG, estrogen is not available to bind with cellular receptors and won’t have its estrogenic impact. Flaxseed hulls are especially good at increasing SHBG (as well as inhibiting aromatase).
4. Use Phytoestrogens To Promote the C-2 Pathway
Include foods with phytoestrogens in your diet because they will take natural and chemical estrogens out of play in the body. Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that can bind to estrogen receptors, but they have about 1/1000th of the effect on the body as real or chemical estrogen. When phytoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors they basically take up the parking sport of the true estrogen, and keep it from exerting its effect.
Lignans and isoflavones are the main phytoestrogens, and in addition to binding with estrogen receptors, they can increase SHBG levels (protects the body by binding to estrogen), decrease aromatase (prevents testosterone turning into estrogen), and shift metabolism of estrogen away from the C-16 pathway to the C-2 pathway (the safer pathway).
The best phytoestrogens to include in the diet are flax, sesame, leafy greens, kudzu, alfalfa, clover, licorice root, and legumes.
5. Block Aromatase and Stop Testosterone From Turning into Estrogen
Blocking aromatase is key for getting rid of estrogen because it plays the main role in producing estrogen in men. If aromatase is present, there are two chances for estrogen to be produced in the body.
First, the hormone androstenedione will be turned into testosterone unless aromatase is present in which case it will be turned into estrogen. Then, aromatase will turn testosterone into estrogen as well.
Nutrients that have a proven effect on aromatase include selenium, melatonin, zinc, green tea, and citrus flavonones—substances found in orange and grapefruit rinds along with tomato skins.
6. Improve Estrogen Metabolism By Promoting the C-2 Pathway
Promoting the C-2 pathway of estrogen metabolism is probably the most important thing you can do to prevent cancer. The first step of estrogen elimination is for enzymes to initiate metabolism by joining the estrogen molecule. This will happen at either the 2-carbon position or the 16-carbon position of the molecule, which determines the pathway the estrogen will head down.
The C-2 pathway produces very weak estrogenic activity and is termed “good” estrogen. In contrast, the C-16 pathway produces robust estrogenic activity and promotes tissue damage that leads to cancer.
Key nutrients for supporting the C-2 pathway are EPA fish oils, phytoestrogens, and of special importance, B vitamins and a substance called DIM. The B vitamins, particularly B6, B12, and folic acid promote the C-2 pathway. B6 is also known to decrease gene activity once estrogen is bound to a receptor, meaning this vitamin can inhibit cell damage and cancer development.
DIM is a compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower. It is often taken in supplement form because you would need to eat large quantities of these vegetables daily in order to provide sufficient DIM to have an effect on estrogen elimination.
7. Ensure Complete Elimination of Estrogen
Once you shift your estrogen elimination to the C-2 pathway you have to make sure it gets excreted from the body. Two things can happen along the way out that cause big problems. First, estrogen that is heading down the C-2 pathway can be easily turned into something called quinones, which are “highly reactive” and can damage DNA and cause cancer.
In order to avoid the production of quinones you must have adequate amounts of two nutrients—magnesium and SAMe. This process of metabolizing estrogen to avoid quinones is called methylation and is the first place that things can go wrong on the estrogen elimination pathway.
As estrogen is heading out of the intestine, it needs to be bound to glucuronic acid, but there is a “bad” intestinal bacteria that contains an enzyme that breaks estrogen apart from the glucuronic acid. This is the second place estrogen detoxification can go wrong.
When the “bad” bacteria, called glucouronidase, uncouples the bond between estrogen and glucuronic acid, estrogen re-enters circulation, effectively raising estrogen levels in the body and damaging tissue. To avoid this, you need a healthy gut, which you can get by supporting the probiotic bacteria in your gut and eating lots of fiber and lignans.
8. Supplement With Essential Nutrients
To review, the essential nutrients to help metabolize estrogen are the B vitamins, zinc, omega-3 fish oils, DIM (nutrient found in cruciferous vegetables), green tea, magnesium, selenium, and melatonin.
Vitamin E is another potent antioxidant that aids estrogen elimination. Low vitamin E is associated with elevated estrogen and it has been shown to inhibit the growth of breast and prostate cancer cells.
9. Watch What You Drink
Alcohol increases estrogen levels in men and women, and it has been shown to decrease testosterone as well. For optimal estrogen metabolism, it's recommended that you eliminate all alcohol besides certain red wine.
Sardinian and Spanish wines are rich in antioxidants that help remove estrogens. Other good choices are Pinot and Merlot.
10. Limit Chemical Estrogen Exposure
Avoiding chemical estrogens is one of the most important strategies for preventing cancer and protecting yourself. If you were able to have no contact with chemical estrogens, and you had good nutrition, a lean body composition, and a large proportion of muscle mass, it is very unlikely you’d have excess estrogen or be at risk of cancer.
Unfortunately, chemical estrogens are everywhere. It is only recently that the mainstream medical community has started to seriously consider the connection between cancer and the environment the industry has created with the lax regulation of estrogenic chemicals.
There is even a movement in public health advocacy that government regulatory bodies and chemical companies need to take action to reduce environmental toxins. Although there is an awareness that the responsibility of reducing cancer risk shouldn’t be on the individual because we cannot completely avoid contact with chemical estrogens, the reality is that you have to take responsibility for eliminating estrogen from your body and the bodies of your loved ones.
This list has ten simple things you can do today to reduce your chemical estrogen exposure.