Estrogen is an essential steroid hormone produced primarily by the ovaries in menstruating women. Its roles include initiating the growth of endometrial tissue in the uterus in the first half of a woman’s menstrual cycle, plump skin and vaginal tissue, as well as protecting women from both osteoporosis and heart disease.
However, excess estrogen is linked to the following disorders in women:
- Hormone-positive cancers including breast, cervical and uterine cancers.
- Heavy bleeding and associated disorders: uterine fibroids, endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome.
- Imbalances in estrogen, progesterone and high cortisol (stress hormone) are one cause of pain and PMS around and during menstruation.
1. Maintain an optimal weight
- Excess fat tissue produces a type of estrogen than binds strongly to estrogen receptors in breast and uterine tissue, which can increase the risk of rapid breast tissue growth, or promote the formation of uterine fibroids.
- Daily activity promotes weight loss, a positive mood, lean muscle mass, and reduces our body’s estrogen load.
2. Consume a healthy diet
- Dietary fiber is important to bind wastes in the digestive system so they can be excreted in the stool rather than reabsorbed into the blood. Try eating a variety of ground flaxseed, psyllium husk, oat bran, whole grains and fruits and vegetables each day.
- The brassica family of vegetables also helps the liver to breakdown estrogens that are circulating in the bloodstream so they can be inactivated and eliminated from the body. They include broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard greens, collards and brussel sprouts. Consume at least one serving of one of these daily.
- Caution: individuals suffering from thyroid dysfunction should be mindful of their raw brassica vegetable intake. Consumed raw, the isothiocyanates found in cruciferous veggies can disrupt signaling across the thyroid gland. Steaming or cooking eliminates the isothyocyanates’ effect.
3. Reduce Exposure to Estrogens in the Environment
- Plastics are a source of xenoestrogens (synthetic estrogen). These compounds act like strong estrogens in the body, binding estrogen receptors in our tissues and potentially promoting unwanted hormonal effects. Xenoestrogens leach from plastic containers into food and fluids that we then consume. To reduce exposure, be sure to store foods in glass or stainless steel jars or containers rather than plastic, and to avoid freezing and microwaving plastic containers.
- Some pesticides used when growing produce have also been identified as xenoestrogens, as well as carcinogens. Be sure to wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with water before cooking and consuming them and opt for organic when purchasing produce.
- For the 2014 list of Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/
- Phlalates and parabens, two compounds commonly found in cosmetics also act as hormone disruptors. Look for products with the fewest ingredients such as 100% natural brand options.
- Skin care selection resource: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/
- To learn more detail about environmental toxins: Slow Death by Rubber Duck by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie
For individualized treatment of specific health concerns or to be educated on how to further optimize your health and prevent chronic disease, consider adding a Naturopathic Doctor to your health care team.
Erin Kasparek is a licensed and board certified Naturopathic Doctor with a family practice out of the Ottawa Inegrative Health Centre. For more info, please visit: