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This article is for anyone who has high estrogen levels and wants to find out how to reduce their estrogen naturally.
While there are signs and symptoms of high estrogen for men and women, the only way to really know what your hormone levels are is to do a hormone test. There are several ways of doing this including blood tests, saliva tests, and urine tests.
I prefer the DUTCH urine test to measure sex hormones as it tells us the levels of the 3 different types of estrogen plus how your body is detoxifying the estrogen. There are 3 different pathways your body can detoxify estrogen down, one is a healthy pathway while the other two can lead to increased cancer risk, cysts, and fibroids.
Knowing how your body detoxifies estrogen helps guide the type of treatment that you do to lower your estrogen levels.
Estrogen is metabolized by the liver and cleared out of the body through the bowel, if this process is not working optimally it can lead to either high levels of potentially toxic estrogen or reabsorbing estrogen back into circulation.
There are 3 pathways in which liver can be metabolized and they are the 2, 4 and 16 Hydroxy estrone pathways. While excess estrogen causes many health problems like hormone dysregulation in women and excess body fat in men, the real danger is that the estrogen metabolized through the 4 and 16 pathways increase the risk of cancer, especially breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.
While a healthy gut can help to eliminate excess estrogens 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 up-regulation of an enzyme called B-glucuronidase, this breaks apart the bound estrogen that is getting excreted out of the body through the intestines making it easier to reabsorb into the body.
This can be one of the biggest causes of excess estrogen in women and men. Beneficial bacteria can prevent this from happening by reducing dysbiosis as it is high levels of the bad bacteria that uncouple the bond between estrogen and glucuronic acid.
The solution to improve elimination of estrogen through the bowel is to eat a real food diet which is high in dietary fiber from vegetables, flaxseeds, psyllium and even legumes if your body tolerates them ok. If you have high levels of estrogen then also improving detoxification through the liver is important and herbs such as Silybum, Schisandra, Tumeric, Broccoli, catechins from green tea plus the amino acids glutamine, taurine, cysteine, and glycine are essential to improving phase one and two liver detoxification.
Other nutrients that are important for detoxification of estrogen include the B vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, and a substance called DIM which is found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, but to get good levels of DIM it is best to take it in a supplement form.
Insulin resistance and a higher carbohydrate diet can also increase estrogen levels, if you have excess body fat you may need to reduce carbohydrates (except still eat lots of vegetables and the other fiber-rich foods such as flaxseeds and psyllium). This is especially important for women with PCOS and men with excess estrogen as the insulin resistance will up-regulate the aromatase enzyme causing excess estrogen.
Increasing phytoestrogens can help to reduce the effect of estrogens, the plant-based estrogens found in the phytoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors in the body, but they do not have the same effect as they are much weaker than estrogen from the body or from chemicals.
Lignans and isoflavones are the main phytoestrogens and they can also help to reduce the aromatase enzyme and stop testosterone being turned into estrogen, this is especially important for men.
The best phytoestrogens to include in the diet are flaxseeds, sesame, leafy greens, alfalfa, legumes plus herbal teas like red clover and Green tea.
We have already discussed a couple of ways to reduce aromatase enzyme activity like decreasing body fat, reducing insulin resistance and increasing the intake of phytoestrogens but there are also specific nutrients that will help to reduce the aromatase enzyme.
Zinc is the number one inhibitor and commonly a nutrient that is deficient in men and women, depending on the person they may need 20 – 50 mg of zinc a day, other nutrients that are important are selenium and magnesium.
While improving detoxification and elimination of estrogen is important to keep estrogen levels in balance plus reducing down activity of the aromatase enzyme by supplementing with Zinc stops testosterone from getting converted to estrogen in men… We also have to look at other lifestyle factors to reduce estrogen levels.
Reducing alcohol consumption can help to reduce estrogen levels in men and women, for some people, this means reducing alcohol consumption but for others, it may be necessary to eliminate alcohol for a period of time, this will also help liver function.
Estrogen’s in the environment are also a major problem, these can be found in plastics (even BPA free ones!), cleaning products, personal care products, factory farmed meats, it’s used so much in society it is hard to avoid but we can reduce our exposure and improve our detoxification.
Some people have genetic polymorphisms with certain genes, which means that their ability to detoxify estrogen is reduced. Genes in the cytochrome P450 pathway and the COMT pathway increase the risk of high estrogen, and also the chance that the estrogen is going to be detoxified down the unhealthy pathway into the 4 and 16 Hydroxy estrone, rather than the healthy 2 Hydroxy estrone. This does not mean that if you have these genetic polymorphisms that you will have high estrogen but you will have to work a bit harder to reduce your exposure and improve your elimination of estrogen from the body.
If you have had a sex hormone test and you find that you have high estrogen levels these are the steps you need to take.
DIM Plus take 1-2 capsules twice daily depending on your test results
Double strength Zinc Picolinate 1-2 capsules daily
Calcium D Glucarate 1 capsule 2-3 times daily
The best way to test your estrogen levels is with the DUTCH hormone test, as this test not only measures your sex hormones but also assesses how your body is detoxifying estrogen, if you have high estrogen this helps to implement a more specific treatment plan for you.
The DUTCH test also assesses your adrenal function, measuring both your free cortisol and total cortisol production, this is important as high cortisol can be a cause of high estrogen.
Testing gut function can also be an important step to working out “why” you have high estrogen, I recommend a stool test like the G.I Map test that measures beneficial and pathogenic bacteria levels, candida and parasites to assess gut function. The G.I Map test also measures b-glucuronidase levels which when elevated can be a prime cause of high estrogen levels.
Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions.
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