Several of my patients, male and female, are dealing with a particular hormone imbalance of estrogen called estrogen dominance. This means that their body is getting too much estrogen which has caused a whole domino-effect of problems. Too much estrogen in a woman’s body can increase her risk for breast and endometrial cancers, fibroid tumors and ovarian cysts and disrupt normal menstrual cycles.
Some of my male patients are also experiencing estrogen dominance imbalances. This results in a whole other set of symptoms for a man like erection difficulty, depression, the gaining of belly fat, increased male breast tissue, or “man boobs”. Worse, recent research has suggested that too much estrogen in a man’s system puts him at higher risk for developing prostate cancer as well.
I believe both my female and male patients estrogen dominance issues come from the foods and products in their diet that are giving them too much estrogen. I’d like to talk to you about how to avoid getting too much estrogen from your foods and the health disorders associated with it.
Natural and Synthetic Estrogens in Your Foods
Like you, most of my patients try to follow a healthy diet. They eat lots of fruits and vegetables, and consume a fair amount of animal proteins (beef, chicken, etc) to keep their muscles strong. Now, for the most part that type of diet is fine, well and good. However, certain types of vegetables and animal proteins may also contribute to estrogen dominance.
The following are some foods that contain a fair amount of phytoestrogens, or natural, plant estrogen; and synthetic estrogen – man made compounds put into animal feed to stimulate appetite and weight gain. Phytoestrogens do not act the same as synthetic estrogen in the human body. Their hormone stimulating effects are much weaker and can have a self-regulatory effect if natural estrogen blockers (see below) are eaten with them. However, if you are having problems with estrogen dominance, you may want to omit, or limit, these foods until your system is re-balanced. Then, re-add them slowly in small quantities.
Synthetic estrogens have a much stronger, stimulating effect and are not cleared very quickly from the body. They store in fat cells and can really throw hormones out of balance and initiate serious disorders, in both men and women, like those I mentioned earlier.
Phytoestrogens: Legumes: Foods like soy flour, soybeans, soy protein powder, tofu; black-eyed peas, chick peas (garbanzo beans), red beans, split peas. Seeds: Sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, anise seeds. Fruits: Apples, plums, dates, tomatoes, cherries. Vegetables: Beets, peppers, carrots, eggplant, sweet potatoes (yams), celery. Grains: Wheat, barley, rice. Beer. I recommend only herbicide-free organic produce as synthetic estrogens – atrazine and dieldrin – may also be present in commercially grown produce.
Synthetic estrogens: Dairy, beef. These food sources contain man-made estrogens that have been mixed into the feed that cows eat. It stores in their fat and muscle fibers and is passed into the milk. The FDA claims it does not permit the use of added hormones in pork or poultry (chicken, eggs, turkey), so these foods should be estrogen-free. However, I recommend eating only grass-fed beef and organic free-range poultry, and organically fed pork. Read labels. You may also get synthetic estrogens in the form of xenoestrogens – environmental sources of estrogen. Mostly these are Bisphenol A, or BPA, an estrogen that can get into your food from heated plastics. BPA is released into your food when you microwave frozen foods, or if your plastic water bottles become heated and you then drink the water. Be sure to empty frozen foods into a glass or ceramic bowl before heating also removing the plastic wrap. Don’t use plastic food wraps over hot foods – use wax paper or place in a glass container. Keep water bottles in a cool, dry, dark place, or filter your own with reverse osmosis filters. Atrazine and dieldrin are estrogen-like herbicides that can be present in non-organic produce. Triclosan, another synthetic estrogen, is present in antibacterial soaps. Triclosan disrupts hormones in bullfrogs.
Estrogen Blockers Help Fight Hormone Imbalances
Many foods that contain phytoestrogens are also good sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, antioxidants and other compounds we need for good health. We don’t need all the estrogen they may contain, though, whether it’s a phytoestrogen or a synthetic estrogen. As I mentioned earlier, many phytoestrogens are self-regulatory – they can both stimulate and block estrogen absorption. Try to include some of these natural estrogen blocking foods to help remove excess estrogen from your body. They include:
Cruciferous vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts all contain a chemical called DIM, short for diindolymethane, a compound that naturally binds to estrogen and removes it from the body.
Citrus fruits: Contain flavonoids that help regulate hormones. Tea and coffee also contain an offshoot of flavonoids – flavones – that do the same.
Herbs: Many of these are found in estrogen-blocking supplements. Turmeric, passionflower (contains Chrysin), resveratrol, fenugreek, epimedium, tribulis terrestris, help reduce excess estrogens by blocking the enzyme aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen in men.
Estrogen dominance in both men and women has become a real health concern. It’s important for us to become aware that the foods, and food-products, we use are not contributing to this problem as it can have far-reaching health side effects. If you are a man or woman who feels you may be experiencing symptoms of estrogen dominance, please see your doctor for complete hormone testing. Follow the dietary recommendations that I’ve listed here and you will go a long way in keeping your hormones balanced and your health safeguarded!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.