One of the best ways to improve health and achieve optimal body composition is to improve estrogen metabolism because this will lead to better hormone balance in the body. High estrogen levels and difficulties eliminating this hormone are a problem for both men and women that is associated with greater cancer risk, a higher body fat percentage, and low muscle mass.
If you don’t get certain nutrients in your diet, you won’t be able to metabolize excess estrogen effectively. This tip will provide dietary and lifestyle strategies to help eliminate estrogen.
#1: Try a lower carb, high-protein diet to improve body composition and accelerate estrogen metabolism. The more fat you have, the more estrogen you will have because fat tissue increases the levels of an enzyme called aromatase that turns testosterone into estrogen. By losing fat, and increasing your muscle mass, you will significantly decrease cancer risk and improve estrogen elimination.
For best results with a low-carb, high-protein diet, opt for meat, fish, and eggs that are higher in omega-3 fats (pastured organic meats and most fish) and eat plenty of leafy green vegetables. Beans and sesame, flax and fenugreek seeds are recommended because they contain the amino acids lysine and threonine that improve estrogen metabolism by the liver.
#2: Balance your intake of omega-3 and omega-6 fats because this dietary profile has been shown to promote estrogen metabolism down a healthier pathway in the body called the C-2 pathway. Diets low in omega-3s lead to estrogen being metabolized down a “toxic” pathway called the C-16 pathway.
For example, one recent study found that premenopausal women whose bodies metabolized estrogen down the C-16 pathway more often than the C-2 pathway had a much greater risk of breast cancer over the 9-year study period. Similar results have been found in post-menopausal women. In addition, studies have shown that greater omega-3 intake in women from eating fish daily reduces breast cancer risk.
#3: Get a lot of fiber and take eat plenty of probiotic foods to improve gut health. Dietary fiber, especially lignans that come from flaxseeds, can bind to estrogen in the digestive tract so that it will be readily excreted from the body.
Dietary fiber also reduces the amount of an enzyme that breaks apart bound estrogen that is on its way out of the body. If this happens, estrogen will re-enter circulation and not be removed from the body—very bad news.
The solution is to get a lot of fiber—the U.S. RDA is 25 grams, and a recent report on dietary fiber intake in Americans found that less than 3 percent meet the RDA! To improve estrogen metabolism, particularly if you eat a lot of protein, you will likely do best with more than 25 grams a day—get it from sources that naturally contain fiber, such as fruits and vegetables.
#4: Eat a lot of cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower, broccoli, and bok choy because they contain a compound called DIM that is very effective at promoting estrogen metabolism down the C-2 pathway. Remember, if you can get your body to favor the C-2 pathway, you will have less cancer risk.
In addition to DIM, there are supplement blends that contain curcumin, limonene, and green tea extract that have been found to aid in the elimination of estrogen that can be used.
#5: Magnesium, the B vitamins, and vitamin D round out the list of essential nutrients for estrogen metabolism. Magnesium must be present to avoid the production of quinones (another way that improper metabolism of estrogen leads to cancer) that damage DNA. The B vitamins are necessary to promote metabolism down the better C-2 pathway, and B6 in particular can decrease damaging gene activity once estrogen is bound to a receptor, which is good because it means less cancer risk.
Finally, vitamin D is a potent anti-cancer nutrient that interacts with every cell in the body. It ensures proper replication of cells to avoid cancer, and vitamin D has been shown to directly prevent the growth of breast cancer cells in a dose dependent manner. Remember, our bodies make vitamin D when we get full body sunlight, making fall and winter prime time to supplement.
Yuan, L., Jiang, R., et al. Vitamin D3 Inhibits Growth of the Breast Cancer Cell Line MCF-7 and Downregulates Cytochorme P4501B1 Through the Cox-2/PGE2 Pathway. Oncology Reports. September 2012. Published Ahead of Print.
Eliassen, A., Spiegelman, D., et al. Urinary Estrogens and Estrogen Metabolites and Subsequent Risk of Breast Cancer Among Premenopausal Women. Cancer Research. 2012. 72(3), 696-706.
Mousa, N., Eiada, R., et al. The Effect of Acute Aromatase Inhibition on Breast Parenchymal Enhancement in Magnetic Resonance Imaging: A Prospective Pilot Clinical Trial. Menopause. January 2012. Published Ahead of Print.
Simpson, E. Sources of Estrogen and Their Importance. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 2003. 86(3-5), 225-230.