Prevent cancer and improve health by eating a diet that supports estrogen metabolism. High estrogen levels and difficulties eliminating this hormone are a problem for both men and women that can increase risk of breast and prostate cancer. It can also make you fat!
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.
• Eat a low carb, high-protein diet to improve body composition and lose body fat. 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 and fish that is high in omega-3 fats (pastured organic meats and most fish) and avoid grains in favor of lots of leafy green vegetables. Beans, eggs, and sesame, flax and fenugreek seeds are recommended because they contain the amino acids lysine and threonine that improve estrogen metabolism by the liver.
• Get a lot of omega-3 fats because they have ben 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, and one recent study found that supplementing with at least 2.5 grams of DHA-rich fish oil decreased breast cancer risk. Smaller doses were not effective.
• Get a lot of fiber and take a probiotic to improve gut health. Dietary fiber, especially lignans that come from flaxseeds, can bind to estrogen in the digestive task 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—consider supplementing with a fiber blend that includes flax.
• 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.
Unless you eat cruciferous veggies at every meal, you may want to take a DIM supplement. In addition, 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.
• 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.
Be aware that a primary source of estrogen in our bodies that significantly increases cancer risk is the exposure to chemical estrogens. Read these ten tips on who to limit chemical estrogen exposure.
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.