Women these days can be exposed to too much oestrogen over their lifetimes. This is due to a number of factors, some of which include:
- More menstrual periods: unlike our ancestors, women today have a greater number of periods throughout their lives. This occurs as menstruating starts at an earlier age and menopause occurs later – contributing to greater amounts of oestrogen throughout life.
- Obesity: increases oestrogen levels in the body, as fatty tissue converts hormones such as androgens into oestrogen.
- Diet: diets that have high amounts of refined carbohydrates, saturated fat and low fibre seem to be linked to oestrogen dependent conditions
- Environmental oestrogens
- Liver and bowel factors
What’s the problem with too much oestrogen? Well, normal amounts of oestrogen are necessary, but too much can increase cell growth in oestrogen-sensitive tissues, such as in the uterus, and breast. This may increase the risk of fibroids, endometriosis, heavy periods and fibrocystic breast disease.
Don’t go looking to blame your ovaries for pumping out too much of a good thing, as there are other factors at play.
Firstly, adequate progesterone levels (released after ovulation) are needed to keep oestrogen in check.
Secondly, oestrogen can stay around to haunt you if the liver and bowel don’t clear it out properly. Also, additional oestrogen from fatty tissue and even the environment can add to the oestrogen cocktail.
Tips for keeping your oestrogen levels healthy
- Choose a low saturated fat and whole grain diet. Limit the use of refined carbohydrates, processed and take away foods. These bad fats are thought to increase the growth of bacteria that increases the reabsorption of oestrogen in the intestines.
- Consume adequate soluble and insoluble fibres. Fibres help to prevent oestrogens from being reabsorbed into the circulation.
- Probiotics from cultured dairy products or supplements also decrease the amount of oestrogen being reabsorbed into the circulation.
- Plant based oestrogens such as those in soy or linseeds (flaxseeds) help modulate the effects of oestrogen in the body.
- Liver cells can have a leg-up when you eat vegetables from the cabbage family. These vegetables, which include broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, have special constituents that increase the rate at which the body excretes oestrogen.
- Exercise helps clear oestrogen from the body.
Avoid drinking from plastic containers, especially if they have been in the sun. Also, don’t heat up food in plastic containers.
Too little oestrogen
Apart from menopause, low oestrogen levels may occur due to:
- Low weight, as menstruation ceases with excess weight loss
- Consuming too much fibre, as this may prevent oestrogen from being reabsorbed
- Vitamin A deficiency, which can affect ovulation as it is needed for the production of oestrogen in the ovary
- Smoking, which changes the metabolism of oestrogen in the liver so that less active oestrogen is produced
- Exercising excessively, which can reduce oestrogen levels
- Just as having too much oestrogen can be problematic, so too can having low amounts. Bones can become brittle, and infertility, menstrual irregularities, tissue dryness and premature aging can all occur.
- Being in a healthy weight range, exercising moderately and eating a balanced diet are all important for normal oestrogen levels. Plant-based oestrogens may also help with a relative oestrogen deficiency. These are found in red clover, soy beans, and flaxseeds.
References available on requests