Estrogen is a type of hormone that promotes female development and characteristics in the body. It is produced mostly in the ovaries as well as in fat cells, and helps regulate the menstrual cycle and reproductive system. It also helps promote healthy bones and is involved in blood clotting to help prevent excessive bleeding.
Women need estrogen for their body systems to operate as they should.
But in today’s world, we sometimes get too much—which can have negative effects.
How can that be? And what can we do to reduce our levels?
What Does It Mean to Have High Estrogen Levels?
It’s called “high estrogen,” or “estrogen dominance.” It’s when our levels of this hormone are higher than they should be, optimally. When that happens, we can suffer from a number of potential side effects:
- Decreased sex drive
- Headaches and migraines
- Mood swings/depression/anxiety
- Bloating, water retention, and weight gain
- Hair loss
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Sleep problems/insomnia
- Memory problems
- Swollen or tender breasts
- More difficult symptoms of PMS
Higher levels of estrogen also increase risk of certain diseases, including:
- Ovarian cysts
- Fibrocystic breast disease
- Some cancers, including breast and endometrial cancer
What Causes High Estrogen Levels?
Why would our estrogen levels go too high? There are several reasons for that:
- A hormonal imbalance, such as when progesterone levels drop
- Certain medications (like estrogen replacement therapy drugs and birth control pills)
- Low testosterone or progesterone levels, which can upset the hormonal balance in the body
- Low-fiber diet (estrogen is excreted in the bowel—constipation can cause it to be reabsorbed into the body)
- Impaired liver function
- Misuse of drugs or alcohol
- Overexposure to “xenoestrogens”—manmade chemicals in the environment that mimic estrogen in the body and disrupt hormonal balance
It’s this last cause that I’m addressing in this post—estrogen in the environment.
What Are Xenoestrogens?
Xenoestrogens come in many forms. We can find them in the food we eat, the personal care products we use, and even in medical devices, toys, and cooking tools.
The problem is that we’ve been using hundreds of chemicals in just about every industry for several decades now, but we weren’t really sure about their safety. Recent studies have given us some clues, but the research is behind production. Meanwhile, we’re all taking part in a giant experiment where no one knows the outcome.
15 Ways to Detox from Excess Estrogen
To get started on detoxing from excess estrogen, I’ve given you 15 tips below.
- Choose safe skin care: A number of ingredients in skin care products, including parabens, certain chemical sunscreens, phthalates, and petroleum chemicals, are xenoestrogens. Look for brands that are more conscious about using natural and organic ingredients that don’t increase estrogen levels.
- Choose organic beef and dairy: Be sure to choose organic (and grass-fed beef). Conventional farms feed livestock estrogenic drugs to fatten them up and improve milk production.
- Eat organic produce: Studies show it has lower levels of pesticides, and many pesticides are hormone disruptors. Always wash your food, as even organics can have pesticide residue on them.
- Eat enough fiber: The body gets rid of excess estrogen through digestion, but you need enough fiber to keep things moving. Eat more leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fruits, and beans.
- Avoid plastics: Plastic water bottles, food containers, bags, and more often contain chemicals like bisphenol-A (BPA) and bisphenol-S (BPS), which mimic estrogen in the body. Store and microwave food in glass or ceramic containers. The main thing is to avoid temperature extremes with plastics—they break down the chemicals and cause them to leech into your foods and beverages.
- Avoid canned food: Most have plastic linings made with BPA. A study by the National Work Group for Safe Markets reported that over 90 percent of cans tested had detectable levels of BPA. Choose cartons, boxed or fresh instead.
- Limit processed foods: Most of the xenoestrogens we’re exposed to in food comes from processed foods, because they contain so many preservatives and dyes. Choose fresh and frozen as much as possible.
- Cook in ceramic or cast iron: That convenient non-stick cookware is a good source of xenoestrogens. If overheated, it will leech endocrine-disrupting chemicals into your food. Cook in ceramic coated pots and pans or cast iron for a healthier meal.
- Try estrogen-reducing supplements: Some supplements help remove xenoestrogens from the body. Try calcium-D-glucarate, DIM, milk thistle, choline, and taurine. Ask a naturopath for guidance.
- Choose healthier laundry products: Fabric softeners and common laundry products contain petrochemicals that act as xenoestrogens. Look for products with fewer ingredients, or go natural by making your own detergent with washing soda, baking soda, Borax, and a gentle bar soap.
- Shop carefully for furniture: Many modern pieces of furniture are bathed in flame-retardants, which are xenoestrogens. Find companies that sell flame-retardant-free furniture and use natural latex foam cushions, and look for older furniture sold in vintage stores before flame-retardants were used.
- Avoid soy: Though not a chemical estrogen, it is a plant-based estrogen, and can throw off your hormonal balance.
- Work out: Studies show that exercise lowers estrogen levels. A 2011 study, for instance, found that premenopausal women who engaged in aerobic exercise for 300 minutes a week lowered total estrogen by nearly 19 percent. A 2013 study also found that aerobic exercise helps the body break down estrogen so it’s easier to flush away.
- Get enough sleep: When you don’t get enough sleep, levels of the so-called “sleep” hormone melatonin are disrupted. Turns out that melatonin has a protective effect against excess estrogen. A 1999 study, for example, showed that melatonin helped block the growth of estrogen-induced cancer cells.
- Use a water filter: Public water supplies often contain chlorine, fluoride, and other industrial chemicals that act as xenoestrogens. Use a quality filter to reduce your exposure.
Do you know of other ways to reduce excess estrogen? Please share them with our readers.
Kossman DA, et al., “Exercise lowers estrogen and progesterone levels in premenopausal women at high risk of breast cancer,” J Appl Physiol, December 2011; 111(6):1687-93, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21903887.
“Exercise May Lower Risk by Changing Estrogen Metabolism,” Breastcancer.org, May 23, 2013, http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/20130523.
Rato AG, et al., “Melatonin blocks the activation of estrogen receptor for DNA binding,” FASEB J, May 1999; 13(8):857-68, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10224229.