a group of women jumping with joy and a text bubble saying simple steps for optimal estrogen metabolism

Estrogen is a key hormone in women's (and men’s) lives. It’s one of the primary sex hormones in women and plays a strong supportive role in men.

To learn more about the types of estrogen, please click here. This article will show you how to optimize estrogen metabolism.

The Need to Metabolize Estrogen

When we discuss hormones, we need to consider both production and metabolism. Production describes how much is made, metabolism describes what your body is doing with it.

Estrogen metabolism occurs in the liver and gut. We want to ensure estrogen metabolism is optimized; meaning we focus on making the good estrogen and minimizing the bad estrogen.

The factors below help optimize estrogen metabolism:

1. Reduce Toxin Exposure from Personal Care Products

Many of these chemicals are found in: air fresheners, deodorants, fabric softeners, scented candles, perfumes, shampoos, soaps and other personal hygiene products [1]

  • Chemical colourings, chemical preservatives
  • Talcum powder, organochlorides
  • Diethanolamine (DEA), Monoe Thanolamine (MEA), triethanolamine (TEA)
  • Paraben Preservatives: methyl, propyl, butyl, isobutyl, and ethyl
  • Mineral oil: petrolatum, petroleum jelly (liquid paraffinum, paraffin oil, paraffin wax, posh mineral oil)
  • Propylene glycol/butylene glycol
  • Silicone derived emollients: dimethicone, dimethicone copolyol, cyclomethicone
  • Dibutyl phthalate
  • 4–dioxane
  • BHT (butilated hydroxytoluene)/ BHA (butilated hydroxyanisole)
  • benzalkonium chloride and benzethonium chloride
  • triclosan and triclocarban parfum

When buying personal care products, look for: organic, plant sources, toxin-free, safe packaging, and safe processing methods.

various beakers of chemicals to show that removing toxins from personal care products will improve estrogen metabolism

2. Reduce Toxin Exposure from Food and Nutrition

The foods we eat may also be a source of toxin exposure. The chemicals and drugs used in food processing are sometimes detrimental to our health, including our hormone metabolism.

Consider following the Environmental Working Group’s Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen. These are lists which make recommendations regarding which foods to eat organic (dirty dozen) and which can be eaten of the conventionally grown variety (clean 15).

For more information please check out the Environmental Working Group’s website by clicking here.

Also, think about the source of your animal products and even consider removing dairy. There is research showing that conventionally raised dairy contains significant amounts of estrogen metabolites, especially the bad types [2]. Furthermore, conventionally farmed meats tend to be pumped with hormones, including estrogen, which can be detrimental for humans.

2 pictures of things that improve estrogen metabolism, including a tomato being injected with GMOs and dairy cows illustrating the importance of removing toxins from dietary sources

3. Dietary Changes

Certain nutrients in specific foods are known to have favourable effects on estrogen metabolism:

  • ECGC (green tea) [3]
  • Ellagic acid (berries) [4]
  • Eat lots of dark Leafy greens [5]
  • Increase dietary fibre (30 grams/day) [5]
  • Drink adequate water (1-2 liters/ day) [5]
  • Incorporate olive oil into your diet [6]
  • Eat lots of foods that help with liver detox, such as cruciferous veggies, garlic, beets, spices, etc
  • Eat lots of foods and nutrients that support healthy bile flow, such as artichoke leaf [7] and Vitamin C, B6, Folic acid, B12, choline, inositol, taurine, methionine, betaine
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol [5]
  • Eat phytoestrogens, which are naturally occurring plant compounds that can act similarly to estrogen metabolites. These foods include: [8]
Diagram which shows the foods that improve estrogen metabolism including limiting caffeine, no alcohol and eating phytoestrogens, cruciferous vegetables, olive oil, dietary fibre, berries/ellagic acid, and drinking water and green tea

4. Support Routes of Elimination (Sweating, Gut, Kidneys)

The process of detoxification in the body is important. Detox allows our body to rid itself of toxins, but also used hormones. The primary routes of elimination are sweating, bowel movements and urine via the kidneys.

Sweating and Hydrotherapy: allows toxins to leave through the skin. Try dry brushing. Avoid shower and bath products which may block pores. When sweating, replace lost fluid to protect against dehydration. Exercise causes sweating, and it also helps circulation and muscle contraction, both of which help estrogen metabolism and detoxification.

Digestive Health: regular bowel movements tell a lot about our overall health. To promote regularity, we focus on gut bacteria diversity and hydration. When we eat vegetables, fibre and anti-inflammatory foods, the gut bacteria make good phytochemicals called enterolignans. These play important roles in prevention of cancer and chronic disease as well as estrogen metabolism [9]. The more diverse our gut bacteria, the more enterolignans we will have.

Kidney Function: the kidneys control water volume, and play an important role in forming urine. Kidneys are also important detox organs, as they will rid the body of water soluble toxins, including used hormones. Promoting regular, healthy urination is key.

Images of sweating, kidney and digestive tract, all of which help estrogen metabolism

5. Supplements

See a Naturopath for customized suggestions regarding:

  • Botanicals, micronutrients, medical foods, prebiotics, and/or probiotics

Higher doses of certain nutrients can have powerful effects on enzymatic processes throughout the body. There are cases where dietary and lifestyle changes aren’t enough, and supplements are often called upon.

Sometimes specialized testing can help identify which supplements are indicated.

various supplements on a table, intended for improving estrogen metabolism

6. Support Methylation if Necessary

Methylation is a biochemical process which helps to activate and deactivate hormones when appropriate. This is something that can be identified on specialized testing. In general, healthy lifestyle supports these pathways, but sometimes, testing will show if someone has methylation defects and needs specialized treatment.

Methylation relies on proper COMT enzymes, which is a complicated process. We can support COMT with:

  • Methionine, which is especially important if you have low homocysteine
  • Magnesium
  • B2, B6 B12
  • Folic acid (also as folinic acid, 5-formyl THF, 5-MTHF)
  • TMG (betaine)

Glutathione is the master detoxifier of phase II detox. It too must be supported. If we suspect reduced glutathione, the following are useful:

  • Reduced glutathione (1-3 g/day)
  • N-acetyl-cysteine (2000 mg/day)
  • Lipoic acid (1,000 mg/day)
  • Whey protein concentrates (2-3 servings/day)
  • Magnesium (400 mg)
  • Vitamin C (500+mg)
  • Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) (400 IU)
  • Silymarin
  • Pantothenic acid (500 mg/day)
  • SAMe 400-800 mg/day
  • Glycine and Glutamine
  • B vitamins (B2, B6, B12, 5MTHF)
  • Extracts:
    • Turmeric extract, grape seed extract
    • Bilberry, strawberry/black raspberry extracts
  • Antioxidants (to discourage formation of quinone compounds)
  • Melatonin
    • Glutathione is useful for monitoring melatonin’s protective role in cell damage
  • Theanine
  • Sulforaphane
a model of a liver showing that methylation and liver detox can improve estrogen metabolism

7. Maintain

Generally, changes are difficult to make initially, especially when you have a lot of changes to make at once. However, once the initial changes are made, it's easier to maintain. Maintenance is usually in the form of lifestyle change.

For example, when a person uses supplements to help with detox in the early phases of treatment, our long term goal is to maintain without those supplements, and rely solely on lifestyle intervention.

Summary

Estrogen detoxification is an important concept. Men and women alike need to focus on supporting the production of the good estrogen and minimizing the bad estrogen. There are many significant lifestyle changes that we can make to promote optimal estrogen metabolism and maintain those changes long-term.

various pictures of things that help estrogen metabolism including supplements, digestive function, exercise, remove toxins, reduce stress, dietary change, support methylation

References

Interested in learning more?

Read on in our series of articles on Hormone Health!

About the Author - Dr. Johann de Chickera

Dr. Johann de Chickera is a naturopath at Absolute Health and Wellness in Paris Ontario

Dr. Johann is a licensed naturopathic doctor and co-owner of Absolute Health and Wellness. He completed his 4-year degree at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). His clinical focus lies in chronic disease, such as those related to the Gastrointestinal, Endocrine, and Immune Systems.

His approach to medicine relies on working with the patient to come up with a feasible, multi-factorial approach that addresses all complaints at once. He employs a strong background in diagnostic medicine and human physiology and pathology to diagnose and treat. His treatment involve a combination of nutritional counselling, botanical medicine, eastern medicine (acupuncture), nutraceutical supplementation and hands on physical medicine.

To book in please call us at (519) 442-2206 or click here.

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