Prevent cancer and lose weight by detoxifying estrogen from the body. High estrogen levels and problems eliminating it are well known to result in prostate and breast cancer. Estrogen is a problem for men as well as women due to multiple factors, especially the huge amounts of chemical estrogens we are exposed to in our daily lives. Did you know that there are chemical estrogens in plastic bottles, cosmetics, shampoo and personal care products, oil-based coatings, pesticides, and animal hormones?
That’s right, but the ills ofestrogen on the body don’t just come from the environment. The ineffective way we metabolize estrogen is directly linked to prostate and breast cancer risk. It also produces poor body composition and inhibits weight loss.
According to functional medicine expert Dr. Bob Rakowski, living on earth is a risk for toxic estrogen exposure. As human, we are swimming in a sea of estrogens.Too much estrogen affects men and women, and this article is focused on what men need to know and what they can do to minimize the health effects and risks that come from too much estrogen. But, women can benefit as well, especially since women are exposed to the same chemical estrogens as men, and in general, our bodies metabolize estrogen the same way, regardless of gender. Exposure to chemical estrogens is a big issue for children too, making this a major health issue for any parent.
Studies show that genetics and obesity contribute to about 30 percent of the cancers that affect the sex organs (breast, prostate, ovarian), but the cause of the remaining 70 percent is still unclear. It is likely due to chemical estrogen exposure and problems with metabolism due to diet and a sedentary lifestyle. The solution is to live a lifestyle that both detoxifies and minimizes exposure to chemical estrogens. This article will tell you why and how you can do this by changing your lifestyle in the following ten ways:
1) Improve Gastrointestinal Health
2) Improve Diet
3) Decrease Body Fat
4) Use Phytoestrogens To ImproveEstrogen Detoxification
5) Stop Testosterone From Turning into Estrogen
6) Improve Estrogen Metabolism
7) Ensure Complete Elimination
8) Supplement With Essential Nutrients
9) Watch What You Drink
10) Limit Chemical Estrogen Exposure
Estrogen: The Basics
Estrogen is a hormone that is produced primarily in the ovaries in women and in the testes in men. For men, it plays an important role in sperm production and bone maintenance. Estrogen is also produced by other tissues in both men and women, including fat and the brain.
The amount of estrogen needed by men to support these functions is very small, and men tend to have excess estrogen in their systems for two reasons. First, an enzyme called aromatase that is found in tissues throughout the body will turn testosterone into estrogen. Aromatase is found in body fat meaning that men with more fat will produce more aromatase and therefore have higher estrogen levels and lower testosterone. The good news is you can block aromatase by eating or supplementing with nutrients that do this naturally. There are also drugs that inhibit aromatase that are used to prevent breast and prostate cancer, but it’s best to take the natural route without consuming synthetic drugs.
Secondly, men have excess estrogen because of the chemical estrogens in the environment, such as BPA and phthalates. BPA is a petroleum based chemical that mimics estrogen in the body and studies have shown that it affects endocrine response in the body in humans and animals. For example, one study in the journal Toxicology Letters found that BPA exposure led to lower testosterone and poor sexual function in both men and rats because it inhibited the production of androstenedione—the hormone from which testosterone is produced.
Phthalates are another chemical estrogen that are used in plastics and many personal care products such as shampoo and lotion. They contribute to excess estrogen levels and need to be detoxified as safely and quickly as possible in order to minimize the damage they have on tissues in the body. Just as you can inhibit aromatase with proper nutrition, you can also give the body the nutrients it needs to detoxify excess estrogen safely from the body.
How Estrogen Is Detoxified By The Liver
Estrogen is metabolized by the liver. The liver converts excess estrogens into compounds that can be excreted by the body. The catch is there are three pathways through which estrogen can be metabolized. One is a “toxic” pathway that is linked to cancer development, the second is unfavorable for health, and the third is more benign and preferable.
If your body can convert estrogens along what is called the 2-hydroxy pathway it will be healthier and you’ll decrease your cancer risk, whereas if your body converts along the 16-alpha-hydroxy pathway it will be at greater risk of cancer. Don’t worry about the chemical names of the pathways, just remember that what I will call the C-2 pathway is healthier and the C-16 pathway is toxic. The other unfavorable pathway is the C-4 pathway, which should also be avoided. The solution is to nutritionally support conversion of estrogen along the C-2 pathway, which can be initiated by ensuring you have a healthy gut.
1) Improve Gastrointestinal Health
Poor gastrointestinal health can inhibit excretion of unwanted estrogen from the body and promote its reabsorption. A healthy gut with dietary fiber in the form lignan, such as flaxseeds, can bind to estrogen in the digestive tract so that it will be excreted from the body. Dietary fiber also reduces the amount of an enzyme (called B-glucouronidase) that uncouples or breaks apart bound estrogen that is on its way out of the body. When the estrogen breaks free in the large intestine, it re-enters circulation and is not removed from the body. This is a bad situation.
The solution is to eat adequate fiber and include lignans in the diet, including flax, leafy greens, and bran (oat, rye, barley—if you’re not gluten-free). A probiotic is essential because it will increase the “good bacteria” in the gut and support neurotransmitter function.
2) Improve Diet With Low Carb, High-Protein, Omega-3 Fats
A diet that is low in simple carbs and high in vegetable carb sources will help you detoxify estrogens and provide adequate fiber. To avoid excess estrogen, you need to manage insulin because it doing so is better for body composition, and persistently high insulin produces a poor endocrine profile that can inhibit estrogen detoxification.
Getting your carbs from vegetable and fruit sources will provide the lignans and fiber needed for gut health and increase antioxidant levels, which can abolish free radicals that produced by estrogen that goes down the C-16 pathway. Omega-3 fats, which are found in fish, have been shown to promote the C-2 pathway over the 16 pathway, particularly EPA omega-3 fatty acids. On the flip side, diets low in omega-3s have resulted in estrogen being metabolized primarily through the C-16 pathway. I’ve written a lot about omega-3s so I won’t go into detail here, but supplementation with a high concentration of EPA and DHA fish oil daily is recommended for estrogen metabolism.
A high protein diet will produce a better body composition for most people. Plus, low protein diets have been shown to decrease activity of something called cytochrome P450 that detoxifies estrogen. The amino acids lysine and threonine have been shown to support liver function and since estrogen is metabolized by the liver, it is thought that these proteins can help get rid of estrogen from the body. Lysine and threonine are found in meat, fish, beans, eggs, and some seeds (sesame, fenugreek). Sesame seeds also provide fiber and fenugreek helps lower the insulin response to carbs, making both good additions to your diet.
3) Decrease Body Fat
The more fat you have, the more estrogen you’ll have because fat tissue increases levels of the aromatase enzyme that turns testosterone to estrogen. Decreasing body fat and building lean mass are key to cancer prevention and estrogen detox.
Another way to protect the tissues from circulating estrogen is to keep it bound to sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). When it is bound to SHBG, estrogen is not available to bind with cellular receptors and won’t have its estrogenic impact. Flaxseed hulls are especially good at increasing SHBG (as well as inhibiting aromatase).
4) Use Phytoestrogens To Promote the C-2 Pathway
Include foods with phytoestrogens in your diet because they will take natural and chemical estrogens out of play in the body. Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that can bind to estrogen receptors, but they have about 1/1000th of the effect on the body as real or chemical estrogen. When phytoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors they basically take up the parking sport of the true estrogen, and keep it from exerting its effect.
Lignans and isoflavones are the main phytoestrogens, and in addition to binding with estrogen receptors, they can increase SHBG levels (protects the body by binding to estrogen), decrease aromatase (prevents testosterone turning into estrogen), and shift metabolism of estrogen away from the C-16 pathway to the C-2 pathway (the safer pathway).
The best phytoestrogens to include in the diet are flax, sesame, leafy greens, kudzu, alfalfa, clover, licorice root, and legumes. Greens, flax, and sesame can be easily added to the diet, and the others can be supplemented to support estrogen detoxification.
5) Block Aromatase and Stop Testosterone From Turning into Estrogen
Blocking aromatase is key for getting rid of estrogen because it plays the main role in producing estrogen in men. If aromatase is present, there are two chances for estrogen to be produced in the body. First, the hormone androstenedione will be turned into testosterone unless aromatase is present in which case it will be turned into estrogen. Then, aromatase will turn testosterone into estrogen as well.
Nutrients that have a proven effect on aromatase include selenium, melatonin, zinc, green tea, and citrus flavonones—substances found in orange and grapefruit rinds along with tomato skins. You can include these in your diet and take a supplement for best results.
We know aromatase inhibitors work because there are numerous studies demonstrating their influence, and one of the most illuminating is a review that found that men who took a combination of zinc, folic acid, acetyl-l-carnitine, and had adequate omega-3s improved fertility and sexual health. Flax and lignans were also part of the diet. This study tells us that estrogen detox is not a simple endeavor. Rather, it’s a lifestyle that includes the ideal diet with additional nutrient supplementation to inhibit aromatase, boost SHBG, and reduce the ratio of estrogen that goes down the C-16 pathway in favor of the C-2 pathway.
6) Improve Estrogen Metabolism By Promoting the C-2 Pathway
Promoting the C-2 pathway of estrogen metabolism is probably the most important thing you can do to prevent cancer. The first step of estrogen elimination is for enzymes to initiate metabolism by joining the estrogen molecule. This will happen at either the 2-carbon position or the 16-carbon position of the molecule, which determines the pathway the estrogen will head down.
The C-2 pathway produces very weak estrogenic activity and is termed “good” estrogen. In contrast, the C-16 pathway produces robust estrogenic activity and promotes tissue damage that leads to cancer. There’s also a C-4 pathway, that is not good, but its role is small and for simplicity sake you only need to know that you want to avoid it as well.
Research shows that men and women whose estrogen is metabolized down the C-16 pathway have significantly greater rates of prostate and breast cancer than those whose C-2 pathway dominates. In one large scale study of premenopausal women, those who metabolized estrogen predominantly via the C-2 pathway were 40 percent less likely to develop breast cancer during the five-year study.
Key nutrients for supporting the C-2 pathway are EPA fish oils, phytoestrogens, and of special importance, B vitamins and a substance called DIM. The B vitamins, particularly B6, B12, and folic acid promote the C-2 pathway. B6 is also known to decrease gene activity once estrogen is bound to a receptor, meaning this vitamin can inhibit cell damage and cancer development.
DIM is a compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower. It is often taken in supplement form because you would need to eat large quantities of these vegetables daily in order to provide sufficient DIM to have an effect on estrogen elimination.
Take note that most people need to supplement with a B vitamin and that trainees who take BCAAs will quickly become deficient in B vitamins, making it essential that you get extra. A high protein diet that provides adequate BCAA levels also requires extra B vitamins.
7) Ensure Complete Elimination of Estrogen
Once you shift your estrogen elimination to the C-2 pathway you have to make sure it gets excreted from the body. Two things can happen along the way out that cause big problems. First, estrogen that is heading down the C-2 pathway can be easily turned into something called quinones, which are “highly reactive” and can damage DNA and cause cancer.
In order to avoid the production of quinones you must have adequate amounts of two nutrients—magnesium and something called SAM. This process of metabolizing estrogen to avoid quinones is called methylation and is the first place that things can go wrong on the estrogen detox pathway. Another notable antioxidant that can support damage to the body by estrogen quinones is alpha lipoic acid, which I mention here because it is one of my favorites and has many health benefits.
As estrogen is heading out of the intestine, it needs to be bound to glucuronic acid, but there is a “bad” intestinal bacteria that contains an enzyme that breaks estrogen apart from the glucuronic acid. This is the second place estrogen detoxification can go wrong. When the “bad” bacteria, called glucouronidase, uncouples the bond between estrogen and glucuronic acid, estrogen re-enters circulation, effectively raising estrogen levels in the body and damaging tissue. To avoid this, you need a healthy gut as mentioned in #1, which you can get by taking a probiotic, and eating lots of fiber and lignans.
8) Supplement With Essential Nutrients
To review, the essential nutrients to help detoxify estrogen are the B vitamins, zinc, omega-3 fish oils, DIM (nutrient found in cruciferous vegetables), green tea, magnesium, selenium, and melatonin. The only nutrient I haven’t already mentioned is vitamin E, which is a potent antioxidant.
Magnesium plays a role inmethylation, or that final phase of estrogen excretion mentioned in #7.I call your attention to it here because almost everyone needs to supplement with magnesium because people are chronically deficient. Athletes and strength trainees are especially susceptible to low magnesium because this nutrient plays a role in muscle contractions. Low vitamin E is associated with elevated estrogen and it has been shown to inhibit the growth of breast and prostate cancer cells.
9) Watch What You Drink
Eliminate all alcohol besides certain red wine. Sardinian and Spanish wines are rich in antioxidants that help remove estrogens. Other good choices are Pinot and Merlot. Alcohol increases estrogen levels in men and women, and it has been shown to decrease testosterone as well. Even moderate alcohol consumption (other than Sardinian, Spanish and certain French wines) has been shown to increase the risk of prostate and breast cancer.
The one exception is wine rich in either resveratrol or trans-resveratrol, which has been shown to inhibit aromatase (the enzyme that turns testosterone into estrogen), thereby lowering estrogen levels. For example, a study that was just published showed that red but not white wine acted as an aromatase inhibitor and resulted in lower estrogen levels after one month in premenopausal women. The group of women that drank eight ounces of red wine daily had higher testosterone and lower estrogen levels than the group that drank white wine daily. Previous studies have shown that red wine appears to lower overall cancer risk, and it provides cardioprotective effects along with increasing insulin sensitivity.
10) Limit Chemical Estrogen Exposure
Avoiding chemical estrogens is one of the most important strategies for preventing cancer and protecting yourself. If you were able to have no contact with chemical estrogens, and you had good nutrition, a lean body composition, and a large proportion of muscle mass, it is very unlikely you’d have excess estrogen or be at risk of cancer. But, chemical estrogens are everywhere. It is only recently that the mainstream medical community has started to seriously consider the connection between cancer and the toxic environment the industry has created with the lax regulation of toxic estrogenic chemicals.
There is even a movement in public health advocacy that government regulatory bodies and chemical companies need to take action to reduce environmental toxins. Although there is an awareness that the responsibility of reducing cancer risk shouldn’t be on the individual because we cannot completely avoid contact with chemical estrogens, the reality is that you have to take responsibility for eliminating estrogen from your body and the bodies of your loved ones.
Tomorrow, look for a list of ten things you can do to minimize your chemical estrogen exposure.
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