Estrogen: a frienemy we all have

We long for estrogen balance: we feel scared by what estrogen can do in our bodies yet we cannot feel our best without it.  Many of us women have struggled with our hormones. Here are a few of the symptoms related to estrogen:

  • mood swings, 
  • sleepless nights,
  • bloating, 
  • migraines,
  • heavy periods, 
  • brain fog,
  • joint pain 
  • and some of us have even had hormonal related cancer. 

We then look at estrogen as a bad hormone. We heard about “estrogen dominance” over and over. But estrogen is also a feel good hormone; our brain makes estrogen to feel good. Other  reasons we need estrogen:

  • Joint health – estrogen keeps joints supple 
  • Cardiovascular health – estrogen protects our heart from cholesterol, 
  • Liver support – estrogen helps regulate cholesterol production. 

It’s important to note the issue with balancing our estrogen levels is not limited to women; men make and need estrogen too. For example, men need estrogen for sperm production and maintaining libido.

your brain makes estrogen
Benefits of estrogen

Estrogen is not the bad guy. The first problem is in how we each metabolize and clear out estrogen. This is a point worth stressing: estrogen can be unsafe if the body is not safely detoxing it from your body. Knowing how your body handles this process is essential to ensuring the estrogen in your body is safe. The second problem is that many of the chemicals in our environment mimic estrogens. This can confuse the body.  

There are 3 phases to your body clearing out estrogens efficiently. I am going to share how you can support detoxification at each phase. This process applies to all sexes. The tricky part is that you need to work backwards when supporting these pathways.  You have to start by cleaning up phase 3, then phase 2 and phase 1. The goal is to take estrogen, which is a fat soluble hormone, and turn it into a water soluble metabolite so it can be more easily excreted from the body.  

Phase 3

This is about the detox pathway: our gut.  Here, microbiome health and digestive function become important for clearing estrogen in this final phase. The estrobolome encompasses the part of the microbiome that interacts with estrogen. The big factors are making sure you do not have Leaky Gut.  Leaky Gut will allow estrogens metabolized by the liver to be reabsorbed back into your bloodstream, instead of being cleared out of your body via your stool.  Ask your doctor to check Zonulin levels in your stool to rule out Leaky Gut. 

Good gut bacteria are important for proper digestion but they are also key to effectively cleaning out estrogen. Estrogen needs to be processed in a specific way after the liver does its job in order to be excreted in your stool. When this does not happen, estrogens are reabsorbed back into the bloodstream – only to be processed again. The liver is not happy doing its job twice for no good reason. This is where opportunistic bacteria come into play. There are some bacteria that are only bad when they overgrow. This is because when they overgrow they produce an enzyme called glucuronidase. This enzyme undoes the work the liver did the first time around, in order to make your estrogen water soluble. 

This is why it is key to know you are having daily bowel movements, with good levels of healthy gut bacteria and no Leaky Gut.  All of this can be assessed in a stool test.  

Here are 3 tips to support your gut:

  1. Eat good sources of fiber daily.  Fiber rich foods such as whole fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and seeds help clean out toxins, estrogens and cholesterol from your body. A 2007 study found that increasing dietary fiber from fruits and vegetables played a role in lowering estrogen levels and reducing the risk of hormone related disease, including breast cancer. 
  2. Make sure you’re having a daily bowel movement to clear out toxins and estrogens. 
  3. Take a probiotic with lactobacillus.  This is a good gut bacteria that helps to clear out excess estrogens. 

Phase 2

This liver detoxification of estrogen is about the Methylation Cycle.  This pathway relies on the COMT and MTHFR genes to take the metabolites from Phase 1 liver detoxification pathways and make them water soluble so they can be cleaned out easily. This phase, when effective, makes an estrogen metabolite that is calming to the brain and lowers cancer risk. 

Tips to support your phase 2 liver pathways:

  1. Make sure you have good levels of Magnesium and Zinc in your daily diet.  These minerals are needed as cofactors for your COMT gene pathways. Whole grains and dark-green, leafy vegetables are good sources of magnesium. Legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and beans all contain substantial amounts of zinc.
  2. Eat organic fruits and vegetables. Herbicides and pesticides are estrogenic toxins that can overwhelm your phase 2 detoxification pathways. 
  3. Clean out toxins in your home. Many chemicals like fire retardants, BPA and toxic metals activate estrogen receptors in a more toxic way because they are not actually a hormone meant for that receptor.
  4. You need good amounts of B12 and folate in their active forms (methylcobalamin and 5-MTHF, respectively) for liver detoxification. These nutrients become their active forms via your MTHFR genes through the methylation process. 

Phase 1

This is the start of estrogen metabolism clean out. Phase 1 occurs in the liver and is run by the Cytochrome (CYP) genes. Fat soluble estrogens add hydrogen to make a more water soluble molecule. In this pathway we can often make a more potent toxin from our estrogens. 2-hydroxyestrone (2-OH-E1) metabolite is the cleanest and healthiest way to detox estrogen.

The next two metabolites are more toxic and have been shown to damage our DNA, which can lead to increased cancer risk:

● 4-hydroxyestrone (4-OH-E1) 

● 16-hydroxyestrone (16-OH-E1) 

All these Phase 1 detox metabolites are considered free radicals; we want to send them to Phase 2 as quickly as possible, so they don’t enter blood circulation and cause damage. 

And this is why we would not want to make Phase 1 work better if the next two phases are not working well: you could be increasing the toxicity of your estrogen metabolites. 

Tips to support Phase 1 liver pathways:

  1. Eat more cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and arugula. DIM is a molecule that your body makes when you eat cruciferous veggies and it helps to make healthy estrogen. 
  2. Eat more lipotropic amino acids like choline, methionine and inositol.  Foods high in these compounds include eggs, chicken, fish, nuts, cauliflower and broccoli. 
  3. Phase 1 activators are antioxidants (like vitamin C and silymarin in milk thistle). However, it’s good to add more antioxidants, especially polyphenols and flavonoids. If you eat 7-10 servings per day of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, every day, you are probably covered. I take a functional food concentrate to fill in the gaps in my nutrition. Check out this link to learn more. 

Now that you know more about the process estrogen goes through in your body and have some tools to help your detox pathways work more efficiently, it might be time to test and see how your body is doing in these phases.  We use the Dutch Complete™ urine test to assess if your pathways are efficient.
If your doctor is unable to run this test for you, we invite you to consider Revolutionary Health‘s package “Are your hormones safe for you?” – get the Dutch Complete™ test and a written analysis report of your results. You even have the option to do a GI-Map test that tests for Zonulin. We believe in comprehensive testing for concrete answers to best serve our patients and clients.

get your hormones tested
Are your hormones safe for you? Click on the image and find out how to get tested.