There’s so much talk about the dangers of estrogen dominance and how to lower these levels. One of the most important aspects of estrogen balance is the health of your liver. Estrogen is metabolized through your liver and is excreted from your system through urine. If your liver isn’t functioning well, estrogen doesn’t get removed from your body. It builds up and increases your risk of breast and other hormone-dependent cancers.
“Ok that’s great Sandy, but I have the opposite problem. My estrogen is too low. Are there foods that I can eat to increase my estrogen levels without going too high?” The answer is yes, of course there are.
A diet high in plant foods, especially phytoestrogens is recommended for women with low estrogen. You might be asking “What the heck are phytoestrogens and how do they benefit me?” Phytoestrogens are plant-derived substances that are able to lightly bind to the estrogen receptors in humans and have a very weak estrogen-like effect in some tissues and a mild antiestrogenic effect in other tissues. Many foods, such as apples, carrots, fennel, celery, parsley and legumes contain smaller amounts of phytoestrogens. A high dietary intake of phytoestrogens is thought to explain why hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms appear to occur less frequently in cultures where diet is predominantly plant-based.
Two foods that contain high levels of phytoestrogens are soybeans and flaxseeds.
Whole soy, in the form of edamame or even tempeh has been shown to reduce hot flashes, night sweats, slow bone loss, lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels and reduce the risk of breast cancer. This is one food that absolutely needs to be organic. I’m a firm believer in eating organic whenever possible but if your budget is an issue and you want to eat soy-based products, please ensure they are organic since most soy is genetically modified. If you are allergic to nuts please be careful with soy. Some people who are allergic to nuts (especially peanuts) can also be allergic to soy. I would stay away from soymilk because it’s too processed. Don’t go crazy with soy-based products. Eat organic tempeh or edamame 3 times per week maximum.
Flaxseeds are a powerhouse and exhibit both estrogenic and antiestrogenic properties as well as being high in fibre. Be sure to buy flaxseeds whole and grind yourself as you need them, or you can buy them ground. Just be sure to keep them in a glass container in the freezer to keep the flaxseeds from going rancid. You can add them to your cereal, fruit and yogurt, smoothies and even soups.
Along with a heavily plant-based diet, I would recommend restricting or eliminating gluten. Gluten has been linked to imbalanced estrogen levels. How do you know if this will work for you? Remove glutenous grains (think bread, pasta, crackers, cereal, pretty much any white carbohydrate) from your diet for one month. If you don’t notice any improvement to how you feel, slowly add back certain grains but stay away from refined products. If you need any help figuring out what you should or shouldn’t be eating, please contact me. I’m happy to help.
Try reducing your intake of animal products as well. This is an individual thing. Personally, I need sufficient protein and fat to keep my energy up, my muscles strong and my insulin levels balanced. Some people do really well on a predominantly plant-based diet. Ultimately, you need to listen to your body. And again, if you need help, please reach out to me. I have a program for that J
Please don’t hate me, but it’s advisable to avoid coffee and other caffeine-loaded treats. Caffeine contributes to hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia. You may not even realize that caffeine affects you. If you can have caffeine and go right to sleep without it affecting you, chances are your liver needs some love.
One ingredient we should ALL avoid is refined sugar. It has absolutely no redeeming qualities, makes your system acidic, contributes to weight gain, insulin instability and makes you more susceptible to cancer.
Next week we’ll talk about what supplements help to raise and balance estrogen levels.
Until then, wishing you all the best.