Estrogen is required for good health. In fact, it is a miraculous hormone. But as estrogen lives out its life cycle, it can warp into unhealthy, dangerous forms. We are also exposed every day to toxins (called xenoestrogens) from plastic bottles, pesticides, and other contaminants that can act just like harmful forms of estrogen in the body. In this Terry Talks Nutrition®, I’m going to outline the nutrients that increase your body’s ability to keep estrogen in its healthy form, and promote the detoxification of toxic types of estrogen and xenoestrogens to ensure good health for years to come.
What Estrogen Does and Where It Goes
Estrogen, like other hormones, is transported through the bloodstream. And while it is considered a “woman’s hormone”, estrogen is necessary for both women and men. In women, estrogen helps the body maintain a normal temperature, regulates the menstrual cycle, strengthens the liver and cardiovascular system, keeps metabolism running smoothly, and much more. In fact, you could say that there are few things that hormones—especially estrogen—don’t do.
But while estrogen is a helpful hormone, it can cause problems as it ages, converting into toxic forms that can cause damage to the body if it is not removed. Long-term exposure to these forms of estrogen (called estrogen metabolites) or chemical xenoestrogens that act like the dysfunctional forms of estrogen in the body can be very dangerous.
How the body deals with used estrogen and xenoestrogen is comparable to taking out the trash. Consider the difference in carefully tying up the trash bag, walking out of your house to the bin, lifting the lid, and dropping it in. Quick and efficient, and no damage done. Compare that to pulling the bag out of your garbage can, dragging it across the floor as it tears and rips, staining your carpet, pulling it over your lawn, and then finally dropping it into your garbage bin—or as near as you can get it. Sure, both ways get the garbage out of your house, but one way is quick and clean, and the other causes a mess. Keeping estrogen in its healthiest form, and speeding up the removal of harmful estrogens and xenoestrogens, can play a major role in reducing PMS and menopause symptoms and reducing your risk of cancer.
DIM: The Cruciferous Compound for Healthy Estrogen
Estrogen dominance is how many naturopathic doctors describe having too much estrogen in relation to other hormones such as progesterone, or having high exposure to estrogen-mimicking xenoestrogens. Estrogen dominance is associated with symptoms many women experience regularly: severe PMS, hot flashes, breast tenderness, weight gain, insomnia, mood swings, sluggish metabolism, and more.
A compound known as DIM—naturally occurring in broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables—has an amazing ability to treat estrogen dominance and help the body detoxify xenoestrogens. DIM helps estrogen stay in its healthiest form, which is associated with a reduced risk of severe menopause or PMS symptoms, decreased fat accumulation, and less chance of cancer.
DIM and Cancer Prevention
Some women are more at risk of breast cancer because they are lacking in one of the body’s methods of fighting off tumors—a cancer stopping gene and its protein called “BRCA1”. A Canadian clinical trial found that women taking supplemental DIM saw a 34 percent increase in expression. The researchers consider this to be a potentially major shift in the way we think about treating breast cancer. By using a natural compound to influence how our own genes fight cancer, we could see a very different approach to fighting this disease.
Endometrial cancer is a serious risk for women who have had increased estrogen exposure, whether through hormone replacement therapy, or from other sources—including xenoestrogens. Research at the University of California at Berkley showed that DIM had a definite antitumor effect on endometrial cancer cells. Additionally, DIM may also prevent cervical cancer in women infected with the human papilloma virus, commonly known as HPV.
While I would never tell anyone to not eat their vegetables, it is almost impossible to get enough DIM from eating broccoli alone. That is why I recommend a clinically tested, absorbable form of DIM that has been proven to keep estrogen in its beneficial form.
Curcumin is Critical for Detoxification
Although curcumin doesn’t directly impact estrogen, it can make a real difference in how estrogen acts in your body through its effects on the liver. Your liver is the detoxification door through which the “estrogen trash” needs to pass on its way out of the body.
Curcumin enhances the detoxification enzymes (superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase), making it easier for the body to rid itself of toxic xenoestrogens that can actually make it more difficult for the liver to cleanse the body. As an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, curcumin protects your liver cells from damage as it processes these toxins.
Of course, curcumin is also a well-known cancer fighter, and it has even been shown to relieve PMS symptoms. The curcumin I recommend is blended with turmeric essential oil for enhanced absorption and even better cellular protection.
Grape Seed Extract—Unsung Hero for Hormones and Weight
Grape seed extract is generally known for your heart, but if your problem is with hormone health, it is definitely something you should consider.
That’s because a clinical study found that grape seed extract significantly reduced menopause symptoms. After eight weeks, women in the grape seed group had improvements in hot flashes and other physical symptoms, insomnia, and anxiety. They also increased lean muscle mass (something that is hard to do as we get older) and saw a reduction in blood pressure.
Along a similar line, grape seed also eases the ups and downs of blood sugar, and can stop the accumulation of fat cells. That’s not just good for your weight, but for your hormone balance as well: fat cells are known to be harbors of hormones, and have been considered by some researchers as a hormone producing organ of its own.
Grape seed extract inhibits aromatase, an enzyme that converts androgen into estrogen and is implicated in a number of critical health conditions, including breast cancer. Leading research shows that grape seed extract’s ability to inhibit aromatase may offer an alternative for preventing or treating endometriosis, a condition that causes irregular menstrual cycles, pain, and possibly infertility, which is typically very resistant to conventional therapy.
The grape seed extract that I think is best is a French grape seed extract with low-molecular weight oligomeric proanthocyanins (OPCs) that are well absorbed. For many years, the perception of grape seed extract has suffered due to poorly produced ingredients with high tannin content that was neither absorbed well nor provided any of the results people expected. It truly pays to get the best in grape seed extracts.
You Can Take Charge of Estrogen Health
If you’ve been noticing extremes in your mood, sudden increases in weight, more intensity in PMS or menopause symptoms, I urge you to try a combination of DIM, curcumin, and French grape seed. They can make all the difference between suffering through risky hormonal conditions, terrible PMS or menopause symptoms, the dangers of cancer, or living the happy, healthy, vibrant life you deserve.
To guard against hormonally-related cancer, stop PMS and perimenopause symptoms, and ensure estrogen stays in its healthy form, I recommend curcumin, French grape seed extract, and DIM taken 1-2 times daily.