What you need to know about Estrogen Detoxification
Symptoms like breast tenderness, heavy or clotted cycles and fibroids are linked with excess estrogen in the body. In men, this can look like weight gain, erectile dysfunction, breast development or moodiness.
So where does your estrogen go once your body is done using it? Estrogen does a lot of great things for our bodies, like protect us from cardiovascular disease for example. Problems arise when our body isn’t able to get rid of it properly and it recirculates.
Where Your Estrogens Go
The short answer is that you detox your estrogen based on two main factors. Lifestyle and genetics. These influence one another. Now as we begin to dig in, keep in mind that there are three parts to detoxification & this is a process your body is undergoing all the time. Gently supporting your overall health supports this process. Doing fast, hard cleanses does not.
First, the Liver!
In phase one of detoxification your estrogens get turned into 3 different kinds of metabolites. The metabolites are called 2-OH, 4-OH and 16-OH. The 2-OH is the protective pathway but even too much of this can inhibit neurotransmitter production. What we are looking for a a ratio that prefers the 2-OH pathway. Broccoli, kale, cauliflower, broccoli sprouts, and brussels sprouts encourage this pathway. There are supplements as well but please do not start using them unless you know it’s phase one that needs support. I’ll explain why.
If you begin taking DIM when its actually your phase two that is sluggish then you will feel worse. Both phases need to be optimal in order for the symptoms of PMS, heavy cycles or painful cycles to let up. Supplementing without testing can also lower estrogen levels overall. If they aren’t high then this can cause other problems. With hormones it really is about the balance.
Next, Packaged Up!
Keep in mind that in phase one, all of these metabolites are reactive to oxygen meaning they have the potential to damage DNA. The goal of phase two is to neutralize the 2-OH and the 4-OH in a process called methylation. Basically this process makes the metabolites water soluble so that they are in a form that can be safely excreted. Magnesium helps the enzyme COMT in this process. If excretion doesn’t happen then the reactive metabolites will recirculate and end up in the 4-OH pathway. Magnesium is a safe to supplement for most people.
With testing we can see if you methylate your estrogens well or not. Nutrients like SAMe, methionine, choline, tri-methyl-glycine (TMG) and methylated B vitamins support methylation. Having food with a balance of amino acids is a good start. Before supplementing testing is ideal. To support phase two check your make-up, skincare and household cleaners for chemicals. Avoid pesticides & herbicides. Reduce alcohol.
Last, Move ‘Em Out!
Interestingly, we need to begin treatment with this last phase in most cases. Phase three is all about how we excrete these estrogens once they are ready to go. This happens in the gut. If you colon isn’t working properly then recirculation will occur. Inflammation can inhibit this phase. Flavonoids like those found in broccoli sprouts, dark chocolate & green tea support phase three.
If your gut bacteria is disrupted and you are producing too much of an enzyme called beta glucaronidase then phase three won’t work. This is because this enzyme can take the estrogens that are ready for excretion and push them back into circulation. You can be estrogen dominant because your gut health and microbiome causes reabsorption where the 4-OH pathway is likely to be preferred. Good gut testing will show if beta glucaronidase is elevated. If it is then we can help with a supplement called calcium d-glucarate. But again, do not take this without testing.
What you can do is eat a whole food diet with plenty of prebiotic fibres and fermented foods. Drink two litres of water a day and avoid environmental toxins as much as possible. We know that by simply living a lifestyle that is cleaner can expand your lifespan by 13 years. Quality of life improves as well.
Why Estrogen Gets a Bad Reputation
Often women share with me that they are concerned about breast cancer because of a family history. By looking at the metabolite pathways some of these fears are alleviated. When it comes to hormones we really can’t guess where the imbalance is because there are so many factors. By optimizing the detoxification pathways and preventing recirculation we can take steps to decrease the proliferative estrogens. 4-OH is why estrogens get a bad reputation. 16-OH is weaker but also can contribute to symptoms.
None of this is an alternative to cancer treatment. A friend whose wife recently fought breast cancer shared what he learned. She had a family history and was screened regularly so it was caught early. They treated immediately. He noticed that the women who were diagnosed at the same time and who waited did not have good outcomes.
Going back to how lifestyle and genetics work hand-in-hand allows us to feel empowered. It is also what evidence-based medicine knows. The choices we make do have a major influence in how our genetics get expressed in this lifetime. This doesn’t mean that when someone is diagnosed it is somehow their fault. It’s shocking that this cruel idea even exists but it does. Please enjoy this precious life and be kind to those who are up against cancer. Touching into our mortality can fuel our love for the time we have and align us with how best to spend it.