You likely know estrogen as the primary female sex hormone; however, everybody (even men!) generates some level of estrogen. Many people wonder if they have too much estrogen and whether they need to perform an estrogen detox to flush out any excess in the body.
Estrogen controls the development of secondary sex characteristics in females, regulates the menstrual cycle, and supports conception and pregnancy. Additionally, estrogen can promote blood flow to the brain and have anti-inflammatory effects on the central nervous system, but do you need to flush out excess estrogen?
During your reproductive years, you experience remarkably variable levels of estrogen throughout the month. Estrogen levels spike mid-way through the menstrual cycle prompting the ovaries to release an egg. After ovulation occurs, estrogen declines and eventually drops to its lowest levels of the month just before the onset of menses. It is normal and expected that there will be points in every woman’s cycle when estrogen levels are higher and points when they will be lower.
What Is Estrogen?
The term ‘estrogen’ actually refers to three different hormones: Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2), and Estriol (E3).
- Estrone (E1) is a weaker form of estrogen that is present in most of the body’s tissues but particularly in fat and muscle. This is the primary form of estrogen present after menopause. Estrone can convert back and forth to estradiol and consistently elevated levels of estrone are thought to be a risk factor for breast cancer.
- Estradiol (E2) is the most potent form of estrogen and is thought to be about 10 times stronger than estrone and 80 times stronger that Estriol (the weakest form of estrogen). Estradiol can be formed through aromatization of testosterone or via conversion from estrone. Balanced levels of estradiol support healthy cholesterol levels, bone health, serotonin production, brain health, and mineral absorption.
- Estriol (E3) is the weakest form of estrogen and cannot convert back to estradiol or estrone. Estriol is thought to be protective against breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers.
What Is Estrogen Dominance?
This term refers to circumstances in which people develop unhealthy levels of estrogen, a lack of balance between estrogen and progesterone, and/or are not metabolizing/detoxifying thoroughly or properly.
Some things that promote excess amounts of circulating estrogen include:
- Personal care products that include parabens, phthalates, and benzophenones are known endocrine disruptors that promote dysregulated production and metabolism of estrogen.
- Herbicides and pesticides are also known to be harmful to the maintenance of healthy hormone levels. Glyphosate creates known risk factors for breast cancer and has been directly linked to the production of human breast cancer cells in vitro.
- Some conventionally raised meat animals are given hormones to promote specific kinds of growth and development in order to maximize production and profit.
- Slow digestion and constipation can promote increased risk for estrogen dominance. Healthy bowel movements are one of the most important methods of elimination of metabolized estrogens.
- Certain genetic SNPs can predispose people to estrogen dominance. I will offer more information on this in the upcoming section on estrogen metabolism.
How Your Body Detoxifies Estrogen
To really understand estrogen and its potential impacts, we also need to discuss the metabolism of estrogen. Estrogen metabolizes in two phases: hydroxylation and methylation. And estrogen metabolism/detoxification can occur via three different metabolic pathways.
This is the most protective pathway and has the lowest risk for developing estrogen-driven health problems. Ideally, 60-80% of the body’s estrone should metabolize down this pathway.
In the first step, hydroxylation, estrone actually becomes more susceptible to oxidation thereby making it more toxic. The second step, methylation, takes these toxins in the body and alters them, thereby readying them for elimination. Methylation involves the transfer of a group of four atoms, known as a methyl group (CH3 – one carbon atom bonded with three hydrogen atoms), to another molecule.
This process occurs in every tissue and cell of the body and changes the structure and function of the molecules. This transformative process helps to convert toxic substances into beneficial substances that support the body’s health and well-being.
This pathway also takes estrone through the process of hydroxylation but phase 2 does not move through the methylation process. Rather, phase 2 along the 16-hydroxy pathway involves a chemical reduction that results in the conversion to estriol. This pathway produces the most estrogenic metabolites; however, it is important to note that these metabolites are still far less estrogenic than estradiol.
This is the dangerous pathway! The process of hydroxylation down the 4-Hydroxy pathway results in the production of a genotoxic metabolite: 4-OH-E1. If 4-OH-E1 is properly methylated during phase 2 metabolism, its potentially harmful effects can be minimized. However, if methylation is at all impaired (potentially due to the presence of specific genetic SNPs), this can be a highly problematic pathway. When 4-OH-E1 starts to build up, it can start to convert to 3,4 Quinones which are known to cause cancer. Given this information, we start to gain some insight into why adequate methylation is critical for overall health!
While each person’s body does have an innate genetic disposition towards the production of estrogens and their preferred metabolic pathways, factors such as diet, exercise, and toxicity also have powerful effects on the way the body manages its estrogen factory!
How To Know If You Have Excess Estrogen
Our favorite hormone test, hands down, is the Adrenocortex Stress Profile & Female Hormone Profile Basic- Saliva
The test looks at:
- Overall estrogen levels (E1, E2, and E3)
- Testosterone levels (this test can be used by men or women)
- Cortisol and adrenaline levels
- And much more.
This test is amazing for symptoms such as:
- Heavy periods
- Difficult menopause
- Low energy
We can test you from your home in most states, from teens to retired, ladies and men. We all have hormones!
Ready to test?
How to Support Estrogen Detox
Tip #1: Detox Estrogen Through Diet
- Cruciferous vegetables are considered to be amongst the healthiest foods for supporting optimal estrogen detoxification. Cruciferous veggies are considered to be aromatase inhibitors and work to support healthy estrogen by inhibiting the excessive conversion of testosterone to estrogen through the aromatization process.
- Foods high in flavonoids have also been shown to have a positive influence on estrogen levels. Flavonoids are a group of antioxidant phytonutrients that are responsible for some of the bright colors in fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids enhance the body’s cellular communication helping to reduce inflammation and support the immune system. Flavonoids from citrus pectin are particularly helpful in supporting healthy estrogen levels and estrogen detoxification.
- Allium family vegetables such as garlic, onions, leeks and chives provide the body with a rich amount of sulfur and quercetin, which help the body detoxify.
Tip #2: Remove Toxins
- I utilize an extensive program of toxin removal via liver detoxification.
Tip #3: Use Supplements
- DIM, short for Diindolyl-methane: This is one of the most effective supplements to support detoxification and healthy metabolism, and remove excess estrogen. DIM is structurally similar to Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C), another supplement often used to support estrogen detoxification. Both are considered to be isoflavones (a type of flavonoid) that are thought to regulate cellular communication, thereby reducing inflammation, oxidative stress, and oxidative stress symptoms
- Magnesium: So many people are currently experiencing magnesium deficiency without even knowing it. Magnesium is used by every body system and is needed for over 300 different chemical reactions in the body to function properly. Healthy magnesium levels are critical to phase 2 liver detoxification and support proper production and detoxification of hormones, including estrogen.
- Methyl Actives. This product contains methylated B vitamins. These are all considered to be methyl donors that support the methylation process, which is phase 2 of estrogen metabolism described above.
- Fish Oil: Fish oil has become well known for its many beneficial qualities. Omega 3 fatty acids are generally helpful in supporting the integrity of the cell membranes and lowering inflammation. Fish oil also contains lignans which can bind to estrogen receptors which, in effect, block the body from using stronger and more harmful forms of estrogen.
- Multivitamin: A good overall multivitamin can be beneficial in providing the body with any missing or imbalanced nutrients and minerals. Many of us struggle to gain proper nutrition from our foods, whether it’s because we’re not eating the right mix of foods or we’re eating foods grown in nutrient-poor soil or because our digestion and absorption are compromised. Adding in a well-rounded multivitamin is good practice for most people living within the burdens or our modern society.