Arguably one of the most complex and fascinating subjects in the world of nutrition, oestrogen metabolism is a hot topic, especially as far as debilitating conditions such as endometriosis are concerned. The complexity of this topic, however, makes it much misunderstood. Many myths exist around the subject of oestrogen, the first being that it is a single hormone – it is in fact a collection of hormones all grouped under the umbrella term ‘oestrogen’.
Within the group are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ oestrogens. Many people who suffer from endometriosis have too much oestrogen, often referred to as ‘oestrogen dominance’ and also a high ratio of bad: good oestrogen.
A natural approach to supporting endometriosis therefore centres heavily on bringing oestrogens back into an optimal balance.
Where Does Oestrogen Come From?
Unfortunately, we live in an age where oestrogens are everywhere. Our bodies make oestrogen hormones, however we are also exposed to a high level of oestrogens from our environment, which can significantly contribute to oestrogen overload. We take them in the form of medications, and we eat, drink and breathe them into the body. Oestrogen-like compounds are found in food, air and water, plastic residues, pesticides, industrial waste products, exhaust fumes, soap products, carpeting, furniture and much more. A high-fat, high-dairy, high sugar and low fibre diet also increases the amount of oestrogen in the body, and so does alcohol, being overweight or obese, the contraceptive pill and HRT. You would literally have to live in a bubble to escape the onslaught of everyday oestrogens!
Any strategy to improve endometriosis must work on balancing the oestrogen that is produced in the body as well as reducing exposure to oestrogen from our environment.
How to… Balance Oestrogen and Improve Endometriosis Naturally:
1. Reduce environmental exposure to oestrogen – It’s almost impossible to avoid some environmental oestrogens, such as those present in the air we breathe. You can do a lot however to reduce your exposure to others. Choose glass storage or drinking containers as most plastic ones contain oestrogen-like compounds, even the ones that are labelled BPA-free are questionable. If you do use plastics, never heat in a microwave, wash in a dishwasher or leave out in the sun as heat can increase the rate at which oestrogens are leached from the containers. Invest in a quality water filter for your home, buy organic food including meat and dairy products and choose natural toiletries and cosmetics too.
2. Non-soy phytoestrogens from flaxseed and kudzu can help to improve the balance of oestrogens in the body. Phytoestrogens are oestrogen-like compounds found in plants that are much weaker than the oestrogens produced by the body. These plant oestrogens can take the place of stronger oestrogens produced by the body, resulting in a much lower oestrogen load overall.
3. Calcium-D-Glucarate is a natural compound that can help to support the safe detoxification and elimination of oestrogens from the body. The overall effect of this being an improved balance of oestrogen in the body.
4. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower contain a beneficial substance called di-indolylmethane (DIM) – A natural plant compound that can help to support a higher ratio of good: bad oestrogens in the body.
5. Vitamin E – Low vitamin E has been associated with high oestrogen. Restoring optimal levels of this nutrient is key for supporting healthy oestrogen balance.
6. Magnesium – Typically lacking from the Western diet yet this mineral is essential to support a healthy oestrogen balance.
7. B Vitamins, N-Acetyl-l-Cysteine & Glycine – Important nutrients for oestrogen balance.
8. L-Glutathione – Often referred to as the master antioxidant, glutathione is important for reducing potentially harmful free radicals, which can contribute to oestrogen overload.
9. Curcumin – The beneficial compound that’s responsible for the bright yellow colour of the spice turmeric and acts as a useful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient.
Endometriosis Diet & Lifestyle Tips:
✓ Increase Cruciferous Vegetables – Add plenty of broccoli and cauliflower into your diet to support oestrogen balance
✓ Reduce Dairy – Choose non-dairy versions of milk such as almond milk and reduce intake of cheese.
✓ Eat Organic – Wherever possible, buy organic food, including fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, poultry and eggs
✓ Increase Fibre – Regular elimination is important for oestrogen balance so make sure you get plenty of beneficial fibre in your diet in the form of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, oats and rye.
✓ Balance Fats – A typical Western diet is high in saturated and trans fats and low in beneficial polyunsaturated fats. For endometriosis it’s important to shift this balance around and increase intake of beneficial fats through nuts, seeds and oily fish, reduce saturated fats and completely avoid harmful trans fats.
✓ Avoid Alcohol, Caffeine, Sugar – These substances are known to contribute to unhealthy oestrogen balance so it’s important to cut down on alcohol, caffeine and sugar as much as possible.
✓ Improve Body Composition – A healthy weight is associated with better oestrogen balance so it’s important to take steps to achieve this if you’re looking to improve your symptoms.
✓ Exercise – Regular exercise benefits pretty much every area of your health and the same is true for oestrogen balance too. Choose something you enjoy and arrange to meet a friend or a group – that way you’re much more likely to stick to it.
✓ Relax – Like exercise, regular relaxation can deliver immense benefits to your health. Ancient practices such as yoga and mindful meditation have a long history of use and are tried and tested to be effective ways to relax. Have a look at www.headspace.com if you want to get started with some simple mindfulness practices.