Understanding Estrogen Metabolism
Estrogen, a group of hormones crucial for reproductive health and fertility, must operate harmoniously within our bodies. While having the right amount of estrogen is essential, an excess can lead to potential issues, including an elevated risk of breast or endometrial cancer.
The overall exposure to estrogen isn’t solely determined by its production but also by how it is metabolized into different forms and it’s relationship with other hormones. The liver primarily breaks down estrogen, with some contribution from the gut, leading to the elimination of inactive metabolites.
However, the process of estrogen breakdown and elimination is intricate and influenced by various factors. On occasion, the detoxification process can yield an abundance of “potent” metabolites, which exert a more pronounced estrogenic effect with mutagenic & proliferative impact on the immune system. When investigating hormonal imbalances and conditions impacted by estrogen, it’s crucial to recognize hormone metabolism as a crucial component of the puzzle.
There are 3 primary metabolites from estrogen metabolism:
2-OH-E1 (2-hydroxyestrone) – Protective
4-OH-E1 (4-hydroxyestrone) – Mutagenic
16-OH-E1 (16-hydroxyestrone) – Proliferative
An excess of mutagenic and/or proliferative metabolites represent hidden early warning markers of estrogen sensitive forms of cancer.
Hormone | Gut Axis
A critical role of the gut flora involves regulating systemic estrogens. Specifically, the estrobolome, a group of gut bacteria that handles estrogen metabolism. It dictates whether estrogen remains in circulation or gets efficiently eliminated. The microbiome works with the liver to process & recycle estrogens through glucuronidation, converting them into safe glucuronide forms that don’t interact with estrogen receptors.
The image below lists products containing chemicals that mimic estrogen & disrupt hormone balance:
DIM: Supporting Estrogen Metabolism
DIM is short for diindolylmethane, a metabolite of indole-3-carbinol. DIM is a compound that can only be made from cruciferous vegetables. When broccoli, cauliflower, and other cruciferous vegetables are exposed to stomach acid after chewing, indole-3-carbinol is created, which is then converted into DIM. While DIM can be derived from food, it would take eating a whole lot of broccoli to match what can be found in a supplement. That is why many people take a concentrated amount in the form of a supplement.
DIM boosts phase 1 liver detox level to help increase the most beneficial metabolite, 2-OH-E1 and reduce the excess production of potentially harmful 4-OH-E1 and 16-OH-E1. It also can inhibit the conversion of testosterone to estrogen and reduce estrogen dominance.
Below are examples of conditions aggravated by estrogen dominance:
- Breast tenderness or fibrocystic breasts
- Heavy periods
- Painful periods
- Bloating before your period
- Difficulty with weight gain on your hips, butt, or thighs
Calcium D-Glucarate | Estrogen Metaboliser
Calcium D-Glucarate boosts phase 2 liver detox, which conjugates (binds) estrogen metabolites for safe elimination via the bowel, often referred to as phase 3. By encompassing all phases of hormone metabolism, comprehensive support for natural hormone balance is achieved.
Foods Rich in Phytoestrogens
This is an interesting topic of dietary hormone health, as the most common example of hormone imbalance is estrogen dominance with relatively low progesterone, due to excess cortisol typically consuming progesterone.
Phytoestrogens have a mild hormone effect compared with endogenous steroid hormones. They are definitely beneficial for post-menopausal women, as it builds upon estrogen deficiency.
However, the debate is still open regarding health benefits for women in their fertile years. The argument on the traditional side is … any additional estrogen with a pre-existing estrogen dominance will be aggravated by phytoestrogens. The more recent view is that the mild phytoestrogen can displace steroid hormones by competing for the same receptors. Thus, moderating impact of excess steroid estrogens.
A middle-ground approach would be to include some portions of tofu during the manifesting phase of your cycle. Refer to this graph: (phytoestrogen food list – Women’s Hormone Diet)
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil (EPO), derived from Oenothera biennis, is valued primarily for its supply of omega-6 fatty acids. Within EPO, these fats encompass two key types: linoleic acid, constituting 60% to 80% of its fat content, and γ-linoleic acid (GLA), accounting for 8% to 14% of its fats.
Essential fatty acids like these are crucial for human health since our bodies are incapable of producing them independently, necessitating their inclusion in our diets. Achieving a balanced intake of essential fatty acids, such as omega-6 from EPO and omega-3 from sources like fish oil, phytoplankton, flax and hemp is imperative.
Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids play pivotal roles in immune function, brain function, growth, and development. Moreover, fats serve as carriers for vital fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamins A, D, E, and K, facilitating processes such as vitamin A conversion from carotene, mineral absorption, and numerous other physiological functions.
EPO has been shown to help hormone imbalance symptoms like: menopausal hot flushes, breast tenderness, bloating, water retention, acne, depression, irritability, foggy thinking and headaches. It also improves fertility by thickening cervical mucosa.
Hormonal acne is reduced with EPO by improving dermal cell matrix, nerve conduction and skin elasticity.
The Dutch Test is the most comprehensive hormone test that includes salivary (active) hormone levels, including all 3 types of estrogen. Also, the 3 types of estrogen metabolites, plus 24hr cortisol. This provides a valuable insight into the whole hormone picture. This is particularly valuable during perimenopause to identify target nurture points when setting up a graceful menopause experience.
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By Kimballe Robyzen
Kimballe Robyzen is an experienced Naturopath specialising in women's health, allergies, immune, gut and mental health. Kimballe frequently works with interstate and overseas clients via Skype, Zoom, phone and/or email. Kimballe’s clinical approach is well suited to supporting you by distance, offering access to personalised health care to those challenged by distance and/or time.