There’s something you should know about Breast Cancer risk and Estrogen Dominance…
It’s still officially said that we don’t know the cause of breast cancer but what we do know is 85 percent of breast cancers are ER+ (estrogen receptor positive).
So we can say that a big contributing factor to breast cancer risk is Estrogen Dominance.
What is Estrogen Dominance?
Maybe you’ve heard the term, maybe you haven’t — it’s something we all need to be aware of because it’s incredibly common —
Estrogen Dominance is one of THE most common hormonal imbalances for women today.
It’s so common that many of it symptoms are considered normal — PMS, hot flashes, fibroids — all involve some level of estrogen dominance.
More Signs of Estrogen Dominance
- PMS and PMDD
- Painful breasts
- Fibrocystic and lumpy breasts
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Stubborn tummy fat
- Stubborn hip fat and cellulite
- Brain fog
- Depression and anxiety, especially correlated with your cycle
- Thyroid nodules
- Spider or varicose veins
- Ovarian cysts
- Irritability, mood swings or anxiety
- Headaches or migraines, particularly before your period
- Bloating, puffiness or water retention
- Gallbladder problems
- Allergies, especially around your period
Sure we can deal with some cramping and sweating from time to time… the problem is though these can be early signs of a hormone imbalance that can predispose something much worse.
I want to be clear: this isn’t to scare you.
What I want to do in this post is share what we DO know in the functional medicine world and show that there’s much more in our control than what’s out of our control when it comes to breast cancer risk.
How to Prevent Estrogen Dominance
The first key is knowing that the body doesn’t just go rogue and start overproducing estrogen for some mysterious reason.
Estrogen dominance usually comes down to two things:
1) Increased exposure to endocrine disruptors that mimic estrogen in the body (a.k.a. xenoestrogens) that are in many conventional skin care and beauty products, pesticides, plastics.
2) And a decrease in the ability to detoxify and excrete estrogens.
As you can probably imagine, this can be a troublesome combo.
And it may explain why we’ve seen an increase in breast and other hormonal cancers over the past two decades.
Now, the good news though is this: There’s a lot about these two things that are in our control…. more on that below…
Xenoestrogens and Estrogen Dominance
Estrogen dominance doesn’t necessarily mean that you have too much estrogen.
All of our hormones – sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and even metabolic others like insulin – act in symphony with one another.
What that means is it’s more about the ratios between them, and how they interact in relation to each other, with estrogen receptors, and how they’re being metabolized, than it is about overt levels.
Things get even more complicated when you factor in exogenous (outside) sources of estrogen-like substances.
Yes, there are things in our environment that we come into contact every single day that to the body look like estrogen.
These chemical estrogen-mimicking substances known as xenoestrogens can bind to estrogen receptors and to the body make it look like there is more estrogen than there really is.
This throws off the symphony and can tip the scales toward Estrogen Dominance.
- Conventional beauty products (make up, lotions, perfumes, etc.) that contain things like phalates and “fragrance” among other things…
- Use the EWG Skin Deep app to check your own beauty products and search for ones that will help you reduce your exposure to estrogen-mimicking substances
- My go-to clean beauty brands are Primally Pure for skin care and w3llpeople for make up
- Plastics (especially thinner, more malleable plastics like water bottles)
- Use glass or stainless containers to store leftovers
- Use silicone re-usable storage bags
- Switch to stainless or glass water bottles
- Invest in an in-home water filtration system instead of using bottled water
- receipts are coated in BPA. If you don’t need the receipt, avoid taking it. If you do take the receipt, be cautious to not use hand sanitizer as it increases absorption of the BPA lining.
- look for BPA-free plastic, BPA-free canned foods
- Pesticides and herbicides
- Good rule of thumb: if it’s produce and you’re eating the skin or it has a thin skin (ie. apple, pear, peaches, berries) opt for organic. If you’re not eating the skin (ie. banana, avocado, cantaloupe) save money with conventional. Use this EWG Dirty Dozen/Clean 15 guide to help.
- Coffee, wheat, oats, peanuts, corn are some of the crops most heavily sprayed with pesticides. Choose organic for these, especially the things you consume daily.
- Teflon and other PFOAs (a.k.a. “forever chemicals“)
- Use stainless steel cookware or cast iron instead of non-stick
- If you do use non-stick cookware take care not to scratch it
- Fragrance (in beauty products, cleaning products, air sprays, scented candles)
- Opt for fragrance-free beauty products
- Use fragrance-free beeswax candles instead of candles with “fragrance”
- Use essential oils and a diffuser to scent your home
- Chemicals in cleaning products
- Switch to natural cleaning products like Branch Basics or make your own with baking soda, vinegar and essential oils for fragrance
- Minimize dry cleaning.
- Air out the house (open doors and windows) after using chemical cleaning products
- Flame retardants (on furniture, carpets)
- Vacuum and dust your house often to remove
- Open doors and windows to air out the house
For more details visit ewg.org
The second key to preventing and correcting estrogen dominance is how effective we are at detoxifying and clearing estrogen.
And this is the same for how we detoxify and clear anything – it goes back to the functioning of our detoxification system.
Hormones leave the body via the same process and exit pathways as everything else.
So if this system is sluggish or impaired, which can happen for a number of reasons, toxins, and hormones too, can build up and re-circulate, contributing to a greater load.
How effectively we detox does depend on genetics, but it also depends largely on nutrient sufficiency.
Foods to Focus on for Estrogen Dominance
- Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, arugula, broccoli sprouts*, etc.)
- crucifers contain a compound called Indol-3-carbinol (I3C) that helps shuttle estrogens down a more favorable detox pathway (2-OH) rather than the more dangerous 4OH pathway
- crucifers are high in sulforapahne a key compound for the methylation and detoxification process
- *a particularly potent way to pack in a lot of crucifers and these beneficial compounds is with broccoli sprouts. The sprouts have 2-50 times more of these compounds compared to mature broccoli. Put them on salads, sandwiches, wraps, on top of dishes.
- Alliums (onions, garlic, leeks)
- also provide sulforaphane – critical for detox – and isothiocyanate which boost the immune system
- tip: chop and then let them sit for at least 15 minutes to allow these beneficial compounds to be released
- read: 9 reasons to eat more onions
- Protein (especially high quality, organic)
- supplies critical amino acids (ie. methionine) required for methylation and thereby detoxification
- Opt for organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed and finished and wild caught to reduce exposure to pesticides, dioxins and other harmful substances
- mushrooms are aromatase inhibitors which block the synthesis of estrogen from other hormones (like testosterone)
- combine them with cruciferous vegetables and onions for a cancer-fighting super combo
- Green tea
- EGCG in green tea
- Opt for organic and check for heavy metals
- iodine is important for breast health. Beware though if you have thyroid problems
Remember: Your body is constantly detoxifying. It’s a process that is always happening 24/7. The challenge is we do things that over burden it. The key is supporting it daily, by:
- Reducing the load – reducing the amount of things your body has to detoxify (ie. minimizing exposure to chemicals (see list above), pesticides, drugs, alcohol, caffeine). The less your detox system has to deal with the deeper it can work
- Supporting the process – making sure your body has the key nutrients required for the process, which often goes back to optimizing digestion so you can make sure you’re absorbing your nutrients from your food (you’d be surprised how many of us are not!)
Other Factors That Can Contribute to Estrogen Dominance
Of course the human body is complex and there’s a multitude of factors that can predispose and contribute to estrogen dominance.
This is where working with a knowledgable and skilled practitioner who can help you identify and unravel the unique dynamics happening in your own body can be the key to getting things back into balance.
Some contributing factors include:
- Use of synthetic estrogens like the birth control pill and hormone replacement therapy
- Other exogenous hormone exposure in xenoestrogens (see above) and conventionally-raised hormone-treated animal products
- Digestive issues which can inhibit absorption of key nutrients and the detoxification process
- Chronic stress which drives cortisol production and can affect other hormones as well as the thyroid and adrenals
- Unresolved emotional issues that contribute to chronic stress
- Poor diet that doesn’t supply critical nutrients for key functions related to estrogen detox
- Being over fat – body fat makes estrogen
- Sub optimal liver function – which will slow down detoxification of estrogen
- Lifestyle choices – diet, toxin exposure, alcohol and caffeine use can be contributing factors
- Genetic variants or SNPs that affect detoxification, biotransformation of substances and key nutrients that can predispose
Testing for Estrogen Dominance
The best way to test your hormones is with a multi sample dried urine test. My favorite test that will give you the most complete picture and understanding of how your hormones are behaving in your body is the DUTCH test.
The DUTCH is an advanced form of hormone testing that uses dried urine as opposed to blood or saliva.
The difference with the DUTCH test is it’s much more complete in that it not only tells you about levels of hormones but their behavior, particularly how the body is metabolizing them – which is really key when it comes to breast cancer risk.
If want to understand your hormones and how your body is metabolizing them so you can better understand your risk, you can order the DUTCH test here (use code mab100 for $100 off) and then schedule a health evaluation session with me where I’ll help you interpret the results and determine the key things you can do to improve your hormonal health based on our findings. (Note: when booking your health evaluation session, be sure to schedule 1-2 months out at a minimum to allow time for testing).
If you have questions or would like to chat about it, reach out to me here.
P.S. If want to understand your hormones and how your body is metabolizing them so you can better understand your risk, you can order the DUTCH test here (use code mab100 for $100 off) and then schedule a health evaluation session with me where I’ll help you interpret the results and determine the key things you can do to improve your hormonal health based on our findings.
Book your 90-minute deep dive health evaluation session here.
The content in this post is for educational and informational purposes only and is not medical advice.
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