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Nutrients for Healthy Estrogen Metabolism

Nutrients for Healthy Estrogen Metabolism

Inside your body, estrone, the most common form of estrogen, can be converted into many other forms that have different functions and give instructions to your cells about certain things. One of them, we will call it Estrone - 4, we know is pro-carcinogenic, or that it encourages the growth of certain cancers3.

Estrone -4 can be easily converted into compounds that damage your DNA. Your liver is able to neutralize this type of damaging estrogen with certain enzymes, which are the little workers that make things happen inside your cells.

In order to activate those enzymes, you must have an adequate methionine level. Methionine is an amino acid, which is a building block of protein.

Methionine is found in rich supply in eggs, chicken, fish, and most whole grains. It is necessary for your body to have an adequate supply of methionine in order to produce cysteine, carnitine, taurine, lecithin, and phosphatidylcholine. These are all very important amino acids and nutrients needed for the second stage of detoxification in the liver. Taking in adequate lean protein each day helps the liver detoxify by providing the amino acids it requires for those processes.

Ensuring that this second stage, or stage two liver detoxification, occurs in your body is extremely important. The estrogens produced in the first stage of liver detoxification are oxidized and “sticky”, and can be harmful to the body.

In stage II detoxification, the liver safely donates the biochemical structures needed to convert those sticky estrogens into water soluble estrogen. This biochemical step makes the liver able to ‘handle’ these estrogens better, and the estrogens don’t have the same hormonal effect anymore. The body then easily secretes the estrogen in bile or in urine.

The biochemical structures needed for all of this to happen include methyl groups such as are found in methylated folate, methylated B12 and trimethylglycine. These are all incredibly important nutrients for liver detoxification, as well as healthy estrogen metabolism.

Another form estrone can take we will call estrone-2. This is the most protective form of estrogen4. Research has shown that eating foods from the brassica family such as cabbage, broccoli, and brussel sprouts5 ,which contain dietary idoles, has been shown to increase this healthy form of estrogen 6,7. There is a certain compound, called DIM (3,3’-Diindolylmethane) present in these vegetables, which is helpful for converting estrone into this healthy, protective form of estrogen.

Unfortunately, when you cook these brassica foods, there is only a small amount of the DIM remaining8, and lots of people report some gas or bloating when consuming these vegetables raw. In order to get the benefit from DIM, you’d have to eat about 2 pounds of these foods every day. I recommend my patients supplement with 100mg of DIM complex in order to ensure they are getting a good supply of this. DIM has been demonstrated to be effective in increasing the metabolism of estrone into the healthy estrone -2 in men and in women9.

There are many other ingredients which can help the liver detoxify from cancer-causing estrogens, and maintain healthy levels of ‘good’ estrogen. For example,

Glutathione is the most prevalent antioxidant that the body produces, and healthy levels are critical to safely excrete the many toxins, including our own estrogens, that we are exposed to. NAC, or N-Acetyl Cysteine is the precursor to this glutathione, has been shown to protect the liver from damage.10 Sulforaphane has been shown to inhibit growth of cancer cells 11 and in combination with alpha lipoic acid, sulforaphane has demonstrated ability to increase glutathione production in the liver.12 Calcium glucarate has been shown to enhance the clearance of estrogen metabolites 13, so there are less in your bloodstream.

When I was formulating a supplement to help my patients with healthy estrogen metabolism, I also included these herbs and amino acids for the best supply of antioxidants and liver support. These also function to support the detoxification work of the liver:

  • Lignan from Norway Spruce.14
  • Glycine15
  • Taurine 16
  • Milk thistle, or silymarin 17

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3. Modugno F, Knoll C, Kanbour-Shakir A, Romkes M. A Potential role for the estrogen-metabolizing cytochrome P450 enzymes in human breast carcinogenesis. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2003;82(3): 191-197.

4. Bradlow HL, et al., 2-hydroxyestrone: the 'good' estrogen. J Endocrinol. 1996 Sep; 150 Suppl:S259-65.

5. Bradfield CA and Bjeldanes LF, High performance liquid chromatographic analysis of anticarcinogenic indoles in Brassica oleracea. J Agric. Food Chem. 1987; 35:46-49.

6.Muti, Paola, Bradlow HL, Micheli, A. Krogh, V. Freudenheim, JL, et al. Estrogen Metabolism and Risk of Breast Cancer: A Prospective Study of the 2:1 alpha-hydroxyestrone Ratio in Premenopausal and Postmenopausal Women Epidemiology. November 2000, Vol. 11 No 6 635-640.

7. Dalessandri KM, Firestone GL, Fitch MD, Bradlow HL, Bjeldanes LF Nutrition and Cancer. 2004; 50 (2):161-167.

8. The Institute for Functional Medicine, Powerpoint Presentation.

9. Telang NT, et al., Inhibition of proliferation and modulation of estradiol metabolism: novel mechanisms for breast cancer prevention by the phytochemical indole-3-carbinol. Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine 1997; 216: 246-252.

10. Paul J. Millea, MD, MA, N-Acetylcysteine: Multiple Clinical Applications. Am Fam Physician.

11. Jackson SJ, Singletary KW. Sulforaphane: a naturally occurring mammary carcinoma mitotic inhibitor, which disrupts tubulin polymerization Carcinogenesis. 2004 Feb;25(2):219-217.

12. LiiCK, Liu KL, Cheng YP et al. Sulforaphane and alpha-lipoic acid upregulate the expression of the pi class of glutathione S-transferase through c-jun and Nrf2 activation. J Nutr. 2010 May; 140(5):885-92.

13. Calcium-D-glucarate. Altern Med Rev. 2002 Aug;7(4):336-9.

14. Kangas L et al, Antioxidant and antitumor effects of hydroxymatairesinol (HM-3000, HMR), a lignin isolated from the knots of spruce. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2002 Aug;11 Suppl 2:S48-57.

15. DetersM, Siegers CP, Strubelt O. Influence of glycine on the damage induced in isolated perfused rat liver b yfive hepatotoxic agents. Toxicology. 1998 Jun 26;128(1):63-72.

16.M. D. J. Kerai, Catherine J. Waterfield, S. H. Kenyon, D. S. Asker, J. A. Timbrell Taurine: Protective properties against ethanol-induced hepatic steatosis and lipid peroxidation during chronic ethanol consumption in rats Amino Acids Volume 15, Numbers 1-2 / March, 1998.

17. Flora K, Hahn M, Rose H, Benner K. Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) for the therapy of liver disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 1998 Feb;93(2): 139-143.