Estrogen dominance, high estrogen levels with adverse health effects (especially increased risk of breast cancer), is a serious problem today. Estrogen dominance does not result from increased estrogen levels alone; it is also due to high or low levels of other hormones, environmental factors and medical conditions. The foods that increase estrogen levels and contribute to estrogen dominance are generally unhealthy choices: processed and refined foods, sugary and fatty foods, alcohol and caffeine.
Foods that contain natural estrogen or phytoestrogens may help to reduce estrogen levels in the body, according to Cornell University. These phytoestrogens compete with the body’s estrogen for receptor sites in the body. Low-fat and high-fiber diets also seem to decrease estrogen levels in the body.
Obesity increases estrogen levels in the body, so avoiding exercise and eating unhealthy choices will increase your estrogen levels.
Eating a large amount of animal meats and products may increase estrogen levels. Animal meats don’t contain fiber, and fiber is necessary for the disposal of excess estrogen in the body, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). A diet heavy in animal meats and dairy can cause waste estrogen to recirculate in the blood.
Animal products can increase estrogen levels in another way. Many commercial livestock are treated with growth hormones, points out naturopath Marcelle Pick of Women to Women. These estrogen-mimickers can disrupt proper estrogen levels in the body.
Fat in the diet and body fat can both increase estrogen levels. Fat contains an enzyme that converts compounds to estrogen in the body, writes Dr. Lan. Cutting your fat intake by half can lower your estrogen levels by 20 percent, reports PCRM.
Weight gain can increase cancer risk. After menopause, a woman’s main estrogen source is her body fat. Women who switch to low-fat and low-refined-carb diets lower their estrogen and progesterone levels, reports Dr. Lan.
Most commercial fruits and vegetables are treated with pesticides. These pesticides act as environmental estrogen or xenoestrogen that can mimic the body’s estrogen and increase overall estrogen levels. Several pesticides act in this manner, reports Cornell University. The average American consumes as much as a pound or more of pesticides in their food every year, according to Marcelle Pick. Dr. Lan writes that it is estimated that we ingest illegal or banned pesticides at least 75 times a year.
Eating processed and refined foods can increase estrogen levels in a number of ways. Processed and refined foods contain very little fiber, which is necessary to eliminate excess estrogen and control weight. These foods are generally high in fat and sugar and low in vital nutrients that help the liver to process estrogen.
Processed and refined foods also contain food additives and preservatives that can increase estrogen levels, and many chemicals can still affect estrogen levels indirectly, reports Cornell University.
Italian researchers took a look at common food additives and their estrogenic effects in a study published in the 2009 “Chemical Research in Toxicology.” The researchers found that two commonly used additives, propyl gallate and 4-hexyl resorcinol, exhibit significant estrogenic activity. Propyl gallate is used to keep fats and oils from spoiling and 4-hexyl resorcinol prevents discoloration in seafood.
More than 3,000 food additives are used in the US today; none are tested by the FDA for their estrogenic effects according to Environmental News Today. Researchers point out that considering the amount of food additives consumed today, it’s important to know which compounds may increase estrogen levels and to know how many different additives in our food may combine to heighten effects.
It still isn’t clear whether or not alcohol directly increases estrogen levels in the body, but alcohol use has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, according to Cornell University. Drinking alcohol may increase the amount of circulating estrogen in the body, and so lead to increased cancer risk.
Caffeine consumption is independently correlated with increased estrogen levels, according to Dr. Michael Lam in his Internet article, “Estrogen Dominance: The Silent Epidemic.” Lam reports that women who consume 500 milligrams or more of caffeine every day have 70 percent higher estrogen levels than women who take in less than 100 milligrams per day.