Estrogens in Food
This section was placed on the site in 4/06. Although I have been studying about estrogens and our (particularly women’s) health for over 10 years, I have not dedicated a section to this vital topic until now. It has only been relatively recently that this element of our health has become so prominent in the media, with many misconceptions (and deceptions) running rampant in the news, tabloids, conversations, and even medical circles. Thank Goodness the truth is finally coming out.
This ball finally got rolling with the demise of HRT (hormonal replacement therapy). Other than the plan to remove trans fats from our diets (something so huge that words can’t describe my joy over it), I believe our recent understanding of the dangers of hormonal replacement in the way it has been done in the past has been one of the single most important events in women’s health in the 20th or 21st century. Without reservation, I think the use of HRT in post-menopausal women has been one of most devastating things man has done to their well-being. But it illustrates the huge flaw in most long-term symptomatic therapy – the contradiction of what the body is trying to do to maintain and repair itself.
I love to use the standard practice of utilizing fever-reducers like aspirin and acetaminophen to artificially reverse fevers to illustrate this point…so I will again. Why does the body produce a fever in the face of a viral infection? Everyone I have talked with knows the answer to this question- “To help fight the infection, right?”. The simple fact is that the fever is essential in the control of viruses. So why in the world do we handcuff our body by artificially reducing the fever? Well there are a few reasons, including the fact that we don’t like feeling sick, we are too busy to be ill, and we just don’t fully understand the repercussions of this action. The latter is what we need to focus on, not only in the crazy practice of artificially lowering fevers but also in the overindulgence in all symptomatic medications, including nasal decongestants, antacids, and HRT.
Now I do not plan to write a dissertation on HRT. I simply brought it up as an introduction to the biggest, unknown-by-most source of estrogens to women and men- our food. The major sources of bioavailable estrogens in our diet are our “good friends” dairy products (e.g. cow’s milk, cheese) and soy (errrh!!!!!). Yes, two of the top human, dog, and cat food allergens, damagers of the villi of the intestine, sources of harmful lectins, and suppliers of “excitotoxins” are also the leading sources of estrogen and it’s precursors. Do you see a pattern here?
Now there has been much talk about the “benefits” of phytoestrogens, the natural estrogens found in foods (plant and animal) that mimic the action of our body’s natural hormones but most articles do not make clear distinctions between the types of phytoestrogens, isoflavones and lignans. Understandind this is crucial and I will be writing much more on this in the near future. In the meantime, I encourage the reader to seek out the truth about these two forms of estrogensso that they can see for themselves what I believe to be true: These estrogenic compounds (especially isoflavones) are just like other symptomatic drugs that begin by helping symptoms but often end up causing more problems than good.
Here is a great Website that discusses this very thing. http://www.sensiblehealth.com/estrogen.html . On her site, the author discusses this and other health issues from a personal perspective just as I have done. She has been through much of women are experiencing every day in this country.
And what are they suffering from? Estrogen dominance, PMS, endometriosis, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), hot flashes, and more – the usual suspects. And why again? Is it the estrogen that their own body is producing that is bringing on these medical threats? Not likely, especially once you adopt the tenet that our body does not make mistakes. It is what is being added to – and even replacing – what the woman’s body is producing that is leading to estrogen dominance and related symptoms.
The main sources of these exogenous (outside) estrogens are food and the environment. For a good study of environmental estrogens, simple put “xenoestrogen” or “estrogen, environment” into your search engine and start reading. You will be amazed! In fact, I had a woman who had taken on the task of educating the public on this topic in the same way that I have the food issues…with research and lots of passion. She Emailed me one day to say that she enjoyed my site but that I was woefully deficient on the issue of estrogens, especially the environmental sources. So, I started my quest for more knowledge in this area.
Again, I will be adding more to this section as time allows. I would encourage you all (including men*) to spend some time researching this vital topic. (*No one wants to talk about the 6000+ cases of breast cancer in men annually. AND, no one seems to be addressing why the United States and United Kingdom are the main countries where their 19 year old men are going bald. Yes, male pattern baldness and erectile dysfunction fit right into this lecture). So you see, there is good reason to know this stuff, isn’t there? :):):)
I hope this helps,
Estrogens in Food (List)
Now, here is a chart from a Website showing foods high in estrogens and those that block estrogen. Keep in mind the difference between isoflavones and lignans, with isoflavones being plant estrogens that stimulate estrogens receptors yielding an estrogenic effect and lignans being weak estrogens that attach to estrogen receptors and block the action of the estrogens trying to stimulate them.
Therefore, the use of high lignan foods – especially those rich in glutamate (e.g. flax) – should be carefully thought out when formulating the ultimate diet for the epileptic or the patient who is suffering from an excitotoxin-related disorders as we know that estrogens are inflammatory and sensitize neurons to the action of glutamate (e.g. catamenial seizures, PMS).
The logical choice of estrogen-blocking lignans for those suffering from an excitotoxin-related disorder (e.g. epilepsy) would be the fruits and vegetables listed below rather than the glutamate-rich grains, such as flax and millet. If the control of an estrogen-related disorder (breast cancer, PCOS, endometriosis) is the primary objective and the excitotoxins (glutamate and aspartate) are not a concern, then flax is a good choice.
I posted the chart below mainly to help people see that the main “trouble foods” – gluten grains (wheat, barley), dairy products, and soy – are all in the estrogen-rich list, with soy and dairy products being the principal sources of isoflavones and the grains being rich in lignans.
Here are two articles that discuss the isoflavone content of foods:
Isoflavones in dairy: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/2006/12.07/11-dairy.html
Isoflavones in soy/legumes: http://www.isoflavones.info/isoflavones-content.php
Here is a great study that lists the isoflavone and lignan content of over 100 foods. Note the INCREDIBLY high isoflavone content of soy products. Nothing else comes close! Also note that cow’s milk has a mixture of isoflavones and lignans but cheese has a much higher concentration of isoflavones: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/jf801344x
As you read more about what researchers are finding concerning the difference between lignans and isoflavones, you will see the war that is going on in our bodies between good and bad estrogens, paralleling the one raging between good and bad lectins.
Here’s the site: http://www.holisticonline.com/Remedies/hrt/hrt_food_and_estrogen.htm
Here’s the chart…
Foods Containing Natural Estrogens
Note: Those rich in isoflavones are underlined while those foods rich in glutamate are in bold.
Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
Cowpeas (black- eyed peas)
Rice (relatively highin glutamate)
Estrogen-Inhibiting Foods (Lignans)
If you are suffering from breast cancer, PMS, fibroids, ovarian cysts, and other situations that estrogen might exacerbate, the following estrogen-inhibiting foods (lignans) might be of interest to you.
Corn (BUT…should be avoided for other reasons!)
Fruits (except apples, cherries, dates, pomegranates)
White rice (relatively high in glutamate)
White flour Now, this is really cool! Why would wheat be on the list of estrogen-rich foods while white flour is on the list of estrogen-blocking foods? Doesn’t make sense right? Actually, it DOES and illustrates a VERY important point. What do you get when you add water to white flour? Glue/ paste, right? What have I been saying about gluten again…it is “glue” and it does coat and stick to the villi of the duodenum. In this case, it coats the villi and blocks the absorption of the ESTROGENS in the food. Now, how cool is that?
When I saw this Website a couple of years ago, I had another “revelation”. Even the bad things have a purpose. In this case, the “glues” in the bad foods (gluten grains, dairy, soy and corn) don’t just block the absorption of essential nutrients (and drugs). They also help block the bad things in these trouble foods, like the estrogens, excitotoxins and goitrogens – “antinutrients” – like those found in soy. (Errrrrh.)
Yes…Yin and yang even applies to food.
So…you can see from the chart that, once again, the healthiest foods to eat are fruits and vegetables. There is simply no down side to their consumption. Most other things are a compromise, making a “balanced diet” a very important thing, especially when we start suffering from certain conditions in which the other ingredients of foods (excitotoxins, estrogens) become a factor.
Still question the unhealthy nature of soy? Try this: Cinderella’s Dark Side- the most comprehensive paper on the dangers of soy that I have found. It can also be found here in non-pdf form.
Again, I hope this helps,