Estrogen excess is responsible for a plethora of health problems affecting women and, yes, men. These problems range from infertility and colorectal cancer in both men and women to PMS, endometriosis, breast and uterine cancer in women as well as prostate cancer in men.1
Of course, genetic plays a key role in all of these diseases. However, a genetic predisposition requires something to trigger its development as well as something to ensure its progression. This is where estrogen comes into play. Research in the last decade or so has highlighted the fact that excess estrogen can both trigger and "aggravate" the development of the above mentioned diseases.
Unfortunately, we are inundated with estrogens that are absorbed through what we eat and drink, what we put on our skin as well as what we breathe. Their presence increases the risk of estrogen related diseases. Happily, the presence of these "foreign" estrogens, which are refferred to as xenoestrogens, can be minimized by avoiding their sources.
Most synthetic plastics contain substances that are xenoestrogenic. These can be released when the plastic is heated or when an acid liquid is in contact with the plastic. Dry goods in plastic are generally not a problem. So, avoid plastics or plastic products that contain BPA or bisphenol-A, avoid cooking in plastic containers or drinking acidic liquids (soft drinks, tomato juice, coffee, fruit juices) in plastic or plastic lined containers.
Certain foods contain naturally occuring estrogens in large amounts. Avoid or reduce your intake of coffee2. Dairy can be a source of estrogen3 and dairy consumption has been related to an increases risk of ovarian cancer4 in women as well as prostate cancer in men5. Though its effects are controversial, some researches do suggest a link between the soya based estrogen, genistein, and an increased risk of estrogen dependant cancers6.
Finally, as a protective element, eat foods in the brassica or cruciferous vegetable family. These foods contain naturally occuring substances that can reduce the carcinogenic effects of estrogens7. Members of this family of vegetables include cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens and mustard seeds.
1. Deroo BJ, Korach KS. Estrogen receptors and human disease. J Clin Invest. 2006 Mar;116(3):561-70
2. Kitts DD. Studies on the estrogenic activity of a coffee extract. J Toxicol Environ Health.1987;20(1-2):37-49.
3. Ganmaa D, Sato A. The possible role of female sex hormones in milk from pregnant cows in the development of breast, ovarian, and corpus uteri cancers. Med Hypotheses. 2005; 65:1028–37
4. Genkinger JM, Hunter DJ, Spiegelman D, et al. Dairy products and ovarian cancer: a pooled analysis of 12 cohort studies. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2006; 15:364–72.
5. Giovannucci E, Liu Y, Platz EA, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. Risk factors for prostate cancer incidence and progression in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. International Journal of Cancer. 2007; 121:1571–78.
6. Clinton D. Allred, Kimberly F. Allred, Young H. Ju, Suzanne M. Virant, and William G. Helferich Soy Diets Containing Varying Amounts of Genistein Stimulate Growth of Estrogen- dependent (MCF-7) Tumors in a Dose-dependent Manner CANCER RESEARCH 61, 5045–5050, July 1, 2001
7. M.N. PreobrazhenskayaV.M. BukhmanA.M. KorolevS.A. Efimov Ascorbigen and other indole-derived compounds from Brassica vegetables and their analogs as anticarcinogenic and immunomodulating agents Pharmacology & Therapeutics 1993, Vol.60(2):301–313