Estrogen, or oestrogen, is an essential hormone in female fertility. But, men have it too; and it’s linked to a healthy male reproductive system. However, having excess estrogen in both men and women can cause health issues linked to many diseases. This is when doing an estrogen detox is important.
Excess estrogen levels can cause the following:
- Obesity (estrogen can actually increase fat cells and cause weight gain)
- Migraines (as also found in a study that looks into treating migraines with birth control pills)
- Fibrocystic breast disease
- Uterine fibroids
- Ovarian cysts
This is where estrogen detox can be helpful.
Estrogen detoxification, or estrogen detox, is a natural way to maintain healthy estrogen levels. We’re putting emphasis on maintain and not get rid of since we need some estrogen in the body.
Before we get into the ways in which you can detoxify the body of excess estrogen, let’s dig deeper into how estrogen works for men.
Why Do Men Have Estrogen?
For years, researchers cited estrogen as a predominantly female hormone. It is only recently that we’ve understood how it works on men.
Adult males produce an average 10-40pg/ml of estrogen, far fewer than the average 15-350pg/ml of estrogen in women. Men only need that amount of estrogen, and it’s very important.
It turns out that a healthy hormonal balance in men requires the right balance of androgens and estrogens.
While the literature regarding estrogen and men’s reproductive health is limited, it’s been shown that a special kind of estrogen called estradiol plays a crucial part in the healthy development of sperm, testicles and overall sexual libido.
How Does Estrogen Work?
Now, the literature that looks into exactly how estrogens work on men is limited. For now, we know that the body’s steroids (including testosterone) can turn into estrogen through aromatase enzymes found in the body’s tissues.
Specifically, the cytochrome P450 aromatase catalyzes the conversion of these androgenic steroids (i.e. testosterone, androgen, etc.) into estrogen and goes through a series of metabolic pathways in the body.
Is the Liver Affected?
This synthesis is why sex hormones, in general, are essential in liver function, mainly:
- Maintaining the liver’s proper energy homeostasis (or energy balance)
- Preventing inflammation and hepatitis
- Preventing a fatty liver
But while estrogen is essential to the liver, having excess estrogen can damage the liver and affect liver function.
Like we said earlier, excess estrogen can increase fat cells. Aside from a fatty liver, several studies (here and here) indicate that too much estrogen can actually cause liver cells (and the organ) to be more susceptible to injuries.
Effects of Excess Estrogen on Men
Now, we already cited the role estrogen has on the male reproductive system. But, aside from affecting liver function, having too much estrogen (a condition called estrogen dominance) can affect men in ways that can counter this role.
So far, these effects have been linked to:
- Development of breasts (gynecomastia)
- Breast cancer
- Erectile dysfunction (especially when you’re low in testosterone)
- Male infertility
- Prostate cancer
In summary, excess estrogen can disrupt hormonal balance and the body’s overall metabolism. This affects both weight and sexual functions.
How to Do an Estrogen Detox Naturally
Just because the environment’s getting more levels of estrogen doesn’t mean that there’s nothing we can do about it.
Like any other health concern, the best ways to tackle this issue are through proper diet and a healthy lifestyle.
There are several ways on how to detox estrogen, but a lot of them had something to do with increasing testosterone levels to balance the estrogen out or slowing down the process of turning testosterone into estrogen.
Now that we looked into the specifics of estrogen on men and how estrogen is contaminating the environment, let’s now focus on what we can really do to detoxify our body of estrogen.
Exercise with HIIT
A study from the American Association of Cancer Research found that exercising helped lower the estrogen levels of 173 overweight women.
It’s similar for men, but it mostly involves increasing testosterone levels to balance out the estrogen, since there are not enough studies that look at estrogen levels of men.
When you’re below 40, chances are that endurance exercises such as walking, running and jogging can do your testosterone levels a favor.
But when you’re above 40, your testosterone levels actually decrease when you do endurance exercises.
A recent study from the European Society of Endocrinology found that HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) can increase testosterone levels while improving muscle power at the same time. This supports a 2013 study conducted by the European Journal of Applied Physiology.
First used in the 1900’s, it was popularized again by sports science after seeing what it can do to athletes. It basically means that you alternate between high-intensity exercises and low-intensity exercises.
Keep alcohol in moderation
In any healthy lifestyle, alcohol is a huge red flag. This is especially true with estrogen, which alcohol has.
Plus, a study that looked into over 8,344 men from Europe and America (the largest of its kind) found that, in moderation, alcohol can:
- Improve sperm count
- Increase testosterone levels
- Improve overall reproductive health
But don’t be too optimistic.
Numerous studies suggest that heavy alcohol intake can promote the change of testosterone to estrogen in male drinkers and vice versa in female drinkers. Plus, alcohol can damage the liver—the very organ that turns sex hormones into metabolism the body needs.
Keep alcohol in moderation. Don’t drink too much.
Stay Away from As Much Estrogen Disruptors as Possible
Even water can have levels of estrogen, especially wastewater in polluted areas.
This affects fish, too. A 2004 study found that male freshwater fish had increasing levels of estrogen and higher concentrations of vitellogenin, a protein specifically found in female fish.
Since these environmental estrogens aren’t produced in the body, they disrupt normal estrogen production and mimic what estrogen does for the body.
There are two most common types of environmental estrogens that we encounter in our daily living: phytoestrogens and xenoestrogens.
Phytoestrogens are estrogens you get from plants. Unlike the estrogen in humans, phytoestrogens is a defence mechanism against herbivores.
But we have to remember that the body can only take so much estrogen. Moreover, phytoestrogenic foods can also be bad for men’s health by increasing the risk of breast cancer and reproductive disruption in males.
Here’s a good list of estrogen-rich foods to take note of (and stay away from). The list includes barley, licorice, carrots and beer.
The most common type of phytoestrogen is isoflavones. To date, the food that has the highest amount of isoflavones in soy.
Soy flour alone can have a total of 172.6 mg/100 g.
Soy Infant Formula (powder) 13.5 6.32 26.3 Edamame (raw green 22.6 20.3 48.9 soybeans) Miso 23.2 16.4 41.5 Silken tofu 8.4 9.2 18.0 Raw tofu, regular 13 9 23 Textured soy flour 89.4 67.7 172.6 Soy protein isolate 57 31 91 Soy-based sliced cheese 6.5 5.1 14.5 Soy-based bacon bits 45.8 64.4 118.5 Soy-based burgers 5.0 2.4 6.4
(Source: Pattisaul, H. B. & Jefferson, W. 2010. The Pros and Cons of Phytoestrogens. Front Neuroendocrinology. Ref: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074428/)
Cruciferous vegetables(i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, etc), on the other hand, have the lowest amount of isoflavones; especially raw broccoli, with only 0.25 mg/100g of isoflavones. Cruciferous vegetables also help reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Xenoestrogens are synthetic, environmental estrogens that are found in plastics, pesticide, and medicine. They’re also harder to detoxify because they’re fat-soluble and harder to digest.
These are far more dangerous than phytoestrogens and can do significant damage to breast cells. To prove this, a 2004 study found an increased risk of breast cancer due to estrogens, after comparing risk factors in 198 diagnosed women and 260 undiagnosed women.
To be safe, it’s best to choose organic, pesticide-free foods that are good for your health (especially estrogen levels).
To combat estrogen dominance, you can try a combination of dim diindolylmethane and calcium d-glucarate.
Dim diindolylmethane is a compound created after you eat cruciferous vegetables. Since we’ve already discussed that cruciferous vegetables are low in isoflavones, you don’t have to worry about this pill disrupting your normal estrogen production.
Calcium d-glucarate, on the other hand, targets xenoestrogens. Since it needs fat to dissolve, calcium d-glucarate uses something called glucuronic acid. What this does is turn the xenoestrogen into a water-soluble compound that can be easily digested and flushed out of the body.
Another kind of supplement you can look into is Japanese knotweed. It has Resveratrol that actually inhibits the cytochrome P450 aromatase and prevents it from turning testosterone into estrogen.
While estrogen is essential for your reproductive health, having excess estrogen can do more bad than good.
Unfortunately, estrogen is widespread in the environment: in water, in food, and even in soil. So we take in more estrogen than we need.
This is why estrogen detox is important. For us to really have hormonal balance, we have to be conscious of what we put into our bodies.