5 Easy Ways I Balance My Hormones Every Day: A Functional Medicine Doctor Explains
I recently found out (after genetic testing) that I don't detoxify estrogen well at all. The estrogen level in my blood was low, so I never thought I had an issue, plus I eat well, I exercise, and I'm healthy.
I was, however, highly suspicious considering breast cancer is rampant in my family. Of course, I'm young and didn't have any symptoms of estrogen dominance, so I never thought it would affect me. I was so glad I found out because it has changed my life.
Symptoms of estrogen dominance include abnormal paps, fibroids, fibroadenoma, and endometriosis, all leading to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Estrogen dominance occurs when either your body is producing too much estrogen or you're not getting rid of it properly, as in my case. These are the things I do every day to keep my estrogen levels in check:
1. I eat greens galore.
I start my day off with a veggie juice to ensure I'm getting adequate veggies and fiber throughout the day. I try to eat a salad every day for lunch with lean meats.
I also snack on broccoli for its detoxifying properties. I encourage patients to eat more veggies rather than becoming vegetarian. Going vegan improves estrogen dominance; however, getting adequate protein is also important, so I minimize the amount of red meat I eat.
Eating cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, watercress, and Brussels sprouts (at least three servings per day) is optimal. These vegetables contain indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a compound that helps break estrogen down, which aids in detoxification. A study in China showed that consumption of cruciferous vegetables also lowers the risk of breast cancer.
2. I watch what I drink.
I avoid alcohol and coffee. I still drink my daily green tea, but that caffeine consumption is much smaller than a cup of joe and has great antioxidant properties. More than one can of caffeinated beverage can slightly increase estrogen levels1.
I still have a glass of wine on occasion, but for the most part, I know how it affects my body, so I avoid it most of the time. More than three alcoholic beverages a week actually increases estrogen levels, according to a 2011 JAMA study, and alcohol decreases the metabolism by 24 percent.
3. I take supplements.
As soon as I realized I had poor detoxification of estrogen I started taking an I3C and DIM supplement daily.
DIM (diindolylmethane) is found in cruciferous vegetables, and it alters estrogen metabolism, protecting against breast cancer. You have to eat A LOT of broccoli and kale to get these benefits, so that’s why a supplement is good to add. It's been shown to inhibit breast tumors by decreasing new blood vessel supply to the tumor.
I3C (Indole-3-carbinol) when given orally, is converted to diindolylmethane (DIM), which is broken down by stomach acid. This suggests that DIM is the predominant active agent and that I3C is a precursor. Together, they have many anti-tumorigenic and anti-carcinogenic properties.
4. I avoid harsh chemical toxins.
I ensure I'm not exposed to any environmental toxins that could increase my estrogen levels. All my personal care products, makeup, and cleaning products are all sulfate-free, phthalate-free, and BPA-free, as these all mimic estrogen metabolism.
Sodium laurel sulfate is found in many skin and hair products and can increase estrogen levels. This is something I encourage females to avoid if they can.
BPA (bisphenol-A), found in plastics, has also been linked to breast cancer. If the breast cancer genes are present, then BPA can increase the risk.
Phthalates are also found in many plastics, cosmetics, environmental products, and household cleaning products and can disrupt the endocrine system. I advise people to start checking labels to see what they’re using in their homes and on their bodies.
5. I exercise.
Exercising is nothing new to me. I enjoy my long runs as well as vigorous vinyasa yoga, which I try to do four to five times a week.
Studies have shown that physical activity can decrease overall breast cancer risk over a lifetime. Losing weight and total body fat also decreases the total amount of estrogen you are exposed to. Increasing lean muscle mass decreases the pathway converting testosterone to estrogen, which happens when there is more body fat.
Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an American Board Family Medicine–certified physician who studied family medicine at Georgia Regents University/Medical College of Georgia. She completed her undergraduate training at the University of Georgia with a bachelor's of science in biology and psychology in 2004 and her doctor of medicine at American University of Antigua College of Medicine in 2010. She completed an integrative medicine fellowship at the University of Arizona with Dr. Andrew Weil. She is also currently working on her functional medicine training with the Institute of Functional Medicine. Her interests include integrative, holistic, and functional medicine; women's health; preventive medicine; international medicine; and health care reform. She's also a certified yoga instructor and Reiki master. She enjoys writing and educating everyone on important health matters.