In Part One of this three part series I discussed how xenoestrogens are a group of synthetic or foreign compound that act like estrogen, promoting cancer development. The two primary ways to reduce your cancer risk from xenoestrogens is avoid or eliminate their exposure and/or stimulate the removal from your body. In Part Two, I discussed a number practical ways to reduce your exposure and in this final part I will address a number of ways you can help support the elimination of xenoesteogens from your body and reduce their harmful effects.
Block the effects of Xenoestrogens with Phytoestrogens
There is quite a bit of confusion about the safety and effectiveness of phytoestrogens; even among medical professionals. Phytoestrogen’s are a group of compounds found in certain plants that have an estrogen-like effect in the human body. Most people assume that this means they increase cancer growth but its important to understand that even though these compounds interact with estrogen receptors they are much weaker than human estrogen (estradiol) or most xenoestreogens (Kaur, Danylak-Arhanic and Dean 2008). This means they attach to the estrogen receptor without actually activating it, therefore preventing human estrogens or other chemicals from activating the receptor. This would explain the fact that human population studies have found that soy consumption actually has a protective effect against breast cancer (Kazor 2012). It is worth pointing out that some animal studies have found soy supplementation promotes the growth of cancer cells which has led to confusion and cautions regarding soy intake. However, the opposite effect has been found in humans so some experts suggest that there is a difference in the way humans and mice use phytoestrogens making animals poor test models. To further support the safety and benefit of phytoestrogens studies have also found that soy food consumption was significantly associated with decreased risk of death and recurrence in people that were also taking tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors (commonly used drugs in breast cancer prevention. There is no evidence that soy negatively interferes with tamoxifen or anastrozole therapy (Fitz 2013). While there are multiple benefits to eating non-GMO phytoestrogens such soya beans (i.e. edamame), soya products (soya sauce, tofu, tempeh etc.), hops, flaxseeds, legumes, lentils, beans and alfalfa sprouts, it is apparent that frequent dietary intake can block the negative effects of human estrogens or other xenoestrogens.
Stimulate healthy hormone metabolism and elimination
Many people know that the liver is one of the most important detoxification organs however fewer know it also is responsible for the healthy elimination of hormones as well as toxins. There are 2 phases to liver detoxification that occurs 24 hours a day. Most over the counter detox kits will stimulate phase 1 which prepares a toxin to be removed. However they often do a poor job at stimulating phase 2, which is responsible for taking the molecule activated by phase 1 and safely excrete it. To eliminate harmful environmental toxins and xenoestrogens we need to support the both pathways and also make sure that our intestinal elimination is regular and complete. The following are simple ways to promote healthy elimination of xenoestrogens:
Stay hydrated – every cell in our body requires water to function optimally, which includes waste elimination. Water also flushes out excess waste that builds up around the cells and can impair cellular communication and elimination. Water also lubricates our bowels, which helps to prevent constipation and maintains regular intestinal elimination. The goal for most is to drink 4 large glasses of water a day (approx. 2 L).
Broccoli and broccoli sprouts – Cruciferous vegetables are perhaps the food group that has shown the most powerful anti-cancer effect (Clark 2008). Theses vegetables contain a group of natural compounds (the main one being sulforaphane) that support liver detoxification (specifically phase 2) and hormone elimination pathways (Altern Med Rev 2012). Broccoli and broccoli sprouts are the vegetables with the highest levels of these beneficial compounds. For optimal effect they should be eaten raw (heat inactivates the enzyme) and chewed well so the enzyme that activates sulforaphane is released.
Flaxseed – Flaxseeds are well-known as a source of omega 3 and dietary fibre but now emerging research suggests that they have unique and direct anti-cancer properties such as preventing the growth of new blood vessels (Flower 2013). The impact of fibre is especially important in hormonally sensitive cancers such as breast and prostate cancer because fibre can bind hormonal products excreted from the liver and ensure they are eliminated rather than be re-absorbed in the digestive tract. Ground flaxseeds provide a great source of inexpensive fibre plus hormone balancing properties.
Antioxidants – Every cell in out body uses antioxidants to protect itself from damage but the liver has the highest requirements in order to support both phases of detoxification. Its even produces large amounts of its own powerful antioxidant called glutathione. Colourful fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidant compounds so they should be included in your daily diet. Studies have now shown that for cancer prevention variety (i.e. different colours) is even more important that quantity. Aim for at least 9 different colours of fruits and veggies daily.
Herbal support – Many people prematurely jump right to herbal detox kits without reducing their xenoestrogen exposure and modifying their diet. The basics listed above should be the first priority before finally taking a herb like milk thistle to protect the liver and stimulate glutathione production. Consult your Naturopathic doctor at pureBalance Wellness Centre about which detox product is right for you. There many different options and some are better suited to certain people especially if they have hormonal imbalances. Taking a herbal formula can sometimes cause people to feel worse or get major reactions so it’s always most effective to consult your ND.
So after learning about negative effects of xenoestrogens and how avoid them you can use a number of simple things to also promote their removal from your body. The most important things are to stay hydrated and eat healthy phytoestrogens, cruciferous vegetables, flaxseeds and colourful fruits and veggies.
1) Kaur, Danylak-Arhanic and Dean. The complete natural nedicine guide to Women’s Health. Robert Rose inc. Toronto, 2002.
2) Kazor, Tina. The Effects of Soy Consumption on Breast Cancer Prognosis: A review of the literature. The Natural Medicine Journal. Nov 2012. Accessed on 2013-07-30.
3) Fritz et al. Soy, red clover, and isoflavones and breast cancer: a systematic review. PLoS One. 2013 Nov 28;8(11):e81968.
4) Flower et al. Flax and Breast Cancer: A Systematic Review. Integr Cancer Ther. 2013 Sep 8.
5) Sulforaphane Glucosinolate Monograph. Altern Med Rev 2012;15(4): 352-360.
6) Clarke et al. Multi-targeted prevention of cancer by sulforaphane. Cancer Lett. 2008 Oct 8;269(2):291-304.