“Detoxing” to rid the body of estrogen or other environmental toxins is a pseudo-science. Positive Health Wellness There’s no real studies proving its effectiveness. However, a lack of evidence is not evidence of lack (or something like that). In other words, the fact that high-quality studies don’t exist on detox protocols doesn’t completely negate their usefulness.
We are constantly being bombarded with endocrine-disrupting estrogens in today’s environment. The effects of these estrogens have important consequences in both men and women. In the male body, it effectively decreases testosterone. In the female body, elevated estrogen levels are linked to increased occurrence of prostate and breast cancer. Estrogen is a problem both for sexes due to multiple factors. Estrogens can be found in a myriad of products, from plastic bottles and food packaging, to cosmetics and shampoos, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, animal hormones, tap water, and more.1
What is Estrogen?
Estrogen is a sex hormone that is produced primarily in the ovaries in women and in the testes in men. Other tissues produce estrogen in both men and women—most importantly, fat cells.2 The male body requires very low levels of estrogen. Endogenous estrogen in men helps to maintain bone density and regulate sperm production. Excessive estrogen originates primarily from two sources: the environment and adipose (fat) tissue. Aromatase is an enzyme that is found in tissues throughout the body; it is the rate-limiting enzyme in estrogen biosynthesis, which produces estrogen from androgen. Most importantly, this enzyme is produced in body fat—therefore, the more fat a man has, the more aromatase he will produce, and consequently the higher his estrogen levels and the lower his testosterone will be. Men may have excess estrogen because of the chemical estrogens in the environment.
One of these environmental estrogens is the highly publicized chemical, bisphenol-A, better known as BPA. This chemical, along with other compounds known as xenoestrogens, resemble the endogenous forms of estrogen found in the body, but are often times significantly more potent. These xenoestrogens have notable effects on the endocrine system in humans and animals. For example, one study in the journal ToxicologyLetters found that BPA exposure led to lower testosterone and poor sexual function in both men and rats because it inhibited the production of androstenedione—the hormone from which testosterone is produced.3
Estrogen is a key constituent in the promotion of hormone-dependent breast cancer growth. According to a study published in the journal, Steroids, about 60 percent of premenopausal and 75 percent of post-menopausal breast cancer patients have estrogen-dependent carcinomas.4 A significant correlation between exposure to xenoestrogens and increased gender-related cancer risk.5
In addition to cancer, high estrogen and low testosterone are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular mortality in men.6
The liver is responsible for the metabolism and detoxification of hormones, chemicals, and nutrients—including estrogen. With estrogen, the liver will process excess estrogens into compounds that can be excreted by the body. There are, in fact, three pathways through which estrogen can be metabolized; one of these is considered toxic pathway that has been linked to cancer development.
Poor gastrointestinal health and deficient flora can inhibit excretion of unwanted estrogen from the body and promote its reabsorption. A healthy gastrointestinal tract with dietary fiber in the form lignan, such as flaxseeds, can bind to estrogen in the digestive tract so that it will be excreted from the body. Consuming adequate fiber in the form of flax, cruciferous vegetables, and leafy greens will provide significant estrogen-eliminating benefits. Cruciferous vegetables are especially beneficial because of the compound indole-3-carbinol, which has been shown to bind to estrogen receptors, consequently decreasing the body’s sensitivity to other, more potent estrogens.7,8
A low-carbohydrate diet may be beneficial on two fronts. First, it will help to reduce adipose tissue in comparison to other diets,9 and thus avoid the associated increase in aromatase activity. Second, carbohydrate consumption causes the secretion of insulin; the presence of insulin—especially in excess—has been shown to alter estrogen synthesis.Insulin’s interactions with estrogen is complex, but most notably, insulin induces adipose stromal cell aromatase and tumor cell sex steroid hormone receptor expression and suppresses sex hormone-binding globulin, which may increase estrogen synthesis and bioactivity, which subsequently promotes estrogen-dependent cancers.10
Please consult your physician before attempting this detoxification protocol. This is not a recommendation or medical advice, this is a description of my typical estrogen detox. Medical foods, such as Estrium® are to be used under the direct supervision of a physician.
I. The first rule of detox: open the pathways of elimination. (Pre-detox, 1-2 days)
This requires a gentle, natural laxative. I prefer magnesium citrate. I start around 600 mg and increase until the laxative effect is reached. This dose will be different for each individual. I complete this phase for 1-2 days before beginning the detox. Once the toxins and estrogen begin to be mobilized from the organs and fat cells, this ensures that they have a clear pathway out of the body, through the stool. If toxins and estrogen remain in the intestine for too long, they will be resorbed.
Drinking lots of pure water (reverse osmosis is preferred) is important, as toxins are also passed through the urine.
II. Fasting. (Detox Day 1)
I like to start of my detoxes with a day of fasting. This acts to reset the body’s metabolism; no insulin secretion for a day will begin to mobilize the body’s fat cells, where the body stores the majority of its toxins.
Plenty of purified water and herbal detox teas are encouraged. A good detox herbal tea should have burdock root and dandelion to support the liver, juniper berry for the kidneys, ginger, and black pepper—preferably organic.
III. Estrogen Elimination. (Detox Days 2-7)
On the second day, I begin the estrogen elimination phase. This requires Estrium or Estrium WHEY medical food and a refrigerator full of cruciferous vegetables.
Estrium is not the only medical food on the market to modulate estrogen; this is the product that I have used and know well, and that is why I have used it in this protocol. Consult a physician before attempting this protocol, and use the medical food that he or she recommends.
Estrium works on two fronts: 1. it’s loaded with low-activity, non-soy phytoestrogens, which bind to your body’s estrogen receptors and down-regulate estrogen response; and 2. it contains flaxseed hull that were specially selected for their ability to promote healthy estrogen metabolism and healthy hormone balance.
Here’s a list of cruciferous vegetables for this detox:
There are no limits as to how much Estrium or vegetables may be consumed, but there is a minimum of 4 scoops of Estrium per day.
Plenty of pure water and herbal detox tea, daily.
IV. Phase-Out. (Days 7-10)
When ending a detox, it is important to phase foods in gradually. Starting with whole foods and organic foods and transitioning into your “normal” diet for about 4-7 days.
That’s it; it’s not an easy program, but a successful estrogen detox should significantly increase watts per kilogram in every male cyclist. After the detox, it is good to drink some Estrium once a week or so to keep your estrogen levels low, along with an indole-3-carbinol supplement.