Balance. A characteristic we all yearn to have define our lives. Haven’t we all prayed for relief from the symptoms of imbalance in all its physical, mental, emotional and spiritual forms?
Women are especially vulnerable to imbalance because our estrogen-rich biochemistry is easily disrupted by the hallmarks of contemporary culture: stress and exposure chemicals that disrupt healthy estrogen metabolism. A commitment to living with intention and more specifically a commitment to mindful eating, means consciously constructing a diet that supports optimum health and considers any health concerns you may have or preventative measures you want to take. Just as there are foods that are known to promote happiness or a sense of well-being, there are foods we can incorporate into our diets that promote hormonal balance.
Balanced Hormone Metabolism and Estrogen Dominance
Estrogen dominance occurs when there is an unhealthy balance among estrogen metabolites. Metabolites are a byproduct of metabolism and themselves have important biological functions to perform. Metabolites are directly involved in growth, development and reproduction, though not all metabolites are benign. An estrogen metabolite known as 16-hydroxy is known to be carcinogenic, while estrogen metabolite 2-hydroxy has beneficial effects. Research shows that levels of the 16-hydroxy metabolite are high in cases of breast, ovarian, cervix, uterine and other hormone-sensitive cancers. Levels of this dangerous metabolite are also higher in women suffering with PMS and perimenopause. Environmental factors also contribute to hormonal imbalance.
In the years leading to menopause, hormone metabolism changes often resulting in higher-than-normal estrogen levels and a deficiency in the favorable 2-hydroxy metabolite. Estrogen dominance from perimenopausal changes contributes to weight gain or difficulty shedding excess fat, higher risk for breast and reproductive cancers not to mention uncomfortable to downright agonizing symptoms like irritability, aggression, mood swings, water retention and depression.
Levels of estrogen and a hormone called pregnenolone sulfate are elevated in women suffering from PMS. Pregnenolone sulfate plays an important role in memory but causes anxiety if levels are too high.
Acquired Estrogen Imbalance
Hormones and antibiotics fed to animals that are then consumed in meat, dairy and eggs as well as chemicals in synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are known to increase the 16-hydroxy metabolite. Plastics also contain estrogen-like compounds that disrupt estrogen metabolism.
Cruciferous Vegetables to Promote Healthy Estrogen Metabolism
Cruciferous vegetables are rich in zinc, vitamins A, B, C, D and E and have been regarded for centuries as medicinal foods. Scientists have isolated a constituent in cruciferous vegetables called Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C) that is especially beneficial to estrogen metabolism. When I3C combines with stomach acid it creates 3,3-Diindolylmethane, or DIM. The metabolism of DIM overlaps with estrogen metabolism just so that it promotes healthy estrogen metabolism leading to a favorable ratio of 2-hydroxy to 16-hydroxy
Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choi, kohlrabi, brussels sprouts and mustard, rutabaga and turnip greens. Eat several servings of these vegetables each day. Try to eat them raw (or lightly steamed) to ensure all of the nutrients are live and readily absorbed. A single serving of vegetables is generally equivalent to 1/3 cup steamed or 2/3 to 1 cup raw. To add cruciferous veggies to your diet try the following:
- Snack on chopped raw broccoli and cauliflower plain or with simple, tasty nutrient rich dressings
- Eat a large salad full of kale and other cruciferous veggies for lunch or dinner every day
- Have 1 cup of cruciferous veggies with the meal that you don’t have your salad
- For a crispy, salty treat sprinkle sliced kale leaves with sesame salt and roast in a 350 degree until the kale begins to wilt and crisp
The information in this post is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any disease. As always, consult a licensed health care practitioner to diagnose or treat any condition.
Sources: drlam.com/opinion/cancer_and_hormonal_balance.asp and naturodoc.com/library/hormones/diindolymethane.htm.