Increasing rates of estrogen dominance in both men and women cause a great deal of concern. While diet and lifestyle factors play a significant role in balancing your sex hormones, have you ever considered if high estrogen is related to your genetics?
Estrogen is one of two main sex hormones that women have (the other is progesterone). Men have estrogen, too, but in smaller amounts. Estrogen is vital for many reasons as it facilitates growth, development and sexual maturity. For women, it helps to control the menstrual cycle and is an essential factor for childbearing.
While necessary for normal growth and development, lifetime exposure to estrogens and their metabolites is a well-established and significant risk factor in developing hormone-related diseases. Excessive estrogen can also cause menstrual problems, fibroids, weight issues and mood changes. Men can experience sexual difficulties, infertility and bodily changes such as enlarged breasts. Both our lifestyle choices and surrounding environment contribute to our levels of estrogen.
The production, metabolism and elimination of estrogens are controlled via a complex network of tightly regulated enzymatic steps. The genes responsible for the production, metabolism and elimination of estrogens are well studied. So, is high estrogen related to your genetics?
This article will explore four genes that play a role in estrogen imbalance, the risk factors involved, and seven strategies to naturally eliminate excess estrogen.
The CYP19A1 Gene and Its Impact On The Conversion Of Androgen To Estrogen
The CYP19A1 gene is responsible for the production of aromatase. Aromatase is an enzyme involved in estrogen production by triggering testosterone conversion (an androgen) to estradiol (an estrogen). In other words, the CYP19A1 gene is involved in determining the rate at which androgen is converted into estrogen.
Variations in this gene are associated with increased levels of estrogens and estrogen to androgen ratios in postmenopausal women.
Naturally, the CYP19A1 gene has been frequently studied for breast cancer associations with inconsistent results. However, variations in this gene are linked to higher levels of postmenopausal circulating estradiol (E2).
The CYP1A1 Gene And Its Impact On Protective Estrogen Metabolism
The CYP1A1 gene initiates estrogen conversion into 2-hydroxy-estrogens (2-OHE). 2-OHE is a naturally occurring catechol estrogen and a major metabolite of estrone estradiol. 2-OHE catechols are generally considered protective, reflective of their inactive hormone activity.
As a member of the cytochrome P450 family, CYP1A1 metabolizes a wide variety of compounds from the environment that may damage cellular DNA, such as tobacco smoke and charbroiled meats.
Variations in this gene may increase the risk of certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer. In vitro studies suggest that quercetin may inhibit CYP1A1 expression.
The CYP17A1 Gene And Its Impact On Circulating Estradiol And Hormone Related Risks
The CYP17A1 gene is involved in the enzymatic process of converting cholesterol into progesterone and androgen. Variations in this gene increase enzyme activity, thus a potential increase in total lifetime hormonal levels.
Women with this genetic variation may experience earlier menarche, thus a potential increase in total lifestyle estrogen exposure. Additionally, variations in this gene point towards increased circulating levels of estradiol, especially in premenopausal women.
Consequently, genetic variations in the CYP17A1 gene are associated with an increased risk for PCOS, infertility in those with stage I-II endometriosis, and breast cancer in women who had been treated with hormone replacement therapy for more than ten years.
Interestingly, studies have found that men of African American descent with this genetic variation have an increased risk of prostate cancer. At the same time, this was not seen in Caucasian or Asian populations.
Ways to protect yourself against the development of hormone-related risks include reducing your exposure to phthalates. Phthalates are chemicals used in plastics to soften and increase flexibility. Phthalates are found in cosmetics, non-prescription drugs, paints, adhesives, fabrics, and children’s toys. Learn more about the safety of phthalates here.
Genetic variations in the CYP17A1 gene significantly interact with phthalate exposure and increase the risk of developing uterine fibroids.
The COMT Gene And It’s Impact On The Methylation Of Estrogen Metabolites
The COMT gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called catechol-O-methyltransferase. COMT plays a central role in metabolizing estrogen metabolites. It is the primary route for phase II detoxification of catechol estrogens.
Variations in this gene are associated with reduced enzyme activity and decreased methylation of catechol estrogens. Due to decreased methylation of catechol estrogens, variations in this gene may see higher levels of urinary estrogen metabolites.
Healthy lifestyle factors play a significant role in breast cancer risk for those with variations in the COMT gene, especially in the Chinese population, particularly among premenopausal women.
Seven Strategies To Naturally Eliminate Excess Estrogen
Endocrine disruptors like bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates can cause excess estrogen accumulation. Minimize your exposure to environmental toxins like avoiding canned foods and drinks, plastic food containers, and fish with high mercury content like king mackerel, swordfish and ahi tuna. Instead, choose fresh whole foods, use glass containers and water bottles, and choose smaller fish with lower mercury accumulation like sardines, anchovies, and salmon.
Cut Or Reduce Caffeine
Caffeine can raise estrogen levels. Reducing or eliminating caffeine will balance estrogen levels. Try caffeine-free alternatives like herbal teas, mushroom lattes and turmeric lattes.
Eat Less Meat and Dairy From Conventionally Raised Animals
After menopause, the consumption of red meat can increase your breast cancer risk by 22 percent. Dairy consumption after menopause correlates with higher estrogen levels. When you eat red meat, choose organic, grass-fed beef. Try introducing one vegan or vegetarian day per week to reduce the total consumption of red meats.
Add More Fiber
Increased fiber will lower estrogen levels and may likely reduce the risk of breast cancers. We recommend consuming 35 to 45 grams of fiber per day as part of a healthy hormone diet. On average, women only take 13 grams of fiber per day. High fiber foods include avocado, split peas, lentils, artichoke and raspberries.
Eat More Prunes
Prunes are shown to reduce 16-alpha-hydroxy-estrone, the “less-good” estrogen associated with breast and endometrial cancer.
Aim To Sleep By 10 PM
Going to sleep by 10 pm promotes the optimal production of melatonin, a hormone that lowers estradiol. Fun fact: Blind women have a higher production of melatonin than women with normal eyesight, and their risk of breast cancer is 50 percent lower.
Consider Taking A DIM Supplement
DIM (di-indolemethane) has been shown to favour the production of protective estrogens and reduce bad estrogens. DIM is naturally found in vegetables in the Brassica or cruciferous family, such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. One study showed that eating 500 grams of broccoli a day improves the ratio of good to bad estrogen by 30%.
Estrogen is a sex hormone that facilitates growth, development and sexual maturity. Both men and women naturally produce estrogen in the body. Estrogen is one of the two main sex hormones that women have, while men produce estrogen in much smaller amounts.
Lifestyle exposure to estrogens and their metabolites pose a risk in developing hormone-related diseases in men and women. Balanced estrogen levels are, therefore, vital to long term health.
External exposure to estrogen may increase risk factors for excess estrogen accumulation. However, genetic factors may also play a role in developing excess estrogen as well. Understanding your genetic risk factors, in addition to taking proactive steps to reduce excess estrogen naturally, may be especially beneficial for those who have a family history of hormone-related conditions.
For more information on getting tested for predispositions to excess estrogen and other hormone-related risks, explore our healthPower test kit.