Estrogen Metabolism and Cancer

Estrogen! What is it and why should we care about it?

Estrogen is a hormone, meaning that its role is to facilitate communication within the body.

We have three different types of estrogen that serve different roles in the body:

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  • Primary Estrogens: Estradiol (E2) and Estrone (E1) 
  • Estriol (E3) isn't considered primary, but still important! 

Estrogen has a lot of important jobs related to reproduction, neurotransmitter production, bone health, collagen formation, and cardiovascular health. 

So estrogen is essential, but when its function in the body is not optimal, there are some potentially serious consequences.


How is estrogen related to cancer?

There are several estrogen-linked cancers, for example: breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, and uterine cancer.

Here's the main point: if your body does not optimally metabolize estrogen, you can have an increased risk for estrogen-linked cancers.


How estrogen is metabolized in the body and what can go wrong?

Our wonderful liver is responsible for many things (thank you liver!), including estrogen metabolism. This means that your liver takes estrogen and breaks it down into a water soluble compound that can be excreted in urine. This happens through phase 1 and 2 detoxification in the liver

In PHASE 1 DETOXIFICATION of estrogen there are three potential pathways: 

  • the 2OH pathway that we WANT

  • the 4OH pathway that we DON'T WANT  - this leads to an increased risk for estrogen-linked cancers

  • the 16OH pathway that we DON'T WANT -  this pathway is associated with growth (think enlarged breasts especially during PMS, heavy periods with clotting) 

But we're not done yet, because we have to get through PHASE 2 DETOXIFICATION:

  • During this phase, METHYLATION occurs (this helps to turn the metabolite into a water-soluble compound

  • Methylation ability is affected by: 

    • Your NUTRIENT status (SAMe, B vitamins, methionine, magnesium, choline...)

    • Your GENETICS, in this case specifically the COMT gene 

  • If your body does not methylate well, estrogen can recirculate in your body and go down cancer-related pathways

How do I know if my estrogen metabolism is not optimal?

Here are some common signs that your estrogen levels or metabolism are in need of attention:

  • heavy and painful periods
  • irregular periods
  • blood clots with periods 
  • PMS
  • tender breasts with period 
  • breast enlargement in men
  • decreased libido
  • ovarian cysts
  • fibrocystic breasts
  • water retention and bloating 
  • infertility
  • mood dysregulation

What can I do to help support healthy estrogen metabolism?

First and foremost, nutrition that supports the liver and gut! Here are some of the best foods to support estrogen metabolism:

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  • Cruciferous vegetables: BROCCOLI, broccoli sprouts, kale, Brussel sprouts, leafy greens
  • Berries: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries 
  • Bright colors: beets, peppers, carrots, turmeric 
  • Healthy fats: omega 3's 
  • Fermented foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir 

Secondly, get rid of environmental toxins that slow the liver down: 

Last but definitely not least, reduce stress as much as possible! Stress is the ultimate fire to the flame. Find what works for you to stress relieve: 

  • Breathing 
  • Yoga/stretching 
  • Journaling or gratitude lists 
  • Meditation 
  • Walking/exercise

Testing is important!

Along the estrogen metabolism pathway, there are many things that can be going astray. 

It is important to test so that you have a clear understanding of WHERE and WHY things are going wrong for YOU. 

It also allows us to get a better idea if dysfunction or imbalances in other systems are affecting your hormone balance, including the digestive system and adrenal system.

This allows us to create a comprehensive plan to address healthy estrogen metabolism in a way that is essential for YOU. Contact me here

Jen Unruh