Your Complete Guide To Estrogen Rich Foods

Although estrogen is found in both men and women, it is found in higher levels in women.

Its many roles include regulating menstruation, maturing the eggs during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, and breast development in girls and pregnant women. A decrease in estrogen levels can cause hormonal imbalance, but estrogen rich foods may be able to help.

Exploring the Role of Estrogen Rich Foods

Here’s the thing: estrogen doesn’t work by itself. It works together with progesterone to create hormone balance and ensure good health. And more often than not, what we see is a relative dominance of estrogen over progesterone. Meaning, although both hormones decline with age and unhealthy lifestyle choices, progesterone tends to decline at a faster rate.

This ends up creating that higher level of estrogen when compared to progesterone, even though both hormones are in decline. What’s bad about that is that these two hormones are supposed to keep each other in check.

For example, while estrogen proliferates the endometrium, progesterone inhibits its growth. The endometrium is the lining of the uterine walls and it's needed during pregnancy to allow the embryo to grow. Too little endometrial growth and you can have a difficult time getting or staying pregnant. Too much and you can end up with endometriosis and a higher risk for endometrial cancer.

Another example is that while estrogen aids in the development of breast tissue, progesterone keeps that growth in check so you don’t end up developing fibroids and cysts. And while estrogen promotes fluid retention, progesterone is a natural diuretic.

So, is it ever a good idea then to eat estrogen rich foods? Especially since it’s much more common to have estrogen dominance than the opposite?

The Different Types of Estrogen Rich Foods

Before we get into whether or not you should eat estrogen rich foods, it’s important to understand that there are different kinds of such foods. Mainly, we’ll be discussing phytoestrogens and foods that contain xenoestrogens.

Phytoestrogens: Friend or Foe?

Phytoestrogens are plant-based foods that contain a naturally occurring estrogen-like compound. This estrogen-like compound can mimic the effects of your body’s estrogen, using up the same pathways and carrying out similar functions.

Such estrogen rich foods include:

  • Flax seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Soybeans and soybean products, like edamame, tofu, and tempeh.
  • Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
  • Garlic
  • Ginseng
  • Wheat bran
  • Oats
  • Peanuts
  • Almonds
  • Certain fruits, like apples, pomegranates, berries, and peaches.
  • Certain types of dried fruits, like prunes, dates, and apricots.
  • Licorice

As a general rule, most phytoestrogens are good for you. And even if you have estrogen dominance, you can still safely consume them in moderation. That’s because they compete for uptake at estrogen receptor sites, reducing the amount of estrogen hormone used by your body.

But, as we’ll get into more detail later, you still need to be careful with what you eat, even these healthy estrogen rich foods, if you have certain conditions. For example, if you have adrenal fatigue or NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response dysregulation, which is your body's way of dealing with physical or psychological stress.

Xenoestrogens: Harmful in More Than One Way

The next type of estrogen rich foods are those that contain xenoestrogens. And we recommend you avoid these as much as possible. Xenoestrogens are more of the synthetic types of external estrogens. They are close enough molecularly to natural estrogen that they can bind to estrogen receptor sites. But unlike phytoestrogens, they can cause a lot of harm.

Xenoestrogens are found in certain types of plastics, beauty products, industrial solvents, water systems, pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals that are added to your food, drinks, and beauty and cleaning products.

For example, you can get exposed to xenoestrogens from products like shampoos, perfumes, lotions, and nail polish. Also, fruits and vegetables that have been treated with pesticides and herbicides. That’s why we always recommend eating organic as much as possible in our adrenal fatigue recovery protocols. These chemicals not only disrupt hormones, but they also add a lot of stress on your NEM’s Detoxification Circuit, and your body overall.

And another factor involved in estrogen dominance that not many people (and even physicians) consider is liver congestion. So adding onto the toxic load by using such products is another issue.

Your Hormone Circuit and Stress

What xenoestrogens do to your body is that they act as a physical stressor. This means that the disruptions and toxicity they create will trigger your NEM’s stress response to ensure your body regains its balance.

And although your body is made to withstand an occasional stressor here and there, the problem with xenoestrogens is that you usually consume or use them regularly. This puts your body under chronic stress. And chronic stress is the main culprit in the dysregulation of your NEM as well as in Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).

Symptoms of AFS include fatigue, weight gain (and difficulty losing weight), insomnia, brain fog, anxiety, mild depression, loss of libido, PMS, infertility, hair loss, dry skin, hypoglycemia, salt and sugar cravings, lowered immunity, food and drug sensitivities, heart palpitations, and estrogen dominance.

Actually, with estrogen dominance, it goes both ways. Estrogen dominance can cause AFS, and AFS can cause estrogen dominance. And they both aggravate each other. And that’s because your reproductive hormones and your stress hormones are linked through your NEM's Hormone Circuit.

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Your Hormone Circuit is composed of your adrenal glands, thyroid, and reproductive organs (ovaries for women and testes for men). Each of these components is linked with the control center in the brain (the hypothalamus and pituitary gland), and they are all linked to each other.

This is why you see so many seemingly unrelated symptoms in AFS, such as issues to do with menstruation and issues to do with sleep. It’s because your hormones modulate so many of your body’s systems, and when one hormone is affected, it creates a ripple effect on the balance of other hormones as well.

Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance

Because we’re focusing on estrogen in this article, you need to understand the symptoms and effects of estrogen imbalance. Let’s begin with the more common issue, which affects almost 50% of women over 35 years of age. And that is estrogen dominance. Symptoms of estrogen dominance include:

  • Sore and swollen breasts
  • Breast cysts and fibrocystic breast disease
  • Bloating (from fluid retention)
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability and moodiness
  • PMS and period cramps
  • Irregular periods
  • Large clots in menstrual blood
  • Amenorrhea
  • Endometriosis

Estrogen dominance can also increase your risk of breast cancer and endometrial cancer.

Men can also have estrogen dominance, with their estrogen being dominant over their testosterone levels rather than progesterone levels. Men with estrogen dominance can get symptoms such as infertility, sexual dysfunction, and breast enlargement.

On the other hand, you can suffer from low estrogen levels without having estrogen dominance. That’s because your estrogen can drop at the same rate as, or even more than, progesterone. But this is less common.

Low estrogen can affect the issues we stated above regarding estrogen’s role, such as menstruation, breast development, egg maturation, and proliferation of the endometrium. But estrogen has other roles too, such as regulating body weight, insulin sensitivity, glucose metabolism, and even cholesterol metabolism and bone density.

Interestingly enough, symptoms of low estrogen are quite similar to symptoms of estrogen dominance, such as moodiness, sore breasts, irregular menstruation, PMS, amenorrhea, and fatigue. They can also include depression, brain fog, vaginal dryness, painful sex, headaches, and hot flashes.

How To Balance Your Estrogen Levels With Estrogen Rich Foods

A lot of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) focuses on increasing your levels of estrogen. And that’s a good thing if you’re issue is low estrogen. But for many women, the low estrogen levels are not the only problem. They are usually accompanied by even lower progesterone levels. In such cases, HRT will aggravate the estrogen dominance. Plus, most conventional types of HRT have a lot of side-effects.

Depending on your specific situation and needs, there are several things you can do first before trying conventional HRT. That includes eating a diet that helps balance your hormones, with some healthy estrogen rich foods as part of it.

One interesting new health trend is seed cycling, which is eating different types of seeds during different phases of your menstrual cycle. For example, during the follicular phase, which is supposed to have a natural increase in estrogen, you would eat flax and sesame seeds, because those are two estrogen rich foods.

Concerning the phytoestrogens mentioned above, we usually caution those with estrogen dominance not to eat too many cruciferous vegetables as they can aggravate it. With soy products, choose fermented over regular. So tempeh would be a better choice than tofu, for example. And even if you have low overall estrogen levels, you should still avoid xenoestrogens, as they are harmful either way.

Other things you can do is to take certain nutrients that can balance your hormones and also help with adrenal fatigue. Some of the most effective supplements for estrogen dominance include fish oil, lipoic acid, methionine, taurine, grape seed extract, quercetin, pregnenolone, DHEA, and vitamins A, C, and E. You can also try progesterone cream as a way to naturally increase your progesterone levels.

Addressing AFS and Hormone Imbalance Simultaneously

Very frequently, the women that come to us with hormone imbalance problems tend to have adrenal fatigue and overall NEM dysregulation as well. Usually for the reasons we mentioned above. And although these issues can aggravate each other, creating a downward spiral, the good news is that by fixing one issue, you can improve the rest.

Generally, we’ve found that the foundation should always be the adrenal fatigue diet, no matter which component of your Hormone Circuit is the most affected. That’s because it is an all-around healthy diet that is anti-inflammatory and nutrient-dense. If you then want to tweak it here and there, by adding more estrogen rich foods, for example, you can do that.

But we suggest that you only make one such change at a time and then observe your body’s reaction. So you might want to add the seeds that help with seed cycling. Don’t then add tempeh and licorice as well, and on top of that take a bunch of different supplements.

Doing this many changes all at once will at best make it difficult to tell which is responsible for the improvement, and at worst will cause paradoxical reactions and adrenal crashes. This is especially the case when taking supplements.

We highly recommend that if you have adrenal fatigue and estrogen dominance that you seek the guidance of an experienced health professional. This will save you not just time and money, but also help you avoid basic recovery mistakes that can sometimes cause a lot of health problems.

Conclusion

Estrogen rich foods are a good way to approach issues such as low estrogen levels. If done correctly, they can even be incorporated into your adrenal fatigue recovery program. These foods, along with other natural methods, such as nutritional supplements, stress management, gentle exercise, water filtration, and using all-natural beauty products can improve your hormone issues.

But it’s important not to overdo the changes and add more stress to your body. This can aggravate your condition and cause adrenal crashes.

If these changes are not enough to help with your hormone imbalance, you might consider natural forms of HRT, especially those that contain progesterone and not just estrogen. They may be safer and with fewer side-effects than conventional HRT. Of course, you’ll need professional guidance for this as well.