Estrogen Dominance: How Food Affects Men and Women


Estrogen in Meat
Beef with extra fat from added estrogen is a key part of the American diet.

Estrogen dominance occurs when estrogen levels in the body overpower all other hormones. For many years menopause has been treated as if it is a disease state resulting from a hormone deficiency, presumably from the failure of the ovaries. At the first sign of symptoms, women are encouraged to go out and get estrogen replacements so that their estrogen does not fall after the woman’s menses have stopped. New evidence connects too much estrogen in the system to a plethora of conditions and side effects…and these do not only affect women. Men can suffer the symptoms of estrogen dominance too.


What are the Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance?

Estrogen dominance over stimulates the brain and glands, causing a number of symptoms that will be all too familiar to some, even some men. It can cause headaches, breast area swelling and tenderness, bloating, decreased sex drive, mood swings, weight gain, cold extremities, hair loss, thyroid disease, slowed metabolism, and excess facial hair on women. It is also associated with fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, and insomnia. It has also been linked to increased allergies, autoimmune disorders, blood clots, infertility, and a number of reproductive organ cancers. Those with abnormally high estrogen also experience an acceleration of the aging process. All of these conditions are worsened by stress of any type. The symptoms are similar for both women and men. The most common complaint from men is decreased sex drive and tenderness or swelling in the breasts.


What Causes Estrogen Dominance in Men and Women?

It is easy to see how a woman who has been placed on estrogen replacement could experience the symptoms of estrogen dominance, but how can this occur in men?

Hormone levels are all relative. Estrogen dominance occurs not only when estrogen is high, but also when they are high in relationship to progesterone and testosterone levels. A man does not have to have low testosterone to experience estrogen dominance symptoms. There is no set level where the symptoms of imbalance occur, because everyone’s body chemistry is different.

Certain foods and items in our environment contribute to estrogen dominance. Perhaps the biggest offenders are Phthalates and BPAs found in plastics. This is particularly risky in the case of bottled water that has been exposed to high temperatures. Leaving your bottled water sitting in the sun can help increase your exposure to BPAs and their estrogen increasing tendencies. Using glass is the best solution to minimizing your exposure to BPA.

Many people do not realize that estrogen producing compounds can be found in hair care products, sunscreen, pesticides, car exhaust, cosmetics, moisturizer, and carpeting. Excess body fat stimulates your body to produce additional estrogen, just one more reason to keep your weigh in check. This is a double whammy. Fat produces additional estrogen and estrogen causes the body to store more fat.

One of the biggest contributors is soy and soy oil. You thought that I was going to say conventionally raised meats. Poultry, beef and pork that are raised conventionally are high in estrogens and some contain amounts that are higher than what would be prescribed by a human doctor, but soy is even higher than these sources.

This does not mean that the meat industry is off the hook. Feedlot cattle are fattened using hormone implants two times during their 100-day fattening period before slaughter. One of the side effects of high estrogen is increased fat tissue, allowing the cattle to bring a higher price because they are sold by weight. The USDA continues to claim that this does not result in estrogen levels in meat that would be considered harmful to humans. But several well-cited independent studies found estrogen levels in meat to be nearly 20 percent higher than that, which occurs naturally in the body of an average eight-year-old boy. In 1989, Europe banned the import of beef from the United States and Canada based on high hormone levels. The response of the United States was to attack the legality of the ban, not bring practices in line with European standards.

Other foods that have been associated with high estrogen levels are highly processed foods, MSG, caffeine, and beer. Another surprising source of dietary estrogen is peppermint tea. High carbohydrate feeds contribute to higher estrogen in animal products. Grass fed and pasture raised animals have lower levels of estrogen than those fed conventional feed.


What Can You Do To Reduce Your Risk?

Of course controlling estrogen levels begins with avoiding things that contribute to the problem. If you are on hormone replacement therapy, exposure to estrogen stimulating compounds in the environment could easily make you go over the top.

Some foods have been known to reduce estrogen in the body. These include broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Other leafy vegetables such as spinach, parsley, dandelions, Swiss chard, and celery have also been known to have an effect on lowering estrogen by binding to it and carrying it out of the body. Sunny fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes are great detoxifiers for estrogen because they contain d-limonene, another estrogen binder. An apple a day, oats, berries, and beans bind estrogen in the small intestine. Three tablespoons of sesame and flax seed per day will help keep estrogen levels in check.

Eating the rights foods on a daily basis will help to reduce the symptoms of estrogen dominance. Fermented soy products do not contain the same high levels of estrogen as unfermented soy products. Low levels of B6 have a tendency to raise estrogen levels.

Herbicides and pesticides contain a type of estrogen called xenon-estrogen, which has been linked to cancer.

Research into estrogen and estrogen dominance has received considerable attention from the scientific community. The formula for avoiding this syndrome matches other health advice that is floating around about how to lose weight and resolve many other problems. The formula is simple, lose weight, exercise daily, and avoid stress. Eat meat that is certified hormone free, preferably grass fed. Avoid hormone-laden poultry, fish, pork, and products made from conventionally raised dairy. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables that have been raised without the use of herbicides and pesticides. This is just another reason to seek out organic produce at your local farmer’s market. Get to know your farmer and your food intimately, it is good for your health and the health of your family.

Has anyone has experience with estrogen dominance? What did you do to resolve it?

  • David

    This is a GREAT article. I work at an anti aging health clinic in Tampa Florida where we specialize in balancing and optimizing hormone levels. That being said, we always recommend our patients to try to correct their hormonal imbalances naturally before considering treatment. So many of the men come in and just want to be put on testosterone replacement therapy because they have all heard about the symptoms associated with it. Many of them get their lab work back and do not have “Low T” as it is commonly referred to, but actually have higher than normal estrodial or estrogens in their body. Most of these men are able to either be treated through natural processes (like you describe above) or through naturally compounded estrogen blockers to inhibit to conversion of testosterone to estrogen. Many men often try to argue that estrogen dominance can’t be the cause and that is why I personally appreciate you trying to get this information into the hands of those who need it. Keep up the good work!

  • Beth Martell

    Flax seed is high in estrogen.