What foods increase estrogen?

Updated April 17, 2017

Oestrogen dominance, high oestrogen levels with adverse health effects (especially increased risk of breast cancer), is a serious problem today. Oestrogen dominance does not result from increased oestrogen levels alone; it is also due to high or low levels of other hormones, environmental factors and medical conditions. The foods that increase oestrogen levels and contribute to oestrogen dominance are generally unhealthy choices: processed and refined foods, sugary and fatty foods, alcohol and caffeine.

Foods that contain natural oestrogen or phytoestrogens may help to reduce oestrogen levels in the body, according to Cornell University. These phytoestrogens compete with the body's oestrogen for receptor sites in the body. Low-fat and high-fibre diets also seem to decrease oestrogen levels in the body.

Obesity increases oestrogen levels in the body, so avoiding exercise and eating unhealthy choices will increase your oestrogen levels.

Animal Meats and Added Hormones

Eating a large amount of animal meats and products may increase oestrogen levels. Animal meats don't contain fibre, and fibre is necessary for the disposal of excess oestrogen in the body, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). A diet heavy in animal meats and dairy can cause waste oestrogen to recirculate in the blood.

Animal products can increase oestrogen levels in another way. Many commercial livestock are treated with growth hormones, points out naturopath Marcelle Pick of Women to Women. These oestrogen-mimickers can disrupt proper oestrogen levels in the body.

Fat and Carbs

Fat in the diet and body fat can both increase oestrogen levels. Fat contains an enzyme that converts compounds to oestrogen in the body, writes Dr. Lan. Cutting your fat intake by half can lower your oestrogen levels by 20 per cent, reports PCRM.

Weight gain can increase cancer risk. After menopause, a woman's main oestrogen source is her body fat. Women who switch to low-fat and low-refined-carb diets lower their oestrogen and progesterone levels, reports Dr. Lan.

Treated Fruits and Vegetables

Most commercial fruits and vegetables are treated with pesticides. These pesticides act as environmental oestrogen or xenoestrogen that can mimic the body's oestrogen and increase overall oestrogen levels. Several pesticides act in this manner, reports Cornell University. The average American consumes as much as a pound or more of pesticides in their food every year, according to Marcelle Pick. Dr. Lan writes that it is estimated that we ingest illegal or banned pesticides at least 75 times a year.

Processed and Refined Foods

Eating processed and refined foods can increase oestrogen levels in a number of ways. Processed and refined foods contain very little fibre, which is necessary to eliminate excess oestrogen and control weight. These foods are generally high in fat and sugar and low in vital nutrients that help the liver to process oestrogen.

Processed and refined foods also contain food additives and preservatives that can increase oestrogen levels, and many chemicals can still affect oestrogen levels indirectly, reports Cornell University.

Italian researchers took a look at common food additives and their oestrogenic effects in a study published in the 2009 "Chemical Research in Toxicology." The researchers found that two commonly used additives, propyl gallate and 4-hexyl resorcinol, exhibit significant oestrogenic activity. Propyl gallate is used to keep fats and oils from spoiling and 4-hexyl resorcinol prevents discolouration in seafood.

More than 3,000 food additives are used in the US today; none are tested by the FDA for their oestrogenic effects according to Environmental News Today. Researchers point out that considering the amount of food additives consumed today, it's important to know which compounds may increase oestrogen levels and to know how many different additives in our food may combine to heighten effects.

Alcohol and Caffeine

It still isn't clear whether or not alcohol directly increases oestrogen levels in the body, but alcohol use has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, according to Cornell University. Drinking alcohol may increase the amount of circulating oestrogen in the body, and so lead to increased cancer risk.

Caffeine consumption is independently correlated with increased oestrogen levels, according to Dr. Michael Lam in his Internet article, "Estrogen Dominance: The Silent Epidemic." Lam reports that women who consume 500 milligrams or more of caffeine every day have 70 per cent higher oestrogen levels than women who take in less than 100 milligrams per day.

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About the Author

Sumei FitzGerald has been writing professionally since 2008 on health, nutrition, medicine and science topics. She has published work on doctors' websites such as Colon Cancer Resource, psychology sites such as Webpsykologen and environmental websites such as Supergreenme. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of Connecticut where she also studied life sciences.