Foods & Supplements for Estrogen Detoxification

Epigenetics and Estrogen – How our Lifestyle Choices Can Affect Our Hormones


Our lifestyle choices can influence how we experience our superpower hormone, estrogen. For us to be and feel hormonally balanced, estrogen cannot be too high or too low. 


"Estrogen should be produced and then processed and cleared efficiently from our bodies."  


Detoxification, the process of transforming estrogen into metabolites that we can excrete from our bodies, is partly controlled by our genetics. We have the power to affect how our estrogen is metabolized and, therefore, we have the power to work with our genes in our favor to promote more hormonal balance.

Epigenetics is our ability to alter how our genes are expressed without changing any genetic sequencing. Let’s take a closer look at estrogen detoxification and HOW we can promote a healthy detoxification process. 


Phase 1 estrogen detoxification involves three different enzymatic pathways that are genetically coded for within our liver cells. Phase 1 estrogen metabolization occurs through our Cytochrome P450 enzymes and involves adding an OH (“hydroxyl”) group to our estrogens, creating new, temporary hormones called, estrogen metabolites. I am using the pleural here since there are 3 different forms of estrogen that circulate in our body. 


Let’s meet our estrogens:

  1. Estradiol (E2): the most abundant estrogen in our menstruating years. This is the most potent in making us feel well and balanced. 
  2. Estrone (E1): become more dominant during perimenopause and menopause.
  3. Estriol (E3):  a weaker estrogen, produced more in pregnancy.


The 3 different enzymatic pathways our estrogen can travel down are:

Cytochrome 1A1 and 1A2:

  • Converts estrogen into 2-OH
  • This is the less carcinogenic pathway
  • We prefer this pathway

Cytochrome 1B1: 

  • Converts estrogen into the 4-OH estrogen
  • This is considered the most carcinogenic pathway since it can create a DNA damaging metabolites, known as quinones, that promote tumor cell growth
  • We want to limit this pathway

Cytochrome 3A4:

  • Converts estrogen into 16-OH estrogen
  • This is considered a more “growing” estrogen so helpful for bone growth but also may contribute to fibroid growth, heavier periods, clots, and painful breasts.


While these enzymes are genetically coded for, our lifestyle choices and certain nutritional supplements can help push the helpful pathways. 


"Our genes may have a say in our hormones, but our lifestyle can affect how these genes are expressed." 


Foods to help the 2-OH pathway “the good pathway”:

  • Cruciferous veggies like Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, mustard greens, and brussel sprouts – contain DIM which helps guide estrogen down the 2-OH pathway.
  • Broccoli sprouts – contains sulforaphane which helps push 4-OH away from actually causing DNA damage while also activating the 2-OH pathway.


Foods to helps support overall liver detoxification processes:

  • Organ meats 
  • Fermented veggies
  • Onions, leaks, garlic
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Colorful fruits and vegetables
  • Root vegetables: beets, artichoke hearts, carrots, burdock root
  • Avoid alcohol


Supplements to help support 2-OH pathway and lower the 4-OH pathway include:

  • I3C
  • DIM 
  • Quercetin
  • B vitamins
  • Glutathione


Supplements to help with overall detoxification:

  • Calcium D-glucorate – supports phase 2 liver detoxification by promoting glucuronidation (especially useful if you have a slow COMT enzyme, see below. And inhibits the enzyme beta-glucuronidase thus facilitating the removal of estrogen from the body). 
  • Milk thistle
  • Burdock Root
  • Yellow Dock Root
  • Dandelion Root


While there are “safer” phase 1 pathways, each of these phase 1 metabolites creates a free radical that needs to be processed efficiently via phase 2 liver detoxification to be excreted from our body. 


Phase 2 liver detoxification, with regards to our estrogen, is all about the COMT enzyme.

The COMT gene is part of the methylation process of phase 2 detoxification. Our COMT enzyme is genetically coded for and, like phase 1 enzymes, can either work quickly or slowly. If COMT works slowly then you will not be breaking down estrogen as efficiently. COMT is also responsible for breaking down our epinephrine (our “adrenaline”) so, if COMT is slow, you may be prone to feelings of anxiety and PMS.  


Foods to support a healthy COMT enzyme:

  • Emphasizing dark leafy greens for its rich source of folate


Supplements to support a healthy COMT enzyme:

  • Magnesium
  • Methyl folate
  • Methyl B12 and the rest of the Bs too!
  • Zinc
  • SAMe
  • Tri-methyl-glycine
  • Choline
  • Calcium-d-glucorate – helps to support estrogen down the glucuronidation phase 2 pathway, so less dependent on the COMT. 


So, while our genes may affect the speed of the enzymes responsible for estrogen metabolization, our lifestyle choices can control how these enzymes actually work in our body.

Our lifestyle choices are crucial to hormonal balance. And, while not discussed much here, we need to make sure we are supporting gut health and having daily bowel movements to ensure we are eliminating estrogen metabolites from our body. Right? It does not matter how much liver support and detoxification support we are giving our bodies if we are not clearing the end results by pooping. 

Our genes may have a say in our hormones, but our lifestyle can affect how these genes are expressed.  We can feel empowered knowing that we have the power to make choices that support hormonal balance which help our bodies thrive.

Dr. Maggie Ney is director of the Women’s Clinic and specializes in women’s health, hormones, and healthy aging. 


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