In addition to driving female reproduction, estrogen is responsible for the balance of metabolism of fat and protein; bone, hair, blood vessel and skin health; fluid and electrolyte balance; blood clotting; and neurological function. Your estrogen level varies rhythmically through your menstrual cycle. At any time, an estrogen level that is too high or too low can cause substantial side effects including increased fluid retention, mood and sleep disturbances, increased risk for blood clots and unhealthy levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in your blood.
Eat a low- to moderate-fat diet, minimizing junk and processed foods. Estrogen and other sex hormones are produced from cholesterol and fatty acids. The level of fat in your diet correlates with your risk of breast cancer, though fat consumption should never drop below 15 percent of daily calories.
Add soy to your diet, particularly soy that has been fermented such as tofu or miso. Soy contains isoflavones, a chemical similar in structure to human estrogens, known as phytoestrogens. When estrogen is low, phytoestrogens may mimic the effects of estrogen. When estrogen is high, phytoestrogens can interfere with the activity of estrogen and increase the rate at which your body breaks it down.
Add flaxseed to your diet. Flax lignans are another phytoestrogen similar to soy isoflavones. Flaxseed meal can be added to cereal, baked into foods and used to thicken stews. Lignans are normally removed during processing of flaxseed oil, but may be added back to some products. Store flaxseed meal or oil in the refrigerator as it turns rancid easily.
Avoid drinking alcohol in excess. The physiological shock of high alcohol levels stimulates the production of estrogen, increasing fluid retention and fat storage to remove alcohol from the blood stream. Your body metabolizes estrogen in the liver, which may be weakened from high alcohol consumption.
- Supplements containing concentrated phytoestrogens may alter the effectiveness of birth control. Consult with your doctor before adding any dietary supplements if you are taking any medication or are under medical care.
Chris Daniels covers advances in nutrition and fitness online. Daniels has numerous certifications and degrees covering human health, nutritional requirements and sports performance. An avid cyclist, weightlifter and swimmer, Daniels has experienced the journey of fitness in the role of both an athlete and coach.