8 Ways to Lower Estrogen Levels Naturally & Effectively
Medical Review by Dr. Stefano Pizzo, MD
Estrogen or as it’s sometimes called; oestrogen is commonly referred to as the “female hormone”. The three main active estrogens in the body are; estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3).
Despite being the female hormone – men also have it – sometimes in very high amounts. Women biosynthesize most of their estrogens in the ovaries, whereas in men nearly all of it comes from converting testosterone into estrogen by the actions of the enzyme aromatase within our adipose tissue, aka. body fat.
There are several reasons as to why low estrogen levels benefit men:
- Excess estrogen suppresses LH release, and thus, testosterone production1,2.
- Estrogen produces feminine sex characteristics (yes, even in men)3,4.
- High levels of estrogen stimulate body-fat formation, inducing more estrogen5,6.
- Estrogen lowers metabolic rate via boosting serotonin and lowering thyroid7.
- Estrogen stimulates prolactin which induces ED via dopamine suppression8,9.
Among all the possible negative effects, there is only one real benefit I’ve found with estrogen in the male body, and that is; bone health. Some studies have associated estrogen with increased bone density and prevention of osteoporosis, and sure enough, men who use powerful estrogen blockers like Tamoxifen often find that their joints and bones start to ache when the dosage gets high enough.
However, even in this case, it’s debated whether this bone-protective effect is caused by estrogen10. Some research suggests it’s the more stable “female hormone” – progesterone – that is responsible for the benefits instead11.
In any case, if you’re a man, you likely benefit from lowering estrogen levels, and here are 8 ways to do so.
1. Work Towards Lower Body Fat
The easiest way to get into high estrogen problems as a male is to eat your way into obesity.
You don’t even need to reach obesity status, as for every gained fat pound, your aromatase enzyme activity increases and this leads to a higher rate of testosterone being converted to estrogen12.
Not only will the fat mass lower testosterone levels by turning it into estrogen, but it will also demasculinize your body by turning the most potent male hormone – dihydrotestosterone – into less active metabolites13.
As your body fatness goes up, testosterone and DHT drop and estrogen increases. Since estrogen increases subcutaneous fat gain6, this will eventually create a vicious cycle where increased fat mass boosts estrogen and higher estrogen increases the accumulation of subcutaneous fat mass.
This first point is easily the most important of the eight. No matter how much you obsess over the smaller details in the 7 points below, your estrogen levels will likely still stay high if you’re rocking a 20%+ body fat.
2. Limit the Use of Plastics
Although the increased use of plastics has made our lives much easier in many aspects, they do also come with some drawbacks.
One is the obvious environmental problem, since many types of plastics aren’t biodegradable, and the other is the lesser-known endocrine disrupting chemicals that can leach out from plastic bottles, cooking utensils, microwave-food packaging, etc.
Quite many of these chemicals have been identified as xenoestrogens and antiandrogens, meaning that they are structurally similar to estrogens, so much so that many of them can directly bind estrogen receptors, causing feminizing effects, and suppressing testosterone production through disrupting enzyme functions or blocking androgen receptors.
Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthlates are two of the most notorious estrogenic compounds found in many common plastic bottles and containers, both have been linked to increased estrogen and lower testosterone & DHT in several human and animal trials14–17.
One study screening for commercial water bottles for their estrogen traces says18;
It goes without saying that the simplest methods of avoiding exposure to BPA, phthalates & Co. are to drink from a glass or metal bottles, avoid Tupperware containers and especially microwaving your foods in them, and switching to non-plastic cooking utensils.
Below are some of my favorites:
3. Limit Polyunsaturated Fat Intake
Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have been claimed as the “healthy fats” for quite some years.
Many studies, however, have questioned these claims, and when it comes to hormonal health, PUFA surely seems like one of the worst things you can consume.
While saturated fats (SFA) and monounsaturated fats (MUFA) are stable in the body, PUFAs with their multiple volatile carbon-carbon chains are prone to lipid peroxidation in presence of heat, oxygen, and light. This essentially means that PUFA goes rancid quickly in the body (if not rancid already before consumed), leading to oxidative damage and hormonal disturbances in the body.
The problems only accumulate when we eat high-PUFA diets for years and our fat cells store the unstable fatty-acids.
When it comes to estrogen, multiple studies in isolated cells and humans show that polyunsaturated fatty-acids stimulate estrogen production and increase its activity towards the estrogen receptor19–22.
4. Limit Estrogenic Food Sources
Certain foods and foodstuffs can be fairly estrogenic.
Mainly these include foods that contain phytoestrogens (estrogen-like compounds in certain plants) or mycoestrogens (a certain type of mold/fungi that is estrogenic).
Myco and phytoestrogen both exert their effects through the estrogen receptors alpha and beta. The more structural resemblance a food has with estrogen (ie. low molecular weight, isoflavone rings, hydroxylation pattern, phenolic rings) the more potent it is at activating the receptors23.
Most notable sources of phytoestrogen include:
- Lignans in flax produce.
- Isoflavones in soy and oily seeds.
- Coumestans in alfalfa and many legumes.
Most notable sources of mycoestrogens include:
- Fusarium, which is used to produce Quorn, a vegan meat substitute.
- Zearalenone found in the mold of maize, barley, oats, wheat, and sorghum.
- Zearalenone and Zearalanol produced by ruminants eating stored moldy grains.
5. Consume More Anti-Estrogenic Foods
There’s a handful of foods that have anti-estrogenic effects in the body.
They work either by blocking estrogen from binding the receptors or by acting as aromatase enzyme inhibitors and thus reducing the peripheral conversion from testosterone to estrogen.
White button mushrooms are a good example of food that does both24, olive oil and oysters can inhibit the aromatase enzyme25,26, citrus fruits contain naringenin and apigenin which naturally block estrogen and aromatase27, the ellagitannin-derived compounds in pomegranates can block estrogen receptor binding28, and dark pigmented berries have calcium-D-glucarate which binds estrogen from the gut and helps the body remove it29.
Including the above foods into your diet (as well as avoiding phyto and mycoestrogens) can do wonders for your hormonal health.
6. Supplement with Vitamin E
Vitamin E is perhaps one of the most important nutraceuticals to supplement within the Western World.
Due to the fact that we have eaten high-PUFA diets for years and store those fats in our tissues, we are walking lipid peroxidation powerhouses that effectively turn rancid the polyunsaturated fats that we burn from our own tissues as well as the ones that we consume.
This as mentioned above is not good since the lipid peroxidation of polyunsaturated fats – among many other harmful things – is estrogenic and can significantly lower testosterone.
This is where vitamin E steps in. It’s a peroxyl radical scavenger that protects polyunsaturated fatty acids in membranes and lipoproteins. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble antioxidant that prevents (to some extent) the peroxidation of PUFA and the vast array of harmful effects that would result from it30–32.
Because of this, it’s not a big surprise that vitamin E supplementation has led to significant increases in testosterone levels of human and animal subjects, and that it’s a direct estrogen receptor antagonist that also lowers circulating estrogen levels33,34.
7. Prioritize Liver Health
The liver plays a crucial role in the health of the endocrine system as it excretes toxins and estrogen from the bloodstream.
If liver health is not optimal and/or your liver is overburdened, then estrogen is retained in the body and the levels can quickly increase to the point where your overall health – not to even mention the male health – get compromised.
There are two things of utmost importance to making sure that your liver stays lean and does its job without any issues; choline and reducing your intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids. This is because choline is necessary for the exportation of fat from the liver35, and PUFA directly prevents this exportation36. Obviously, alcohol is also bad for liver health and this is one of the many reasons it can increase estrogen levels.
Maintaining high-carb diet with somewhat lower fat intake (10-25% preferably from SFA and MUFA) also helps through reduction of free-fatty acids from the bloodstream (which if high enough tend to build up in the liver ducts and cause non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease)37–40.
8. Check your Personal Care Items
Many store-bought personal care items like moisturizers, soaps, shampoos, and sunscreens are loaded with estrogenic chemicals.
These are commonly called environmental estrogens or xenoestrogens. To be one, a compound has to share enough structural similarity with estrogen to activate the estrogen receptors.
The Bisphenol A and phthalates as mentioned above are the primary xenoestrogens in plastics, but when it comes to personal care items, parabens (methyl-, butyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, heptyl-, etc) are the most known ones with estrogenic testosterone lowering properties41–43.
Parabens are not the only xenoestrogenic offenders in personal care items, which is why I recommend that you read my earlier more detailed posts about antiandrogens and personal care item xenoestrogens.
Although estrogen has a biological role even in the male body, it’s best to keep the levels relatively low.
How low you ask? Well, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact number, but staying close to the bottom quartile of the “low end” on most blood tests seems to be like a good place to be as a man.
Following the eight steps above should be more than enough to get you there, and unless you’re using synthetic estrogen-blockers like Tamoxifen, I wouldn’t worry about getting too low.