February 22, 2018

3 Estrogenic Foods You Didn’t Know About

Estrogens–a key group of hormones necessary for female health– are feared by many these days. First, there was the famous Nurses Health Study, which was cut short in 2003 when researchers realized that the participants on synthetic hormone replacement medications were experiencing more heart attacks and strokes.   Then in 2006,  Canada banned the use of chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) from baby bottles over the concern that BPA is in fact an estrogen-mimicker, with unknown effects on developing infants.  Unfortunately, these very real concerns have lead to a paranoia about soy-based foods, since they naturally contain estrogen-mimickers as well.

So, should we limit our exposure to ALL estrogen-like substances, natural or unnatural? I am asked this question frequently in my nutritional counseling practice.

In fact, there is nothing inherently wrong with phyto-estrogens; many traditional food sources from various cultures around the world have naturally contained components that mimic human estrogen, albeit in a very MILD way.  That is the key. The fact that they are much, much  weaker than our own estrogen means that they are not capable of the nasty potential effects that xeno-estrogens—the chemical estrogen-mimickers–have.

Here are a few foods that naturally contain phyto-estrogens—chemicals that act like weak estrogens:

Beans: Not just soybeans, but black beans, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas,….in fact, if it is a legume (not to be confused with the term “vegetable”), it contains phyto-estrogens such as genistein and daidzein.   Removing these from our diets is a sacrifice because they are an excellent source of fiber, protein and complex carbohydrates. If you do eat soy products, make sure they are organically grown, as over 90% of conventionally grown soybeans are from genetically-modified plants.

Alfalfa: Alfalfa sprouts are found in the salad department of our grocery stores, typically in clam-shell-like containers.  We add them to salads, sushi rolls, and sandwiches. Not only are these sprouts a good source of vitamin K, they are also sources of phyto-estrogens. After all, alfalfa is also a member of the legume family. Once again, look for organically grown sprouts, or grow your own with organic seeds from the health food store.

Flaxseed: This little brown or blonde-coloured seed has been celebrated mainly for its outstanding omega-3 content. However, it’s also a high source of lignans—another phyto-estrogenic plant component.  Flaxmeal and flaxseed oil should both always be stored in the freezer as it can go rancid easily.

These 3 foods are not to be feared.  There is a theory that phyto-estrogens help block xeno-estrogens from our estrogen receptors, protecting us from the strong estrogenic effects of BPA and other plastics. Enjoy these foods as part of a varied diet. They have so much to offer!

The White Carb You SHOULD eat

White rice, white sugar and white flour products…you’ve heard white carbs are ‘bad’ because:

  1. They lack fibre.
  2. Their naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals have been stripped during processing.
  3.  They contain rapidly-absorbed carbohydrates–which can lead to fat storage and consequent weight gain.

True, true and true.  But are all white foods ‘white death”?

Here’s a nutritious exception to the rule: CAULIFLOWER!cauliflower florets colours

This white cruciferous vegetable is rich in most of the same nutrients that broccoli and kale are famous for:

Folate: a B vitamin used for healthy cell division (it’s not just for making healthy babies!)

Vitamin C: vital for healthy blood vessels (so they don’t tear), and immunity (to fight infectious agents)

Vitamin K: to support blood coagulation (so we don’t hemorrhage when we injure ourselves)

Indoles: sulfur-containing compounds used by the liver to purify our blood by transforming toxins into less harmful, easily excretable compounds

Soluble fiber: This is the gentle, invisible fiber that improves our solid waste elimination experience.  There’s over 9 grams of fibre in just 100 calories-worth of cauliflower!

Low-calorie: Only 29 calories per cup!

Now that you’ve seen how nutritious cauliflower is, here’s a great low-carb recipe I created to use in place of mashed potatoes:














Probiotics May Prevent Breast Cancer

Do you eat probiotics? If you have taken antibiotics and would like to cut your risk of breast cancer, research suggests it may be a good idea.

Yogurt and berriesProbiotics, a.k.a. ‘friendly flora”  are a group of microscopic micro-organisms that have a beneficial effect on the gastro-intestinal tract. They have been employed for thousands of years in the production of fermented foods, such as aged dairy products like yogurt and kefir, but also within kimchi, miso and raw sauerkraut. Having a good population of friendly gut flora is associated with more regular elimination and more comfortable digestion, among other benefits. Unfortunately, antibiotic drugs wipe them out indiscriminately!

A controlled study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (by Velicer CM et al. Feb 2004) which investigated 2266 women with invasive breast cancer found that in those women with a history of antibiotic use between 1993 and 2001 there was an “increased risk observed in all antibiotic classes studied.”  The study concluded that “use of antibiotics is associated with increased risk of incident and fatal breast cancer.”pills

While the study did not postulate reasons for the association, another researcher writes: “Antibiotic therapy may induce cancers in the colon and breasts through a mechanism involving bile acids and colonic bacteria” ( D. Stamp, MD Medical Hypotheses 2004: 63 (3) ) .  Inspired by this hypothesis, here are some facts followed by my  ideas on the relationships between gut flora, antibiotics and breast cancer:

1. Women who take antibiotics do so because they have an infection.  Bacterial infection occurs more easily when the immune system is  under-active, and an under-active immune system allows cancer to grow unchecked.

2. Oral antibiotic use often leads to dysbiosis, the situation of having an  imbalance in intestinal organisms. Since antibiotics only work against bacteria, the yeasts and other non-bacterial micr0-organisms can thrive in their absence of these natural enemies.  This is not to mention the antibiotic resistant ‘bugs’ that remain intact through the treatment!

3.  The wpink ribbonrong gut flora can increase your estrogen load.  The organisms that remain after antibiotic therapy possess the ability to manufacture an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. This is one of those enzymes you can do without! This  enzyme re-assembles estrogen building blocks that were previously dismantled by the liver, allowing the uptake of estrogen back into circulation.  Believe me; you probably didn’t need to recycle those!

4. Resulting higher estrogen load increases free estrogen--that is, active, powerful estrogen–which is a proven risk factor in estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers.

If you’re not a fan of fermented foods, there are lots of quality probiotic supplements available. While this subject is a vast one in itself, here are a couple of tips on buying the good stuff:

1. Make sure they are refrigerated at the location of purchase.  You will notice that the products labeled “no refrigeration required” have much, much lower counts of active cells. Ten billion per serving is decent! Likewise, store them in your fridge when you get them home.

2. Look for a product containing lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidus cultures. These are the  two most studied, benign organisms and are actually found naturally in the human digestive tract.  They like it there! Provided there isn’t too much competition from the undesirables of the gut neighbourhood they will support a healthy intestinal environment.

What’s your favourite way to get probiotics?

What is Estrogen Toxicity Doing to Men?

Inside the 21st-century overweight male there is some interesting chemistry going on.  With the help of the enzyme aromatase, a man’s testosterone is converting into estrogen. The disturbing truth is that the more body fat he has, the more estrogen receptors he has, so the more vulnerable he is to the following side effects:

1.       Impotence

2.       Reduced libidojack needs bra

3.       Reduced fertility

4.       Decreased muscle tone

5.       Increased body fat

6.       enlarged prostate (BPH)

7.       Increased risk of diabetes

8.       Increased risk of heart disease

9.       Increased risk of stroke

10. Increased risk of cancer, especially prostate cancerbra black pink

11.   Mammary gland growth (‘man boobs’)

 reference:  www.meadlabs.com

 The human male physiology is not equipped to handle the xeno-estrogens that pervade our environment, our food and our water—not to mention endogenous estrogens (the ones made by the body). 

Men are excellent candidates for an estrogen detoxification program—which lowers circulating estrogens and allow testosterone to dominate in the manner it should. 

Fortunately, there are nutritional modifications that will help lower an excessive estrogen load. Some of these foods and phyto-chemicals help the liver process estrogens better, while others lower body fat and therefore estrogen load.  A good estrogen detox supports all channels of elimination to rid excessive estrogen from the body on daily, timely basis.   If you are willing to modify your diet, incorporate some organic foods and are willing to do an inventory and makeover of your personal care products, then you will not be disappointed in the results you get from an estrogen detox!

Sobering Facts about Alcohol and Breast Cancer

Do you enjoy your wine, beer, or margaritas? If so, I have a treat for you. But first a sobering fact: the more you indulge, the higher your risk of breast cancer.

In fact, women who consume 3 or more alcoholic beverages per week have a significantly higher risk of developing the disease.

Most people know alcohol is particularly poisonous to liver cells, which filter the blood, deactivating toxins in our blood.   According to research reviewed by Dr. Bob Arnot, alcohol is the most solidly established dietary factor related to breast cancer and also one of the most powerfwine red glassul. Why?

Alcohol consumption elevates estrogen levels.  By and large this is NOT a good thing, since about 75 percent of breast cancers grow in the presence of estrogen.

To understand this more fully, consider the contra-indications for certain drugs.  You may have had the experience of filling a doctor’s prescription for which the pharmacist had warned you NOT to consume grapefruit or grapefruit juice while taking the medication.  This is because certain drugs  inhibit certain detoxification enzymes, preventing it from being cleared from the blood steam in time for the next dose. The drug builds up in the body, akin to taking a double dose, causing dangerous side effects that can be deadly. In a similar way, alcohol decreases the liver’s ability to detoxify estrogen out of circulation. Remember: every cell, hormone and chemical made by the body must be broken down (detoxified) and disposed of when its lifespan reaches its end—including estrogen.  Blocking this naturally occurring detoxification process is harmful in a body with trillions of estrogen receptors!

Men need to be concerned about this too, because they are poorly equipped to handle estrogen.  By up-regulating (increasing activity of) an enzyme called aromatase, alcohol consumption fosters the conversion of male hormones to estrogen. Males who drink regularly and heavily often have evidence of breast growth, and this is the reason.  Even though only 1% of breast cancer occurs in men, it is still a risk, and the men I know do NOT want to wear a bra! I rest my case.

Finally, a reminder of the elephant in the room: alcohol is a poison to the human body. It kills liver cells and brain cells directly, and produces carcinogenic  by-products like acetaldehyde (a relative of formaldehyde–ick!). Messing with it is your decision.


  • Do yourself a favour and keep your alcohol consumption to a bare minimum.
  • I suggest to women with multiple risk factors to avoid it completely.
  • Avoiding consumption when your estrogen levels are highest—during the middle of your menstrual cycle—seems prudent.
  • Now go enjoy a mock-tail! That’s right: an alcohol-free cocktail.  Here’s one to get you started:


Mojito Mock-tail (Serves 2)

1 packet stevia extract to sweeten

1 tbsp fresh mint leaves, washed

juice of 3 limes

2 cups Perrier or other naturally effervescent mineral water

crushed ice/ice cubes

Directions: Using a mortar and pestle or a muddler, combine the stevia with the mint leaves, bruising them to release their flavour.

Put a handful of ice in a cocktail shaker or directly into 2 tall glasses,  topping with the bruised mint. Add half of the lime juice to each glass. Shake or stir vigorously. Top with the carbonated water. Stir with a straw and enjoy!

Can We Silence ‘Cancer Genes’ with Food?

Did you realize that each food we eat can either turn on a gene or keep it switched off?  This is important because our genes are responsible for our physical (and mental) characteristics, our susceptibility to disease and more.  The study of how nutrients influence and modify gene expression is called nutrigenomics. This field of science discovered that even though we all need each of the essential nutrients, some of us need certain ones in larger quantities than do other individuals

The research presented by Jeffrey Bland, PhD first introduced me to the subject of modifying gene expression with nutrients (see his book: Genetic Nutritioneering, McGraw-Hill Publishing 1999). In my nutritional practice, I provide customized nutritional recommendations that involve specialized selection of each form of vitamin and mineral.  For instance, if you have a family history of cancer, I will suggest no ordinary multivitamin as health insurance.  Each of us has unique needs based on health history, family history, stress exposures, diet and lifestyle that will influence nutritional requirements.

For instance, folic acid is essential to each one of us because it regulates cell growth and division.  It is also one of three vitamins associated with a decrease in the heart-attack risk-associated amino acid, homocysteine.  Even though folic acid is present in the common green leafy vegetables we eat, studies have shown that about one third of Americans cannot transform dietary folic acid into its biologically active form, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) due to genetic variations in this ability.  This is intriguing because cancers of the colon and breast are also associated with suboptimal 5-MTHF status. So is the precancerous condition called cervical dysplasia (imagine if, instead of a vaccine, young girls simply took this active form of folic acid as prevention of this risk factor for cervical cancer! They would not be risking what have been reported as sometimes fatal side effects of the vaccine.)

By the way, if you don’t know your 5-MTHF or homocysteine status, you can ask your doctor for these blood tests. Here in Ontario, you will pay out-of-pocket for them (they are not covered by OHIP, yet). However, this is very valuable nutritional testing that will determine if you are among the 30% of the population that needs to take extra folic acid, and in 5-MTHF form.  It could make the difference to your longevity.

I believe in the education of  health professionals and the public about the role of genetic variation and dietary response and the role of nutrients in gene expression. Together, we need to encourage further development of programs for genetics and nutrition in university departments of nutrition and genetics, and in schools of public health and medicine.

Does your B complex or multivitamin supplement contain biologically active folic acid—5-MTHF?