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!

Why Do I Crave Salt?

Chips with greensAndrea Answers: Why Do I Crave Salty Foods?

The simple reason is that sodium is an essential mineral in the human diet.  Without it, our blood pressure would drop, and our hearts would cease to beat.


The more complex and more interesting reason for salt cravings is STRESS.

Salt cravings are common in individuals who ‘burn the candle at both ends’. While these folks are overworked or overstimulated by their daily activities, their adrenal glands are also working overtime to produce the hormones that help them deal with stress.   You may recognize the signs of adrenal fatigue when no amount of sleep seems to rejuvenate your energy levels.  Tired adrenal glands cannot secrete cortisol and adrenaline, nor can they maintain aldosterone.

What is Aldosterone?

Aldosterone is a hormone produced by the male AND female adrenal glands.  It is not a sex hormone; rather, it regulates blood volume by a device reading blood pressurecontrolling how much fluid the blood cells are carried along in.  Adequate aldosterone production maintains a healthy blood pressure, whereas inadequate production causes blood pressure to drop. When the latter occurs, the body attempts to find another way to increase blood volume to ensure nutrients and oxygen get transported to the tissues.

So what does it do in the absence of adequate aldosterone to make this happen?  It asks for salt. Sodium!  While sodium won’t do anything to increase production of aldosterone, it will bring blood pressure quickly back to normal.

Think about the salty foods you crave. Are they salty and crunchy, like potato chips? Or are they salty, fatty and gooey, like melted cheese?meat pizza  According to Doreen Virtue, author of Constant Craving, the above differences may be explained by what emotions lead up to the craving. It’s something to think about. (Watch for my review of Doreen’s book, coming soon.)

If you suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) and you regularly crave salt, you probably shouldn’t increase your salt intake. Instead, ask yourself if you’re getting enough fluid.  The body is always seeking balance, and dehydration will only aggravate hypertension in an individual who already eats a lot of processed (salty) foods.

Whether your blood pressure is too low or too high, it’s a good idea to check your blood pressure regularly and consistently to monitor how your sodium intake affects it.

What salty foods do you crave?



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?

Are Heavy Metals Weighing you Down?

Heavy metals—such as mercury, arsenic, cadmium and lead—are making the population fat from the hormonal imbalances they cause.  Don’t believe it?  Expensive blood tests reveal that the average Canadian has over 700 industrial chemicals in her bloodstream, and that isn’t even measuring the deposits stored in flesh.

How do we acquire heavy metals?industrial pollution

Heavy metals are pervasive toxins that are hard to avoid coming into contact with.

1. We inhale them. Motor vehicle exhaust is a considerable source of pollutants, as are construction sites. Whatever molecules we breathe in end up in the bloodstream within seconds!

2. We ingestapple toxic them. Water and food are considerable sources and are not routinely tested for these contaminants. Arsenic has been found in frozen meals, rice and more. Mercury is in our seafood, and lead is in a myriad of processed food ingredients  that we import.  Arsenic is a component of several pesticides.  The soils foods are grown in are sometimes contaminated by industrial sites within the area, or when food is grown in an area geographically close to a chemical factory.

Heavy Metals Act Like Estrogens

Metallo-estrogens  are metals that are capable of acting like estrogens in the human body.  As if they weren’t toxic enough, these anti-nutrients are tricking the body into behaving in ways that estrogen would.  How do they do it?

1. Heavwoman fat absy metals increase fat storage. By acting like estrogen, they increase the number of estrogen receptors.  These are like keyholes on the cell membranes into which estrogen fits, The more fat we have, the more estrogen receptors we have. The more estrogen receptors we have, the higher potential for estrogen excess or toxicity. Heavy metals tend to be fat-soluble, meaning they get stored in fat.  What’s your capacity to store these toxins? A body composition assessment will reveal your total body fat and thus, how much ‘room’ you have for chemical storage.

2. Heavy metals disrupt healthy cellular processes. When essential minerals like zinc, calcium or magnesium is deficient in the body, heavy metals appear to take their places.  For example, zinc is required for proper conversion of inactive thyroid hormone into active thyroid hormone, but in its absence, it appears that mercury can take its place in the thyroid hormone receptors. Even though it physically seems to fit, the mercury cannot do the job of zinc (indeed, no mineral can do the job of another).  Instead it poisons the cells, preventing them from producing energy.  This gets in the way of healthy metabolism, as the thyroid control the speed at which we convert food into energy and body maintenance materials.

How to Get the Lead (and other Heavy Metals) Out

“Traditional” heavy metal removal protocols involve the use of chelating agents, such as EDTA.  The patient takes an oral or intravenous dose of EDTA at regular intervals over many weeks or months. But the problem with EDTA is it does not bind exclusively to the ‘bad stuff’; it can bind to nutritionally important minerals and result in mineral deficiencies.  The chelator DMSA is certainly a better option than EDTA as it selectively binds only to heavy metals. However, DMSA is classified as a drug, therefore requiring a doctor’s prescription—and a doctor willing to prescribe it. Unfortunately finding one who is knowledgeable enough on this subject is challenging!fork foods

The good news is that heavy metals can be mobilized from the fat stores by adopting a healthier diet and a more active lifestyle (increased body temperature will help them come out of the skin).  However, if they are displaced too rapidly and without buffering, they can make you feel quite ill and simply deposit in other tissues.  A holistic nutritionist trained in proper detoxification support during a  heavy metal cleanse can help. It just might be the missing piece in your weight loss struggle!

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!

Are there Xeno-estrogens in Your Water Bottle?

bike b and wThis morning I rode my bike over 25 kilometers  in a bike-a-thon. What a great way to start the day! Observing the fall foliage in open air instead of through a car window really hit the spot.   But despite the cooler weather I found myself re-hydrating at regular intervals with a mixture of water and powdered electrolytes.  Looking around at other riders I wondered, am I the only one here drinking from stainless steel? Sure, it’s not as convenient as those squeezable plastic bottles popular with outdoor enthusiasts. But for health reasons, I threw my plastics in the recycle bin back when the dangers of BPA (bisphenol-A)  hit the mainstream media and have never looked back.  Why?

Xeno-estrogens. What is a xeno-estrogen? “xeno” literally means foreign. So xeno-estrogens means foreign estrogens. These are a diverse group of some 100,000 synthetic chemicals that act like estrogen in the human body. The body does not know the difference between your estrogen and a xeno-estrogen, and the breakdown products produced by the liver from xeno-estrogens have been shown to remain highly estrogenic.  This means they can ‘plug in’ to any cell lined with estrogen receptors and ‘talk’ to the nucleus of that cell, giving it instructions on when and how to divide. This can make a significant difference in breast cancer risk.

Just because a plastic container is “BPA-Free” does not make it safe. In fact some of the substitutes companies are now using instead of BPA are just as bad. Take BPS. This plastic component has the same properties as BPA but somehow has escapes scrutiny by health- and environmentally- conscious activists.

Here are some plastics that have estrogenic properties:warer bottle

  • PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
  • polystyrene (styrofoam)
  • Lexan
  • most plastic water cooler bottles labeled #7
  • plastic bottles labeled #3

For more info on xeno-estrogens in plastics, click here.

What about phyto-estrogens? These plant-based estrogen-mimickers (such as those found  in legumes) are dismantled more easily by the liver’s detoxification processes so they are confer very weak activity—hundreds of times weaker than xeno-estrogens do.  There are now foam cups made from corn and soybean instead of chemicals which is a step in the right direction (though I prefer to recommend re-usable bottles for conservations reasons).

If you haven’t yet replaced your plastic water bottle with something inert, consider these healthful options:

1. Stainless steel. My favourite water bottle is a Purica brand 18/8 steel vaccuum cannister. It’s insulated, keeping your drink cool and has a 2-stage  twist-off lid for ease of filling and drinking.

2. Glass. Life Factory offers pretty, portable glass drinking vessels with a silicone sleeve for better grip. Of course, this also has the bonus of making it resist breakage.

As long as your bicycle has a cage that fits your bottle snugly, you won’t have to worry about it bouncing out!

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?