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Relieving Yourself of Excess Estrogen

Women eating vegetarian may have lower breast cancer rates because they have larger bowel movements.

September 23, 2011 |
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Sources Cited

Acknowledgements

Images thanks to Cindi Pierce, Renee Comet at the National Cancer Institute, and Gastrolab.

Transcript

Earlier this year a study was published comparing the hormonal levels of women with and without breast cancer. If estrogen makes most breast cancers grow, then one would expect that the levels of both estrogen would be higher in women who have breast cancer compared to women who don’t, or at least who don't yet.

And indeed,  no surprise, that’s what they found, significantly more estradiol freely circulating through their bloodstream of those with breast cancer. But the study also  looked at diets and hormonal levels. These were all omnivores. The women  eating vegetarian did even better.

 This may help explain why, in a study of the  "relative risks for breast cancer by levels of animal product consumption, there appears to be a trend between lower breast cancer risk the more vegetarian someone eats. And it was researchers at  my medical alma mater Tufts that figured out why, in a landmark article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

See, the way your body gets rid of excess cholesterol is to  dump it into the digestive tract knowing full well that there will be lots of fiber in there to grab it, hold onto it, and flush it out the body. (hopefully you chew a little better than that).

We did, after all, evolve quite a long time before twinkies and wonderbread, and royal institutions such as burger king and dairy queen. So our  body just expects it. It just assumes our intestines are going to be packed with fiber all day long—7 times more than we're getting now. We certainly did evolve eating some meat, but plants don’t tend to run as fast and so the bulk of our diets was made up, of a lot of bulk.

And  that's how our body gets rid of excess estrogen. Vegetarian women have increased fiber input,  which leads to “vegetarian women having an increase fecal output, which leads to increased excretion of estrogen and a decreased blood concentration of estrogen."

And this just wasn’t in theory,  they measured it. “Subjects were provided with plastic bags and insulated boxes filled with dry ice for thee 24 hour fecal collections.” You've hear of popsicles, well they had them makee more like, poopsicles.

And  here you go: In any one 24 hour period, the vegetarians were fecally excreting more than twice as much estrogen as the omnivores. And,  measuring the estrogen excretion versus the size of the fecal output, you can see, the bigger the better. See heavyweight V's versus the welterweight Os? No wonder vegetarian women in the United States have been found to have such lower rates of breast cancer.

It’s great that many women stopped HRT, stopped taking extra estrogens. Well, another way to rid yourself of excess estrogens is in the way nature intended.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Be sure to check out the other videos on estrogen. Also, there are 1,449 subjects covered in my other videos–please feel free to explore them!

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk, How to Enhance Mineral Absorption, Bowel Movements: The Scoop on Poop, Breast Cancer and DietOptimal Phytosterol Dose and SourceBoosting Gut Flora Without Probiotics, Eating Green to Prevent Cancer, Are Bioidentical Hormones Safe?How Tumors Use Meat to Grow98% of American Diets Potassium DeficientBest Treatment for Constipation,Breast Cancer & Alcohol: How Much Is Safe?, and Probiotics and Diarrhea

 

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Please feel free to post any ask-the-doctor type questions here in the comments section and I’d be happy to try to answer them. Be sure to check out the other videos on estrogen. Also, there are 1,449 subjects covered in my other videos–please feel free to explore them!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/eatyourveggies/ Eatyourveggies

    Great website and info! Thanks Dr. Greger.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/capebreton/ CapeBreton

    Great stuff as always!

    Did the data on the nutritional profile of the paleolithic diet come from one of the cited studies? If not, could you provide the reference.

    Thanks :-)

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/yurple/ yurple

    I am confused about how this relates to another one of your videos. This implies high estrogen levels coincide with breast cancer. But another video says it’s good to eat soy – which produces estrogen (or does it?) – to prevent breast cancer. Can you please clear this up?

    • annon2013

      I agree – I viewed that video and had the same question. I ate foods containing soy before my diagnosis on a fairly regular basis. Now,my Oncologist tells me not to take supplements of soy but okay to eat in moderation or in a protein shake. I had a lumpectomy, radiation and no chemo. YAY for getting it out early! I say listen to your body. eat right and exercise. Live with out worry — If anything stress causes cancer not too much or not enough of something in one’s diet.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/JenniferEldred/ Jennifer Eldred

    Soy and all plants have phytoestrogen. Phyto comes from Greek, meaning “plant”. Phytoestrogen doesn’t do anything in the body of anything that is not a plant. The human body DOES detect phytoestrogen and then thinks it has too much and cuts its own estrogen production. That’s why soy and probably most plants can help slow or reverse breast cancer. Dr. Greger can probably clear it more than I can ;)

    • beccadoggie10

      “Research on the relative impacts of phytoestrogens and synthetic hormone disruptors.
      Newbold, RR, EP Banks, B Bullock, and WN Jefferson 2001. Uterine adenocarcinoma in mice treated neonatally with genistein. Cancer
      Research 61: 4325-4328. http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/61/11/4325.abstract

      “Newbold et al. report that when neonatal mice are exposed to genistein—a phytoestrogen present in soy—later in life they develop uterine cancer of the same form caused by diethylstilbestrol (DES). The levels of genistein used in these experiments are comparable to those found in infant formula based on soy.”

      Xenoestrogens is a catch-all term for synthetic contaminants like DES, DDT, etc. which interfere with estrogen signalling…

      See more: Arnold, SF, MK Robinson, A Notides, LJ Guillete, Jr. and JA McLachlan. 1996.
      “A yeast estrogen screen for examining the relative exposures of cells
      to natural and xenoestrogens.” Environmental Health Perspectives
      104(5):544-548
      http://www.ourstolenfuture.org/newscience/phytoestrogens/phyto1.htm

      • Susan RN

        PLease note that as of recent, (after 2006 or so) we know that mice/rats have a totally different metabolism of genestein than humans, so all the studies that looked at mice are really moot. Human studies all indicate that moderate WHOLE soy intake (not powders of pills) actually reduce cancer risks

    • JoAnn

      Hmm, that logic seems a bit unsubstantiated by research. Anecdotally, my PMS symptoms (cramps, breast enlargement) increase during months I consume a serving of soy daily.

      • Jerry Amos

        In theory the soy plant estrogens occupy estrogen receptor sites preventing the stronger human estrogens getting to the sites. I’ve heard Tamoxifen acts similarly.
        Now do note the Orientals from what I can tell eat primarily fermented soy such as tofu, miso, etc. and definitely not edamame. In particular the fermentation process reduces the plant estrogens quite a bit (how much?) from edamame.
        Now we’re vegans eating quite a bit of kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cruciferous vegetables which have a mild estrogen reducing effect. Extracts are available for those who are interested. We tend toward whole foods.

        • Jocelyn

          Sorry, I know I’m a little late on this comment, and maybe I am totally wrong here, but I’ve found random information stating that there are many foods that we commonly eat that contain phytoestrogen – like all nuts and seeds, all beans, and to a lesser degree, all other plant foods. Has anyone else found this?

        • GG

          Please do not refer to people of Asian origin Orientals. Oriental is a rug Asians are people!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/KarenHyde/ Karen Hyde

    That is fascinating. Can you please explain if this has an effect on the perimenopause and menopause when hormone levels fluctuate and eventually stabilize at reduced levels.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/IdanHollander/ Idan Hollander

    First of all this site is awesome, Great job keep it going forever :) , I have a question not about this video i hope you can do another video about grains in general and corn specifically .

    The question is : Is corn good for us? (if so is it very good ,medium ,low ect.)

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/yurple/ yurple

    Thanks, Jennifer. Am I understanding correctly that you are saying that the higher estrogen levels are naturally produced by the body – and coincide with breast cancer – not added from the soy, and that the soy can reduce those levels (b/c of phytoestrogen detection)? So where did all the talk about soy possibly increasing cancer risk come from due to its causing estrogen levels to rise? Dr. G, are you answering these questions? AND — what about estrogen and ovarian cancer and the connection to eating soy or other food? Thanks, All.

    • Susan RN

      The “talk” came from mice studies…we know now that humans don’t metabolize the same way. A recent study of over 9000 women confirmed it.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/yurple/ yurple

    Dr. G, are you responding to these? I so appreciate this website and all the fabulous info on it, and I am sure you are super busy. But it would be great to be able to get some feedback when there is confusion about the videos since we make important decisions based on them! :-)

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/herehere/ HereHere

    I see the good doctor has not had time to respond. I wonder if someone with expertise in this area can respond. I’ve heard that phytoestrogens are not harmful, but why? The last I heard (10+ years ago) we still have difficulty proving other xeno-estrogens are harmful (i.e. from the pulp and paper industry discharges, etc.). I guess I really should go to pubmed and search for phytoestrogen AND cancer.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/marina/ Marina

      Some of the confusion stems from the fact that the vast majority of studies that initially hinted at potentially harmful effects were conducted on rodents, using dosages well beyond what the average person consumes in a life time. Clinical and epidemiological data, on the other hand, have generally failed to show similar risks.

      In fact, some have shown benefits, such as a 2010 study on menopausal women, who were administered soy isoflavones for two years, which concluded that “soy and soy isoflavones may provide a mild benefit to hot flashes, lipids, and bone health for some menopausal women” (Clinical outcomes of a 2-y soy isoflavone supplementation in menopausal women Am J Clin Nutr February 2011 93: 356-367)

      Another 2009 study of over 68 thousand women concluded that soy foods appear to protect against colorectal cancer risk (Prospective cohort study of soy food intake and colorectal cancer risk in women. Am J Clin Nutr February 2009 vol. 89 no. 2 577-583).

      Similarly, a Japanese population study of over 75 thousand men and women found a decreased risk of lung cancer among people who consumed soy products on a regular basis (Isoflavone intake and risk of lung cancer: a prospective cohort study in Japan. Am J Clin Nutr March 2010 vol. 91 no. 3 722-728 ).

      Given the existence of (weak) evidence that postmenopausal therapy with oral estrogen may increases breast cancer risk, it is recommended that women at risk of, or who already have been diagnosed with breast cancer, should avoid soy products just to be on the safe side. For more information on phytoestrogens and their benefits, see: http://nutritionfacts.org/?s=phytoestrogens

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/BenjaminStone/ Benjamin Stone

    Another great video review of research I would otherwise not have seen, thanks for sharing this!

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/AllisonGrose-Reece/ Allison Grose-Reece

    Dr. Greger,
    Is this your voice on the videos?
    Allison

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

      All me! (though sometimes you hear my dog Lilly barking in the background :)

      • angie

        HI DR GREGER,  MY DAUGHTER GOT BREAST CANCER AT 29YRS OLD AND DIED AT 32YRS LAST YEAR.  SHE WAS INITIALLY TOLD MISDIAGNOSED AND TREATED.  SHE WAS TOLD THAT SHE DIDNT HAVE THE BRCA GENE.  SEVERAL YEARS LATER HER NEW PHYSICIAN SAID THAT SHE  HAD TRIPLE NEGATIVE RECEPTOR GENE AND HAD  THE BRCA GENE.  I HAVE BEEN VEGETARIAN FOR EIGHT YEARS AND IM NOW VEGAN  FOR ABOUT 4YRS.  WE STILL HAVE OTHER DAUGHTERS AND A SON TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT GETTING CANCER TOO.  IS THIS CANCER DESTINED TO EFFECT MY OTHER CHILDREN TOO(SOME EAT MEAT AND DAIRY LIKE THEIR SISTER DID)?  THANKS

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/chewy/ chewy

    how does eating 2TAblespoons of ground flaxseed daily effect estrogen levels in women??any risk/danger of consuming it?

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

      phytoestrogens are different from xenoestrogens. phytoestrogens, found in only plants, do NOT raise estrogen levels while xenoestrogens, found in milk, significantly raises estrogen levels.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/just-the-flax-maam/

      • LynnCS

        Great information to know! Thx.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    Please also check out my associated blog post, Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk!

  • daisy

    would the addition of 2 TB of ground flaxseed be worth adding to a strict low fat(vegetables,fruit,beans and brown rice,air popped org popcorn) vegan’s diet?

    • Toxins

       It would be extremely benifical. Flax seeds have a wide variety of benifits and attributes. Check out Dr. Greger’s videos on flax seed consumption. on page 2
      http://nutritionfacts.org/?s=flax

  • Carlos169

    Does animal products also help produce more estrogen as well?

  • Michele Keane

    Hi Dr. Gregor,

    Thank you for all the hard work you do and the great DVD’s.  I just received Nutrition Facts 10 and 11, as well as the top diseases. Awesome Presentations! I was wondering if there was a way for me to borrow some of your power point slides for a project I am presenting for a chef program I’m completing at the Nutritional Therapy Institute. I was under the impression they were more plant based program. They are heavily plant based, but have a deep connection with the Weston and Price Foundation. They are into animal products as long as organic and grass finished. As typical, I’m getting a lot of grief for being plant based (I have been taking little bites of what we create so I’m not able to follow true vegan right now) They seem to be able to manipulate studies showing the benefits of meat and are teaching theories that a meatless diet is harmful. I’m presenting on cancer at the end of the semester. I’m using the articles you cite. If you’re able to send me any of your slides, that would be great. I am focusing on breast and colon cancer. They actually made fun of Pritikin dying of cancer and implied he committed suicide because of his low fat plant based diet. I  will be explaining how long he lived with cancer (27 years) and what really made him commit suicide ( experimental chemo leaving him half dead) I’m hoping they don’t hold my presentation against me in final grading.
     

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/ Michael Greger M.D.

      Please feel free to send me a blank CD-ROM or flash drive and a SASE and I’ll burn any slides you want. Note, though, that you have to have a mac and iWork since they are Keynote files (not powerpoint):

      Michael Greger
      5113 Crossfield Ct. #9
      Rockville, MD 20852

      So glad I can help!

      In health,
      Michael Greger, M.D.

  • http://www.facebook.com/viola.wyderka Viola Wyderka

    Your research and information is why I am still cancer free. You need to have a show on the TV network stations instead of all those meat, dairy, and butter cooking shows.

  • M85

    The Adventist study at 1:00 seems to say that “pure vegetarian women” had 0.34 risk for breast cancer compared to omnivores: does that mean they had 66% less risk for breast cancer? That’s a pretty amazing statistic if i’m reading it correctly!

    • yourfavoritephysicianassistant

      Hi M85 :)
      Yes you are reading it correctly. What I love about Dr. Greger’s work is that he always cites his original sources, if you are interested in checking those out. Here’s an another one of his amazing pieces on diet and cancer: http://nutritionfacts.org/video/slowing-the-growth-of-cancer-3/ Cheers!

      • M85

        Thank you. Then that’s just amazing!!
        Why aren’t women being told this? I bet women that have been vegan for a long time probably have an even lower rate, i remember Dr. Fuhrman saying that adventists that had been vegetarian the longest actually had an even longer average life expectancy (+13 years) compared to the other vegetarians.

        • Jen Drost, Physician Assi

          M85,Now that is the $64,000 question! Dr. Greger talks about this in his video http://nutritionfacts.org/video/the-tomato-effect/ A longer answer is in the book “The China Study” by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and his son Thomas M. Campbell, MD. Help us spread the word…Pass on Dr. Greger’s video to a woman you care about :)

  • Ellie D

    lol these poopsicles are known as Minnesota Popsicles

  • the vegan style revivalist

    Hello Dr. Gregor, a friend of mine has been diagnosed with premature menopause at 43 yrs old and has very low (33 which apparently should be 600?) levels of oestrogen. I would like to direct her towards a plant-based eating plan. Do you have research that might help her in understanding the need and benefits to adopting this healthful lifestyle?

  • Egle

    Hi,

    I cured my dyshidrosis, which according to doctors, is an incurable condition, by supplementing with Estroblock. It is a natural supplement helping your body get rid of excess estrogen.

    By the way, I am vegan for the past two years. I got this condition whilst being vegetarian.