Reviewed by Dr Nurul Aishah Jamaludin and Tjai Kang Jie
High Oestrogen Foods: Good or Bad?
Published | 5 min read
High oestrogen could be a good thing or a bad thing. Read on to learn how much oestrogen you need, and how to balance its levels through food.
We know oestrogen is critical to the workings of the human endocrine system.
Here’s what the view on high oestrogen is and how hormonal balance and health can be achieved through high-oestrogen foods.
What Is Oestrogen and Who Needs It?
Oestrogen is a key sex hormone commonly associated with females but it’s also needed by men. For example, it is important for bone development and health, both in males and females.
The nuance lies in the differences that arise between different biological needs. In humans that have uteruses (females), oestrogen is heavily involved in the reproductive cycle. Levels begin to rise in puberty with the onset of the menstrual cycle. The hormone is critical to the development of reproductive characteristics such as breasts and the ability to conceive.
What Level of the Hormone Is “Normal”?
Oestrogen levels naturally change throughout our lifetime to suit the different phases of life. In a fertile female, levels fluctuate monthly in specific ways to ensure a properly functioning menstrual cycle.
When this hormone’s levels are too high, this leads to a condition called unopposed oestrogen or oestrogen dominance. This hormonal imbalance is associated with an increased risk or worsening of certain health conditions such as:
- Breast, ovarian, or uterine cancers
- Insulin resistance
Similarly, low oestrogen levels can also lead to health risks and uncomfortable symptoms. In males and females, oestrogen levels decrease with age. Certain health conditions can also contribute to abnormally low oestrogen. In either case, symptoms of low oestrogen include:
- Dry pale skin
- Vaginal dryness
- Loss of libido
- Weak or brittle bones
- Irregular or absence of periods
Low oestrogen in menopausal females has been associated with increased cholesterol levels. In both females and males, it decreases bone strength and density, putting them in danger of developing osteoporosis.
Improving Hormonal Balance with High Oestrogen Foods
Some experts are concerned that foods high in oestrogen can worsen the condition in individuals with oestrogen dominance.
However, research has shown that phytoestrogens, oestrogenic compounds found in plants, are rather complex. Sometimes, they do mimic and therefore support the critical functions of oestrogen. In other cases, they inhibit the action of oestrogen. In the main, phytoestrogens can support good health.
Plant-based foods high in phytoestrogens and oestrogen-supporting compounds include:
Soy and other legumes are among the best sources of phytoestrogens and have been linked to positive health outcomes. A meta-analytical study published in 2014 found that the isoflavones in soy reduce the risk of breast cancer in women. Interestingly, this holds true for Asian populations where soy is a staple food, versus in Western populations.
Vegetables and fruits
Nuts and seeds
In the nuts and seeds category, flaxseeds are higher in phytoestrogens than even soy. TCM Physician Tjai Kang Jie says that other great sources include cashews, pistachios, chestnuts, walnuts, and hazelnuts.
TCM’s Perspective on High Oestrogen
Medical practitioners have used Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) modalities with positive outcomes for hormonal imbalance. TCM’s focus is on imbalances within the organ systems.
Physician Tjai suggests taking herbs such as
TCM physician Jill Blakeway at the Pacific College of Health and Science echoes this. She cites the importance of Liver and Spleen qi (vital life force), Kidney yang (warming energy), and nourishment of yin (cooling energy). Imbalances in these areas lead to poor metabolism of oestrogen and other hormones. She recommends Stagnation-relieving acupuncture and
In a meta-analysis published in 2019, 19 random clinical trials across 2,469 participants demonstrated that TCM herbs were effective in treating hot flushes in menopausal females. The study indicated that TCM herbs such as Rehmannia root, white peony root (bai shao, 白芍), and
TCM also supports a balanced diet that includes phytoestrogens.
“TCM views estrogen-rich foods as yin-nourishing in nature. Women in perimenopausal states or experiencing menopause can consume slightly higher amounts of such food.”
TCM Physician Tjai Kang Jie
So, are high oestrogen foods good or bad for you? Well, it depends. We need the hormone. But more importantly, it is the balance that is critical to good health, throughout all phases of life. The task of healthcare and medicine is to support our body in doing what it already knows how to do. This includes optimising the functioning of our complex hormonal system, in which oestrogen is a key player.
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