Broccoli: Hormones & The Gut - what’s the connection

1 CommentThursday, 10 January 2019

Hormones regulate the activity of cells and tissues in various organs of the body. The balance of hormones produced by your body is essential to good health and a feeling of well-being.

In women, the sex hormones oestrogen, progesterone & testosterone, together with other hormones like cortisol, thyroid hormone and DHEA, exert powerful effects to create hormone balance. When you are out of balance, it can contribute to migraines, insomnia, weight gain, hot flashes, mood swings, and low libido, to name a few. Over time, hormone imbalances can lead to rapid ageing and increases the risk for disease.

When hormones are balanced, on the other hand, you can regain your sexual vitality, sleep better, have more energy and just feel “well”.

Many symptoms seem to occur due to an overproduction of oestrogen or testosterone and cause this imbalance between oestrogen and progesterone. And, often because old or used hormones are not being detoxified or eliminated from the body properly.

First, let me just explain how oestrogen is made. Before pre-menopause oestrogen, estrone (E1) and estradiol (E2-) is made mainly predominantly by the ovaries, and some in the adrenals and adipose (fat) tissue. Post-menopause the body still makes small amounts of oestrogen by changing hormones called androgens into oestrogen in the adrenals and adipose tissue.

Once the life of an oestrogen molecule is over, the body now needs to get rid of it and it travels to your liver where it is metabolized (transformed or changed into a different molecule) and detoxified (made water soluble to be eliminated). The first step in the metabolism of oestrogen is called hydroxylation (for the biochemists in the audience, oxygen is inserted) where it is transformed into one of three break-down molecules to become 2-hydroxy oestrogen 4-hydroxy oestrogen or 16-hydroxy oestrogen.

This hydroxylation is called phase 1 detoxification (which occurs mainly in the liver, but also the gut and kidneys). Much like approaching a T–junction, the oestrogen molecule at this phase one T-junction can travel straight ahead onto the 2-hydroxy route or right towards 4-hydroxy or left heading towards route no 16-hydroxy.  

This is important because both the numbers 4 and 16 have more negative impacts on our body and overall health that the 2-hydroxy.

2-hydroxy is considered the healthy pathway, appears to have minimal oestrogen qualities and is the much safer break-down molecule for your body.

4-hydroxy is known as the quinone pathway, and if continual and dominant it produces quinones which increase the risk of mutations and DNA damage

The 16 pathway is proliferative, making breasts bigger, the lining of the uterus thicker and therefore producing cramps and heavier periods.

So, what’s all this got to do with broccoli woman I hear you yelling at the screen - well… The cruciferous or brassica family of veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, collards, kale, mustard seeds, turnips are a rich dietary source of a compound DIM which promotes metabolism at the T junction towards the 2-hydroxy oestrogen. Broccoli also contains a chemical called sulforaphane, which upregulates an enzyme called quinone reductase that blocks the production of those nasty quinones on the 4-hydroxy T junction turning. Yes, indeed! these cruciferous vegetables enable your body to properly break oestrogen down into a more friendly form and can go some way to helping to restore your hormone balance!

Right, back to detoxification: Phase 2 detoxification is termed conjugation, during which toxins (like used hormones) are packaged into water-soluble compounds and highly dependant on an enzyme called COMT, turning the “hydroxy oestrogen” into a methyloxy “which makes the metabolite water soluble so it can be excreted out in the bile, faeces or urine - clever hey!

Nutritionally speaking there are a couple of points to make here:

1)    The enzyme and gene COMT is highly dependent on optimal levels of magnesium, vitamin C zinc and methylated B12 and folate - so functional deficiencies in these and or impaired methylation processes indirectly can contribute to hormonal symptoms.

2)    The state of your gut microbiome: high levels of an enzyme called beta-glucuronide which is produced by an overgrowth of certain species in the gut, mainly Bacteroides, and Clostridium perfringens, can significantly hinder the process of phase 2 detox. This enzyme separates toxins from their conjugate bond and allows them to be reabsorbed. This allows toxins and hormones like oestrogen and DHEA to be reabsorbed into the body where they make you feel tired, anxious, develop acne or lose hair – it’s all connected!

So, ensure you include plenty of cruciferous vegetables in your diet and slightly cook, steam or stir-fry them for greater benefit.

When I work with clients in my 1:1 consultation treatment packages I often run either a G.I Map test or GI Effects stool test to assess beta-glucuronidase and the microbiome together with SIBO breath testing.

For hormone metabolites to see levels of total hormones and which metabolites they are favouring (2, 4 or 16) and adrenal status I use the wonderful DUTCH profile.

These functional panels can really help me to personalise a treatment plan.

I am also offering the DUTCH test^ to all attendees of my next functional health day retreat in February, to run post the retreat day and will include a personal report written by me on your results.

 

^at separate cost