Why I Don’t Believe Phytoestrogens Are a Good Idea for Endometriosis

Why I Don’t Believe Phytoestrogens Are a Good Idea for Endometriosis

I know, the first recommendation most naturopaths suggest for endometriosis is to take a plant based phytoestrogen. These include black cohosh, sage leaves and red clover. Their reason for recommending these plants is that it will drive out the negative estrogens from our receptor cells and replace them with weaker estrogens. The negative estrogens are commonly called xenoestrogens and create a more powerful estrogenic effect on the body. These are essentially toxins found in our environment which mimic our estrogens and then occupy our receptor cells. Think of parabens and drinking out of plastic water bottles and you have some idea of what a xenoestrogen is.

In terms of endometriosis, we generally have an excess estrogen problem, so driving out the xenoestrogens would certainly be a good idea.

Here is my viewpoint on this:

I have heard of women with endometriosis using these methods and having some success with them. They are certainly beneficial to the body as many of them contain many other stimulating benefits, including increased circulation and supplying the body with much needed minerals and vitamins. I personally believe the problem isn’t that the herbs don’t do what they are asked to do. I personally believe the problem is what we do with the excess xenoestrogens that are now floating around in our blood stream.

See, the reason we have a hormone problem in the first place is because the excess hormones are simply not getting out. They are staying in our system. This can be for three reasons.

1. We have excess weight in our bodies and the excess xenoestrogens can “set up camp” in those locations instead of leaving.

2. We don’t have a good exit strategy. Most of us have a digestive problem, rather than just a hormone problem. We don’t excrete well enough or often enough. We are not absorbing the right nutrients, we tend to have bacterial overgrowths, and all of this creates a leaky gut problem. Leaky gut basically means that all the stuff we are trying to excrete is landing back in our blood stream, including all those xenoestrogens we just tried to flush out of our bodies.

3. Our livers are backed up. The liver is responsible for tagging and releasing those xenoestrogens. When it is deprived of certain vitamins—B12 and vitamin K are huge— then it just can’t get to do all the jobs on its plate. It is overloaded. Us endo girls generally have a stagnant liver. This could be from years of taking synthetic stuff or it could just be hereditary, or both. (in my case!)

What is interesting is that the poor digestive health is often related to fungal and bacterial overgrowths which feed off the very nutrients we need to expel the excess estrogens properly. This is why there is such a strong link between infertility and poor digestive health.

Personally, I would only recommend eating phytoestrogens as part of our diet, which we land up doing anyway. There are certain foods that I personally avoid as their phytoestrogenic level is higher than typical foods, such as flaxseeds and hops (found in beer). I personally also avoid oils which contain tea tree and sage as aromatherapy treatment oils are incredibly powerful.

Just a side note: soy is different to a phytoestrogen; it is called an isoflavone and is a whole other blog post. I avoid soy milk and tofu but happily eat fermented soy products as the isoflavone element disappears with fermentation. Please read this article by Dr. Mercola, explaining this important difference. This would include tempeh, natto and miso Soup. Soy also affects the thyroid gland.

I would be hesitant to take a specific supplement or high content food containing phytoestrogens on a long-term basis. It can certainly offer some temporary relief and is great if you have just come off the pill or need to get your hormone balance back. I do also feel that there are better ways of achieving this same goal. We can find more effective ways of flushing out the excess xenoestrogens by detoxing the body. Doing bowel cleanses, liver cleansing and really boosting our liver is a much more effective way of keeping our hormones in balance.

To me, taking a phytoestrogen is not getting to the root of the problem with endometriosis. We are merely looking at the aftermath of having excess estrogen. The danger here is that hormones are incredibly delicate and even if we manage to get the estrogen and progesterone levels back in balance, it will only be a short-term fix. That imbalance occurred for a reason and that reason has not been fixed by taking plant-based hormones.

Here is a very interesting article on breast health and cancers relating to phytoestrogens.

Here is a great video by David Wolfe on hormone balance:

I would really love to hear your thoughts on this, on whether or not you agree. I have read so much conflicting information on the subject and somehow to me, it was just easier to cut out the flax and hops and a few oils and avoid taking specific supplements. I always questioned the rancidity of flax anyway; chia gives me the same benefits without the potential risk.

So, share your thoughts below and feel free to link to other websites to give this topic a great all-round platform.

Big hugs,

PS: If you want to figure out how to manage endometriosis naturally, sign up to my free REACH Kickstarter program. Simply click here to sign up. 

Share your thoughts...

  1. Hi~ I can not agree with you more!! I don’t believe phytoestrogens are a good idea for Endometriosis either! But there is a little information about “fermented soy products” which may help you. Please refer to the following URL: http://thenaturalfarmer.com/article/why-replace-soy-and-how-phytoestrogens-may-be-plot-plants

    According to the right side table, it shows “Soy yogurt” of phytoestrogens is still pretty high. Generally I avoid the top 8 food in this table (yep! all of soy and flaxseed product).

    I take high-dose Vitamin C (about 25g), Magnesium(7-800mg), D3 (5000IU), Zinc (30mg), B-complex, Curcumin (500mg), and K2 (150mcg), Yarrow tea everday. And those supplements really help me. You can try it!

    Ps. More information about “high-dose Vitamin C”, please google it (you can take it as a therapy). I take high-dose Vitamin C everyday and it make me have no colds or other illness for more than one year! The brand of K2 which I bought is from Dr. Mercola and it is the only one I can find made from chickpeas not soys.

    • I forgot to mention: Vitamin C, Magnesium, D3, Zinc, B-complex (especially B6), Curcumin, and Yarrow tea help to metabolize estrogen more effectively. That is why they help me a lot!

  2. Thanks for the great article. I totally agree with you about the gut and liver.
    I had no idea what a powerful phytoestrogen flax was! Good to know.
    I specialize in correcting uterine position especially retroverted uteri when working with women with endometriosis. I will be passing along your website posts to them.

  3. Melissa, how do you feel about taking chinese herbs? I take chinese herbs and feel that they’ve helped me (along with acupuncture), but I feel like I don’t have much control over what is added into the mix. I try to get my TCM practitioner to not use estrogenic herbs, but I don’t have a good feeling as to whether she’s following or even knows how to follow my request.

    • If you trust your practitioner and what she is doing, then I wouldn’t worry too much about it. As long as it is working, stick with it. I have heaps more faith in TCM practitioners generally as they approach the body quite differently. There are still many naturopaths that simply advise supplements and nothing else. TCM is a holistic approach and she will consider all elements within your body. Trust in your instincts and decide from there.

  4. Hi georgiana, thanks for that comment nice to read a really well written and considered viewpoint like that x

    Melissa I just wanted to ask what you mean by ‘the rancidity of flax’ and what the potential risks might be? I often add flax seeds into my cooking, not the oil but the raw seeds, for the extra omega 3 and 6 oils, but I’ve never heard anything about their rancidity! I’d appreciate some more info / links if you have them.


  5. Hi Melissa,

    There is a lot of discussion going on about soy and its potential beneficial or adverse effects as anyone with endometriosis surely knows. Personally, I am trying to eat as diverse as possible (within the plant kingdom) and I’m avoiding any processed forms of soy.

    I do look at Mercola with a great deal of skepticism though as there is a lot of controversy surrounding him on the net.

    From Wikipedia “Mercola has been the subject of criticism from the business, medical and scientific communities. A 2006 BusinessWeek editorial criticized Mercola’s marketing practices as “relying on slick promotion, clever use of information, and scare tactics.”[3]

    In 2005, 2006, and 2011 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned Mercola and his company to stop making illegal claims regarding his products’ ability to detect, prevent and treat disease.[4] The medical watchdog site Quackwatch has criticized Mercola for making “unsubstantiated claims and clash with those of leading medical and public health organizations [and making] many unsubstantiated recommendations for dietary supplements.”[4]”

    Mercola’s distrust-heavy spin seems to have hit a particular nerve. “That’s the fundamental sales hook – that you can’t trust the government, and because I don’t trust the government, you can trust me. And a lot of people don’t trust the government for a lot of reasons.”

    I would like to read some actual peer-reviewed studies he has written (not articles by WAPF or that cite WAPF as their source). Here’s the thing: the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) have been on a campaign for meat and raw milk for a couple decades now. They have lots of quasi-scientific evidence, lots of reasonable-sounding arguments, but if you look for solid proof, you won’t find any. They are not scientists, and have conducted no actual peer-reviewed studies of their own.

    Basically the WAPF is a fringe group that advocates some weird health claims about meat, raw milk, butter … but who came along just at the time when the meat and dairy industry was worried about soy being promoted as a healthy alternative. WAPF claims they don’t take money from agribusiness or the food processing industry, which is both true and admirable … but they do receive funding from sponsors and members — a large percentage of whom are dairy and meat farmers.

    Don’t take my word for it though, weigh the evidence. Ask for the results of actual peer-reviewed studies and don’t rely on scientific-sounding arguments by Mercola.

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