When the amount of estrogen in the body outweighs levels of its hormonal counterpart, progesterone, both sexes are at greater risk for obesity. An overabundance of the female sex hormone, in both men and women, can result from exposure to xenostrogens, compounds that dress themselves up like estrogen once they enter the body. These estrogen imposters are found in foods grown with pesticides or herbicides, meat and dairy products produced using growth hormones, plastics that contain phalates, and skincare products containing parabens. Excessive alcohol consumption, a high-fat diet, and constipation can also cause estrogen to stockpile in the body. Still, the number one trigger for estrogen imbalance is obesity.
The heavier you are, the more estrogen your fat cells produce, says Natasha Turner, a naturopathic doctor. “It’s like throwing gas on a brush fire,” she says. What’s worse: Estrogen imbalance can put you at risk of hormone-dependent cancers, like breast cancer and uterine cancer, says Isaacs.
Clues that your estrogen and progesterone levels are off balance come from your body fat positioning. Premenopausal women will carry more weight around their hips and thighs, experience PMS, and have difficulty losing weight. Men and postmenopausal women will notice an increase in belly fat, and for men the weight gain is in the breast area.
To combat excess estrogen, increase your daily fiber intake to 30 to 40 g, because fiber binds to estrogen and helps carry it out of the body. Add ground flaxseed or chia seeds to salads or meals, or mix a high-fiber supplement (one that contains 8 to 9 g) into a protein shake. Reduce intake of estrogen in your diet by cutting back on soy products and opting for organic meat, dairy, and produce to reduce your consumption of pesticides, herbicides, and hormone by-products.