The Cruciferous Connection: Brussels sprouts and the Good Estrogens

You might ask what Brussels sprouts and “good” estrogens are doing in the same sentence, and I am going to endeavor to explain it here in 250 words or less….well, let’s give it at least 500 …this is too important! In my last blog I posted a plea for help in making the humble Brussels sprout taste good, why? Because eating more cruciferous vegetables, which by the way, also include cabbage, broccoli, kale and cauliflower, (plants that have been cultivated for centuries and were originally used as medicines) are super foods that can help me (and YOU)  turn our  bodies into temples of hormonal health and balance!

Brussels sprouts vs. Bad estrogens - a recipe for natural hormone balance

But how, you might ask, is it that the humble Brussels sprout has suddenly taken on this lofty purpose? Well, it’s called the “cruciferous connection,” and it boils down to biochemistry: the active ingredient in crucifers (a plant compound called DIM) when added to one’s daily diet, can right the balance between good and bad estrogens, in favor of the GOOD. Studies show that DIM acts by promoting more efficient estrogen metabolism in the body, multiplying the chance for it to be broken down into its healthy or “good” metabolites ( a.k.a. the “2-hydroxy estrogens” for you biochem buffs) vs. the “bad” metabolites responsible for estrogen’s many undesirable actions like unwanted weight gain, mood swings/depression, and higher risks for breast and uterine cancers.

The GOOD pathway to healthy estrogen metabolism

Most of the benefits attributed to estrogen – protecting our breasts, skin, bones, blood vessels, heart and brain against rapid aging and disease, are known to come from these good estrogens. So back to the brussels sprout – it is that active ingredient in crucifers that ferries our estrogens down the “good pathway” AND at the same time clears excess estrogens due to hormone imbalances like estrogen dominance, or “xeno-estrogens” in the environment. “Xeno” means from the outside, or foreign, and they are about as unnatural and toxic to the body as pouring sugar down the carburetor of your car would be…. they wreak havoc on normal hormonal operating systems by pretending to be an estrogen, mimicking its action but in a negative way. Where do they come from? The pesticides we spray on our rosebuds, the hormone-injected beef, chicken and dairy we eat, (did you know that some milk products can have 11 different kinds of synthetic estrogens?), the face creams, makeup and hair dyes we absorb into our pores, the harsh household chemicals we wash, spray, wipe and flush away into the water supply, the plastic containers we microwave in, soft plastic water bottles we drink from, and synthetic hormones and other drugs we swallow. They are called HRT, RBST, PCBs, PVCs, laureth sulfates, benzene, xanthine and all those other names that get harder to pronounce as you read down the label.

Toxic Xenoestrogens  are like the unwelcome house guest who doesn’t know when to leave. How do we get rid of them? We switch to hormone-free protein sources, from synthetic hormones to bioidenticals, go “green” with household, gardening and personal care products; microwave in glass or ceramic, drink from stainless steel or BPA-free water bottles, exercise in the open air whenever possible. (see Kyle’s most recent blog) AND to take us full circle back to where I began, eat plenty of cruciferous vegetables! (btw: You can also supplement with their extract, DIM, the active ingredient available in health food stores, compounding pharmacies or MRC weight loss centers.)

You’ll be off to a great start right here with all the mouthwatering recipes for B.sprouts provided by YO’ followers: Brussels sprouts with sea salt, with onions and garlic, with apple and bacon, and even curry and horseradish tossed… (that last one courtesy of Pamela Bateman, visit her stellar website on hormone balance and breast cancer prevention:

"You've Always Had the Power!" Glinda, the good witch (

Next stop on the cruciferous connection: Cauliflower crust pizza… really! Can’t wait to taste it, and any other creative cauliflower recipes out there that you can share, knowing their higher purpose  ….the power to turn bad estrogens into good …and imbalance to balance.

First Essential Truth: Hormones in harmony and living in balance is an attainable goal.


Filed under Bioidentical Hormones, Candace Burch

14 responses to “The Cruciferous Connection: Brussels sprouts and the Good Estrogens

    • candacebwell

      Thanks for following and leaving a comment…if you find this information useful for making a great recipe, or a great difference in the way you look, think or feel, please share whatever you’ve discovered …we’re here to share what we know, what we don’t know, ask great questions, get great and helpful answers and pass it on to make a difference in womens health…


    BRAVO, the cruciferous supplement, DIM! I am convinced that daily dose of two DIM capsules daily allow me to eat the way I do, look the way I want but most important FEEL the way I want to feel. My concern I hope you may address Candace is, can a person take too much when already supplementing with BHRT (compounded biest)? And adding daily ground flax seed, the weight stays off and the mood couldn’t be better yet I don’t want to be overdoing the hormone input.

    • Hi Mary,
      It is common for patients to use DIM to either lower estrogen levels or shift the balance of estrogens, as Candace said. Patients on hormone replacement, even with estrogens, can use DIM, though I recommend checking with your physician prior to doing so since it will shift the hormone balance. I more commonly recommend DIM for women who are “estrogen dominant” or men who are converting testosterone to estrogens. I also encourage patients to also consider doing some liver support, like milk thistle or N-acetylcysteine (NAC), to help clear estrogen metabolites and improve estrogen processing.

      Take care,
      Natalie Gustafson

      • candacebwell

        Natalie, Thank you for sharing your expertise on this topic…. as a respected compounding pharmacist in our community, you have been a key player in that all-important triad of Patient, Physician, Pharmacist that has helped to reshape the dialogue around women’s health from ‘one-size fits all’ synthetic hormone replacement to individualized bioidentical hormone therapies that are safer, better solutions for symptom relief and restoring hormone balance. There is no question that we are stronger, healthier, and more balanced women because of the work you do!

    • candacebwell

      Great question Mary, because DIM is such an effective enhancer of estrogen metabolism in the body, it can as Natalie, (R.Ph. and owner of Pacific Compounds in the Portland area), has said can lower estrogen levels or shift the balance. I second her in mentioning the importance of working with your prescribing physician, and I might add to test and monitor your hormone levels with supplementation. For that matter anyone on hormone therapy of any kind should be monitoring their levels to ensure the type, amount and delivery (oral, topical, sublingual) of the hormones we are supplementing with are at healthy levels and working for us, not agin’ us!

  2. Julie Schumacher/Lingren

    good morning to you Candace and Mary… this has been very enlightening info.. Love love love my sprouts and didn’t even know the benefits.. awesome to know this…. I will check out DIM.. but first I will of course to a hormone test.. I’m sure i will be a bit high in Cortisol…love to you and thank you for your support in my hormone balance… love juls

  3. candacebwell

    You have got it right Julie, if you LOVE your Brussells sprouts, feel free to eat more of them – in fact, why not try one of the recipes and tell us what you thought!), and check out DIM, but first, YES, get your hormones tested and go from there. As Natalie (our consumate compounding pharmacist friend) mentions, DIM makes a lot of sense in particular for those women who test positive for estrogen dominance…if you suspect that your Cortisol may be high, it is not unlikely that your progesterone is low…the adrenals need progesterone as raw source material (precursor) to make cortisol, so if stress demands on your body are high, progesterone is likely to be depleted….flip side of progesterone deficiency is estrogen dominance….if you feel like sharing the results of your next hormone test, please do…we all learn from each other’s personal journey from imbalance to balance…not always a breeze…but we at least need to know which direction to be heading in if we’re aiming to get our head, heart and hormones in sync…

  4. candacebwell

    Hi Candace,
    Some time ago in my academic years I published a paper in Environmental Health Perspectives on natural vs xenoestrogens (Zava, D. T., Blen, M., and Duwe, G. (1997). Estrogenic activity of natural and synthetic estrogens in human breast cancer cells in culture. Environmental Health Perspectives 105(Suppl 3), 637-645). For those who might not understand xeno, it means a foreign, or in this case, not a natural estrogen. So what is a natural estrogen? Natural estrogens are those that the human body has either produced naturally (e.g. endogenous estrogens such as estradiol, estrone, and estriol) by the ovaries or fat tissue, or found in foods we commonly eat (e.g. phytoestrogens such as genistein in soy). Xenoestrogens, on the other hand, are foreign to the body and usually originate from petrochemical products. Examples of these are the pesticide DDT and plastic softeners like bisphenols. Natural estrogens generally clear rapidly from the body once they are released from the ovaries into the bloodstream, taken up and utilized by target tissues. Xenoestrogens, however, while they are very weak estrogens, tend to accumulate in the body in the fat tissue. Unlike natural estrogens, that clear from the body within about a day once they are formed and used, the xenoestrogens can have half lives of years. As we age, loose lean body mass, and accumulate more fat, we also take on more xenoestrogen burden.
    The most potent natural estrogen is estradiol. It takes only trace amounts of it to active estrogen receptors and specific gene sequences. Xenoestrogens will also interact with the estrogen receptor and turn on the same gene sequences, but it takes a much higher level to equal the effect of estradiol. In fact, for every molecule of estradiol it takes to active the estrogen receptor in target cells, it takes nearly 10,000-100,000 xenoestrogen molecules. Xenoestrogens are present at a much higher concentration in the bloodstream than estradiol, so even though they are very weak estrogens there are a lot more of them around than there are of estradiol molecules. In this manner xenoestrogens have the potential to act as weak estrogens. However, at the concentrations of estradiol and xenoestrogens known to be present in the bloodstream, the estradiol is more likely going to be controlling what is happening to the estrogen receptor as regards its activation. Estradiol is more relevant to the “estrogenic milieu” of an individual than are the xenoestrogens, and therefore testing for estradiol, rather than testing for xenoestrogens, is more relevant.
    A question often asked is “do the tests for estrogens run at ZRT measure xenoestrogens, and if not, what kind of test would measure them?” The answer to this is no. The test only measures estradiol, estrone, or estriol (all separate tests) and does not measure the burden of xenoestrogens. Very special tests for xenoestrogens need to be performed by a very expensive and sophisticated test that most labs are not capable of performing. This test is run by GC or LC-mass spectrometry. Cost usually runs minimally $500-1000.
    D.Zava, PhD. Owner/director, ZRT Laboratory

  5. candacebwell

    Thank you Dr. Zava for providing us with the BIGGER picture on natural estrogens vs. unnatural xenoestrogens and how and why they behave in the body…your research into the hormonal links to breast cancer in tandem with your groundbreaking developmental work to bring saliva hormone testing into the mainstream, have changed the face of women’s hormonal health for the better and the safer ….we welcome your thoughts, comments, teachings, any time!

    • Yes, thank you Dr. Zava for that wonderful and informative reply. Knowing that many of us, both men and women, have been exposed to high levels of xenoestrogens through the environment, I wonder what we can do to help clear those from our bodies at a faster rate. Obviously, we can make every effort to avoid future exposure, but in terms of “getting the bad air out”, would something like DIM or NAC or even milk thistle expedite our bodies’ abilitites to clear the xenos? Comments anyone? I think this is a very relevant issue as we are the sum product of the things we ingest as well as the environment in which we live: some under our control, others obviously not as much!

      • candacebwell

        Avoiding exposure to toxins, exercise-sweating, and keeping the gut full of absorbent fiber to remove toxins is going to help clear petrochemical xenos.
        David Zava

  6. Pingback: YOU could be walking around with a hormone imbalance and Not Even Know IT! Oprah said that but what did she mean? Hormone Imbalance defined. | Menopausibilities

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