Health care providers and patients are recognizing the role diet may play in treating certain conditions. While men and cancer patients seek to lower aromatase -- an enzyme that helps the body produce estrogen -- women with menopausal symptoms or other hormone imbalances may benefit from increasing aromatase. Foods that help increase estrogen may offer a safer way to boost estrogen levels. However, definitive research is needed. Get permission from your doctor before making changes to your diet.
Soybeans and foods made from soybeans contain phytoestrogens, the richest of which is genistein. Phytoestrogens are plant compounds that interact in the body to weakly mimic estrogen. Research suggests certain phytoestrogens inhibit aromatase activity, while others stimulate it. A study published in the Reproduction Nutrition Development journal in November 2005 reported that genistein stimulates aromatase activity in the endometrium. This refers to a part of the female reproductive system that influences hormone production.
Foods Rich in Vitamin D and Calcium
Vitamin D plays a significant role in regulating calcium levels, and it's this role that may boost aromatase activity, say scientists. Researchers conducted an experiment on animals that lacked vitamin D receptors and in turn had low ovarian estrogen production. They hypothesized that supplementing calcium to make up for the vacant vitamin D receptors would boost aromatase. Supplementation resulted in a 60 percent increase in ovarian aromatase activity, according to results published in the April 2000 issue of the journal Endocrinology.
Estrogen production in fat cells plays a role in helping to regulate body weight. Because of this, researchers hypothesized that polyphenol compounds in green tea may stimulate aromatase in fat tissue and promote a healthy body weight. They conducted an animal experiment where green tea beverage was consumed regularly for six months. They found that the green tea increased aromatase in adipose tissue, which resulted in a decrease in the size of fat cells. While human studies are needed, the authors write that these results highlight one mechanism by which green tea may promote healthy weight.
Things to Consider
Work with a holistic health care provider to incorporate aromatase-boosting foods into your diet. Remember, this does not guarantee that your estrogen levels will increase, as hormone production is a complex process with a multitude of factors. Phytoestrogens have been widely researched for balancing hormones, so they may be the best bet. Foods rich in genistein include whole soybeans, tofu, edamame, miso, tempeh, soy nuts and meat alternatives. Avoid estrogenic foods if you have or are at risk for hormone-dependent cancers.