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Learn More About Indole 3 Carbinol

By Nicole Bandes

"Eat your brussel sprouts!

Mom really did have a great reason for forcing us to eat those horrible vegetables but I bet she didn't even know the full benefits.

It turns out that cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage contain Indole 3 Carbinol (I3C). I3C is the reason our moms were so strongly encouraging us to eat up.

Since being discovered, Indole 3 Carbinol has been used in many studies that suggest several health benefits, especially for women. Oral ingestion of Indole 3 Carbinol has been shown to alter the metabolism of estrogen in a beneficial manner. As we know from hormone replacement therapy (HRT) studies, excess estrogen in the body can be damaging. It's fairly common knowledge that HRT can increase the risks of most gynecological cancers including endometrial, ovarian and breast cancer as well as increasing the risks of heart attacks and stroke. HRT can also induce PMS type symptoms including bloating, breast tenderness, moodiness and irritability and water retention.

So, if all these things can occur because of an increase in estrogen, maybe we should understand a little better what it is that is causing this to happen. Here is a little Biology 101.

Both male and female bodies have estrogen receptors. These receptors are like electrical outlets. The purpose of estrogen receptors is to receive estrogen and allow the body to process the estrogen. Just like there are many different things that you could plug into an electrical outlet, there are several different types of estrogen that can plug into estrogen receptors. In the case of electrical outlets, various things will pull different amounts of power such as the difference between a night light and a computer. Obviously, the computer will draw much more power than the night light, but the least amount of power will be drawn from one of those little plastic safety plugs.

Back to the estrogen receptors. Different forms of estrogen; phytoestrogen, estriol, estrone, estradiol and xenoestrogens, have different effects when plugged into those estrogen receptors. The weaker the estrogen, the less estrogenic effects they will have on the body. The stronger the estrogen, the more negative effects they will have on health. But just as any house has a limited number of electrical outlets, the body has a limited number of estrogen receptors.

Ideally we want to plug as many estrogen receptors as possible with weak estrogens, primarily phytoestrogens which come from plant sources. HRT and hormonal birth control methods all use the strongest natural estrogen, estradiol. Indole 3 Carbinol mimics the weakest forms of estrogen. Therefore, the more Indole 3 Carbinol that is absorbed by the body and used to plug the estrogen receptors, less receptors will be available to the stronger estrogens.

Studies indicate that Indole 3 Carbinol is more beneficial than Tamoxifen for the prevention of breast cancer1. This may be due to I3C's ability to mimic very weak estrogen in the body.

Studies have also indicated that Indole 3 Carbinol was beneficial to mice suffering from Lupus and other autoimmune disorders2.

Other studies indicate that Indole 3 Carbinol may be beneficial for the following concerns.

Ovarian cancer

Prostate cancer

Colon cancer

Human Papilloma Virus (HVP)

Cervical dysplasia3

In addition, because of the ability Indole 3 Carbinol seems to have on estrogen, case studies are now showing it may be beneficial for:

Hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms

Breast tenderness, cramping and other menstrual symptoms

Helping to relieve muscle soreness do to exercise or overexertion.

With so much contributing to the numerous benefits of Indole 3 Carbinol, it may be time to start listening to mom and eat those veggies!

1. "Prevention and treatment of cancer with indole-3-carbinol", Alternative Medicine Review, Dec, 2001 by Matthew S. Brignall

2. "Indole-3-carbinol in women with SLE: effect on estrogen metabolism and disease activity", Lupus, Volume 10, Number 11, November 2001, pp. 779-783(5)

3. "Placebo-controlled trial of indole-3-carbinol in the treatment of CIN", Gynecol Oncol. 2000 Aug;78(2):123-9

About The Author
Nicole Bandes is a Certified Herb Specialist that has been helping others to regain their health and vitality since 1999. Nicole uses and recommends Nature's Sunshine Products Indole 3 Carbinol for her family and friends. Read more articles by Nicole at


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