Indole-3-carbinol may help in autoimmune disease

It is known that many types of autoimmune disease ñ including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis ñ occur in a disproportionately high number of women in comparison to men. This has led some investigators to wonder if estrogen, or an imbalance in estrogen, might somehow be involved in causing these conditions.

In a study reported last November (J Nutr 2003; 133 (11): 3,610-3), researchers examined mice that had been genetically engineered to develop lupus and gave some of them the supplement indole-3-carbinol (I3C).

I3C is a natural food component found in vegetables of the brassica family that includes broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage and a few others. Whether ingested as food or as a supplement, I3C has a powerful balancing effect on estrogen levels, promoting higher levels of healthy estrogen and lower levels of a dangerous type of estrogen that has previously been linked with hormone-related cancers. I3C and a closely related compound called DIM are commonly a vailable as dietary supplements.

Even though this mice study is a far cry from the human study that is badly needed, the researchers concluded that I3C could both prevent the onset or improve symptoms of existing lupus. As they stated, “Dietary modulation has the potential to prevent or ameliorate systemic lupus erymathosus (SLE). These findings demonstrate a profound effect of dietary I3C.”

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