The Estrogen Illusion
From Adolescence Through Life
The Estrogen story has been a controversial topic over the years. We are bringing clarity and balance to the real deal about Estrogen. The goal is to help you make a more informed choice about the use of Estrogen, and offer you an objective view of how to avoid the risks and enjoy the benefits for your total wellness.
- How does too much estrogen affect my health?
- Where did the Estrogen come from?
- and how do I get rid of it?
These are just some of the questions we will be answering for you in this article.
Sometimes all it takes is an increase in awareness to make all the difference. Let’s take a look at the various aspects of Estrogens and where they take their place in your life.
First, What Are They?
Estrogens are a group of primary female sexual steroid hormones that are produced in the ovaries and to a lesser extent in males from the testes. Some estrogens are also produced in smaller amounts by other tissues such as the liver, adrenal glands, and the breasts. These secondary sources of estrogen are especially important in postmenopausal women. The two primary female hormones secreted by the ovaries are estrogen and progesterone. The properties of one offset the other and ultimately, together, they are maintained in optimal balance in our body at all times.
An imbalance of one hormone or the other has been known to lead to significant medical problems. Progesterone protects us from excess estrogen. Low progesterone has been associated with menstrual irregularities, spontaneous miscarriage, and increased risk of breast cancer. This being said it is not always ideal to start taking progesterone supplements if you think you are deficient. Progesterone can also be converted into estrogen, and some types of breast cancer can be stimulated by both estrogen and progesterone. In my opinion it is often best to reduce that which is in excess before increasing that which is relatively deficient in order to re-establish a balanced state.
The Real Deal
There are three major types of “natural” estrogens. Estradiol, estrone, and estriol. The key is to maintain their optimal ratio within your body to best support your balance and total wellness (15%:15%:70%.). Estradiole is the strongest of these estrogens, being 1000 times more potent in it’s effects on breast tissue than estriol. When the percentage of estriol gets too low (below 50%) we may begin to see negative effects on our health. Estradiol and estrone have been linked to breast cancer while estriol, which is produced in large amouts by the placenta during pregnancy, is generally considered protective. The liver is able to produce estriol through the conversion of estradiol and estrone thus improving liver detoxification may be an important step in optimizing estrogen balance.
Phytoestrogens are plant hormones that act like weak estrogens. We get them in a number of foods such as, mung beans, clover sprouts, soy, flax seed and pumpkin seeds. Phytoestrogens are generally considered protective against breast cancer and other sequelae of estrogen dominance. Phytoestrogens are able to bind to estrogen receptors thus displacing more potent estrogens such as estradiol and estrone.
When you introduce false hormones to your body such as those found in the birth control pill, fertility drugs or hormone replacement therapy, they can greatly shift and disrupt the balance within your body. False hormones or synthetic hormones are primarily the stronger estrogens (estadiol and estrone) and are synthetically made or come from animal sources such as Premarin (pregnant mare urine). The effects of these types of hormones may promote cancer and other health problems.
What’s around us can also play an effective role in the upset of balance on our estrogen crusade. You may be absorbing estrogens from environmental factors or “xenoestrogens” – which are chemicals that resemble estrogens and act like estrogens in our body. Our bodies are not equipped to break these chemicals down. They can accumulate in our body and their synergistic effect may promote breast cancer, menstrual irregularities, endometriosis and symptoms of estrogen dominance. It may surprise you to discover just some of the places that estrogens are lurking within your environment:
- Petrochemical compounds found in general consumer products such as creams, lotions, soaps, shampoos, perfume, hair spray and room deodorizers.
- Almost all plastics and many adhesives and solvents found in nail polish, cosmetics, glue, and paint removers.
- Pesticides and herbicides.
A Great Reason To De-Stress
There is a delicate balance within your system between progesterone and estrogen. Stress can play a huge role in distressing your Adrenal glands. Why is this an issue? The adrenal glands produce the stress hormone cortisol as well as some progesterone. When we are under stress we produce more cortisol. Cortisol can block progesterone receptors, making them less responsive to progesterone. Progesterone that is normally produced by the adrenal glands comes to a halt in favor of cortisol. Insufficient progesterone production and less responsive progesterone receptors lead to an imbalance of estrogen to progesterone. With reduced progesterone to offset estrogen, the body may experience estrogen dominance and a host of undesirable side effects associated with excessive estrogen. An excess of estrogen has been associated with insomnia and anxiety, which further taxes the adrenal gland. After a few years of this vicious cycle, the adrenal glands become exhausted potentially leading to other imbalances in your blood sugar and hormone regulation – potentially leading to ailments such as chronic fatigue.
It’s A Heavy Subject
An “aromatase” enzyme in body fat converts testosterone to estrogen. As we age our lean muscle mass typically declines while our percentage body fat increases. This change in body composition can create an imbalance in our estrogen : progesterone ratio ultimately leading to estrogen dominance. In review – this is what we are trying to avoid.
Excessive fast food, processed foods, sugars, and caffeine can also lead to higher estrogen levels. When we make the choice to eat this way, we deplete our bodies of essential vitamins and minerals necessary for the conversion of potentially harmful estradiol and estrone to protective estriol in the liver.
When we eat animal products we may be consuming estrogens. The source of estrogen may be natural, synthetic or accumulated “xenoestrogen exposure” as a result of pesticide residue in the food source of the animal. Commercially processed beef and poultry have been linked to farms which supplement their animals with estrogen, growth hormone or antibiotics in order to increase productivity at a much lower cost than it would be to raise the animals traditionally or organically.
The Body Effect
The goal is to maintain a balanced and beneficial state with regards to these estrogens.
When in a balanced state, we reap the rewards of other health benefits such as:
- Increase HDL (good cholesterol) and lower LDL (bad cholesterol).
- Inhibited rate of bone loss – or prevention of osteoporosis.
- Improve circulation to the brain which reduces the onset of alzheimer’s disease and supports an effective memory.
- Helps to support and sustain the body for pregnancy.
- Helps to slow or reverse aspects of the aging process.
When our systems suffer from an unbalanced state with regards to these estrogens, it increases the risks and dangers to our systems in areas such as:
- Cell proliferation in many tissues increasing the risk of certain cancers such as breast, ovarian, uterine, prostate and kidney cancers.
- Feasible insulin resistance, production of cellulite, depression, endometriosis and uterine fibroids, PMS and an increased risk of stroke.
- A contributing factor in the depletion of many B-vitamins, Vitamin E and magnesium which are key to our total wellness.
Breaking Through The Estrogen Illusion
In bringing all of this information to you – it is our goal to have you make informed choices and ultimately sustain the optimum levels of Estrogen within your bodies. So, how do we do this?
Here are some suggestions to get you on the right track:
Decreasing estrogen exposure
- Avoid the above named xenoestrogens.
- Choose natural shampoos and soaps which are free of petrochemicals compounds.
- Avoid putting plastic containers in the microwave. Even better, avoid the use of a microwave and aim for conventional forms of cooking and heating.
Cleansing & supplementation
- Regular sauna detoxification can be very helpful in eliminating toxins and other xenoestrogens from our body.
- Achieve your optimal weight. Weight loss will decrease aromatase enzymes which will decrease the conversion of testosterone to estrogen. Many toxins and xenoestrogens are stored in fat tissue so by eliminating fat mass from your body.
- Estrogen is metabolized in the liver. Herbs that fortify the liver will speed up estrogen clearance from the body. The most impressive research has been done on a special extract of milk thistle (Silybum marianum) known as silymarin, a group of flavonoids compounds. These compounds protect the liver from damage and enhance the detoxification process. Estrogens that are not metabolized by the liver will continue to circulate and exert their effects on the body.
- Eat a diet high in plants and unprocessed foods.
- Consume a minimum of 20grams of fiber/day.
- Many plants contain over 5,000 known sterols that have “progestogenic effects” and weak “estrogenic effects”. They can help us balance the estrogen:progesterone ratio. Plant estrogens act as a defense or a shield, which can bind and block the stronger estrogens such as estradiol, estrone, and xenoestrogens.
- **If you have cancer it is essential to speak with your Naturopathic Doctor prior to using phytoestrogens/progesterone to see if they are appropriate for your type of cancer.
- Avoid alcohol or drugs that can damage the liver which will lead to an increase in estrogen due to the lack of estrogen breakdown.
- Decrease coffee or caffeine consumption to no more than 1-2 cups of coffee/day maximum. It has been shown that women who consumed 4-5 cups of coffee/day had up to 70% more estrogen than women who consumed 1-2 cups/day. Caffeine intake from all sources has been linked to higher estrogen levels regardless of age, weight, and alcohol intake.
Immediate Steps You Can Choose From To Make a Difference…
- Start to incorporate sauna detoxification for 30 minutes 2-3x/week for 6 weeks
- Decrease coffee consumption to no more than 1 glass/day
- Avoid using soap, shampoos and other household products that contain petrochemicals
- Decrease your alcohol intake to ½ of what you are currently consuming.
- Incorporate 2 more servings of vegetables and 2 more servings of fruits/day
- Increase your fiber to a minimal 20grams/day
The key is awareness. Take a look at yourself, your life and what’s around you with the new perspective you’ve gained from this article. It doesn’t take much to start and it takes even less to make the difference. The great part is that ultimately, it takes the burden off of you and your health.