This one is for the ladies.....
All hormones are important for women, but oestrogen may be at the top of that list. Most of us are aware of oestrogens role as a sex hormone, however oestrogens role is so much more than that. We are still learning about what oestrogen does in the body but this is the short version of what we know so far:
Oestrogen is responsible for revving up your sex drive and gets you obsessed about babies until about age forty-five. Then we start thinking that sleep sounds a lot better!
Oestrogen is responsible for the first half of your menstrual cycle. Building up the cells lining your uterus to protect a developing foetus. If conception does not occur, the lining is released about every 28 days.
Internally oestrogen buffers moods and keeps you on task. Oestrogen is natures 'Prozac' and adjusts the level of available serotonin. Serotonin regulates mood, sleep, and appetite, and acts as the general gatekeeper for other neurotransmitters in the brain.
Externally oestrogen is responsible for giving you hips and breasts.
Oestrogen plays a big role in promoting healthy bones, skin and blood clotting (for wound healing).
The list goes on....
Women need oestrogen for their body to operate efficiently. But in today’s world, we sometimes get too much—which can have negative effects.
Oestrogen balance is directly related to progesterone. Ideally you have a rhythm between these two hormones, which should function like well matched dance partners. Oestrogen is the flirtatious, curvy member of the team; progesterone plays a less dramatic, supportive role.
Balance is crucial because oestrogen and progesterone have opposing yet interdependent effects. Oestrogen stimulates the lining of the uterus to grow; progesterone stops the growth, stabilises it and then releases it in a coordinated fashion called menstruation.
It takes two to tango! When they work in tandem your bones are strong, dense and pliable. Your skin is hydrated, smooth and well enriched with collagen, your metabolism is forgiving and your cardiovascular system stays clear of clots and plaque.
So, what does it look like when oestrogen hogs the 'dance floor'.....
Hormonal disharmony: symptoms of oestrogen dominance
Introducing some of the symptoms:
Weight gain, especially around hips & thighs
Depression & anxiety
Mood swings & irritability
Trouble falling sleeping and frequent waking
Breast tenderness &/or fibrocystic breasts
PCOS- polycystic ovarian syndrome & ovarian cysts
Infertility & decreased fertility
Water retention & bloating
Accelerated ageing– premature wrinkling, greying of hair, etc.
The Weight Gain and Oestrogen Connection
We know there are health risks to women who are overweight or obese.
However, what you may not know is that our fat cells also make oestrogen. So, if we are overweight we will increase the production of oestrogen. When we make excess oestrogen it triggers insulin resistance (which I will talk about in my next blog). For now though just understand that insulin resistance causes weight gain and also causes us to make more oestrogen. Ultimately you enter a vicious cycle of insulin, oestrogen and fat cells all making more fat, oestrogen and insulin, and so on...
What Causes High Oestrogen
Why do our oestrogen levels go too high? There are several reasons for this:
Insulin resistance and high blood sugars
Hypothyroidism / Hashimoto's
High stress levels
Poor diet (includes diets high in soy)
Low fibre diets (oestrogen is excreted in the bowel—constipation can cause it to be reabsorbed into the body)
Impaired liver function (oestrogen is detoxified in the liver)
Drugs and alcohol
Overexposure to “xenoestrogens”—man made chemicals in the environment that mimic oestrogen in the body and disrupt hormonal balance,
1. Reduce alcohol. Alcohol raises your levels of oestrogen and can disrupt the function of your liver. Even one glass a day increases your risk of breast cancer by 11 percent! Bummer!
2. Cut Caffeine. I can almost see people going into shock at the mere thought! However, eliminating will help balance your oestrogen and calm your cortisol. Double bummer!!
3. Avoid Xenoestrogens. BPA, plastics and phthalates cause havoc with our hormones. Avoid canned foods, plastic food containers and drink bottles. Buy organic where you can, especially fruits and vegetables that you don't have skin you have to peel.
4. Consume more prunes. Prunes have been shown to reduce 16-alpha-hydroxy-estrone, the "less-good" oestrogen associated with breast and endometrial cancer.
5. Increase your fibre. Consuming fibre helps clear oestrogen from the body. Aim for 35 - 45 grams a day. Most women only consume about 13 grams a day. Even with seven or more servings of vegetables some women may need to take medicinal fibre, taken as a supplement.
6. Lose weight. Weight loss will reduce your oestrogen levels and lower your risk of breast cancer as well as other conditions.
7. Exercise regularly. Exercise lowers oestrogen levels and helps you make more good oestrogens.
8. Go to sleep by 10pm. Going to sleep by 10pm produces optimal melatonin; a hormone that lowers oestrogen.
9. Take Supplements. DIM (Di-indolemethane) is a potent supplement which lowers overall oestrogen. Talk to a practitioner about choosing a brand that is 'bioavailable' and the correct dose for you.
If you believe that you are suffering from abnormal oestrogen levels make sure you get proper evaluation. In most cases that means getting tested and monitoring your symptoms.