What You Should Know About Estrogen
Where is it manufactured in the body?
Prior to menopause, estrogen is primarily produced by the ovaries. Estrogen is also made in the adrenal glands and fat cells.
Is there only 1 substance called estrogen?
No, there are three different compounds of estrogen which are similar but unique in their own way: Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2), and Estriol (E3).
The strongest and most influential of the three estrogen hormones is Estradiol (E2). Next in strength is Estrone (E1). These are the so-called "aggressive" estrogens. At high levels, they are thought to be associated with increased risk of breast and uterine cancers. Estradiol exerts a strong influence on breast & uterine tissue and can cause abnormal cells to grow. Estradiol (E2) and Estrone (E1) can convert back and forth into one another and that is the reason blood tests generally measure only Estradiol.
Estriol (E3), the third major estrogen, is very "friendly" and protective to the human body. It is perceived to have an important anti-cancer effect, particularly with breast cancer. Estriol also helps keep vaginal tissues healthy and lubricated. Estriol counter-balances the other 2 estrogens: Estradiol and Estrone.
Estriol is found in many bio-identical hormone prescriptions and I highly recommend it. Some doctors will prescribe Estradiol only (for example, the Patch). If you are taking Estradiol, ask for Estriol to be included, or at least use progesterone to counterbalance the effects of the Estradiol on breast tissue.
What are Phytoestrogens?
Phytoestrogens are plant-based estrogens. Phytoestrogens exert a weak estrogenic effect. Although they are not an exact bioidentical molecule and thus do not enter directly into the cell, they can lock onto your estrogen receptors and give off a weak estrogen signal which can be helpful for hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. Phytoestrogens are also believed to benefit breast health by preventing stronger estrogen compounds from entering. They also protect against dangerous
and toxic xenoestrogens which we will discuss in a minute.
The two phytoestrogens you will hear the most about are soy and red clover. Of these two I prefer red clover.
Soy has been found to negatively affect the thyroid in many cases. If you want to eat soy, choose only fermented soy products, such as tofu, miso, tempeh, and natto. The unfermented soy products like soy milk, edamame, soy protein powder & soy nuts can suppress the production of thyroid hormones.
For more information about soy, check out my blog articles:
"Step Away from Soy Part 1" and "Step Away from Soy Part 2"
What are Xenohormones?
Xenohormones are toxic to your body and should be avoided at all costs! Xenoestrogens (also referred to as environmental estrogens) are chemicals that, when absorbed by the body, can function in a way similar to your own estrogen. They disrupt the way your natural hormones function.
Xenoestrogens/xenohormones are chemicals that are so close in their molecular structure to estrogen that they are able to lock into the estrogen receptors in breast tissue. They enter the cell and damage its structure and function. They can damage DNA and cause cell mutations and cancerous tumors. The breast is composed mainly of fatty tissue and fat stores toxins at much higher levels than other body tissues (up to 700 times). Hence, toxins accumulate at a much higher concentration in the breasts. You can see why we have an epidemic of breast cancer in the U.S.!
How else are they toxic? In the process of the liver trying to detoxify them, these estrogens can be converted into some very dangerous metabolites, which research shows may be responsible for the damage to DNA that results in tumors and even cancer!
Where Does Environmental Estrogen Come From?
More than 60 substances, including dioxin, DDT, PCB and solvents have been identified as environmental estrogens, or endocrine disruptors as they are also known.
In the last 70 years, they have been produced by industrial, agricultural, and chemical companies and even introduced into the environment. They are everywhere. Shockingly, these hormone mimics can come from the food you eat. Common food sources of xenoestrogens include commercially raised beef, chicken and pork.
This is due to the hormones given to these animals in order to produce rapid growth. They are also used to increase milk production in dairy cows.
Some of the most common sources of xenoestrogens include:
Solvents and adhesives
Pesticide residue on fruits & vegetables
Herbicides- used on lawns & plants
Nearly all plastics, including plastic wraps (they leak into food)
Industrial waste such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and dioxins
Meat from livestock that are fed estrogenic drugs
Some city water supplies
Some commercial household cleaning supplies
Look for these ingredients and avoid them!
What are Synthetic Estrogens?
Synthetic estrogens are used in Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). They are usually called conjugated estrogens. They contain chemicals that are foreign to the human body and can have very dangerous side effects. (See my blog: The Top 10 Reasons to Get Off Synthetic Hormones)
Some common sources of synthetic estrogen: Cenestin, Enjuvia, Premarin, Activella, Prempro, Premphase, FemHRT, Estratest, Climara Pro, CombiPatch, and many, many more.
Premarin is made from the urine of pregnant mares. It does contain estradiol, estrone and estriol but also over 25 "estrogens" that are only common to a horse.
It has been called "natural" because it comes from an animal, but it is only natural if the human consumption of horse urine is natural. If you do not have hay in your diet, I suggest you stay away from Premarin!
Synthetic progesterone is called Progestin. Provera is the most common one.These synthetic estrogens and progesterone are also found in Birth Control Pills. They have been found to cause breast cancer, heart attack, blood clots & stroke.
If a woman does choose to take synthetic hormones, it should be the LOWEST dose for the SHORTEST amount of time. NOT for a lifetime. Bio-identical hormones are a much safer alternative
Estrogen Pathways: Good or Bad?
Estrogen travels in the blood stream, either alone or with a substance called Human Sex Binding Globulin (HSBG). Estrogen traveling alone can attach to receptor sites in breast tissue. The body has many estrogen receptors, but the highest concentration is in the breast and uterus. There are a large number of receptors in these tissues and therefore they respond to estrogen at a higher level.
When estrogen binds to an estrogen receptor, it turns on the receptor and the cells begin to divide. The rate of division depends on the "strength" of that particular estrogen. The strong estrogens are Estradiol, Estrone, and those nasty xenohormones. The weak, more protective estrogens are Estriol and phytoestrogens. The strong estrogens speed up cell division which increases the risk of cancer. The weak estrogens slow down cell division and therefore reduce the cancer risk.
After estrogen has done its work in the body, it goes to the liver (the body's detoxifier) where it is broken down and prepared for elimination. There are 2 categories into which the estrogen can be broken down: 2-hydroxyestrone (good) or 16-alphahydoxyestrone (bad). Environmental toxic xenoestrogens create the 16-alpha version. This one is not eliminated from the body, but can return to the breast tissue and cause more rapid cell division. The 2-hydroxyestrone goes to the colon or to the bladder where it is either eliminated from the body or absorbed back into the blood, adding to the total amount of estrogen in the body. A good way to be sure estrogen is eliminated is to eat more fiber. Fiber acts as a magnet and can literally "pull" estrogen from the body.
Balance is Key... What Can Be Done? Try Progesterone!
In instances of estrogen dominance, there is not enough progesterone in the body to oppose the amount of estrogen and bring it into a normal range and ratio. With aging, our bodies produce less and less progesterone. This, coupled with the effect of xenoestrogens, can cause physical imbalances as well as emotional imbalances . . . those nasty mood swings and the "I don't feel like myself" syndrome.
The symptoms of estrogen dominance can quickly shift from mild to extreme. To balance, be sure to use natural, bio-identical progesterone. Bio-identical progesterone is identical to the progesterone that is made by a woman's body. Stay away from the dangerous synthetic progestins such as Prempro, Provera and those found in birth control pills. They can increase your risk for breast cancer, blood clots, heart attack and stroke.
Progesterone is a great "conductor" for the other hormones, causing them to remain in balance. This includes thyroid hormones and Cortisol (the stress hormone). Progesterone is calming to the central nervous system, thus decreasing anxiety, promoting good sleep, and aiding in depression and mood swings. Progesterone is also very beneficial for bone health as it can promote growth of new bone. In addition, progesterone is a natural diuretic.
Best of all, progesterone protects breast tissue! It can actually slow down the gene that promotes cancer and it can prevent cell proliferation (division) in both breast and uterine tissue. In other words, it reduces the ability of any cancer cells to metastasize. A significant study showed that estrogen could promote breast proliferation by 230%, while progesterone DECREASED the activity by 400%. Wow! Now, that's protective.
For more information see my blog post:
"Top 10 Things You Should Know about Breast Cancer"
Use Phytoestrogens such as Red Clover to occupy estrogen receptor sites to protect against the more aggressive estrogens.
Eliminate Xenoestrogens as completely as possible in your everyday life. This will reduce your estrogen burden. If you eat a certain food many times per week, try to buy organic, use "green" household products, and avoid breathing fumes of any kind. For more information, see my blog post, "The Danger of Xenoestrogens"
Take Supplements: Two that I really like are Indol-3-Carbinol (also known as DIM) and Calcium-D-Glucarate. These positively affect the breakdown of estrogen in the liver by causing it to go into the more protective form of 2-hydroxyestrone. Recall that this is the form that protects breast tissues and activates tumor-suppressing genes.
Increase Fiber Intake: Aim for 30 grams of fiber per day. Fiber binds to the excess estrogen in the colon ready for elimination, and prevents it from "circling back" into your system.
Remember, DO NOT take estrogen without progesterone. If you would like to read more, check out my blog article: "Please Do Not Take Estrogen Alone"
Let me know if you have any questions!
You can call my office: (877) 880-0170
or send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on bio-identical estrogen, call us!
For phtyo-estrogen products, visit www.bhnformulas.com