Imbalances in our sex hormones - oestrogen and progesterone can wreak havoc on our health, causing everything from PMS - premenstrual syndrome, hormonal acne, fatigue, weight gain, fibroids and conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome – just to name a few. Like most things in life, the key to healthy hormones, lies in getting the balance right.
The role of oestrogen in our health
Our body needs oestrogen, but only in it’s natural form. In females, oestrogen plays an important role in the regulation of menstruation, maintaining pregnancy, as well the clotting potential of the blood, bone strength, blood vessel maintenance, metabolic rate, bowel function, muscle mass, fat storage and regulation of our fluid balance. But it's not just women who produce oestrogen, men also need a certain amount for sperm maturation and libido.
But like all hormones, oestrogens don’t act alone - belonging to a dynamic and delicate cascade of hormones - that need to function in harmony with one another, or confusion erupts, impacting on the function of every other hormone producing gland. The recent explosion of synthetic hormone exposure into so many areas of our lives, has lead to a condition known as 'oestrogen dominance'.
Causes of oestrogen dominance?
Oestrogen dominance is becoming an increasingly common problem as we are being exposed to alarmingly high levels of synthetic oestrogens on a daily basis - often without realising. Causes of oestrogen dominance can include:
Low Fibre Diet – A diet low in dietary fibre decreases the clearance of oestrogens from the bowel.
Nutrient deficiencies - such as vitamin D and B6, can contribute to excess oestrogen.
Processed or trans fats - such as vegetables oils, lead to excess oestrogen production.
Obesity - people who are overweight or obese, produce excess levels of oestrogens in their fat cells.
Poor Liver function – excess toxicity and an overburdened liver, impacts on its ability to metabolise and clear excess oestrogen.
Exposure to xeno-oestrogens - foreign oestrogens found in medications such as the oral contraceptive pill and HRT - ( you can read more about the effects of the pill on your health here ,) personal care product including moisturisers and body wash, plastic water bottles, chemical pesticides sprayed on grains, fruits and vegetables, even red meat reared in feedlots has been fed synthetic oestrogen hormones.
Eating foods containing soy - The massive increase in the consumption of processed foods has lead to an excessive consumption of processed and GM (genetically modified) soy. Molecules in soy called isoflavones, and in particular genistein, act in a similar way, (though less powerful) to oestrogens produced by our body. You can read more about the negative effects of soy here
Excessive exposure to foreign or xeno oestrogens, ultimately disrupts the body's balance of natural oestrogens and progesterone, and can present in the form of:
Signs And Symptoms Of Oestrogen Dominance
Irregular menstrual cycle
Depression and anxiety
Heavy, prolonged periods with clotting
Joint and muscle pain
Insomnia and restless sleep
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Oestrogen related cancers - breast, ovarian, uterine and prostate
10 Ways To Combat Oestrogen Dominance
Finding and maintaining a healthy balance between oestrogen and progesterone, boils down to removing the triggers and causes of hormonal imbalances.
Avoid taking the oral contraceptive pill and HRT - these contain synthetic forms of oestrogen.
Avoid Plastics - by not eating food heated in plastic or drinking from plastic bottles - as these can contain the xenoestrogen - BPA (Bisphenol A)
Avoid all soy products – processed soy found in many processed foods and soy milk are a form of xeno-oestrogen
Choose chemical free beauty and personal care products – xeno-oestrogens in the form of sulphates, parabens and phthalates found in cosmetics, liquid hand soap, body wash, shampoo and moisturisers, have a hormone blocking effect.
Cut out Sugar – excess sugar intake causes an overproduction in the hormone insulin, which in turn increases the production of oestrogen. Learn how you can quit sugar for life in my e-book - Eat Yourself Healthy In 28 Days
Balance your hormones naturally - using Herbs such as vitex, dong quai and peony (but these are best individually prescribed by a trained practitioner) and Indole-3-carbinol - a natural plant compound found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage, works to support one of the detoxification pathways to clear oestrogen and supplementing with a quality Probiotic – to maintain healthy gut flora colonies
Support healthy liver function – The first place I start in treating oestrogen dominance is with an effective liver cleanse program
Manage stress - excess stress levels cause an imbalance in the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn impacts on our sex hormones, including oestrogen and progesterone. Restful sleep, meditation, yoga and exercise, as well as supplementing with a daily quality multi vitamin will all help to support healthy nervous system function and combat the effects of stress
Eat organic - in particular fruit and vegetables as these are sprayed with chemical pesticides, herbicides and fungicides - known endocrine disruptors. Read more about which particular foods you should eat organic here. Avoid hormone and antibiotic containing foods - including farmed fish, read meat reared in feedlots and non-organic chicken
Eat more healthy fats – from olive oil (used fresh) , virgin coconut oil and essential fatty acids from fish oil.
So the key to happier, healthier hormones, is to become aware of these hormonal disruptors and minimise your exposure to synthetic oestrogens as much as possible.
For a full run-down on how to balance your hormones naturally through a healthy diet , check out my book Love Your Gut
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