Many things affect the fine balance of women’s hormonal systems and an out of balance network of hormones can not only lead to crankiness, feeling out of sorts, heavy periods, pain and discomfort, bloating and sore breasts but can also be an indication of something more sinister. Apart from menstrual irregularities, excess estrogen can be a causative factor in endometriosis (thickening of endometrial tissue in the uterus and other parts of the body like bladder and bowel), fibroids (benign growths in the uterus) and breast cancer. Estrogen can stimulate both growth and inflammation in a proliferative manner leading to disease.
So, considering we as women need good amounts of this hormone, along with the other main hormones (progesterone and testosterone), what causes it to become rampant and disease inducing and what can we do about it?
Many factors contribute to excess estrogen in the body. Some of these are:
1. The oral contraceptive pill (OCP) and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
2. Xeno-estrogens in the environment, i.e. chemicals that mimic estrogen as they are chemically similar, like pesticides and
3. Stress (affects the pituitary gland which regulates hormone production).
4. Hormones from meat and dairy products in our diets.
5. Poor clearance of estrogen from the body by the liver and bowel.
7. Inflammation in the body (may be associated arthritic conditions!)
Current research suggests that it is not the estrogen that counts but what we do with it that is important. This is an interesting fact and suggests, once again that as we are living in an age where we are bombarded by so many different chemicals, stress, pollution and a lifestyle that is not conducive to good health, with most of us having to work long hours at jobs we may not like to feed mortgages, children and ourselves, the most important factor is how strong is your body to withstand this lifestyle? We need a strong immune system to cope with different bacteria, viruses and chemicals that abound today and we need a good detoxification system to clear our bodies of these unwanted products. Likewise, we need to be able to clear the excess estrogen from our bodies so it does not build up and cause disease.
So, here are my tips on reducing estrogen excess:
1. Avoid the OCP and HRT.
2. Avoid using pesticides or living near farms that may spray or use chemical pesticides.
3. Eat organic food that has not been sprayed with the above products.
4. Reduce or avoid altogether meat and dairy products. If eating dairy, consume only organic products although you will still be drinking some of the cow’s estrogen!
5. Reduce stress as much as you can by choosing a slower pace of life, exercising regularly, meditating, being in nature and addressing old patterns and programmes that may not be serving you.
6. Clear hidden estrogen from the body: You might ask, “how do I know if I have excess estrogen and can I test it?” Latest research from the International Endocrine Society says that hormone testing is not useful due to the wide variation in what is considered normal and that the best way to assess excessive estrogen is by astute clinical observation of signs and symptoms. Most women will be aware when their hormones are out of balance and testing may help to confirm this.
Some herbs are especially useful to help clear excess estrogen, especially Tumeric, Rosemary and St. Mary’s Thistle. Tumeric addresses inflammation in the body while Rosemary and St. Mary’s Thistle help the liver to detoxify. These are available as tablets and liquids. Other things to help with clearance of estrogen are broccoli seeds, brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts), organic soy products (tofu, tempeh, soybeans, miso), green tea, B vitamins and magnesium. Fish oils are also effective for reducing excessive inflammation generally in the body.
A diet high in organic fruit and vegetables (especially dark green alkalising vegies like kale, silver beet and bitter salad greens) lentils, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds will help bowel clearance. Flax seed oil, psyllium, slippery elm powder and probiotics will also contribute greatly to bowel health and therefore help with clearance of excess estrogen.
See your health practitioner for more clarification if you suspect excess estrogen is a problem for you.
Suzanne Staples ND DBM
Naturopath Herbalist Homoeopath
copyright Suzanne Staples