Sunday, October 7, 2018

Estrogen - what is it good for?

Estrogen - the hormone that makes women female, is found in women and men. There are actually three estrogens but the main estrogen, responsible for promoting ovulation and genital health, is estradiol. Estradiol is the most potent of the three 'estrogens' and controls the thickness of the lining of the uterus during the menstrual cycle. It also plays a role in thousands of other processes in the body. For women, it also controls vaginal moisture and lubrication, enhances libido and sexual enjoyment and thickens the vaginal wall to support the bladder and prevent urinary tract infections and incontinence.

These images of coral kind of remind me of a 'plump' uterine lining and a 'scanty' uterine lining. The plump one might results in heavy painful periods and the scanty may result in skipped periods or short, spotty periods. These types of issues with menstrual cycles result from an imbalance in your hormones, usually between estradiol and progesterone, but insulin resistance and adrenal gland problems can also throw off your hormone harmony.

The other estrogens in play are estrone, often thought of as the 'danger' estrogen because excess estrone can promote abnormal growth in the breast cells and uterine cells, increasing the risk of cancer in those tissues. Your ovaries, liver and fat cells make estrone prior to menopause and after menopause it is predominantly made in your fat cells. 

If you are overweight going through menopause you will have estrone 'dominance' which can be worsened by alcohol consumption. Estrone can block the beneficial actions of estradiol, especially in the brain (where estradiol can promote memory retention and protect nerve cells). It can also increase risk of blood clots, weight gain, gallstones and can stress your main organ of detoxification, the liver.

The third estrogen is estriol, also the weakest in potency. It can be produced when estradiol and estrone are convert into estriol. It is thought of as beneficial because it may block the harmful effects of estrone on breast cells. It may also have positive effects on autoimmune processes like multiple sclerosis (MS). In a 2003 study it decreased the size and number of MS-related brain lesions and increased protective immune functions. It has also been used extensively in Europe for vaginal health. It is also mixed with estradiol in bioidentical hormone replacement.

So how do hormones get out of balance? 

In our toxic environment, toxins called Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (or Xenoestrogens) are getting into our bodies from our food, water and air. They mainly come from dairy and beef in our food supply but can also come from herbicides, pesticides, plastics, toys, personal care products and cosmetics. Check here for more info on cleaning up your internal and external environment.

Stress can throw your hormone balance off when high demand for cortisol diverts progesterone into the cortisol pathway, as shown in this previous post. Poor liver function, from alcohol consumption, use of multiple medications which require increased processing through the liver, fatty liver disease (likely from too much sugar consumption) can all increase the amount of circulating estrogens.

Digestive issues from a poor diet can lead to dysbiosis (imbalance in the bacterial environment in the colon) which can lead to increased recycling of estrogens. High saturated fat consumption can increase the amount of estrogen produced. Being overweight also increases the amount of estrogen produced (in men and women). Lack of exercise can also increase the amount of available estrogen, as can sleep deprivation. 

Too much estrogen in women can lead to PMS, difficulty losing weight, gallstones, varicose veins, fibroids, cervical dysplasia, endometriosis or ovarian cysts. In men it can result in low libido, lack of motivation, depression, loss of muscle mass, breast development and belly fat. In both sexes increased estrogen is linked to increased risk of cancer.

So this week I'm detoxing to balance my hormones, cleaning up my internal and external environments and promoting hormone balance with stress management and sleep. Next week I'll blog about the specifics of the detox since I'm in the thick of it now and want to finish it before I report on how it went. 

So I leave you with a meditative exercise. Get out and walk if weather permits and notice nature. Look for something to speak to you: a plant, tree or bird. Expect to see something unusual and when you do, give it your full attention for at least 15 seconds (count one-mississippi, two-mississippi, etc). Be grateful for your 15 seconds of WOW. 


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