Oestrogen, the hormone responsible for the development and regulation of the female sexual and reproductive system, is also important for men as it plays a role in bone metabolism and protects the cardiovascular system. Very low oestrogen levels can lead to weight gain, low libido, muscle weakening, depression, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and fatigue. In women, low oestrogen levels can also cause hot flashes, breast tenderness, mood swings, and irregular or absent periods.
Today, the majority of both sexes have very high oestrogen levels, referred to as oestrogen dominance, which can have a very negative impact on their health. Oestrogen dominance plays a big role in conditions associated with hormone imbalance such as endometriosis, fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). In men, high oestrogen levels can cause the growth of breast tissue (gynecomastia), enlarged prostate, and erectile dysfunction. High oestrogen levels also increase the risk for hormone-sensitive cancers in men and women.
Our body’s ability to detoxify excess oestrogen is influenced by our DNA, diet, gut health, exercise, liver health, and more. There are also very advanced nutraceutical supplements which support oestrogen detoxification pathways. A healthy lifestyle and the correct supplementation can prevent oestrogen dominance and all the dangers associated with it.
What causes oestrogen dominance?
- Synthetic hormones - Oral contraceptives contain synthetic hormones that contribute to oestrogen dominance. A lifetime of exposure to them disrupts hormone balance. Using synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopause significantly raises oestrogen levels and carries risks, especially when oestrogen detoxification is poor.
- Xenoestrogens – Our environment exposes us to many chemicals that have estrogenic effects and contributes to oestrogen dominance. We’re also exposed to xenoestrogens such as BPA and phthalates found in plastics (food packaging, water bottles etc.). Many herbicides and pesticides have estrogenic effects and are classified as xenoestrogens. Common preservatives like parabens also have estrogenic activity.
- DNA - There are several common genetic mutations that affect oestrogen metabolism and detoxification pathways. Mutations on one or several of these genes can result in more harmful oestrogen metabolites being formed and can reduce our ability to detoxify oestrogen metabolites. Genetic testing can identify these genetic mutations and oestrogen metabolism and detoxification pathways can then be modified and supported by nutraceutical supplementation, diet and lifestyle.
- Obesity - Fat cells produce oestrogen, and abdominal obesity can significantly increase oestrogen levels. As high oestrogen levels cause even more belly fat (visceral fat) to form, it can become a vicious cycle.
- Poor gut health - Chronic constipation prevents oestrogen metabolites from being eliminated so they’re reabsorbed into the body, contributing to oestrogen dominance. Unbalanced gut bacteria can also result in more oestrogen metabolites being reabsorbed instead of being excreted.
- Rapid weight loss - A lot of oestrogen is released from fat cells during rapid weight loss. It is important to support oestrogen detoxification during weight loss to prevent oestrogen dominance.
Symptoms of oestrogen dominance
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Fibrocystic breast disease
- Weight gain, especially abdominal fat
- Hair loss
- Water retention and bloating
- Irregular or abnormal menstrual cycles
- Breast tenderness
- Mood swings
- Poor sleep
- Decreased sex drive
- Brain fog
- Poor memory
- Hormonal pigmentation (melasma)
- Male infertility
- Erectile dysfunction
- Enlarged prostate
The cancer connection
The biggest risk associated with high oestrogen levels is the increased risk for oestrogen sensitive cancers such as breast, endometrial, ovarian and prostate cancer. In a world of oestrogen dominance, it is vital to support oestrogen detoxification pathways to lower the risk for these cancers. There is also an increased risk of blood clots and strokes, high blood pressure, low thyroid function, and significant weight gain. Certain autoimmune conditions have also been linked to high oestrogen levels.
Melasma or hormonal pigmentation is often caused by high oestrogen levels and, if the underlying hormone imbalance is not corrected, skin treatments are often unsuccessful or the pigmentation returns. Supporting oestrogen detoxification will compliment treatments for melasma and give lasting results. Cellulite is also a sign of oestrogen dominance and will also be resistant to treatments or keep coming back until the hormone imbalance is corrected.
Lifestyle factors that improve oestrogen detoxification There are many things you can do to improve oestrogen detoxification and decrease oestrogen levels. These include getting regular exercise as well as enough sleep (a lack of deep sleep leads to higher estrogen levels) and eating a healthy diet full of organic foods known to support oestrogen detoxification. These foods include cruciferous vegetables, garlic, onions, artichoke, lemon, fibre and green tea. Weight control and preventing abdominal fat deposits will result in lower oestrogen levels. It’s also important to avoid exposure to xenoestrogens like plastics and pesticides. Trace amounts of oestrogen have also been found in tap water, so investing in a filter is a must.
Specialized nutraceutical supplements
- DIM (Diindolemethane) is extracted from cruciferous vegetables and modifies oestrogen metabolism to produce more beneficial metabolites and less harmful metabolites. It is very important for people with a genetic mutation on the gene that regulates this pathway.
- Sulforaphane is extracted from broccoli sprouts and positively impacts several oestrogen detoxification pathways. It is a very potent oestrogen detoxifier and will improve symptoms of oestrogen dominance. It also helps to protect against cancer.
- Methylated B-vitamins are valuable as the process of methylation forms a crucial part of oestrogen detoxification and depends on an adequate supply of vitamins such as folate and methylcobalamin.
- Milk thistle supports oestrogen detoxification in the liver.
- Intravenous glutathione increases oestrogen detoxification.
- Other essential nutrients include magnesium, selenium, zinc and vitamin E.
It is clear that there are many negative health consequences and significant health risks associated with high oestrogen levels and poor oestrogen detoxification. Fortunately, these detoxification pathways can be greatly enhanced by lifestyle modification and nutraceutical supplementation. If you’re concerned you might be suffering from oestrogen dominance, make an appointment with one of the doctors at Health Renewal today.