Do you struggle to lose weight? Are you male and have breast tissue? Are you female and simply cannot shift fat from the hips and thighs? Have you ever taken the contraceptive pill? Do you suffer from PMS?
If you answered yes to any of these you NEED to read this article!!
Oestrogen is a steroid hormone which promotes the development and maintenance of female characteristics of the body because of this it is considered a female hormone but men have oestrogen levels too!
Oestrogens are necessary and vital hormones for the proper functioning of various activities in the body. The issue is that today will live in a world that constantly bombards us with oestrogenic substances. Whether it is the falsely claimed ‘healthy’ soy products or the BPA in your water bottle, or in the form of synthetic hormones such as the contraceptive pill and HRT, we face a cascade of hormone disruptors on a daily basis.
One hormone that is particularly affected is the sex hormone progesterone. Progesterone is needed to maintain a healthy sex drive, build strong bones, protect against fibrocystic breasts and also breast and endometrial cancers. But with Oestrogen so prevalent the delicate balance between these two hormones can shift drastically in the wrong direction. The ratio of progesterone to oestrogen plays a role and ideally we want a 5:1 ratio of progesterone to oestrogen. A simple blood test can give you an indication of your levels, and for women experiencing either fertility problems or severe PMS I would highly suggest discussing this with your GP.
As we age both levels drop but progesterone tends to drop even more, couple this with the constant bombarding of our bodies with oestrogenic substances (not to mention the prevalence of HRT!) and we have the perfect environment to create oestrogen dominance as we age.
We do need oestrogen, but we need it in balance, when oestrogen levels are normal and in balance with progesterone, they don’t create a health problem, in fact balanced hormones promote health, but unchecked oestrogen levels can cause havoc with your health and leave losing bodyfat an uphill struggle.
The problem isn’t simply an adult one, many young girls are being put on the contraceptive pill to regulate or alleviate symptoms of periods with potentially devastating effects. Synthetic oestrogens are extremely detrimental to long term health. The pill is touted as an extremely safe form of contraception but consider the rise in the instance of breast cancer since its use increased exponentially. Breast cancer is strongly associated with too much oestrogen and endometrial cancer of the lining of the womb has only one known cause – excessive levels of oestrogen. In addition the rise in oral contraceptives has lead to an increase in oestrogen in our drinking water as it is not broken down in the water cycle or processing. The effects of this are plain to see – consider that the age of puberty has dropped to as low as 8 years old, endometriosis affects 10% of all perimenopausal women and 30% suffer from PMS. In men we see problems with libido and male breast formation, as well as a ‘feminisation’ of male characteristics and reduction in testosterone dominance.
The general population are also getting fatter and you don’t need to be taking the pill or drinking unfiltered water to have excess oestrogen. Several substances mimic oestrogen and these can completely mess up various processes within the body but also make you gain weight and make it nigh impossible to lose it.
Due to these, and many other reasons we will discuss in this blog, many people, men and women alike, are suffering from an excess of oestrogen in the body. This can manifest itself in many ways. Not least stubborn abdominal and femoral fat stores.
Below are some of the main symptoms associated with oestrogen dominance:
- Swollen hands and feet
- Mood disorders
- Irregular periods
- Ovarian cysts
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Weight gain
- Breast cancer
- Auto immune conditions
Low sex drive
Impotency or erectile dysfunction
Prostate and testicular cancer
The culprits are multitudinous but below is a list of the most common causes of oestrogen dominance:
Heavy metals in our diet and in our mouths. Heavy metals have long been known to cause hormonal disruptions within the body. Specifically affected are those with mercury fillings in their mouth. Mercury is highly toxic yet minute amounts seep from fillings into the bloodstream with sometimes severe consequences, it is effectively a slow poisoning. For more information on mercury and its related health issues see Phil Richards book The Science of Fatloss Manual.
Xenoestrogens mimic oestrogen in the body cause symptoms of OD. They are endocrine disruptors, a category of chemicals, that alter the normal function of hormones. Xenoestrogens are not biodegradable so, they are stored in our fat cells.
Here are some of the chemicals that are xenoestrogens
- 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) (sunscreen lotions)
- Parabens (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben commonly used as a preservative)
- Benzophenone (sunscreen lotions)
- Industrial products and Plastics:
- Bisphenol A (monomer for polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin; antioxidant in plasticizers)
- Phthalates (plasticizers)
- DEHP (plasticizer for PVC)
- Polybrominated biphenyl ethers (PBDEs) (flame retardants used in plastics, foams, building materials, electronics, furnishings, motor vehicles).
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
- Erythrosine / FD&C Red No. 3
- Phenosulfothiazine (a red dye)
- Butylated hydroxyanisole / BHA (food preservative)
- Building supplies:
- Pentachlorophenol (general biocide and wood preservative)
- Polychlorinated biphenyls / PCBs (in electrical oils, lubricants, adhesives, paints)
- Atrazine (weed killer)
- DDT (insecticide, banned)
- Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (one of the breakdown products of DDT)
- Dieldrin (insecticide)
- Endosulfan (insecticide)
- Heptachlor (insecticide)
- Lindane / hexachlorocyclohexane (insecticide, used to treat lice and scabies)
- Methoxychlor (insecticide)
- Nonylphenol and derivatives (industrial surfactants; emulsifiers for emulsion polymerization; laboratory detergents; pesticides)
- Propyl gallate
- Chlorine and chlorine by-products
- Ethinylestradiol (combined oral contraceptive pill)
- Metalloestrogens (a class of inorganic xenoestrogens)
- Alkylphenol (surfactant used in cleaning detergents
(Taken from womeninbalance.org)
Avoid creams and cosmetics that have toxic chemicals and estrogenic ingredients such as parabens and stearalkonium chloride.
Commercial dairy products treated with bovine growth hormone – need to eat raw unpasteurized dairy
Canned foods as they contain bpa used to eliminate metal taste in foods.
Plastic bottles and food containers- bpa free just means they have used another plastic hardener – there is no escape – use glass bottles where possible
Phthalates are industrial chemicals used to soften PVC plastic and as solvents in cosmetics and other consumer products,these can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system and cause hormone disruptions. Phthalates like DEHP and DBP have been found to be a powerful reproductive and developmental toxicant in laboratory animals, particularly for males, resulting in testicular atrophy.
One of the main oestrogenic substances in our environment is pesticides. We started growing GMO foods in the 1990’s, these are more heavily treated with pesticides so it is essential to avoid GMO fruits and vegetables as these will be laden with pesticides and chemicals. Buy organic or grow your own where possible.
Also take care in relation to the animal products you consume. Animals are commercially fed grains and generally spiked with hormones – It is wise to remember that you eat everything that your food has eaten so avoid animals raised on grains!
But it’s not all doom and gloom! Below I outline some solutions and actions you can take to protect against and mitigate the effects of oestrogen dominance:
Avoid soy at all costs. Become an avid label reader and if there are any soy products or derivatives in the food do not buy it! Soy is a phyto-oestrogen and one of the most oestrogenic plants found in nature. Couple this with the fact it is highly homogenised, genetically modified and treated heavily with pesticides and we have a perfect storm for hormone disruption. When you eat soy your body treats it as a harmful toxin that needs to be eliminated, this can cause inflammation and digestive disorders. You CAN eat fermented soy products as these are chemically different (think miso not soy milk!). Also because soy is such a cheap and widely available ‘food’ it is often added to protein powders to increase protein content cheaply. Make sure your protein shake doesn’t contain soy protein isolate and check out hemp protein instead or a good grass fed organic whey protein such as Icon Nutrition!
Reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine is linked to higher oestrogen levels and studies have shown that women that have 4/5 cups a day have nearly 70% more Oestrogen that those that have a cup a day. Go for green tea or better still caffeine free herbal infusions.
Do not microwave food in plastic containers and avoid the use of plastic wrap to cover food for storing or microwaving try and use glass or ceramics whenever possible, and never leave plastic containers, especially your drinking water, in the sun.
Use chemical free, biodegradable laundry and household cleaning products.
Choose chlorine-free products and unbleached paper products (i.e. tampons, menstrual pads, toilet paper, paper towel, coffee filters).
Eat grassfed and organic meats. We are very lucky here in Northern Ireland to have some of the best grass (thank the rain ) but also some of the highest quality beef in the world. Most of the animals here are pasture raised and getting local organic meats with transparent traceability is relatively easy for us – so make use of local butchers!
Exercise. We need to exercise to metabolise excess Oestrogen and for great health in general.
Reduce stress. Stress causes adrenal fatigue which reduce progesterone output. Progesterone is an Oestrogen antagonist so we want to keep levels high.
Be kind to your liver! The liver helps to filter out excess oestrogen. If liver function is below par or you have a fatty liver (due to being overweight, or consuming alcohol) then it cannot do its job properly so the oestrogen stays in your system. Avoid drugs that are toxic to the liver, eat beetroot products and reduce alcohol intake.
Eat flaxseed and flaxseed oil. These have been shown to actually decrease the ‘bad’ oestrogen.
Eat cruciferous veg such as broccoli and cauliflower as they contain high levels of DIM (Di-Indoly Methane) which helps promote healthy oestrogen metabolism. DIM can be taken in a pure supplemental form but that’s another blog post!
My own experience!
For various reasons I decided to go on an oestrogen detox recently. I followed a very simple oestrogen detox protocol which I created myself , I haven’t reproduced it here because I wouldn’t want anyone copying such a programme without supervision!
The first week saw some of the worst mood swings I’ve ever had and my forehead broke out in pinhead pimples – it was like being a teenager again. Oh and my pee turned pink and I couldn’t blame beetroot juice this time! But apart from the detoxing side effects I also lost abdominal fat, but more impressive I lost fat from my femoral fat stores, the top of the thigh area. This has always been a problem for me, even when I was competing – I wish I knew about oestrogen dominance and how to mitigate it then!
It is easy to get overwhelmed with this information – that isn’t what I am trying to do. It is impossible to avoid all oestrogenic substances but you can reduce your risk or at least be aware of some of the main culprits and try to avoid them. You need to self assess, do you exhibit any of the previous symptoms? Are you exposed to xenoestrogens? Reducing your exposure to excessive oestrogen levels can be very beneficial to your health, help to reduce fat in stubborn areas and possibly reduce your risk of some cancers – it is well known that many cancers are dependent on glucose to thrive but some are also oestrogen feeders, namely breast cancer and endometrial cancer of the lining of the womb. We cannot completely avoid oestrogens, and because they play a vital role within the body we need them, but we do need to keep the ratio of oestrogen to progesterone in check!
It’s not a new problem, nor is it one that will be quickly rectified. I’ll leave you with an excerpt from the Daily Mail printed nearly a decade ago…
PTI Head Tutor