Balancing & Minimizing Harmful Estrogens
Estrogen and Females
Estrogen is the primary sex hormone in females. It is produced in the ovaries, adrenals glands, and fat cells. Levels of estrogen are highest during a woman’s reproductive years and naturally decline with age. Estrogen is known to:
- Promote uterine lining to support healthy pregnancies
- Contribute to sexuality
- Help with maintaining healthy cholesterol levels
There are three different types of estrogens. Each different type plays a distinctive role in maintaining female health:
- Estrogen type 1: This type of estrogen is produced in the fat cells and ovaries of women and is the most dominant one, especially in postmenopausal women. This particular estrogen is metabolized into three other forms of estrogen: 2-hydroxyestrone (most desirable), 4-hydroxyestrone, and 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone.
- Estrogen type 2: The most predominant in non-pregnant reproducing women is that this type of estrogen aids in the egg releasing from the ovaries. It has beneficial effects on the bones, brain, heart, and colon.
- Estrogen type 3: Secreted by the placenta during pregnancy, this is the weakest estrogen and the one least associated with female cancers.
Having an excess of “bad estrogens” is known as estrogen dominance. The following are signs of estrogen dominance in females:
- Decreased libido
- Cold hands and feet
- Breast swelling and tenderness
- Irregular or heavy periods
- Water retention
- Mood swings
- Weight gain (especially around the mid-section)
- Headaches (premenstrual)
- PMS, cramping, changes in cycle
- Food craving
Estrogen and Males
Estrogen is found in men too!
Aromatase converts testosterone to estrogen, which will increase sex hormone binding globulin production and bind up testosterone. Increased estrogen sends negative feedback to the hypothalamus and interrupts proper testosterone production. Same as the women, having an excess of “bad estrogens” in men is known as estrogen dominance; however, the symptoms may vary. The following are signs of estrogen dominance in men:
- Loss of muscle tone
- Weight gain
- Decreased libido
- Prostate issues
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Increased pectoral fat
But I don’t see sprayed ‘toxins’ on food labels?
We have a very loose definition of the word ‘toxic.’ Even then, it is denied! Toxic is not poisonous, toxic is harmful. Anything harmful for your health can be toxic for you – even water if you consume it in high enough amounts. We learn about chemicals in our environment on a ‘need to know’ basis, but if actions are not taken right away, our grandchildren will pay the ultimate price. BPA (or Bisphenol A) is a good example of harmful toxins in our everyday environment. Companies use BPA in refined plastic products, canned foods, and even plastic water bottles. Besides causing neurological issues in infants, it has also been found to lower testosterone levels in men. What makes BPA an ’insidious plague’ is that companies don’t always label their products.
The numbers ‘three’ and ‘seven’ show if BPA has been used. We should find the numbers represented in the triangle. However, that’s not always the case.
How to Decrease Estrogen Dominance
These are the ways in which estrogen dominance can be controlled:
- Increase fiber
- If you are on birth control, try quitting it by consulting your doctor.
- Eat organic. Follow the mantra of “from farm to the table.” Understandably, you may not completely switch to an organic diet all of a sudden. But try eating as much organic as possible.
- Lose excess weight
- Decrease environmental estrogen exposure
Environmental estrogen is very different from natural estrogen. They are not produced by our bodies but are chemical components that come from our environment.
Environmental estrogens produce estrogen-like activity in your body and can build up to estrogen dominance in both the sexes. This estrogen dominance can further lead to harmful side effects such as accelerated aging, breast cancer, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, and several other pathologic issues.
Reduce Environmental Toxins to Speed up Metabolism
These disease-causing estrogens are often linked to fat storage. The world we live in is toxic and is only getting worse. We need to adapt and change habits to be healthy. With the advent of technology, we are becoming slaves to a sedentary lifestyle. Environmental estrogens affect your health by keeping your liver working in overdrive and dramatically increase disease risk.
Functional medicine links estrogen dominance to accumulating fat around the upper hamstring region. Excess estrogens and fat around the upper hamstring area are strongly correlated to cancer risk and impaired elimination of environmental estrogens.
These mimicking estrogens can even cause more fat storage around the umbilical region due to the stressful nature of toxicity. The literature strongly agrees that stress and cortisol production increases belly fat.
Where are Environmental Estrogens?
Environmental estrogens, as the term itself suggests, are found in the environment. It is a technical term referred to a group of synthetic substances. Once these environmentally present estrogens absorb in the human body, they act like normal estrogens – the generic name for female sex hormone. However, in both males and females, these environmental estrogens can disrupt the body’s metabolism and have serious consequences. Severe consequences may cause a threat to the body’s natural reproductive system.
More than 60 substances, including dioxin, DDT, and PCB have been identified as environmental estrogens. You will find environmental estrogens in a wide range of products, including
- Phthalates, Bisphenol A, Dioxins
- Heavy metals
- Artificial sweeteners
- Heavy metals
- Brominated and chlorinated products
- Sugars and refined foods
- Prescription drugs
- Electromagnetic radiations
- Parabens, Polyethelene glycol
- Bacterial Parasites
How to Lower Exposure to Environmental Estrogens
Where do phthalates, parabens, heavy metals, and harmful BPA’s come from? They can be in many of the things you use every day, from soaps and detergents to the coatings on pills or cheap supplement tablets. Wrappers and can linings can also be a source, and another reason they should be avoided. Below are some of the guidelines which you can follow to limit your exposure to environmental estrogens:
Use EWG.org to Assess Products
- On the EWG.org website, you can search for your products to see the toxins’ level and find alternatives. They even have an app called “Skin Deep and Healthy Living” to use when trying to find a healthier alternative at the store. Simply scan the bar code to reveal its toxic rating.
- Use products with a 1-2 rating to greatly limit your exposure.
Avoid All Plastics
- Avoid using plastic water bottles, grocery bags, fresh produce wrapped in plastic, etc.
- Try to use paper wrapping as much as possible.
- Never microwave plastic. This accelerates toxins leaching into your food or beverage. Committing to glass Tupperware is well worth the investment.
Avoid Heavy Metals from Pans and Canned Foods
- Never use non-stick pans for cooking. At high temperatures, these pans give off heavy metals that leach into food.
- Stick with fresh foods and organic butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and other healthy fats for cooking.
- Ceramic, cast iron, and stainless steel pans are best.
- Avoid buying canned goods unless they are organic, with BPA free liners.
Drink Filtered Water
- Strive to use a water filter at all times. Most water supplies are contaminated. Even a low-cost Brita filter will remove 90% of contaminates.
Avoid contaminants such as
- Mercury or silver fillings
- Fluoride toothpastes
- Belly button rings
- Weekly dry cleaning services
- Antibacterial soaps
- Aerosols and air fresheners
Eat Organic Foods
- This helps to lower pesticide, hormone, and antibiotic consumption. Always wash fruits and veggies before eating.
- The best meat choices are:
- Grass-fed meats
- Free-range chicken
- Wild meats
- Freshwater fish, avoid farm-raised
If you think eating healthier will take a toll on your budget, then buy the “Dirty Dozen” foods organic and “Clean 15” foods non-organic. I have compiled two lists below containing different items that you can opt for as a safer choice. The Environmental Working Group has enlisted a number of options to educate people with high and low levels of pesticides. Several tests were conducted to conclude results based on data collected from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and FDA.
Clean 15 and Dirty dozen are the polar opposite lists of elements consisting of fruits, veggies, and edibles. The dirty dozen list should always be bought organic as it contains high levels of pesticide.
The Dirty Dozen
- Domestic blueberries
- Sweet bell peppers
- Spinach, kale and collard greens
- Imported grapes
Trying to Eat More Organic, and It’s Straining Your Budget?
Here’s a list of non-organic foods with low levels of pesticides. These foods tend to have very low levels of pesticides, and if you need to buy some non-organic food, they are the safest.
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas
- Kiwi fruit
- Sweet onions
- Sweet potatoes
Organic Food, Really?
The Food Industry has been campaigning with literature saying that organic food is just as nutritional as non-organic food. True or false, that’s still not why you should or shouldn’t buy organic food. What should be the motive behind buying whole foods instead of ‘inorganic’ foods then? You buy organic food because you don’t want to consume pesticides or any other chemicals that are dangerous for humans.
Many so-called experts disagree on the poisonous nature of pesticides. But do we need the experts to tell us this lie? The truth is evident and glaring at us: pesticides kill living organisms. Still, most are yet to be researched for long-term effects on human health. Pesticides are the corroding elements that hide in plain sight by big industries.
Another solution to lower down the estrogen levels is that women and even some men consider estrogen-balancing supplements. It’s difficult to suggest one without knowing your health history, but from my experience, most estrogen dominant individuals benefit from the below supplements:
- Dim or Sulforaphane
- Calcium D-glucarate
- Milk Thistle
Everyone can feel the effects of environmental estrogens, men included. Reducing these toxins in your body is the key to improved health and better metabolism. How well you eat, how active you are, and how many toxins you are exposed to dictate disease risk, and how well our metabolism operates. There are some things we cannot change, but there are many that we can. So while you can, try making a change for your better health, starting today!