What is oestrogen?
Oestrogen, one of the main sex hormones produced by women, is responsible for many functions, from regulating menstrual cycles to maintaining bone density, regulating fat stores, and supporting learning and memory, among many others.
There are three types of oestrogen: oestradiol (the most potent of the oestrogens and predominant in reproductive years), oestrone (predominant during peri/menopause and post menopause), and oestriol (present in large amounts during pregnancy). Through the process of oestrogen metabolism, we also produce different oestrogen metabolites, of which some can be harmful to health.
When things go wrong – oestrogen dominance.
Some women experience symptoms of “oestrogen dominance”, commonly understood as having too much oestrogen in the body. It’s not as simple as that as oestrogen and progesterone work together and “oestrogen dominance” symptoms also occur when there isn’t enough progesterone to balance oestrogen’s effects. In Nutritional Therapy, we see oestrogen dominance as a state of excessive oestrogenic activity.
The balancing act.
The liver is responsible for breaking down oestrogen for excretion via the bowels. Friendly bacteria play a crucial role in neutralising some of the toxic oestrogen metabolites, and a healthy, regular bowel excretes them out of the body. If the gut microbiome is compromised, or constipation is present, oestrogen can build up in the system adding to the oestrogenic load. Combined with the body’s ability to metabolise oestrogen, environmental factors play a crucial part in pushing the balance. There are many factors that determine how effectively the liver and bowels metabolise oestrogens, from our nutrient status to stress levels, sugar consumption, and toxic load, among others. You could imagine it as a funnel; if we have a lot of oestrogen floating around whilst our body is unhealthy and unable to detoxify effectively, we end up with too much oestrogen, or the wrong types of metabolites.
This can lead to various symptoms and conditions, including:
- Heavy and painful periods
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Headaches or migraines
- Hormonally influenced carcinogenic changes
- Fertility issues
- Use natural and organic cosmetics to avoid parabens, phthalates and other compounds that can act as oestrogen in the body, disrupting hormonal balance. On average, women use 12 personal care products a day, exposing themselves to around 150 chemical ingredients.
- Avoid storing food in plastic containers or using cling film which might contain BPA. Even BPA-free plastic is now believed to leak some chemicals. Use glass, ceramic, or stainless steel for food and drink storage and microwaving.
- Shop receipts are also major source of BPA. People who handle receipts frequently have been found to have significantly elevated levels of BPA in their urine. Leave unnecessary receipts and wash your hands after handling then.
- Filter your water. You can install a water filter to the home mains water supply, or use a countertop water filter such as the Berkey filter.
- Regular physical activity can help to reduce stress and reduce oestrogen levels.
- Manage your stress by scheduling daily self-care, practicing meditation or deep-breathing exercises such as the ‘Box Breathing’ technique. Daily journaling and art therapy can also help you unwind and reduce your stress levels.
- Sleep is your ultimate repair time, so make sure you optimise both the quantity of sleep and the quality.
- Reduce caffeine as it can increase the production of more potent types of oestrogen, and also decrease your ability to detoxify them effectively.
- Reduce alcohol consumption as it can increase levels of free unbound oestrogen.
- Buy more organic produce, to reduce your exposure to pesticides.
- Increase phytoestrogen intake from flaxseeds, sesame seeds, tofu and tempeh, which weakly bind to oestrogen receptors, blocking more stimulating types of oestrogen.
- Have a daily intake of cruciferous vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, and kale) which are great sources of sulphoraphane and can support the detoxification of oestrogen.
- Increase your intake of prebiotic-rich foods such as oats, banana, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory, to support a good balance of bacteria and regular bowel movements.
- Adding a protein source to each meal and reducing your intake of refined carbohydrates can help maintain balanced blood sugar levels.
- Increase foods rich in antioxidants (brightly coloured fruit & veg, green tea, spices) to reduce inflammation.
- Maintain good hydration and eat fibre-rich foods to support elimination.
- Vitamin B6 and magnesium help with oestrogen balance and reduces PMS symptoms.
- Methylfolate and Calcium-D-Glucarate promote the methylation and glucuronidation pathways – the key pathways for oestrogen detoxification.
- Rosemary, broccoli extract & Indole-3-Carbinol promote healthy oestrogen detoxification and reduce the pro-inflammatory and harmful metabolites, aiding healthy oestrogen elimination and protecting our cells from damage.
- Green tea reduces circulating oestradiol and insulin, promoting healthy blood glucose levels.
- Red clover prevents the activity of more stimulating oestrogens, and reduces PMS.
Things you can do now:
- Undergo a DUTCH test: a hormone test to see how your body is metabolising its oestrogens.
- Get bespoke advice about your own nutrient requirements.
- Join our Perimenopause Programme to support your hormonal transition.
- Contact Jo for bespoke advice, to find out about testing, or to book a free discovery call.