What is natural estrogen and what happens when you have Estrogen dominance?
Natural estrogen is an essential hormone to humans, especially females. It is responsible for physical development of the female reproductive system, works in tandem with the hormone progesterone for fertility, is a protector of blood vessels and bones. Estrogen is a very stimulatory hormone and cells grow and divide under its influence, this is the normal function of estrogen.
In women, natureâ€™s counter-balance to the stimulatory effects of estrogen is the hormone pro- gesterone. In men it is the hormone testosterone. When estrogen levels become too high or progesterone/testosterone levels are too low (or both) then the result is estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance is more common in women than men, so this article focuses more on the effects of Estrogen dominance in women.
In women the overall symptoms of estrogen dominance are often nondescript, this leads to difficulty in quick diagnoses. below are some of the commone symptoms of estrogen dominance:
- a general malaise,
- a feeling that something is just not right,
- of not being on top of life and
- a general loss of confidence in oneâ€™s self and abilities.
Physically, mentally and emotionally the most common symptoms include:
- mood changes
- forgetfulness/memory blanks
- sleep disturbances
- decreased concentration
- breast tenderness/soreness
- aches and pains
- fluid retention/bloating
- sugar cravings
- menstrual changes
- increased body fat/weight gain
- lowered sexual desire
Some women may experience only one or two of these symptoms whereas others may experience many. Estrogen dominance is at its most severe during the peri-menopausal and early menopausal years.
Estrogen dominance is commonly the result of exposure to environmental estrogens that disrupt normal hormonal action, such exposure may be accidental or due to lifestyle choices. In many women estrogen dominance is common from the long-term use of birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Estrogen dominance is linked to fertility problems in both sexes, premature breast development in young girls, man-boobs or gynecomastia in men, feminization of boys, precancerous overgrowth of the uterine lining (endometrial hyperplasia),
You can find out more on these conditions by downloading theseÂ free booklets on hormone and endocrine illnesses.
In 1984 environmentalists confirmed that there is a build-up of dangerous chemicals in our water supply. Initially, the run-off from fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides was blamed for causing species of frogs and fish to switch gender. Later, scientists confirmed these plus many other man-made, estrogen-like chemical toxins (xenoestrogens) in the water supply were causing malformation of the reproductive systems of many animal species. Additional scientific studies have demonstrated that in human populations where environmental xenoestrogen contamination is high that the incidence of birth defects, reproductive organ malformation and infertility in both sexes significantly increases.
Estrogen dominance as a medical condition applied to humans was first suggested in 1993 by American physician John Lee m.D. Dr. Lee was a Harvard graduate who became a general practitioner in northern California. He charted the progress of many female patients over the course of his30-year practice.
Dr. Leeâ€™s clinical experience led him to believe many disorders arise when progesterone levels fall in relation to normal or high estrogen levels. He gave natural progesterone in a cream base to his patients and saw a dramatic improvement in their menopausal symptoms. Other conditions caused by the effects of estrogen dominating over progesterone, such as as uterine fibroids, heavy periods (menorrhagia), and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) also dramatically improved.
Dr. Lee died on October 17, 2003.
In the years since, researchers at the U.S. National Institute of environmental Health Sciences have advanced their investigations into xenoestrogens. We now know that xenoestrogens which settle in body fat can disrupt all of the endocrine glands and not just the ovaries. (The endocrine glands are the ovaries, testes, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, adrenals, pituitary, pineal, and pancreas. The kidneys are considered endocrines because they produce the hormone renin. The lungs, liver, and digestive tract are endocrine because they produce prostaglandin hormones.) Hormone receptors in our cells have difficulty distinguishing between helpful natural estrogen and toxic xenoestrogens as well as the synthetic more powerful pharmaceutical estrogens.
Xenoestrogens and pills of pharmaceutical estrogens cause an overload of estrogen, even when the progesterone level is normal. estrogen dominance damages in particular the thyroid and adrenal glands, the reproductive organs, liver, nervous system, causes an imbalance of copper and magnesium levels, and is implicated as a cause of some cancers. It affects people of all ages and both genders.
While xenoestrogens have a powerful stimulating effect on estrogen receptors in their own right, they also have a detrimental effect on the ovaries and are a major cause of ovulatory disturbances. Anovulation is a failure of the ovary to release a mature egg which results in little or no progesterone production. High levels of estrogen cause anovulation. This is how the Pill works as a contraceptive. Disrupted ovulation has a dramatic impact on the production of progesterone which is only produced if ovulation is successful. The double impact of normal, high estrogens plus low progesterone creates a hormone imbalance, hence the resulting symptoms of estrogen dominance.
Why does estrogen dominance develop?
Xenoestrogens are everywhere. They leach or outgas from:
- Car exhaust
- Carpet backings
- Commercially-produced dairy products containing bovine growth hormone or from pregnant cows
- Commercially-raised meat
- Cosmetics and toiletries
- Detergents and fabric softeners
- FD&C red Dye Ã¢â€žâ€“3 (erythrosine) and phenosulfothiazine (also a red dye)
- Food preserved with BHA in the packaging
- Herbicides and pesticides
- Incinerator plumes
- Industrial effluent
- Perfumes and air fresheners containing phthalates
- Plants containing phytoestrogens
- Plastic containing bisphenol A, or DeHP, or phthalates
- Plastic wrap and non-stick cookware
- Soap and cleaners containing foaming agents
- Spermicides in condoms
- Upholstered furniture
If you are concerned that a particular environmental toxin may be adversely affecting your health, then look it up at theÂ U.S. National Library of medicineâ€™s Tox Town site. To find out more about ongoing research into xenoestrogens and genetically vulnerable people, visit the U.S. National Institute of environmental Health Sciences.
Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy (HrT), taken to relieve menopausal symptoms, are common causes of estrogen dominance. Birth control pills contain synthetic estrogens that are much more powerful than natural estrogen. Natural estrogen if taken by mouth is broken down by the liver and ineffective, whereas the synthetic estrogen in oral contraceptives and HrT transit through the liver and have a greater impact on the body than natural estrogen. If the dose used is too high (and it often is) then the symptoms of estrogen dominance will occur. even with todayâ€™s â€˜low-doseâ€™ birth control pills the doses used can still result in estrogen dominance due to little or no progesterone production.
Who develops estrogen dominance?
Overweight people are particularly prone to estrogen dominance. Fat cells (adipose tissues) produce a weak form of estrogen (estrone). People in developed countries have more estrogen dominance issues than their Third World counterparts, because they eat more food contaminated with traces of many peri-menopausal women are deficient in progesterone because they ovulate less frequently and even if ovulating each month have a significantly reduced progesterone output. They may have lower levels of estrogen than young women, but are still estrogen dominant because of an even greater progesterone deficiency. Their hormones are unbalanced as they head towards menopause. menopause itself adds a complication to the overall hormonal pic- ture because estrogen levels also decline.
A very common misunderstanding with estrogen and menopause is that estrogen levels fall to zero once the monthly periods stop. In fact, estrogen falls to a level which is not sufficient to stimulate cells of the uterine lining to divide and shed on a monthly basis; however estrogen production remains on-going at a lesser rate. As is often the case when menopausal women are given HrT (estrogens) their periods re-commence because supplemented estrogen re-stimulates the cells of the uterus to grow, divide and shed. Not only is this inconvenient to the woman, but it widens the gap between the estrogen-progesterone balance and the HRT can increase the estrogen dominance.
At menopause when all ovulation ceases (and progesterone levels fall to zero) estrogen-dominant perimenopausal women often find their symptoms get worse. note: Some women do need low doses of estrogen to manage hot flashes and night sweats during the menopause because these symptoms can be more debilitating than those of estrogen dominance. It is often a fine balancing act that needs to be undertaken.
Long-term stress in women may leave them prone to estrogen dominance because progesterone is preferentially converted by the body to cortisol, the stress hormone. often, women who experience great physical trauma or the tragic/sudden loss of a child or spouse will experience an immediate and irreversible cessation of ovulation and periods, early menopause. This immediate reduction in progesterone production usually results in the symptoms of estrogen dominance.
Progesterone is the base hormone (precursor) from which all other hormones/steroids are made. Hence, progesterone deficiency or estrogen dominance affects the entire endocrine system. other factors that may lower progesterone levels include:
- Acute critical illness, burns, major trauma or surgery (stress)
- Drug use (e.g. opiates, glucocorticoids, anabolic steroids, some anticonvulsants)
- Chronic disease and its treatment
- Alcohol abuse
Understand more on Estrogen Dominance:
The information in this article has been taken with permission from the official Lawley booklet onÂ Understanding Estrogen Dominance.