Estrogen will always be a topic of discussion as long as there are women on this planet. If we are talking about breast cancer or ovarian cancer, PMS, bioidentical hormones, or fertility, estrogens always seem to be on the prowl. The good news is that estrogen dominance can be regulated with food and diet. Read on to learn more about this estrogen topic and what can be done.
What is estrogen?
A hormone is a substance that is produced in a tissue, released into the bloodstream, and then travels to other tissues where the hormone binds to receptors and will have an effect.
Estrogen is a hormone produced predominantly in the ovaries, but it can also be produced in other tissues such as the adrenal glands (this is why men have estrogen, but in smaller levels). L os estrogen receptors are present in many tissues: kidney, brain, bones, heart, lungs, etc.
This is why many systems are affected by estrogen imbalances. A person with estrogen dominance, or a lot of estrogen, has higher than ideal levels of estrogen in their body relative to progesterone.
Symptoms of estrogen dominance
Estrogen dominance can contribute to symptoms like breast tenderness, mood swings, food cravings, weight gain, migraines, irregular periods, and much more. Women with fertility-related problems can also have hormonal imbalances that lead to estrogen dominance.
Those with higher estrogen levels may also be at higher risk for developing more serious conditions such as overgrowth of tissues in the reproductive organs (i.e., cysts, polyps, endometriosis), as well as breast and uterine cancers.
It should be noted that estrogen is not that bad, although it is necessary for healthy reproductive cycles, maintains healthy bone density, contributes to a healthy heart, and can positively affect mood.
With menopause, levels drop and the risk of developing osteoporosis, heart disease, and mood swings increases. So, what can we do to make sure our estrogen levels are well balanced?
Maintain hormonal balance
Diet can play an important role in healthy hormonal balance. When it comes to estrogen dominance, it's important to make sure your liver function and digestion are working optimally.
The liver is responsible for breaking down (metabolizing) estrogen, and the digestive system removes the broken down estrogen. Foods that promote liver function and a healthy digestive system include:
· Green Tea
· Leafy green vegetables (dandelion root, kale, Swiss chard, spinach, arugula)
· Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy)
· Onions and garlic
· Fiber-rich foods (berries, chia seeds, psyllium, etc.)
Plant-based foods that have effects on female hormones are called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are important as they tend to exert a weaker estrogenic effect than estrogens produced in the body.
By demanding a place at estrogen receptors in other tissues, they prevent stronger estrogens from binding to those receptors and help lead to more balanced levels of estrogens. Examples of foods that contain lignans or isoflavones (the components that make phytoestrogens what they are) include:
· Other seeds (i.e., pumpkin, sunflower)
· Licorice root
Although moderate amounts of phytoestrogens in the diet are considered beneficial with respect to healthy hormonal balance, more recent research shows that soy, in particular, should be consumed with relative caution.
In addition to including certain foods in your diet, it is also important to limit your exposure to xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are synthetic compounds that resemble naturally produced estrogens in chemical structure. Some xenoestrogens are especially dangerous for women, as they have been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Xenoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors in various tissues and can raise estrogen levels more than natural estrogens in our bodies. Examples of places where harmful xenoestrogens can be found include cosmetics, lotions, plastics, and pesticides. More specifically, the components to consider include:
· Ethylene oxide
· Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
Lastly, physical activity and healthy body fat levels play an important role in maintaining optimal estrogen levels. Not only does exercise help lower estrogen levels, it can also improve the excretion of excess estrogen.
Seek hormonal help
We can see that diet and lifestyle modifications can greatly improve hormonal health. However, we also know that maintaining healthy hormonal balance is rarely clear.
If you have concerns regarding your hormones, you should seek guidance from your doctor.
Adequate medication, physical examination, and laboratory tests are necessary to see exactly what is going on, rule out serious conditions, and decide what interventions might be necessary.
For example, estrogen dominance could be the result of having too much, too little progesterone, or a problem with other hormones, and you can treat each scenario differently.
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