Many people know the benefits of estrogen for our bodies, such as supporting bone density and joint health, supple skin, vaginal lubrication, libido, focus and cognition, fertility and cardiovascular health. Most of us have also heard the stories of post menopausal women who have many related symptoms due to low estrogen.
On the other hand, many people don’t realize that too much estrogen can have unwanted effects. Excessive or unbalanced levels of estrogen have been associated with health issues including PMS, breast tenderness and breast cysts, fibroids, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, PCOS, premature puberty, infertility and breast cancer.
Why are many of these “estrogen dominant” conditions on the rise?
Estrogens are made in our bodies on a monthly cycle, but we can also absorb estrogen-like chemicals from the environment known as xenoestrogens. “Xenos” is a Greek word meaning “stranger,” and these xenoestrogens can act as unwelcome guests in the body. These estrogen-like chemicals can have a much stronger effect than our own natural estrogens by binding more strongly to receptors or simply by increasing the total estrogenic effect on our bodies.
Unfortunately xenoestrogenic compounds are commonly found in products many people use on a daily basis – plastic packaging and water bottles, canned food and beverages, household cleaning products, candles, perfume and other items with synthetic fragrance, body care products, cosmetics, birth control pills, non-organic foods, gasoline and the list goes on. BPA, parabens, phthalates, PCBs, Red #3, DDT, benzene, flame retardant, propylene glycol are all chemicals that have been shown to have estrogen-like effects in the body.
The first major way to reduce the effect of xenoestrogens is to recognize and avoid them in the first place.
Here are some common sources of xenoestrogens to watch for and suggestions for safer substitutes:
- Plastic packaging, saran wrap, plastic water bottles (BPA, PCBs and phthalates) – even products that are labeled as “BPA-free” may contain other dangerous plastics so instead use glass, stainless steel, waxed paper, Bee’s wrap (beeswax coated cotton for food storage). Never heat food in plastic containers, avoid hot take-out foods in plastic containers. Cook and eat at home or in-place at the restaurant.
- Receipt papers (BPA) – don’t take paper receipts, have receipts emailed to you.
- Unfiltered tap water (may contain estradiol from agricultural sources and pharmaceuticals) – reverse osmosis water filtration is the only proven method of estradiol-removal from water.
- Food and beverage can linings (BPA) – drink filtered water at home or beverages from glass bottles, eat fresh foods or foods canned in glass.
- Birth control pills and non-bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (ethinyl estradiol and other synthetic estrogens) – use non-hormonal forms of contraception and holistic treatments for hormonal imbalance including bioidentical hormone therapy if indicated.
- Cosmetics, shampoo, lotion, sunscreen (parabens, phthalates, fragrance) – look for products without parabens, phthalates. Use EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics guide.
- Pesticides in non-organic produce & animal products – eat organic or unsprayed foods, wash fruits and vegetables before consuming. Use http://www.ewg.org/foodnews to guide you in food choices.
- Synthetic fragrances in candles, perfumes, air fresheners, laundry detergent, fabric softener, scented toilet paper, home cleaning products – choose unscented products or those with essential oils for fragrance. 7th Generation, Method, Ms. Myers are alternatives. Pranarom, Aura Cacia, Snow Lotus are great organic essential oils.
- Household products such as paint, varnish, building materials, carpeting, mattresses – use low VOC products whenever possible, look for mattresses without flame retardant – Soaring Heart is one brand; use a high-quality air filter on a daily basis – Austin Air; thoroughly air out spaces that have been freshly painted before occupying, keep windows open and air circulating throughout the house.
Natural Ways to Support Elimination of Xenoestrogens
Since it is difficult to completely eliminate xenoestrogens from our lives, the next best thing is to eliminate them from our systems. Because hormones are processed by the liver and excreted with the feces, support liver health by eating organic foods, drinking filtered water, and avoiding toxic household and body products. Minimize consumption of alcohol, acetaminophen and other liver-damaging drugs. Eat foods for liver health…beets, artichokes, dark green leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, garlic and onions, eggs, lemon and ground milk thistle, which you can put in smoothies or take as an extract. Protein is also an important source of amino acids used in the detox process. We usually recommend 20 or more grams per meal or 60-80gm per day.
Healthy elimination helps rid the body of toxins, so aid your system by eating fiber from vegetables, whole grains, legumes, freshly ground flax seeds, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. Drink plenty of filtered water (reverse-osmosis filters get rid of exogenous estrogens from birth control pills, etc). Since hormone excretion depends on healthy bacterial populations in the gut, nurture yours with naturally cultured foods and a high-quality probiotic. Sweating, whether by exercise, hot baths or sauna, and ideally on a daily basis, is another important way to rid the body of toxins.
Supplements such as DIM and calcium-d-glucarate can also support specific estrogen detoxification pathways, and your need for those and appropriate dosing can be determined via testing with your ND or functional medicine practitioner.
It’s not likely we can completely eliminate exogenous estrogens from our bodies, but by taking some of the steps above you can certainly reduce your exposure and boost your elimination.
If you have one of the conditions related to high estrogen levels and would like more help to optimize your hormone balance, we warmly invite you to schedule a complimentary “Vitality Discovery Call” so we can get to know you and help you figure out your best next steps from here.
- 8 Weeks to Women’s Wellness by Marianne Marchesi, ND
- Sneaky sources of chemical estrogens: https://main.poliquingroup.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/PrinterFriendly.aspx?ID=2795&lang=EN