We are all fairly aware of the how environmental toxins contribute to climate change and the disruption of the delicate ecosystems on our planet.
We we may be less familiar with the fact that these same chemicals in our environment (air, water and food) and common household products can mimic our bodies natural hormones and cause endocrine disruption in our bodies finely tuned systems. These synthetic chemicals/toxins are called xenoestrogens. Overtime, an accumulation of xenoestrogens (from the common everyday sources below*) will upset our bodies balance of important hormones like our natural estrogen and progesterone. Toxins do this by blocking or binding hormone receptors in our tissues. The balance of our reproductive hormones is essential for normal functioning of sensitive tissue like the breast, uterus as well as the immune and reproductive system in both women and men. The disruption of hormone balance and function can result in a condition of estrogen dominance.
Estrogen Dominance occurs when the body does not have enough progesterone to balance out the influence of estrogen. We see this condition of estrogen dominance commonly at the clinic. Women experiencing PMS, difficulties with fertility, fibrocystic breasts, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, breast cancer, ovarian cysts, and menopausal symptoms often have estrogen dominance. For men they often present with problems concerning fertility (low sperm count), prostate, testicular and other reproductive health issues.
How do we encounter xenoestrogens?
*The common everyday activities listed below can increase our exposure to xenoestrogens:
- using antibacterial soaps and wipes (parabens)
- drinking unfiltered water (industrial pollutants: eg: atroxine, perchlorate, arsenic pharmaceuticals: eg. birth control pills , HRT -Hormone Replacement Therapy)
- drinking and eating from plastic bottles, containers and cans (BPA- Bisphenol -A),
- eating food grown with pesticides, herbicides and in contaminated soil (organophosphates, perchlorate, dioxins)
- eating milk products and meat treated with growth hormones
- eating food with added flavours or colour (FD and C Red Dye #9) and preservatives (BHA)
- using cosmetics and skincare (parabens, acetone, phthalates etc. )
- using sunscreen (4-MBC- 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor and benzophenones)
- using conventional cleaning products (glycol ethers)
- using non-stick pans and having upholstery, electronics as well as automobiles and furniture treated with fire-retardants (PBDE)
How do xenoestrogens accumulate?
The liver is one of the key organs designed to clear toxins from the body. The liver is also responsible for metabolizing hormones. However, when there is heavy load of chemicals challenging the liver OR a detoxification and elimination pathway is blocked a toxic burden piles up that is greater than the body can remove. An accumulation of toxins occurs and an imbalance in the form of estrogen dominance ensues.
What are the symptoms of estrogen dominance?
Fatigue, breast tenderness, water retention, weight gain (especially hips and waist), headaches, heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding, disrupted sleep, mood swings, irritability, hot flashes, decreased libido, thinning of scalp hair, and poor concentration are some of the symptoms of estrogen dominance.
How to prevent estrogen dominance?
There are many ways to prevent estrogen dominance. These include:
1) Avoiding xenoestrogens in your environment (see list above)
2) Managing stress (high stress hormone “withdrawls” can steal your progesterone building blocks!)
3) Maintain healthy weight (toxic chemicals are stored in our fat cells),
4) Supporting detoxification pathways (lighten the chemical load)
5) Supporting your endocrine (hormone) system.
Naturopathic Medicine is well- equipped to provide evaluation and guidance here for stress and weight management, cleansing/ detoxification and endocrine support. We do this with diet and lifestyle counseling, nutrients (supplements, minerals, vitamins) and herbs, and if indicated through testing, bioidentical hormone supplementation.
How do we assess estrogen dominance and hormone status?
The most effective way to assess hormone status is to test saliva for the appropriate hormone levels. Saliva is the best method for testing “functional” or “active” tissue levels of hormones. At Sage, we work with a number of labs that provide this testing and can determine which panel of tests is most suited to each individual situation.
Doing a proper individual evaluation of your unique hormone levels before embarking on a supplementation program is most advantageous. The naturopathic doctors at Sage specialize in this type of testing and prescribing designed to effectively treat individuals who are experiencing conditions that arise from estrogen dominance.