Estrogen is a sex hormone that plays a vital role for both men and women. It is made in the ovaries, testes and adrenal glands. Estrogen dominance is a condition that occurs when the body has too much estrogen and not enough progesterone. This is becoming more common due to exposure to xenoestrogens, parabens and other hormone-mimicking chemicals in our environment that bind to the same receptors as estrogen.
Symptoms occur in both men and women and can include:
-Weight gain around the hips and waist
-Fibrocystic breast tissue
-An enlarged prostate.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is important to report to your naturopathic doctor to assess and treat the underlying cause, which may be estrogen dominance. Longterm, estrogen dominance can increase risk of autoimmune disease including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, candida overgrowth and hormonal cancers.
One of the most concerning risks of estrogen dominance is cancer. Some of the cancers associated with estrogen dominance include: breast, uterine, ovarian and prostate cancer. Breast cancer rates have increased from one in twenty in 1960 to one in eight today, especially among women older than fifty. Risk factors contributing to the increase include increased lifetime exposure to estrogens. This may be caused by obesity, and exposure to exogenous estrogens in the form of birth control, environmental toxins and precocious puberty.
Common endocrine disrupting environmental toxins are parabens, pthalates, MTBE, growth hormones, antibiotics, heavy metals and BPA. These can be found in plastics, personal care products, dairy, meat and even the air.
While it is important to limit your exposure to environmental toxins where possible, this can be understandably hard to accomplish. Thankfully, our bodies are equipped with the tools to detoxify harmful environmental agents. With the help of targeted supplementation and a healthy lifestyle, you can mitigate your risk for estrogen dominant cancers.
Estrogen is metabolized through the liver into three different pathways. Of these, the 2-hydroxy metabolic pathway has been associated with the lowest risk for cancer, while the 16-hydroxy and 4-hydroxy pathways are associated with higher risk, as well as symptoms of estrogen dominance including irritability, vaginal dryness and PMS.
Specialty testing is available to assess your production of estrogen metabolites and environmental toxin exposures. You can begin to support detoxification pathways in your body by practicing: sleep hygiene, daily exercise, sweating, and consuming a diet including well-cooked cruciferous vegetables. These measures reduce the burden on your liver and support healthy gut microbiota that regulate estrogen metabolism.