What Is Oestrogen?
Oestrogen is the name given to a group of hormones produced by a woman’s ovaries.
This group - comprising oestradiol, oestrone, is responsible for regulating the woman’s reproductive cycle; as well as maturing the female body for fertility by causing the breasts to grow and the menstrual cycle to commence.
During the menstrual cycle, oestrogen is responsible for causing the lining of the womb to thicken in order to accept and nourish a fertilised egg. Once pregnancy is established, oestrogen will also be created by the newly formed placenta (at around 10 weeks of pregnancy) in order to maintain the body’s ability to carry the pregnancy.
Oestrogen continues to perform a function once a woman has given birth by suppressing the menstrual cycle of a breastfeeding mother. During this time, the oestrogen levels will be low which prevents ovulation from occurring. This is the body’s way of ensuring that the woman’s newborn is receiving maximum nourishment from its mother.
As well as a role in reproduction, oestrogen is also believed to maintain healthy bones, balance cholesterol and promote good skin.
Once a woman reaches the menopause, her levels of oestrogen will decline, leading to a range of symptoms including a decrease in bone density, vaginal dryness, hot flushes and fatigue.
What Oestrogen Does...
OESTROGEN is a powerful female sex hormone that regulates many aspects of our lives. ... PROGESTERONE is one of the female sex hormones produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands. It plays an important role in maintaining a pregnancy. As well as helping to sustain pregnancy it also regulates the monthly menstrual cycle.
Why Do We Need Oestrogen?
Mood swings, bad PMS, unexplained weight gain, problems getting to sleep….does any of this sound familiar? Oestrogen imbalances can be the cause of all these symptoms and getting levels balanced in your body can make a significant difference in your physical and emotional health .
What is Oestrogen and what role does it play in our body?
Oestrogen is not just one hormone but an entire class of related hormones but are usually referred to all together. Your ovaries start releasing oestrogen at puberty and as part of your menstrual cycle and levels spike and drop depending on what part of the cycle you are at. Oestrogen has a role in many parts of the body, particularly in the brain where it controls and regulates our emotions (hence the mood swings just before and during our period). Oestrogen increases levels of serotonin (our happy hormone!) and modifies the effects of endorphins (feel-good neurotransmitters). So, you can see when levels are disrupted why it affects our emotions so much.
Oestrogen is also protective to the heart and bones (imbalanced levels of oestrogen and progesterone is associated with the onset of osteoporosis) and it is also involved in keeping the reproductive organs healthy.
Should We Replace Oestrogen Or Not?
The body's own oestrogen production can be encouraged by many natural methods, even in post-menopausal women. (Oestrogen does not drop to zero at menopause. In a healthy woman, it drops to about 30% of her original level.)
Some women are more likely than others to need hormone supplementation. These include those who are without ovaries, and those who have a long history of birth control pill use. Also, women with insufficient adrenal hormones will experience a greater drop in oestrogen. That is why the adrenal hormone DHEA is such an effective treatment for menopausal symptoms and infertility. DHEA converts to oestradiol.
Should Hormone Be Supplemented?
Before you supplement hormones, try diet and lifestyle first. Do NOT smoke. Reduce your intake of alcohol and sugar. Get enough rest, and enough sleep. Eat well including vegetables, protein and healthy fat.
If you feel that you might need natural hormone supplements, then assess for DHEA and progesterone deficiency first. If they are low, then you can use herbs and supplements to increase their production. If that is not enough then consider supplementing with natural progesterone or DHEA.
If progesterone and DHEA are not enough, then you need to consider oestrogen. The safest oestrogen is oestriol. Oestriol is effective for symptoms and is used widely in Europe. Is is protective against cancer.
If all else fails, then consider using small doses of the stronger oestrogen called oestradiol. This may be a conventional oestrogen patch or gel, or it may be a bio-identical formula called "bi-est". If oestradiol in any form is used, then it should be taken together with natural progesterone. Artificial progestins should be strictly avoided.
If oestrogen is used, urinary hormone levels should be assessed.
Oestrogen Levels And Breast Cancer
A study found that women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer that came back (recurred) had higher blood oestrogen levels than women diagnosed with early-stage cancer that didn't come back.Oestrogen can encourage breast cancers to grow, especially cancers that are hormone-receptor positive, so the link between higher oestrogen levels and breast cancer recurrence makes sense.
Many of the women in the study received the hormonal therapy medicine tamoxifen after their main treatment. Tamoxifen lowers the risk of hormone-receptor-positive cancer coming back. Tamoxifen works by blocking the effects of oestrogen on breast cancer cells. While tamoxifen is very good, it can't block all the oestrogen that can promote breast cancer growth. Breast cancer may sometimes come back even when a woman takes tamoxifen exactly as prescribed. Having high oestrogen levels may be part of the reason why.
At the time the study was done, tamoxifen was the main hormonal therapy medicine used to reduce the risk of hormone-receptor-positive early-stage breast cancer coming back. Today, another type of hormonal therapy -- an aromatase inhibitor -- is available to reduce the risk recurrence in postmenopausal women. The aromatase inhibitors are: Arimidex (chemical name: anastrozole), Aromasin (chemical name: exemestane), and Femara (chemical name: letrozole). Aromatase inhibitors help stop breast cancer from coming back by preventing the formation of oestrogen.
Because these two types of hormonal therapy medicines work differently, each one has different side effects. Aromatase inhibitor side effects include muscle and joint aches and pains. Aromatase inhibitors also can weaken bones, cause osteoporosis, and increase the risk of breaking a bone. Tamoxifen can actually strengthen bones, but many women taking tamoxifen have troublesome hot flushes.
Aromatase inhibitors are believed to be slightly better than tamoxifen for reducing the risk of recurrence. Still, tamoxifen is a good choice for many women.
If you've been treated for hormone-receptor-positive early-stage breast cancer, talk to your doctor about the suggested link between oestrogen levels and breast cancer recurrence and steps you can take to reduce your risk of recurrence:
Talk to your doctor about any obstacles that might stop you from doing all you can to lower your recurrence risk. If you have unpleasant side effects from hormonal therapy, ask about ways to manage them. You may be able to switch to a different hormonal therapy. Together, you and your doctor can develop a recurrence risk reduction plan that's right for YOU.
How To Manage Your Oestrogen Dominance...
What causes oestrogen dominance?
There are only two ways to accumulate excess oestrogen in the body:
We either produce too much of it on our own, or acquire it from our environment or diet. Unfortunately, accumulating oestrogen is not hard. We are constantly exposed to oestrogen-like compounds in foods that contain toxic pesticides, herbicides, and growth hormones. Many of these toxins are known to cause weight gain, which serves to fuel the production of more oestrogen from our own fat cells.
Pharmaceutical hormones, such as those used in hormone-replacement therapy (HRT), can also increase oestrogen — whether we take them actively or absorb them when they make their way into our drinking water. We are living in a virtual sea of harmful oestrogens, and researchers are only beginning to identify the extent of this exposure on health in humans — and even other species.
The signs and symptoms of oestrogen dominance...
If you are a premenopausal woman with oestrogen dominance, you likely have PMS, too much body fat around the hips and difficulty losing weight. Perhaps you have a history of gallstones, varicose veins, uterine fibroids, cervical dysplasia, endometriosis, or ovarian cysts. In both sexes, oestrogen dominance is thought to be responsible for many types of cancers. This particular hormone imbalance could be be one of the leading causes of breast, uterine, and prostate cancer.
How to correct oestrogen dominance
Use these foods or habits to decrease harmful oestrogen:
1. Take care of your liver
Since the liver breaks down oestrogen, alcohol consumption, drug use, a fatty liver, liver disease, and any other factor that impairs healthy liver function can spur an oestrogen build-up.
2. Eat healthy bacteria
Bacterial imbalance in the gut, and other problems that compromise digestion, interfere with the proper elimination of oestrogen from the body via the digestive tract. Try including a daily probiotic to your diet.
3. Boost your fibre intake
Insoluble fibre binds to excess oestrogen in the digestive tract, which is then excreted by the body. A fibre supplement can also affect the composition of intestinal bacteria and reduce the build-up and re-absorption of free-floating oestrogen. Good sources include wheat bran, corn bran, rice bran, the skins of fruits and vegetables (apples, pears, berries, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and carrots), nuts (especially almonds), seeds (particularly sunflower seeds), soybeans, dried beans, and whole-grain foods.
4. Go organic
Some dairy and meat products may contain hormone additives, so choosing organic dairy and meat may reduce your exposure to excess oestrogen.
5. Change up your diet
Consume weak phytoestrogenic foods, which counteract the effects of oestrogen, such as pomegranate, flaxseeds, pears, apples, berries, organic non-GMO fermented soy, wheat germ, oats, and barley.
6. Ensure you’re getting your vitamins
The body requires sufficient intake of zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6 and other essential nutrients, not only to support the breakdown and elimination of oestrogen, but also to aid the function of enzymes responsible for the conversion of testosterone to oestrogen.
7. Be mindful of what you consume
Avoid exposure to xenoestrogens from plastics, cosmetics and the birth control pill. Xenoestrogens mimic the effects of oestrogens, and tend to be found in water, soil and food products.
8. Be soy careful
Soy has a relatively high concentration of some types of oestrogens, so try to avoid unfermented soy products like tofu and soy milk.
9. Manage your stress
As the body responds to high levels of stress, it “steals” progesterone to manufacture the stress hormone cortisol, often leaving a relative excess of oestrogen.
10. Sleep well
Maintaining poor sleep habits cause a reduction in the hormone melatonin, which helps protect against oestrogen dominance. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night in a cool, dark room.