If you are like many women, hormone fluctuations can take you for a wild ride. You might suffer common problems during your reproductive years, such as PMS, heavy periods and uncomfortable menstrual cramps. You might also struggle with hormone-related medical problems, such as fibrocystic breasts, uterine fibroids, endometriosis and estrogen-sensitive cancers, or have concerns that you are at high risk for developing these diseases.
Estrogen is the most important female reproductive hormone. It works with other hormones to prepare your body for pregnancy and to regulate your menstrual cycle. In the conventional world, the most common treatment for pre-menopausal hormone concerns is birth control. Below we will discuss how you can naturally balance your body to restore normal hormone levels, often without the use of prescription medication.
Causes of Estrogen Hormonal Imbalances
You may be surprised to learn that many of the signs and symptoms affecting your reproductive system actually stem from dysfunction in other body systems.
May hormonal symptoms that women experience are regulated by estrogen and often created by an excess of estrogen and too little progesterone. So how do we end up with so much estrogen?
Let’s start with the GI tract. The digestive system is made up of the organs that help remove estrogen from the body that has already been used. This action begins in your liver, which metabolizes hormones, and then brings them to the GI tract to be excreted. In the GI tract, estrogen binds to calcium d-glucorate, made from the probiotics, or good bacteria in the GI tract, which then carries estrogen out of your body. Low levels of healthy bacteria can cause estrogen to be re-absorbed and accumulate in your system. It should also be noted that a slow moving digestive tract, or one that is constipated, could also create difficulty with excretion of estrogen, and therefore trigger re-absorption and increased estrogen in the body.
As mentioned above, your liver is also responsible for removing excess estrogen from your body. When your liver and gastrointestinal tract function poorly, estrogen can accumulate to unhealthy levels. This is especially true when continuous toxic exposure or excess prescription use taxes the liver to the point where it can no longer adequately clear estrogen and other toxins from your body.
Environmental exposure to chemicals that mimic estrogen can also cause hormone imbalances, disease and symptoms. Our world is full of toxic substances that mimic estrogen in the body and create an estrogenic effect. These substances, such as pesticides and plastics, are called xenoestrogens and can exacerbate estrogenic symptoms.
Also important to note: There are two main types of estrogen:
- 2OH Estrogen = protective
- 16OH Estrogen = proliferative, pro-inflammatory estrogen
2OH Estrogen is a protective substance that is beneficial to your body. 16OH Estrogen is proliferative and it causes a negative pro-inflammatory effect. The 16 OH from of estrogen can often be increased by re-absorption of estrogen through the GI tract or unhealthy lifestyles. Imbalances between these two forms of estrogen can cause symptoms and disease processes.
Natural Options for PMS and Hormonal Imbalance
Fortunately, you can find relief from symptoms of hormonal imbalance. The first step is usually dietary. Increase your intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and collard greens. Consumption of theses foods provides the body a phytochemical called DIM, or Diindolymethane, which can increase 2OH estrogen and lower 16 OH.
You can also add fiber and flax seed to increase regularity of the GI tract as well as adding probiotics to promote excretion. The natural herb chaste berry can also help to restore hormonal balance.
Avoid soy substitutes, such as isolated soy protein, as these are shown to cause hormone imbalances. Eat real soy products instead like Tempeh, Miso and Edamame in moderation. These foods are called phytoestrogens and can act as a hormone balancer when eaten 1-2 times per week. Alternatively, you may find that eating too much soy can also throw your hormones out of balance.
If you think your symptoms may be associated with an imbalance in your hormones, make an appointment with your naturopathic physician. Together, you can determine the underlying causes for these imbalances, identify triggers that cause symptoms and restore health through diet, lifestyle and natural supplements.
Christine Schoenek, ND
Christine Schoenek, ND graduated from Oakland University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She then attended National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) where she earned a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine, graduating Suma Cum Laude and Valedictorian of her class. Christine currently holds her Naturopathic license in the state of Vermont and is a member of the Michigan Association of Naturopathic Physicians (MANP). Christine believes in the key principle of Naturopathic Medicine – the body has the innate ability to heal itself. Click here to read more.
Kelly S. Hassberger, ND
Kelly S. Hassberger, ND graduated with a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine, with highest honors, fromSouthwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in July of 2011. She then went on to complete a 1-year general medicine residency in Naturopathic Medicine at theSouthwest College of Naturopathic Medicine Medical Center. She has always had a passion for medicine and through growing up in a household that opened her up to the power of a healthy, loving, fulfilling life, she found her passion in Naturopathy. Click here to read more.