By Sherry Torkos, Pharmacist and author of The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine
If you answered “yes” you’re not alone. Over 50% of women 35 years and older, have some level of hormonal imbalance often caused by excess estrogen. Estrogen overload is behind many common health conditions that women experience. Unfortunately, many women often end up treating the symptoms without addressing the root cause. I spoke at length about this very topic with Sherry Torkos, pharmacist and author of The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, who offered some valuable insights on role of hormones and in particular, estrogen.
Hormones are the chemical messengers of the body’s endocrine system. They work together in harmony to regulate many body processes, from body temperature and blood pressure to governing sexual desire and fertility.
For women, one of the key hormones to our physical and emotional well being is estrogen. Estrogen is not a single hormone but a group of hormones that are naturally produced primarily by the ovaries and to a lesser extent by the adrenal glands and in the fat cells.
Even if you don’t take oral contraceptives or HRT (key contributors to estrogen overload) you are likely exposed to hormones in the form of xenoestrogens, which are estrogen-like compounds that are present in pesticides (which are sprayed onto fruits and vegetables), plastics, and many household cleaning products, and beauty products. These chemicals are structurally similar to estrogen, so they can bind to estrogen receptors in our body and mimic, block or interfere with our hormones leading to both physical and emotional symptoms, such as heavy periods, fibroids, ovarian cysts, infertility, insomnia, irritability, fatigue and other problems.
Following are some lifestyle modifications that can help reduce your estrogen load.
- Eat organically produced food, as much as possible. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower) contain compounds that aid in the removal of harmful estrogens.
- Choose hormone-free meat and wild fish (not farmed).
- Wash fresh produce under running water and wipe dry to help remove any surface pesticide residues.
- Never burn wood that has been treated or painted, since burning materials that contain PCBs can create dioxins and furans.
- Minimize your use of plastics and never microwave or put hot liquids in plastic products.
- Boost your intake of fibre, which aids in the removal of toxins.
- Drink lots of purified water.
- Reduce your stress. Chronic stress can lead to adrenal exhaustion, which can impact hormonal balance.
- Regular exercise promotes good hormone balance.
- For birth control, use the rhythm method and/or condoms, which also protect against STDs. Birth Control Pills, provide about four times higher estrogen levels than would naturally be produced by a woman’s body.
- Take care of your liver—it is your key detoxifying organ and is also responsible for producing cholesterol, which is the starting material for all sex hormones. Minimize alcohol use and taking drugs such as acetaminophen that is hard on the liver.
- Consider supplements that aid detoxification of estrogens such as indole-3 carbinol, calcium D-glucarate, curcumin, milk thistle and green tea.