Editor's note: This is part one of a two-part series of submitted columns on holistic approaches to breast cancer and lower estrogen dominance. All views are those of the author.
According to the American Cancer Society, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer every three minutes. Do you think estrogen dominance affects women only? Think again! There are numerous reasons why women predominantly experience estrogen dominance such as use of birth control, menopause and pregnancy. However, both men and women are increasingly affected by estrogen dominance.
The estrogen compound 2-hydroxyestrone is considered the "good" estrogen, and 16-alpha-hydroxyestrone is considered "bad" estrogen. The importance is the ratio of these two estrogens. This can be determined through a simple urine test, 2/16 OH estrogen.
Xenoestrogens are environmental, man-made chemicals that have a chemical structure similar to estrogen.
Sources of xenoestrogens
• Car pollution
• Contaminated water
• Non-organic foods (particularly animal fats from dairy and meat)
• PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)
• Pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers
• Polycarbonate plastic bottles and food containers, including baby bottles
• Some shampoos, lotions, toiletries and deodorants - prebans and aluminum
The longer these foreign substances stay in your body the more opportunity they have to do damage. The bottom line is that your body has to detoxify these xenoestrogen chemicals every day, and over time this can become a burden. It's wise to both reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens, and improve your body's ability to balance them and break them down at the same time.
Estrogen in general tends to promote cell division, particularly in hormone-sensitive tissue (breast and uterine lining). Excess estrogens in your body not only lead to aromatization, but estrogen dominant health issues including uterine fibroids, fibrocystic breast disease, ovarian cysts, menstrual irregularities such as heavy bleeding and cramps, endometriosis, menopausal symptoms, breast, uterine, cervical and prostate cancer.
Aromatase is an enzyme found in estrogen producing cells in the adrenal glands, ovaries, placenta, testicles, adipose or fat tissue and the brain.
Factors that raise estrogen and cause aromatase
• Age increases aromatase activity
• Carbohydrate intolerance and insulin resistance. This affects the adrenals and all other major hormone levels (the hormone you have the most control over is insulin - this is controlled through your diet. Hormones do not act independently.) Insulin increases aromatase.
• Consuming a diet of processed soy and non-organic foods loaded with xenoestrogens, pesticides, antibiotics, etc.
• Food sensitivities
• Heavy metal toxicity (arsenic, barium, cadmium, lead, cobalt, aluminum and mercury)
• Illegal drugs such as marijuana or prescription drug side effects - especially diuretics, anti-depressants, steroid and liver activity drugs
• Liver congestion and function changes - Elevated AST and ALT values
• Low protein intake
• Obesity - High estrogen is present in most obese people of all ages. Obesity in males is 25 percent body fat or greater. Obesity in females is 30 percent body fat of greater.
• Overuse of marijuana and alcohol - This equals higher blood sugar, triglycerides and estrogens. Drinking wine or consuming sugar prior to bedtime can cause a decrease in growth hormone.
• Plastics, PCBs, pesticides, soaps, emulsifiers, skin care products, lotions, cosmetics and household cleaning products containing xenoestrogens, pesticides and other chemicals.
• Stress - If cortisol demand is too high, pregnenolone will be shunted to produce cortisol at the expense of other hormones.
• Zinc deficiency. Low levels of zinc have been linked to enlarged prostates and less than desirable levels of testosterone. Measure your zinc status.
Symptoms/conditions associated with increased estrogen
• Allergies and food sensitivities
• Breast, prostate and cervical cancers
• Decreased libido
• Early menstruation cycles for young girls
• Endometriosis, fibroids
• Fat gain around the hips, thighs and waist (men and women)
• Moobs (known as man boobs) - Excess fat or breast growth in men is a definitive indication of high estrogen in relation to their testosterone. This if often combined with high insulin.
• Water retention
For women battling fibrocystic breast disease it is important to eliminate any and all sources of caffeine from their diet. Some women can drink all the coffee they want and not have fibrocystic breast problems but, unfortunately, women with fibrocystic breast problems are always caffeine-sensitive. Women with fibrocystic breast disease and other estrogen dominant conditions are often deficient in iodine and often require more iodine than others do.
Both the thyroid and breast have high concentrations of iodine, other factors suggest iodine deficiency increases one's risk for breast disease. Breast cancer and thyroid diseases are most common in post-menopausal females. Women with breast cancer are more likely to have enlarged thyroid glands.
The American Institute for Cancer Research says one-third of cancer could be prevented by healthy nutrition, consistent exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight.
Estrogen dominance is a complex health condition.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens is a nutritionist and fitness expert with more than 20 years of experience. Visit Paula at www.PaulaOwens.com.