Are You Estrogen Dominate?
Women are suffering PMS, cramps, migraines, bloating, breast tenderness, hot flashes, weight problems, lack of energy, depression, mood swings, skin problems, fibroid tumors, endometriosis, infertility, family history of female-related cancer, foggy thinking, peri-menopause, loss of height and many other conditions directly related to lack of bio-identical Natural Progesterone. There are more than 50 symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
Many conventional doctors are STILL telling us women that menopause, and all of the frustrating symptoms that come along with it, are side effects of decreased levels in estrogen production. Their answers? Estrogen supplementation, or HRT, usually with synthetic hormones.
On the other hand, many alternative practitioners approach menopause from the belief that women have too much estrogen, leading to a condition known as “estrogen dominance.” The late Dr. John Lee blazed a new trail for women when he declared that estrogen dominance is the real cause of menopause and pre-menopause symptoms, surprisingly, especially in younger women. It was his opinion that the obvious solution is progesterone supplementation to offset high levels of estrogen.
Let's look at the condition now known as estrogen dominance, the praises being sung by women around the world about progesterone supplementation, and how it all translates for you and your health.
What is estrogen dominance?
Estrogen dominance (a term first proposed by Dr. John R. Lee) is a situation in which there is too much estrogen in relation to progesterone. When a woman fails to ovulate, progesterone cannot reach the optimum 20 - 25 mg. during the final two weeks of a woman's monthly cycle. This allows estrogen to go unopposed the entire month and upsets the normal progesterone/estrogen balance. During his 30 years clinical practice, Dr. Lee discovered that estrogen dominance was responsible for a number of unpleasant side effects in his patients, among them: bloating, water retention, breast tenderness, and depression.
What’s critical here is the role of progesterone, which “opposes” the estrogen by helping the body break it down into metabolites that are absorbed and removed in the process. Estrogen stimulates tissue growth, and progesterone signals the body to slough it off.
The original concept of estrogen dominance was very simple. Dr. Lee argued that the first sign of menopause is a drop in progesterone production (not estrogen deficiency!). Without enough “opposing” progesterone, estrogen levels stay unnaturally high in the second half of the menstrual cycle. This causes discomfort in a great many women and can lead over time to some severe health consequences.
(The history of HRT contains a tragic example of the effects of unopposed estrogen. For many years after the creation of synthetic estrogen, Premarin, it was prescribed to women without any accompanying progesterone. The result was an epidemic of uterine cancer that led to the coupling of Premarin with Provera, a synthetic progesterone, i.e. a progestin, which was called PremPro, for decades now the most widely prescribed synthetic HRT in the world.)
Over time a second, powerful argument has been added to Dr. Lee’s concept of estrogen dominance. This is the view that our overall estrogen levels (in women and men) are too high because of xenoestrogens, chemicals in the environment that mimic estrogen in our bodies and act as estrogen disruptors.
As evidence, it’s often noted that women in Western Europe and the U.S. have estrogen levels that are much higher than women in underdeveloped countries. Many experts link these high levels of estrogen with the rise in breast cancer, autoimmune diseases, infertility and other health issues. They question whether or not xenoestrogens are the cause.
The facts about estrogen dominance~
During pre-menopause it’s common for estrogen levels to decrease slowly while progesterone levels plummet — a natural result of fewer ovulations, fewer burst follicles and less progesterone. This can cause many of our worst symptoms. There are usually multiple causes, including stress, emotional factors, and the estrogen-like chemicals in our environment called xenoestrogens.
What Health Risks are associated with Estrogen Dominance?
Another of Dr. Lee’s contributions was to raise women’s awareness of the profound connections between hormonal imbalance and health.
When estrogen levels are high in relation to our progesterone we experience many severe symptoms, among them: anxiety, breast tenderness, cyclical headaches or migraines, depression, digestive issues, fuzzy thinking, palpitations, food cravings, irregular bleeding, water retention, weight gain and more.
If estrogen levels stay unopposed , women may develop infertility, endometriosis, amenorrhea (skipped periods), hypermenorrhea (heavy bleeding), fibroids, uterine cancer, stroke, and decreased cognitive ability, among other conditions.
Toxic Baths of Xenoestrogens
For the most part, our bodies are amazingly resilient. What our bodies are not designed for is exposure to the many endocrine disruptors in our environment, among them are a very serious class of chemicals known as xenoestrogens.
Many of these xenoestrogens are proven carcinogens. They are also well known for their ability to damage the immune system and interrupt hormonal balance. Our cells can’t fully distinguish between our own estrogen and xenoestrogens. Every cell has estrogen receptors that recognize and open to the shape of an estrogen molecular chain, regardless of where it came from.
Pesticides are perhaps the biggest source of xenoestrogens: most bioaccumulate (meaning they are stored in fat cells of fish, poultry and animals in increasing concentration until they get to the top of the food chain, you and me!). They are highly estrogenic, and some experts estimate that the average American ingests over a pound of pesticides a year.
A second major source of xenoestrogens is the many growth hormones given to livestock and poultry, most of which contain fat-soluble estrogens. When we consume those animals or their milk, we ingest that estrogen. Organochlorides like dioxin (a by-product of chlorine when it is burned or processed), PCB's, PVC's, and some plasticizers are just a few of the many chemicals that act like estrogen in our bodies. (Many others have the effect of interrupting our normal endocrine function, hence the name “endocrine disruptors”).
Mainstream medicine is finally paying attention because xenoestrogens not only affect the cells of women, but those of men and children. Sperm counts have dropped by 50% in some studies, a significant factor in the epidemic of infertility. The age at which girls develop secondary sex characteristics (breasts and pubic hair) is also dropping. It is not exactly clear what role endocrine disruptors as a whole have in the steady rise of chronic diseases in children (at earlier ages!) but studies are underway to evaluate this.
We live in an estrogen dipped world and it is easy to see why Dr. Lee’s advice to support our bodies with extra progesterone makes some sense.
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