Breast cancer is currently the second leading cause of death in the US among women. Within the last decade we’ve seen a leap in feminizing diseases.
Is the increase in incidence of these diseases simply natural progression of the female race? Can all of these be blamed on genetics? Are these diseases just a natural risk factor with random occurrences?
If the answer is yes to any of the proposed questions we then become helpless in our treatments, which ultimately influence dependency on medication, which do little, other than suppress symptoms. The aforementioned are recurring themes I see in my office which explain almost all occurrences of estrogen dominance.
So what exactly is estrogen dominance? Estrogen dominance is a relative relationship to the amount of estrogen compared to another hormone called progesterone; meaning you can still be estrogen dominant with low estrogen. This is most commonly seen after menopause but can present itself earlier in life. Here are some common symptoms of estrogen dominance: tender breasts, PMS, heavy menses and clotting. I have seen young females as early as 9 years old starting to experience their periods. This may not only be a source of social anxiety and stress but some research shows that early puberty can raise the risk for heart disease, depression, diabetes, PCOS and breast cancer.
Mainstream medicine often over-looks hormones and are rarely included in routine work-ups. For example, you enter a Doctor’s office with a complaint of migraine headaches. The cause of migraines can range from a muscle spasm, sugar handling, infection, high-blood pressure to thyroid and/or hormone imbalances. It is easy to get tunnel vision on just one process in the body and in fact our current standard of medicine encourages over-specialization, which forces physicians to stay within their “scope”. It is important to understand that the body is a complex entity that resembles a spider web of biochemical connections where each cell is both interconnected and interrelated to one another.
So why are we now seeing such an imbalance in hormones? First, there is a natural decline in sex hormones as we age. At about the age of 35 a female’s estrogen levels will begin to decline by as much as40%; at the same time progesterone drops too, often as much as 75%. This shows how we are already set up to be estrogen dominant. So, if we are “wired” to perform in such a manner why is it a bad thing? Here in lies the issue. Once our sex hormones start to decline, two small glands called adrenal glands are suppose to pick up the slack and aid in balancing through out pre and post menopause. Unfortunately, in todays society the adrenal glands become exhausted from excess sugar, caffeinated beverages, stress, food and environmental allergens; thus when they are called into action they are too tired to work. The adrenals also play a large role in thyroid regulation. The thyroid plays and integral as well with hormone balance. We can start to see now how beautifully complex our body’s truly are.
Digestion, is perhaps, the largest contributor in the regulation of hormones. After all, “You are what you eat”. External hormones found in meats, pesticides and herbicide on plants and now the curve ball of GMO foods are all factors. In the intestines we have beneficial bacteria called ‘probiotics’. These probiotics not only aid in breaking down and absorbing food but they also perform actions that clean the body of extra estrogens and prevent aromatization (or the conversion of androgen into estrogen). Our friendly bacteria can become out of balance from poor food, lifestyle choices and antibiotics.
What can you do? First thing first, you need a comprehensive work-up. Too many times I see females on hormone replacement with no history of labs meriting such treatment. I have never seen a patient on a blood lowering medication without proper blood-work ran first, so why do we take that liberty with hormones? A complete examination, routine and comprehensive blood analysis along with salivary hormones would be the minimum I would recommend. Depending on the history of the patient and results from those tests we evaluate the stool, urine and hair for other factors that are part of the puzzle. It is of paramount importance to put the patient in the center of the care rather than chasing the symptoms. This too is a common mistake that leaves the patient on a laundry list of therapies; which at very best delays the onset of symptoms.
For the men who may be reading this article-estrogen dominance can also be found in males. Most commonly miss-diagnosed as low testosterone or “Low T”. A complete hormonal work-up should also be completed.