Oestrogen: it’s integral to womanhood, yet many of us know little about it!
Oestrogen is the primary female sex hormone and is pivotal for many functions of women body. Oestrogen is not just one hormone but in fact the name for a group of hormones including oestriol, oestradiol and oestrone. These hormones are chemical messengers and are responsible for the development and regulation of the female reproductive system.
We ask GP and bio-identical hormone specialist Dr Andie Siggers to tell us all about Oestrogen!
Oestrogen is an important hormone – and not just for fertility but for your general health and wellbeing. Your levels of oestrogen can make you feel energetic, help maintain healthy hair and skin and enable you to focus.
In your 20s and 30s, (do you remember those years *sigh*) your oestrogen levels are high and sometimes you don’t have enough of the hormone ‘progesterone’ to balance out those oestrogen levels. This can lead to flushes and a foggy headed feeling, as well as heavy periods. It can also make conditions like fibroids, endometriosis and heavy periods worse.
Oestrogen is broken down (metabolises) in the body in 3 stages:
We are going to talk about the three phases of oestrogen metabolism, starting with the third stage – Why? Because if the last stage doesn’t work then the first two won’t either (rather like the bathtub overflowing if there is a block in the sewers even if the plug has been pulled).
A study in 2016 showed that a lot of our oestrogen is reabsorbed in the gut. So, if you are constipated, this makes things difficult.
What can you do about it?
- Eat a diet rich in a wide range of healthy vegetables and fruit.
- Avoid refined sugars
- Eat lots of fibre (from vegetables)
- Go organic where possible.
- Reduce alcohol
- Fermented foods
If you are already taking these steps already or have known gut issues, tests such as a comprehensive stool analysis can measure how well you are able to excrete oestrogen and its breakdown products.
The second phase of oestrogen breakdown requires methylation. (Stay with us, we struggled saying that last word too!)
Ok – Quick science question: What is DNA?
DNA is in every cell in our body and makes us all individual and unique. It is our personal genetic code! Although virtually all cells in our body contain the same genetic information, not all cell have the same function.
DNA methylation is an epigenetic change which basically means that some changes ‘are related to’ or ‘arise from’ non-genetic influences such as the environment and pollution. This mechanism usually occurs by adding one or many small molecules called ‘Methyl’ in our DNA. This usually modifies the way these genes will be read and function.
Remember we talked about high levels of oestrogen in your 20’s? Methylation can be affected by genes and that can lead to poor methylation and oestrogen dominance (high levels of oestrogen) as it is unable to be cleared properly.
Recent studies have shown that progesterone and oestrogen are responsible for modifications in the DNA methylation pattern and these can cause some cancers.
Now we don’t know our methylation status, but you can’t go wrong with plenty of foods rich in B vitamins (green leafy vegetables, fish, organic liver, eggs and organic milk) for proper methylation!
Now for the first stage of oestrogen breakdown:
There are three ways your system can breakdown oestrogen – the A pathway, B pathway and C pathway.
The A pathway is protective and if you are mainly using this route then your body is working well!
This B pathway creates ‘quinone metabolites’ which reacts with DNA. These reactions can ether be stable or unstable. If they are unstable then the DNA needs to repair itself.
The C pathway can also be problematic and is associated with tender breasts, heavy periods and sometimes ‘bone thinning’ (osteopenia).
So what can we do to achieve the optimum oestrogen breakdown? Cue lifestyle changes:
- Brassica vegetables – broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts etc
- Flaxseed (but be careful with this if you have low testosterone/libido)
- Fermented foods
OK, lets talk about alcohol for a second. Resveratrol is a substance in red wine and what people refer to when suggesting that wine is good for you. This substance reduces your toxic oestrogen metabolites. It has clear anti-carcinogenic properties, is anti-inflammatory and has been found to induce cell death in cancer cells.
So does that mean I should drink?
When looking at oestrogen breakdown, alcohol sadly is not a good thing. In fact, women who have 3 alcoholic drinks per week have a 15% increased risk of developing breast cancer risk than those who have none.
Resveratrol is really, really hard to get into your body as we just can’t absorb it. The doses used in research are far higher than any level we could reach with supplementation or diet. So… the research continues.
Ideally, limiting yourself to fewer than 3 drinks per week is best.
What vegetables and greens are the best to include in my diet? Broccoli for the Sulfurophane (Yep, another long word!) which significantly improves your phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification of oestrogen – (it clears the drains and sorts out the sewers). This chemical is found in high quantities in broccoli and actually 3x higher concentration in broccoli sprouts than in adult broccoli!
Oestrogen is a complicated and yet incredible hormone in the body. Its secretion, detoxification and regulation within the female reproductive system can hugely affect our life and future health. These changes are a really positive simple way to improve your health as a woman.
If you are concerned about your hormone levels or your diet get in touch and we can help. We offer consultations with our GP’s and nutritionist throughout the week!
Find out more at www.mosaic-medical.com