Hormones: the Good, the Bad, and the Fake

by Andrew Iverson, ND

Television commercials tout the symptoms of “Low T” and talk shows exemplify the discomfort of menopause. It is no surprise to me that recapturing the robustness and energy of our youth is so often a topic of conversation in my office.

Our bodies naturally produce healthy hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. These hormones act as “keys” and fit specifically into the “locks” which are receptors found on our cells to produce a desired result. However, there are hormone “look-alikes” which are similar in shape to the hormone “estrogen,” lock and block the receptor so that no other natural hormones can work upon it. These fake hormones are called xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are often found in pesticides and herbicides, conventional personal care products, soft plastics, meats, and non-stick cookware. Be on the lookout for acronyms like PFC, PFOA, PCB, DDT, and BPA.

Estrogen dominance is a condition referring to excess levels of estrogen; natural or otherwise. This imbalance can cause several biological disruptions in a woman’s life, both early on and further down the road. High estrogen levels have been known to lead to early sexual development in young girls, severe menstrual complications, ovarian cysts, infertility, and most concerning – cancers of the sex organs: breast, ovary, and uterus. Women who are pregnant, considering pregnancy, or nursing should be particularly aware of the effect of estrogen dominance caused by xenoestrogen exposure. They can result in many different birth defects of the sexual organs. In men, the increase in estrogen is associated with a decrease in testosterone and higher incidences of cancers of the prostate and testes, as well as all cancer types in general.

Synthetic hormones, such as birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, can also lead to estrogen dominance since they increase estrogen levels, as well. Alcohol intake, excess sugar intake, and bein physically overweight are all causes of estrogen dominance. Producing too little progesterone or too little testosterone can also result in excess estrogen ratios in comparison to the other hormones.

Estrogen dominance can be most pronounced for post-menopausal women as they seek relief from the symptoms associated with menopause. The chemical xenoestrogens block the estrogen receptor sites preventing the diminished levels of “true estrogen” to function. Hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, mood changes and other symptoms can all be treated by reducing the excess levels of xenoestrogens and supporting the healthy, natural estrogen levels.

So what do we do? Avoid exposure to chemical and material toxins; begin clearing them from your body through fasting, herbal preparations, and saunas. Drink only filtered water and avoid water stored in plastic. Be cautious of conventional meats that have been treated with antibiotics or growth hormones; favor grass-fed and organic.

In addition to this, increase your intake of plant estrogens, or “phytoestrogens,” which have the dual properties of blocking estrogen receptors when estrogen is too high or lightly stimulating receptors when estrogen is too low. Once you begin to carefully evaluate your diet, it will become easier to avoid hormonal interferance.

Phytoestrogen-rich foods such as soy and mung beans (isoflavenoids), flax seeds, alfalfa, oats, barley, lentils, yams, carrots, and apples, can help restore estrogen balance. In addition, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, and more, are high in the chemical indole 3 carbinol (I3C) which converts to diindolylmethane (DIM) in your body and are excellent mediators in balancing hormone levels.

Dr. Andrew Iverson is the founder and director of Tacoma Health, a successful holistic health clinic in Tacoma, Washington. Find comprehensive guides to xenoestrogen detoxification and implementing healthful diet changes in Dr. Iverson’s books Nature’s Detox and Nature’s Diet. For more information on fasting, cleansing, nutrition, and natural medicine please visit tacomahealth.net or call 253.752.7377.