The well-known and controversial steroid hormone is not just produced by females, but males as well. The aromatase enzyme produces oestradiol from testosterone (predominantly in the ovaries, however in men a large source comes from the brain!). It is responsible for breast tissue changes during adolescence and pregnancy, regulating menstruation, regulating body weight (assisting in metabolism), preventing bone loss and promoting healthy cardiovascular function.
There are four types of oestrogen: Oestrone (E1, made after menopause), Ostradiol (E2), Oestriol (E3, mainly during pregnancy) and Oestetrol (E4). Some forms of oestrogen are pro-carcinogenic, or encourages the growth of certain cancers. This type of oestrogen is easily converted into compounds that damage your DNA.
Oestrogens are eliminated from the body by metabolic conversion to oestrogenically inactive metabolites that are excreted in the urine and faeces. It involves a balance between activating and deactivating (protective) oestrogen pathways. The first step of oestrogen metabolism is the ‘hydroxylation’, by an enzyme called cytochrome P450 (abundant in the liver). The second step is phase II liver detoxification. It involves glucuronidation, a primary pathway of liver detoxification that depends on adequate levels of glucuronic acid. Fish oils and lemon, orange or grapefruit peel may also activate glucuronidation.
There are several factors that can unbalance oestrogen homeostasis and cause reactions with DNA. Elevated beta-glucuronidase within the gastrointestinal tract can compromise healthy excretion of glucuronide conjugates. High levels have been associated with the generation of free toxic and carcinogenic metabolites. Poor clearance of metabolised oestrogen and an increased risk of oestrogen-dominant conditions are associated with this scenario. Oestrogen dominance is more common in big city environments, however global environmental changes are hard to avoid. Women often experience weight gain, fatigue, low libido, anxiety, light or heavy menstruation, breast lumps or fibroids. It can also happen in men as well, causing enlarged breasts, infertility and erectile dysfunction.
To keep oestrogen metabolite ratios balanced it is important to look at oestrogen clearance. If you have oestrogen dominance you may need to look at:
- Increasing your fibre intake to help eliminate “free” oestrogen
- Eat more cruciferous vegetables to assist with elimination pathways and liver detoxification. Veggies from this family include broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, horseradish (note: if you have an underactive thyroid its best to cook these veggies to reduce anti-thyroid enzymes)
- Reduce alcohol content, particularly wine (sorry to say!), as alcohol increases oestrogen levels
- Increase phytoestrogen rich foods (as they complete with oestradiol in binding to intercellular oestrogen receptors.) like flaxseeds, organic tempeh, alfalfa, sesame seeds and some organic, fermented or non-GMO soy including miso (phytoestrogens are somewhat controversial, particularly with oestrogen conditions such as endometriosis. Whilst studies are still to confirm any advancements it is best to eat organic soy in moderation).
- Oestrogen levels can be affected by vitamin deficiencies such as vitamin E, B and magnesium so ensure to eat lots of leafy greens, nuts and seeds
- Eat good fats like omega 3 from fatty fish and ensure you have enough adequate protein
- We have a range of herbs Naturopaths use to assist with oestrogen imbalances, so maybe if you feel your oestrogen levels aren’t quite right then its best to see one of us
Xenoestrogens are a whole other kettle of fish so watch our website for information about naughty little hormonal imbalancers.
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Want to know more about other hormones? Check out some of the other sex hormones below.