Guest Blog: Hormones and Your Health

Hormones act as chemical messengers in the body, controlling and coordinating the functions of all tissues and organ systems. Throughout our lives, from conception onwards, hormone levels dictate how the body functions. For optimal function and well being we require appropriate levels of, and balance between, hormones. However, it is common to see imbalances in hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. These steroid hormones can also have neuromodulatory actions (e.g. they can effect mood, memory, learning and motor control). Our steroid sex hormones are also part of a feedback loop that can effect the function of our thyroid and our response to stress. Imbalances in one part of this loop often effect the other parts.

Elevated Estrogen

The most common imbalance I see in women is an estrogen dominance. Estrogen and progesterone should be balanced in the body and should act in concert. An imbalance occurs when there is an increased amount of estrogen in the body or when lower progesterone levels present as relatively elevated estrogen levels. Elevated estrogen levels are common in women today. We are constantly being exposed to various compounds that either disrupt our hormonal production or metabolism, or mimic the actions of hormones in the body.

Some common signs that there may be an estrogen dominance can include:

  • menstrual irregularity
  • heavy menstrual flow
  • pre-menstrual concerns
  • breast tenderness or swelling (including pre-menstrually)
  • bloating (water retention)
  • decreased libido
  • mood fluctuation
  • weight management concerns

Maintain Balance

For elevated estrogen levels there are some key actions we can take to help the body get into better balance:

  • Decrease environmental exposure to xenoestrogens (chemicals that can have estrogenic activity or can change how estrogen is used in the body). These are contained in many different products, but some common sources include skin care and cleaning products, perfumes and deodorants, food storage containers that are made of silicon or plastic (especially if heating up food in them), medications and food. A great way to determine what effect your cosmetics and household products are having on your body is by using the Environmental Working Group website.
  • Increase fibre intake. Estrogens are broken down by the liver and are meant to leave the body with bowel movements. If there is any delay in this clearance (i.e. constipation), estrogens can be reabsorbed. Likewise, fibre can act as a pre-biotic for the types of gut bacteria that keep estrogen and its breakdown components in the stool. Great examples of high fibre foods include ground seeds (i.e. flax and chia), vegetables, fruits, legumes, hemp hearts and whole grains.
  • Increase your intake of crucifers! These include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage. These foods contain specific compounds that aid in the proper metabolism and use of estrogen.
  • Increase physical activity. This serves a dual purpose. Not only is regular physical activity an important part of maintaining healthy levels of body fat (which can play a role in the production of estrogen), but certain types of physical activity can alter hormone production and metabolism.
  • Minimize alcohol consumption. Alcohol impairs the function of various hormone releasing glands and target tissues, as well as changing the way the liver functions to metabolize hormones. This occurs even when staying within current consumption guidelines.

While an estrogen dominance will not be the root of everyone’s health concerns, including the symptoms listed above, it can be very prevalent. When addressing hormone levels in the body, it is always important to seek the advice of a regulated health care provider who can support you through the process, and provide testing to guide the process.

By Dr. Rebecca Hauser ND, Pinewood Naturopathic Medical Clinic.

To learn more or contact Dr. Hauser to book an appointment visit the Pinewood Naturopathic Medical Centre website.

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