One of the biggest factors in many women’s health problems is hormonal disruption, and in particular estrogen imbalance. This imbalance can produce symptoms such as:
Although this may paint a gloomy picture, the good news is that by addressing estrogen and hormonal imbalance as the root cause, women can be free of many, if not most of these symptoms, and get back to good health.
Estrogen is the female hormone that stimulates growth: it makes the breasts grow, increases body fat, and thickens the endometrial layer in the uterus. Progesterone is the hormone that balances estrogen: it is what maintains the secretory endometrium; it uses up fat for energy; and it is what protects against fibrocystic breasts, endometriosis, and breast cancer.
In a healthy state, estrogen and progesterone are in balance. However, estrogen and progesterone can become imbalanced, often with too much estrogen and not enough progesterone. This is known as estrogen dominance. It is important to note that the absolute levels of both hormones may be within normal bounds, but the relative abundance of the two hormones is out of balance.
Estrogen imbalance and dominance is becoming increasingly problematic for women all over the world. In fact, it is estimated that estrogen dominance affects almost 50% of the female population over 35 years of age in the West.
One of the reasons this issue is more prevalent in modern times is because we are exposed to compounds that act like estrogen (xenoestrogen) from outside sources. Xenoestrogens are found in a variety of products, including plastics, pesticides, herbicides, and solvents.
The introduction of these xenoestrogens into the body can compound other health problems, such as liver congestion. This can cause estrogen imbalance and a host of issues that come with it.
Endometriosis is a painful condition that affects millions of women worldwide and may be seen with estrogen dominance. It occurs when the endometrial cells, which should only be present in the lining of the uterus, begin to spread to other parts of the body such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the outside of the uterus.
Overtime, as the endometrial cells swell and shrink with the reproductive cycle, they can cause the development of scar tissue in the organs they spread to. This is often very painful and can lead to other issues such as cysts, fatigue, infertility, and allergies.
An estrogen imbalance produces a thicker uterine lining, which brings on heavy bleeding during menses. Heavier bleeding increases the risk of endometrial tissues traveling to other parts of the body and developing into endometriosis. Endometriosis is thus part of the estrogen dominance continuum.
And although suppressing estrogen production can alleviate endometriosis, this solution in itself can cause other problems, such as infertility. So, what is a better way to balance estrogen in the system? Strengthening the liver, improving adrenal function, and reducing exposure to or ingestion of excess estrogen are all helpful strategies.
A strong liver helps maintain hormonal balance by removing estrogen from the system. In healthy pre-menopausal women, the amount of estrogen being removed by the liver is similar to the amount being produced by the body. This simultaneous production and removal is what keeps a balance of estrogen in the body, so the liver needs to be in optimal condition in order to maintain this balance.
Certain herbs, exercises, and diets can strengthen liver function. This will help to maintain or improve this delicate estrogen balance and therefore protect against endometriosis. There are a few factors that can aggravate, or even trigger, the estrogen imbalance, including liver congestion, Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS), and the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response. Addressing those causal factors can improve hormonal balance and overall health as well.
The liver, ovaries, and adrenal glands all play a part in NEM Stress Response, which is your body's way of handling stress. The adrenals and ovaries are responsible for hormone production and regulation, while the liver is responsible for detoxification and metabolic regulation. When the body is overly stressed, these organs can become imbalanced, resulting in hormonal imbalances such as estrogen imbalance or dominance and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). In the early stages of AFS, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is overstimulated and causes an increased production of cortisol, the anti-stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. The production of cortisol then promotes fat deposits in the liver that are associated with fatty liver disease.
Just as cortisol affects the liver, cortisol levels also affect progesterone. This intricate balance between these hormones and the liver’s functions is compromised in those who suffer from AFS. As stress levels increase, progesterone is shunted down the hormone pathway to make more cortisol, this leads to a progesterone and estrogen imbalance. With AFS, the hormone deregulation can produce estrogen dominance and endometriosis.
That is how endometriosis should be viewed: as a symptom rather than the actual problem. Its root cause is the hormonal imbalance, which can be brought on or aggravated by AFS and the NEM Stress Response.
Addressing the adrenal fatigue, NEM Stress Response, and the ensuing estrogen dominance is the best way to ensure deep and lasting change. And the liver plays a key role in the success or failure of the recovery process.
A holistic health plan with proper dietary coaching, exercise, stress-relief, good sleep, liver-function-enhancing herbs, and adrenal fatigue supplementation gives the best chance for recovery from both the adrenal fatigue and the hormonal imbalance.
But it is important to note that some foods and herbs, even liver-supporting herbs, can be estrogenic. These include:
This can be a little confusing at first, especially since some of these herbs are recommended for liver cleansing, and these foods are quite healthful under normal circumstances. This is why the best way forward, if you have hormonal and estrogen imbalance as well as AFS, is to consult a medical professional experienced with both. Improper use of detoxing supplements can often aggravate and further stress the body.
Both AFS and estrogen dominance are reversible. Healthy liver function will help you overcome both, and as one condition improves, often times, so will the other.
© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.