Whether you are a man or a woman, the estrogen and estrogen mimics (pollutants) you consume every day threaten your health. This hormone disruption can lead to weight gain, memory loss, brain fog, mood swings, flabby muscle tone, fatigue and low sex drive. To improve your well-being, you must understand how to control your estrogen and avoid the foods and environmental sources that destabilize the functions of this problematic hormone.
Estrogen excess, a condition predominately found in women, also affects men. Even when blood tests are normal, you can still experience the effects of excess estrogen in a number of ways. There are specific signs and symptoms of this condition, some well-known causes, and substances called xenoestrogens that play an important role in the dysregulation of the body’s delicate hormone balance.
When estrogen levels become too high, there are many classic signs and symptoms for women in the perimenopausal years (the years leading up to menopause). Usually blood or saliva testing unveils this abnormality. However, we also know that estrogen can seem to be normal, but the effect of estrogen and estrogen-like molecules (see xenoestrogens below) on the target tissues can be enhanced via the hormone-receptor mechanism on tissue cells of the body.
Signs and symptoms of estrogen excess in women include:
- Weight gain
- Irregular or heavy periods
- Water retention, bloating
- Breast swelling, tenderness
- Fibrocystic breasts
- PMS symptoms (mood swings, irritability)
- Insomnia and restless sleep
- Memory loss and fuzzy thinking
- Loss of sex drive
- Uterine fibroids, endometriosis
- Recurring yeast infections
- Leg cramps
- Early puberty/late menopause
- Low thyroid symptoms
Problems For Men
There are signs and symptoms of estrogen excess in men, too. Remember that small amounts of estrogen are produced in the adrenal glands, pituitary and even the testes in men. The obvious signs and symptoms of significant estrogen excess in men are gynecomastia (breasts), erectile dysfunction and infertility. However, there are many other subtle signs:
- Loss of muscle tone
- Shrinking testes
- Low sex drive
- Loss of body hair
- Excess belly fat
- Fatigue and low energy
- Poor memory
- Low stress tolerance
- Prostate enlargement
- Double the stroke risk
- Increased cardiovascular disease
Reasons For Estrogen Excess
Certain disease states further the estrogen excess imbalance. In people who are obese, estrogen can lurk in fat cells and then can be released into the bloodstream. Excess insulin (for instance, when you have type 2 diabetes) is found to contribute to excess estrogen. Stress and excess cortisol production contribute to excess estrogen via what’s called the steroidogenic pathway of hormone production. Low thyroid hormone (thyroid hormone keeps metabolism at a proper level in most body tissues) slows estrogen metabolism, allowing it to build up in the blood.
Other hormones that more obviously contribute to estrogen imbalance include low testosterone (testosterone is metabolized into estrogen), low progesterone (relative estrogen dominance), and estrogen supplementation (hormone replacement or oral contraceptive pills). Reportedly, water supplies in England have been tested and found to have estrogens. These are thought to originate in oral contraceptive pills and hormone replacement therapy. When the hormones are excreted and enter the water supply, they are not removed from drinking water by municipal filtering systems.
Finally, there are xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are synthetic and plant compounds that are in our environment which exert estrogenic activity. They mimic hormones but are not useful for normal hormone function. There is much more to tell about these molecules. I’ll address xenoestrogens in much more detail in my next article. I’ll explain more about their adverse effects, where they are found in our environment and ways to reduce them through foods and nutrient supplements.
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