Like other hormones, estrogen is derived from cholesterol and is a chemical messenger that tells tissues how to behave. You can think of a hormone as a finger that flicks a light switch to make the room brighter. There are three common types of naturally produced estrogens you should know about. Estrone (E1) is only present in post-menopausal women. Estradiol (E2) is produced by the ovaries and is the most potent estrogen during the premenopausal period in a woman’s life. E2 may be a factor in women’s health problems including endometriosis, fibroids and cancers. Estriol (E3) is only produced in significant quantities during pregnancy. E3 is the weakest estrogen and cannot be converted to either estradiol or estrone. On the other hand, E1 can be converted to E2 and vice versa. Testosterone can also be converted to estradiol with the help of the aromatase enzyme. In premenopausal women, aromatase is manufactured primarily in the ovaries. After menopause, fat cells of the thighs and buttocks serve as the main estrogen production sites. As increased fat accumulation is common at menopause, the estrogen-fat connection can become a vicious cycle.
Environmental and home-based estrogens
Hormones produced outside our bodies also add to the hormone burden. Known as xenoestrogens (meaning “foreign” estrogens), these chemicals are virtually identical to our endogenous hormones. They lock into the estrogen receptor sites and essentially “trick the body” into believing they’re estrogens, causing them to act like estrogen in our bodies. We are exposed to xenoestrogens in our personal care products like shampoo, deodorant, body lotions and cosmetics via chemicals like phthalates, bisphenol A, and chlorine-bleached paper products, as well as in fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides used in food – even in the air we breathe. Birth control pills are also endogenous estrogens.
Estrogen overload symptoms
Estrogen must exist in a delicate balance with progesterone and testosterone, but with so much estrogen exposure, it’s easy to see how we can become overloaded. Estrogen dominance is associated with infertility, symptoms of PMS, heavy periods, sleep and memory problems, anxiety and mood swings, fibrocystic and painful breasts, and weight gain among other concerns. High estrogen has also been associated with endometrial cancer, blood clots, stroke and thyroid dysfunction.
The liver is responsible for metabolizing estrogen through the two phases of the P450 pathway. In Phase 1, the liver metabolizes xenoestrogens and other foreign substances, steroid hormones and pharmaceutical drugs. This pathway works either by making the compound more water-loving and eases elimination through the kidneys, or by adding a reactive group. In Phase 2, these dangerous compounds are further processed for elimination. Problems can occur, however, when these dangerous compounds linger. To proactively support your liver, you want to limit your intake of xenoestrogens and help your liver’s detoxification pathways.
Because the aromatase enzyme that is required to convert other hormones to estradiol is prevalent in adipose cells, releasing excess body fat may be helpful in restoring estrogen balance. (Since estrogen encourages fat production, of course, this can be a catch-22.) Read product labels carefully to avoid purchasing personal care and home products that contain xenoestrogens.
Enjoy cruciferous vegetables including Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and kale several times a week. These vegetables contain a compound called sulforaphane that is an antioxidant as well as antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and may also support liver function. Cruciferous vegetables also provide indole-3-carbinole (I3C), which produces diindolylmethane (DIM) upon digestion. Both I3C and DIM help to promote healthy estrogen balance. The downside for some people, of course, is that cruciferous vegetables may cause digestive challenges.
ESTROsmart can help
For supplemental hormone balancing support, ESTROsmart offers a tailored blend of research-supported nutrients. Sulforaphane, from BroccoPhane® broccoli sprout provides antioxidant assistance for the liver without causing digestive upset. Along with promoting healthy estrogen metabolism, ESTROsmart also provides antioxidant support with Indole-3-carbinol and green tea extract, while DIM helps reduce the severity and duration of symptoms associated with recurrent breast pain (cyclical mastalgia). Anti-inflammatory curcumin is a potent antioxidant, and rosemary extract has been traditionally used in herbal medicine to help relieve flatulent indigestion. Calcium D-glucarate may amplify the activity of antioxidants including vitamin C and carotenoids.