Estrogen is a BITCH!
Really it is. We have been fed a line of crap from the pharmaceutical industry for many years about how wonderful estrogen is. Many women believe that estrogen is the key to their femininity and that we lose estrogen as we age and therefore become less of a woman. This is complete and utter bullshit. Pardon my French, but no matter where you turn, or what doctor you go to, they all seem to think that estrogen is where its at. And you know what? Estrogen actually leads to the break down of tissue, to aging, to death, to cancer, to degenerative brain disease. Excess estrogen causes these things and we ALL HAVE TONS of extra estrogen. (Unless of course you have been taking anti-estrogen medication like many women do after battling breast cancer).
Let me back up and do some explaining, to the best of my ability, about how our bodies produce estrogen.
Bullet points will make it easy:
* There are several kinds of Estrogens in the body: Estrone, Estradiol, Estriol. Estradiol is the one we want to watch the closest as it is usually the most abundant.
* Estrogens can be produced by fat tissue, the liver, the adrenal glands and the ovaries.
* The ovaries are the primary source of estrogens in premenopausal women who are not pregnant.
* During pregnancy, estrogen production is taken over by the placenta.
* After menopause, the ovaries stop producing estrogens and it is instead made by the adrenal glands, the liver and the fatty tissue within the breasts by an enzyme reaction with aromatase.
* Aromatase will “make” estrogens at times of stress.
But wait, women aren’t the only ones with estrogen. Men have it too and in men as they age their bodies start to convert testosterone to estrogen via a reaction by the enzyme aromatase (just likes I mentioned above with women). Aromatase is stored in body fat so the more body fat a man has the more aromatase and thus a higher estrogen conversion. This works for women as well. Estrogen makes you put on body fat and the more body fat you have the more you get the aromatization to create more estrogen and the cycle just continues until you figure out how to stop it.
For both women and men there are some pretty nasty side affects of having to much estrogen. They will sound similar to what we have been talking about with thyroid levels because they go hand in hand. When we have to much estrogen these things can happen:
* High cholesterol
* Low libido
* Weight gain
* Mood swings
To many people these side affects can be pretty devastating and yet most doctors don’t talk about having to much estrogen. They usually try to put women on more estrogen compounding the problem.
I will reference Dr. Ray Peat again because he teaches so much great information, but if you go to his website www.raypeat.com you can read 4 or 5 articles about estrogen and its affects. His work is very scientific so if you don’t like that I will summarize for you. Here goes…Do you remember mitochondria? In school we all learned this “the mighty mitochondria the power house of the cell”. Do you remember that? Well, the mitochondria produce energy for the cell. Our cells are supposed to be in an “excited” state meaning they have plenty of energy. Estrogen blocks the mitochondria’s ability to produce energy. The how is a bunch of super science stuff that Dr. Peat explains in his articles, but I would make a mess of. For our purposes you just need to know that Estrogen blocks the energy production of the cell.
So, if your cells aren’t putting out energy you have to get it from somewhere, right? Energy is life. We know that Thyroid hormones gives us energy so in a perfect world, we would some how get the thyroid to just produce more T4 and T3 and we would be good. BUT that doesn’t happen. Instead your body kind of freaks out and turns to Adrenalin and Cortisol for energy. This energy is fast and furious and leaves you even more depleted when its gone. Plus, when your body turns to these energy systems it neglects the thyroid all together. As with everything in the body if you don’t use it you lose it. The more you turn to Adrenalin for energy the less your thyroid wants to work.
Here’s a kicker. Much like with the negative feedback loop of estrogen = bodyfat = aromatizing to create more estrogen = more bodyfat and so on, stress puts you into a similar situation. When your body is stressed Aromatase makes more estrogen. Using Adrenalin and Cortisol for energy is SUPER stressful on your body so not only does your thyroid start to get puny, but you begin to aromatize more estrogen and more estrogen leads to all the wonderful side affects I have listed. But wait, there’s more. Anytime you are stressed your body makes estrogen and I am not talking about just big stress like a death in the family or money problems even little things can cause your body to create estrogen. According to Ray Peat nighttime is stressful to our bodies, stressful enough that we can make estrogen. Eating the wrong types of food can cause this reaction, stubbing your toe…as silly as that sounds…can cause you to make estrogen.
Oh, and another thing. When your cells stop producing the energy they need to be in a good, healthy and stable state they start to die. Cell death leads to degeneration and disease. From small things like sun/age spots on your skin to larger and scarier things like degenerative brain disease and cancers. And then pretty much anything in between. The good news here is that if you take the steps necessary to decrease your estrogen and get those cells making energy again, much of this degenerative damage can be reversed. Again, another shameless plug for Ray Peat but if you go to his website there are articles that talk about this particular issue and the science behind it.
Have I scared you enough? The question you are now screaming at me is: WHAT DO I DO ABOUT MY ESTROGEN? Besides wishing it on your worst enemy (which would be truly wrong) there is a silver lining to this ominous estrogen cloud. There are a ton of dietary changes that can be made which support your thyroid and work to detoxify your body of the excess estrogen. Checking your estrogen/progesterone ratio and then working to improve your progesterone is also good. Even better, the progesterone is available over the counter, so you don’t need to get a prescription. Modifying your exercise intensity is another helpful way to keep your body out of the estrogen loop. I am going to talk about all of these in subsequent articles because it is too much to try to cram in one long write-up that you would get bored reading. So, stay tuned.