[Wellbeing & You] EMBRACE Women’s Health – Part 1
– Understanding Estrogen dominance, Menstrual irregularities and Breast Cancer to run the relay “RACE” of health.
We all know health advice is never a “one-size-fits-all” thing and it is so true for the opposite sex – men and women. When compared to men, women inherently have unique (and somehow more) health issues. In this column of “Wellbeing & You”, we would address the 3 major women’s health concerns – Estrogen Dominance, Menstrual irregularities and Breast Cancer. Hopefully by discussing in details the basics 101, risk factor(s) and health tips for each concern, you would be encouraged to run with patience the RACE that is set before you.
On your marks, get set, GO!
1st Baton to pass – Estrogen Dominance
THE BASICS 101
Q: What is hormone?
A: Hormone is a substance produced and secreted by internal glands, which serve to carry signals through the blood to bind with the specific receptors located on the target organs. Its relationship with target receptors is often illustrated in the “lock and key” analogy where the key (hormone) fits exactly to the lock (receptors).
Q: What is estrogen?
Estrogen = One of the Major Female Sex Hormones.
There are two major female sex hormones – estrogen and progesterone. Both produced in ovaries, they work together closely to regulate the development and function of the reproductive system (e.g. the thickening and shedding of the uterine lining – menstruation).
Q: Which are the target organs (locks) of estrogen (key) to exert its function?
A: Many thought estrogen only has something to do with female reproductive system, but research suggests its involvements also with a wide range of target organs from ovaries, uterus and breasts (reproductive system) to the heart, liver (cardiovascular system), even bones and skin.
THE HEALTH RISK FACTORS OF ESTROGEN:
Estrogen Dominance = The ROOT of Most Women’s Health Issues
Q: What is Estrogen dominance?
A: Estrogen Dominance describes the condition of the imbalance of the female sex hormone where there is excess (too much) estrogen or insufficient (too little) progesterone. The ratio of Estrogen-to-progesterone should be maintained for optimal health.
Q: What are the common causes of Estrogen Dominance?
A: The two main causes of estrogen dominance involve chronic stress and the source of xeno-estrogen.
Chronic stress increases the stress hormone – cortisol, which would increase estrogen over time if accumulated. Other than stress, xeno-estrogen we’ve exposed to (from food, air, water, and cosmetics) directly increases the estrogen level in our body.
Q: What is xeno-estrogen?
A: Xeno-estrogen (Xeno = Foreign) is estrogen-mimic-chemicals from exogenous sources (e.g. environmental estrogen) that disrupt our hormone system for they possess a very similar chemical structure with our own estrogen and are therefore able to activate hormone-regulated functions.
Q: We have often heard “We are what we eat” – Is that true in terms of xeno-estrogen?
A: From the perspective of this omnipresent chemicals, we are MORE than what we eat – we are what we’re EXPOSED TO – the water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe and what we put on our skin.
Q: What are the common sources of xeno-estrogen?
A: Bisphenol-A (BPA)/BPA alternative (BPS,BPF) – Food cans lining, thermal receipt
Food: Erythrosine (FD&C Red No.3), Phenosulfothiazine (red dye), BHA (Food preservative)
Heavy metal – cadmium
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs): Cigarettes, diesels
Phthalate/PVC – Plastic (especially under heat and acid)
Pesticides – herbicide, fungicide, glyphosate, DDT
Parabens/ Benzopheones – cosmetics: nail polish, perfume, fragrant products
Q: What happens if I have estrogen dominance?
A: Estrogen dominance could result in cancers of the breast, uterine, ovary, prostate, testicles, fibrocystic breasts, fibroid tumors, ovarian cysts, infertility, endometriosis, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, early onset of puberty, menorhagia (heavy menstrual bleeding) and even miscarriages.
1. Buy organic, locally-grown and seasonal foods to reduce pesticide exposure
2. Peel the fruits and vegetables if buying organic food is not possible
3. Buy meats and dairy products that are “hormone-free” to reduce xeno-estrogen exposure.
4. Reduce canned food (especially canned soup and cans containing oil) and try to choose canned foods with “BPA-free lining” to reduce BPA exposure.
5. Use stainless steel, cast iron or ceramic cookware.
6. Avoid non-stick cookware (Teflon) with toxic PTFE and PFOA.
7. Choose MAGNETIC stainless steel for it has lower heavy metal – Nickel that is related to eczema and skin allergies.
Fun fact: Do women also have Testosterone – the male sex hormone?
YES…but in much lower quantity when compared to men. Testosterone is produced also by ovaries in women and is mainly converted into estrogen in women. Its level is associated with lowered anxiety, depression and better well-being.
Reference: The John Hopkins University, PMID: 10511261, 12456297, 2960241, 8865143, 11304877, 15706790, 30633468, 33094616