Estrogen dominance is becoming a modern epidemic. We’ve discussed it before in this space in this post, but that was mostly how it relates to men and, shockingly, it’s link to a steep and steady decline in sperm counts in men in the Western world.
You might think estrogen dominance wouldn’t be an issue for women, but the same 21st Century food and lifestyle problems that affect men certainly affect women too. Our food is full of “xenoestrogens,” or estrogen mimickers–from soy products to the additives in processed food. The body treats it as estrogen and the balance of hormones goes haywire. And for women, it’s the thyroid gland that pays the highest price.
Estrogen directly downregulates the production of thyroid hormones. Too much estrogen and your thyroid simply stops doing what is’s supposed to do.
In women, estrogen “dominance” refers to its ratio in comparison to progesterone. More estrogen and less progesterone makes you estrogen dominant. In men, it’s more estrogen than testosterone makes them estrogen dominant–which has a wide range of whacky physiological and social effects, but that’s another story.
Usually, the liver can detox any excess estrogen and send it out of the body. But not when the woman is excessively stressed out. And women these days are all stressed out!
When you are stressed, your body creates cortisol. It’s a hormone designed to get you ready for a fight. Its function is to shut a lot of things down in your body so that you can dedicate as much energy as possible to whatever is stressing you out–a sabre toothed tiger, a rival tribe attacking, your boss emailing you relentlessly… Cortisol slows the metabolism, causing weight gain. And it slows the liver, causing a buildup of toxins–including estrogen.
- Bad food and environmental toxins =too much estrogen
- Stress–>cortisol–>diminished liver function–>can’t detox excess estrogen–>diminished thyroid function
What’re you gonna do about it???
In a sense, this should be pretty clear: stop eating crap and stop being so stressed out.
But, that’s obviously easier said than done. So let’s get a little more specific.
- Avoid xenoestrogens in plastics – this REALLY includes drinking out of plastic bottles. And the worst thing you can do is drink from heated plastic. So when you get a coffee at Starbucks and they put the plastic lid on it, and you run hot coffee through the little mouth hole as you drink it–that’s a dose of xenoestrogens.
- Avoid soy products. This is tough because it’s everywhere. It’s a big filler for processed foods looking to add cheap and filling ingredients to their “food.”
- Eat organic fruits and veggies, eat grass fed meats, dairy, free range poultry and wild caught fish. Pesticides and herbicides can act as xenoestrogens, and when you eat dirty meat, it’s been directly given hormones that you then eat.
- Avoid birth control pills. Condoms, IUDs, vasectomy… there are other options. Birth control is a hormone nightmare.
As for stress. First of all, give yourself a break. You can say no to hosting that Girl Scout troop. You can say no to yet another church volunteer project. You can say no to your kids. You can demand time from your family to go to the gym or go for a walk. It’s allowed!
Consider taking up meditation. It’s been proven to reduce and manage stress. Praying is another great way to connect with something bigger and relax.
Take up a hobby. Maybe you used to paint. Why not do it again? Many women do yoga and find it incredibly helpful.
These lifestyle practices have many benefits beyond helping your thyroid and hormonal balance. But with tens of millions of American women suffering from underactive thyroid conditions (including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), that may need to be your focus. Ask yourself this question: would I rather eat clean and manage my stress, or would I rather take a medication and wonder why I feel terrible for the rest of my life.
Seems like an easy choice to me. Get in touch if you have any questions.