In our fourth and final “Sage’s Pages” module on Dr. Sara Gottfried’s “The Hormone Cure,” we are going to examine the issue of excess estrogen.
How do you know if you have excess estrogen? If you scored 5 or more checkmarks in Part C of Dr. Sara’s Hormone Questionnaire, then chances are you are carrying an excess of this hormone in your system. By now, you will have read Chapter 6, “Excess Estrogen: Depressed and Chunky” for insight into your symptoms, but if you haven’t, you can always pick up “The Hormone Cure” and re-join us here to go in-depth on what the Gottfried Protocol is to solve your estrogen imbalance.
For starters, let’s clarify what estrogen is. You can think of this hormone as “nature’s Prozac,” says Dr. Sara. It buffers your mood by adjusting the level of available serotonin so that it’s in more ready supply. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that regulates your mood, sleep, and appetite, so you can see why it’s important to keep the right amount on hand.
Estrogen and progesterone work in concert: for example, estrogen stimulates the lining of the uterus to grow while progesterone stops its growth and releases it during menstruation. There are a number of feedback loops that estrogen and progesterone perform together, but when this balance is upset, an excess of estrogen can cause water retention, mood swings, irritability, sleeplessness, headaches and even full-blown depression.
Excess estrogen comes about when the hormone isn’t metabolized properly — it needs to be broken down and eliminated or else it builds up in your blood stream.
What causes extra estrogen to accumulate?
You will already have read Dr. Sara’s 7 root causes for excess estrogen on p. 156. And they are all important to understand.
But perhaps the cause that alarms us the most is #3: Xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are chemicals that can mimic estrogen. These are synthetic chemicals that have an estrogen-like reaction in the body. These artificial chemicals disrupt your hormonal balance by disrupting your endocrine system. “They interrupt the action of natural, endogenous hormones, with reproductive and developmental consequences. Just living our normal lives, we are exposed to more than seven hundred of these dangerous chemicals; they can be found in toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, food preservatives, the lining of cans that hold food, and many kinds of plastic.” Two of the most common—and the most damaging—are bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates.
If endocrine disruptors scare you as much as they scare us, we encourage you to take a look at the places in your life where you can avoid coming into contact with them. The EWG has excellent resources on their website, which will make up part of your homework, below. Another good idea for you to partiake in if endorcrine disruptors are on your mind is to join us at Wanderlust Squaw, where Dr. Sara will be giving a Speakeasy lecture entitled “Endocrine Disruptors Make You Fat Stressed & Infertile”. She will give you 5 ways to recognize and remove them from your lifestyle.
The other very practical task that makes up your assignment in equalizing your estrogen is to go over Dr. Sara’s list of precautionary principles on p. 161 and make them part of your lifestyle.
Lastly, we want you to acknowledge other root causes of excess estrogen, such as alcohol intake (find out how many drinks you can have before your esrogen levels and fat burning capability are affected on p. 165) and vitamins & minerals you might be lacking (Dr. Sara suggests asking your doctor to test your blood for levels of magnesium, zinc, copper, B12 and folate).
In short, you would be wise to adopt the lifestyle and herbal therapies Dr. Sara lays out on p. 171. These include reducing alcohol intake, cutting caffeine, avoiding endocrine disruptors, making sure your meat and dairy sources are organic, and (of course) exercise.
Your homework for this week:
1. Spend some time on the EWG website. Bookmark their Dirty Dozen List of Endocrine Disruptors page and learn to avoid these chemicals by anticipating where they lurk (ie. thermal receipts, non-stick pans, etc.) Bonus points for the ladies who also peruse their special section on cosmetics, EWG Skin Deep.
2. Be sure to read Dr. Sara’s precautionary principles on p. 161 and pledge to avoid plastics in the following ways: eat from glass, ceramic, or stainless steel containers, avoiding heating plastic in the microwave (both plastic containers and plastic wrap covering food). Also, make your home a shoes-free environment and you’ll cut out many of the toxins and endocrine disruptors that enter your house via the soles of your shoes.
3. Adopt at least two of the solutions that Dr. Sara makes clear on p. 171 – and do it for life. There are some things you know you ought to do (increase your exercise, reduce your booze intake and curbing your caffeine) and there are some that are easy adjustments to your current lifestyle (like eating seaweed, adding turmeric, consuming prunes, and taking in reservatrol).