Oestrogen – The Good and the Bad

There are a number of hormones which affect the female reproductive cycle and it would take all day to read about them, so we are just going to talk about oestrogen and its effect on fertility, certain diseases and long term health.

Oestrogen and progesterone work in a finely tuned balance to keep the menstrual cycle regular and free from excess pain or blood loss.

Too much oestrogen results in a number of problems including infertility, endometriosis, fibroids, heavy & painful periods and cancer.

An excess of oestrogen can be caused by bad gut flora, obesity and diets high in refined carbohydrates, saturated fats and low fibre.  We are also exposed to a large number of chemicals and plastics, many of which have been identified as endocrine disruptors which mimic the action of oestrogen.  In general, women have fewer pregnancies and shorter breastfeeding timeframes than 50 years ago, thus also increasing our lifetime exposure to oestrogen.

Outside the reproductive system oestrogen exerts a positive effect on the cardiovascular system and also bones.  This is why after menopause when oestrogen production drops, women become as susceptible to heart disease as men and the risk of developing osteoporosis greatly increases.   It is therefore important for post-menopausal women to consume foods which mimic the effects of oestrogen such as linseed / flaxseed.

How oestrogen gets broken down by the liver plays a key role in the development of the disease processes listed above.  There is the beneficial oestrogen which helps maintain good cardiovascular health and strong bones and then there is the non-beneficial oestrogens which can cause DNA damage and cancer.

Determining the levels of these various oestrogens is an important factor in assessing fertility and reproductive system issues.  A simple urine test is all that is needed to determine not only the levels of the different types of oestrogens, but all hormones related to reproductive health.  Once a sample is sent, results take about two weeks.

If you have high levels of oestrogen there are a number of herbs which we can use to help reduce it and there are a number of other strategies we would recommend including:

  • reduce intake of saturated fats (fats from animal products)
  • eat at least five serves of vegetables every day including those from the  cabbage family—    broccoli, cabbage, radicchio, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy.
  • eat linseeds (flax seeds) or use linseed oil every day
  • eat fermented foods to improve gut bacteria
  • limit alcohol intake to two standard drinks per session and have at least three alcohol free days per week
  • maintain a healthy body weight
  • regular exercise

If you would like to know more about your hormones and how they are affecting your health, please book an appointment.