Thursday, August 5, 2010

Estrogen and Progesterone: The good the bad and the ugly

There's been so much talk over the last few years about "bad" estrogen and "good" estrogen and everything in between!
What's the difference between estrogen and progesterone? Why do they say that estrogen can cause breast cancer? How do I know if I have too much estrogen in my body?
Here's a quick run down for those of us who don't know, and for those of us who need a bit of a reminder!

Estrogen is produced in the body for the most part by the ovaries and has 3 forms. It is paramount in a woman's fertility and sharply decreases at menopause. Excess estrogen is broken down by the Liver which coverts it into one of two forms: one of these forms is protective against cancer, the other cancer causing.
Many foods and substances can affect the metabolic pathways of this breakdown, but a well functioning liver is important in optimizing its clearance!

First let's look at the differences between the two hormones and go from there....

A proper amount of estrogen affects:

1) Reproductive Organs: changes of puberty

2) Skeleton: by increasing bone formation (which is why osteoporosis is common in post-menopausal women when estrogen levels are so low)

3) Urinary Calcium and Phosphate retention: increasing bone density

4) Protein: increasing overall protein

5) Metabolism and Fat: increasing BMI and fat distribution

6) Electrolytes: causing salt and water retention

7) Cardiovascular System: increasing good cholesterol and lowering bad, increasing blood clots

A proper amount of progesterone affects:

1) Uterus: promoting changes in the lining of the uterus and decreasing cramps

2) Fallopian Tubes: nourishing the fertilized egg as it travels towards the uterus

3) Breasts: increasing swelling

4) Electrolytes: excreting salt and water

5) Protein: mobilizing protein to the fetus during pregnancy

Metabolism of Estrogen and Progesterone:

1) Synthesis: progesterone and testosterone are made first, then converted into estrogen

2) Breakdown of Estrogen: by the liver

3) Detoxification pathways: the liver needs - Copper, Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin C, NAC, Methionine and B vitamins to detoxify

4) Ratio of Estrogen Metabolites: predicting breast cancer risk

How can body get rid of excess Estrogen?

1) Liver detoxifcation pathways – there are 2 pathways, one which leads to the healthy metabolite, and the other which leads to the unhealthy cancer causing metabolite.

2) Increase consumption of plant foods and vegetarian protein - enhancing Liver clearance and promote the healthy Estrogen metabolite

3) Decrease consumption of meat and dairy – especially those containing antibiotics and hormones

4) Increase fiber intake - it can bind excess Estrogen in the bowel and increase its excretion. It also helps nourish friendly bacteria - try ground flax seeds and legumes.

Compounds affecting Estrogen Metabolism:

Indole-3-carbinol (I-3-C) shunts the detoxification of estrogen to the non-cancer causing form.

It is found in cruciferous veggies such as:

Bok Choy
Brussel sprouts
Mustard Greens
Savoy Cabage

You must get a minimum of 300mg daily to achieve a beneficial effect.
But be careful, I-3-C is inactivated by heat, so lightly steaming or quick stir frying is recommended to help preserve the compound!

In good health,

Dr. Stacey Welton, ND

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