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Women and Men: Test Estrogen Levels

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Estrogen dominance or excess estrogen levels contribute to fibrocystic breasts, PMS, endometriosis, menopause symptoms, ovarian cysts and breast cancer in women. In men, excess estrogen contributes to symptoms of andropause (the male version of menopause) and is a likely contributor to prostate cancer.

Where does estrogen come from?

It’s made in the ovaries in women, and in the adrenal gland in both women and men. However, both sexes also produce estrogen in fat tissue, especially abdominal fat. Excess fat tissue has high levels of the enzyme aromatase that converts testosterone and estrogens to the most toxic form of estrogen. Men and women also ingest estrogens and estrogen “mimicking” substances from pesticides and from toxins in “plastics”. In addition, many women ingest more estrogens in the form of birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy and bio-identical hormones. All of these sources increase estrogen levels in our bodies.

What about bio-identical estrogens?

I felt particularly motivated to write this article because of the pressure menopausal women are experiencing from some medical practitioners to “go on” bio-identical hormones for life. I agree that bio-identical hormones are likely safer than the synthetic hormone replacement therapies, when estrogen therapy is necessary. However, estrogens from all sources contribute to the estrogen levels in the body and these hormones should be monitored and used responsibly. The lowest appropriate doses for the shortest amount of time is still good wisdom, with regular monitoring.

What happens to estrogen?

Regardless of where the estrogen comes from, it is all metabolized and eliminated from the body by the same pathways. There are a number of forms of estrogen ranging from the most toxic 16-hydroxy to the least toxic 2-hydroxy form and these can be measured. Some drugs can interfere with healthy metabolism.

Breast cancer risk increases with more total life time unopposed estrogen exposure. Consider the following questions. How long have you been exposed and how much does your body make? How much are you taking in, whether bio-identical or estrogen “mimickers” like in most pharmaceutical hormone products such as BC pills, HRT, pesticides or plasticizers? How efficiently do you detoxify estrogens?

For men, as aromatase enzyme levels increase, more testosterone is converted to estrogen, contributing to symptoms of andropause, such as weight gain, increased blood sugar, fatigue, depression, negative mood, irritability, anxiety, loss of memory, low libido, and loss of motivation. There is increasing evidence that risk of prostate cancer is increased when testosterone is converted to the more toxic DHT, dihydroxytestosterone and estrogen. There is currently disagreement among scientists as to whether the higher estrogen or the higher DHT levels are the likely culprits in prostate cancer.

What can you do about it?

There are some obvious things we can all do. Losing excess body fat, especially abdominal fat, decreases the level of aromatase enzyme that makes the more toxic form of estrogen. Also, eat a balanced, low glycemic diet. A high carbohydrate diet increases insulin levels and insulin resistance, which contributes to both higher fat and higher aromatase levels. Avoid eating foods and drinks that have been in contact with plastics, and avoid ingesting pesticides, which are all sources of estrogen-mimickers. Constipation can increase the level of estrogens in the body by causing re-absorption of estrogens back into the circulation instead of elimination. A high fiber diet binds estrogens and helps with their elimination. Poor estrogen metabolism can be improved with dietary changes and some supplements.

What about testing?

There is now a simple urine test that can assess how healthfully your body is metabolizing these hormones. This test evaluated alone or in conjunction with blood and saliva hormone tests can help inform about the best plan for decreasing disease and especially risk of breast and prostate cancers.

Who should get tested?

All middle-aged men can benefit from assessing estrogens, especially men who have had or are at risk of prostate cancer or have symptoms of andropause. All women, especially women taking bio-identical or any hormone replacement therapy. Also women who have symptoms of menopause or PMS, or are at risk or have had breast cancer, even if you are taking an aromatase inhibitor or estrogen reducing cancer treatment therapy. And, lastly anyone with exposure to pesticides and plastics.

I’m happy to help you address your symptoms and disease risk with diet, lifestyle and a supplement program.