For years and years as a little girl, one of the first hormones I ever learned about was estrogen. I knew from the very beginning, estrogen was what separated boys from girls. It was, for all intents and purposes, responsible for all girls “growing up”.
Little did I know then, that was just the tipping point to an encyclopedia of chemistry and personality behind this controversial hormone. It wasn’t until I fell in love with biochemistry and the human endocrine system that I discovered the truth behind estrogen, and it’s effects (good and bad) on BOTH women AND men.
Estrogen Has Multiple Personalities
It is important to realize estrogen takes on many forms and dispositions. Sometimes, it is “good” and sometimes it is “bad”. Like most things in life, you need it to be balanced.
Estrogen typically can be found in one of three forms estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), or estriol (E3). E2 is the strongest and most popular of the estrogen forms, and also carries the highest cancer risk. E1 and E3 following in strength and cancer risk, respectively. This does not automatically confirm every female with an estrogen related cancer has higher levels of E2. However, when most people consider estrogen, it is E2 they are considering. In relation to breast cancer specifically, approximately 27% of the diagnosed cases are considered genetic and directly related to the BRCA gene. Not everyone with the BRCA gene has elevated levels of estrogen, and not everyone with elevated levels of estrogen has the BRCA gene. This leaves 73% of breast cancer cases related to environment, significantly elevated estrogen levels, and/or other endocrine disturbances. It is important to understand in these 73% of cases both environment and personal genetics always play a part together. They feed off of each other. It is only when one or the other become dominant that estrogen’s negative effects often present.
Genotype controls our phenotype blueprint, but with lifestyle we can often control our phenotype’s exact expression.
Key Points to Understand.
Men, Read This Too.
The topic of estrogen (and it’s associated health conditions) is still relatively unknown, and remains extremely controversial. You throw the topic of soy consumption into the mix, and research enthusiasts could argue for days.
Without making this a research paper, here are a few key points one must understand about estrogen.
1.) Too much of estrogen of any kind at an early age (mostly environmental) will lead to what is called, Precocious Puberty. The onset of female puberty before the age of 8 years or the onset of menarche before 12 years, will increase a female’s risk of breast cancer by up to 50%. Early, and therefore chronic environmental exposure to estrogen, will increase one’s estrogen levels over time. Sources of these hidden estrogens include, but are not limited to: plastics (BPA), chronic use of birth control pills, over-the-counter make-up, body soaps, laundry detergents, and even non-organic animal products. These are every day household products we come into contact with daily! This will increase both men and women’s exposure to unhealthy forms of estrogen, increasing the risk of (estrogen related) cancer.
Is it possible to avoid these all completely? Absolutely not. First step is recognizing these products in high doses may be harmful to you, and your children. Use them sparingly, and use organic.
2.) Not all soy is bad. In fact, 100% (true, non-GMO) soy has several beneficial properties, which have been proven throughout research for years! The problem: most soy in the US is GMO. GMO soy is bad, very bad, very very bad. Consider GMO soy the plague, and avoid at all costs. If using Non-GMO soy for medicinal purposes, always use under the care of a practitioner.
3.) Estrogen works in a “lock and key” fashion. There are many different locks, and many different keys. It is when these ratios become unbalanced that estrogen’s effects become unbalanced as well. For you super-nerds, you want a high 2-OH:16-OH ratio. Ideally, you want this ratio over 2:0.
Several common autoimmune disorders, such as Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis, have been associated with significantly lower ratios of “good”:”bad” estrogen ratios. There are solutions! Supplements such as Indole-3-Carbonol have been used to increase 2:OH hydroxylation, improving levels of estrogen, and decreasing one’s risk of cancer and other estrogen related disorders such as endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and/or PMS related side-effects.
As you can see, there are options to balance out these levels and improve estrogen metabolism. Always consult your physician or nutritionist before supplementing with any hormone-altering substance.
4.) MEN HAVE ESTROGEN TOO! That being said, yes women, we also all have testosterone. Again, your personal biochemistry will determine the amount of these hormones via a combination of genetics and environment.
As stated before, and I will state it again, estrogen is one of the most controversial hormones. BOTH men and women can’t live without it, yet we don’t want too much of it either.
Sounds complicated, right? It is! It’s a crazy, complex web of receptors, hormones, and enzymes even the most intelligent are still trying to unravel. Research has come a long way, but much more needs to be done. Stay tuned!
If you think you may have hormonal imbalances, contact Dr. Kim today by calling her office at 615.599.5333. She will be more than happy to help you find happiness and balance with your hormones, and life!