Saturday, June 12, 2010

Xenoestrogens. The good, The bad and The ugly - Part 3

A talk about xenoestrogens would not be complete without looking at phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are weaker than the body's natural estrogen, and is found naturally in plant sources. Unlike the synthetic xenoestrogens, phytoestrogens do get flushed out of the body in a relatively shorter period. In some people phytoestrogens may actually help with estrogen dominant diseases by blocking the estrogen receptor sites. (The phytoestrogen would take the place instead of the stronger estradiol, thus in a way lowering the effect of strong estrogen.) This is evident in that the use of ground flax seeds do help in some cases (some breast cancers, endometriosis).

However, don't rush out and consume a lot of foods known to contain phytoestrogens. There is some controversy over how and if phytoestrogens should be used in the cases of estrogen dominance. Some foods have stronger phytoestrogens and they will make the condition worse. These will increase the estrogen load in your body. The following should be avoided (for their strong estrogenic properties) if you have an estrogen dominant disease;

Clover, including red and white
Alfalfa Sprouts
Hops (Beer – men with beer bellies – beer bellies are a major indicator of too much estrogen)
Safflower, sunflower, cottonseed and canola oils (you should avoid these anyway)
Sunflower seeds
Queen Anne's lace (wild carrot)
Tea Tree oil  (yes, this is a hard one)
Lavender Oil

As always, anything should be used in moderation anyway. Of course, you should always consult your naturopath for guidance if you have a disease. There are conflicting sides to the use or non-use of phytoestrogens as treatment for certain ailments. This is merely a reflection of what I have read and come to understand and should not be taken as a replacement for professional advice. If this is an area that affects you, do some more of your own research and seek the help of a naturopath.

A MAJOR one to always avoid is SOY. Soy has strong phytoestrogens. You should stay far away from soy, if you have an estrogen dominant disease or not. You will soon get one if you don't. Soy is often not eaten in it's traditional form and has very negative effects on peoples health.

As for those food with weaker phytoestrogens, these should be consumed in moderate amounts and in rotation. So what foods have weaker phytoestrogens? Well basically all foods contain some. So this is kind of a trick question. The bottom line is any one food should be consumed in moderation. Remember that these week phytoestrogens do help to prevent the stronger estrogens from taking over. Make sure to get these from your food. While some phytoestrogens are helpful, taking them in isolated (concentrated) form is extremely dangerous. (Soy is often found in isolated form.)

On the other hand there are also things that hinder progesterone absorption. Progesterone naturally balances out estrogen in the body. Progesterone is what naturally sustains pregnancy. Miscarriages can occur if there is too much estrogen and/or not enough progesterone. Estrogen is what regulates the monthly cycle. However, estrogen still plays a vital part in the development of the baby. Remember the three types of estrogen listed in Part 1? Well, this is where estriol comes in. Estriol (a weaker estrogen) is what changes the colour on the stick in a pregnancy test (and is detectable in blood tests). This is what everyone is so excited to test for, and it is monitored throughout pregnancy to see if things are developing as they should. Estriol is produced by the baby's liver and the placenta. In a non-pregnant women, estriol is produced in very small amounts (not enough to change the colour on a test) as a product of estrone metabolism. By the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, this level rises to 300-400 mg per day. While estradiol is still produced during pregnancy it is produced in little amounts (as opposed to natural production of 100 – 200 mcg per day – more if you have more weight) – too much (or from xenoestrogens) would bring about miscarriage.

Certain herbs can block progesterone receptors, and unfortunately have been used to induce abortions in the past. Since pregnancy (the uterine lining) is sustained by progesterone, this method has been used to "naturally" cause a miscarriage by inhibiting availability of progesterone. For that reason I will not be providing a list of these herbs. Remember, natural doesn't always mean that it is good. On the other hand if you are pregnant don't stop eating all herbs, the amounts used to cause a miscarriage are far greater than anyone would flavour their food with. If you are pregnant your midwife can provide you with information on the herbs that should be avoided during pregnancy, and of course fasting and single food diets are not good during this time. 

Next up...Part 4 Xenoestrogens - what to do about it.

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