How to take the lead
From puberty to menopause and beyond, women are kept on their toes in an ever-changing dance with their hormones. Sometimes hormones can make you feel lousy—but you aren’t powerless. You simply have to change a few dance steps.
Disrupted hormone homeostasis is a common trigger for symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), perimenopause, and menopause, and estrogen can be a pushy dance partner. Keeping a balanced rhythm becomes complicated because there are both exogenous (outside the body) and endogenous forms of estrogen.
Exogenous estrogens (called xenoestrogens) are foreign chemicals that are structurally similar to estrogen and can bind to receptor sites. Xenoestrogens mimic the effects of natural estrogens with potentially hazardous results. Examples of xenoestrogens include plastics, pesticides, as well as phthalates and parabens in body care products. Rein in estrogen by reducing your exposure to xenoestrogens; choose organic foods and natural body care products.
Now let’s address how your own estrogen dances. After doing its work, estrogen is metabolized by the liver. In Phase 1, spent estrogens (and toxins) become slightly water soluble for easier elimination. Some metabolites are more toxic at this point.
Toxicity is addressed in Phase 2, when enzymes attach to metabolites. If insufficient enzymes are available, toxic Phase 1 metabolites linger. In Phase 2, toxic 16-alpha hydroxyestrone associated with breast cancer can also form.
To promote elimination of toxic estrogen metabolites, you must provide a reliable stream of Phase 2-supporting nutrients.
Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale) are rich sources of sulphur-containing compounds known as glucosinolates. During breakdown, glucosinolates produce indole-3-carbinole (I3C), which halts conversion of estrogen to its toxic form and may reduce risk of hormone-dependent cancers.
In the stomach, I3C molecules generate 3,3’-diindolylmethane (DIM). Both I3C and DIM induce each phase of detoxification to help eliminate toxins and estrogens. Sulphoraphane is another glucosinolate in cruciferous vegetables that helps protect breast cells. Other Phase 2 nutrients are found in green tea, curcumin, and rosemary extract.
Adequate daily intake of vitamins and minerals help prevent and relieve PMS symptoms.
Research shows that PMS sufferers are more likely to have low zinc status, and that symptoms improve with zinc supplementation.
When taken together, magnesium and vitamin B6 help reduce PMS symptoms, including irritability, breast pain, abdominal discomfort, headache, and muscular pain.
Supplemental calcium may help alleviate PMS-related mood symptoms.
For additional support, chaste tree berry (Vitex) is a well-researched herb that is useful in the treatment of PMS, hormonal acne, and menopausal complaints.
Now, where are those dancing shoes?
Lisa Petty is a PhD candidate whose research focuses on women’s well-being. lisapetty.ca
A version of this article was published in the December 2019 issue of alive Canada with the title “The Hormone Dance.”