The endocrine system is made up of organs and glands that produce hormones, which send chemical messages to one another. These chemical messengers dictate many aspects of our being, such as behaviour, mental and physical health. The endocrine system regulates body processes which includes our metabolism, energy balance, reproduction, growth and development, smooth and cardiac muscle contraction, and more.
A key sign to any hormone imbalance is a disruption in your thoughts, skin, mood, energy, sexual desire, ability to sleep, digestion, and ability to lose weight.
In our daily lives we are exposed to numerous amounts of endocrine disruptors. They are found within our air, water, soil, food, and consumer products. These hormone disruptors can mimic our naturally occurring hormones, which can contribute to the overproduction or underproduction of hormones. They may also block hormone pathways and disrupt their receptor sites. Sources of endocrine disruptors include beauty products, cleaning chemicals, skin care products, pesticides, and more.
Xenoestrogens are another notorious endocrine disruptor. These chemical compounds have estrogen like effects on living organisms. They work by mimicking estrogen, which can contribute to the overproduction of estrogen within the body.
Common sources of Xenoestrogens include:
Meat and dairy from hormone fed animals
Pesticides & herbicides
Dry cleaning chemicals
Plastics (microwaving food in a plastic container)
Soaps and cosmetics
Adhesives (nail polish and glue)
Waste from sewage treatment plants
BPA & PCBs
Another major endocrine disruptor is stress.
Chronic low grade anxiety and stress affects the function of the HPA axis. The HPA axis is comprised of the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands. This trio is responsible for regulating the stress response, digestion, energy, mood and mental well being, sex drive, and immunity. Chronic stress may lead to the HPA axis overproducing the hormone cortisol. The hormones cortisol and progesterone share the same metabolic pathway. Therefore, when cortisol is high (as seen in chronic stress and anxiety) then progesterone can become low. Without adequate amounts of the hormone progesterone to oppose estrogen levels in the body, estrogen levels can rise to excess. Any imbalance between estrogen and progesterone is referred to as estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance is a state of either absolute excess of estrogens in the body, or a relative excess because the opposing quantity of progesterone is too low. In other words, there is an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone.
Some of the common symptoms of estrogen dominance include:
Increased blood pressure due to sodium and water retention
Irritability due to its effects on the central nervous system
Low blood sugar
Increased histamine release and greater susceptibility to inflammation and allergies
Increase in pro-inflammatory prostaglandins
Increase in prolactin which may affect mood
Overweight / excess body fat
Hormone imbalances can often result due to a person’s genetics, diet, and lifestyle factors. The efficiency of our body systems and organs can contribute to how our hormones function as well. For instance, many hormones are activated by the liver, which is why the health of the liver is such a crucial component in hormone health. If the liver is unable to effectively conjugate and excrete estrogens, they can accumulate in the most toxic forms. This may be if the liver is overloaded with artificial additives in the diet, such as preservatives, colourants, trans and oxidized fatty acids, drugs, alcohol, and the by products of candida overgrowth.
The health of your gut microbiome plays an important role in hormone function as well. Microbes in the colon, especially candida, can produce estrogen like substances, which work and act similar to estrogen in the body. Candida can also metabolize progesterone, which further contributes to a higher amount of estrogen circulating within the body. It is also important to address constipation because a lack of daily bowel movements gives gut microbes more time to deconjugate estrogens and produce estrogen like substances.
Another thing to keep in mind when dealing with imbalanced hormones is the quality of your sleep. A lack of sleep can result in decreased amounts of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin naturally opposes estrogen, therefore if there is low melatonin within the body, this can result in excess circulating estrogens. If you have difficulty sleeping try to reduce your screen time before bed or invest in some blue light blocking glasses. Blue light prohibits the natural production of melatonin before bed time, which can often make us feel tired but wired or restless before bed time. Sources of blue light include the sun and digital screens, such as our cell phones, TV, computers and other electronic devices. As well as, fluorescent and LED lighting.
So what can you do?
Support your hormones by eating a whole foods diet with plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and high quality meat. Try to eat organic as much as possible, I know it can be a difficult thing to fit into your budget, I struggle with this as well. I would recommend checking out the dirty dozen and clean 15 list, you could try buying the organic foods from the clean 15 list as a start. It may also be beneficial to work with a practitioner who can help you figure out how to manage your stress levels and get good quality sleep. As well as, ensure that your body is able to efficiently detoxify and absorb nutrients within food and supplements.