Women, we must not fear estrogen—our own queen of hormones. With all the current talk of estrogen dominance, plus the 2002 HRT scare, the hormone has acquired a bad reputation it does not deserve.
I know estrogen is scary. I was there in the 1990s when women fled from the HRT Premarin. But Premarin was not a human hormone. It was a horse hormone combined with a tweaked-pseudo-franken-progestin. Women’s bodies did not like that, but they do like human estrogen.
Estrogen is good for sleep, mood, and libido
Our main estrogen—estradiol—sensitizes the brain to oxytocin and dopamine, and also triggers the release of serotonin. Too much can cause irritability (especially without the balancing effect of progesterone). Too little can cause depression and severe insomnia. Anybody who has watched an estradiol supplement pull a woman out of a sleepless hell can attest to its power. (Please see my 2015 Estradiol Deficiency post.)
Estradiol is also important for skin, bone health, insulin sensitivity, metabolic rate, and libido.
Estradiol is our main circulating estrogen in our menstruating years. Other estrogens include estriol, estrone, estrone intermediates, and the Franken-estrogens in HRT and the Pill. There are also the many estrogen-like chemicals from plants and industrial toxins. We live in a sea of estrogens, but none of them are as beneficial as estradiol for sleep, mood, and libido.
When is estrogen bad?
If estradiol is so great, then how does it all go so wrong?
Estradiol is a stimulating hormone. It stimulates the nervous system. It stimulates hormonally sensitive tissue. It causes the body retain fluid and salt. It is definitely a hormone in need of careful control.
How to keep estrogen in check
- Ensure adequate progesterone. Progesterone down-regulates and calms tissue. The only way to make progesterone is with regular, healthy ovulation. After menopause, the only way to make it is with healthy adrenal function. The Pill and most HRT are franken-progestins—not progesterone. They suppress progesterone.
- Reduce inflammation. Inflammation interferes with estrogen detoxification and increases the sensitivity of the estrogen receptor. Inflammation comes from stress, smoking, insulin resistance, chronic infections, food sensitivities, and intestinal permeability.
- Promote estrogen detoxification. There are many steps to healthy estrogen clearance including the magnesium dependent COMT enzyme, as well as phase 2 liver detoxification pathways. Our intestinal bacteria help to escort estrogen from the body. If they are disrupted by, say, antibiotics, then estrogen is not cleared. Even worse, hyperactive estrogen intermediates are reabsorbed into the blood stream. This is why antibiotics increase the risk for breast cancer.
- Stabilize receptors with iodine. An iodine deficiency causes tissue to over-react to estrogen. Consider supplementing iodine to calm the body’s response to estrogen.
- Don’t be insulin resistant. Insulin is a growth-hormone and promotes cell division in hormone sensitive tissue like uterus, breast, and prostate. Furthermore, the pattern of weight gain associated with insulin resistance increases activity of aromatase which converts testosterone to estrogen.
The problem with conventional HRT
Until this decade, the hormones used in conventional HRT were NOT human hormones. They were either horse hormones or tweaked-pseudo-franken-hormones. Franken-hormones were why HRT was found to cause breast cancer and heart disease (as observed in the 2002 WHI study).
Some modern HRT is not Premarin, but is bioidentical estradiol, which is much safer. But still the dose is too high, and in the US and Australia, estradiol is always prescribed with synthetic progestin (nasty stuff), which carries a significant breast cancer risk. In Europe, bioidentical progesterone, which has no breast cancer risk, is used with great success.
If you suffer distressing menopausal hot flashes and sleep disturbance, then you can consider a little supplemental estradiol. It must be low-dose topical bioidentical estradiol (patch or vaginal pessary) AND it must be combined with micronised bioidentical progesterone. Progesterone alone may give relief. Progesterone interacts with estradiol receptors, and can also convert to estradiol.
The problem with hormonal birth control
The Pill is hormone replacement. In my view, it is a particularly soul-crushing type of HRT, because it contains both Franken-estrogen and Franken-progestin. The Pill suppresses the body’s own lovely estradiol and progesterone, and it suppresses libido.
Estrogen is not always bad for breast cancer
Breast cancer risk is determined by insulin, thyroid, inflammation, vitamin D, iodine deficiency, toxic chemical exposure, and so much more. To illustrate the complexity, consider the study that found that a small dose of estradiol actually slows the growth of advanced breast cancer.
Please also see:
Yours in Health,