Supporting oestrogen metabolism and detoxification
Oestrogen is a hormone we hear a lot about, a word that can invoke a strong reaction in clients. Do I have enough, do I have too little, what is it doing to my body? Often there’s little understanding of it’s many functions and what happens when we have too much of it circulating in our bodies.
Here is a brief explanation of oestrogen, followed by a clinical case study of a recent client who presented with classic symptoms of oestrogen dominance. I’ll also explain how we were able to bring her back to homeostasis and hormone balance using a functional medicine approach.
Functions of osetrogen
Oestrogen is one of our main female sex hormones and it’s functions include:
- Regulating menstrual cycles
- Promoting sexual function, fertility and libido
- Regulating fat stores
- Supporting cognitive functions such as learning, memory and mood
- Maintaining bone density
Types of osetrogen
In addition there are 3 different types of oestrogen:
- Oestradiol – most potent during productive years
- Oestrone – predominant during and after the menopause
- Oestriol– present during pregnancy in large amounts
When our bodies metabolise these different types of oestrogen, a number of metabolites (end products) are produced. Given it’s many functions, when osetrogen becomes imbalanced, it can manifest itself in a variety of health symptoms in the body.
A client came to see me to address a host of symptoms that she had been experiencing for some time. She reported an inability to lose weight, wired but tired all the time, irregular periods, mood swings and hair loss.
The key to resolving her symptoms lay in understanding what was driving what appeared to be classic symptoms of oestrogen overload as this can be caused by a number of factors including:
- High levels of oestrogen compared to progesterone and imbalances in other key hormones
- Increased production of oestrogen
- Impaired metabolism and detoxification of oestrogen
After reviewing her full medical and genetic health history from a 5 page questionnaire together with listening to her story for an hour during our first consultation, I recommended a Urine Organic Acids test which would provide an accurate insight into her metabolism, her Vitamin B status, detoxification capability and general gut health. I felt that her long history of stress together with her age and lifestyle were impacting her ability to balance her oestrogen input (what is produced in the body together with oestrogen like chemicals from the environment) with efficient output (elimination of oestrogen and chemicals from the body).
Whilst waiting for the test results (which take up to 15 working days) I focused on 3 key areas of her lifestyle which I suspected were likely to be contributing to excess oestrogen. I made no changes to her foods other than to recommending 3 meals a day at regular intervals, as I wanted to base any dietary interventions / changes on the results.
The three areas were…
This is important because our stress hormones not only deplete us of nutrients but affect our detoxification pathways, impacting our oestrogen metabolism as well as our blood sugar levels. I asked my client to incorporate stress relieving exercises which she felt were realistic, enjoyable and which she could envisage incorporating into her daily routine.
Sleep is our repair time when our body processes toxins and used hormones. It has been shown that improving both quality and quantity of our sleep contributes to improved oestrogen balance. I agreed with my client that she would try to establish a regular sleep pattern, increase her daytime light exposure with early morning walks / time outdoors, and to track her sleep quality with an app so that we could look at this at her next consultation.
Reduce exposure to xenoestrogens
Xenoestrogens are chemicals which disrupt hormonal balance as they have a potent oestrogenic effect and are commonly found it tap water. Whilst asking my client to increase her water consumption (as healthy bowel movements support oestrogen elimination) I also asked her to use a water filter at home and to drink only bottled water when she was out.
Once the lab test results were back I was able to interpret these and then explain them to my client at her second consultation. We agreed on a health optimisation plan to re-balance her hormones and promote oestrogen detoxification. We agreed on what foods to increase in her daily diet, what foods to reduce (or avoid completely) together with a targeted supplement plan as indicated by the test results (supplementation including dosage is presented in the report in a clearly outlined chart). This was combined with nutrients to support digestive health as a healthy gut is essential to elimination of oestrogen via the digestive tract.
At our third consultation I was pleased to hear my client report improvements in most of her symptoms (hair regrowth normally takes a full 3 months or longer) and we continued to work on other areas to support oestrogen metabolism and detoxification such as exercise / movement. I encouraged my client to buy more organic produce where possible to put less stress on her detoxification pathways and to further reduce her exposure to xenoestrogens by looking at her beauty and cleaning products.
As this case study illustrates, using a Functional Medicine approach can be transformative in resolving long standing health issues by allowing myself and clients to truly understand what is underlying their health symptoms and to address these at the root cause so that they can restore health and balance.
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