You've probably heard of estrogen, but do you truly know what kind of impact it has on you and your life?
"Estrogen" is a term used for a group of related hormones that give the body its unique feminine traits, and increase in the amounts of estrogen results in a girl's ability to reach puberty. These levels stay comparatively elevated until menopause.
But like all hormones, estrogen isn't exactly simple. So let's talk about estrogen imbalance and what you can do to prevent it.
Estrogen imbalance can lead to weight issues, infertility, and even cancer.
The body has its own unique way of balancing levels of estrogen as and when needed. For example, estrogen levels need to increase for the endometrial wall to thicken, and they are at their peak just before ovulation. For successful ovulation to occur, estrogen levels need to taper drastically.
If this does not occur, the ovum is not released and it remains within the ovary. This leads to many complicated health issues, including infertility.
Then there's estrogen and weight control. Distribution of body fat is gender-specific. Females having fat depots around their thighs, hips, and butts, and males have more visceral fat. After menopause, however, there is redistribution of fat, and women tend to accumulate more fat around the middle.
The risk of obesity is significantly lower in women than men — in premenopausal women, that is. But after menopause, these risks increase and are similar to the male obesity risk. This is because estrogen has an influence on the formation of fatty tissue and adipose metabolism (fat metabolism).
This is because estrogen production is carried out in the adipose tissue, which starts a vicious cycle within females after menopause. Estrogen imbalance produces more adipose tissue, and this adipose tissue produces more estrogen.
Last but not least, there's the connection between estrogen and cancer — specifically, breast cancer and uterine cancer. Since estrogens are responsible for the thickening of the endometrium, they have a cell-proliferating effect. If they show this effect on other parts of the body, their activity leads to the development of cancers.
The relation of estrogen and breast cancer is also dependent upon weight. Obese post-menopausal women tend to be more at risk of developing breast cancer than women with normal weight.
Excess body fat (greater than 28 percent) is also one of the causes of a condition called "estrogen dominance," which can increase the risk of breast cancer among other issues like decreased sex drive, breast swelling and tenderness, mood swings, and further weight gain.
OK, so estrogen imbalance isn't great. But why does it happen?
There are many environmental triggers that either lead to imbalance in normal estrogen levels or mimic the action of estrogens in the body. Xenoestrogens are synthetic or natural chemical compounds that mimic the effects of natural estrogen. PCBs, BPAs, and phthalates, are a few examples — and regular exposure to them results in imbalance.
Genetics also plays an important role in estrogen imbalance. Some bodies simply contain gene variants that make them prone to such hormonal imbalances.
The key to managing estrogen levels: diet and exercise
As noted earlier, post-menopausal women are at risk of suffering from estrogen-imbalance-related health problems due to estrogen imbalance. But at the end of the day, we're all prone to estrogen imbalance, whether it's for genetic reasons or it's caused by contamination.
Weight management is incredibly important for keeping estrogen balanced, and the best way to do this is to eat a healthy, balanced diet and exercise regularly. Try taking up yoga or running and eating a colorful diet packed with fruits and veggies.
Last but not least, invest in glass storage containers. Using plastic containers to store your food ups your risk of consuming xenoestrogens.
Don't let estrogen imbalance stop you from enjoying a healthy, meaningful life. You've got this.