The Dangers of Estrogen Therapy and Ways to Get Around It

The Dangers of Estrogen Therapy and Ways to Get Around It

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I’ve been against estrogen replacement therapy for women going through menopause for well over two decades! My original argument was, “why would you want to put back, what your body is winding down?!” The idea that reintroducing estrogen to calm a woman’s symptoms as her body moves out of procreation mode just seemed like a recipe for prolonging the inevitable. As I began peri-menopause around age 35, I began to look into hormonal imbalance treatment, looking for adaptogenic answers that didn’t include high levels of estrogen. All these years later, foods that were recommended back then, that were noted to have low-levels of estrogen, actually are now noted to have higher levels, such as spinach and cashews. Both these foods have benefits that are larger than the estrogen content, thankfully, but cashews are so high, that similar to soy, I don’t recommend men eat them.

Boron is often recommended for boosting one of the issues caused by estrogen, but Boron-containing foods need to be eaten in moderation as well, due to the possibility of boron increasing estrogen output.

Life got so busy in 2023 that I began collecting articles I wanted to read later, and now as we begin 2024, I’m slowly going through that list. Today’s reading is a Mercola interview where they discuss gut toxicity that is caused by too much estrogen. Mercola writes:

“While estrogen replacement therapy is all the rage, this strategy is likely doing far more harm than good. I strongly recommend avoiding estrogen replacement therapy, even bioidentical, organic estrogen replacement therapy. You can go on other forms of hormone therapy, but not estrogen.”

Kahn is quoted as saying:

“”[Estrogen] is certainly one of our biggest toxic threats today, especially given that you have to think of it contextually. Our context today is not grandma’s context. [Due to] the hormone disruption and estrogen mimics we’re dealing with [today], you already have too much, and you’re adding more through hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills.”

“Many women — and men, by the way — are estrogen-dominant and just produce way too much.”

He goes on to discuss how this over-abundance is creating various cancers such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer in women, and prostate cancers in men. This is not just caused by diet, estrogen meds flushed into water mains and the water table, endocryn disruptors etc, but by the body converting nutrients into estrogens in the gut.

Kahn further explains the hormone replacement issue as follows:

“”If you take a hormone therapy and look at this cascade, what are most women getting? They’re getting estradiol, typically, which converts into 4-hydroxy estrogen, which is a cancer fuel.

If you have a woman who is already teetering on the edge of poor health because she converts into one of these buckets and you give her estradiol, you’ve just given the raw ingredients to fuel this, and then all of a sudden inflammation’s through the roof. And where did this breast cancer come from?

I’m dealing with a family where there’s breast cancer, and a woman that previously had ovarian cancer. And what happened in those two parts of her life? Two years prior to the breast cancer, in menopause, she started her hormone replacement therapy, and she took estradiol …

Keep in mind, in menopause you don’t have a menstrual cycle anymore, so you’re not clearing that toxin. It just gets stored in fat. That’s what your body does with it, which is why you have inflammation in the breast. That’s where you have a lot of fat as a woman.”

Khan has an interesting view of estrogen as a toxin, and says the following:

“”Menopause is a protective measure,” Khan says. “You’re past the fertility stage of your life and this toxin that you needed for that purpose, you don’t need anymore, so your body naturally goes into a state to protect you by not having so much of it. We break nature and try and maintain it, not understanding why the body does this. It’s to protect you. That’s why you go into menopause.””

EDIT Jan 27, 2024

Hardly two days after publishing, more info on the dangers of too much estrogen comes along, this time in relation to serotonin, another hormone that in moderation, the body uses for a variety of purposes, but that when too much exists, problems show up.   On January 14th, 2024, Mercola did an interview with a Bulgarian researcher highlighting these issues and begins by saying:

“…a closer look reveals both estrogen and serotonin can cause severe problems and you do not want high levels of either of them.”

“In December 2002, the National Institutes of Health added steroidal estrogens used in estrogen replacement therapy and oral contraceptives to its list of KNOWN human carcinogens.”

“…the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) studies, which began in 1991, showed estrogen replacement therapy in menopausal women significantly increased the risk of heart attacks, strokes, dementia, Parkinson’s disease and cancer, not just in the breast but all female reproductive organs.”

Mercola then adds:

“Some people and clinicians believe that bioidentical estrogen solves the problem but it does nothing of the sort. Bioidentical estrogen still has all the negative characteristics described in this article. It increases the risk of all cancers, not just breast and prostate, lowers your metabolic rate, and increases your risk of obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis.”

Prior to this quote from the article, Mercola was saying that mainstream prescription rates of estrogen therapy had dropped between 1991 and 2015, but that around 2015, reports were written to refute the WHI studies, and prescription rates began rising again.  However, when I began my own hormone-imbalance research in 2006, the herbal world was still very much promoting phyto-estrogens as the answer to women’s menopausal problems.  Even in 2021, the textbooks I was using to get my Natural Health Practitioner’s Diploma were promoting plant-based estrogens for this purpose!  I hadn’t as yet come across the studies saying that even phyto-estrogens were bad, but from where I sat at the time in 2006, if it did the same job as my own body’s estrogen, in the same manner, then it wasn’t necessarily safe and I steered clear of it.  Plants such as Black Cohosh, Spinach, Cashews, and others were on these estrogen-replacement lists, with Black Cohosh being at the top of the list for women who wanted estrogen replacement therapy without mainstream medicine.  Seeing studies backing up my hesitancy all these years later, is vindication for the choices I made.

Mercola summarizes the first half of this article by saying:

“Low estrogen levels in your blood is not an indictment of estrogen deficiency. This is because most cells can synthesize estrogen from common
precursors that are widely available in your body, including cholesterol.

The problem is that the estrogen that these cells produce doesn’t equilibrate with the blood, but stays within these cells and gives a false impression of estrogen deficiency. And, while estrogen is an essential component in tissue repair, that growth and repair process needs to be turned off when the job is completed, and if it isn’t, the risk of cancer rises dramatically.

The problem is that progesterone and androgens — the off-switches for estrogen in women and men respectively — do decline with age, because cells do not have a comparable enzyme like aromatase, to synthesize them. Their synthesis is restricted to gonadal tissues. This leads to elevated estrogen levels and decreased progesterone and testosterone, which typically results in unregulated cell growth, the essence of cancer.”

This is where some people in medical circles get the erroneous idea that cancer is a symptom of aging.  I just saw this misleading statement in a blurb of a different article today where the author was pointing out the error of such a statement.

end edit

However, estrogen has more uses than merely reproduction in the female body, and it is those uses that doctors try to maintain when they recommend going on hormone replacement therapy.

Bone density loss during menopause is the biggest reason doctors will recommend replacement therapy in order to stave off osteoperosis. However, plants such as Milk Thistle contain compounds that lower the loss of bone density, slowing down the progression. Pregnant, want-to-be-pregnant, nursing, or women who are diabetic or suffer from low blood sugar, should not take milk thistle. But if you don’t fall into those categories, Mercola writes in his article on the Health Benefits of Milk Thistle, written January 2023:

“In 2022, using an animal model, researchers demonstrated that silibinin could reverse bone loss triggered by iron overload.”

One ebook I downloaded, entitled Top Immunity Superfoods & How to Use Them, the following paragraph appears on page 13:

“Dark leafy greens are rich in folate, calcium, and antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin. Folate is especially vital for producing antibodies that work to destroy antigens that can cause illness. When chewed and chopped, these vegetables also release compounds called isothiocyanates and indoles that protect against various carcinogens.8 They help reduce the activity of estrogen in the body and therefore have a twofold role in protecting against estrogen-related cancers”

Another plant that aids in building bone density is Cocoa due to it’s flavanol content. This is a far safer and far more enjoyable way to ensure bone density in menopausal women than going with estrogen replacement. Just be sure to get high-grade, non-irradiated cocoa powder, or high-grade dark chocolate and don’t settle for the low-grade adulterated variants that are sold in checkout lanes and candy aisles. White chocolate doesn’t count unless it contains the cocoa butter or chocolate liqueur as it’s often called. Without that high enough in the ingredient list, white chocolate is not a a health food!

Another matter to keep in mind that has proved controversial in the past, is your salt intake. As one who doesn’t cook with salt, I admit that this needs to change in my own diet, so I’m speaking to myself in this portion of this article as well as to you. Mercola wrote the following about salt and sodium and how low levels affect bone density, in his article, Do You Know the Difference Between Salt and Sodium? written in 2022:

“Your sodium balance is at least impacted by magnesium, calcium and potassium, which in turn affects several aspects of your health, including blood pressure, bone density and heart and kidney health. In other words, each time you change the level of one, you impact the levels of others.”

“Sodium levels in your body can also help to reduce stress hormones, such as angiotensin II, renin, aldosterone, noradrenaline and adrenaline. These stress hormones increase arterial stiffness and can potentially lead to high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic kidney disease.

Salt also helps balance calcium and magnesium. Since your body requires salt, it will pull it from the bone to maintain a normal blood level, while also pulling magnesium and calcium”

This means that the average woman living in the western world actually needs to increase her salt intake, not decrease it! Table salt however, won’t do! Get your hands on quality mineral salt for this dietary purpose.

In Mercola’s article on Top Tips for a healthier 2022, he shared a list of nutrients that aid the body in promoting healthy bone growth. Its interesting that several of these are found in quality cocoa powder or high-grade dark chocolate while others are found in meat, and foods containing carotenoids. As noted earlier however, while Boron can build bone density, it can also boost estrogen levels, meaning any foods with this compound must be taken in moderation, or not at all if a person has really high levels of estrogen in their system already.

Mercola’s nutrient list for bone growth is Vitamin D, Vitamins K1 and K2, Calcium, Magnesium, Collagen, Boron, and Strontium.

This list isn’t just good for bone maintenance. The vitamins and minerals mentioned here have a wide range of beneficial uses to the body. So while you are ensuring you don’t suffer osteoperosis during and after menopause, or trying to avoid cancer whether man or woman, this list will aid in general body function as well.

It isn’t necessary to go on estrogen-replacement therapy these days. If anything, we need to lower our estrogen levels in the western world and look after health needs other ways.

Added Jan 27, 2024

A second reason mainstream doctors prescribe estrogen replacement therapy, is for addressing cancer and psychological issues menopausal women can face when another hormone drops in their system:  progesterone.  First, the concept of estrogen dropping is only seen in the blood.  This is important to note, and Mercola’s guest for the article on estrogen vs serotonin puts it this way:

“As explained by Georgi, progesterone is the main endogenous and most direct and potent glucocorticoid receptor antagonist. . . .  As such, it’s also a cortisol blocker, with a similar activity as the anticancer drug and cortisol blocker RU-486, which is now virtually impossible to get.”

“Progesterone is also a GABA agonist and could be useful to take concomitant with a GABA supplement. You may even be able to use much lower doses of both if you combine them together. This affinity for GABA accounts for some of progesterone’s psychological benefits. Georgi explains:

A company is developing an oral formulation with the long-chain fatty acids called LYT-300, and now they’re applying to the FDA for clinical trials for posttraumatic stress disorder, psychosis, sleep disturbances, anxiety — all of these things GABA is known to relieve.

They’re saying, ‘Oh, we have the most potent endogenous GABA agonist here, allopregnanolone, for all these conditions.’ But we can say, ‘Well, you don’t have to get allopregnanolone by prescription. You can do it with progesterone, maybe a slightly higher dosage, but still in the same ballpark.’”

As mentioned, progesterone also inhibits cortisol, and cortisol has been well documented to play a major role in depression.”

“According to Georgi, GABA is known to improve mitochondrial energy production and inhibit excessive glycolysis. Excessive glycolysis and impaired mitochondrial function just happen to be the classic hallmarks of cancer. In older studies, injecting GABA directly into tumors was found to trigger complete regression in a matter of days.”

Mercola’s conclusion then, is that mature women don’t need estrogen replacement therapy, they need higher levels of progesterone, or it’s precursor pregnenolone.  Interestingly, the body can create this on it’s own.

“Pregnenolone, which your body makes from cholesterol, converts first to progesterone and then to allopregnanolone. Pregnenolone is also converted to DHEA, which is a precursor for estrogens and androgens.

EDIT Feb 1, 2024

In Mercola’s December 2023 article on four hormones most adults need, he notes that if you are taking progesterone, you don’t need to worry about DHEA converting to estrogen, as progesterone blocks that conversion.  However, he notes:

“According to Dinkov, human studies have shown that once you take more than 10 mg of DHEA”

end edit

Carrying on with the previous article’s notes:

“Pregnenolone is really unique in the sense that if you have an excess of a specific steroid, it will likely lower it,” Georgi says, “and if you have a deficiency of a specific steroid, it will probably raise it.

About 100 mg is probably enough because, being the top level hormone, it’s going to convert downstream into whatever you need … I know of a study with schizophrenia where 50 mg decreased significantly both the symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.”

We have an interesting correlation developing here, between estrogen, progesterone, GABA, and pregnenolone.  That correlation is cholesterol, a compound I recently wrote about in another article that the body makes heavy use of when synthesizing the various chemicals (or hormones) required for optimal functioning.  GABA has a variety of uses in the body, not the least of which is brain function, which can affect psychological function.  Mercola’s guest for the estrogen/serotonin article said this about GABA versus serotonin-caused depression:

“Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a class of antidepressants that raise your serotonin levels, but contrary to popular belief, this can cause significant problems. The easiest solution for depression, anxiety and insomnia is GABA, with or without progesterone.

“Even 100 mg of oral GABA was enough to lower the assessment scores of patients with anxiety and depression disorders. The Beck’s Depression Inventory is for depression, and there’s another one for anxiety. Just 100 mg of GABA was sufficient to lower significantly in the score on both scales. Combining it with another GABA agonist amino acid known as L-theanine, which is found in tea, drastically increased the effects. And L-theanine lowers the levels of serotonin in the brain. It’s perhaps the most direct evidence that serotonin in the brain is not good at elevated levels.”

Mercola’s guest pushed mainstream medications, although he wasn’t shy from suggesting patients cause a bit of stir in the psychiatric medicinal space by asking their psychiatrist why certain anti-serotonin meds were available for depression while pro-serotonin meds were also available for depression!  Brave guy!  But I agree with Mercola, that GABA therapy is better, safer, and easier on your pocketbook.

“Another side effect of GABA is that GABA increases the degradation rate of serotonin even when it’s taken orally. So you cannot have high levels of both. So people that are high in GABA are usually low in serotonin. They’re very calm, they’re very gregarious.”

Now it’s time to look at food and ask ourselves if there are ways to boost these chemicals using wholefood as medicine.

Chasteberry and wild yam are both recommended in situations where a person wants to keep both estrogen and progesterone in balance with wild yam being prescribed more frequently.  Licorice Root is an estrogen regulator.

Healthy fats found in meat and dairy products are huge in providing your body the building blocks to create pregnenolone, which is the precursor of progesterone and estrogen. This is because the cholesterol created from these foods is used by the body to create these hormones. In fact, if you get a Naturopathic Doctor, Natural Health Practitioner or Integrative doctor telling you to take supplements for these hormones, the best way to take them is mixed into a fat such as high-fat butter.

Beef RoastFoods containing zinc and magnesium are beneficial in encouraging higher progesterone production. Magnesium will also aid in lowering estrogen production to allow progesterone levels to rise.

Foods containing Vit B6 aid in maintaining healthy progesterone levels, and surprisingly, Vitamin C has been shown to boost progesterone with just 750mls per day in one study.

Foods containing GABA should be high on the mature woman’s grocery list due to it’s similar behaviour within the mitochondria, to progesterone.

One food that contains vitamins B6, and C, magnesium, zinc, and GABA, is the lowly potatoe! Suddenly the old European northman tradition of meat and potatoes at dinner makes so much sense!

The amino acid, L-theanine, is not found very much in the food world, but is present in the tea plant used for oolong, white, black, and green tea, and at least one mention of it in the porccini mushroom.  Unfortunately, this means the best way to get it nutritionally, is with caffeine as the tea plant contains caffeine.  If you are prone to ADHD or high anxiety, this may not be a bad thing due to studies showing a calming/alert combination of benefits to those in these categories.

Lowering your caffeine intake can aid in rebuilding progesterone levels as well. Caffeine has been repeatedly observed to increase stress hormones which inversely affect progesterone levels. So if you drink a lot of coffee or ingest foods with high caffeine levels, it would be wise to cut back if you are experiencing low progesterone-related health issues and not drinking a variant of tea from the tea plant.

Examining your stress levels in general would be beneficial. Exercise and sleep are recommended both to aid the body in its repair function at night, which includes hormone regulation, but also to reduce stress hormones and encourage healthy metabolism and circulation. As usual, addressing hormone imbalance, much like other health issues, must be taken from a whole-of-person perspective, which includes how you eat, sleep, exercise, and manage daily stresses.

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