We are living in the age of estrogen. The food supply is laden with traces of herbicides, pesticides and petrochemical residues from plastics, all of which have estrogen-like, endocrine disrupting effects in animals and humans. These xenobiotics, or foreign biological substances, have been linked to abnormalities and cancers of human tissues that are hormone sensitive, including fibrocystic breast disease, breast cancer, cervical cancer and dysplasia, endometrial cancer, endometriosis and ovarian disease as well as prostatic hypertrophy and cancer.
How can we protect ourselves from these influences? Eating a whole food diet of organic or biodynamic foods, free of pesticides, is an important first step. Healthy water is the next. Municipal water supplies may be sources of many chemicals and water in plastic bottles can contain residues of polycarbonate plastics called phthalates, which are endocrine disrupters. It is important to drink only pure mineral water or water that has been treated by a reverse osmosis (RO) system.
Our bodies regulate and eliminate estrogens by the action of detoxifying enzymes in the liver. There are two pathways of estrogen oxidation and conversion, one of which converts it to a beneficial and non-toxic form 2-OH estrogen and another which converts it to the 16-OH estrogen form. The 16-OH form is carcinogenic and causes diseases of tissues that are responsive to hormones, including disorders and cancers of breast, uterus, cervix and prostate, and probably lung and colon. Xenoestrogens push the system toward the 16-OH pathway both directly and indirectly.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kohlrabi, bok choy, Brussels sprouts and cabbage contain a substance called indole-3-carbinol (I3C) which is activated and liberated when the vegetables are crushed in a wet environment, that is, when they are chewed, chopped or pounded. In the presence of stomach acid, I3C combines with itself to form DIM (di-indollyl methane). DIM induces certain P-450 enzymes in the liver to block the production of the toxic 16-OH estrogens and enhance the production of the beneficial 2-OH forms.
Studies have demonstrated that DIM reduces the incidence of fibrocystic breast disease, cervical dysplasia, endometriosis and prostate enlargement. In fact, the 2-OH form is not only benign but also enhances the process of apoptosis, the spontaneous death of damaged and cancerous cells. DIM also acts as an active surveillance for cancer cells. This is very exciting and while there is much to learn and more to say, I can state with assurance that this phyto-nutrient may be one of the most important protective substances of this new century.
It is very important to eat cruciferous vegetables every day for protection against diseases that may be induced by exposure to environmental estrogens. As raw cruciferous vegetables contain goitrogens, it is best to eat them fermented, because fermentation neutralizes these thyroid-depressing substances. (Cooking also neutralizes the goitrogens, but also deactivates I3C.) In fact, low rates of breast cancer in Polish women have been attributed to their daily consumption of sauerkraut. (Science News 9/23/00)
The amount of vegetables needed to supply adequate DIM for full protection or as part of a program of cancer treatment is at least two pounds daily. Of course, it is not always practical or possible to eat such large amounts of pickled vegetables. Fortunately, DIM is available as a supplement. I recommend it to almost any patient over 40 and anyone with a family history of breast or uterine problems as well as cancer of the lung, colon or prostate. I also add DIM to any hormone replacement therapy program for an added safety factor to prevent the above diseases. I have also used DIM successfully to treat PMS.
DIM is available from Tyler and Bio Response and directly from Healthyhumans.net or call 1-800-473-2810.
It is generally accepted that high levels of estrogen are associated with cancer of the breast, uterus and cervix; with cystic breast disease, uterine fibroids and endometriosis; with heavy bleeding and premenstrual syndrome; with depressed thyroid function; and with fluid retention and weight gain. Some lesser known associations are the following, as reported in the Nutri-Spec Letter of Guy R. Schenker, DC (1-800-736-4320):
Estrogen levels increase under the stress of injury, surgery, exposure to cold, infection and fasting. (Am J Vet Res, Feb 1998; Keio J Med, Sept 1989; Prog Clin Biol Res, 1989; J Clin Endocrine Metabl, 1974; Am J Clin Nutri, 1989)
Postmenopausal women with higher levels of circulating estrogen experience greater cognitive decline. (J Am Ger Soc 1998, Vol 46, Pages 816-21)
Alcoholism is associated with abnormally high levels of estrogen. (S Gastroienterol, Oct 1988 German)
Estrogen exacerbates symptoms of allergies and asthma. (Rev Pheumol Clin, Oct 1999, Vol 55, No 5, Pages 296-300; Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol, Sep 1998, Vol 81 No 3, Pages 243-6) One study presented evidence that the increasing incidence of asthma in children is due to the mother’s oral contraceptive use prior to pregnancy. (Pediatr Allergy Immunol, Nov 1997, Vol 8, No 4, Pages 200-4.)
Estrogen can actually cause osteoporosis! (Menopause 1991 1(3):131-136) According to Dr. Schenker, between the ages of 21 and 40 there is a considerable increase in women’s estrogen production. However, bone loss has been shown to actually begin around the age of 23 and progresses through the years when estrogen levels are actually rising. Weight gain patterns in middle age women can interfere with bone mass scans, leading to false conclusions about the effects of estrogen on bone health.
Progesterone Creams Reconsidered
By Krispin Sullivan
Currently many women in the US are using topical progesterone creams, often called wild yam cream, or others such as Progonol, Progest and the like. These have been heavily promoted by Dr. John Lee and other alternative healthcare practitioners.
The general use of progesterone creams is alleged to be a safer alternative than estrogen therapy to prevent bone loss. This claim is based on anecdotal evidence from Dr. Lee. However, a recent clinical study showed no difference in bone mass between those using progesterone cream or a placebo. The cream did, however, reduce hot flashes. (Obstetrics and Gynecology August 1999, Vol 94, No 2, Pages 225-8)
In working with laboratories using saliva testing, we have found levels of progesterone in excess of many thousands of units above normal. The idea that this is natural and that there are no side-effects from use of these creams is incorrect. Some of the symptoms of progesterone overdose include headache, weight gain, fatigue, water retention and depression. One clinician described the symptoms of progesterone overdose to be similar to those of pregnancy.
Levels of progesterone begin to rise to abnormally high values after just 15 days of application of the creams. Symptoms begin gradually, often going unrecognized for months. When the cream is stopped it may take as long as three to six months for progesterone levels to return to normal. During this time symptoms may become worse before returning to the pre-cream baseline.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2000.