A woman’s estrogen balance is of vital importance to her fertility, mucosa, mood, libido, bones, cancer preventions, and many other things. There are also many myths about estrogen, which is merely a common term for the three types of estrogen – estradiol, estrone, and estriol – that have widely different functions. Like progesterone, stress hormones, and testosterone, estrogen belongs to the group of steroid hormones, where one hormone is built from another with help from enzymes. These enzymes depend on various nutrients such as iodine, vitamin D, magnesium, and selenium. If we lack these nutrients it may increase our risk of hormone imbalances, hot flushes, dry mucosa, bladder problems, and breast cancer. You can also read more about hormone-disrupting substances, hormone therapy, and bioidentical hormones.
Our hormones serve as chemical messengers that block or promote various processes, and there must always be a proper balance between the different hormones.
The pituitary gland is the main conductor in all of this. It uses hormones to influence the thyroid gland, adrenal glands, and ovaries and their production of other hormones. Very few people, even among doctors, realize that there are different estrogens with entirely different functions, which are important to health and to the proper choice of treatment.
The buildup and breakdown of steroid hormones
Cholesterol is the main constituent of all steroid hormones, mainly the three estrogens plus progesterone, testosterone, and the stress hormone cortisol. There are subtle differences between the steroid hormones. As part of the so-called steroid chain, they are transformed into other steroid hormones, sort of like bits of LEGO that are pieced together, taken apart, constructed and broken down, depending on what hormones the body needs for various tasks.
Make sure to distinguish between the tree different types of estrogen
Estrogen is not really a hormone but a common term for the three different hormones – estradiol, estrone, and estriol. They all have entirely different functions, as shown below.
”The dangerous one”
|The only ”female estrogen”. It is primarily produced by the ovaries. Responsible for the female curves. Enables pregnancy. Causes the body to store fat. Increases cellular growth. Too much estradiol causes overweight, inflammation, and cancer|
”The lazy one”
|Storage hormone in fat tissue. Can be converted into estradiol and estriol|
”The buzy one”
|Keeps all mucosa moist and resistant. Important for skin, bones, mood, and libido Counteracts the pro-inflammatory and carcinogenic effect of estradiol. Produced in the liver and adrenal glands in both males and females|
Did you know that estriol, which is often called a weak form of estrogen, has the most significant impact on mucosa and that both men and women produce it?
Iodine maintains the balance between the three types of estrogen
Iodine is primarily found in fish and shellfish, seaweed and other types of seafood. In Denmark, where there is very little iodine in the soil, it is mandatory to add iodine to table salt to prevent goiter. Still, the amount that we get from this source is probably not sufficient to cover the actual need for iodine.
It has been believed for ages that iodine’s only function is to support the thyroid hormones that control our metabolism. However, recent studies show that iodine is also important for the ovaries, the estrogen balance, and the fatty acid metabolism.
Doctor David Brownstein has gathered convincing data showing that iodine helps maintain the right balance between the three types of estrogen - estradiol, estriol, and estrone.
If we produce too much estradiol in relation to estriol and progesterone, it increases our risk of inflammation, breast cancer, and other hormone imbalances.
Iodine deficiency increases your risk of hormone imbalances and breast cancer
Next to the thyroid gland, the ovaries concentrate more iodine than any other body part. Therefore, an iodine deficiency may cause alterations in the ovarian estrogen production and changes to the estrogen receptors of breast cells. American scientists have discovered that women living in iodine-deficient parts of the USA produce more estradiol. At the same time, the cells in their breast tissue become increasingly sensitive to estrogen. Both factors increase the risk of breast cancer. Breast tissue, the prostate gland, the thyroid gland, and the nervous system convert the omega-6 fatty acid AA (arachidonic acid) into delta-iodine lactone, an iodine compound that causes cancer cells and worn-out cells to self-destruct (apoptosis), provided the body’s iodine levels are adequately high.
Iodine’s ability to protect against breast cancer has been demonstrated in animal studies. Epidemiological studies reveal that populations with higher dietary iodine intake have a lower risk of getting breast cancer. In other words, getting enough iodine plays a vital role in the prevention of the much-dreaded disease.
Iodine protects against breast cancer by regulating the estrogen balance and the MCF7 gene in breast cancer cells, as shown in a study that was published in the International Journal of the Medical Sciences. The researchers behind the study suggest iodine supplements as a relevant adjuvant in the pharmacological treatment of hormone-related breast cancer.
Fluoride compounds and bromine displace iodine
Iodine, fluoride, and bromine are halogen minerals that have many things in common and are therefore able to displace one another. Many fluoride compounds and bromine are toxic, and the higher amounts of these compounds we are exposed to, the more iodine we need. Fluoride is used in toothpaste and mouth rinses. Poly-fluoride compounds (PFCs) are found in nonstick kitchen utensils (Teflon), pizza boxes, cookie sheets, rain clothes, and impregnation. Studies show that the Danish groundwater is that contaminated with fluoride compounds such as PFOS (perfluoroctanyl sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid), experts call for immediate action. Bromine is found in pesticides and in brominated flame retardants in textiles, plastics, computers, and televisions.
It makes perfect sense to avoid these compounds. Don’t swallow toothpaste when you brush your teeth and try to buy kitchen utensils without Teflon and buy eco-labeled cookie sheets.
How much iodine do we actually need?
The official recommendations call for 150 micrograms daily for adults. However, leading experts claim that this is too little and say that we need around two to five mg of iodine daily. This amount squares with the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) upper safe intake limit. In the case of thyroid dysfunction and cancer, as much as 15-50 mg daily may be required, but such dosages should not be ingested without consulting a physician first.
Iodine compounds and supplements
Healthy people are able to get the iodine they need by eating fish, shellfish, and seaweed that produce a lot of iodine in the form of iodides. Kelp and Spirulina supplements are also good sources of iodine (just make sure that the raw materials originate from non-polluted waters). Supplements of sodium iodide are available in tablet form
Lugol’s iodine, which is named after the French doctor, J G.A. Lugol, is a solution of 5% iodine and 10% sodium iodide mixed with 85% distilled water. Most studies of supplements are based on Lugol’s iodine, which appears to be safe even in larger quantities.
As mentioned earlier, one must always consult a doctor before taking large doses, preferably a doctor specialized in orthomolecular medicine.
People suffering from Hashimoto’s disease, which causes hypothyroidism, should not take iodine supplements, unless they have enough selenium in their blood.
What type of salt to use?
Sea salt and Himalayan salt contain several other minerals and salts, which are good for you. However, these types of salt do not contain as much iodine as iodine-enriched table salt. Therefore, if you prefer sea salt or Himalayan salt for cooking you must make sure to get iodine from other sources. Avoid refined table salt with anti-caking agents such as aluminum.
Vitamin D is like a steroid hormone
The sun during the summer months is our main source of vitamin D, but because of our modern lifestyle with too much indoor activity and the dark winter months without sunlight, many of us become vitamin D-deficient. Vitamin D is important for bones, muscles, immune defense, and cell division. Most cells in the body have vitamin D receptors (VDR). An estimated 5-10 percent of our genes are controlled by vitamin D, which switches on and off different functions. A study that is published in Toxicological Research shows that vitamin D is involved in enzyme processes that control the synthesis of various steroid hormones, including estradiol and progesterone.
Vitamin D deficiency has become increasingly common during the past decades due to
Vitamin D reduces the amount of estrogen
According to a study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, USA, supplementing with vitamin D can lower the amount of estrogen in the blood and reduce the risk of breast cancer even in overweight women, who often have elevated estrogen levels in their blood. The randomized, controlled, clinical study included 218 overweight and obese women, who had too low levels of vitamin D in their blood at baseline. For one year, half the women followed a weight loss program and took 50 micrograms of vitamin D daily, while the other half followed a weight loss program and received matching placebo.
The scientists noted that the women, whose blood levels of vitamin D increased the most, had the greatest estrogen reduction in their blood. This potentially lowers the risk of breast cancer, because it is well-known that too much estrogen in the form of estradiol increases the breast cancer risk.
Blood levels of vitamin D should be at least 60 ng/ml
High levels of vitamin D in the blood lower the risk of cancer by around 20 percent. Scientists from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine have found that blood levels of vitamin D should be at least 60 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter). This is a lot higher than the official American recommendations, which call for 20 ng/ml. It is also slightly more than the Danish recommendations (50 ng/ml.)
Research shows that vitamin D has several anti-cancer mechanisms
Lack of vitamin D worsens the prognosis of women diagnosed with breast cancer
Scientists in a Brazilian study looked closer at the relation between lack of vitamin D before conventional breast cancer therapy and the prognosis. It turned out that lack of vitamin D worsened the prognosis for breast cancer patients. More specifically, the study showed that the women, who had insufficient amounts of vitamin D in their blood or were vitamin D-deficient, were more prone to large tumors with more metastases. Also, they sustained more lymph node attacks. After adjusting for BMI, age, and time passed since menopause, the scientists also found that lack of vitamin D was significantly correlated with negative estrogen receptors. The scientists concluded that lack of vitamin D as such was associated with a worse prognosis for women with breast cancer.
It is not enough to treat breast cancer with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation
It is also important to optimize blood levels of iodine, vitamin D, magnesium, selenium, and other vital nutrients, which the body needs
Can vitamin D be a new alternative to anti-estrogens?
Earlier studies show that weight loss can reduce levels of estrogen significantly. Now, science also knows that vitamin D has a similar effect, provided you get enough of the nutrient to normalize blood levels of vitamin D. Still, scientists disagree when it comes to establishing the optimal levels. There is even a chance that high-dosed vitamin D supplements present a new and safe alternative to anti-estrogen drugs like tamoxifen that are associated with side effects.
Optimal vitamin D levels in the blood require supplementation
Magnesium for the utilization of vitamin D and for your stress threshold
We humans synthesize vitamin D in our skin with help from sunlight and a precursor of vitamin D. However, the body’s ability to utilize the vitamin D afterwards depends on several factors. First, the liver converts vitamin D into 25-hydroxyvitamin D3. After that, the kidneys convert the vitamin into an active form. These enzyme processes require magnesium. Therefore, lack of magnesium may result in impaired utilization of vitamin D from sunlight or from supplements.
Magnesium also supports the nervous system and helps if you are stressed, have tensions, or suffer from insomnia, which can indirectly harm your estrogen balance.
Selenium, estrogen balance, and breast cancer
Selenium is a trace element that supports a host of enzymes (selenoproteins) that control energy metabolism, fertility, the immune defense, and the hormone balance. Also, they serve as powerful antioxidants. Selenium protects against breast cancer by regulating the estrogen balance and the MCF7 gene, according to a study that is published in Cancer Research. Selenium also protects against breast cancer and other types of cancer by inhibiting inflammation, promoting programmed self-destruction of cells (apoptosis), and by reducing the blood supply to tumors.
Selenium has a vital role in long-term prevention of breast cancer, but because the European farmland is low in selenium, people have difficulty with getting enough of this vital nutrient from their diet.
The official recommendation – RI (reference intake) – lies in the range between 50-70 micrograms daily, but leading experts recommend as much as 100 micrograms daily, because this is the amount it takes to saturate selenoprotein P, which is used as a marker to gauge the body’s selenium status.
Fish and shellfish are considered good selenium sources. Still, research shows that even if you eat 1,000 grams of seafood per week, you do not get enough selenium to saturate selenoprotein P. If you take a selenium supplement, you should choose selenium yeast with a variety of different selenium compounds. That way, you get the same blend of different selenium types that you get by eating a balanced diet with many different selenium sources.
The hormone balance requires a certain amount of fat tissue
Skinny women are more prone to symptoms during menopause. It is more difficult for them to compensate for the reduced levels of estrogen because they don’t have as much estrone (storage hormone) in their limited fat tissue
Overweight women have an increased risk of PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome)
Overweight women have a greater risk of breast cancer because the excess fat is a target for inflammation and too much estrogen (estradiol)
Hormone therapy during menopause
The best way to overcome hormonal problems during menopause is eating a healthy diet that stabilizes your blood sugar levels, taking supplements, controlling your weight, and reducing your exposure to stress. Nevertheless, many doctors prescribe Vagifem that contains bioidentical estradiol. The problem is that too much estradiol is associated with serious side effects such as inflammation and breast cancer, and in many cases the medicine does not work as expected.
If you suffer from dry mucosa, recurrent bladder infection or other symptoms linked to lack of estriol, you may need Ovestin with bioidentical estriol, a non-prescription medical drug.
Ovestin with estriol is not associated with the same side effects as those observed with Vagifem that contains estradiol. Unfortunately, the difference between the two estrogen preparations and the side effects are not mentioned in the package inserts.
The best is to combine estrogen and progesterone therapy to create some form of balance.
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