What do PMS, low sex drive, trouble sleeping, and mood swings all have in common? They all tend to happen when estrogen starts getting out of hand.
Estrogen is a bit like that sexy, bubbly friend who is a great time at parties until she has one too many to drink. Before you know it, she goes from charming and fun to obnoxious and overbearing. Without someone more sensible to put her in a cab and get her home, she causes trouble for herself and anyone else who happens to cross her path.
Progesterone is that sensible friend. She remains calm when everyone else is going crazy, and as long as she’s around she helps estrogen to be her best self too.
I could go on with this analogy, talking about how estrogen sometimes falls in with the wrong crowd (xenoestrogens) or progesterone tends to retreat when bullied (by cortisol) but I’ll stop there. 😆
If you want to maintain a healthy balance between estrogen and progesterone, you have to keep estrogen from getting out of control AND make sure progesterone has the support it needs to do its job too.
First let’s talk about some of the ways you can keep estrogen under control:
1) Avoid xenoestrogens in you personal care products, makeup, and cleaning products. Xenoestrogens are chemicals that mimic estrogen and disrupt the endocrine system. Remember that the skin is our largest organ, so it’s easy for them to enter by way of things like shower gel, body lotion, perfume, and laundry detergent residue.
Some of the big ones to watch out for include:
- 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) (sunscreen lotions)
- Parabens (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben commonly used as a preservative)
- Benzophenone (sunscreen lotions)
- Phthalates (anything that lists parfum as an ingredient)
- Triclosan (some toothpastes)
2) Avoid xenoestrogens in your food. The biggest source of xenoestrogens are in nonorganic meat and animal products because you get the double whammy of the pesticides that are sprayed on their food and the antibiotics used to treat them. Whenever possible choose organic, free-range meat, eggs, and dairy and organic produce too.
Some other xenoestrogens to be on the lookout for on food labels include:
- Erythrosine / FD&C Red No. 3
- Phenosulfothiazine (a red dye)
- Butylated hydroxyanisole / BHA (food preservative)
3) Avoid xenoestrogens in water. Yep. Water. If you’re not filtering your water or drinking regularly out of plastic water bottles, chances are you’re also getting a big old dose of xenoestrogens as well. Choose glass over plastic and invest in a triple-stage filter: a sediment filter, a ceramic filter, and an activated charcoal filter. If that’s too much, even a simple Brita filter can make a difference.
4) Drink plenty of (filtered 😅) water and eat lots of fiber. When we’re not having regular eliminations (read: pooping first thing every morning) excess estrogen sticks around and gets reabsorbed through the large intestine. Eating a diet that includes lots of roughage, especially cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower and staying hydrated with at least two liters of water a day is key to keep things running smoothly.
5) Exercise. Getting physical helps the body detoxify by releasing excess estrogen through sweat. It also helps to lower stress, reduce fat, and improve sleep which all have a huge effect on estrogen/progesterone balance. Make sure to include a mix of strength training, cardio, and more restorative practices like yoga and tai chi for best results.
Okay, I’ll stop there! As I said at the beginning of this post, getting estrogen under control is only half the battle. You also need to do what you can to protect progesterone and ensure regular ovulation. I’ll save that for the next one!