By now we all know that up to 30% of all women will be diagnosed with uterine fibroids by the time they’re 35 , and up to 80% of all women will be diagnosed with uterine fibroids by the time they’re 50. African American women suffer more severe symptoms, they grow more quickly, and happen at a younger age.
The real question is ‘Why?’
Is it genetics? Food? Environmental factors? Cosmetics? Estrogen dominance? Some combination of these?
When I was first diagnosed with fibroids, I wondered “how?” How were there so many? How did they grow so large? How did I not know? What caused them?
Now, three years later, there is no sign of them (thankfully) at this point. What’s changed? I haven’t had a relaxer since 2005. I haven’t been on birth control since about that same time. But, my diet and exercise routine now is actually worse than it was prior to 2013.
I took some time to dig into some factors and theories regarding uterine fibroids. There’s a lot more to dig through than I thought there would be, so I am breaking this into a series, with each possible cause getting its own post.
First up: Estrogen Dominance
Estrogen dominance: A condition where a woman can have deficient, normal or excessive estrogen, but has little or no progesterone to balance its effects in the body.
Estrogen dominance is more of an imbalance, in the sense that usually its not that someone’s body is making an abundance of estrogen (though that could be the case), just that the balance of estrogen and progesterone in a woman’s body is off.
Before I go deeper, let’s first review some basics of a woman’s biology. You’ll need the review to get a full understanding of Estrogen Dominance.
As we all know, women have menstrual cycles. A cycle starts the first day of your period, to the first day of the next period. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long, but can vary form woman to woman.
The two main sex hormones in women are estrogen and progesterone. They work together to maintain balance in our body at all times.
Estrogen regulates menstrual cycles, promotes cell division, and in puberty, the development of breasts, growing pubic hair, etc.
Progesterone maintains the health of a fetus. It protects us against the effects of estrogen by stopping further ovulation the second half of the menstrual cycle if a woman is pregnant.
Estrogen is highest in the first half of your cycle. It reaches its highest levels during ovulation, then drops and progesterone rises. Progesterone is released during ovulation. Some testosterone is released around the time of ovulation as well. If you do not get pregnant, you have a period and everything starts all over.
Now that the review is out of the way, let’s get little more into ED.
Because our bodies need estrogen and progesterone to maintain our body’s reproductive cycle, it is important that they stay in balance. They counter each other. If/when that balance is upset, even on the smallest level, there can be problems.
How do you know you have a hormonal imbalance of any kind? Some symptoms of hormonal imbalances may include:
- Irregular Periods
- Sleep Problems
- Foggy Memory
- Digestive issues
- Rapid Weight Gain/Loss
- Vaginal Dryness
- Breast Tissue Changes
- Loss of Libido
Some symptoms or conditions thought to be the result of Estrogen Dominance specifically may include:
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Endometrial (uterine) cancer
- Polycystic ovaries
- Uterine Fibroids
What causes the imbalance?
Several possible things: Low progesterone levels/production, chronic stress, synthetic estrogen (birth control pills, HRT [Hormone Replacement Therapy]), as well as environmental hormones and hormones found in food(diet)
Some hormone levels naturally drop with age, so as we get older, hormone imbalance of some sort is inevitable. So if our progesterone levels decrease, and our estrogen does not decrease at a comparable rate: Estrogen Dominance.
Of course, taking any hormonal birth control or HRT will alter the body’s balance. Birth control is made to fool our bodies prevent a true period. These two factors seem like obvious reasons for the body to be out of balance.
But what about food and environment?
In foods and the environment, we are exposed to Xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are are a type of xenohormone that imitates estrogen. They can be either synthetic or natural chemical compounds. (Wikipedia)
With so many processed foods, genetically modified foods, pesticides, hormone injected meats, and foods with soy (which is a known natural xenoestrogen) its no wonder that our hormone levels are affected by what we consume. There is a big movement for less additives, and preservatives in foods: clean eating. It makes sense. With so many additional chemicals on and in food, the long term affects can’t be good for us. Does ingesting so many additional hormones from meats and chemicals in foods not initially meant for human consumption hurt us? I’m sure is doesn’t help. Do they contribute to an increase or decrease of hormones? Its very likely.
On the same road as food is environmental factors. Many of these, we have very little to no control over. Many environmental chemicals are also xenoestrogens. Many of which are found in daily beauty products (Post number two in the series). The main culprit is plastics. Remember the whole BPA in plastic bottles thing? The compound is found in everything from drink can coatings, to DVDs, to water bottles. It can disrupt or mimic natural hormones.
So what can you do?
You need testing to determine your hormone levels, which can only be done by your doctor. They will be able to determine if your levels are within the range of “normal”.
Outside of medical intervention, things can be done on your own to help balance your levels.
Changing the diet is the biggest thing, and probably the hardest for many. Let’s be real: fruits and grilled veggies are very tasty, but sometimes, a big ol’ cheeseburger and fries just tastes and feels sooo good.
Modifying diets to eliminate or greatly reduce soy, meats such as beef, and processed foods decreases exposure to additional estrogens or estrogen-like compounds. Of course, increasing exercise and being more active will also help.
There are various diet programs out there geared towards fibroid elimination. I don’t make it a habit of publicly endorsing programs/people/things that I haven’t personally tried on this blog. I would say if you’re going to try one of these programs, do your research.
Beware of your plastics use. Try not to warm up items in the microwave in plastic containers. The warmed plastic molecules can possibly seep into and contaminate your food. This is in very, small amounts, but over time, this could increase estrogen in your body. Don’t drink out of bottled water bottles that have been sitting in a hot car (same principal as microwaving in plastic), and try to buy water bottles (and bottles for babies for that matter) that are labeled BPA Free.
There is really a lot more to say on Estrogen Dominance, its part of the reason this post look literally months for me to get up. I kept researching and trying to figure out what to write and what to leave out. At the same time, I kept discovering more stuff!
I hope this was a good first step to learning more. I definitely recommend taking the time to do more research on your own. You can start here:
Next post in the series: Beauty Products and Fibroids
I’m talking relaxers, lotions, nail polish, makeup, hair glue…..errthang.