For the moment, let's concentrate on women. The latest research suggests that lifetime exposure to three separate sources of estrogen or estrogenlike compounds can be the cause of many common female health complaints, including cancer. Almost every woman at some time in her life may complain about premenstrual syndrome (including long or short cycle, heavy or light flow, pain, cramps and mood change), headaches, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, fibrocystic breasts, early or difficult menopause.
Traditional medicine -- in its infinite wisdom of attempting to suppress symptoms -- has always resorted to the birth control pill or some form of hormone replacement therapy to manipulate the hormone imbalance associated with these conditions. These therapies, though common, have varying degrees of success and carry unacceptable side effects.
Alternative medicine has always had more natural ways of regulating menstrual cycle and treating other female complaints. These therapies include herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture, progesterone creams and nutritional therapies, also with varying degrees of success.
The new research suggests that a buildup of estrogens can occur in the human body and be deposited in tissue that reacts negatively to that excess. The most common and normal sources of estrogen production in a woman's body come from her ovaries, adrenals and fat cells.
Abnormal sources are the synthetic prescriptions of birth control pills and any form of hormone replacement therapy. When you add to that the lifetime environmental exposures to estrogenlike compounds from steroids fed to poultry and livestock, pesticides, drugs, fuels and plastics, it's easy to see that the body may have quite a task removing (detoxifying) these substances.
Imagine the cumulative exposure that a woman can receive from her own body, a number of years on the birth control pill, hormone manipulation at menopause and the lifetime exposure that we all experience from the environmental estrogenlike compounds. The liver is designed to convert these hormones into compounds that can be excreted out of the body once they are no longer being used.
With all of these sources of estrogen, the liver may be overloaded. The liver needs certain nutrients in order to complete the conversion of these hormones out of the body, whether manmade or synthetic. If a woman is not eating correctly, not eating enough, has a health condition or is not as healthy as she thinks she is, the liver may have difficulty converting the hormones into compounds that can be excreted from the body.
To make matters worse, and little known to even most doctors, the first step in this detoxifying process can convert these estrogens to a more toxic substance first, before continued steps create a benign compound that is easily excreted. Detoxification of estrogens occurs primarily through two pathways in the liver. The first conversion step in these pathways creates either 2-Hydroxyestrone or 16-alpha-Hydroxyestrone. These chemical names aren't necessary for your understanding; just realize that one is helpful, the other toxic.
It is the buildup of the 16-alpha-Hydroxyestrone that causes most of the female health problems mentioned earlier. These hormonal by-products affect DNA, cause cells to divide and grow abnormally or block the use of normal estrogens and progesterone at the cellular level. Studies show that women with breast cancer have 50 times more estrogen in their breast tissue than do women without cancer.
If a woman is able to convert along the 2-Hydroxyestrone pathway, she will be healthier. The challenge for doctors is to nutritionally help promote this healthier pathway. One of the front line defenses is proper gastrointestinal function. In patients with unhealthy bowel function or irritable bowel syndrome, there is a chemical process that occurs within the G.I. Tract that can inhibit the excretion of unwanted estrogens from the body and promote their re-absorption. Just what we don't need.
Direct nutritional modulation of estrogen detoxification pathways can be achieved with a healthier diet containing fiber (from flaxseed, grains, beans and seeds), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, radishes, asparagus, artichokes, celery, carrots), antioxidants (vitamins A, C, E, alpha-lipoic acid, green tea) and B vitamins.
For patients with some of the health concerns that I've mentioned, there is also a nutritional supplement, available from doctors specializing in alternative medicine, that contains compounds that promote the detoxification process and is the new treatment for the above mentioned female health complaints.
Let's not forget the men. They, too, have a lifetime exposure to environmental estrogens. New research is now suggesting that benign prostatic hypertropy and prostate cancer are associated with the buildup of these environmental estrogens.
A healthy lifestyle is essential to the prevention of chronic conditions, but female hormone problems seem to affect every woman, no matter how much attention she pays to her diet and health. It seems to be simply the way it is, if you're a woman.
It's no longer necessary to accept it as inevitable as long as you keep up with the latest research and are willing to take control of your health, instead of relying on antiquated, common medical practice. Your health might depend on it.