Estrogen (estrone, estriol and estradiol) is an important hormone for sexual development and reproduction. It is responsible for female secondary sex characteristics and helps to regulate the menstrual cycle along with progesterone. Some of the roles of estrogen include bone formation, blood clotting, tissue growth, mood regulation and surprisingly, sound processing. As with all hormones, a delicate balance must be maintained for optional functioning and estrogen is frequently thrown out of whack through diet, stress and toxins which can lead to estrogen dominance.

Join us for this episode of The Health and Wellness Show where we'll discuss interesting facts and tidbits about this master hormone and bust some common myths.

Running Time: 01:08:59

Download: MP3

Here's the transcript of the show:

Jonathan: Welcome to the Health and Wellness Show everybody. Today is Friday, April 6, 2018. My name is Jonathan. I'll be your host for today. Joining me in our virtual studio from all over the planet we have Doug, Erica, Tiffany and Elliot. Hi guys.

Erica: Hi.

Tiffany: Good morning.

Doug: Hello.

Elliot: Hello.

Jonathan: So today we're going to talk about estrogen, comprised of estrone, estriol and estradiol. Man.

Doug: EstraDIOL (pronunciation).

Jonathan: So not estradiol.

Tiffany: I like saying esTRAdiol.

Doug: It might be one of those regional things where some people call it one thing, some people call it another. Elliot, how do you pronounce estradiol?

Elliot: Both ways. I did say esTRAdiol but then it got picked up by my supervisor and she was like "No, it's estraDIOL." I guess either one.

Jonathan: There you go.

Tiffany: The question is Elliot, are you going to say estrogen or EEstrogen?

Elliot: Probably both. {laughter} You'll have to just wait and see. I kind of like eestrogen but yeah, estrogen maybe. We'll see how it goes.

Erica: And vitamins.

Jonathan: I'm sure everyone's tangentially aware of what estrogen is and some of its roles. Even if you don't know anything about biology, it's testosterone and estrogen. But estrogen is primarily associated with bone formation, blood clotting, tissue growth, mood regulation and surprisingly, sound processing. So we wanted to talk about this interesting hormone and also talk about the role that it might play in upsetting the balance of hormones that we have going on right now.

So we talked in our last show about plastics and about estrogenic compounds that can upset the balance in the body so we kind of wanted to follow up on that a little bit with this topic. We were talking before the show and Tiff and Erica mentioned that you think that there are not shortages of estrogen. Is that true? Whereas most people are deficient in something, magnesium, iodine, whatever it might be, there don't necessarily seem to be a lot of cases of estrogen deficiency. Most of the problems come with too much estrogen or it's in the wrong places.

Tiffany: Well from what I've read, the cases of estrogen deficiency are relatively rare compared to cases of estrogen dominance. But that is not reflected in what doctors prescribe. If a woman goes to her doctor complaining of any kind of female symptoms like night sweats or PMS or perimenopausal symptoms they'll often come away with a prescription for estrogen which is just making things worse.

Jonathan: It's almost like the medical community is ignoring the prevalence of these estrogenic-type compounds in our environment which is causing an upset in this balance. They just see something. They're going straight off the biology, the readings that they get from your body and ignoring the environmental factors. Maybe all doctors don't do that but it does seem that way.

Doug: It seems like it's even worse than that. Even leaving aside all the estrogen compounds in the environment, it seems like in a lot of cases it's a very simplistic look at things. "Oh, you're going through menopause therefore you must be low in estrogen and the reason you're having all these symptoms is because you're low in estrogen." There's a really intricate interplay of all these hormones going on and it's really simplistic to just go "Oh, not enough estrogen. Let's prescribe some estrogen." They're not looking at the way the different hormones interact, particularly progesterone which has a counter-effect to estrogen.

It just seems like in a lot of cases - and I think you could say this about a lot of different things, cholesterol being one - it's almost like the doctors don't really understand the way things work and are giving these simplistic answers to things.

Erica: Or they just don't have the time to spend to get to the deeper root of the cause.

Doug: Yeah.

Elliot: I think that's a really pertinent point. What typically happens is that when someone goes through the menopause or perimenopause there are correlations between low serum estrogen levels and this time of a woman's life and I think the doctors or the medical community see it very simplistically. They see low serum estrogen levels, meaning deficiency of estrogen. But a low serum estrogen level could be caused by multiple different things and one of those has already been mentioned which has to do with progesterone's interaction with estrogen.

So Doug just said progesterone actually balances out estrogen. It mitigates a lot of the effects. It kind of acts in opposition in many ways. So what's it's known to do is block the so-called estrogen receptor and get estrogen out of the cell. There's a lot of research that is showing that progesterone supplementation in menopause actually has better results than estrogen supplementation and so a conclusion could be drawn by that; maybe one of the reasons why these women have low serum estrogen levels is actually because they're low in progesterone.

So there's a bunch of estrogen in the cells but you can't measure estrogen in cells and this is the problem and this is what there's loads of debate in the medical community about, people saying that there's such a problem with measuring blood levels of estrogen because it's not measuring what is actually inside the cell. It's only when it's inside the cell that it actually acts, that it can have an effect. So what may come up as low estrogen, it may actually be that they've got loads of estrogen in the cells and there's not enough progesterone to get it out of the cell and oppose it.

This may be one of the reasons why a lot of women experience estrogen dominant symptoms but they come up with low estrogen on blood tests. So you can imagine in this scenario, by giving them more estrogen, you're potentially compounding the problem.

Doug: Yeah. What are some of the things that can lower progesterone? If somebody was in the situation of having estrogen dominance symptoms and did a test and found that they were actually low on progesterone, what could actually be causing that?

Elliot: I think a lot of the interaction between estrogen and progesterone has to be very delicate. There has to be a balance so it may not necessarily be that there's not enough progesterone being produced. What it may be is the balance between estrogen and progesterone is thrown off.

I'm just giving you a random number here. Let's say a normal healthy human body would produce 10 units of progesterone and they would produce 10 units of estrogen. This isn't realistic terms. I'm just saying this for understanding's sake. So you have 10 of each and so each balance out one another. But if you're in a situation where the environment or your lifestyle means that you're exposed or you ingest 30 extra units of the estrogen, that means you would have 40 units of estrogen and only 10 units of progesterone. So it may not be that you're necessarily deficient or not producing enough progesterone. It may be that your system becomes overburdened with estrogen.

The ratio between the estrogen and progesterone gets skewed. I think this is one of the things. There's also lots of other factors which can affect someone's progesterone levels like, as I just said if there's really high estrogen, that can have an effect on how well you produce progesterone. There's also a lot of people who suffer from thyroid issues and the availability of thyroid hormone is one of the main factors in your ability to make progesterone. We know the information about iodine and everything like that and all of the other thyroid disrupting chemicals that we're exposed to.

So that could have an effect on progesterone. I know there's a couple of other vitamins as well. There's vitamin E and there's also vitamin A and generally I think it's so complex that no one really knows what controls the production of these hormones. It's quite a complex subject and it's really muddy when you look into the research. I've spent all week just trying to make some sense out of it and I don't think anyone really knows. But what we do know is that estrogen is a very interesting hormone. We've briefly spoken about this on the show before, about how it is predominantly found in females but it's also found in males and there's some debate about whether it's technically a female hormone or whether it's just more of an evolutionary hormone that's got some sort of other functions as well.

So I'd just like to talk about what the functions of estrogen actually are. Most people do associate it as a female hormone because it is really important for female physiology. From an evolutionary standpoint I think that it's kind of safe to say that for a woman or for a female to develop reproductive ability you really rely on a hormone like estrogen. So the growth of breasts in puberty and the development of the female shape.

Tiffany: And the widening of the hips.

Elliot: And the widening of the hips and also the menstrual cycle. The menstrual cycle involves the rhythmic fluctuations of different hormones and one of those hormones is estrogen and so estrogen comes along and its main function is to initiate the rapid growth of the endometrial lining. The endometrial lining is the lining of the reproductive tract and midpoint through the cycle it develops into a thick, spongy, highly dense tissue which is really dense with nutrients and blood and then a few days after that typically a woman will shed that via her period and then that will become reabsorbed.

What's important to understand here is that estrogen plays the role of growth so it's really important for the growth of tissue. This is important but it's also important that we have something to shut this off. We need to be able to stop that so if you think of estrogen as an accelerator on growth, then progesterone is like putting the brakes on. Progesterone basically comes along and says "Look, we don't need to grow anymore. We don't need cells to proliferate so we're going to stop you."

As long as you can keep a balance that's good. Estrogen is not good and it's not bad, just like every other hormone. If you have excess or if you have not enough then there's going to be bad consequences but ultimately that's it's evolutionary role, to tell the cell to divide.

If you're familiar with what we've spoken about on the show before with hormone disrupting chemicals they'll typically say they're estrogenic. You can have certain chemicals or influences which can almost hijack this evolutionary system and can initiate or keep the brakes on, so estrogen can become unopposed. This is why it's so clearly associated with various forms of cancer because that is its job, to tell the cells to divide and it's when that system becomes out of whack that it becomes a problem.

At the cellular level, if we want to go into it a little bit, not too deep, it's important to know how a cell typically functions. If you look at a cell it's really dense with proteins so if anyone did biology in high school or something, you'll get shown some crappy cartoon diagram of a bag of fluid with all these things floating around and that's typically what mainstream medicine sees the cell as. It's been disproven quite a lot of times. It turns out the cells are really dense with proteins, called the cytoskeleton, but these proteins are so close together that the only thing that's separating them from one another is a layer of four or five water molecules.

The water molecules that are at the interface with all of these dense proteins forms a gel. If you were to get some gelatin and make a bowl of it, it's similar to that but it's a lot more dense. You can see, if you just lift up your arm, your arm doesn't fall apart, does it? It's not like a bag of fluid. It's a dense network, a dense gel. That's typically how a cell should be in its resting state but when it needs to perform an activity there's a cascade of events which make the cell go from being this really tightly structured gel-like thing to actually becoming less gel-like and more like water. It allows water into the cell and that's how the cell performs different activities. It goes from being this really dense structure to being this sort of less dense structure. It's quite complex but that's a rough overview.

So the way that estrogen actually affects the cell is it affects the cell water. There's these things called estrogen receptors. It's debated about whether they work the way that they do but you could just imagine on the outside of the cell they have these little docks and estrogen comes along and it interacts with the docks. What it does is allows water to get into the cell and it causes the cell to swell up and when the cell swells, that's a triggering event for cell proliferation. So the way that estrogen affects the cell growth is by causing the cell to swell up. That may seem kind of irrelevant right now but if you put that in the context of disease, then it kind of makes a lot of sense because when that is meant to occur in the right context, like in the female reproductive cycle, then that's good because it's in a very specific area of the body, the reproductive tract and that's meant to happen. You're meant to get an accumulation of fluid in the cell and that's the normal chain of events.

But if there's a scenario where there's excess of this estrogen then this can affect other cells of the body that it's not necessarily meant to affect at different times. When the cell swells up with water it loses its ability to decide what gets into and out of the cell. So typically the cell being really structured and gel-like is one of the protective functions. It's what helps to exclude all of these toxins and thingd. But estrogen's ability to disrupt the cell water in the cell can actually allow things such as toxins and things to get in there when they're not necessarily meant to be in there.

So I think this is one of the main reasons why estrogen toxicity or estrogen overload is really so dangerous. It does have this kind of effect on cells. But what estrogen also does, interestingly, is it causes cells to release more calcium so if you know anything about how calcium works in the cell, calcium is associated with activity. So estrogen is also associated with cell activity.

One of the reasons why they say that EMF is so dangerous is because it activates these calcium channels in the cell and it causes all this intracellular calcium to be released and what that does is excites the cell so it stimulates the mitochondria and you produce loads of ATP and that's good for a really short period of time but when a cell is overly excited it can die really quickly. It produces loads of free radicals and it destroys the cell. So this is the similar effect of estrogen. It facilitates the release of calcium and this is good in the right context, but again when there's estrogen overload, it's very excitatory for the cell and this can lead to lots of other problems.

Dr. Catherine Dalton wrote a very good book about this called The PMS Bible. She's a researcher in the UK. She specialized in progesterone therapy for women. She was a doctor who came up with a syndrome. I can't remember what it was called but it was to do with women actually losing their rational faculty {laughter}, women who went insane at a certain time of the month and there were several cases where women who were taken to court either for violence or even murder actually got off on grounds of this temporary psychosis.

Erica: Yeah, the estrogen made me do it. {laughter}

Elliot: The thing is I remember there was lots of information that came out about it because the judges had a really hard time taking this into consideration. They thought these women were just blaming their period, 'this is crazy. They can't do that'. But it actually turned out with this doctor showing all of the evidence of research, many of these women did go into a state of temporary psychosis and when they were put on progesterone treatment they got a lot better. One of the reasons for that psychosis is because of the effect the estrogen can potentially have on the nervous system in that it can act as an excitotoxin. That's what they call it. It stimulates the neurons to such an extent that you get partial brain damage but you also can get hallucinations and all of that crazy stuff. And that's just the effect of estrogen!

Tiffany: That's above and beyond what I usually think of when I think of PMS. I've never had the PMS. Have you Erica?

Erica: Not really, no. Not to make me crazy. {laughter}

Tiffany: Well you hear women talking about their PMS symptoms, how they get really angry and irritable and bitchy and start yelling at everybody but what Elliot described is just something that's way above and beyond the usual PMS stories that you hear. I guess for some people it can be really that awful. Regular PMS sounds awful enough. Who wants to do that every month!?

Erica: It's interesting that a lot of the doctors will prescribe the pill for women who are having irregular cycles or painful PMS; so Elliot, would that just be giving them more estrogen essentially? Kind of compounding the problem?

Elliot: It depends what kind of pill they're prescribing because there's the progestogen and the estrogen pill or there's just the estrogen pill. This is a really confusing thing because some people do get some benefits from that. I've been trying to work out exactly what this is. You need estrogen to be able to function so I was trying to work out how exactly it is that estrogen overload can cause really horrible symptoms and then when women are put on the estrogen pill, seemingly some of their symptoms disappear. I think sometimes in some contexts there's an adaptive response. For instance the administration of estrogen can initiate the body's natural production of progesterone to counterbalance that. I know that that's the case with some SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), the administration of that, or 5HTP can cause the brain to actually produce its own neurosteroids which can account for a lot of the benefits that these pharmaceuticals produce.

If I remember correctly, there's some evidence that taking exogenous estrogen in a certain form can initiate the body's own production of progesterone in response to that.

Doug: That's interesting.

Elliot: But again, I'm not entirely sure.

Doug: I think about soy and soy has estrogenic properties and despite the fact that there's a lot of literature out there about how bad soy is because of these estrogenic properties, originally it was considered a health food because some people definitely did seem to benefit from it. So I do wonder if maybe there's a similar thing going on there, where some people taking the soy maybe in the proper quantity, were getting benefit because it was ramping up the body's own production of progesterone or something like that. We don't know why. But it always confused me because you will see studies where "Oh yeah, administration of soy helped with x, y and z". Well what's really going on there because in a lot of other cases soy seemed to be a bad thing.

Tiffany: Maybe it was placebo effect.

Doug: Maybe.

Elliot: Yeah, that's possible. The problem with estrogen is that it's one of those aspects of science with so much money invested in it that it's really difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of science because there are so many vested interests in promoting the benefits of it. And this is the problem. It's not like some random herb or supplement or random compound where you've got some PhD researcher who's interested in it. For estrogen, this is a multi-billion dollar industry. The question is, even if there's lot of research suggesting the benefits of something like that, it's like vegetable oils! All of the research suggesting the benefits of corn oil. There is loads, isn't there? But you only have to have two firing brain cells to know that most of that BS. So the question becomes, is most of the research on estrogen also similarly BS? It's hard to tell.

Tiffany: You never know because you have to consider the source of estrogen. Synthetic sources obviously are not going to act in the same way as estrogen that's produced by a woman or a man's own body. There's also the source for the hormone replacement which is mare's urine. Deriving estrogen from a horse's pee is not going to act in the same way for a human being as it would for a horse. It's very confusing.

Jonathan: The birth control industry alone is a big part of this. I don't know the numbers off of the top of my head but I know it's a huge industry.

Doug: Yeah, absolutely.

Elliot: And not only just for birth control. I know in the UK they prescribe these. If a girl's having just some minor pain with her period, they'll just stick her on a permanent estrogen pill. Unfortunately there's a good chunk of research which suggests that it increases the risk of death for almost every single cancer that you can know of. It's really pretty dangerous stuff. There were several clinical trials which actually had to be stopped part of the way through because too many people were dying. That's pretty bad! But they keep going! Okay, next year we'll try again.

Jonathan: God!

Elliot: They're persistent.

Jonathan: It makes sense from what you described about the function of estrogen and its facilitating the multiplication of cells. I know that's very simplistic, but it makes sense that it would increase the risk of cancer. If you have anything that's about to go that way in your body, estrogen essentially would help that along. Is that an accurate layman's understanding?

Elliot: That seems to be the case. Again, it's a simplistic way of looking at it because it involves all sorts of growth factors but ultimately, fundamentally that is estrogen's role. It's the growth of tissue and it seems to be involved in stress as well.

Erica: I wanted to ask about that. There's Dr. Kelly Brogan's informational video about it and how stress can cause - would it be an over-production of estrogen?

Tiffany: Well if you have a lot of cortisol being produced with stress that can diminish the amount of progesterone that's being produced. It'll take the place of progesterone.

Doug: The cortisol hijack.

Tiffany: Yeah.

Elliot: There's an enzyme which is called aromatase. People who are overweight over-express this enzyme which tanks all of the hormones. It takes anabolic androgens, DHEA, androstenedione, testosterone and it converts them into estrogen. So you see an over-expression of this enzyme in tissues when they're inflamed or when they're stressed. That's really interesting. I was trying to work out what could be the benefit to that and I'm thinking perhaps that when a tissue undergoes inflammation or when it undergoes stress you're going to have the inevitable breakdown of tissue and perhaps the over-expression of estrogen in that tissue is to rebuild the area.

So in a persistent state of chronic inflammation there seems to be an over-production or high amounts of this enzyme. Similarly in people who are obese, they have really high aromatase activity because the fat cells produce aromatase. What I think is probably the case and the only thing that kind of makes sense, because I try to work off the idea that the body always tries to do the best that it can with its limited resources, so it's not just going to produce some chemical just for the sake of doing it even though it's really detrimental. So the only reason that I would think that aromatase is expressed in stressful situations is because stressful situations usually involve the cortisol hormone and cortisol is catabolic which means it breaks down tissue. So how else are you going to rebuild tissue? Well you can use estrogen to do that I guess.

Doug: I wonder why fat cells produce it though?

Elliot: I was thinking about this earlier and I thought you might ask that. {laughter} If you look at a fat cell...

Tiffany: So fat cells naturally produce estrogen. It's not necessarily a bad state to have your fat cells produce estrogen. That's one of its roles. It does that in men and women.

Elliot: The thing is why. Why does it produce estrogen? What function does the estrogen have in maintaining the fat cell. That's a tricky question. There's some really interesting research showing that fat cells actually need inflammation to be able to store more fat. There was a study done with mice and it was measuring the effects of inflammation on the adipose tissue and it was showing that the mice who were genetically engineered to have no inflammation in the adipose tissue stopped being able to store excess calories in the fat and they developed metabolic syndrome and died whereas the rats who did have inflammation in the fat tissue could store more calories in the fat and they were actually protected against metabolic dysfunction. So they didn't get insulin resistance. They didn't get all of these things.

So the researchers concluded that inflammation was beneficial. It's needed for people who are fat to prevent getting metabolic dysfunction. And it was interesting because the inflammation was coming from gut endotoxin. It almost suggested these rats facilitated the growth of a pro-inflammatory microbiome in the gut to be able to produce more endotoxin which could then go into the fat tissue, produce more inflammation so that they could prevent themselves getting metabolic dysfunction.

Tiffany: If your fat cells store toxins and clears them out of your bloodstream that would be a benefit in the long run even though aesthetically it might not be pleasing if you're obese, but it's a way to protect you in the long run perhaps. Is that kind of what you're saying?

Elliot: Yeah. I think there's something to do with that. I think it may have something to do with the estrogen's effect on remodeling of the fat tissue, maybe to facilitate more fat deposition rather than it spilling into the bloodstream because the most problematic scenario is when someone's fat they can no longer store anymore fat because when that happens they start getting elevated free fatty acids, they get elevated blood glucose. They basically get insulin resistance and diabetes and metabolic syndrome and stuff. So really actually the fat is massively protective and inflammation is also really protective and I suspect that estrogen plays a role in that inflammation as well. I'm not exactly sure. I couldn't find any research on that. But again, it doesn't make sense that the body would just randomly produce loads of estrogen in the fat cells if it wasn't beneficial in some way.

Jonathan: That is pretty wild to think that obesity might just be the body quarantining toxins. I know it's much more complex than that.

Elliot: So if there was some potential benefit of estrogen to the fat cell or if it was maintaining the fat cell or something like that, I guess if it's endogenous I guess that's not so much of a problem. But I think the real problem occurs when the human body is exposed to so much exogenous estrogen, I think that just completely skews the system and I think that's probably why estrogen has got such a bad name as well. Everyone associates really bad things with it and that's because lots of bad things are associated with it. But it seems like these things just hijack the reproductive system.

Tiffany: They don't act in the way as natural estrogen if you have all these xenoestrogens coming in, they don't perform the same functions as a natural estrogen and that further throws things out of whack.

Elliot: Yeah. And then there's also the body's ability to get rid of estrogen as well. You probably heard about methylation. You produce a load of estrogen and especially when you're exposed to loads of environmental estrogen as well, you're coming into contact with a lot. Imagine if you're chronically stressed. If you're chronically stressed you're going to be constantly secreting more estrogen than you may have been doing before. So you've got this massive estrogen burden almost. You need to be able to detoxify that. So there's two main ways that you get rid of it. The first way is by the gut. That involves a pathway called glucuronidation. We spoke about it briefly in another podcast but it's one of the liver detoxification pathways and it gets this chemical and it binds it with estrogen and then it passes it into the gut and when it's in the gut it should ideally be passed through into the feces.

But the problem is that when you've got dysbiosis or you've got an imbalance of gut bacteria then you can have bacteria which produce an enzyme which prevents this or reverses this detoxification. Or if you've got constipation, if you're not going to the toilet once or twice every single day then there's a good chance that you're going to be reabsorbing a lot of the estrogen that you're trying to get rid of. So that can be a problem. So gut motility is really important.

But then there's also another pathway and this is the methylation pathway. Most people know about this. They know about getting B12 and folate-rich foods. This is a way that you would get rid of estrogen but you pass it through the urine and unfortunately a lot of people's methylation capacity is drastically reduced, often because of the other toxins and things that we come into contact with or if we're deficient in one of the vitamins. There are so many vitamins that you need to methylate estrogen. There's vitamin C, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin B9. There's all sorts, but if there's something that you're coming into contact with that disrupting this way of detoxification - and most of us are these days. We were talking about PVC before the show. Even on my laptop. If I look at the little mouse pads, the middle's gone shiny so that means that all of the plastic has been rubbed off on my finger and that's been absorbed into the finger. {laughter} So that's the sort of thing that's going to place a load of burden on your methylation pathways.

So if you're not effectively methylating things then you're not going to be able to get rid of estrogen as well. So it's almost like the estrogen system is just being attacked from every single angle. I think this is one of the reasons why it, more than any other hormone other than cortisol has been implicated in so many different diseases.

Tiffany: Back to the liver pathway, so anything that hampers your liver detoxification can also cause a build up of estrogen, whether natural or outside estrogen. So if you're taking drugs, not just street drugs but medications, if you drink a lot or if you're exposed to environmental toxins and your liver is not able to detoxify all this excess estrogen, that will cause a problem. So people really need to be mindful to get their liver into shape, maybe through coffee enemas or milk thistle or liver cleanses in order to help your body detoxify all that excess out.

Elliot: Yes, certainly. The liver is the one that really takes the hit in this situation.

Tiffany: Yeah.

Elliot: Because they call it the gorilla. It's the metabolic cow of the body, so it requires so much energy and unfortunately it takes such a beating. It's the organ that just really gets hit in every way. Unfortunately it's the only way that we can really get rid of this stuff. There's also the sulfation pathway and that is used to detoxify estrogen as well. We've spoken about the paths the last couple of shows. That can get busted by all sorts of things. There are a lot of supplements that you can take for the liver and I used to think that supplementation wasn't always necessary but the more I learn, the more I think, okay, we're not living in a natural world. We're living in a world where we are just constantly bombarded by so much crap so I would imagine that maybe some daily milk thistle or NAC or something like that is probably really a good idea.

Tiffany: In researching for this show I learned that in addition to all the crap that they feed farmed cattle, they give them estrogen too, to ramp up their milk production. They're raised on these big CAFO operations. They have five times the amount of estrogen as a free range cow would have and of course we're eating the meat of the cow and drinking the milk or eating the cheese. So that's another source of exposure.

Elliot: Yeah. They feed them to make them fat as well. That was one of the original things that they found. You can give an animal antibiotics and that will make them fat but you can also give them estrogen and that will make them fat as well. It ramps up the profit but unfortunately it's really dense with estrogen when you eat it.

Erica: We're starting to see the side effects of that with the issue with precocious puberty, right? Where girls are starting to experience breast development at 7 or 8 years old.

Tiffany: Well considering that a lot of women are taking birth control pills and they pee and it gets into the water supply. And there's no way all of that stuff can be filtered out. There's statin drugs in the water supply.

Erica: And then that water supply is being pumped through PVC piping.

Doug: Yeah.

Jonathan: On top if that it's actually expensive to test for that. Some friends of mine had tested water from a well two years ago, mailed it in and we were going to do the pharmaceutical test but it was $3,000 as opposed to the overall broad spectrum test which is a few hundred dollars.

Elliot: I was reading a really interesting paper before. It was about the environmental impacts of the estrogen in the water supply and it was talking about how it's not only affecting human health. The prevalence of man boobs is shockingly high and that can be linked back to estrogen. But it was talking about its effects not only on fish - it's completely decimating the gender of fish populations these days. They're really concerned because there's all sorts of weird growths and mutations. But they're also having sex changes mid life cycle. So they're worried about the future of wildlife.

But also plants as well. It affects the growth of plants and it alters the ratio of antioxidants and stuff. So you're getting lots of growths of weird type algae.

Tiffany: And gay frogs.

Elliot: Yeah. It's messing with the whole ecosystem. It's not only affecting humans. This hormone can be pretty drastic.

Erica: I think a lot of people don't realize too that pesticides are xenoestrogens, so things like DDT or atrazine or endosulfan and possibly glyphosate. So even if you're trying to stay away from those, the plants are completely exposed to it and then the runoff goes into the water and the fish stocks.

Tiffany: So even if you eat organic veggies, you're still going to get the runoff.

Erica: Yeah, in the water.

Tiffany: But another thing that I was thinking about is the rise in heart disease, heart attacks. If you consider that estrogen plays a role in blood clotting and if you have too much estrogen you have a large amount of clots which can lead to heart attacks or strokes or DBTs or embolisms of other sorts. It could be estrogen. I'm starting to get sad. {laughter}

Elliot: Yeah, it seems to play a really strong role in thyroid metabolism as well. They've shown that excess estrogen can almost shut off the thyroid gland. I'm not sure if that's an adaptive mechanism or if that's just a really bad effect of the estrogen. I'm not sure. But it could probably account for a lot of the hypothyroidism that we see nowadays because that's stuff's dramatically on the rise.

What's interesting as well is that estrogen actually inhibits the absorption of iodine.

Tiffany: Oooh.

Elliot: I think Dr. Brownstein might have spoken about this in one of his books. There's one thing with women who are of reproductive age and that is that they probably need a lot more iodine intake, mainly because of the effects of estrogen. But this doesn't only apply to women these days. They've found that men also have shockingly high levels of estrogen and unfortunately estrogen antagonizes the effects of testosterone. But if you've got lots of the enzymes converting all of the testosterone into estrogen then you're going to end up with feminized males and that is exactly what we see in this day and age.

So you've got the combination of iodine deficiency, thyroid deficiency, feminized characteristics. If you look at how estrogen does affect the brain, it can probably also account for a lot of the anxiety and other things that we're seeing today.

Tiffany: Having enlarged prostates in men too is a symptom of high estrogen.

Elliot: Yeah, it is. Because it's a growth hormone.

Doug: Well let's talk about that. What is the effect on men? Because estrogen is generally thought of as a female hormone and a lot of the stuff we've been talking about is the effect on females. Feminizing characteristics is quite disturbing but man boobs aside, what else is the effect of all this excess estrogen on men?

Tiffany: Sexual dysfunction.

Doug: Well yeah. But to me...

Tiffany: Erectile dysfunction.

Doug: But to me to see the same kind of going crazy? Obviously they don't have PMS.

Tiffany: Depression.

Doug: But are the dudes going crazy?

Tiffany: {laughter} The dudes are going crazy. I couldn't find anything specifically about men going nuts and shooting up places because of high estrogen but there's research on estrogen causing depression in men, especially men who are obese. You would think that maybe they're just depressed because they're fat but it's because of the estrogen's effects on their mood in conjunction with being obese.

Elliot: If you look at estrogen's effects on testosterone, estrogen tends to lower testosterone. It has a really detrimental effect on the testosterone. Testosterone is really, really important for maintaining muscle mass. So if you look at a man's physique, typically we've got very low body fat or the typical physique of a slim male or a muscular male or whatever, they typically have much less body fat than a female does. This just physiological. This is just the way that we're designed to work. We're typically designed to have higher muscle mass and that is predominantly due to the higher levels of testosterone.

So testosterone plays an important part in male characteristics and also how the male brain actually works. A lot of the things that are typically assigned to males can be traced back or related back to testosterone's effect on their developing brain. But testosterone, as I've said, is important for maintaining muscle mass and muscle mass generally contributes to energy expenditure. The more muscle mass that you have, muscle uses more energy. If you've got higher muscle mass, your basal metabolism will use more energy.

This is one of the ways that males can stay relatively lean, because their high level of muscle mass means that they can eat a lot of calories and their muscles will use that as fuel. The problem is I think, that when estrogen lowers the testosterone you get a subsequent decrease in muscle mass, increase in body fat and then that is what really can predispose you to obesity because of its detrimental effects on the muscle mass. But it's also implicated in all sorts of cancers but particularly prostate cancer. That can lead back to the essential effects of the estrogen itself.

But I think for males it's really, really important to try and introduce some sort of anabolic stimulus, like some weight training and stuff. I think that's important anyway, but especially in the context of our modern day world. One of the most documented and consistent ways of increasing testosterone is to pump weights, or physical activity, strength training with heavy weights if possible is a great way to increase testosterone.

Erica: What about women? Not to change the subject back to women, but would that be something to do if women were suffering from estrogen dominance? If they put a fitness routine into their weekly life or something with weights and whatnot?

Elliot: Yeah, I guess that would always help. {laughter} I don't know if it applies. I'm not sure. It's a really complex subject. One of the main things to do is just to try and avoid all the xenoestrogens and try and get a really nutrient dense diet. So that would mean your fat soluble vitamins. Vitamin K2 is important for progesterone and is also important for testosterone. Basically, just everything that we say every single week; try to avoid the EMF, try to sleep properly, get your physical activity, get your sunlight.

Erica: Avoid parabens and plasticizers, bisphenol A was another one.

Tiffany: Eat organic as much as possible. And if you're going to eat organic vegetables, eat cruciferous vegetables like cabbage...

Doug: And broccoli.

Tiffany: And broccoli, Brussel sprouts...

Doug: Cauliflower.

Tiffany: Yeah, cauliflower, those help you from what I've read, to detox excess estrogen.

Elliot: Without a doubt those things that contain a bunch of different phytochemicals, the glucosinolates and stuff contain things like indole 3 carbinol and they play lots of effects, but they can really boost up liver detoxification. With all of the stuff that we're exposed to, I think one of the main ways is just to try and really give your liver that boost if you can. Just try and do what you can. There's no way that you're going to get away from all of it, but as we always say, it's just try and do that little bit extra. Try and get your nutrients in. Kale is a great one but then again in really high amounts kale can actually suppress the thyroid function if you eat loads of it, like people having kale smoothies.

The good thing is that the thyroid suppressing effects can be really depressed just by cooking it. So if you cook it you can reduce the goitrogenic effects by 90%. It's just these people who are having raw kale shakes four times a day and then wondering why they've got man boobs. {laughter}

Tiffany: So address the diet and strengthen your liver. Since hormones are such a complex subject and no one really knows exactly how they work, I'm always afraid to supplement with hormones. I definitely would never do any kind of birth control or synthetic hormone replacement therapy. But there are women who experiment with bio-identical hormones, whether in the form of a pill which is not so good because it just goes down to your stomach and has to be processed by the liver and it's not as bioavailable as something like a cream, but sometimes it could be you have a progesterone cream and can get slowed down by being absorbed into your fat cells and not excrete in the way that they should.

There are some bio-identical hormones, progesterone, that you can take sublingually and it goes directly into your bloodstream. But then there's always the question of how much should you take and for how long should you take it because you shouldn't take it continuously all the time because that's not really how hormones work. So it's also confusing.

Elliot: I could give you a hypothetical scenario. For instance if a woman was looking to supplement with progesterone - and I'm not saying that she should be - but if she was wanting to try that out, then you would only do it for half of the cycle. So you'd do it, from what I can remember, I think it's day 7 to 21. So you'd only do it for 12 to 14 days of the cycle but I'm not sure if those days are correct. I'm not very clued up on the cycle.

Tiffany: If your periods are regular. If your periods are irregular then you have to figure out a whole new way to do it. And if you're postmenopausal, there's that to factor in as well.

Elliot: Yeah. There's loads of things that can go wrong with that I think, when you're messing around with hormones. There's a lot of doctors that use it and I've read some amazing results.

Tiffany: Yeah, I would definitely say do it under a doctor's care.

Elliot: Exactly.

Tiffany: A naturopath who's very well versed in hormone therapy, not just any quack off the street.

Elliot: Exactly. You definitely need to be working with someone. I do understand the argument for it because someone could say "Oh well, there's no reason anyone should supplement with hormones because that's unnatural." But especially the women, you guys have got it really bad in terms of the estrogen because you're already producing it yourself. You imagine, you've got so much excessive estrogen and really what is the main thing which opposes that? Well it's progesterone.

Progesterone is actually found to be really, really, really safe. There are studies which show that applying progesterone to the brain increases neuroplasticity. But it's really safe if it's done properly I believe. Don't quote me on that, but from all of the research I've seen I've been really impressed by it. The argument could be that you're exposed to so much unnatural estrogen why not just temporarily counteract that with some natural progesterone. It seems to really help some women.

Erica: It's a lot to take in.

Jonathan: It's a hugely complicated topic, just like most of the stuff that we address. It was cracking me up, what you said about the solutions are things that you can do. It's pretty much what we say every week; watch your daily practice, watch the materials that you're using, the food that you're putting in your body, exercise.

Erica: Lift weights.

Jonathan: Yeah. I can attest to the importance of that. Two weeks ago, right after the last show that we did, I threw my back out and I was really frustrated because I'm 37, don't need to be throwing my back out. But then obviously the solution is to do some strength training so that doesn't happen. It's really important and people lose that connection too with the hormone production and it's loosely understood that you feel better after you exercise but I don't think people really look into what that does.

Erica: It requires discipline too, which is hard in this fast paced world we live in.

Jonathan: Yeah. You can get those little things off the infomercials that just vibrate your stomach. {laughter}

Tiffany: The shake weights.

Jonathan: That's the fast way.

Erica: They have the whole body shaker too now. You stand on it and it jiggles your whole body. {laughter}

Tiffany: That's actually good for the lymph system.

Jonathan: Sure. Elliot, thank you very much for explaining that. It's hard to know the science and most people are not or don't consider themselves to be scientists, so to understand this you either have to put your blind trust in a doctor or start looking into it yourself, which is daunting. So that's why we're here.

Tiffany: There was one interesting study that I want to bring up, about estrogen. I think they did the study on a college campus and the study said that prettier women who have high estrogen levels are more likely to cheat on their partners.

Doug: Wow. There were two different studies. There was one where they had a panel evaluate the prettiness of women and then they correlated that with their estrogen levels. They found that the women who were perceived as prettier, by both women and men, were found to have higher estrogen levels. Now mind you, what Elliott said about estrogen being in the cells or in the bloodstream, I guess it was that they had higher levels of estrogen in the blood.

Then there was another study because the woman who did the second study actually had read the first one and thought "Oh, that's interesting". It wasn't a super rigorous study but they asked women whether they would consider different levels of cheating, so flirting versus kissing, versus actually going all the way, or actually leaving their partner for another guy who came along, and they found that the women who had the higher estrogen levels were more likely to think about or consider that sort of thing. So women who had higher estrogen levels were more likely to be thinking about dudes.

Tiffany: Or was it the fact that the women were more attractive as judged by this panel, that they thought they had more options?

Doug: Yeah, could be. It's like "Well, this guy's alright but my options are open. I know I could land somebody better."

Jonathan: Sure. Well if you look at that from a biological perspective, yeah, that would be the case.

Tiffany: They also said in the study that the women who had higher estrogen were more fertile so that lends to the biological reason maybe.

Jonathan: Alright, I think we're about at our time. We don't have a pet health segment this week so sorry about that, but we wish Zoya well and hopefully we are able to talk to her next week. That's about it. Thank you to everyone for tuning in and using the chat and be sure to tune in next week. We'll be back with another topic. Also check out the SOTT Radio Show on Sunday. So go to for that.

All: Good-byes.