Updated: Oct 24, 2018
In case you missed it, here is the video, followed by a text recap from Dr. McSwain’s Facebook live post from October 11. Feel free to comment and share!
It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Or, I like to think of it as Breast Health awareness.
Is Estrogen a Toxin?
I’m going to say that technically anything can be a toxin. We need to realize that if we have too much of something it can become toxic. My training was in OB/GYN, so I was very familiar with hormone therapy and became an expert in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. I believe that BHRT is important, but I don’t think it’s everything. It’s a good thing to include as needed, but not something that needs to be included for everyone. I am going to talk about the details of estrogen as a toxin. So, first, I want to address some of the questions that we presented in the email.
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What is estrogen? Basically, estrogen is an umbrella term. There are actually three main types of estrogen: E1, E2, and E3.
E1, or estrone, means one. You find this in fat cells. Estrogen one is really the toxin.
E2, or estradiol, is the workhorse. We find that mostly in the ovaries. It is secreted as part of our natural menstrual cycle for women. It is a very important workhorse to protect us in cardiovascular disease and do a lot of communication in the body.
E3, or estriol, is really helpful for protecting us against cancer.
One estrogen that is really important for us to talk about as a toxin is estrone. Estrone is from fat cells. Yes, fat is an organ. It secretes its own hormones, and it is very inflammatory. We know that. Fat cells are secreting an estrogen that is very toxic. Estradiol is often given in hormone replacement, and it is used throughout our bodies before menopause. It is very good for us. Of course, estriol is fabulous for us, and we don’t get very much of it. It is a weaker estrogen. When people are using estrogen as a hormone, they want to think about another important type of extra estrogen, which is an estrogen we get from plants, which are phytoestrogens, or food based estrogen. There are also substances that are like estrogens, and those are called xenoestrogens.
First, I’ll talk about phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are okay most of the time. We think about soy as an estrogen, which people can definitely have excess of, and it can become detrimental. The number one phytoestrogen is flax seed, and it has been very hard for me to hear people talk about dumping all of this flax seed or flax seed oil in their smoothies. You have to really be conscientious of this. Flax seed is two to four times more plant based estrogen than soy. So, if you are more estrogen sensitive, you want to limit your plant based estrogens and be very careful with flax seed. It is becoming pervasive. It has its place, but it has been way overused. It is important to look this up and see how much plant based estrogen you’re getting. If you’re a vegetarian and you’re using soy as a major source of protein, then you probably are exceeding how much plant based estrogen you should be getting.
A very obvious toxin is estrogen that is synthetic, so are things that are being heated, such as saran wrap, plastics that people are putting in the microwave, and cold plastics. BPA, BPB, BPC, are all estrogen-like compounds that the body is processing as estrogen. One place that the estrogen gets stuck is the liver. That’s really important because when people have a lot of estrogen, it will basically clog the liver, which is a filter that helps to remove toxins. Estrogen can make it excessively difficult for the liver to do its job, which is problematic for the rest of the body. That is a really important consideration. I’ve met several young women who started out on oral birth control pills, and they get too much estrogen that is synthetic, that is a really low quality, and it clogs the liver. They actually feel liver pain.
That brings me to another kind of synthetic, which is called premarin. Please look into this. If you are on hormone replacement therapy by conventional gynecologists, it is possible that you are taking premarin. Please contact your OB/GYN. Synthetic estrogens are toxic. Premarin is a particularly bad one, and I really wouldn’t give premarin to anyone, no matter what.
I want to talk about the Women’s Health Initiative that happened in the turn of the 2000s, and give you a bit of medical history, because it is going to help introduce why such a controversy has really plagued bioidentical hormone replacement therapy and the vitality process for women.
I was about 23 years old when this came out, and I was at a women’s conference. I was working with the Girl Scouts, a pro-women’s group, and I was attending this conference with a ton of other women. One of the speakers was this fairly-frumpy, gray-haired, heavy-set woman talking about, “Why would we ever want to take hormone replacement therapy? It’s so bad for us. Just look at the Women’s Health Initiative. Of course we’re allowed to have wrinkles and gain weight that we can’t lose and have our hair color change, and allow for that accelerated aging process. Don’t we deserve that as women?” I remember at 23, I was like, “No, I don’t really have any interest in gaining wrinkles, and having my hair turn gray, and gaining weight that I can’t lose. I don’t think that I really earn that as I age.” So, she really confused me for a long time. That was the first part of her conversation. The second was talking about the Women's Health Initiative, and “Why would we start having cancer just to look good?” It was so skewed and misunderstood.
So, I spent a lot of time exploring the Women’s Health Initiative and, really, it is extremely misguided. The research was to have synthetic estrogens in women who were very postmenopausal, 12-15 years out from having menopause, and giving them a synthetic estrogen so that the estrogen could reduce cardiovascular disease. That pharmaceutical company really wanted to get into the cardiovascular disease market. I can tell you, that is an extremely financially profitable market, because it is the number one cause of death in our country. If you can get in and produce a medication that will reduce cardiovascular disease, it’s a total financial win for your company.
They had to stop the study early, because synthetic premarin given to women 12-15 years postmenopausal will cause cancer. In menopause, we have a natural decline of estrogen. A lot of people think they lose estrogen right out of the gate when they stop having menstrual cycles, but they don't. Many women have a progressive decline of estrogen, while some women have a very rapid decline of estrogen. Either way, in 12-15 years, they are going to have a very different amount of estrogen compared to when they were just entering menopause. Bioidentical hormone therapy is either E2 and E3 or it’s only E2, always paired with progesterone. When women are receiving bioidentical hormone therapy, that is compounded and natural, and they’re doing it within 5 years of starting menopause, they aren’t going to have such a radical effect of developing breast cancer that is significant.
I know that is a lot of information. I just want you to know that hormones have their place, estrogen has its place, but we are receiving a lot of estrogen in our food and plastics. Be cautious of plastics and high estrogen foods, and then talk to a doctor who is familiar with bioidentical hormone therapy. Remember, the symptoms similar to those of estrogen deficiency aren’t always due to estrogen deficiency.
How can I ensure my body has the proper estrogen?
For women, I’m a huge advocate for receiving bioidentical hormone therapy. I do think it’s important that you receive appropriate screening for breast abnormalities through a heat detection, thermography, and through a structural detection, my preference is ultrasound. In adult tissue, an ultrasound is extremely nontoxic. When you look at mammogram, in comparison, you have a 1% increase in risk of lymphoma for every mammogram. The guidelines are every other year, but remember that each time that risk increases by 1%. In mammograms first, the tissue is compressed, then radiation is applied. Some people can argue that abnormalities are inherent when people have mammograms. Many of our grandparents have lymphoma, and we are noticing those numbers are getting higher. Ultrasound is fantastic for structural detection in breast tissue, thermography is fantastic for heat. When there are abnormalities in the body, there will be additional heat in those areas.
Heat sensing and structural analysis are very important screenings. You’ll want to do those before bioidentical hormone therapy and throughout for women 40 and older. Make sure you’re getting this every other year and having good conversations. Also, if you’re on hormone therapy, you really want your levels checked. You want to ensure that you are getting the right amounts of estrogen. Excessive estrogen will not be good for you. You want to find the sweet spot that makes you feel great. It will make you feel like you’re driving a Corvette, and not a Pinto, through the latter half of your life. You want to use estrogen for all of the benefits that it has.
Breast tissue is glandular tissue, and it is susceptible to high rates of turnover. We need to make sure that it is receiving the nourishment that it needs, and it’s getting the toxins out of it. When it has rapid replication, like all glandular tissue does in our body, this will ensure that it is replicating in a healthy way. That is what I hope that everyone takes away from this conversation, is to give the body what it needs so that it can have optimal performance.
Thank you for tuning in this week, and please send your questions to me via email, facebook, or instagram. See you next Thursday at 8pm!