Have you ever asked your doctor to check your hormone levels and the response you got was “That’s not necessary” or “We can’t do that because they change every day, so we can’t interpret them.” Or worse yet, they draw one or two things and tell you you’re in the normal range, so you’re fine?
I call B.S. on that scenario!
Ladies, we can measure your hormones and interpret them. And we can measure much more than conventional doctors are taught to do. How do I know that? Because I’m a board-certified OB/GYN that found the world of functional and integrative medicine, and now have the unique perspective of understanding both ways of practicing medicine.
So, wait… we have 3 types of estrogen?
That’s right; there is estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3). I like to think of them the way Goldilocks thought of the three bear’s beds: one was too hard, one was too soft, and one was just right!
Estrone (E1) is like Papa Bear’s bed- it’s too hard. It is created from the conversion of estradiol in the ovary, adrenal glands, and other tissues, but we also make this hormone in our adipose (fat) cells. This is the predominant estrogen that women produce after menopause.
Why is estrone (E1) concerning?
Because it oftentimes gets converted to a more carcinogenic (cancer-producing) form, called 4-hydroxy-estrone. This metabolite causes cellular and DNA damage that increases your risk for breast and uterine cancers.
Estriol (E3) is like Mama Bear’s bed
Estriol (E3) is like Mama Bear’s Bed. It’s too soft. It is created by the metabolism of estrone and estradiol. It often works synergistically to help maintain healthy vaginal tissue and skin.
Estradiol (E2) is like Baby Bear’s bed
Estradiol (E2) is like Baby Bear’s Bed. It’s just right. This is the estrogen that we women predominately make during our reproductive years. We have estradiol receptors all over our body, including our GI tract, nervous system, breast tissue, thyroid, adrenals, bone, ovaries, lungs, liver, kidney, and heart. No wonder having the right amount is essential to staying healthy!
But, here’s the thing… estradiol gets metabolized into estrone and estriol depending on how our liver, gallbladder, and gut handle it. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for us women to have sluggish livers and gallbladders from too much alcohol, medications, and toxin buildup from our cosmetics and personal care products. This decreases our body’s ability to de-activate our estrogens into benign metabolites.
To further add to the problem, we often have an overgrowth of bad bacteria in our gut that makes us re-absorb the bad estrogens. Certain bacteria make an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. So here’s what happens. Even if your liver is able to de-activate the estrogen (put a glucuronide garbage tag on it) and send it to the gallbladder for excretion, once it goes to your gut to be eliminated through your stool, those bacteria cut off the garbage tag, so your body thinks it’s supposed to re-absorb it into the bloodstream.
To really seal the deal, that overgrowth of bacteria (gut dysbiosis) in your intestines often cause constipation. Now the stool (filled with bad estrogens and toxins) is sitting in your colon for a couple days, and that creates a perfect opportunity for your body to re-absorb and re-circulate all of the bad estrogens that your body was trying to eliminate in the first place.
The reason we are seeing so much more breast and uterine cancer, and at younger ages, is because our gut microbiome is imbalanced and our organs aren’t being supported in a way that they can function properly to eliminate the used up hormones and toxins we accumulate every day.
You can be like Goldilocks!
You can find the estrogen levels that are just right for you! You’ll know because you’ll be sleeping well, having regular bowel movements every day, have energy to be your amazing self, and no longer be struggling with heavy periods or PMS.
When I see patients in my office, I evaluate their 3 estrogens and the metabolites their body’s create. My favorite test is the DUTCH (Dried Urine Testing for Comprehensive Hormones) because you get a complete picture of what your body is doing, not just a general overview that traditional gynecologist’s order through bloodwork. I also order functional stool testing, GI Map, to evaluate your gut microbiome and measure beta-glucuronidase levels. These give me a clear picture of whether or not you have an increased risk of breast and uterine cancers, and what exactly hormonal imbalance you are struggling with. That way we can tailor our functional medicine treatment approach to treat your individual situation. It’s a beautiful thing!
You can start to make shifts in the right direction today by downloading my FREE e-book The Functional Gynecologist’s Guide to Balancing Your Hormones!
It’s time to reclaim your health, ladies!