The state of our hormonal health is troubling as a society at large.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism highlighted an overall decline in testosterone levels in recent decades. Samples were taken from men at three different points in the study - in 1987, 1995, and 2003. What they found was worrisome - for example, the average 60-year-old male in 2003 had 10% lower testosterone than a 60-year-old in 1987.
The source of this assault on our hormones is multi-pronged. Still, it can mostly be chalked up to environmental pollution (although food, alcohol, and cannabis use can also play significant roles).
Xenoestrogen is a fancy word that means any human-made chemical that mimics estrogen in the human body. The most common sources of exposure to these endocrine-disrupting chemicals include:
If you live on Earth in 2020, it is more or less impossible to avoid exposure to xenoestrogens. One study states that over 95% of Americans tested had measurable levels of BPA (a potent xenoestrogen used in plastic) in their bloodstream.
It is a true problem when you step back and think about it. Pesticides are used heavily on most food crops in the U.S., and the residues of these chemicals often end up concentrated in a variety of food products. When conventional wheat is sprayed with RoundUp, you end up with a very toxic bowl of Cheerios (the worst offender with 833ppb of glyphosate - the active ingredient in RoundUp).
Then there’s chlorine - added to municipal tap water across the country. We shower in it, bathe in it, and wash our food with it. Paint, cleaning supplies, PVC pipes running into our house….it’s easy to see that a ‘xenoestrogen avoidance strategy’ is a fool’s errand. The only option is to implement effective estrogen detox protocols - and you guessed it, pine pollen is the number one option for such a goal.
But first, let’s take a look at how two of the most widely consumed intoxicants in the world - alcohol and cannabis - can have harmful effects on our hormones. It is no surprise to anyone that alcohol and marijuana come with a laundry list of side effects - but learning precisely what they are doing to your endocrine system may surprise you (and encourage positive change!).
If you don’t consume Cannabis or alcohol, just skip down to the ‘Estrogen Detox Protocol’ section to get right to the good stuff.
The endocrine system is a network of glands and chemical messengers that affect virtually every cell in the body and is central to mood, growth, metabolism, reproduction, and more.
When the brain senses a stressor (emotional, chemical, physical, or pathogenic), a neural signal is sent to the hypothalamus, triggering corticotropic releasing hormone (CRH) and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) from the hypothalamus and the pituitary, that leads to a cascade of reactions ending in the adrenals releasing cortisol.
Cortisol regulates blood sugar, metabolism, inflammation regulation, balancing salt/water levels and even enhanced memory formation. In essence, temporary spikes in cortisol are a normal and healthy part of being a human - the health problems begin when cortisol levels remain elevated for an extended period.
Once the stressor is removed in a normal situation, a natural negative-feedback mechanism allows for the shutdown of cortisol and all related stress hormones (CRF and ACTH).
The endocannabinoid system is intimately intertwined with the endocrine system - the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 bind to cannabinoids and hormones and are regulators of the all-important hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis is the entire endocrine system's main workhorse, secreting hormones like melatonin, adrenaline, and cortisol.
According to a 2009 study in the German journal Psychopharmacology study on the effects of cannabinoids on humans, Cannabis suppresses adrenal activity. Adrenal gland suppression lowers blood sugar, spiking cortisol (stress hormone) in the short term. When the adrenals are suppressed on an ongoing basis, immune system dysfunction, blood sugar fluctuations, and rising cholesterol can result.
Prolactin, a pituitary hormone most commonly known for inducing breast milk production, is also suppressed by THC (the prominent psychoactive cannabinoid in Cannabis). While lower prolactin levels are correlated with reduced risk of certain cancers, ongoing suppression of this hormone can have adverse effects on fertility and postpartum complications (meaning avoiding Cannabis while trying to conceive or carry a child is likely not a good idea).
One of the primary problems caused by Cannabis is via its interaction with cortisol, the well-known 'fight-or-flight' hormone. But first, let's take a look at how the cortisol process acts without THC's presence.
THC has been shown to increase blood cortisol levels after use. For occasional Cannabis users, this could translate to increased blood pressure and anxiety. For those who consume Cannabis daily, sustained high cortisol damages the natural negative feedback mechanism which keeps cortisol in check, and can cause issues with libido, a woman's menstrual cycle, and most importantly, the natural morning spike of cortisol (known as the Cortisol Awakening Response).
Many who have used Cannabis are familiar with the next-morning grogginess - this is because upon waking, cortisol levels are supposed to spike (assisting with the 'wake up' process). However, this no longer happens in a frequent Cannabis user, making getting out of bed with a clear head a significant challenge.
The thyroid is another gland we all know and love, responsible for managing metabolic rate, muscle control, brain development, bone health, and heart/digestive functions. Under normal conditions, the hypothalamus releases thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which travels to the pituitary gland and provokes thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH then causes the release of thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) from the thyroid. T4 has a natural negative feedback process with the hypothalamus to regulate circulating thyroid hormone levels naturally.
THC inhibits the release of TSH from the pituitary, mostly by inhibiting TRH in the hypothalamus. This effect increases, the more you consume (dose-dependent) - meaning the more Cannabis you consume, the less T3 and T4 will be available to your body. Deficiency in these vital metabolic hormones can lead to fatigue, cold intolerance, depression, reduced libido, weight gain, and altered menstrual cycles.
Under typical circumstances, the hypothalamus secretes gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which in turn causes the release of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary.
THC indirectly (via interaction with the neurotransmitters GABA, dopamine, and glutamate) inhibits GnRH synthesis - putting a chokehold on the entire flow necessary for healthy reproductive function. Interrupting this process can negatively affect the heart, reproductive organs, brain, immune system, and more.
In women, FSH and LH play vital roles during puberty and development, for ovarian function, and to maintain a regular menstrual cycle. THC also inhibits folliculogenesis (maturation of the ovarian follicle) as well as ovulation. In regular ovulation, the body releases a surplus of endocannabinoids in the ovary - excessive cannabinoids from Cannabis consumption can disrupt this delicate process and cause an irregular cycle.
In men, FSH is vital to the proper functioning of the testes (and creation of sperm cells), while LH encourages testosterone production. Studies on THC have shown decreased sperm count and motility and reduced testosterone/LH levels. THC also slows down steroidogenesis by disrupting the conversion of pregnenolone to progesterone
The HPG axis oversees the body's functions related to reproductive health. It regulates our hormones to maintain optimal function and health of all tissues throughout the body (brain, connective tissue, cardiovascular, reproductive organs, immune system, etc.).
Fortunately, the body is resilient and will most often return to normal functioning with the cessation of Cannabis use. Suppose you consider yourself a regular user of Cannabis and struggle with energy or libido issues. In that case, it may be prudent to regularly test your levels of cortisol, DHEA, testosterone, progesterone, T4, T3, and TSH to see if any abnormalities are present. Simple saliva or blood spot tests are the easiest ways to measure these hormones.
Long-term alcohol consumption negatively affects every part of human health - and the endocrine system is no exception. Large amounts of alcohol disrupt the delicate balance between the endocrine, nervous, and immune systems. Too much indulgence can lead to hormonal disturbances that may cause profound and severe consequences at all levels of physiology and behavior, including reproductive and body growth defects, thyroid/immune dysfunction, cancer, bone disease, and a host of psychological problems.
But, we are not here to preach. Most of you probably already know alcohol isn't exactly healthy. Let's dive more into the hormone-specific effects of alcohol (and, more particularly, beer).
Alcoholic beverages contain ethanol, of course, and numerous other substances (such as congeners) that contribute to the overall effect of the drink. Studies examining men with alcoholic cirrhosis that often have testicular failure (and other feminization) suggest that alcoholic beverages do indeed contain bioactive phytoestrogens. Chemical analyses of various libations have identified phytoandrogens in the congeners present in beer, bourbon, and wine.
Further studies in subjects who produce no estrogen innately (rats whose ovaries have been removed and postmenopausal women) strongly suggest that these congeners exert powerful estrogen-like effects in both animals and humans (effects observed even at 'moderate' drinking levels).
Beer is most likely the worst culprit in this instance, mostly due to hops' ubiquitous usage to brew this widely enjoyed beverage.
The discovery that plants could contain hormonal compounds happened in 1951 by Australian chemists, tasked with unraveling the mystery of what was causing the infertility epidemic in sheep that was ravaging the nation's wool industry. After a decade of research, they discovered a compound called 'genistein' present in clover - and the same phytoestrogen present in soybeans.
This revelation led to a couple of German researchers having a 'eureka moment' realizing that a similar compound may be why the women who harvested and handled hops started menstruating. Upon investigation, they did indeed find phytoestrogen activity in hops. It wasn't until much later in 1999 when the most potent phytoestrogen known to humankind was discovered in hops, known as 8-prenylnaringenin (8-PN - 50x more potent than genistein).
Although 8-PN is present in such minute quantities in hops that it shouldn't affect humans, another hop-based phytoestrogen called isoxanthohumol is metabolized into 8-PN by gut microbes inside the human body. This is why you can detect 8-PN in beer drinkers' urine for several days after consumption - the gut bacteria keep pumping it out.
We know this is tragic news for anyone who loves both beer and being healthy. Of course, moderation is essential - but it is good to keep in mind that non-beer alcoholic beverages may be a better idea if you are trying to maintain hormonal health while imbibing.
Enough with the scary stuff, though. Let's talk about how to detox excess estrogens and get on top of your androgen game!
Before we begin, look at the following lists and see if any of it pertains to you.
Estrogen dominance symptoms in women:
Estrogen dominance symptoms in men:
If anything of this sounds familiar, an estrogen detox may be just what the doctor ordered.
The most common causes of estrogen dominance are divided into two categories - internal and external.Internal causes include stress, impaired liver function, overconsumption of drugs/alcohol, nutrient deficiencies, obesity, and sleep deprivation.External causes include xenoestrogens, hormone replacement therapy, and added hormones (from conventionally produced meat products).
Excellent lifestyle practices to maintain healthy hormone levels include things like:
The following foods are powerful tools to use in your journey towards balancing your hormone levels and reclaiming your health
Pine pollen is by far the quickest, most potent, and effective way to bring your hormones back into balance. No other food in the world comes close to pine pollen regarding its highly concentrated levels of phytoandrogens.
Pine pollen tackles estrogen overload in the body through multiple channels, first by supplying a rich source of androgens like testosterone and androsterone that give your body a quick jolt back towards balance and away from estrogen dominance. These phytoandrogens are very potent and can kick xenoestrogens off your hormone receptors, restoring your mind and body's normal functioning.
Pine pollen also offers brassinosteroids and gibberellins - two plant-based nutrients that ramp up the body’s detoxification abilities (helping to remove estrogen from the body). This is not to mention the fibre rich microscopic air sacs on each pine pollen granule that scoop up toxins as they pass through your digestive tract.
Finally, pine pollen serves as a functional multi-vitamin, supplying a potent dose of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other phytonutrients that can help even the most sickly person rebound into health and vitality.
Cruciferous veggies are a must-have in the diet of any health enthusiast, as they support balanced hormone levels in various ways. These vegetables are aromatase inhibitors and support healthy estrogen levels by inhibiting testosterone conversion to estrogen via a process known as aromatization. Sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, abundant in cruciferous veggies, restore estrogen receptor expression and help detox excess levels of this pesky hormone.
The liver is a serious workhorse, tasked with many things - including detoxifying estrogen. Once estrogen has done its job, it is sent to the liver for removal. However, if your liver is backed up from excessive toxins (as many of ours are), it is unable to eliminate the estrogen - allowing it to be reabsorbed.
This issue is related to a lack of fiber in the diet (another widespread problem) as when the liver detoxifies estrogen, it sends it to the colon to be excreted. If your bowels aren’t moving optimally from a lack of fiber - you guessed it, the estrogen reabsorbs.
Milk thistle seed supports both phase one and phase two detoxification, helping to support a less than optimally functioning liver, thus benefiting your estrogen dominance.
Balance is one of the trickiest things to find in life, and it is no different with hormones. Hopefully you now feel a bit more empowered, knowing the things in your life that may be contributing to estrogen overload, and how to remedy that situation.
To your health and happiness, always!
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