But Why? The Mystery of Fibroids Part 1: Estrogen Dominance

 

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By now we all know that up to 30% of all women will be diagnosed with uterine fibroids by the time they’re 35 , and up to 80% of all women will be diagnosed with uterine fibroids by the time they’re 50. African American women suffer more severe symptoms, they grow more quickly, and happen at a younger age.

The real question is ‘Why?’

Is it genetics? Food? Environmental factors? Cosmetics? Estrogen dominance? Some combination of these?

When I was first diagnosed with fibroids, I wondered “how?” How were there so many? How did they grow so large? How did I not know? What caused them?

Now, three years later, there is no sign of them (thankfully) at this point. What’s changed? I haven’t had a relaxer since 2005. I haven’t been on birth control since about that same time. But, my diet  and exercise routine now is actually worse than it was prior to 2013.

I took some time to dig into some factors and theories regarding uterine fibroids. There’s a lot more to dig through than I thought there would be, so I am breaking this into a series, with each possible cause getting its own post.
First up: Estrogen Dominance

 

Estrogen dominance: A condition where a woman can have deficient, normal or excessive estrogen, but has little or no progesterone to balance its effects in the body.

Estrogen dominance is more of an imbalance, in the sense that usually its not that someone’s body is making an abundance of estrogen (though that could be the case), just that the balance of estrogen and progesterone in a woman’s body is off.

Our Hormones in Blance (graphic courtesy of fibroidelimination.com/)
Our Hormones in Balance
(graphic courtesy of http://www.fibroidelimination.com/)

Before I go deeper, let’s first review some basics of a woman’s biology. You’ll need the review to get a full understanding of Estrogen Dominance.

As we all know, women have menstrual cycles. A cycle starts the first day of your period, to the first day of the next period. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days long, but can vary form woman to woman.

The two main sex hormones in women are estrogen and progesterone. They work together to maintain balance in our body at all times. 

Estrogen regulates menstrual cycles, promotes cell division, and in puberty, the development of breasts, growing pubic hair, etc.

Progesterone maintains the health of a fetus. It protects us against the  effects of estrogen by stopping further ovulation the second half of the menstrual cycle if a woman is pregnant.

Estrogen is highest in the first half of your cycle. It reaches highest levels during ovulation, then drops and progesterone rises. Progesterone is released during ovulation. Some testosterone is also released around the time of ovulation. If you do not get pregnant, you have a period and everything starts all over.

 

Now that the review is out of the way, let’s get little more into ED.

Because our bodies need estrogen and progestoreone to maintain our body’s reproductive cycle, it is important that they stay in balance.  They counter each other. If/when that balance is upset, even on the smallest level, there can be problems.

How do you know you have a hormonal imbalance of any kind? Some symptoms of hormonal imbalances may include:

  • Irregular Periods
  • Sleep Problems
  • Acne
  • Foggy Memory
  • Digestive issues
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid Weight Gain/Loss
  • Vaginal Dryness
  • Headaches
  • Breast Tissue Changes
  • Loss of Libido
  • Infertility

 

Some symptoms or conditions thought to be the result of Estrogen Dominance specifically may include:

  • Fibrocystic breasts
  • Endometrial (uterine) cancer
  • Polycystic ovaries
  • Uterine Fibroids

 

What causes the imbalance?

Several possible things:  Low progesterone levels/production,  chronic stress, synthetic estrogen (birth control pills, HRT [Hormone Replacement Therapy]), as well as environmental hormones and hormones found in food(diet)

 

Some hormone levels naturally drop with age, so as we get older, hormone imbalance of some sort is inevitable. So if our progesterone levels decrease, and our estrogen does not decrease at a comparable rate: Estrogen Dominance.
Of course, taking any hormonal birth control or HRT will alter the body’s balance. Birth control is made to fool our bodies prevent a true period. These two factors seem like obvious reasons for the body to be out of balance.

But what about food and environment?

In foods and the environment, we are exposed to Xenoestrogens.  Xenoestrogens are are a type of xenohormone that imitates estrogen. They can be either synthetic or natural chemical compounds. (Wikipedia)

With so many processed foods, genetically modified foods, pesticides, hormone injected meats, and foods with soy (which is a known natural xenoestrogen) its no wonder that our hormone levels are affected by what we consume. There is a big movement for less additives, and preservatives in foods: clean eating. It makes sense. With so many additional chemicals on and in food, the long term affects can’t be good for us. Does ingesting so many additional hormones from meats and chemicals in foods not initially meant for human consumption hurt us? I’m sure is doesn’t help. Do they contribute to an increase or decrease of hormones? Its very likely.

On the same road as food is environmental factors. Many of these, we have very little to no control over. Many environmental chemicals are also xenoestrogens. Many of which are found in daily beauty products (Post number two in the series). The main culprit is plastics. Remember the whole BPA in plastic bottles thing? The compound is found in everything from drink can coatings, to DVDs, to water bottles. It can disrupt or mimic natural hormones.

 

So what can you do?

You need testing to determine your hormone levels, which can only be done by your doctor. They will be able to determine if your levels are within the range of “normal”.

Outside of medical intervention, things can be done on your own to help balance your levels.

Changing the diet is the biggest thing, and probably the hardest for many. Let’s face it: fruits and grilled veggies are very tasty, but sometimes, a big ol’ cheeseburger and fries just tastes and feels sooo good.

Modifying diets to eliminate or greatly reduce soy, meats such as beef, and processed foods decreases exposure to additional estrogens or estrogen-like compounds. Of course, increasing exercise and being more active will also help.

There are various diet programs out there geared towards fibroid elimination. I don’t make it a habit of publicly endorsing programs/people/things that I haven’t personally tried on this blog. I would say if you’re going to try one of these programs, do your research.

Beware of your plastics use. Try not to warm up items in the microwave in plastic containers. The warmed plastic molecules can possibly seep into and contaminate your food. This is in very, small amounts, but over time, this could increase estrogen in your body. Don’t drink out of bottled water bottles that have been sitting in a hot car (same principal as microwaving in plastic), and try to buy water bottles (and bottles for babies for that matter) that are labeled BPA free.

 

There is really a lot more to say on Estrogen Dominance, its part of the reason this post look literally months for me to get up. I kept researching and trying to figure out what to write and what to leave out. At the same time, I kept discovering more stuff!

I hope this was a good first step to learning more. I definitely recommend taking the time to do more research on your own. You can start here:

butternutrition.com/estrogen-dominance-hormonal-imbalance/

www.ecopedia.com/health/estrogen-dominance-how-food-affects-men-and-women/

www.drlam.com/blog/estrogen-dominance-part-1/1704/

 

Next post in the series: Beauty Products and Fibroids

I’m talking relaxers, lotions, nailpolish, makeup, hair glue…..errthang.

 

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Fibroid News You Can Use

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The summer season is officially over, and so is my blog break.

This summer was great: A trip to Vegas, wedding planning, and cookouts.

To get back into the swing, I want to highlight some stories from around the web on fibroids.

 

Meds on the Way?

A medicine designed to help shrink uterine fibroids is currently in the human trial phase. This is good news, but my concern is it becoming one of so many drugs that are pushed on people, and the pharmaceutical industry winning big financially, and in the long run the people lose and no other research or prevention methods will be tried. Don’t get me wrong: medicine is wonderful and in most cases can really help to manage symptoms or even cure conditions. For some situation, drugs are the only thing that will help. However there’s a point where it becomes more about getting patients to take the drug for a solution, and not looking at other methods, and that for me is a problem.

One of the researchers is quoted in the article as saying “There’s no rhyme or reason why women get fibroids, and there’s nothing they can do to avoid developing them; it’s just something that happens…

What?!

This quote irritates me. The medical community, or us as women should not be content with a ‘that’s just the way it is’ attitude.

Check the article out here. If you’re in the San Diego area, you may be eligible to participate in the trials. (The article is sponsored by the firm conducting the research, Precision Research Institute)

 

Money for Research!

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc has awarded the Distinguished Professor Endowed Chair Award to Dr. Darlene K. Taylor of North Carolina Central University. Dr. Taylor associate chemistry professor, will use the $200,000 award to support university efforts in integrated biosciences that focus on uterine fibroid tumor research.

Please click here to read more about this wonderful grant from the ladies of Delta Sigma Theta, and the work or Dr. Taylor.

This news makes me excited! A Black woman, being awarded a grant by a Black sorority, to research uterine fibroids. Something that affects up to 80% of women, and Black women are affected at a higher rate. Girl Power!

Woman Power!

First, a Woman, a BLACK woman in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) is amazing! The numbers of women in STEM are low, and even lower for minority women. There is something about this that makes this grant and her research even more amazing. This is why we need more women in STEM: so that they can be a voice in the lab.

There’s progress, which is always a great thing.

 

I hope to share some updates soon about efforts that I’m fortunate to be a part of to help spread fibroid awareness.

I’m also participating in Blogging 201, so you may see some updates on the website, and maybe a few out-of-place posts. I really want to take this little blog to the next level. The craziness of wedding planning is slowly coming to a close, so I will be back to having my free time to devote back to blogging and other efforts.

 

Thanks for sticking with me!

 

There’s a Month For That

FIBROID AWARENESS MONTH

It seems like there is a month or day for everything now: Best Friend Day, Doughnut Day, Wine Day (obviously all days that I am here for). Then there are more serious days: HIV Awareness Day, Earth Day, Take a Loved One to the Doctor Day. Again, all days I can get behind.

And of course, you have Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and on and on.

There is a new month gaining momentum that I will definitely jump on board with: Fibroid Awareness Month!

That’s right, July is Fibroid awareness month! It know that at this point, July is pretty much over, but its still something worth knowing. This is a new initiative, and its headed by the White Dress Project, a non profit who’s mission is to “galvanize support and promote awareness about the fibroid epidemic among women domestically and globally through education, research and advocacy.

They are working to get each state to officially recognize July as Fibroid Awareness Month, and they sponsor events to help spread fibroid awareness and offer support for those that have been through or are going through a battle with fibroids. So far Georgia, New York, Florida, and the city of New Orleans are officially recognizing July as Fibroid Awareness month due to the White Dress Project’s efforts.

I love this organization and concept already. As I have said here time and time again, awareness and education a so very important in regards to fibroids (and many other things). Infertility has National Infertility Awareness Week (maybe that can move to a month one day), there is a PCOS  (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) Awareness month in September, so why not fibroids? The fact that uterine fibroids are such a common disease, but the research and amount of conversation and awareness is so small is a shame. On a wider note, so many gynecological conditions outside of cancer are not discussed in the women’s health discussion.

 

So even though there are only 5 more days left in the month, there is still time to celebrate an do your part!

Of course, you can start by telling  your story. Education and awareness starts with that one simple act.

Want to do more? You can sign this petition petition to receive a presidential proclamation to make July Fibroid Awareness Month.

https://www.change.org/p/barack-obama-michelle-obama-declare-july-fibroids-awareness-month-nationally

Check out the Fibroid Facts page of this blog to learn more about fibroids.

How Congress Celebrates NIAW….

…and it’s not by recognizing the week with a proclamation.

Sounds about right....
Sounds about right….

Someone I know shared a little nugget about Congress and their plan to overturn a DC law that prevents women from being fired for using IVF or getting pregnant out-of-wedlock. At first, I thought it had to be some kind of Onion type article, but no. This is an actual thing.

That’s right, people of D.C.: members of Congress just voted to let your boss fire you for personal decisions you make at the doctor’s office — because your boss believes those decisions aren’t consistent with his religious beliefs. Now, the whole House may take a vote on this discriminatory measure.

 

(For those that don’t know, click here for a little history about how/why Congress can do this in DC.)

So because you don’t agree with how someone starts their family, they can be fired? That sounds real Christian. (feel the sarcasm)  I really want someone to show me the passage(s) of scripture where God said IVF will send you to hell. Don’t these people know there was infertility in the Bible, even a miscarriage?

I can’t even deal with this.
This is why it’s so important to speak out and educate others about infertility issues. I choose to believe if people understood more, they wouldn’t say and do rude or insensitive things,  and they wouldn’t make these types of judgments.

 

Anyway….

You can catch the full ACLU article is here

Also, a take on this from The Frisky here.