Many aspects of our health depend upon balance. For energy, we must balance rest with exercise. For fuel, we must balance protein with carbohydrates. Finally, for healthy cells, we must balance estrogen and testosterone. These two key hormones, along with progesterone, are vital for good health. When they fall out of balance, however, various problems can occur. In men, the condition known as estrogen dominance may lead to infertility, breast development, even cancer. Fortunately, it is possible to fight estrogen dominance and prevent these alarming outcomes.
What is Estrogen Dominance?
All men need both estrogen and testosterone in the correct balance. When the balance is sent askew and estrogen reaches a level that leads to health problems, a man may be diagnosed with estrogen dominance. Testosterone levels are high in young men, but they decrease as we age. This is normal. Outside factors, however, often cause estrogen levels to rise at the same time testosterone is decreasing. In this case, it is not our bodies that are to blame, but environmental factors.
The most common culprits in estrogen dominance are substances known as xenoestrogens. These are estrogen-like substances found in our environment, from the food we eat, to the products we use. Common sources of xenoestrogens are commercially raised beef, chicken and pork due to the hormones often given to the animals to produce rapid growth.
Other sources are styrofoam, plastics and cans used for food and water; cosmetics and personal care products; detergents and household cleaners; artificial scents such as air fresheners; herbicides and pesticides; and paints and solvents.
How Excess Estrogen Impacts Male Health
Though estrogen dominance may cause a host of health concerns, prostate cancer may be chief among them. Studies show that men with the highest levels of estrogen have enlarged prostates. In laboratory experiments, prostate cells exposed to estrogen proliferate and become cancerous. When treated with testosterone, the cancer cells die. Therefore, fighting estrogen dominance may be the key to reducing your prostate cancer risk.
Other problems in men due to estrogen dominance are decreased fertility due to low sperm count and other sexual problems, like erectile dysfunction. In some men, estrogen dominance may cause the development of breast tissue, baldness, weight gain and other cancers. To avoid these outcomes, you must reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens as you age.
Fighting Estrogen Dominance
You can cut your exposure to excess estrogen by avoiding the substances I named in the first section. Many of these include commercial products you may have around the house. For every product you throw away, there is likely to be a natural and safe replacement. For example, you can buy laundry detergents with no scents or dyes in most supermarkets. There are several affordable lines of natural cleaning products available through mainstream retailers. For example, Seventh Generation makes virtually every cleaning product you might need.
Besides changing your shopping habits, there are more easy steps you can take at home. Use glass or ceramic containers for food storage, rather than plastics. Replace styrofoam plates and cups with traditional serving ware. Reduce your exposure to solvents found in products like rubbing alcohol, paint thinner and nail polish remover. If you must handle solvents for a job, wear gloves.
If you already aim to eat a diet rich in whole foods and low in processed foods—the best way to eat for optimal health—then you are already on your way to minimizing estrogen exposure. If you do not buy organic produce, consider doing so to avoid commercial pesticides.
Buy meat that is labeled “hormone-free” or organic. Eat fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains instead of canned foods, processed snack food and prepared meals. If a food has a long list of ingredients you cannot understand, it is more likely to contain xenoestrogens. Whole fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, are loaded with antioxidants that are completely natural and fight disease in the body. To bolster your supply of healthy vitamins and antioxidants, consider vitamin supplements as well.
If you are a man approaching middle age, there is no need to fear estrogen dominance. With all the ways to take action and live a more natural lifestyle, you will likely avoid the consequences described above. All men should strive to minimize the risk of prostate cancer. By guarding against hormone imbalance, you will be more likely to enjoy a long, healthy life.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
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