Hormone Imbalance, Diet and EVOO - Blog #13

Hormone Imbalance, Diet and EVOO - Blog #13

Hello my friends! Welcome to another Friday Blog! This week I’m talking about hormone imbalance, diet and what EVOO can actually do to enhance hormonal balance.

Let’s start by talking about what a hormone is. It is a chemical messenger secreted by endocrine glands to coordinate many functions in the body, including growth, development and reproduction. Hormones have different effects on the “shape of the body.” As we know from last week, the thyroid hormone is very important in our metabolism. All steroid and adrenal hormones are made from cholesterol (as well as every cell in the body). Here are the top 10 most important hormones our bodies produce and their functions.

1. Thyroid hormones - We talked about these last week! T4 and T3 are the primary hormones produced by the thyroid in response to TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). The hypothalamus and pituitary gland control the thyroid. The primary hormone produced is T4 (thyroxine), which is converted to the active T3 by deiodinases (enzymes that remove the iodine). These enzymes contain selenium. Dietary selenium is very important for thyroid function. These hormones increase basal metabolic rate (regulating carbohydrate, fat and protein metabolism) regulate protein synthesis and long bone growth, functions in neural maturation, stimulate vitamin metabolism and heat generation, as well as affect skin, hair and nails. Calcitonin is another hormone produced in the parafollicular cells of the thyroid and controls calcium and phosphate levels in the blood (opposing the actions of the parathyroid hormone). 

2. Insulin - Produced in the Pancreas in the islets of Langerhans. It’s job it to transport blood sugar to the cells for energy. Insulin binds with blood glucose and binds to receptors on the cell surface where glucose is taken into the cell for energy production.

3. Estrogen - This is a biggie. It is a female steroid (lipid based) hormone produced in all vertebrates and some insects and can easily cross cell membranes to bind to their receptors. Once bound, this triggers the modulation and expression of many genes. Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone that regulates the female reproductive system, as well as secondary sex characteristics. There are 3 estrogens: (E1) estrone, (E2) estradiol (most prevalent), (E3) estriol. [(E4) estetrol is produced only during pregnancy.] The receptors for these hormones are: ER-alpha, ER-beta, mERs (and a few more). The receptors are nuclear proteins that bind to DNA sequences activating the transcription of target genes. Not all cells have estrogen receptors. The ones that do are typically in ovary, uterus and breast tissues. Estrogen levels are higher in women of reproductive age, promoting development of secondary sex characteristics, such as breasts, thickening of the endometrium and regulation of the menstrual cycle. In men, it helps regulate functions of reproductive system, maturation of sperm and maintenance of a healthy libido.

4. Progesterone - The androgen (man) steroid hormone produced primarily in the ovaries that helps regulate the female menstrual cycle and reproductive system, preparing your uterus for a fertilized egg and in embryogenesis. It also inhibits milk production during pregnancy and helps you remain pregnant. It is involved in spermatogenesis (creation of sperm) in men. High progesterone levels can result from ovarian or adrenal cancer, and a congenital disorder affecting your adrenal gland. It also functions as a “crucial metabolic intermediate in the production of other endogenous steroids, including the sex hormones and the corticosteroids, and plays an important role in brain function as a neurosteroid.” This means it is a precursor for other significant molecules in the body.

5. Prolactin - Also known as luteotropin is a protein enabling mammals (usually female) to produce milk. It is secreted by the pituitary gland “in response to eating, mating, estrogen treatment, ovulation and nursing.” It also plays a role in regulation of the immune system, metabolism and pancreatic development.

6. Testosterone - Primarily the androgen sex hormone important for development of male reproductive system and promotes secondary sex characteristics such as increased muscle, body hair and bone mass. It helps prevent osteoporosis.

7. Serotonin  - A mood boosting hormone and neurotransmitter, modulating many physiological processes such as cognition, reward, learning, memory, vomiting, vasoconstriction, feelings of well-being and happiness. Low levels cause depression, migraine, weight gain, insomnia and carb craving.

8. Cortisol - A steroid hormone (hydrocortisone) produced primarily by the adrenal gland in response to stress and low blood sugar. It increases blood sugar through glucogenesis, suppresses the immune system, decreases bone formation and aids to metabolize fats, proteins and carbohydrates. It is regulated by multiple brain regions including the limbic system, prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hypothalamus and stria terminalis. Therefore, stress can alter many functions including immune, memory, metabolism and well as your susceptibility to disease. 

9. Adrenaline - This hormone is produced by the adrenal glands, medulla and some CNS neurons, particularly during stress. It is the fight or flight hormone, dilates the pupils, increases blood pressure, opens airways, increases breathing, blood circulation and carbohydrate metabolism to get ready to run.

10. Growth hormone - HGH (human growth hormone, somatotropin) produced by the pituitary gland. Functions to stimulate growth, cell reproduction and regeneration, increases concentrations of glucose and FFAs (free fatty acids). HGH has been used by sports competitors “since at least 1982, and been banned by the IOC and NCAA.” Unfortunately, the FDA allows livestock to be given a cow-specific form of GH called somatotropin to increase milk production. Labels should say whether the milk was produced with or without the bovine somatotropin hormone. Think about this a minute. If the meat and milk have added growth hormones, this could explain why some children develop secondary sex characteristics (breasts) earlier than normal. Long term excess of HGH causes acromegaly (thickening of the jaw, increased size of digits), sweating, pressure on nerves (carpal tunnel), muscle weakness and reduced sexual function. Deficiencies can lead to osteoporosis, pathological fractures and other problems. 

Okay, as you can see, our body makes these chemical messengers (hormones) to carry out a myriad of functions. Most of these hormones are cholesterol-dependent, meaning they are made from cholesterol. Many problems arise when hormone  levels are out of balance. Several symptoms can occur during menopause, for example, including night sweats, hot flashes, mood changes, and menstrual irregularity. “Low estrogen levels in women can cause weight gain, mood swings and headaches.” Some plants have phytoestrogens (soy) that are a group of chemicals that sort of act like estrogen in the body and can reduce some of these symptoms during menopause. Flaxseed contains a phytoestrogen called a lignan that has both estrogenic and antiestrogenic effects. Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) has been used to counteract the drop in estrogen during menopause and lessen symptoms. However, this therapy negatively affects the fatty acid profiles of these individuals. A study published in 2019 looked at 156 healthy women and determined MHT elevates saturated fatty acids (SFAs) and decreases unsaturated fatty acids (UFAs), thus increasing the risks of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) and other metabolic diseases.  Let’s look at what can happen during estrogen dominance, where there is too much estrogen for example. Symptoms can include weight gain, ovarian cysts, memory issues, low sex drive, uterine fibroids, insomnia, irritability, increased risk of breast cancer (in both men and women) and endometriosis. Estrogen is known to “play an important role in the regulation of fatty acid-metabolizing enzymes.” This suggests a feedback mechanism exists between fatty acids and estrogen levels. By this rationale, giving the body the right fatty acids could help control estrogen levels, right?

So, can Oleic acid (OA) help with estrogen dominance? Let’s take a look at a study in 2016. Researchers noted that increasing OA concentrations did not effect apoptosis (pre-programmed cell death), necrosis (cell death) or proliferation, but “significantly reduced the transcript abundance of the gonadotropin hormone receptors...”. OA also increased the transcription levels of fatty acid transporters, decreased production of estradiol and progesterone, altering the functionality of granulosa cells, reducing expression and responsiveness to FSH (follicular stimulating hormone). It is noteworthy that estrogen production is dependent on an enzyme called aromatase. By attacking aromatase, you can lower estrogen production and theoretically prevent or treat estrogen driven breast cancer. By this rationale, you should be able to prevent and treat endometriosis as well. Flavonoids and lignans are known anti-aromatase agents and are found in higher quantities in high polyphenol EVOO.  “White button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporous) are a potential breast cancer chemopreventive agent, as they suppress aromatase activity and estrogen biosynthesis.” They noted a fatty acid in the mushroom called ‘conjugated linoleic acid’ (CLA) that was the most potent in the suppression of aromatase. And...guess what? You can also get CLAs in EVOO!! They also reported that the polysaccharides in white button mushrooms inhibit tumor growth and stimulate immune response. CLA can also be found in meat and dairy products derived from ruminants (animals that chew their cud). It has been well-documented that fatty acids have a very important role in regulating endocrine activity. “The most potent lipids are generally long-chain unsaturated fats like Oleic, linoleic, and arachidonic acids. Not surprisingly, many of the hormones whose secretion and synthesis is under fatty acid control have potent metabolic actions.” They can inhibit binding of hormones to receptor cells as well as modulate enzyme activity within the cell, thus affecting the ratio of bound/free hormone available for cellular uptake.

It is only logical that a good strategy to combat estrogen dominance is to consume high polyphenol EVOO, white button mushroom extract, omega 3s, possibly including some quality dairy products, avoiding plant estrogens (such as soy), improving your digestive tract for enhanced uptake of nutrients and exercise.

Next week I’ll compare several of the top dietary oils and their health benefits. Until next time my friends, drink/drizzle/digest high polyphenol EVOO, eat some fatty fish, drink lots of water, get plenty of sleep, fix your digestive issues with a good pre/probiotic, exercise your body and mind!! #EVOO


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