To be honest, I struggle with this topic. There is so much misinformation when it comes to plant-based hormones! It has almost tormented me since I started on this quest to overcome endometriosis. It also depends so much on our age, our environment, our food and our hereditary line!
Plant-based hormones are also called phytoestrogens or isoflavones.
There seem to be two different sets of information.
1. The Pro-Phytoestrogen Studies
The idea here is that we should consume plant-based hormones in a supplement form or as a food in large doses to overcome endometriosis. The theory behind this is that we replace the excess estrogen in our body by “fooling” the receptors in the body. Essentially, there is a receptor in the body which accepts the estrogen we have. When that receptor is “full” it is believed that it will no longer utilize the remaining estrogen in the body. The theory behind plant-based estrogens (phytoestrogens) is that we replace the estrogens in the body with plant-based estrogens and essentially fill these receptors with plant-based estrogens. As they are less potent estrogens, this is apparently going to make our estrogen levels become less.
This applies to xenoestrogens as well. Xenoestrogens are oestrogens which come from sources in our environment or from foods which are considered “bad” estrogens. They exist in the contraceptive pill, meat, dairy products and from plastics.
This theory is often recommended to women who suffer from menopausal symptoms as a means to level out PMS symptoms. I think this is why it is often recommended to endometriosis sufferers too, as we generally suffer from estrogen dominance.
2. The Anti-Phytoestrogen Studies
Then we get the other side of the coin that illustrates that ALL phytoestrogens, xenoestrogens and estrogens are creating an overload in our bodies and should be reduced or removed as much as possible. The idea is that due to our “new” environment we naturally absorb more xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens without even realizing it. They all add up and ultimately create estrogen dominance in our bodies.
Some things that have an estrogenic effect:
- Plastic. Everything you eat and drink out of plastic will leave some estrogens in your body.
- Coffee. The xanthines found in coffee are shown to mimic estrogen and cause an increase in estrogen levels. It also slows down the liver processes causing it to reduce effectiveness of flushing out excess estrogens.
- Soy products
- Licorice and sage
- Flaxseeds/flaxseed oil
- Hops (used in beer)
I would really like to understand the two different theories better. Personally, I have never felt comfortable with taking plant-based hormones or any hormones since going natural—I know the pill is not comparable but after that I really had enough of all the side effects!
I have always opted to focus my healing on the liver, which regulates and flushes out excess of ANY hormone. However, I can see that perhaps our bodies just have too much to flush out and perhaps we do need to place a hand of balance in all of this and try and reduce the estrogen load.
What are your experiences with them? Good? Bad? Agree or disagree?