I don’t know if there is something in the water but many of my clients, colleagues and team have been asking a lot of questions about hormones lately. I think it’s important to talk about hormones because while most of us understand how important they are and how much they influence every action within our bodies, we know little about their nature or how to balance them. So today I will be talking about a hormone that is very dear to me: estrogen. I, myself, have high estrogen which makes my menses very irregular (did I really just admit that?).
Estrogen has a lot of sex appeal because it is what makes women women. Estrogen is also the hormone that decreases dramatically when we go through menopause so it is often connected to youthfulness. This drop in estrogen has been said to accelerate signs of aging in our skin and has spurred much fuss about how we can artificially sustain it.
But while the idea that estrogen is connected to youthfulness is a very popular view amongst beautologists, I think it’s very interesting to note that estrogen is actually responsible for breaking down collagen in our skin. Confused? Well, as estrogen breaks down collagen, it also enhances the hyaluronic acid in our skin (hyaluronic acid helps our skin hold water and promotes a smooth texture). This release in hyaluronic acid could be why so many of us believe that estrogen is the source of youth when, in fact, collagen is probably the most important player in keeping our skin plump, moist and young. Estrogen, on the other hand, is something that needs to be balanced and controlled.
Not only does estrogen break down collagen, it also contributes to cellulite as it breaks down the strength of our cellular walls, making way for lumpy, bumpy fat. You will see many cellulite-reducing body products focussing on increasing collagen so our fat cells can retain a firmer structure. Furthermore, estrogen dominance will result in water-retention, further contributing to cellulite. This can also answer why some women have cellulite despite being slim and fit as well as why many women taking the birth control pill are predisposed to it.
So what do we do?
Eating estrogen-friendly: Start with avoiding estrogenic foods such as soy and hops (what beer is made out of – and also why men who drink too much of it can develop enlarged breasts). If we choose to eat animal protein, we should only consume organic meats which are devoid of disruptive hormones. We should also start eating more estrogen-decreasing foods like citrus fruits, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, avocados and nuts. Paying attention to our digestion is important as well, because if digestion is impaired, our hormone filtration will be weakened too. This is interesting as Pitta governs digestion, and I find many estrogen-dominant clients also have Pitta imbalances.
Balancing self-care: Topically, we should avoid chemicals that mimic estrogen in our skin care. Numerous chemical sunscreening agents as well as chemical preservatives imbalance our hormone levels as we absorb them into our bloodstream. This is why we are such sticklers about natural, mineral sunblocks despite their powdery texture and white-ish hue.
Another topical treatment I have done is use prescribed progesterone cream to limit estrogen production. Again, this demonstrates how deeply what we put on our bodies affects us. But while the cream did regulate my cycle, I still think of hormone creams as a band-aid solution (though a very useful band-aid).
Clear the mind:This may be the most important factor and the hardest one for me. Relax. High estrogen tends to occur in high-stress people (Pitta) and also contributes to more stress as it is usually coupled with low progesterone – the hormone that helps regulate anxiety and stress levels. Invest in a good RMT. Remember, it’s not self-indulgence; it’s for your hormonal health.
Kristen Ma is the co-owner of Pure + Simple Inc., a group of Holistic Spas with its own line of Natural Skincare and Mineral Make-up. She is an Ayurvedic Practitioner who has studied in Canada, the United States and India. She is also a Certified Esthetician with eight years of practical experience, having worked in Canada as well as Australia. Most recently, Kristen has authored “Beauty: Pure + Simple” which was published by Mc Arthur and Company. Kristen has written on the subject of Holistic Beauty for Vitality Magazine, Blink and Jasmine. She is also a regular contributor to B Magazine, Tonic and Sweat Equity Magazine.