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Hormone Hell
04/25/2022

The Truth About Hormones, Heart Disease & Cancer Risk

An early 21st Century Women’s Health Study identified that synthetic, pharmaceutical hormone replacement increased risk for both breast cancer and heart disease. Terrifying right? Suddenly ALL hormones were tarred with the same brush, and, in a panic, women were advised to take hormones only as long as they needed to get past the worst of the symptoms associated with the menopause transition. But what about post-menopause, y’know, when the flotilla of uncomfortable symptoms stuck around?

Now, whilst that study was important and contained valid information, some key pieces were missing; first the role of bioidentical hormones and how these can be safely used for many years, which we address in our Hormone Supplementation Blog. Second was any discussion about what other factors can increase the risk of developing heart disease or breast cancer. As you can see from the diagram below, someone with a lot of these risk factors is setting the scene for cancer and heart disease, regardless of hormone use..

What role do inflammation and free radicals play?

Free radicals, also, known as oxidants, are harmful bioproducts of cell metabolism. Free radicals cause damage by attacking the body’s tissues. When there is inflammation, or tissue damage, the body’s process of clean up and healing will increase the level of free radicals in the body. Free radicals cause damage by attacking the body’s tissue. If your body is sick or working on wound healing, you can help the healing process by taking extra antioxidants to knock out the free radicals.

If inflammation runs unchecked for a number of years, the situation is not only painful, it can be dangerous to the body. Free radicals can attack DNA, leading to dysfunction, mutation, and possibly to cancer. Free radicals can attack enzymes and proteins, disrupting normal cell activities, or cell membranes, producing a chain reaction of destruction. Such membrane damage in the cells that line the blood vessels can lead to hardening and thickening of the arteries and eventually to heart attacks and strokes. Free radicals are cleared from the body by antioxidants well known antioxidants are vitamin C and E, blueberries, red beans, kidney beans and N-acetyl cysteine.

Inflammation Instigators:

  1. Lifestyle Factors: Smoking, drinking alcohol.
  2. Lack of Exercise: Reduces clearance of toxicants, increases levels of triglycerides, increases insulin resistance which increases oxidative stress.
  3. Toxicants in the Environment: Allergens, mold.
  4. Toxicants in Food & Water: Xenoestrogens, heavy metals.
  5. Foods High in Trans Fats: Increases triglycerides, increases oxidative stress, trans fats are difficult for the body to work with because of their changed chemical structure.
  6. Synthetic Pharmaceutical Hormone Replacement: These hormone-like molecules are not the same as hormones made in the body so there can be unintended consequences.
  7. Foods High in Sugar & Refined Carbs: Increases oxidative stress, increases triglycerides, increases fat deposits which release hormones.
  8. Missing Vitamins & Minerals: Essential for optimal cell function and DNA protection
  9. Under-hydration: Lack of water means cell function is diminished, toxins are not cleared from the cell, blood becomes sticky and more likely to clot.
  10. Food Intolerances: Leads to gut permeability which allows particles through the gut wall into the bloodstream where they cause inflammation.
  11. Stress: Increases oxidative stress – the number of free radicals running around the body like gremlins destroying cell walls and so getting inside to damage DNA.
  12. Infections: Increases oxidative stress – the number of free radicals running around the body like gremlins destroying cell walls and so getting inside to damage DNA.

Where does estrogen fit in the picture as a risk factor for cancer and cardiovascular disease?

When it comes to breast and uterine cancer there is no doubt that some women have a genetic makeup that increases the chance that DNA will be damaged and start to produce cancer cells. Synthetic pharmaceutical estrogens and the pharmaceutical progestins have definitely been linked to increased risk for cancer cells to develop in the breast and the uterus. Using hormones, even some bioidentical hormones could increase risk for such women.

What is most important though is to understand that the body is always trying to heal itself, to repair damaged tissue and to clean out toxicants and free radicals. By reducing the number of risk factors for systemic inflammation, even someone with a genetically higher chance for developing cancer, can discount that risk significantly. By creating an optimally healthy body, it makes it so much easier for the body’s natural processes to detect and destroy precancerous cells before they get a hold somewhere.

There are also plenty of genetic factors that can increase someone’s risk for some form of cardiovascular disease. Some people tend to have high cholesterol, others tend to have “sticky” red blood cells which can clump together and form clots and blockages. But, by reducing the number of risk factors that cause inflammation, it is possible to reduce risk for developing a wide range of heart conditions. Both bioidentical progesterone and estrogen have been found to help protect the heart. Estrogen (in the right amounts) can help maintain the smooth insides of blood vessels. Progesterone helps protect cell membranes, reduces excess fluid between the cells, acts as an anti-inflammatory, increases the burning of fats for energy, thus reducing triglycerides.

Ultimately, our whole body is one large system, our health is one large system, we limit our thinking about overall health when we think it’s only about utilizing estrogen or not.



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