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My Personal Journey of Healing

Julia Chang, MSc

4. Estrogen dominance, womens' problems, amenorrhea, and menopause

The hyperestrogenism occurs as a result of failure of hepatic removal of estrogens from the circulation” - ref. 2 p.755

Excessive estrogens and stagnation of blood circulation are the major cause of most women's problems including breast, uterine and ovarian cancers.  According to Dr. John R. Lee in his book “What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause: the Breakthrough Book on Natural Progesterone” (Warner Books, 1996), estrogen dominance is the cause of most women's chronic health problems.  We are living in a polluted world where estrogens are present in almost every type of food that we eat.  Since the liver is the organ that removes estrogens, a weak liver that fails to remove estrogens efficiently may lead to their accumulation (for liver cleansing and strengthening, see liver cleanse).  When excessive estrogens become trapped in the uterus, ovary, or breast due to stagnation, they overstimulate cell division and lead to abnormal growth such as fibroids, cysts or cancer in these organs. Estrogens may also be accumulated in the brain or liver because they both have estrogen receptors.

PMS

A common woman's problem, PMS, is usually caused by high estrogen to progesterone ratio; the estrogen level may not be high in absolute value but is high relative to progesterone.  The common symptoms of PMS such as mood swings, depression and bloating are all signs of estrogen dominance.  Evening Primrose oil, which contains estrogenic activity, is a popular supplement for PMS sufferers.  It offers quick relief for PMS symptoms but long term use may aggravate the problems.  Most people don't realize this.  A PMS sufferer who had been taking evening primrose oil for 4 years came to see me.  Her thighs were swollen with water retention, probably due to excessive estrogen.  After I told her to stop taking evening primrose oil in addition to taking Chinese Bitters, her swollen thighs became normal in about a month's time.

The herb Vitex stimulates progesterone production in the body and therefore helps to balance the hormones.  Experience from many of my clients has shown that taking the herbal tinctures Fem-Mate (contains Vitex) and Chinese Bitters is beneficial to PMS sufferers.  However, if estrogen is high (and not just high in relation to progesterone but high in absolute terms), then Fem-Mate should be taken, only for a few weeks, in order to balance the hormones.  Please note that if you take it for longer than a few weeks, it could actually raise estrogen levels, because Vitex stimulates progesterone production by stimulating the adrenals, which also produce estrogen.

Amenorrhea - Absence or Abnormal Stoppage of Menstruation

Amenorrhea may be associated with congenital abnormalities, pituitary insufficiency, metabolic diseases (thyroid dysfunction, diabetes, adrenal hyperplasia), undernourishment, anemia, wasting diseases, severe infections or hormone abnormalities - the most common cause in our modern way of living.

“The administration of large amounts of estrogen prevents menstruation for a long period of time” (see Reference 2 at the end of this Section, page 764).

Other than estrogens in meat and dairy products, pesticide sprays (environmental estrogens) on fruits and vegetables also mimic estrogens in our bodies when ingested.  As a result, hormonal abnormalities has become a major issue for amenorrhea nowadays.  A weak liver that fails to eliminate all these ingested estrogens is often responsible for hormonal abnormalities.

One of our products, “Chinese Bitters”, has been used successfully to induce menstruation by cleansing the liver and eliminating estrogens more efficiently.  A woman in Hawaii had no period for 18 months.  She had her period in 15 days after she started using “Chinese Bitters”.  Another young woman in Ontario, Canada had no period for 3 years.  She used “Chinese Bitters” for more than a month without success.  However, when she used “Coptis” (another of our products) in conjunction with “Chinese Bitters”, her period started in 5 days.  The liver eliminates estrogens through bile and urine.  Being an effective bile flow stimulator, Coptis helps the liver to eliminate estrogen more efficiently by carrying more estrogens out of the body through bile.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

I was never diagnosed with PCOS, but I would not be surprised if I did have it.  PCOS is another woman's problem caused by high levels of estrogens in the body.  Medical treatment usually uses Clomiphene (an anti-estrogen drug) which treats the symptoms, not the problems.  Possible side effects include hot flashes, nausea, headache, breast tenderness and sometimes blurred vision.

PCOS is a leading cause of female infertility due to excessive estrogens (for details please read Section 6 of this article).  Excessive estrogens are often the result of the liver's failure to eliminate them efficiently.  The commonly associated problems (heart disease and diabetes) are also indications of weak liver. Our Chinese Bitters, Coptis and Taheebo in addition to daily morning exercise have proven to be very beneficial.  The regimen is the same as that for endometriosis and infertility.  They are all caused by high estrogen levels.

Womens' weight problems

Estrogens and the liver have important roles in weight problem or obesity which is common among women with PCOS or other woman's problems.  Metabolism is mostly carried out in the liver.  Sluggish metabolism due to sluggish liver and too much estrogens are contributing factors to weight gain.  When the liver fails to eliminate estrogens efficiently, the excessive estrogens stimulate fat cell production, usually around the lower abdominal area and upper thigh.  These fat cells in turn stimulate more estrogen production; it is a vicious cycle.  Estrogens also bind to sodium, which retains water and leads to weight gain.

Many women were pleasantly surprised to find their weight reduced unexpectedly by taking Chinese Bitters, Coptis and doing daily morning exercise.  Daily morning exercise helps to activate the liver.  When the liver becomes more efficient and bile flows better following use of Chinese Bitters and Coptis, weight problems are often significantly improved because so much of your metabolism is carried out in the liver.  By stimulating bile flow, Coptis helps the liver to eliminate estrogens more efficiently because the liver depends on bile flow to carry estrogens out.

Diet is important too.  Foods that weaken the liver and kidneys as mentioned in Section 3 of this article should be avoided.

Estrogens, blood stagnation and womens' problems

There is an interesting observation mentioned in the book “Estrogens in the Environment” [see Reference 1 at the end of this section]: “Chinese boat women who nurse their offspring from only one breast have a four-fold higher incidence of cancer in the non-suckled breast”.  This is an indication that stagnation has an important role in tumor or cancer growth.

Looking back, my liver problems started in my teenage years because of my very stressful childhood.  I tired easily and I had a poor complexion and juvenile arthritis.  I had however no uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts or endometriosis.  I was very active and had absolutely no excess fat in my abdominal area; the estrogens were not trapped even though their levels might have been high.  My uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts and endometriosis started only after I accumulated a thick layer of fat in my abdominal area from pregnancy and inactivity in my 30's.

The controversy about plant estrogens or phytoestrogens

There seems to be a common misconception in the natural health community that women with high estrogen levels should take phytoestrogen (plant estrogen) because phytoestrogens are “protective estrogens” which reduce estrogenic activity.  It is believed that phytoestrogens compete with endogenous estrogens for estrogen receptors.  When the estrogen receptors are occupied by phytoestrogens, cell divisions are reduced because phytoestrogens are “weak estrogens”.  This theory made sense to me until my own experience showed otherwise.  With my endometriosis, my pain level was a measurement for my condition.  When I tried Don Quei, Licorice, Ginseng and Royal Jelly, I did feel better initially for a few weeks because they helped my blood circulation.  As I continued to take these remedies, my pain would come back with a vengeance, more severe than before.  I realized that weak estrogens could add up significantly if given enough time.  I believe that many women are misled by initial feelings of wellness without realizing that longer periods of usage actually makes the problem worse.  Many other endometriosis sufferers that I know also have had similar experiences with phytoestrogen.  After my personal experience, my belief is that weak plant estrogens may replace our own more potent estrogens for receptor sites, but our own estrogens still have to go somewhere if the liver is incapable of eliminating them.

In Townsend Letters for Doctors and Patients (January, 1997 issue), Ray Peat, a renowned biologist in the U.S., stated that “the concept of a protective estrogen is very similar to the idea of protective mutagens or protective carcinogens”.  He mentioned that “Alexander Lipshuts demonstrated that a continuous, weak estrogenic stimulus was immensely effective in producing first fibromas, then cancer, in one organ after another, and the effect was not limited to the reproductive system”.  For example, the brain and liver, which also have estrogen receptors, may grow tumours too.

Interestingly, one of the three common estrogens, Estriol, has similar properties.  Being a less potent cell stimulant, Estriol was once classified as an estrogen antagonist. In the book Estrogens in the Environment [see Reference 1 at the end of this section], it was mentioned “because it failed to induce breast tumors in susceptible rodent strains and appeared to block such induction by Estradiol and Estrone, it was considered to be a safe estrogen”.  However, later studies showed that Estriol was safe only if it was administered as a single injection.  A continuous administration of Estriol showed the same responses from that induced by Estradiol which is the most potent estrogen. Continuous administration of Estriol was also shown to induce breast tumors in rodents.

Estriol has been suggested as having a protective role in breast cancer based on the observation that oriental women who have a high [Estriol/(Estradiol + Estrone)] ratio in their blood also have a low incidence of breast cancer [see Reference 1 at the end of this section].  Soya bean (contains phytoestrogen) has also been suggested as being protective in breast cancer because Japanese women who consume much more soya bean than Western women have lower incidence of breast cancer.  My observation is that in the past oriental women took much less medical drugs including painkillers compared to women in Western societies.  However oriental breast cancer incidence has gone up significantly in recent years even though soya bean products are still consumed there much more than in Western societies.  I believe this trend may in part be due to increased consumption of medications.  The American Liver Foundation stated that the amount of medicine consumed has increased greatly with resulting dangers to the liver.  The elevated estrogen level caused by a weak liver may not be detected in blood tests because blood estrogen levels do not necessarily reflect estrogen levels in tissues.  Estrogen levels in the tissues cannot be measured.

Estrogens bind to sodium which retains water.  That is why many women who take estrogen therapy may find significant weight gain. The fact that estrogen therapy weakens both liver and kidneys and therefore slows down the metabolism may also aggravate weight problems.

How to reduce estrogen levels and stagnation of blood circulation?

  1. Perform daily physical exercise, which reduces estrogen production and stress, and also reduces stagnation.  It promotes a healthy circulatory system and activates the liver.  I found the Chinese exercise Y-Dan, which I have been doing every morning for years, is very beneficial. However, it does not have to be any particular kind of exercise, as long as it involves a lot of deep breathing and stretching.
  2. Learn to relax and reduce stress. Relaxation opens up blood vessels and relaxes different organs.
  3. Perform cleansing and strengthening of the liver in order to eliminate estrogen more efficiently.
  4. Avoid or minimize estrogen-containing foods or herbs.  Foods that weaken the liver or kidneys as mentioned in Section 1 of this article should also be avoided.

Pesticides sprayed on fruits or vegetables are another source of estrogen (xenoestrogens).  Soaking them in a water-vinegar mixture for 20 to 30 minutes followed by rinsing in clean water can remove much of the pesticides if organically-grown vegetables or fruits are unavailable.

A friend of mine loves cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables.  She was still menstruating at the age of 55.  I reasoned that she was taking in too much estrogen from eating cheese and pesticide-sprayed fruits and vegetables.  I suggested that she cleanse her liver and gallbladder, stop eating cheese, and soak the vegetables and fruits in a vinegar/water mixture (one part of vinegar and one part of water) to remove the pesticides because vinegar is a better solvent than water for pesticides.  At the same time, she also did liver and gallbladder cleansing.  Her period stopped the first month after she followed my suggestion.

The following are some of the herbs and foods with estrogenic activities:

HERBS FOODS
(see references at the end of this section)
Anise, hops, fennel, black cohosh, milk thistle, clover, red clover, Don Quai, licorice, ginseng, royal jelly, peony, nettle, sage, fenugreek, evening primrose oil, burdock, chamomiles, rhubarb French bean, date palm, dates, garlic, pomegranate, apple, soyabean, chick pea, cherry, alfalfa, soya sprouts, cow pea, green beans, red beans, split peas, flaxseed, raspberry, carrot and squash (both have beta carotene)

Generally I have found that estrogen contents in foods are less than in herbs.  My suggestion for women with hormone imbalance is to avoid herbs which have estrogenic activities such as Don Quei, Licorice, Ginseng, Royal Jelly, fennel, hops, anise, clover, flax seed oil and evening primrose oil even though they may make you feel better initially.  Estrogen-containing foods such as alfalfa, chick pea, carrot (or beta carotene) can be taken occasionally but not on a regular basis.

Menopause and liver, kidney and bone health

Most medications are damaging to the liver and kidneys.  My suggestion is to take them only if they are absolutely necessary. Proponents of Chinese medicine believe that liver and kidney health is very important for one's well-being especially during menopause. I feel blessed that I breezed through my menopause without any symptoms because my liver became healthy and my woman's problems disappeared 5 years before my “change of life”.  Someone I know suffered incredibly during her menopause.  When she told me that she took painkillers for 14 years for her headache, I realized that painkillers might be the culprit because they are damaging to the liver and kidneys.

According to Chinese medicine, hot flashes are the result of sluggish liver.  During menopause, the liver has to go through significant adjustments due to hormonal changes.  When the liver is sluggish, the “Chi” (energy flow) in the liver encounters too much resistance due to the adjustments and therefore produce “heat”.  If the liver is healthy, both the blood flow and “energy flow” are smooth and no “heat” will result.  Spicy foods, especially ginger and cinnamon, are very “yang” foods.  They congest the liver and produce “heat” that could aggravate hot flashes.  Women who suffer from hot flashes may have to avoid these foods.

Before menopause, the estrogens and progesterones are both produced by ovaries and adrenals.  During menopause, ovarian activities are greatly reduced and the adrenals become the major suppliers of these hormones.  Without healthy kidneys, the adrenals, which sit directly on top of the kidneys, cannot efficiently take over the role as major producer of estrogens and progesterones. This is a basic cause of women's menopausal problems.

Weak kidneys can also contribute to osteoporosis which is a major health concern with many post-menopausal women.  According to Chinese medicine, the kidneys support the bones.  Healthy kidneys are essential for strong bones.  Weak kidneys may cause increased urinary losses of calcium and phosphates due to the kidneys' inability to form an acid urine (Harper, H.A., Review of Physiological Chemistry, 14th edition, Lange Medical Publications, 1973).

Strong and healthy bones require good diet, exercise, healthy kidneys and digestive system.  Adequate intakes of proteins, vitamins and minerals and proper absorption of these nutrients by a healthy digestive system are vital.  Healthy kidneys maintain calcium and phosphate balance.  Regular exercise increases the blood supply to bones and also provides mechanical stimulus to bone formation.  Morning exercise is more beneficial than exercise at other times of the day.   It activates the liver, stimulates blood circulation and strengthens the bones.  I have been doing daily morning exercise (Y-Dan exercise) for more than 20 years.

The well-known folk remedy of taking two teaspoonfuls of apple cider vinegar and one teaspoonful of honey daily to strengthen the bones does work.  I know this is true through my experience from working with many post-menopausal women.

Hot Flashes

Our experience has shown that the combination of Chinese Bitters (taken before breakfast) and Fem-Mate (taken at bedtime) is very helpful for alleviating hot flashes.  In one case, a 60 year old woman was on HRT for 10 years and was told to stop her HRT immediately because of her vaginal bleeding.  When she stopped, her hot flashes became unbearable, and she tried all manner of remedies to no avail.  When she took Chinese Bitters and Fem-Mate, her hot flashes became manageable in only 4 days, although it took 3-4 months before her hot flashes disappeared.

This remedy works because Chinese Bitters decongests and cleanses the liver while Fem-Mate stimulates natural progesterone and estrogen production by stimulating the adrenals.  For some women, whose hot flashes are relatively mild, Chinese Bitters alone is enough to eliminate their hot flashes.

In some cases, the complete program of liver and gallbladder cleansing may be necessary because HRT is known to cause gallstones.  Daily morning exercises such as stretching and deep breathing (Y-Dan, for example) can also help by “activating” the liver in the morning.

Estrogen dominance

Conventional medicine tries to convince women that menopause is an estrogen deficient disease and estrogen therapy is the answer to the major menopausal women's concerns such as hot flashes, heart attack and osteoporosis.  However, I believe menopause is a natural physiological process because high estrogen levels are no longer needed after the child-bearing age.  As a matter of fact, the major concern for post-menopausal women should be “estrogen dominance”, not estrogen deficiency.  The estrogen production does decline to some extent after menopause but progesterone production declines much more because the adrenals are the only producers of progesterone after menopause.  Estrogens are produced by adrenals and fat cells.  This results in estrogen being dominant and out of control because progesterone has balancing effects on estrogens. “Estrogen dominance” is probably the major cause of perimenopausal or post-menopausal women's cancers in the reproductive tract as well as breast cancer.  Use of estrogens is also known to be one of the risk factors for stroke according to the Canadian Medical Association's “Home Medical Encyclopedia” [editor: Peter Morgan, The Readers Digest Association (Canada) Ltd., Montreal, 1992].

In some cases, instead of Chinese Bitters and Fem-Mate as mentioned in the previous section, Shou Wu Tea can work well too.  Shou Wu Tea strengthens and stimulates both the liver and kidneys.  Fem-mate is more intended for stimulating progesterone production.

The following are quotes from the book Estrogen in the Environment (see Reference 1 at the end of this section): “Estrogens might contribute to heart attacks both by clotting abnormalities and by accelerating atherosclerosis via enhanced hepatic synthesis of plasma triglycerides and prebetalipoproteins”. “The estrogen may change liver function including the synthesis of critical plasma proteins that influence the cardiovascular system”. “An increased risk of cardiovascular disease is still observed in oral contraceptive users”.

References:

  1. Estrogens in the Environment (1979); Estrogens in the Environment II (1985), Proceedings of symposia edited by John McLachlan, Elsevier.
  2. Selkurt, E.E. (editor), Physiology, Little, Brown and Company, Boston (1966).

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