Impact of environmental estrogens

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

The human body is an amazing creation, the way the various systems work in sync with each other creating the feeling of wellness for the individual. The endocrine system is one of those systems, its function is to secrete hormones into the bloodstream. There are many hormones produced by the body, which are described as chemical messengers, circulating throughout the body helping it to perform at its best. It is responsible for ones physical and emotional health. Estrogen is one of the many hormones produced by the body; it is produced by the female in her ovaries.

Estrogen is three kinds:


  • Is the main estrogen the body makes postmenopausally
  • High levels many researches believe may increase breast and uterine cancer.
  • Its levels increase following menopause.
  • It is derived from the hormones that are stored in body fat, therefore the more body fat you have the more Estrone you make.
  • It does the same work that Estradiol does.


  • Main Estrogen produced before menopause
  • Decreases triglycerides
  • Helps maintain memory
  • Works as an antioxidant
  • Produced by the ovaries.
  • Relieves PMS symptoms.
  • Helps maintain bone structure
  • Decreases LDL and total cholesterol
  • Increases HDL
  • Decreases fatigue
  • Improves memory.
  • Increases serotonin
  • Helps absorption of calcium, magnesium, zinc
  • Protects against heart disease, Alzheimer, osteoporosis.
  • High levels associated with increased risk of breast & uterine cancer


  • Is used in Europe to treat breast cancer instead of Tamoxifen
  • It does not have the bone, heart, or brain protection of estradiol
  • Made in large quantities during pregnancy.
  • Protects body from cancerous cells.
  • Beneficial for vagina, cervix, and vulva.
  • Controls symptoms of menopause
  • Increases HDL & Reduces LDL
  • Blocks Estrone


  • It is naturally occurring in both men and women
  • It is the "feel good" hormone.


  • The most abundant steroid in the human body.
  • Improves memory
  • Strengthens the immune system.
  • Prevents bone loss.
  • Fights fatigue and depression.
  • Alleviates symptoms of menopause.
  • Reduces body fat.
  • Enhances sex drive.
  • Prevents wrinkles and dry eyes.


  • "The desire hormone".
  • More abundant in men than in women.
  • Increases energy.
  • Eases depression.
  • Increases muscle mass and tone
  • Decreases excess body fat & bone deterioration
  • Decreases LDL, increases HDL.


  • The "Stress hormone".
  • Cortisol is the only hormone in your body that increases with age
  • It is made by the adrenal gland


  • It is made from the amino acid tryptophan
  • Sets your body's 24-hour cycle
  • Has antioxidant properties.

Estrogen Functions

  • Regulates body temperature
  • Increases HDL (good cholesterol)
  • Enhances Energy
  • Aids in the formation of neurotransmitters
  • Shares responsibility for PMS
  • Stimulates the production of choline acetyltransferase, an enzyme which prevents Alzheimer's disease
  • Improves insulin sensitivity
  • Improves sleep
  • Inhibits platelet stickiness
  • Deceases the accumulation of plaque on arteries
  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Increases reasoning and new ideas
  • Helps with fine motor skills
  • Increases the water content of skin and is responsible for its thickness and softness
  • Reduces the overall risk of heart disease by 40 to 50%
  • Increases concentration
  • Maintains bone density
  • Increases sexual interest
  • Decreases wrinkles
  • Decreases risk of colon cancer
  • Helps prevent tooth loss

Symptoms of Estrogen Excess

  • Cervical dysphasia
  • Depression with anxiety or agitation
  • Increased risk of uterine cancer
  • Weight gain (abdomen, hips, thighs)
  • Water retention
  • Headaches
  • Poor sleep
  • Panic attacks
  • Swollen breasts
  • Heavy periods
  • Increased risk of breast cancer
  • Increased risk of auto-immune diseases
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability/mood swings
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Bloating

Causes of Excess Estrogen in The Body

  • Taking too much estrogen
  • Impaired elimination of estrogen
  • Lack of exercise
  • Diet low in grains and fiber (Atkin Diet)
  • Environmental estrogens; found in:
    • diary products
    • some cosmetics
    • pesticides
    • plastics
  • Elevation of the 16-OH estrone

Symptoms of Progesterone Loss

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Insomnia
  • Pain and inflammation
  • Osteoporosis
  • Decreased HDL
  • Excessive menstruation

Causes of Low Progesterone

  • Impaired production
  • Low LH
  • Increased prolactin production
  • Stress
  • Antidepressants
  • Excessive arginine consumption
  • Sugar
  • Saturated fat
  • Deficiency of vitamins A, B6, C, zinc
  • Decreased thyroid hormone

Synthetic Progesterone

  • Called progestins
  • Progestins do not reproduce the same actions of natural progesterone
  • Progestins are found in most synthetic hormone (Provera) and birth control pills.

Side Effects of Progestins(Synthetic Progesterone)

  • Increase appetite
  • Weight gain
  • Fluid retention
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Headache
  • Decreases energy
  • Bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Decreases sexual interest

Symptoms of decreased Estrogen

  • Thinner/ageing skin
  • More wrinkles
  • Decreased memory
  • Decrease in breast size
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Oily skin & acne
  • Increased insulin resistance/possible diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Increased cholesterol

Synthetic Estrogen

  • The most commonly prescribed hormone replacement in the U.S. is Premarin, which is a mixture of estrone, sodium equilin sulfate (estrogen derived from urine of horses) and some concomitant components.
  • These additives and coatings have side effects such as burning in the urinary tract, allergies, joint aches and pains.
  • Synthetic estrogen contains many forms of estrogen that do not fit into the estrogen receptors in your body. No one knows what happens to these estrogens!
  • Unlike our own estradiol molecules which are eliminated from our body within a few hours, equilin has been shown to stay in your body for up to 13 weeks. This is due to the fact that your enzymes are designed to metabolize your own estrogen and not equilin.
  • Estrogen given by mouth can increase blood pressure, increase triglycerides, increase estrone, cause gallstones, elevate liver enzymes, decrease growth hormone, increase carbohydrate cravings and increase weight gain.
  • Estrogen creams (transdermal) are the preferred method of replacing the estrogen hormone.
  • In the intestinal tract synthetic Estrogen converts to Estrone, which is the type of Estrogen most implicated with high risk for breast cancer.

Estrogen Metabolism

  • It is not simply the amount of total estrogen circulating in your body that is critical to you health, but also how estrogen is metabolized.
  • Estrogen is metabolized in two major pathways, 2-hydroxyestrone and 16-hydroxyestrone, and one minor pathway, 4-hydroxyestrone.
  • 2-hydroxyestrone is sometimes called the "good" estrogen. It does not stimulate your cells to divide, which can cause damage to your DNA and cause tumor growth. Also, by latching onto available estrogen cell receptors, 2-hydroxyestrone may exhibit a blocking action that prevents stronger estrogen products from gaining a foothold into your cells.
  • 16-hydroxyestrone is more powerful and has a strong stimulatory effect. It binds strongly to special receptors that can increase the rate DNA synthesis and cell multiplication. Consequently, it is proposed to be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Furthermore, 16-hydroxyestrone permanently binds to the estrogen receptor, unlike other estrogens that attach briefly and then are released.
  • 4-hydroxyestrone can enhance cancer development and directly damage DNA by causing breaks in the molecular strands. It is present in greater quantities if you are deficient in methionine and folic acid. Equine estrogens (i.e. Premarin) increase metabolism into 4-hydroxyestrones and can cause mutagenic damage five times more rapidly than the normal 4-hydroxy estrogens.
  • There are two other factors that affect how your body metabolizes estrogen. The first is obesity. Concentrations of sex hormone binding globulin are decreased if you are heavy. Obesity also decreases 2-hydroxyestrone and increases 16-hydroxyestrone production. The second factor is the presence of xenoestrogens. These are toxic chemicals such as pesticides, synthetic hormones fed to animals, plastics and cosmetics. Researchers have identified fifty chemicals that imitate estrogen.
  • It is consequently very important to know the levels of 2-hydroxy and 16-hydroxyestrone as well as the ratio between them. Moderate exercise, cruciferous vegetables, flax, soy, high protein diet, omega-3 fatty acids, B6, B12 and folate are all important n supporting the 2-hydroxyestrone pathway.

Progesterone Affects

  • Natural antidepressant
  • Helps you sleep
  • Calming effect
  • Increases scalp hair
  • Natural diuretic
  • Helps balance estrogen
  • Leaves body quickly
  • Lowers high BP
  • Helps body use & eliminate fat
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Balances fluids in cells
  • Increases beneficial effects of estrogen
  • Anti-proliferative effect (anti-cancer)
  • Doesn't change good affect estrogen has on blood flow
  • Increases metabolic rate
  • Relieves PMS symptoms
  • Stabilizes mother and child during pregnancy
  • Positive impact on osteoporosis in post-menopausal women.

Similarities between natural Progesterone & synthetic Progestins

  • Build bone
  • Help thyroid hormone function
  • Protect against fibrocystic breast disease
  • Protect against endometrial cancer
  • Normalize zinc and copper levels

Affects of too much Progesterone

  • Increases fat stores
  • Decreases glucose tolerance
  • Increases cortisol
  • Increases insulin resistance (predisposes to diabetes)
  • Increases appetite
  • Increases carbohydrate cravings
  • Relaxes smooth muscles of the gut
  • Suppresses immune system
  • Causes incontinence
  • Causes ligaments to relax
  • Decreases growth hormones

Estrogen/Progesterone ratio

  • Estradiol lowers body fat while progesterone increases it
  • Progesterone decreases insulin sensitivity while estradiol increases insulin sensitivity and improves glucose tolerance (diabetic women should use the least amount of progesterone possible)
  • A progesterone to estrogen ratio that is too high in progesterone will breakdown protein and muscle tissue.

Causes of Low DHEA

  • Menopause
  • Stress
  • Aging
  • Smoking

Symptoms of too much DHEA

  • Facial hair
  • Acne
  • Anger
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Deepening voice
  • Insomnia
  • Mood changes
  • Weight gain
  • Sugar cravings
  • Restless sleep
  • Irritability

Symptoms of Testosterone Loss

  • Decreased sex drive
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Weight gain and decline in muscle tone
  • Thinning and dry hair
  • Muscle wasting
  • Low self esteem/mild depression
  • Decreased HDL (good cholesterol)
  • Loss of body hair
  • Dry, thin skin, with poor elasticity
  • Droopy eyelids & cheeks
  • Less dreaming

Causes of low Testosterone

  • Adrenal stress or burnout
  • Cholesterol lowering medications (HMG-CoA-reductase inhibitors)
  • Menopause/Andropause
  • Birth control pills
  • Depression
  • Childbirth
  • Chemotherapy
  • Endometriosis
  • Psychological trauma

How to increase Testosterone

  • Decrease calorie intake/lose weight
  • Increase protein in your diet
  • Take amino acids arginine, leucine, glutamine
  • Exercise
  • Get enough sleep
  • Reduce stress
  • Take zinc if there is a deficiency (needed for metabolism of testosterone)
  • Optimize estradiol (testosterone needs it to attach to brain receptors), together they lower cardiac risk
  • For severe cases: testosterone cream ordered through our physician

Symptoms of too much Testosterone

Excess androgen production is usually due to over-production by the adrenal glands and not the ovaries.

  • Agitation/anger
  • Acne/oily skin
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Mood swings
  • Changes in memory
  • Fatigue
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Salt & sugar cravings
  • Facial hair/unwanted hair growth
  • Increase in insulin resistance
  • Decrease in HDL (good cholesterol)
  • Irregular periods/infertility
  • Weight gain (apple body shape)
  • Fluid retention
  • Hair loss
  • Increased risk of breast cancer


  • Helps body stay active and alert.
  • Helps regulate blood pressure.
  • Rises your energy level.
  • Copes with trauma and infection.
  • Balancing blood sugar
  • Weight control
  • Immune system response
  • Bone turnover rate
  • Stress reaction
  • Sleep
  • Protein synthesis
  • Mood & thoughts
  • Influences testosterone/estrogen ratio
  • Influences DHEA/insulin ratio
  • Affects pituitary/thyroid/adrenal system

Causes of abnormal Cortisol levels

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • High progestin intake (birth control pills and synthetic progesterone)
  • Menopause
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Impotence
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Panic disorders
  • PMS
  • Infertility
  • Sleep disorders
  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart disease

Consequences of high Cortisol

  • Weight gain
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances/night sweats
  • Increased infections
  • Increased infections
  • Increased osteoporosis risk
  • Irritability
  • Sugar cravings
  • Shakiness between meals
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Low energy
  • Binge eating
  • Decreased immune system
  • Increased cholesterol
  • Increased triglycerides
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Increased insulin/insulin resistance
  • Thin skin
  • Easy bruising
  • Muscle weakness

Cortisol relationship with other hormones

  • Cortisol & Progesterone: If cortisol is increased, it decreases the production of progesterone. Cortisol competes with progesterone for common receptors.
  • Cortisol & Thyroid: When cortisol is high it makes your thyroid hormone become more bound and therefore less active.
  • Cortisol & Estrogen: Decreased estradiol causes a decrease in optimal function of norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and acetylcholine which in result cause cortisol levels to increase.

Adrenal Gland Burnout

When adrenal glands are in a state of emergency, one does not feel well and tends to reach for coffee, soft drinks, or sugar for an energy source. This makes the situation worse since adrenal glands stay stimulated causing them to weaken and burnout. Many women enter menopause with progesterone loss due to exhaustion of their adrenal gland. This results in a drop in cortisol and DHEA levels.

Symptoms of low Cortisol

  • Fatigue (cannot function without coffee/tea)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Insomnia (from 4:00 - 6:00 am, then love to sleep from 7:00 - 9:00 am if able to)
  • Digestive problems
  • Emotional imbalances
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Decreased sexual interest

Melatonin Influences

  • Sleep
  • Mood
  • Stress response
  • Immune function (against cancer and infections)
  • Release of sex hormones
  • Antioxidant activity
  • Helps prevent cancer
  • Blocks estrogen from binding to estrogen receptor
  • Stimulates the parathyroid gland (regulates bone formation)
  • Stimulates production of growth hormone
  • Decreases cortisol
  • Increases the action of benzodiazepine medications

Factors that can decrease Melatonin

  • Beta blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Alpha adrenergic blockers
  • Ibuprofen
  • Tranquilizers
  • Aspirin
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Electromagnetic fields (cell phones)

How to increase Melatonin production

  • Sleep
  • Exercise
  • Supplementation

Effects of too much Melatonin

  • Intense dreaming/nightmares
  • Daytime sleepiness/fatigue
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Increases cortisol
  • Suppresses serotonin (increases CHO cravings)

According to Nicole Galan, estrogen is the major hormone responsible for the characteristics typically thought of as female. It is required for proper development of sexual organs, completion of skeletal system, regulation of the menstrual cycle and maintenance of pregnancy. In essence it is imperative for the growth and development of the female body as it stimulates special estrogen receptors in the cells. Estrogen however is not only needed by the female, it is also required by the male but it role is not as major as it is in the female. Scientists have found that estrogens play a secondary role to the hormone testosterone, which defines male characteristics and aids sperm production.

Now there are some external substances which were found to possess the same ability as estrogen, in that they either mimic estrogen or disrupt its function and these substances are referred to as environmental estrogen. Environmental estrogens have been defined as the technical term for any of a group of synthetic substances found in the environment that, when absorbed into a person's system, function in a similar way to estrogens, the generic term for female sex hormones (Daily Yomiuri,1998). They are wide spread in the environment and can be found in such things as rain water and many foods consumed by birds, fish, animals and humans. Environmental estrogens are also referred to as endocrine disrupters and are classified as phytoestrogens and xenoestrogens.

Phytoestrogens have been defined as plant based estrogens. They can be found in plants such as soybeans, legumes, whole grains and many fruits and vegetables, and they can disrupt the normal functioning of the body's hormones. However it is important to note that although phytoestrogens are environmental estrogens some studies have found that they possess some health benefits such as reducing the risk for certain cancers such as breast and prostate, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and menopausal symptoms.

Exenoestrogens have been defined as commercially manufactured chemicals or by-product of manufacturing processes. They are found in pesticides, products associated with plastics, pharmaceuticals, example birth control pill, household products, industrial chemicals and heavy metal such as lead and mercury. Exenoestrogens differ from phytoestrogen in that they linger and accumulate in the body, while phytoestrogens are easily excreted. According to one internet source phyto estrogens were not feared as much as xenoestrogen because they are weak estrogens and as such the body's estrogen gets first preference for the receptor site. Exenoestrogens on the other hand are more aggressive and as a result insert themselves into the receptor site before the body's estrogen.

Humans and wildlife alike are exposed to environmental estrogens. Some of the substances or chemicals that are of great concern are organochlorines. It is used in the production of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics, pesticide, bleaching, disinfection, dry cleaning, fire prevention, and refrigeration. Estrogenic pesticides or herbicides include DDT, lindane and atrazine, and alachlor. Of these substances only DDT is said to be banned in the U.S., the others are still used. Scientists have found that these substances remain in the environment and are transferred to wildlife and humans via the food chain, because they are stored in the fat of the animals exposed to it.

When the normal function of any system within the body is disrupted it would result in adverse effects and the endocrine system is no exception. Environmental estrogens have been found to affect both human and wildlife in negative ways. Environmental estrogens have been linked to problems in wildlife thus placing the wildlife population at risk of becoming endangered.

Some of the problems that the wildlife experience are, thyroid dysfunction in birds and fish; decreased fertility in birds, shellfish and mammals; decreased hatching success in birds, turtles and fish; gross birth deformities in birds, fish and turtle; male fish, birds and mammals that are feminised; female fish, birds and mammals that are masculinised and compromised immune systems in birds and mammals. According to research these effects were found to present themselves in species living near or in environments where pollution exposure is very high. Researchers also concluded that the effects of environmental estrogens were more often present in the offspring rather than the exposed parent. The effect of these environmental estrogens was also linked to the timing relative to the organism's stage of development. It was found that the effects manifested itself differently at the different stages of development, such as, early embryo, fetus and newborn, and in organisms exposed only in adulthood.

According to one internet source the effects of environmental estrogens on the human are said to be still under review and as such some of the speculations made are based on research done on animals. It is suggested that through extended periods of exposure environmental estrogen women become susceptible to conditions such as breast and reproductive organ tissue cancers, fibrocystic disease of the breast, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, uterine fibroids and pelvic inflammatory diseases. While for men it is suggested that it affects them in the way of poor semen quality, that is it can range from low sperm count, low ejaculate volume, high number of abnormal sperm to a low number of motile sperm, testicular cancer, malformed reproductive tissue such as undescended testes, small penis size, prostate disease and other recognized abnormalities of male reproductive tissues. Similar to the wildlife it is suggested that the severity of its effect on man would vary depending on many factors such as length of exposure, dose and age.

These environmental estrogens have caught the attention of many resulting in a lot of research being in this area, scientists are intrigued and concerned by the negative effects these substances are having on both human and wildlife. With all the speculation it would be best for everyone if one were to try and follow the suggested precautionary measures.