The Liver-Hormone Connection

Challenging to treat, frustrating to experience and what’s increasingly becoming a regular part of the discussion here at The Natural Nutritionist – hormone imbalance. Gone are the days of looking directly to the oral contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to normalise imbalances – there are definitely more natural ways. 

Pictures of hormone imbalance include: 

PMS – typically influenced by excess oestrogen and alterations in progesterone such as levels being too low or levels declining too rapidly in the final week of the cycle. 

Endometriosis and fibroids – with both conditions driven by oestrogen (more specifically, oestradiol, E2) excess. 

PCOS like symptoms – a condition characterised by 2 or more of the following: polycystic ovaries, irregular menstrual cycles and elevated testosterone. 

Pre-menopause and menopause – a result of declining E2 in women nearing the end of child bearing years. 

Clinically, the theme we see time and time again in women of reproductive age is the picture of excess E2 or what we also refer to as ‘oestrogen dominance’. It’s what results in symptoms such as heavy clotty periods, painful periods, mood swings, stagnant weight around the hips and thighs and breast tenderness. It’s driven by oestrogen levels that are comparatively greater than progesterone, particularly in the second half of the menstrual cycle, either as a result of excess oestrogen, not enough progesterone or what’s also common, a combination of both. 

The role of detox in hormone balance: 

In natural health, when signs of oestrogen dominance appear it’s an indication that work needs to be done to support the liver. As a key player in the various detox pathways the liver’s role is to neutralise and excrete excess oestrogen via two major phases: phase I and phase II liver detox. However, the liver is not just involved in hormone clearance. There are endogenous toxins (those being produced from chemical reactions taking place within our body) as well as exogenous toxins (the plethora of environmental toxins that we’re exposed to almost daily which include pharmaceuticals, dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) and other pesticides and parabens – there’s more on this in ‘How I Went Chemical Free – Part 2’).  The liver has to manage all of this and with exposure to excess toxins becoming more and more the norm, the load just becomes too much and can cause liver detox to become less efficient. Thus allowing still active forms of oestrogen back into circulation which can lead to hormone imbalance as well as disease. 

It should also be noted that it’s not just oestrogen. The liver plays a similar role in clearing excess testosterone, which is another common hormone imbalance we see in cases of PCOS or during times of stress. 

Signs that it could be your liver: 

If you want to do a quick assessment of your liver status, consider the below factors which can all contribute to less than ideal liver function: 

  • Dehydration caused by excess caffeine, excess alcohol or lack of water intake. 
  • Frequently drinking four or more glasses of alcohol in one sitting. 
  • The use of pharmaceuticals, pain killers or antibiotics. 
  • Inadequate consumption of vegetables e.g. less than five cups per day. 
  • Regular exposure to synthetic cleaning products. 
  • Regular exposure to nail polish, hair dyes and similar products. 
  • Heavy exposure to pesticides and herbicides. 

Using diet to support liver detox: 

The more of the above that applies to you, the more chance there is that your liver could be contributing to your hormone imbalance. The good news is that through diet we can very much support the various processes within the liver that help to detoxify the exogenous toxins and clearance of excess oestrogen. Especially phase II. Key recommendations include: 

  • Consuming an abundance of green cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, cabbage, broccoli sprouts and cauliflower. These are rich in sulfur containing compounds which support various pathways of liver detox. 
  • Consume an abundance of antioxidants on a daily basis as these further enhance the liver’s metabolism of oestrogen. Dark green leafy vegetables and berries are beautiful and natural options. In some cases, herbs and powders (I love broccoli sprout) may be needed for extra support. 
  • Ensure adequate amounts of magnesium form dark green leafy vegetables, organic cacao, nuts and seeds. Adequate amounts of omega-3 fish oils from salmon, trout and mackerel. Both nutrients are especially needed to support the process of phase II detox.  
  • Avoid excess alcohol intake and prioritise hydration, aiming for a minimum of 2L per day.

If you’ve been told to take pharmaceuticals to address hormone imbalance yet in reading this suspect that you potentially have some work to do on your liver, please make sure you do. Please get in touch with us for more tailored support and stay tuned for more to come later this month on natural liver support strategies.

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