Women's Wellness: New Tools for More Challenging TimesMay 01, 2021 01:00PM ● By Diane Eaton
Martin Van Lear of Tree of Light Health
Within an increasingly toxic world and an increasingly stressful cultural environment, women’s health is being tested more than ever. But an emerging understanding of how stress, environmental toxins and hormones intertwine and affect each other is bringing new tools and helpful solutions to light.
Hormonal Balancing Act
It was not too long ago when most doctors were male, and most insisted that women’s menopausal symptoms were all in their heads. Fortunately, a more evolved and informed understanding of the powerful role that hormones play in women’s health has begun to emerge.
In his work as an integrative and functional medicine practitioner, Martin Van Lear, MSN, FNP-C, owner of Tree of Light Health Clinic in Decatur, sees a lot of patients suffering from symptoms related to hormonal imbalances.
“We are seeing an increase in estrogen dominance in just about everyone,” says Van Lear, referring to the condition of relatively high estrogen levels compared to the levels of progesterone and/or testosterone in the blood. Perimenopause, premenstrual syndrome, enlarged prostate glands, and early heart attacks all have estrogen dominance in common. The condition is widely acknowledged in functional medicine circles.
Too much estrogen can spawn symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, insomnia and mood swings and can increase the risk of cancer. As estrogen levels are brought into balance, women experience fewer of the extreme side effects of PMS, menopause and perimenopause—and often sleep better, too.
Almost all of Van Lear’s female patients over the age of 45 have some level of estrogen dominance, he says.
One of the strongest factors feeding hormonal dysregulation is the prevalence of toxins in the environment—and in our bodies. Test almost anyone’s blood, and you’ll find harmful toxins such as glyphosate, BPA, and other chemicals that mimic estrogen and inhibit the body’s ability to detoxify and remain hormonally balanced. And women aren’t the only ones that are affected: Many men struggle with sexual dysfunction, fatigue, weight gain and growth of breast tissue due to toxic overload in the body.
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What to Do
To mitigate the damage done by toxins, Van Lear encourages people to detox, not just for hormonal health but for general well-being. “Everyone should be detoxing a little bit every day,” he says. Lymphatic work, saunas, massage, gentle movement, coffee enemas, liver and gall bladder cleanses and intermittent fasting—if done correctly—are very helpful.
There’s help on the testing front, too. The Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones (DUTCH) test provides much more data about reproductive and adrenal hormone levels than traditional blood testing, especially as they relate to stress. “The DUTCH test has really given us a better view of what’s going on with hormones and what to do about them,” says Van Lear. The method tests for several things, including low hormone levels, estrogen dominance, adrenal fatigue, cortisol dysregulation, the need for antioxidants, and the effects of stress on hormones. While it’s well-known that hormones are affected by stress, its impact now can be measured by a test.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is another valuable tool to reestablish hormonal balance. But HRT got a bad rap in a 2002 study that reported participants’ risk of cancer increased as a result of the therapy. However, subsequent studies found that similar therapies done with bio-identical hormones (BHRT) did not result in increased cancer risk. Quite the contrary: there were many benefits. “Especially for women between the ages of 45 and 65, BHRT gives you anti-aging, cardiovascular, bone density and cancer risk reduction benefits and reduces the risk of chronic illness,” says Van Lear. (See more about BHRT in “Bioidentical Hormones For Long-term Health” on page _page#_.)
Certain supplements can also make a big difference. Van Lear recommends three compounds found in cruciferous vegetables that can help counter the effects of toxins and hormonal imbalance when taken in significant enough doses. The phytonutrient, DIM, its parent molecule, I3C, and calcium D-glucarate are available as nutritional supplements and can help metabolize estrogen, improve hormonal balance and reduce symptoms of estrogen dominance. It’s no coincidence that, according to WebMD, D-glucarate is also used to help prevent breast, prostate and colon cancers and to help remove cancer-causing toxins and steroid hormones from the body. ❧
Martin Van Lear's website: TreeOfLightHealth.com