The Body Ecology Diet (BED) Column
......with Donna Gates
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Thursday, May 10th, 2012:
PMS and Candida Overgrowth: The Dangers of Estrogen Dominance
Each year, millions of women seek out help for hormonal issues that are commonly identified as PMS (premenstrual syndrome).
PMS can present itself in variety of ways, ranging from emotional symptoms like depression to physical symptoms like fatigue and bloating.
Once PMS or another hormonal imbalance is diagnosed, most physicians will prescribe some kind of hormone replacement therapy or an oral contraceptive, also known as birth control or “the pill.” This is done in order to regulate hormonal rhythms. Typically, birth control only alleviates the physical symptoms of PMS.
Much of conventional therapy focuses on treating the symptoms of PMS. This is only partially effective - if effective at all.
NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspirin or ibuprofen are widely available, and they are a frequent go-to for pain relief.
If the emotional symptoms related to PMS are severe enough, a woman may be placed on an anti-depressant.
Candida and Your Hormones
For those who suffer from PMS, it is important to understand that research shows estrogen supports the growth of Candida. (1)(2)
Research also shows that a common cause of Candida overgrowth is the use of oral contraceptives. (3)(4)(5)
Once Candida becomes a full-blown fungal infection, things have a tendency to spiral out of control.
The nature of candidiasis is a vicious cycle. For example, Candida can overwhelm the tissue in the digestive tract and generate inflammation, which will further the growth and spread of yeast.
Candida also produces a waste product that, in the human body, mimics estrogen. (6)
This means that a Candida infection will send out a chemical message that your body is producing more estrogen than it really is.
The affect of Candida overgrowth on a woman’s hormonal system is rarely acknowledged.
This is especially true when it comes to managing a diagnosis of PMS or any other time in a woman’s life when hormones are fluctuating to the point of estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance occurs when there is an unhealthy imbalance of hormones. In other words, the scales are tipped in estrogen’s favor. While a woman’s body needs estrogen, more is not necessarily better. When it comes to hormones, balance is key.
Estrogen dominance can occur at any time in a woman’s life. Besides symptoms related to PMS, other signs of estrogen dominance include:
- Breast swelling, breast tenderness, and fibrocystic breast disease
- Some forms of breast cancer
- Ovarian cysts
- Migraines and headaches
- Heavy and irregular bleeding during menstruation
- Hair loss
What leads to estrogen dominance? Candida overgrowth, outside sources of estrogen such as soy, an overworked liver, hormone replacement therapy, and the most common forms of birth control all contribute to estrogen dominance.
A healthy liver is essential for many reasons. When it comes to maintaining the right balance of hormones in the body, the liver is a workhorse. When properly cared for, the liver will diligently remove excess estrogen and toxins from the body.
Unfortunately, most forms of conventional therapy poorly manage PMS, which is often a sign of a deeper disorder. These therapies, such as birth control, pain management, and pharmaceutical antidepressants, only address the symptoms.
Because the body is a unified whole, when you affect one system, you also affect the rest of the body. For example, it is important to remember that:
- Estrogen can support the unregulated growth of Candida. And Candida overgrowth encourages estrogen dominance. Estrogen is a hormone and plays an important role in the endocrine system. Candida is a yeast that is naturally a part of our inner ecology. While these two systems seem separate in the body, the most current research tells us otherwise.
- Antidepressants can affect healthy gut function. This is specifically true of antidepressants that influence the neurotransmitter serotonin. In this case, the nervous system and the digestive system have a strong connection. In fact, we now know that the brain is not the only place neurotransmitters are made - the gastrointestinal tract makes them too!
- NSAIDs can damage several areas of the gastrointestinal tract. The most common adverse reaction associated with pain relief medications like aspirin and ibuprofen happens in the gut. Typically, NSAIDs damage the mucosal lining in the stomach and the small intestine.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates that at least 85% of menstruating women have at least one PMS symptom each month. (7)
While there are several drug therapies on the market to meet this demand, none of these conventional therapies target the root cause of PMS symptoms. And, in the case of Candida overgrowth, hormone therapy often makes matters worse.
If you think Candida may play a role in your symptoms of PMS, consider:
- Including fermented foods in your diet. Make your own fermented foods at home with the Body Ecology Veggie Culture Starter. The good bacteria found in fermented foods helps to control Candida yeast overgrowth.
- Adding fermented beverages into your diet. You can make your own fermented drinks at home with the Body Ecology Kefir Starter or drink probiotic beverages.
- Limiting consumption of sugar. Sugar feeds yeast, weakens the immune system, and blocks hormone receptors.
- Following the Body Ecology Principle of 80/20. If you eat all the right foods but overeat or eat too many starchy foods, this can contribute to the overgrowth of Candida. The Principle of 80/20 coaches us on how to properly combine foods for optimal digestion.
- Taking a high-quality fish oil. The omega-3s in a high-quality fish oil have been found to alleviate inflammation (linked to symptoms like pain and acne) and signs of emotional distress, like depression or anxiety. (8)(9)
- A gentle liver cleanse. Among other things, the liver helps to detoxify the body of excess estrogen. Make sure that your liver is healthy with an occasional liver cleanse or by incorporating liver-friendly botanicals into your daily routine, like those found in LivAmend.
What to Remember Most About This Article:
Most conventional treatments for PMS only focus on alleviating the physical symptoms. If you regularly suffer from PMS, it’s important to understand that estrogen levels can support the growth of Candida, which can also be triggered by oral contraceptives used to treat PMS. Left untreated, Candida overgrowth can lead to estrogen dominance, causing an imbalance of hormones in the body.
To beat Candida and control PMS, try the following tips today:
- Eat more fermented foods in your diet to replenish your digestive system with friendly bacteria.
- Drink more fermented beverages and probiotic drinks.
- Limit the amount of sugar you eat since sugar feeds yeast.
- Follow the Body Ecology Principle of 80/20 to properly combine foods and promote balanced digestion.
- Take a high-quality fish oil rich in omega-3s to relieve inflammation.
- Try a gentle liver cleanse to flush the body of excess estrogen.
- X Zhang, et al. Estrogen effects on Candida albicans: a potential virulence-regulating mechanism. J Infect Dis. 2000 Apr; 181 (4):1441 – 1446. Epub 2000 Apr 13.
- S White, et al. Candida albicans morphogenesis is influenced by estrogen. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. 1997; 53 (9): 744-749.
- GG Donders, et al. Management of recurrent vulvo-vaginal candidosis as a chronic illness. Gynecol Obstet Invest. 2010; 70 (4): 306 – 321. Epub 2010 Oct 16.
- YM Zakout, et al. Frequency of Candida species in Papanicolaou smears taken from Sudanese oral hormonal contraceptives users. Biotech Histochem. 2012 Feb; 87 (2): 95 – 97. Epub 2011 Jan 14.
- MI Brusca, et al. The impact of oral contraceptives on women's periodontal health and the subgingival occurrence of aggressive periodontopathogens and Candida species. J Periodontol. 2010 Jul; 81 (7): 1010 – 1018.
- X Zhao, et al. Oestrogen-binding protein in Candida albicans: antibody development and cellular localization by electron immunocytochemistry. Microbiology. 1995; 141: 2685 – 2692.
- LM Dickerson, et al. Premenstrual Syndrome. Am Fam Physician. 2003 April; 67 (8): 1743 – 1752.
- MG Rubin, et al. Acne vulgaris, mental health and omega-3 fatty acids: a report of cases. Lipids Health Dis. 2008 Oct; 13 (7):36.
- MD Lewis. Suicide deaths of active-duty US military and ω-3 fatty-acid status: a case-control comparison. J Clin Psychiatry. 2011 Dec; 72 (12): 1585 – 1590. Epub 2011 Aug 23.
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