The political movement “Black Lives Matter” has been trying to highlight the differences in the way Black people are treated by law enforcement. In my day to day work I see a different racial disparity, one of health. Concerns that are unique to Black people are not as well researched or treated. Nowhere is this more obvious to me than Black females and their hormonal health. Years of painful periods culminate in hysterectomies all too often. The underlying cause of hormonal imbalance is not well addressed and rarely named. Estrogen dominance is the problem and it affects Black women in record numbers unbeknownst to them.
Estrogen dominance is the excess burden of estrogen relative to progesterone and testosterone. Particularly, the most potent form of estrogen, estradiol. Black women experience the harmful effects of too much estrogen and not enough progesterone throughout their lifetime. Progesterone is the yin to estrogen’s yang. Progesterone balances estrogen.
Usually estrogen dominance begins as a heavy menstrual flow, with clots, breast tenderness, weight gain and mood disorders before the cycle begins each month. For many Black women this starts in their teens. Many women, of all races, are told that this is normal. And are advised to either take a pain killer or the birth control pill to control their symptoms. These medications only mask the true problem. Too much estrogen, relative to progesterone. And when using the birth control pill, a mix of estrogen and progesterone you further complicate the problem.
A study in 2013 found that African American women were significantly more likely to have periods that were so painful they had to take time off work. And bleeding so heavy that they were becoming anemic and needing to take iron. The study also found that Black women were less likely to receive medical care and more likely to search for information from friends and family.
Uterine fibroids, or leiomyomas in medical terms, are benign tumours of the muscular layer in the uterus. Black women are almost twice as likely as a White woman to develop fibroids. Estrogen as a hormone, encourages growth. Being in an estrogen dominant state encourages these leiomyomas to grow. They are not cancer, but localized growths that can cause heavy bleeding and push on other organs in pelvis. Uterine fibroids for Black women often start at a younger age than other racial groups and become so painful that they have to refrain from physical activity and intercourse. Black women have more hysterectomies (uterine removal surgeries) than any other racial group.
The reason for estrogen dominance are many. Xenoestrogens which are synthetic chemical estrogens are on the rise in our environment. Xenoestrogens are found in birth control pills and chemical additives like BPA and phthalates. These chemicals are used to soften plastics, in cosmetics, and in basically any fragranced household item from perfume to air fresheners. As chemical additives in our environment grow our detoxification systems – liver and bowels struggle to keep up. Black women as a group tend to have a higher body fat percentage than White counterparts. Fat tissue stores hormones. Which is why obesity puts a woman at risk for breast cancer. And Black women are at risk for more aggressive cancer types at a younger age.
Fix estrogen dominance by:
- Regularly helping your liver with herbs like milk thistle, turmeric, artichoke + ensuring you have enough fibre to have regular bowel movements
- Take an estrogen detox product like Estrosmart or Estroadapt (available at BN Natural Foods)
- Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to increase progesterone to balance estrogen properly