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Health Care News & Updates          

September 14, 2010

Estrogen, Anxiety and Cancer

I went to a seminar last weekend called the "pink ribbon" something-or-other. It was put on by a reputable company and much of the information shared was gleaned from the recent Institute of Functional Medicine conference - highly reputable. The main focus, as you might guess, was breast and other estrogen-related cancers. The main points brought out were that insulin is a big contributor to tumor growth (oh, so that's why pancreatic cancer is so deadly?! -pancreas being the place insulin is made); the more exposure one has to estrogen, the greater chance they have of ending up with one of these e-related cancers; and an emphasis on the importance of good detoxification as well as keeping inflammation levels down. Each of these points is worthy of a long article in itself - perhaps I'll do that down the road.
But my focus here is the connection between estrogen overload and anxiety - which I didn't understand until last weekend. It seems that some folks have a genetic defect in their processing of certain substances which can lead to a build up of what are called "catechol estrogens". Catecholamines, of which catechol estrogens are a subset, when in excess can cause symptoms such as anxiety, jitteriness, even addictions and obsessive compulsive disorder. These catechol estrogens also have stronger estrogenic effects than other estrogens, so they're correlated with increased cancer risk. There is a simple urine test called "Estronex" from Metametrix which will measure your ratios of "good" to "bad" estrogens. This gives you a good idea of your estrogen-sensitive cancer risk.
Methylation is the key. The defect mentioned above is in the liver's ability to detoxify subtances such as these catechol estrogens via methylation. Methylation essentially means adding a methyl group to a substance. How do you increase methylation? Add methyl "donors" to your diet such as vitamins B12, B6, folate (when using supplements, all should be in the "methyl" form, as in methylcobalamin for your b12, not cyanocobalamin - food sources include broccoli, cabbage, eggs, milk, brown rice and soy). Even in folks without the defect in processing, an increased sensitivity to caffeine probably indicates a need for more methylation. Easy fix!
Of course, you still need to pay attention to your insulin, toxin and inflammation levels, but by getting your methylation work in order, you'll be decreasing your risk for cancer while you increase your ability to eat that yummy, good-for-you dark chocolate without getting the jitters!

Susan Barendregt, MNT

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