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Do you have dirty hormones?

Dirty hormones are hormone metabolites that build up in your system, which can activate the genetics for disease. Want to know what your toxic load is? Take the quiz

It's important to understand that dirty hormones are more about hormone metabolism than hormone levels
It's important to understand that dirty hormones are more about hormone metabolism than hormone levels (Pexels/Marta Branco )

Dirty hormones, a term I’ve coined, need to be explained because, if you don’t clean them up, it’s like you’re washing your laundry in dirty water, over and over.

Dirty hormones are the hormone metabolites and hormone by-products that build up in your system as a result of your lifestyle and your genetics, and they cause more harm than good. I discussed them in Chapter 3; they include estrone, 17-hydroxyprogesterone, DHT, derivatives of insulin like fructosamine and high C-peptide, and androstenedione.

Also read: How ageing impacts the gut microbiome and causes inflammaging

If you’re feeling off—with symptoms like bloating, breast tenderness, weird rashes, hair loss, and/or acne—chances are high that you have dirty hormones. Often, when these metabolites accumulate, liver toxicity and weight gain are the results. A buildup of dirty hormones activates the genetics for disease. An accumulation of estrogen metabolites, for example, could lead to things like fibroids, breast cancer, endometrial cancer, endometrial hyperplasia, and endometriosis. Further, the metabolites of testosterone or progesterone can act as androgens, making hair loss and acne worse.

In fact, I think impaired liver function is partly responsible for increasing cases of precocious puberty, declining fertility, and crossover symptoms such as hair loss, deep voice, and facial hair in women, or gynecomastia and other more estrogen-like traits in men.

The most important thing to understand about dirty hormones is that they’re more about hormone metabolism than about hormone levels. Unfortunately, many doctors get fixated on hormone levels. Let’s say you go to your doctor and describe your symptoms, and you’re given hormone replacement in the form of estrogen and testosterone. Your hormone levels will correct, and you’ll feel like yourself again—but that strategy is treating only the symptoms. It’s not looking under the hood and saying, “Okay, your estrogen and testosterone levels are much better, but what is your body doing with them? Are they getting broken down? If so, are they being eliminated?”

That’s why one of the first things I check in all my patients is their hormone metabolites, such as estrone, because most Western doctors don’t look for them. This has been an incredibly wonderful and reliable marker for assessments and has helped countless women see where their hormonal imbalances are so they can finally be fixed. Fortunately, once you start addressing your liver’s needs and strengthening your gut function (as you’ll see in the section on liver detox, pages 258–259), you can clean up your dirty hormones, too. 

Also read: Simple wellness strategies to manage perimenopause at the workplace

The book offers advice to tackle our ever-changing hormone cycles through every decade of our lives.
The book offers advice to tackle our ever-changing hormone cycles through every decade of our lives.

Quiz: What’s Your Toxic Load?
The following quiz will help you understand your own personal toxic load. Take a moment to read these statements, which will help you zoom in on the toxins you are being exposed to. For each item, circle the appropriate response and keep a total of your points.

1. I/We eat out more than two times weekly.

Never (+1) Sometimes (+3) Always (+5)

2. I/We buy non-organic produce.

Never (+1) Sometimes (+3) Always (+5)

3. I/We buy non-organic meat and/or dairy products.

Never (+1) Sometimes (+3) Always (+5)

4. I/We use conventional household cleaners weekly.

Never (+1) Sometimes (+3) Always (+5)

5. I/We use standard dry cleaning weekly.

Never (+1) Sometimes (+3) Always (+5)

6. I/We use standard insecticides in our home and/or at work.

Never (+1) Sometimes (+3) Always (+5)

7. I/We use plastic products to pack lunch or leftovers.

Never (+1) Sometimes (+3) Always (+5)

8. I/We grill foods more than once a week.

Never (+1) Sometimes (+3) Always (+5)

9. I/We cook with conventional nonstick cookware.

Never (+1) Sometimes (+3) Always (+5)

10. I/We use standard bath and/or beauty products.

Never (+1) Sometimes (+3) Always (+5)

11. I/We eat cured meats and/or processed cheese.

Never (+1) Sometimes (+3) Always (+5)

12. I/We drink alcohol more than three times weekly.

Never (+1) Sometimes (+3) Always (+5)

13. I have mercury amalgams (fillings).

Never (+1) Sometimes (+3) Always (+5)

14. I watch a plasma TV, or use a cellphone or cordless phone daily.

Never (+1) Sometimes (+3) Always (+5)

15. I have more than three to four alcoholic drinks weekly.

Never (+1) Sometimes (+3) Always (+5)

Here’s an explanation of your results:

0–31: Low toxicity risk. Your toxicity score is low! That’s great—keep it up!

32–50: Medium toxicity risk. You have medium risk factors with toxicity. It’s time for a tune-up.

51–70: High toxicity score. With a high score, it’s time to follow the advice in this chapter as soon as possible.

Excerpted with permission from The Hormone Shift: A Decade by Decade Guide, by Dr. Tasneem Bhatia, published by Harper Collins India, 352 pages, Rs.409.

Also read: How young girls in rural Bihar are taking charge of their menstrual health

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