Breast cysts and hypothyroid since adolescence. Estrogen dominance? Is it too late to improve things?
Goodness, this got long. My apologies.
I am 38 years old, no children. This journey began with what seems to be an impossible attempt to lose weight, and as I research and think, bits of pieces of my life are starting to ring in my head as possibly related. My primary questions are:
Is it possible to be estrogen dominant since puberty? Possible for early-age estrogen dominance to persist and result in life-long hypothyroid and other issues? If long term estrogen dominance is resolved, have there been any examples where hypothyroid is also resolved, even after a very long period of time? What about enduring, fibrous, breast cysts? Can they improve?
All the Background
25 years ago: I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism when I was 13 – doctors couldn’t find a cause and labeled it Hashimoto’s as a matter of the process of elimination. However, my thyroid function has not slowly declined over time, consistent with an autoimmune issue. I’ve been on a consistent dose of levothyroxine since we evened everything out over the year following my diagnosis.
I have also had ping-pong ball sized (and smaller), firm, enduring breast cysts (one side worse than the other) and cyclical pain since puberty, as well as intense, beastly, irrational PMS, and painful menstrual cramps. I have a family history of breast cancer onset at menopause, so the cysts have been “ultrasounded” and prodded, labeled as “developmental anomalies,” but nothing else as yet. They are painful and I’m dreading the start of mammograms in the near future.
My body shape is undeniably estrogen driven and always has been. I have a tendency to hold lots of fat around my upper thighs and buttocks and nowhere else. Even when I was very slim and very physically active, I never had any muscle definition in my legs, and I’ve had terrible cellulite since I was probably 16. I wear long pants or capris, even when it is 90+ degrees outside. No bathing suits. Ever.
I’ve struggled with oily, itchy, flaky scalp conditions, excessive hair fall, and cystic acne along the jawline since puberty.
These things are my Normal, and I have learned to manage them. My story isn’t near the horrors of some women’s stories I’ve read here, so I count my blessings.
Today: The immediate concern is my weight (everything else is Normal, remember?). Nothing I do seems to budge the scale in any direction but up. I started an intense workout program about 4 months ago - six days a week of a mixture of resistance, HIIT, yoga/pilates, and plyometrics. I did not exercise regularly in the previous 2-3 years, so I was pretty out of shape and thought it impossible to not see SOME results. Initially, I gained weight – muscle. My body has noticeably more muscle in it. I am stronger. Cardio is easier. I can do sets of push-ups on my toes for the first time in my life. But months later, I have yet to see the scale move OR to see a reduction in my waist, hip, and thigh measurements. I gained muscle, but I’m not losing fat.
I have shifted my diet from low calorie anti-inflammatory to strict low carb to “whatever-nothing-is-making-any-difference” back to strict low carb, because the bloating was so bad on the “whatever” diet. Sugar is a trigger for me. There is no moderation with sugar and carbs – it is all or nothing. If I start, I will binge every time, even if the last time was yesterday. Doesn't matter if it is a gummy bear, a slice of bread, or a piece of fruit.
In addition to my levothyroxine, I take Vitamins A (fish liver oil), D, K2, C, B-complex, Magnesium, Zinc, and a probiotic daily. I am rarely sick now – a huge shift in my health since I started this regimen. I have shifted all my personal care products to natural ones without parabens, etc, avoid food contact with plastics, but I probably still have a steady influx of xenoestrogens from other sources.
I am 5’2” and an impossibly stuck 131lb – not terrible, but I don’t feel good about myself. From the age of 16 to 30, I weighed 110lb, and I had saddlebags and cellulite even then. I care very much about my health, especially as I watch my parents’ health decline due to their choices. I don’t need to weigh 110lb, but I want to fit into my clothes again, and I feel like that isn’t too much to ask.
With the discovery of estrogen dominance and links to other symptoms, I am now also suddenly curious and optimistic that I may somehow be able to resolve or improve some of my other issues, too.
The Experiments: As I began to research causes for being so weight-loss resistant, I came across the concept of Estrogen Dominance, which has led me to many sources of information. I was nervous about toying directly with my hormones (progesterone), so I decided to try a few more “benign” things first.
Approach A: Studies have shown that consumption of flaxseed can help combat estrogen dominance and reduce risk for breast cancer, because the lignans help the body favor the 2-hydroxyestrone pathway over the 16alpha pathway. Flax also provides a weak phytoestrogen that can beat the more aggressive estrogens to receptor sites, and provides fiber to keep things moving in the bowel, so excess estrogen is flushed out versus reabsorbed. So I have been consuming about 1 ounce of flax daily for the last 8 weeks or so in the form of a flax muffin. The effects I have noticed are that a) my menstrual cycle has increased from 23 days to 26 days, and b) my cyclical acne is worse.
Approach B: Next thought is that perhaps I need a more potent means of flushing excess estrogen, so I am adding DIM and calcium-D-glucarate. Results TBD. Do I add these to the flax or discontinue the flax and try these supplements on their own?
Approach C: Perhaps I should acknowledge my age – I am 38 and probably anovulatory, which means I’m producing less progesterone and the ratio is getting even more off balance than perhaps it has been my entire life. Simply flushing excess estrogen might not be enough. Do I add progesterone now? Wait until I’ve completed Approach B or just throw them together? Stop the other approaches and try Progesterone alone?
I have not been tested for hormone levels, but I’m nervous about raising the issue with my physician, who will probably think this is all in my head, and that I am probably just overeating. I have a friend who sees a naturopath, and I’m considering going to see her.