Breast cysts and hypothyroid since adolescence. Estrogen dominance? Is it too late to improve things?

by Elisa

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.

Comments for Breast cysts and hypothyroid since adolescence. Estrogen dominance? Is it too late to improve things?

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Oct 22, 2016
Breast cysts and hypothyroid since adolescence. Estrogen dominance? Is it too late to improve things?
by: Joy

Hi Elisa

No it's never too late!

The moment we are born Estrogen Dominance sets in and affects us because of our Environment. The more drugs one takes, the more it affects us, HRT and Contraceptives are particularly bad. They both have a potential to cause harm. Once progesterone has become the dominant hormone, most of our modern day illness start to clear.

What is your Vitamin D3 level? A deficiency not only reduces the benefits of progesterone, but it is so important for every single functioning cell in bodies and certainly the thyroid. The amino acid Tyrosine is also know to help with thyroid problems as is iodine. I used be be plagued with painful breast cysts and ovarian cysts until progesterone became the dominant hormone, they are caused from excess estrogen. Strange how our medical professionals can't work that out, preferring to push drugs and surgical procedures! Unless cancer related none of these are necessary.

It sounds to me as though you could possibly have PCOS and Insulin Resistance have you been tested for both? Also your testosterone levels could possibly to be too high. Exercise helps to keep us fit and is necessary, but it is our diet that affects our weight more than anything, so too does unbalanced hormones and thyroid issues. So you can exercise all you want, it will not have an affect on your weight. 'Binging' and cravings is also an estrogen dominance thing. Sugar is toxic and should be avoided. Even Fruit juices, or excessive amounts of vegetable juice, will strongly imbalance your metabolic type and lead to weight gain, food cravings, blood sugar fluctuations, energy disruptions, and a desire for more sugar. Please consider the Ketogenic Diet - high fat, medium protein and low carbs. I understand that you tried the low carb diet, but how much fat where you eating and did you stop carbs especially sugar?

As long as it is Vitamin D3 that you are taking and NOT D2, that is great, many pharmacies and doctors prescribe D2. How much are you taking each day? Nothing less than 5 000iu's per day is needed, more if you are deficient. Please read the page on Magnesium, it's important that it is used correctly. I do not agree with fish liver oil at all, it is loaded with vitamin A and can become toxic, causes hair loss too. Omega 3 fish oil is what should be taken. Liver of any kind has a high vitamin A content and we are actually getting enough from our food anyway.

I am not in favour of excessive amounts of flaxseed either as it is estrogenic, it could be part of your problem. Then you are eating it in a muffin, well that is not good at all. Please address your diet as suggested.

At 38 your are now in Peri-Menopause and can also affect weight if hormones are not balanced. Many have found that calcium-D-glucarate helps with excess estrogen as well as progesterone therapy. If you are going to try progesterone it is vital that it is used correctly otherwise it will not work.

Please read the following pages and the references:

Vitamin A
How to use Progesterone Cream
Estrogen Dominance
Insulin Resistance
Hair Loss
Progesterone Cream
Vitamin D3

Oct 22, 2016
Breast cysts and hypothyroid since adolescence. Estrogen dominance? Is it too late to improve things? 
by: Elisa

Hello, Joy.
Thank you so much for your thoughtful response.  I am taking 2000 IU of Vitamin D3 daily - definitely less than what you recommend, but more than double what my doctor suggests (800-1000 IU).  She and I have not discussed PCOS, and she has never mentioned feeling anything abnormal in her examinations, but I suppose there are reasons that might be the case. She tends to downplay my other symptoms and prescribes things here and there to help mask them - usually supplements, sometimes drugs. I don't mention them much anymore, since they are such a "normal" part of my life. We have not discussed hormones, and her last suggestion about my weight was to watch my portions. In case anyone may think I overeat, let me just say I average 1500 calories per day, and exercise 6 days per week.

My low carb diet is definitely what you would consider ketogenic. No grains, no sugar, no fruit. The flax "muffin" is just flax, baking powder, eggs, oil, and water, so phytoestrogens aside, the macronutrients are quite friendly to a ketogenic diet - about 1g carbohydrate per serving, lots of fiber, fat, and protein. I call it a muffin, because that is the shape I make them in. :) I only started eating them about 8 weeks ago, so while they may not be helping, they aren't the cause.

Overall I keep carbs as low as possible, generally under 30g daily, so my diet is naturally quite high in fat. I find it to be the only way to manage my sugar cravings, and it has been my primary mode of eating for several years. When I started my current workout program, I found I struggled for energy to complete them and shifted to a Mediterranean type diet with more carbs, which noticeably helped my performance, but not my weight. I'm back on the keto diet, but the scale hasn't budged the way it has in the past, and I suspect as you say that perimenopause may have more than something to do with it.

I used the Nuvaring until about 3 years ago. I initially thought it contributed a bit to some weight gain, but ironically, it wasn't until I stopped using it that the extra weight really packed on. I always thought it was just genetic - the same thing happened to my mother and her sisters at this age. At this point, I believe I am willing to experiment with progesterone, although I am nervous about making the estrogen dominance symptoms worse.

Thank you so much for the references. I am a little confused by your objection to Vitamin A though. The author of the article you cite appears to be a proponent of it and recommends cod liver oil. Here is another article from her site about Vitamin A toxicity and another more technically comprehensive examination of all the sides of the debate and the studies that accompany it.

The conclusion is not unlike the progesterone argument here: Natural Vitamin A not synthetic. From animal sources (a.k.a. bioidentical). Critically, it must be balanced with other nutrients with which it interacts: Vitamin D, E, K2.

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