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- Patients with chronic illness need support for hormone imbalances, such as estrogen dominance. Their drainage and detox functions need to be supported as well.
- Restoring health to the chronically ill inevitably requires that the interrelated dysfunctions in hormone balance and the body’s drainage/detox pathways be brought back to their natural and healthy activity.
- There is a connection between your hormones and your liver, bile ducts, and gallbladder.
- Estrogen, in particular, plays a significant role with the liver/bile duct and the gallbladder.
- Hormones are chemical messengers that dictate and regulate behavior.
- Several of our around 50 different hormones affect the gallbladder function including motilin, melatonin, thyroxine, and cholecystokinin.
- Long-term oral contraceptive use, pregnancy, and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can contribute to the formation of gallstones and hence, gallbladder problems.
- The hormones estrogen and progesterone can contribute to supersaturated, sticky, and stagnant bile.
- The liver uses the bile to help expel excess hormones like estrogen and its harmful metabolites.
- Adequate gallbladder function is needed to aid in the liver’s hormone disposal.
- People who have had their gallbladders surgically removed can suffer from an excess of estrogen buildup, leading to a condition called estrogen dominance.
- Liver detoxification through the Phase I and Phase II pathways is essential for estrogen clearance.
- When Phase I and Phase II detox pathways are disrupted or underperforming, excess hormones and chemical compounds remain and build up in the body.
- Estrogen dominance causes many adverse symptoms in both men and women.
- Estrogen stimulates the production of fat cells, yet fat cells can also make a small amount of estrogen, causing a vicious cycle.
- Stress plays a significant role in estrogen dominance in both sexes.
- Certain chemicals in our environment, called xenoestrogens, can act like hormonal estrogen and increase estrogen levels in your body.
- Regular exercise can aid estrogen clearance.
- Fortunately, there are ways to counter the effects of hormones in the body and on the liver/gallbladder/bile duct system.
- Certain foods and beverages should be avoided for optimal hormonal balance.
- There are numerous helpful interventions that affect hormone levels through supporting the liver/gallbladder/bile duct system.
Chronic Illness Support: Promoting Drainage Flow and Hormonal Balance
Everything has its price. Take gallbladder surgery, for instance. Mainstream medical practices treat our gallbladders like unnecessary and useless organs that we can comfortably live without. However, surgery that removes a painful gallbladder can lead to a host of other issues down the road that may need additional treatment and medications, including problems with hormones and hormonal balance.
Hormones affect bodily functions and body functions affect hormones, it’s a give and take. Patients with chronic illness need support on both sides. In particular, hormone imbalances, like estrogen dominance, and inadequate drainage and detox functions are common in chronic illness. Restoring health to the chronically ill inevitably requires that these interrelated dysfunctions be brought back to their natural and healthy activity.
You’ve probably never considered the connection between your hormones and your liver, bile ducts, and gallbladder. Those organs form an absolutely essential part of the body’s drainage and detox systems. Not surprisingly, many people develop hormonal imbalances after gallbladder removal. That’s because hormones are always involved with our cells, tissues, and organs in one way or another.
Firstly, Hormones Can Affect the Liver, Bile Duct, and Gallbladder
Since hormones are chemical messengers that dictate and regulate behavior, they’re vital to many bodily functions. Several of our around 50 different hormones affect the gallbladder, digestive, and drainage functions. Additionally, other hormones affect the gallbladder and digestion indirectly. Some primary ones and their effects are listed here.
A hormone found in the cells of the intestines, motilin is released in response to fat intake or acidity in the small intestine. Motilin initiates gallbladder contractions to provoke the organ to release bile.
In pregnancy, when hormonal changes are on overdrive, motilin levels are significantly reduced, particularly in the 2nd and 3rd trimester. It is suggested that this can contribute to a slow-moving GI tract (gastrointestinal hypomotility) which can lead to these common pregnancy issues:
- Gallbladder disease
This hormone is secreted in the absence of light to prepare the body for and initiate sleep. Melatonin also regulates sleep. Plus, it affects the circadian rhythm and the entire biological clock.
Melatonin affects the liver/gallbladder/bile duct by inhibiting gallstone formation, preventing cholesterol absorption and reducing cholesterol in the bile, and by increasing the conversion of cholesterol into bile salts.1
Studies even show that melatonin treatment can assist in the recovery of the neuromuscular function of the gallbladder wall in cases of acute gallbladder inflammation.2 Healthy neuromuscular function of the gallbladder wall enables more complete contraction and better emptying.
This is one of the thyroid hormones which helps to regulate metabolism. Low levels of thyroxine (or low thyroid function) correlate to poor gallbladder functioning and reduced bile flow, which can induce the formation of gallstones.3
The sphincter of Oddi is the muscular valve that surrounds the exit of the bile duct and pancreatic duct into the small bowel. This structure controls the release of bile into the small intestine. It also contains receptor sites for thyroid hormones. The sphincter relaxes in response to the thyroxine, allowing bile release into the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine).4
Free-flowing bile can inhibit gallstone formation. However, when thyroxine is lacking, as in hypothyroid problems, the sphincter of Oddi may remain contracted. Without an open sphincter and free-flowing bile, the bile can sit and stagnate. Then, common bile duct stones can form from the bile left sitting in the duct.
This hormone initiates pancreatic enzyme secretion and gallbladder contraction. After a meal containing fat, the body releases CCK to signal the gallbladder to release bile. CCK is typically used in testing protocols to diagnose low-functioning gallbladders. In this diagnostic process, the hormone is injected into the body to produce a gallbladder contraction and amount of bile secreted is measured to determine the degree of function.
Sex Hormones and Liver/Bile Duct/Gallbadder Drainage
It has been well-established that long-term oral contraceptive use, pregnancy, and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can contribute to the formation of gallstones and hence, gallbladder problems.5
An excess of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone can cause three different problems in the biliary (bile) system. They are:
- Supersaturated bile, which has a high level of cholesterol compared to bile salts
- Sticky bile, which is the tendency of the bile to become thick and clumpy
- Stagnant bile, which is bile sitting stagnant in the gallbladder due to under-functioning emptying mechanisms
Conversely, Liver, Bile Duct, and Gallbladder Drainage Can Affect Hormones
Just as hormones affect the digestive and drainage functions of the liver/bile duct/gallbladder system, that system can, in turn, affect hormones and hormonal balance. This relationship can also be a significant contributor to chronic illnesses.
It’s important to note that the liver uses the bile to help expel excess hormones like estrogen and its harmful metabolites. Without adequate gallbladder function to aid in the liver’s hormone disposal, people who have had their gallbladders surgically removed can suffer from an excess of estrogen buildup. Consequently, they may find themselves in an estrogen dominant hormonal imbalance a few months after the surgery.
Estrogen Dominance and Liver Detox
Liver detoxification is essential for estrogen clearance.6 Estrogen must first be converted into a water-soluble form to be removed from the body in sweat, urine, or feces. The Phase I and Phase II detox pathways in the liver convert estrogen into its excretable water-soluble form.
Phase I Pathway. During Phase I liver detox, a fat-soluble compound like estrogen or one of its metabolites enters the liver, and the actions of this pathway change its structure in preparation for removal from the body.
Phase II Pathway. During Phase II liver detox, molecules are added to the restructured compound that enable it to be eliminated from the body safely.
When Phase I and Phase II detox pathways are disrupted or underperforming, the excess hormones and chemical compounds remain in the body. Then, estrogen circulates back into the bloodstream in a more harmful form and becomes overabundant. This is estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance can be diagnosed through elevated levels of estrogen, an imbalanced progesterone/estrogen ratio in women, or an imbalanced testosterone/estrogen ratio in men.
Estrogen dominant women may experience:
- Thyroid disorders
- Decreased libido
- Irregular or abnormal menstrual periods
- Breast swelling and tenderness
- Breast lumps
- Uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts
- Hot flashes
- Brain fog
- Irritability and depression
- Thyroid nodules
- Weight and/or fat gain, especially around the abdomen and hips
- Sluggish metabolism
- Cancer, including breast, uterine, ovarian, and colon7
Even though estrogen is a well-known female hormone, men can also become estrogen dominant and experience some of the above symptoms, as well as these:
- Larger hip size
- Male breast enlargement
- Low testosterone levels
- Crying fits
- Prostate enlargement and prostate cancer
- Urination difficulty or increased frequency
- Erectile dysfunction
- Fat build-up and the redistribution of fat
- Reduced muscle development
- Thinning skin and body hair
- Veins becoming less prominent
- Sweat and body odor changes
Estrogen and Body Fat
Estrogen is fat-soluble and gets stored in body fat. When you drop weight, it’s important to make sure your body can break down and clear estrogen as the fat loss will release stored estrogen into the bloodstream, causing temporary estrogen dominance.
Interestingly, estrogen stimulates the production of fat cells. Fat cells also make a small amount of estrogen, however. This can cause a vicious cycle that’s hard to break.
Excess body fat is especially concerning for men with estrogen dominance. An enzyme stored in body fat, called aromatase, can turn the male hormone testosterone into estrogen. When there is excess body fat, there is more aromatase available to turn testosterone to estrogen, further exacerbating estrogen dominance.
Estrogen and Chronic Stress
Stress plays a significant role in estrogen dominance in both sexes. The adrenal glands are primary players in the body’s ability to handle stress. Chronic stress leads to prolonged and elevated cortisol release and taxes the liver’s ability to detoxify discarded excess estrogens.
The hormone progesterone is also depleted by chronic stress. When progesterone levels drop, they can no longer capably balance estrogen levels. The result is estrogen dominance.
If estrogen dominance is a problem, it’s important for you to try to enhance estrogen breakdown and limit your exposure as well. You may not be aware that certain chemicals that are readily found in our environment can act like hormonal estrogen and increase estrogen levels in your body.
Environmental xenoestrogens are endocrine system disruptors that have specific estrogen-like effects. These harmful toxins imitate estrogen and can dramatically increase estrogen dominance symptoms. They’re found in:
- Plastics, especially when exposed to heat or acid
- Nail polish & polish removers
- Detergents & fabric softeners
- Perfumes & fragrances
- Bleached feminine hygiene products
- Surfactants found in condoms & contraceptive gels
- Fumes from new carpet, certain flooring, & fiberboard
- Dry cleaning chemicals
- Noxious gases from copiers & printers
- All pesticides, herbicides, & fungicides
- Linings of food & beverage cans
Obviously, there are a lot of everyday items in this list, and eliminating all exposure is not realistic, but you can set a goal to reduce exposure and increase methods and protocols that breakdown and eliminate excess estrogen from the body.
Estrogen and Exercise
Regular exercise can aid estrogen clearance in several ways by:8
- Helping to balance blood sugar levels
- Assisting the adrenals’ ability to deal with stress
- Improving the body’s metabolism and storage of fats
Of course, other benefits of exercise are plentiful including reducing depression, weight loss, improved digestion, increased energy, and even lowering breast cancer risk.9
Breakdown and Elimination of Excess Hormones
Fortunately, there are ways to counter the effects of hormones on the liver/gallbladder/bile duct drainage and detox system. They include:
- Choosing non-hormonal means of contraception
- Using herbal remedies and supplements including adaptogens, nutraceuticals, and adrenal support protocols to manage the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause.
- Supporting the entire liver and biliary system by increasing drainage, thinning the bile, increasing bile flow, and detoxing the liver
All of these can make a significant difference in the liver and biliary system when excess hormones are causing problems. Avoid liver detox during pregnancy and nursing, though.
Changes in Your Diet Can Help Hormonal Balance
Certain foods should and beverages be avoided for optimal hormonal balance, including:
- Common allergens such as dairy, gluten, soy, and eggs
- Refined foods including sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and white flour
- Artificial trans fats (or trans fatty acids) found in margarine, fried foods, hydrogenated oils, and partially hydrogenated oils
- Vegetable and seed oils with high omega-6 fatty acid content
- Alcohol in excess
- Plant & dietary estrogens such as soy, flax seeds, and oats
- Other inflammatory foods
Foods to focus on include these:
- Organic foods with a focus on organic fresh fruits and vegetables
- Moderate amounts of wild-caught fish
- Small portions of complex carbohydrates such as rice or other whole grains
- Healthy organic oils such as pure olive oil, clean fish oils, and coconut oil
Other helpful interventions that affect hormone levels through supporting the liver/gallbladder/bile duct system include these:
- Don’t overeat. Overeating puts a heavy burden on your digestive system and can affect your overall health. Overeating, especially when the food consumed is high in fats, can trigger gallbladder attacks and their accompanying symptoms of indigestion, burping, gas, bloating, and pain, and possibly the need for surgical intervention.
- Support the body’s drainage system. A body under increased hormonal, physical, chemical, or emotional stress needs extra drainage support. Take products that help to thin and gently move the bile.
- Supplements and homeopathics can help to cleanse the liver, soften the bile, and promote liver, gallbladder, and bile duct drainage.
- TUDCA (tauroursodeoxycholic acid) is a water-soluble bile acid that can cleanse the liver, counteract the toxicity of regular bile, and aid in cellular protection.10
- Use a coffee enema. This therapy, recommended and detailed in my Ultimate Coffee Enema Program, is an exceptional method of purging bile and opening flow. Coffee contains caffeine and choleretics, which are substances that increase the volume and secretion of bile. During an enema, these substances stimulate the hemorrhoidal veins in the colon which connect directly to the hepatic (liver) portal vein system. Through this direct connection, the liver is actuated as well. The result is an increase in bile volume, secretion, and flow.
- Apply castor oil packs over the abdomen.
In summary, hormone balancing is tricky and if you wish to follow a natural treatment protocol, it is vital to have adequate function and drainage in the liver/gallbladder/bile duct system. Regardless of which hormones are off balance within you, take into consideration how your symptoms can be helped by eating foods and taking products that help to thin and gently move the bile. Protocols that reduce inflammation are also helpful.
The key could be working with drainage and addressing the role that estrogen plays with the liver, the bile duct, and the gallbladder. If it all seems a bit overwhelming, my At-Home Program for chronic illness can supply the what, when, why, and how to address your chronic illness. If you’d like personalized guidance and customized protocols, the doctors in my One-On-One Coaching Program can provide up-to-date, thoroughly researched, and proven protocols to put you on the path toward restored and vital health and well-being.
- Njeze, Gabriel E. “Gallstones.” Nigerian journal of surgery: official publication of the Nigerian Surgical Research Society, vol. 19, no. 2, Jul-Dec 2013. Web
- Gomez-Pinilla, PJ et al. “Effects of Melatonin on Gallbladder Neuromuscular Function in Acute Cholecystitis.”J Pharmacol Exp Ther, vol 323, no. 1, Oct 2007. Web
- Völzke, Henry et al. “Association Between Thyroid Function and Gallstone Disease.” World journal of gastroenterology, vol. 11, no. 35, 21 Sept 2005. Web
- Laukkarinen, J et al. “Mechanism of the Prorelaxing Effect of Thyroxine on the Sphincter of Oddi.” Scand J Gastroenterol, vol. 37, no. 6, Jun 2002. Web
- Singletary, BK et al. “Estrogen and Progesterone Receptors in Human Gallbladder.” Hepatology, vol. 6, no. 4, Jul-Aug 1986. Web
- Genes, SE, “Role of the Liver in Hormone Metabolism and in the Regulation of Their Content in the Blood.” Arkh Patol, vol. 30, no.6, 1977. Web
- Cleary, MP and Grossmann, ME. “Obesity and Breast Cancer: The Estrogen Connection.” Endocrinology, vol. 150, no.6, Jun 2009. Web
- Ennour-Idrissi, Kaoutar, et al. “Effect of Physical Activity on Sex Hormones in Women: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Breast cancer research: BCR, vol. 17, no. 1, 5 Nov. 2015. Web
- Eliassen, A Heather, et al. “Physical Activity and Risk of Breast Cancer Among Postmenopausal Women.” Archives of internal medicine, vol. 170, no. 19, 25 Oct 2010. Web
- Vang, S et al. “The Unexpected Uses of Urso- and Tauroursodeoxycholic Acid in the Treatment of Non-liver Diseases.” Global Advances in Health and Medicine, Vol. 3, No. 3, May 2014. Web