PDA

View Full Version : Fish oil and hormonal balance for women


Margie Lempert
05-01-2008, 07:06 PM
Hey all,
Forgive this rather personal post, but I'm hoping the knowledgeable folks on these boards will have insight beyond my regular doc.

I have had a long standing battle with my estrogen: it doesn't like me and won't stick around in my body. Basically, I have hypothalamic amenorrhea.
I've gone through all sort of tests, tried hormone replacement and all that business, to no avail. I supposedly see one of the best endocrinologists around, but she still hasn't figured out what's going on - though she thinks it's exercise induced. I've cleaned up my eating pretty well (paleo, grassfed meats, some IF) and I believe I take in enough fat and protein, so I don't think it's about nutrition - though that may have been the catalyst. But it's been many years that I've been trying to correct the problem.

i know that fish oil can help to balance hormone levels, so I am wondering if anyone has thoughts on the following:
EPA to DHA ratio
CLO vs fish oil
fish oils that are 3, 6, 9 balanced (Nordic Naturals makes one).

I'm reading Protein Power Lifeplan now, which is giving me some new ideas about what might be going on.

Anyway, if anyone has any thoughts, I'm all ears. Thanks

Garrett Smith
05-02-2008, 06:31 AM
I'm curious, what about your exercise plan has your MD thinking it is part of the problem?

How much fat and protein, and from what sources in general?

I prioritize CLO over fish oil.
2000iu/day of Vitamin D from CLO, rain or shine.
If you want to add fish oil on top of that, then get up to 2400mg of total EPA+DHA per day.
I personally take 300mg GLA per day from borage oil, that may help as well.
Make sure you are getting plenty of zinc and magnesium.

What do you do for a living or recreation where you might be exposed to toxic stuff? In the past or present?

Margie Lempert
05-02-2008, 07:32 AM
I crossfit 5 days a week and usually 1 or 2 days have an extended work/skill building component. I'm certainly not exercising as much as an elite athlete, so I personally don't think that's the issue. But my doc's argument is that some people's bodies are more sensitive than others. She also feels I have PCOS "tendencies" - whatever that means. I've been amenorrheaic (sp?) for 5 or 6 years.

I am 5'1", weigh around 122-125 (smallest I've been and recently down to this from 136 about 6/7 months ago where i'd been stuck for a while, then started dialing in the paleo. Was about 155/160 5 years ago.), medium boned, fairly muscular, but definitely still have flesh on me.

My intake varies from day to day, of course, and month to month, but an overall average might be something like 55-70 grams of fat and 75-100 grams of protein. Fats include: avocado, olive oil, ground flax or oil, hemp seed butter, coconut oil on occasion, various nuts and seeds. I eat all varieties of fish/meat/poultry and am pretty OCD about them being properly raised, ie grassfed, wild or at least organic. Lots and lots and lots of veggies. (I turn orange easily, so I had to cut out orange foods.)

I added in 1.5 tspns Natural Calm maybe 4/wk about a month ago. No zinc.

In terms of environmental toxins - I work in an office in Soho in NYC, live in Brooklyn. That's been true for the last 9 years. I know when this started, and I can elaborate if you have the time/interest.

Someone advised me that it might be helpful to have a greater EPA to DHA ratio. Also, do you think it's better to take borage or primrose oil separately as opposed to in Nordic Natural 3,6,9 formula?

Thank you so very much for your help Dr. G. I appreciate your feedback!!

Garrett Smith
05-02-2008, 03:37 PM
Iodine deficiency is one of the first places I'd look. From http://www.optimox.com/pics/Iodine/IOD-10/IOD_10.htm:

Iodine deficiency may cause the ovaries to develop cysts , nodules and scar tissue. At its worse this ovarian pathology is very similar to that of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). As of the writing of this article I have five PCOS patients. The patients have successfully been brought under control with the use of 50 mg of iodine per day. Control with these patients meaning cysts are gone, periods every 28 days and type 2 diabetes mellitus under control.

If you'd like to do an iodine test, simply PM me. I do the test that Optimox (the website above) recommends.

Note--putting oneself on 50mg of daily iodine without proper medical supervision is NOT a good idea.

Tom Rawls
05-03-2008, 09:28 AM
I crossfit 5 days a week and usually 1 or 2 days have an extended work/skill building component. I'm certainly not exercising as much as an elite athlete, so I personally don't think that's the issue. But my doc's argument is that some people's bodies are more sensitive than others. She also feels I have PCOS "tendencies" - whatever that means. I've been amenorrheaic (sp?) for 5 or 6 years.




5 days of intense exercise a week is a lot, plus one or two more sessions suggests to me you could be overdoing it.

Your doctor apparently thinks so. If you truly are "overtrained," which will screw up a body physically, you need to cut back. You might consider following your doc's recommendation and see how it works.

Why are you so determined not to reduce your training?

Garrett Smith
05-03-2008, 05:45 PM
An attempt to fix the above broken link (http://www.optimox.com/pics/Iodine/IOD-10/IOD_10.htm).
:)

Garrett Smith
05-03-2008, 05:48 PM
Margie,
I'm also dealing with several CF-type exercisers who are dealing with adrenal deficiency/hypofunction. If you take a week off, get proper sleep, reduce coffee/stimulant use, and do things to reduce your stress--and this combo makes you feel significantly better, that's a good sign of this.

Also, having a lot of trouble getting out of bed in the morning and/or having trouble falling asleep at night are indicators of a dysfunctional cortisol rhythm. It can be fixed, with proper work.

Margie Lempert
05-03-2008, 05:48 PM
Tom - Hmmm. Interesting. I guess 5 times a week doesn't feel like an excessive amount considering the community I'm working out with, ie CrossFitters. (The one or two more sessions are just extended skill work, not necessarily a lot of intensity.) When I look around at my companions, I don't feel out of place with my volume of work. But maybe that's not the best way to assess things.

I workout because I love it, it makes me feel happy, I feel strongly connected to my community, and it gives me a different sense of self-worth than I've experienced before. It's like any other hobby.

Anyway, good to get another perspective - thanks.

Tom Rawls
05-03-2008, 08:31 PM
Margie--

I'm familiar w/ X-fit. Training five sessions a week is not uncommon frequency. The issue is intensity.

Do you follow the x-fit recommendation of regularly doing a week at reduced intensity? (What is the protocol--one easy week/month?) Do you take a month or two off a year and just do some moderate exercise? Every sensible athlete relaxes and recovers. X-fit often seems to expect people to go for a PR every day. You won't find an elite athlete anywhere on the planet who trains that way.

The elite athletes with whom I am familiar, those doing 2/day workouts, for example, do intense workouts maybe 2x or 3x a week. Their workouts may be long, but they are not pushing themselves to the brink daily. And they consume enormous amounts of food to fuel them, including adequate carbs to keep their glycogen stores up.

Good luck.

Margie Lempert
05-04-2008, 04:44 PM
I just took a week off actually. I'm trying to do that every 2 or 3 months. And, sure, I come back feeling stronger and well rested.

I have very little caffeine in my diet. I just can't handle more than maybe 1 coffee a week and 1 or 2 black teas a week. I don't have much trouble falling asleep, and I wake up with the sun quite easily. Sometimes I have trouble staying asleep.

Tom - you're right that xfitters can be excessive in their intensity. I'd say my level of intensity varies a fair amount: 2 or 3 metcon type workouts/week (some very short and others long) balanced by 2 or 3 o-lifting/strength days. Some weeks are more intense than others. (We don't necessarily follow the main site at my affiliate.) I do tend to always push hard with the metcons, but I also honor those days when I'm beat and just have to work at less than full capacity.

The thing is: all this started long before I got into crossfit. I was exercising regularly, but not at all to the same capacity. I was, however, underfeeding myself for a while and am convinced that that was the trigger. What confuses me is why I'm still out of whack years later.

Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts and time on this, particularly since it's an idiosyncratic issue. Does make me want to learn a lot more about women athletes and nutrition....

Mike ODonnell
05-04-2008, 05:28 PM
Basically, I have hypothalamic amenorrhea.
I've gone through all sort of tests, tried hormone replacement and all that business, to no avail. I supposedly see one of the best endocrinologists around, but she still hasn't figured out what's going on - though she thinks it's exercise induced.

So basically (and I am no Dr) from what I can find out about....

Patients suffering for hypothalamic amenorrhea showed an increased activation of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, as shown by the higher basal levels and by augmented adrenal hormone response to corticotropin-releasing factor administration. These data suggest a possible derangement of adrenal androgen enzymatic pathway.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6T8X-4447KN2-5&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=e5a1b8e6676fbde5643ab072e6361620

and also from this http://209.85.165.104/search?q=cache:ErkY69Jk-iwJ:www.schwarzbeinprinciple.com/pgs/newsletters/SP_Newsletter_InfDig_Part2.pdf+low+calories+cortis ol+damage&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=3&gl=us&client=firefox-a


The problem is that your body cannot sustain high cortisol levels forever. At one point, the adrenal glands get “burned out” from having
to secrete high levels of cortisol over and over again. As you go through the phases of adrenal gland burnout – high levels down to very low levels – there are warning symptoms you can notice and address before it is too late. As stated previously you feel really good in the early stages when cortisol levels are higher. As you enter the adrenal gland burnout stage and cortisol levels drop, you can get allergies, headaches, intestinal bloating, achy muscles and joints, sleep disturbances and high cholesterol levels. If you don’t recognize these signs or why they occur, you can end up with even lower levels of cortisol causing asthma, migraines, irritable bowel, arthritis, hypoglycemia and an inability to sleep. Further progression of
adrenal gland burnout leads to autoimmune disorders, weight issues, extreme fatigue, depression and worse yet you can end up with
a degenerative disease of aging.
>>
Besides inflammation some other causes of high cortisol include:
1 Skipping meals, low calorie intake, and/or
high protein intake
2 Not enough sleep
3 Emotional stress, being too busy, pain
and/or trauma
4 Too much caffeine and/or alcohol
5 Overexercising and/or cardiovascular
exercises
6 Low estrogen conditions such as menopause
and malnutrition
7 High progestogen states from birth control
pills (BCP), pregnancy or taking progester-
one without estrogen or using too much
progesterone.


With your mentioning of undereating for a while...the damage might have already been done. Good news...the body can repair itself if you give it time to do so...bad news, I have no idea the extent of damage or how long that would take.

My advice....reduce exercise volume, maybe start doing stress reducing types of exercises (dare I say yoga?). Body needs time off....hormones are messed up. Not a medical diagnosis but a general observation...hope it helps. Also, wouldn't hurt to address and reduce stressors from all angles for the body including: inflammation (control insulin/reduce omega 6 intake/take omega 3), allergens (rotate food choices, reduce gluten/dairy), excessive oxidation/free radicals (reduce PUFA intake, increase antioxidant intake), environmental toxin exposure...etc. The body works as a whole unit and it's health is the sum of all parts/stressors....or at least that's the way I like to see it. Things like adding turmeric, ginger, onions, garlic and other herbs/spices can help also.

Margie Lempert
05-04-2008, 07:15 PM
Mike - thanks for taking the time to do a little research. It all makes a lot of sense when I think about what preceded this whole predicament. And I have to say that I feel confirmed by the nutritional adjustments I've made over the years, and even more so in recent months; I have pretty much taken care of all the nutritional suggestions you made. I think it may be starting to take effect (ie I have seen some shifts in my body that suggest my metabolism is less sluggish).

And, hey, I love yoga! I'm not ashamed! Used to practice it pretty frequently, but haven't since the winter cause I got distracted by crossfit.

Mike ODonnell
05-04-2008, 07:49 PM
Mike - thanks for taking the time to do a little research. It all makes a lot of sense when I think about what preceded this whole predicament. And I have to say that I feel confirmed by the nutritional adjustments I've made over the years, and even more so in recent months; I have pretty much taken care of all the nutritional suggestions you made. I think it may be starting to take effect (ie I have seen some shifts in my body that suggest my metabolism is less sluggish).

And, hey, I love yoga! I'm not ashamed! Used to practice it pretty frequently, but haven't since the winter cause I got distracted by crossfit.

Nah, nothing wrong with yoga....especially when you are the only guy in the class. :D

Glad to see things are turning positive...as that is really all it can do, slow and steady improvements. I think once you look and understand the whole picture on how your body reacts to stressors and stimulus, and then how to control those for minimum stress response and maximum healing....you will see a greater quality of life for sure. I never think it is just one thing.....as most of the times it could be the sum of a bunch of little things/stressors (along with a larger event that usually pushes your body over the edge of having enough to deal with....and therefore some negative health usually comes along). Everyone is at a different state of health....so do what you need to improve yours and don't worry about what others are doing (like exercising intensely 5x a week)...as they may be going down the same road soon enough. Only you will know what makes your body feel better....and what does not.

Garrett Smith
05-04-2008, 09:19 PM
Until this is fully dealt with, I'd suggest no more than 2 metcons a week, none over 10 minutes (preferably around 5 minutes).

Better to do a small amount of really high quality work than a whole bunch of semi-sloppy work (that really drains the adrenals and CNS).

sarena kopciel
05-05-2008, 05:41 AM
Until this is fully dealt with, I'd suggest no more than 2 metcons a week, none over 10 minutes (preferably around 5 minutes).

Better to do a small amount of really high quality work than a whole bunch of semi-sloppy work (that really drains the adrenals and CNS).

Somehow this sounds familiar to me too Dr G!

liz neufeldt
06-24-2010, 12:34 PM
Yes, I'd agree that it might be wise to tone back the volume and/or intensity of your training. That most definitely often leads to hormonal imbalances in women. You might also consider adding in some GLA, as someone else mentioned as well. GLA can be beneficial because it does have phytoestrogens, and has been known to be taken by women for hormonal issues. The best source of GLA really is borage oil (http://www.seacoastvitamins.com/supplement/planetary-herbals-borage-super-gla-1300mg-60-softgels-4535). Evening primrose oil does also contain some GLA, but not in as high of a concentration as borage oil. It's also excellent for you in general with many health benefits. So that's something else to look into as well.