Dr. Laura: Why Estrogen Makes You Stressed

How estrogen impacts stress

High levels of estrogen might increase your levels of stress. It clogs up the detoxification pathways and leaves neurochemicals in the body for too long. A build up of neurochemicals can make a person angry, irritable, anxious or exhibit compulsive symptoms.

The detoxification processes affected by high levels of estrogen:

  1. Methylation
  2. Breakdown

Methylation

Methylation keeps cells from oxidizing, aging, or simply “going bad”. Too much or too little methylation is linked to multiple diseases and cancer. Methylation aids in DNA and RNA synthesis, cell differentiation, neurotransmitter synthesis and metabolism, detoxification, hormone clearance, energy production, nerve conduction and histamine clearance.

Methylation is provided by foods that offer sources of B6,B12, zinc and folate (lots of vegetables, fruits, seafood, red meat, nuts & seeds). The MTHFR (methyl folate reduction) gene’s activity is observed through genetic and organic acid tests. Homocysteine can also be a blood biomarker for how well the methylation cycle works.

Breakdown of neurotransmitters

COMT Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT) is one of several enzymes that degrade the neurotransmitters dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. COMT is heavily influenced by levels of estrogen. When the estrogen is high, the COMT is slowed down.

MAO, or monoamine oxidase, is an enzyme that affects the neurotransmitters dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.

When we think of estrogen, we often think of females with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and peri-menopausal women. These are times when the estrogen surges and drops, inflicting mild to severe mood swings.

Estrogens are not only a female concern. There are increased levels of estrogens in males and females due to environmental factors.

Xenoestrogens are not natural forms of estrogen and the body has difficulty eliminating them. Xenoestrogens come in the form of birth control pills, flame retardants, BPA, pesticides, heavy metals, aluminum, lead, mercury, arsenic and cadmium.

Increased xenoestrogens puts an increased toll on our COMT and MAO. When the COMT and MAO are busy with excess estrogen and  xenoestrogens it makes it more difficult for them to do their everyday job of clearing catecholamines, or brain chemicals like dopamine and adrenaline. When dopamine and adrenaline hang out for too long, the body endures long standing experiences of stress. This is why estrogen detoxification and support of methylation, COMT and MAO activity in general can lead to less anxiety and aggravation.

How well does your methylation, COMT and MAO work?

Find out how your hormones influence your levels of stress through blood,  dried urine, and salivary tests available with Dr. Laura:

Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND works with her patients to help them understand their genetic tendencies and educates on how to prevent disease, reduce experiences of stress and live with energy.

Dr. Phil Shares: 6 Most Important Tips for Building Muscle

6 Most Important Tips for Building Muscle

Whether your goal is to get bigger and stronger, or improve power and explosiveness for sports, you want to see progress — and pronto.

But building muscle efficiently requires more than just putting in time at the weight rack. Along with your strength training regimen, diet and lifestyle choices all play important roles.

But before you even start thinking about how to build muscle, it’s instructive to know the primary factors that determine just how much of it you can gain.

3 Factors Affecting Muscle Growth

These are the main criteria dictating increases in muscle size, or hypertrophy — and two of them are outside your control.

Sex

Simmer down — we’re talking gender. The male persuasion unsurprisingly has a decided advantage when it comes to building muscle. That’s due in large part to far greater levels of testosterone and a higher red blood cell count among men than women, who typically have to go to more extraordinary lengths to gain size.

Genetics

Similar to the way it governs how much hair you get to keep, heredity determines how much muscle you can develop. Thanks to genetics, a segment of the populace is born with a higher number of type II, or fast-twitch, muscle fibers, which have the greatest potential for growth.

Training Specificity

The factor you can change — and the one we’ll spend much of this article focusing on — is the approach you take to your workouts overall. There are different protocols that distinguish lifting for mass from lifting for strength.

Generally speaking, lifting very heavy weights in low volume is how to gain strength, and lifting moderately heavy weights in high volume is how to gain muscle.

Woman doing benchpress

How to Build Muscle: The 6 Most Important Things You Can Do

For those seeking tips on how to gain muscle, here are some strategies to get you started.

1. Perform multi-joint exercises

Resistance training is the most efficient way to build lean mass — especially if you pack your workouts with big, compound (multi-joint) moves like the squat, bench press, lunge, and pull-up.

“You can certainly build muscle with all types of moves, but a strong base in multi-joint efforts, at least some of the time, is a good idea,” says Michael Ormsbee, Ph.D., interim director of the Institute of Sports Science & Medicine at Florida State University.

Science agrees: Compound exercises cause the greatest increase in testosterone, a key muscle-building hormone, according to researchers at the University of Connecticut.

2. Eat more protein

Now that you’re lifting weights, you need to consume more protein to promote muscle repair, recovery, and growth since amino acids (the building blocks of protein) are necessary to build muscle tissue.

When you’re planning your high-protein meals, 20 grams of protein is the optimal amount generally accepted for muscle growth. Research has found that the body doesn’t use much more than 20 grams for muscle-building at any one sitting. Around 80 grams of protein per day (or, four meals containing 20-grams of protein each) is about right for most people.

If you want to calculate the optimal protein amount for you and your goals, Beachbody recommends 0.5 to 0.9 grams of protein per pound of desired lean bodyweight per day, depending on exercise intensity. (The harder the workout, the more protein is needed for growth and recovery.)

If you have ambitious muscle-building goals, such as committing to Beachbody’s Body Beast program, shoot for the higher end of the range by adding one or two additional protein-rich snacks to your day.

Shakeology is a great way to sneak in additional calories and nutrients and contains 16 to 17 grams of protein (depending on the flavor).

3. Don’t just lift heavy

When you lift heavy weights or do explosive exercises like sprinting, you target the type-II muscle fibers we discussed earlier. But studies show that type-I fibers (a.k.a. slow twitch — the kind used in endurance activities ) also have growth potential, so don’t ignore them.

Once every week or two, target those type-I fibers with low weight, high rep work (e.g., 3-4 sets of 15 or more reps per exercise). Or simply follow a Beachbody program such as Body Beast21-Day Fix, P90X, 22-Minute Hard Corps, or The Master’s Hammer and Chisel, which have that kind of variation built in.

4. Get plenty of shut-eye

Shoot for a minimum of seven hours a night. Getting less than that on a regular basis can cause you to rack up sleep debt, which can put the brakes on protein synthesis (a.k.a. muscle growth) and increase protein (read: muscle) degradation, according to a study by Brazilian researchers.

Plus, you won’t reap the full benefits of human growth hormone, the levels of which spike while you’re in dreamland. Have trouble sleeping? Try these natural tips on how to get good sleep tonight.

5. Increase weight responsibly

You need to challenge your muscles to trigger growth, but you also need to be smart about how you go about it. If you increase the amount of weight you’re lifting too quickly, you’ll increase your risk of injury. But if you do it too slowly, you’ll shortchange your results or hit a plateau.

So how do you strike a balance? Pay attention to the effort you’re exerting. If you’re lifting with perfect form, and your last few reps an exercise feel similar to your first few, you know it’s time to reach for a heavier weight.

6. Allow time for recovery

Muscles grow between workouts, not during them, so make recovery a priority. In practice, that means eating healthier, consuming more protein, and not overtraining. Take at least one to two days off per week to allow your muscles to fully recover.

“Training too often or at too-high an intensity too frequently — without rest and recovery — can actually hurt your muscle-building efforts,” says Ormsbee.

Your move: Take at least one to two days off per week to allow your muscles to fully recover, and maximize the effectiveness of your downtime by doing light cross training (e.g. hiking, cycling) or activities like foam rolling and yoga.

If you are patient, focused, and consistent with your workouts and recovery, you will see results.

In addition to consuming more protein, there are a number of nutritional steps you can take to bulk up responsibly.

1. Increase calories

“No one can be in a significant calorie deficit and gain muscle,” says Albert Matheny, M.S., R.D., C.S.C.S., co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab.

To find out how many more calories you should consume to gain weight, determine how many calories you need to maintain your current weight — your baseline — then add 300. And if you’re following a muscle-building program like Body Beast, add the recommended calories outlined in the guide.

2. Strike the right mix of macros

Whether your calories come from carbs, fat, or protein goes a long way in determining whether your weight gain comes from muscle or from fat.

An easy and relatively fast way to gain muscle is bulking first, then leaning out, which is the idea behind programs like Body Beast. Using this method, you only have to focus on one thing at a time — building, then getting lean, versus trying to increase mass while simultaneously limiting fat gain.

To increase weight gained from fat, your macros should emphasize carbohydrates and fat, since it’s the most calorically dense macronutrient. The bulk of that fat should come from unsaturated sources such as avocado, olive oil, and salmon.

3. Focus on post-workout nutrition

Generally, you should consume about 20 grams of protein with some carbs shortly after a workout. One way to get the right mix is with Beachbody Peformance Recover, which combines time-released proteins and phytonutrients to aid recovery and reduce muscle breakdown.

During the post-workout anabolic window, you’ll also want to limit fats, which can slow the absorption of protein. While there is some recent research that suggeststhe window may actually extend up to several hours following exercise, there’s no harm in getting nutrients in early as long as you’re sticking to your overall caloric and macronutrient goals.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph