- The Truth Behind Estrogen Dominance
- Signs and symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
- How Do I Know If I Have Estrogen Dominance?
- 9 Causes of Estrogen Dominance and What to Do About It
- When Estrogen Becomes a Problem
- Health Risks Associated with Estrogen Dominance
- Causes of Estrogen Dominance
- How to Clear Your Body of Excess Estrogens
- Article Sources
- What Is Estrogen Dominance—and How Can You Rebalance Your Hormones?
- What Is Estrogen Dominance, Anyway?
- How Do Women Become Estrogen Dominant?
- Common Estrogen Dominance Symptoms
- Potential Health Implications of Estrogen Dominance
- Testing for Estrogen Dominance
- Estrogen Dominance Treatment
- Estrogen Dominance – Is It Real?
- The Truth About Estrogen Dominance
- Estrogen Dominance as Related to Premenopause and Menopause
- What Are the Health Consequences of Estrogen Dominance?
- Awash in a Sea of Xenoestrogens
- The Role of Progesterone and Estrogen Levels in Women
- A Woman’s Unique Path to Hormonal Balance
- Phytotherapy —a Gentle Approach to a Complex Issue
- Should We All Be Worried About Estrogen Dominance?
- What is Estrogen Dominance as a Hormonal Imbalance in Women?
- What you will learn in this article:
- What is Estrogen Dominance?
- Which 3 Reasons Cause Estrogen Dominance?
- What Are Estrogen and Progesterone?
- Do You Have Estrogen Dominance?
- Why Address Estrogen Dominance Proactively?
- Why Do We Become Estrogen Dominant?
- What Should Be Your Next Steps In Regards To Estrogen Dominance?
- Estrogen dominance can wreak havoc on your whole body!
- Could I be estrogen dominant?
- What causes estrogen dominance?
- What can I do to correct estrogen dominance?
- How To Treat Estrogen Dominance Through Diet And Lifestyle
- 1. Support liver health
- 2. Eat Brassicae family (Cabbage) vegetables
- 3. Reduce stress
- 4. Eat clean meats and reduce meat consumption
- 5. Avoid chemical products
- 6. Balance your progesterone
- What Are Hormonal Imbalances?
- How do vitamins affect your hormones and mood?
- Why does hormone imbalances occur?
- What Vitamins can help to balance hormones?
- 4 Tips to Help Prevent Estrogen Dominance, A Risk for Breast Cancer in Women and Men
- Women’s Health: Is Your Estrogen Too High or Too Low?
The Truth Behind Estrogen Dominance
The most common signs and symptoms of estrogen dominance include fatigue, mood changes, hot flashes, low libido, bloating and difficulty concentrating.
When the levels of estrogen, the primary female sex hormone are increased reative to the levels of progesterone circulating in the blood, women are said to be experiencing estrogen dominance. Men may also be diagnosed with estrogen dominance if estrogen levels become very high.
Let’s take a look at the symptoms of estrogen dominance and whether it might be time to take a test for it.
- The Truth Behind Estrogen Dominance
- Signs and Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
- How To Test Your Estrogen Levels
The term originated from the late Dr. John Lee, who claimed that the cause of premenopausal and menopause symptoms is a fluctuation in the hormone: estrogen, particularly in young women .
The term has led to a lot of back and forth in the health industry, and there is some uncertainty around the term.
Ultimately, ‘estrogen dominance’ refers to a fluctuation and imbalance of the hormone, estrogen, relative to other hormones. Symptoms resulting from high levels of estrogen usually don’t last very long.
Signs and symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
Common symptoms of high estrogen levels include:
- Decreased sex drive
- Increased PMS symptoms
- Irregular periods
- Mood swings
- Hot flashes
- Breast tenderness
- Weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating
Symptoms of high estrogen levels vary from person to person and depend largely on the severity of your hormone imbalance.
Remember, while these are all symptoms of a fluctuation in estrogen levels, they may also signal other health problems.
Read on for more information about the signs and symptoms associated with fluctuating levels of estrogen:
Decreased sex drive
While optimal levels of estrogen stimulate vaginal lubrication and increased sexual desire; higher estrogen levels may cause mood swings, worsened PMS symptoms and fatigue – each of which naturally have an effect on your sex drive.
High levels of estrogen may leave women feeling that their PMS symptoms have increased in severity – severe bloating, feeling especially emotional and bad back pain in the days leading up to your period may be a result of significant fluctuations in estrogen.
Women experiencing a fluctuation in estrogen levels are more likely to experience irregular periods. Mayo Clinic suggests that a significant change in your period may suggest that your hormone levels have shifted .
Depression/ Mood swings
For those living with increased levels of estrogen, you may experience extreme emotions. This can happen in the lead up to and/or the aftermath of your period.
Headaches and difficulty concentrating have been linked to estrogen when it exists in the body in either too high or too low a volume. It’s been found that more than half of women who experience migraines believe it to be linked to their menstrual cycle .
Bloating is usually caused by water retention or disruption in the water-salt balance in females. An increase in estrogen levels and fluctuation of your hormones may cause water retention, which can cause bloating .
Hot flashes are one of the trademark symptoms of menopause. They can indicate increasing estrogen levels if you’re experiencing them well before your periods are expected to come to an end .
Tenderness in the breasts
If your breasts feel lumpy, swollen or sore, it can often be attributed to your hormones.
During the menstrual cycle, tenderness in the breasts can often be attributed to the decreased volume of progesterone in relation to estrogen – this is generally a natural occurrence.
With that said, recurring sensitivity in the breasts may also be attributed to higher levels of estrogen.
A tell-tale sign that you may be having issues with your estrogen levels is weight gain – particularly around your middle.
This weight gain is most likely to take place during menopause which may be confusing for people to hear due to the fact that both estrogen and progesterone are believed to drop during this period. What is often misunderstood is that progesterone drops more dramatically than estrogen which gradually leads to weight gain.
Low progesterone, in comparison to levels of estrogen is said to lead to feelings of fatigue .
It’s unsurprising that some of the above symptoms would keep you up at night. Though, another reason that you may be struggling to fall asleep is your hormone levels – estrogen and progesterone are sleep promoting hormones and fluctuations may lead to sleep disruptions.
The only way to know if too much estrogen is to blame for your symptoms is to test your hormones. The most accurate way to test your hormones is via a blood sample.
It’s always informative to do a baseline test and have an idea of where your hormones are before seeking out treatment.
How Do I Know If I Have Estrogen Dominance?
The signs and symptoms of an estrogen imbalance aren’t always obvious and they can be attributed to different things that affect our everyday lives.
If you do notice some of the above signs and symptoms, begin to take note of when they started and what they feel like – this will make it easier for you to pinpoint exactly when it began and the severity of each symptom.
If you’re feeling very unwell, you should visit your physician for a check up..
If your symptoms aren’t severe but you would still like to have an understanding of what might be going on, you have the option to take a female hormone test from the comfort of your own home!
The Female Hormone test measures a number of key hormones, providing you with an overview of your reproductive health status
This test is beneficial for anyone who wants a comprehensive overview of their current fertility status and hormonal health.
It will offer insight into your estrogen levels as well as other hormonal imbalances such as:
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Low ovarian reserve
Ovulation function issues
LetsGetChecked tests are convenient options that make it possible for you to better know your health. Whatever the reason, you may not want to visit the physician’s office, have a face to face consultation or take time off work.
Written by Hannah Kingston | Approved by Medical Director, Dr. Dominic Rowley
9 Causes of Estrogen Dominance and What to Do About It
January 3rd, 2020
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Are you struggling with infertility, PMS, mood swings, weight gain, or low libido? If so, you could be dealing with a hormone imbalance. Having too much estrogen—known as estrogen dominance—is not only linked to a set of frustrating and uncomfortable symptoms, it also puts you at risk for a whole host of chronic issues. From fatigue and irritability to autoimmune conditions, thyroid dysfunction, and cancer, estrogen can wreak havoc on your body if it’s not in proper balance with your other reproductive hormones, such as progesterone.
And here’s the hard truth—estrogen dominance is at an all-time high. We’re seeing the rates increase dramatically across the board, in both women and men, across age ranges. And the rates of cancers and chronic illnesses linked with an overload of estrogen are on the rise right along with it.
That’s because we are being constantly bombarded by xenoestrogens. These are industrial chemicals that mimic the behavior of estrogens. They’re everywhere in our modern environment. They’re in our food, personal care products, furniture and clothes. From the water we drink to the food we eat, we encounter a shocking number of these endocrine-disrupting xenoestrogens in the course of a day, without even knowing it.
It scares me when I think about how toxic our world has become, especially since I am the mother of a little girl. That’s why I’m even more passionate about arming you with the knowledge you need to make smart choices for yourself and your family.
In this article, I’ll walk you through what estrogen dominance is and how you’re being exposed to xenoestrogens. I’ll share simple, diet and lifestyle changes you can make to minimize your risk, naturally clear estrogen from your system, and maintain an optimal hormonal balance.
When Estrogen Becomes a Problem
You—and everyone else—naturally produces the hormone estrogen in your adrenal glands and stored fat tissue, as well as the ovaries in women and the testes in men. Estrogen is necessary for many important functions such as childbearing, keeping cholesterol in check, and protecting bone health.1 It’s when your estrogen levels get out of balance with your other hormones that it can lead to a number of issues in both men and women.
Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
- Weight gain, mainly in hips, waist, and thighs
- Menstrual problems such as light or heavy bleeding
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Uterine fibroids
- Loss of sex drive
- Depression or anxiety
- Enlarged breasts
- Sexual dysfunction
Conventional medicine tells us that it’s your lifelong exposure and total amount of estrogens that pose a problem and cause cancer. For instance, if you started your period at a young age, or had children late in life or not at all, you would be at a higher risk. However, that’s not entirely true. It’s really your lifelong exposure to bad metabolites of estrogen that increases your cancer risk. Let me explain.
Estrogen is metabolized by the liver through three different pathways. Depending on the pathway, estrogen will be converted into good or bad metabolites. The 2-hydroxy metabolic pathway is considered good as it has the lowest risk for cancer and other problems. Meanwhile, the 16-hydroxy and 4-hydroxy pathways are considered bad and associated with higher risks of breast cancer.2 Using the 2-hydroxy pathway, your body produces good estrogen metabolites, which support healthy mood, libido, breast tissue, and reproductive health. When your body is converting too many of your hormones using the 16-hydroxy and 4-hydroxy pathways, that’s when you experience estrogen dominant symptoms such as irritability, vaginal dryness, and PMS, and are at a higher risk of developing cancer.
So it’s not about your total estrogens. It’s about your total estrogen metabolites. Nutritional status, liver health, stress, diet, and sleep all determine which metabolic pathways are used. Gene mutations such as COMT and MTHFR also impair your ability to methylate and detoxify your hormones, as do a number of environmental and lifestyle factors that I’ll describe in more detail later.
Health Risks Associated with Estrogen Dominance
By far the biggest risk associated with estrogen dominance is hormone-dependent cancer including breast cancer in both women and men, uterine and ovarian cancers in women, and prostate cancer in men.3 Breast cancer specifically is more rampant than ever. One in eight women will get breast cancer in her lifetime.4
Hormonal cancers are associated with stored fat, which produces the most potent form of estrogen, estradiol. This type of harmful estrogen is more difficult for your body to detoxify, leading to more circulating estrogen and “bad” estrogen metabolites.
In some autoimmune conditions, high levels of estrogen can enhance the inflammatory response of the immune system, increasing the antibodies that attack your body’s own tissues. However, it’s not entirely a clear-cut issue. Estrogen is actually protective for some autoimmune conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (MS). It seems to be the sharp fluctuations in estrogen levels (such as those that happen around childbirth and menopause) that contribute to autoimmunity. It also has to do with the types of estrogens in your system, and whether they are your natural hormones or the synthetic xenoestrogens that exist in our environment.
Because women tend to be more susceptible to estrogen dominance, this helps explain why autoimmune conditions are so much more common among women.5
Hashimoto’s and Thyroid Dysfunction
Excess estrogen increases levels of thyroid binding globulin (TBG) which is the protein that allows your thyroid hormones to travel through your bloodstream. When thyroid hormones are attached to TBG they remain inactive, so your thyroid hormones can’t be stored in your tissues or converted to their active form in order to fuel your body and metabolic processes. I explain this more in depth in my book, The Thyroid Connection.
Estrogen dominance also plays a factor in Candida overgrowth. Research shows that exposing Candida albicans to estrogen increases its virulence, which is why women taking birth control or traditional hormone replacement therapy tend to be more susceptible to yeast infections.6
Causes of Estrogen Dominance
Every day we are under constant attack by environmental toxins that lead to the creation of bad estrogen metabolites. Hormone-mimicking xenoestrogens combined with your own diet and lifestyle habits can all contribute to estrogen dominance.
By far one of the biggest sources of excess estrogen is our modern diet. Commercially raised animals are injected with growth hormones to make them grow bigger and faster or increase milk production. These hormones make their way into your food where they can disrupt your own natural hormone balance.
Plus, any of the pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides found on conventional produce are known endocrine disruptors that interfere with your natural hormone activity and metabolism.7 While they may only exist in small quantities on individual fruits and vegetables, the cumulative effect quickly adds up and hasn’t been studied enough to determine what the long-term effects might be.
Unfortunately, our water has become heavily polluted with hormone-disrupting compounds including pesticides and fertilizers, synthetic and natural estrogens from livestock and prescription medications, and an unknown number of industrial chemicals from chemical plant runoff or the disposal of plastics and chemicals in landfills.8
Coal-burning plants emit over 70,000 pounds of mercury in the into the air each year, which then settles into our water and impacts our hormonal levels (more on that below).
3. Personal Care Products
Cosmetics, lotions, shampoos, soaps, toothpastes, and the numerous other body products we use often contain parabens, phenoxyethanol, phthalates and other compounds that all have estrogenic activity.9 And since the average person uses 10-15 body products a day, with a total of 126 different ingredients, this exposure can quickly add up!
You’d think that beauty products would be regulated for safety. However, you’d be surprised to learn that they are regulated by an internal review board, so they’re really just regulating themselves, leading to the inclusion of all sorts of hidden endocrine disruptors in these products you use every day.
Xenoestrogens in skin care products are especially harmful because they are absorbed directly into your tissues, and so never have the chance to be detoxified through your liver.10 Be wary of deodorants or other personal care products that contain an unspecified “fragrance,” as this can be virtually anything and it tends to be a catch-all term for hidden phthalates or other hormone-disrupting chemicals.
4. Gut Dysbiosis
Your gut microbiome regulates circulating estrogen using an enzyme known as beta-glucuronidase. When your microbiome is out of balance, as in the case of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), these enzymes can’t properly metabolize estrogens, which leaves you more susceptible to breast cancer and other conditions caused by estrogen dominance.11
5. BPA and Other Plastics
Plastic in all its forms, including in water bottles, food wrap, and storage containers, contain hormone mimicking xenoestrogens that can leach into what you’re eating or drinking and cause major problems for your health. Even products marked “BPA-free” are not safe, and in fact contain chemicals whose effects aren’t as well-known.12
Microwaving, dishwashing, and exposing plastic to sunlight increases the estrogenic activity of plastic even more.
You may not be aware that every time you take a receipt from the store, you are dealing a blow to your hormones. Receipts printed on thermal paper are a major source of endocrine-disrupting bisphenol-A (BPA). People who handle receipts frequently have significantly elevated levels of BPA in their urine.13 And because these xenoestrogens are getting absorbed through your skin, it’s a more direct hit to your system.
6. Heavy Metals
Similar to plastics, heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, and mercury have estrogen-mimicking properties. It’s even been suggested that the presence of these endocrine-disrupting elements in our environment may be behind the earlier-onset puberty that has become the norm in our modern societies.14
7. Body Fat
Excess body fat (especially stored in the hips, waist, and thighs) is one of the leading causes of estrogen dominance.15 Not only does fat tissue absorb and store estrogen circulating in your bloodstream, it also synthesizes estrogen from your other hormones.16 Having high levels of estrogen cues your body to make more fat cells, which then produce even more estrogen, creating a vicious cycle.
8. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and Birth Control
Hormone replacement therapy medications and most oral contraceptives contain estrogen without the necessary progesterone to maintain proper hormone balance. The hormones used in both HRT and birth control also tend to be toxic, synthetic hormones that are not easily metabolized by the liver, leading to DNA damage and an increased risk for breast and endometrial cancer.17
9. Chronic Stress
When you’re chronically stressed (as so many of us are), your body begins to use the sex hormone progesterone to make cortisol.18 Low levels of progesterone lead to estrogen dominance.
How to Clear Your Body of Excess Estrogens
Now that you know what estrogen dominance is and where it comes from, what steps can you take to prevent it? Or if you suspect you may already be estrogen dominant, how can you clear your body of those excess estrogens and restore hormone balance?
Taming the toxins is a key component of The Myers Way®, and as I explain in my books and programs, I use a two-step approach to help you minimize your exposure and then clear the toxins safely from your body.
Step 1: Prevention
- Eat Clean Food: Eliminate all toxic foods from your diet that contain hidden estrogens, including conventional meat, dairy products, and produce. Opt for grass-fed, pasture-raised, and organic whenever possible to avoid added hormones, pesticides, and fertilizers used in conventional farming methods. Be sure to check out the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list for the worst offenders if buying all organic produce isn’t feasible.
- Filter Your Water: Thanks to pollution and runoff, hormone-disruptors are rampant in our water supply. To protect your water, I recommend installing water filters on all of your taps and showerheads.
- Use Non-Toxic Body Products: Switch out chemical-laden personal care products for safer versions that are free and clear of any synthetic compounds. I get all of my non-toxic beauty products from Beautycounter.
- Ditch the Plastic: Replace all the plastic storage containers and water bottles with glass or stainless steel.
- Minimize Your Mercury Exposure: Check out this article to learn more about avoiding mercury and how to test your levels.
- Consider Hormone Alternatives: If taking HRT, consider speaking to your doctor about alternative methods that address the root causes of your menopausal symptoms. Bioidentical hormone therapy is a more natural option for those who depend on HRT for symptom relief, using hormones extracted from plants that act just like the hormones we produce in our body. The same goes for women using oral contraceptives to treat symptoms such as acne or heavy periods. Though it may help to relieve your symptoms now, it may just be throwing fuel on the fire, leading to estrogen dominance and all its associated health risks in the long run. For both HRT and birth control users, you can try my Hormone Balance Support Kit for relieving menopausal symptoms and supporting a healthy menstrual cycle.
- Relieve Your Stress: Take measures to relieve your stress, such as yoga or meditation, and make sure you’re getting adequate sleep at night to let your body detox and recover from the stresses of the day.
Step 2: Detoxification
One of the best ways to clear your body of excess estrogens and achieve proper hormone balance for both men and women is EstroProtect. EstroProtect contains a blend of natural ingredients that support optimal estrogen metabolism and detoxification.
It features Calcium-D-Glucarate, which binds estrogen that would otherwise be recycled and reabsorbed by your body and flushes it out of your system. It also includes Diindolymethane (DIM) to help you metabolize estrogen into more of its good metabolites instead of the bad. And N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine (NAC), Milk Thistle, and Alpha-Lipoic acid all support your liver as it works to safely detoxify and clear the estrogens.
Because of our constant exposure to xenoestrogens and estrogens, I recommended this supplement to all of the women I saw in my clinic, especially those who were dealing with estrogen dominance, were exposed to xenoestrogens, had a family history of hormonal cancers, or who themselves had a hormonal cancer and were in remission.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the main sources of estrogen and begin taking the proper lifestyle measures to avoid them in the future, you can start feeling your best again. And you can feel even better knowing you’re reducing your risk for a number of chronic illnesses!
What Is Estrogen Dominance—and How Can You Rebalance Your Hormones?
A recent survey suggests nearly half of women in the U.S. have dealt with hormonal imbalances, and women’s health experts suggest that one specific imbalance—estrogen dominance—may be to blame for a number of the health and well-being woes many women are facing today. (Related: How Too Much Estrogen Can Mess with Your Weight and Health)
What Is Estrogen Dominance, Anyway?
Put simply, estrogen dominance is a state in which the body contains too much estrogen compared to progesterone. Both female sex hormones play crucial roles in a woman’s menstrual cycle and overall health and work in harmony—as long as they maintain proper balance.
According to board-certified ob-gyn and integrative medicine practitioner Tara Scott, M.D., founder of functional medicine group Revitalize, producing a lot of estrogen isn’t necessarily an issue, as long as you break enough down and produce enough progesterone to counter-balance it. Carry around extra estrogen, though, and it can wreak havoc on your health and well-being in a number of ways.
How Do Women Become Estrogen Dominant?
Estrogen dominance occurs as a result of one (or more) of three issues: the body over-produces estrogen, it’s exposed to excess estrogen in our environment, or it can’t properly break down estrogen, according to Taz Bhatia, M.D., author of Super Woman Rx.
Typically, these estrogen dysfunctions stem from one (or more) of three factors: your genetics, your environment, and your diet. (See also: 5 Ways Your Food Could Be Messing with Your Hormones)
“Genetics can influence how much estrogen you make and how your body gets rid of estrogen,” says Dr. Scott. “The bigger problem these days, though, is that our environment and diet contain so much estrogen and estrogen-like compounds.” Everything from plastic water bottles to non-organic meats can contain compounds that act like estrogen in our cells.
And then, there’s another huge lifestyle factor: stress. Stress increases our production of the hormone cortisol, which then slows down our ability to get rid of estrogen, Dr. Scott says.
Since our gut and liver both break down estrogen, having poor gut or liver health—which are often the results of a crummy diet—can also contribute to estrogen dominance, adds Dr. Bhatia.
Common Estrogen Dominance Symptoms
According to the American Academy of Naturopathic Physicians, common estrogen dominance symptoms can include:
- Worse PMS symptoms
- Worse menopause symptoms
- Weight gain
- Low libido
- Dense breasts
- Uterine fibroids
- Fertility issues
Another common symptom of estrogen dominance: heavy periods, says Dr. Scott.
Potential Health Implications of Estrogen Dominance
Because estrogen dominance is an inflammatory state for the body, it can contribute to a number of chronic health issues, including obesity, cardiometabolic diseases, and autoimmune conditions long-term, says Dr. Bhatia.
Another frightening potential health effect: increased cancer risk. In fact, excess estrogen can increase women’s risk of developing endometrial (a.k.a. uterine) cancer, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer.
Testing for Estrogen Dominance
Since different women experience estrogen dominance for different reasons, there’s no single cut-and-dry estrogen dominance test that works for everyone. Still, healthcare practitioners can use one (or multiple) of three different tests to identify the hormonal imbalance.
First, there’s a traditional estrogen blood test, which doctors often use in regularly menstruating women, whose eggs produce a form of estrogen called estradiol.
Then, there’s a saliva test, which doctors often use to evaluate the type of estrogen women produce after menopause, which can still fall out of balance with progesterone, says Dr. Scott.
Finally, there’s a dried urine test, which measures estrogen metabolites in the urine, Dr. Scott explains. This one helps doctors identify if someone has estrogen dominance because their body can’t properly get rid of estrogen.
Estrogen Dominance Treatment
So you’ve got estrogen dominance—now what? For many women, diet and lifestyle changes go a long way in helping those hormones find balance…
Switch Up Your Diet
Dr. Scott recommends choosing organic foods—particularly animal products and the “Dirty Dozen” (a list of the most chemical-laden produce in the U.S., put out yearly by the Environmental Working Group).
Dr. Bhatia says to up your intake of fiber, healthy fats like those in olive oil, and cruciferous veggies like broccoli, kale, and cauliflower, all of which contain compounds that support estrogen detoxification. (Fun fact: The omega-9 fats in olive oil help your body metabolize estrogen, Dr. Bhatia says.)
Create a More Hormone-Friendly Environment
From there, a few lifestyle changes can also go a long way in balancing out your estrogen.
“Some of my patients see a major difference after simply eliminating some of the plastic in their lives,” says Dr. Scott. Swap cases of bottled water for a reusable stainless steel bottle, switch to glass food containers, and skip the single-use plastic straws.
Then, it’s time to work on the elephant in the room: stress. Dr. Scott recommends starting with prioritizing sleep. (The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of quality zzz’s a night.) Beyond that, self-care practices like mindfulness meditation and yoga can also help you find your chill—and tone down cortisol levels.
Consider Taking Supplements
If lifestyle changes alone don’t do the trick, Dr. Scott says to incorporate certain supplements to help treat estrogen dominance:
- DIM (or diindolylmethane), a compound found in cruciferous vegetables that supports our body’s ability to break down estrogen.
- B vitamins and magnesium, which both support the processing of estrogen.
- By Lauren Del Turco
Estrogen Dominance – Is It Real?
Topics covered in this article:
- Dr. John Lee and the original theory of estrogen dominance
- Why “estrogen dominance” is misleading — and a new understanding
- Symptoms of estrogen dominance
- Effects of xenoestrogens
- Phytotherapy — a gentle approach to a complex issue
- What you can do
Most conventional doctors still tell women that menopause — and all premenopause, perimenopause and menopause symptoms — result from a drop in estrogen production. In their view the solution is estrogen supplementation, or Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), usually with synthetic hormones.
In contrast, many alternative practitioners believe that women have too much estrogen, leading to a condition known as “estrogen dominance.” The late healthcare pioneer Dr. John Lee broke new ground when he claimed that estrogen dominance was the real cause of premenopause and menopause symptoms, especially in younger women. In his view the obvious solution was to rebalance the ratio of estrogen to progesterone through progesterone supplementation.
This idea has led to the marketing of hundreds of brands of progesterone cream and other natural products designed to boost progesterone — all promising a quick fix and miraculous results in curing premenopausal and menopausal symptoms.
Unfortunately, both of these views are simplistic and misleading for women, because they overlook how dynamic all your hormones are — including DHEA, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
Let’s focus on the concept of estrogen dominance, the incredible claims being made for the efficacy of progesterone, and how well your body is equipped to restore the dynamic dance between these hormones when it gets the support it needs.
How Do Estrogen Levels Work?
Estrogen and progesterone are two of the primary female sex hormones. During a normal menstrual cycle, they take turns driving the process of maturing and releasing an egg and preparing the uterus for possible pregnancy: estrogen rises in the first half of the cycle, peaks at ovulation, then falls in the second half as progesterone rises. Progesterone is released by the rupturing of the egg follicle during ovulation. Testosterone too is secreted in “surges” around the time of ovulation, perhaps as Mother Nature’s way to increase our interest in sex, and again before menses. If there is no pregnancy, you have a period and the whole cycle begins again.
When estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are doing their jobs, they work well together. How much or how little of each hormone is made at any one time relies on a complicated feedback system between the brain: specifically the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which release LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone); the ovaries; and the adrenal glands. Stress and diet affect that feedback system and so directly impact your hormonal balance.
What’s critical here is the role of progesterone, which “opposes” the estrogen by helping the body break it down into metabolites that are absorbed and removed in the process. Estrogen stimulates tissue growth, and progesterone signals the body to slough it off.
The original concept of estrogen dominance was very simple. Dr. Lee argued that the first sign of menopause is a drop in progesterone production (not estrogen deficiency!). Without enough “opposing” progesterone, estrogen levels stay unnaturally high in the second half of the menstrual cycle. This causes discomfort in a great many women and can lead over time to some severe health consequences.
The history of HRT contains a tragic example of the effects of unopposed estrogen. For many years after its creation, the synthetic estrogen drug Premarin was prescribed to women without any accompanying progesterone. The result was an epidemic of uterine cancer. This eventually led to Premarin being prescribed in tandem with a synthetic progesterone called Provera to protect the uterine lining. Much more recently these two were bundled together and marketed as a new combination drug called Prempro. For decades now the combination of Premarin with Provera has been the most widely prescribed synthetic HRT in the world.
The Role of Xenoestrogens
Over time, Dr. Lee’s concept of estrogen dominance evolved to promote another compelling argument: that our overall estrogen levels (in women and men) are too high because of xenoestrogens — man made chemicals in the environment that mimic estrogen in our bodies and act as endocrine disruptors even at minute concentrations.
Scientific studies of wildlife — specifically, frogs and fish — is proving this unfortunate reality to be without doubt. In an interesting twist, researchers worldwide have observed that fish in our lakes and rivers are actually switching gender due to the high levels of effluent estrogens. Even though mainstream media has only begun to recognize this as “news,” experts have been discussing the problem of pharmaceutical pollution for over 25 years, and have known about “gender-bent” fish for more than ten years!
Some surmise these changes to be caused in part by excessive levels of steroids — largely excreted by humans using birth control pills and Hormone Replacement therapy (HRT). Our water treatment facilities are not designed to remove hormonal pollutants. Myriad studies indict environmental estrogens as the cause of reproductive abnormalities in small life forms. So it should come as no surprise that these and other widespread contaminants are now suspected of negatively impacting humans as well, contributing to the problems of estrogen dominance and infertility.
As evidence, it’s often noted that women in Western Europe and the US have estrogen levels that are much higher than women in underdeveloped countries. Many experts link these high levels of estrogen with the rise in breast cancer, autoimmune diseases, infertility and other health issues. They question whether or not xenoestrogens are the cause.
The Truth About Estrogen Dominance
While we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Dr. Lee for his groundbreaking work on the importance of progesterone in relation to estrogen, to my mind the concept of estrogen dominance is too simplistic, as is the concept of progesterone supplementation.
Since Dr. Lee’s death in October 2003, we have witnessed huge leaps in our biochemical understanding. If he were still with us, I’m sure he would feel vindicated to learn that the latest research indicates many women actually do have normal levels of circulating progesterone. Just as Dr. Lee himself noted, what often throws the balance off is an excess of estrogen, caused by environmental, dietary, and lifestyle factors.
What this all means is that the theory of estrogen dominance is very real, but its significance lies in the overall ratio of estrogen to progesterone — and this ratio is an individualized and dynamic one. Of all women experiencing symptoms of estrogen dominance, some with low levels of progesterone may do very well with progesterone supplementation, whereas others with normal progesterone levels may be better off focusing on changes that can normalize their estrogen or testosterone levels. How do you know where you fit in? The only way to really tell is to have your hormone levels checked and take action from there.
Estrogen Dominance as Related to Premenopause and Menopause
It is true that estrogen is often too high relative to progesterone. Most of us who have had PMS are familiar with this temporary form of excess estrogen. You can see by the chart above how progesterone levels gradually fall during the course of a regular menstrual cycle. In some women this drop may be more precipitous and cause symptoms of PMS.
During premenopause it’s common for estrogen levels to decrease slowly while progesterone levels plummet — a natural result of fewer ovulations, fewer burst follicles and less progesterone. This can cause many of our worst symptoms.
Related article: Irregular Periods and Natural Ways to Maintain a Regular Menstrual Cycle
Calling this state “estrogen dominance” is catchy but misleading. It implies there is one problem, which isn’t true; and not all women experience the condition anyway. And it implies there is one solution, which also isn’t true. Most of the tens of thousands of women we have treated for premenopausal symptoms have suffered not from simple estrogen dominance but from a more fundamental disruption of the body’s ability to maintain hormonal balance. There are usually multiple causes, including stress, emotional factors, and xenoestrogens.
The truth is, healthy hormonal balance is complicated. It isn’t just a matter of not enough progesterone. That’s a little like arguing that menopause is caused by not enough estrogen. As you can see from the chart below showing how hormones are made in your body, there are lots of players out on the dance floor at any given time.
There’s no simple test for estrogen dominance. But if you have severe symptoms of PMS, premenopause or menopause that don’t respond to a program of increased support for your body within a month or two, you may have persistently higher than normal levels of estrogen. Let’s talk about why it’s important to pay attention to these symptoms.
What Are the Health Consequences of Estrogen Dominance?
Another of Dr. Lee’s contributions was to raise women’s awareness of the profound connections between hormonal imbalance and health.
When estrogen levels are high in relation to our progesterone we experience many severe symptoms, among them anxiety, breast tenderness, cyclical headaches or migraines, depression, digestive issues, fuzzy thinking, palpitations, food cravings, irregular bleeding, water retention, weight gain and more.
It’s important to note that a number of these symptoms are also indicative of the exact opposite condition — a deficiency of estrogen. This is another example of why the concept of estrogen dominance is too simplistic.
If estrogen levels stay unopposed, women may develop infertility, endometriosis, amenorrhea (skipped periods), hypermenorrhea (heavy bleeding), fibroids, uterine cancer, heart disease and stroke, and decreased cognitive ability, among other conditions.
And while we share many of the precepts set forth by Dr. Lee, we are less inclined to think of estrogen, even high levels of estrogen, as universally harmful. We believe every woman is unique, and what may cause harm in one may be fine for another. There have been studies and speculation, for example, about the connection between high levels of estrogen and breast cancer. We think many unanswered questions remain about this link.
Estrogen has many wonderful qualities. It creates our fertility, protects our health in myriad ways, and serves as a powerful anti-inflammatory. But we are very concerned about environmental estrogens. They’re another story entirely.
Awash in a Sea of Xenoestrogens
For the most part, our bodies are amazingly resilient. We are hard to resist threats to our equilibrium. What our bodies are not designed for is exposure to the many endocrine disruptors in our environment, among them the family of chemicals known as xenoestrogens.
Many of these xenoestrogens are proven carcinogens. They are also well known for their ability to damage the immune system and interrupt hormonal balance. Our cells can’t always distinguish fully between our own estrogen and xenoestrogens. Every cell has estrogen receptors that recognize and open to the shape of an estrogen molecular chain, regardless of where it comes from.
Where do Xenoestrogens Come from?
Pesticides are perhaps the biggest source of xenoestrogens. Most bioaccumulate, meaning they are stored in fat cells of fish, poultry and other food sources in increasing concentration until they reach the top of the food chain — where you and I consume them! They are highly estrogenic, and some experts estimate that the average American ingests over a pound of pesticides a year.
A second major source of xenoestrogens is the many growth hormones given to livestock and poultry, most of which contain fat-soluble estrogens. When we consume those animals or their milk, we ingest that estrogen. Organochlorides like dioxin (a byproduct of chlorine when it is burned or processed), PCB’s, PVC’s, and some plasticizers are just a few of the many man made chemicals that act like estrogen in our bodies. Many others have the effect of interrupting our normal endocrine function, hence the term “endocrine disruptors.”
The Impact of Xenoestrogens
Mainstream medicine is finally paying attention because xenoestrogens not only affect the cells of women, but those of men and children. Sperm counts have dropped by 50% in some studies, a significant factor in the epidemic of infertility. The age at which girls develop secondary sex characteristics (breasts and pubic hair) is also dropping. It is not exactly clear what role endocrine disruptors as a whole have in the steady rise of chronic diseases in children (at earlier ages!), but studies are underway to evaluate this.
It is easy to see why Dr. Lee’s advice to support our bodies with extra progesterone makes some sense. Let’s examine the role progesterone plays in our bodies and how it can help in hormonal balance.
The Role of Progesterone and Estrogen Levels in Women
Progesterone is the building block for many other major hormones. Cortisol, testosterone and estrogen are all made from progesterone in a process that begins with cholesterol.
These hormones are present in our bodies to varying degrees at all times, but only progesterone is readily converted into its sister hormones if needed. Importantly, if we are under a lot of stress and our adrenals are pumping out cortisol, our bodies will take any available progesterone and divert it to meet that demand. If too much progesterone gets diverted for cortisol, as happens when you suffer from adrenal fatigue, there is not enough to make the testosterone needed for a woman’s sexual response — let alone to oppose rising levels of estrogen. No wonder we feel sick, lethargic, and uninterested in sex when we’re under stress!
Insufficient progesterone is hard on our health in other ways because, in addition to reproductive function, all women need normal levels of progesterone to spur new bone growth (and ward off osteoporosis), convert fat into energy, metabolize glucose, and perform many other vital cell functions.
But it’s equally obvious that just adding progesterone isn’t the answer. If stress is creating your hormonal imbalance, adding progesterone will just treat the symptom, not the cause. Because it’s a “moving target,” hormonal balance is never a matter of taking a magic pill. Let’s talk about how to find a solution that works for you.
A Woman’s Unique Path to Hormonal Balance
In looking at the illustration of the metabolic pathways of progesterone, it’s helpful to think of your endocrine system as a kind of orchestra, and hormonal balance as its music. Each of us has a unique body and biography, so each of us has a unique orchestra and a unique symphony. We all make different demands on our bodies; we all need different kinds of support. Adding any one element to the exclusion of others may make you feel worse, not better. For instance, many women convert progesterone immediately into estrogen; for them, a progesterone supplement will only worsen their imbalance.
There are many women whose bodies, either naturally or due to external factors, produce an abundance of estrogen. I call these patients highly estrogenic, and they are more susceptible to experiencing severe symptoms. They also feel the most dramatic improvement when they add progesterone to their routine.
Where do Hormonal Imbalances Come from?
While genetics have some influence, lifestyle is the single biggest factor in the production and storage of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and our other hormones. Our modern diet, filled with refined flour and sugar, simple carbohydrates and artificial ingredients, combined with our lack of exercise, promotes metabolic irregularities that lead to insulin resistance, obesity, digestive problems, and cardiovascular disease, which in turn affect the healthy flow of hormone production shown in the chart above.
Stress plays a major role in estrogen overproduction by triggering an elevated level of cortisol, which interrupts the feedback loop between the brain, pituitary, and the ovaries that regulates hormones. I’m sure most of you have had the experience of skipping a period or two when you are under stress. At my practice I have learned that most women don’t understand that unhappiness is a form of stress. To make the point, I sometimes actually write a patient a prescription that says “Play!”
Limit Exposure to Xenoestrogens
Limiting our exposure to xenoestrogens is also very important. Thoroughly wash or peel all produce to remove at least some of the pesticides. Eating only lean, organic meat and dairy products is wise. Heat food in metal or porcelain containers, not plastic, and definitely not in the microwave with plastic wrap! Drinking out of glass containers instead of plastic, previously used water bottles, or Styrofoam cups is also a good choice.
Eating to Promote Balance
A diet rich in phytonutrients is also thought to be protective. Phytoestrogens, for example, are natural, plant-based substances found in soybeans, licorice, yams, alfalfa and lots of other foods that are thought to bind to estrogen cell receptors and protect them from accepting the more damaging xenoestrogens. Because they work as molecular messengers, abundant botanical and other micronutrients such as essential fatty acids can help increase your body’s ability to listen and dance to the hormonal music.
In addition to eating a plant-rich diet, I recommend taking a high-quality daily nutritional supplement as a very important step towards restoring hormonal balance naturally.
Phytotherapy —a Gentle Approach to a Complex Issue
If you truly are progesterone deficient, then additional progesterone may be a good solution for you, particularly when used as part of a comprehensive plan that includes healthy lifestyle and dietary support. We’ve seen women respond extremely well to over-the-counter progesterone cream formulations for just weeks or months; others need higher prescription-strength doses over longer time periods. (A comprehensive blood panel will help show whether or not you have a serious hormone deficiency that warrants prescription strength hormone replacement).
If you are like most of the women I see, your hormonal picture is much more complex than a simple estrogen or progesterone deficiency. If you are experiencing moderate to severe, persistent symptoms of hormonal imbalance, or weaning yourself off HRT, you can probably benefit from an approach that incorporates phytotherapy aimed at normalizing the healthy dynamic interplay between all three of your key sex hormones: progesterone, estrogen and testosterone. Herbal therapies like black cohosh, Ashwagandha, chasteberry and others are a gentle, natural way to restore your hormone functions as your body requires. Ancient cultures used these botanical remedies to support, enhance or substitute hormones in an adaptogenic manner, as the body required.
So, if you’ve tried some over-the-counter progesterone products and been disappointed, you may benefit from a more comprehensive approach that combines nutritional and lifestyle modifications with a gentle, but well-balanced botanical formulation.
Related article: Phytotherapy – The Key To Hormonal Balance?
A Balanced Approach
Like Dr. Lee, we think progesterone supplementation can be an important step towards rejuvenating hormonal balance, but we don’t recommend taking a one-hormone approach. And if your symptoms are ongoing, we encourage you to have your hormone levels monitored on a regular basis. Our belief is that the gentlest interventions in the hormonal choreography are the ones that restore balance best.
Remember, Progesterone Can’t Restore Hormonal Balance Alone!
I hope it’s helpful for you to read up on how our bodies really seek hormonal balance, and what each of us can do to find a solution that works for us. Viewing our symptoms as simply a sign of estrogen dominance is as misleading as attributing them to estrogen deficiency alone. And a combination approach works better than any kind of magic pill. Improving our nutrition, adding a robust nutritional supplement, reducing stress, minimizing xenoestrogens, and tapping the adaptogenic power of herbal medicine are all key measures. Together they will help support the demands on our bodies and restore the vitality and good health that come from natural hormonal balance.
Should We All Be Worried About Estrogen Dominance?
As a trans woman, I get asked all sorts of odd questions about my body. One question I hadn’t encountered until recently, though, is “Aren’t you concerned about estrogen toxicity?”
The question came after a discussion of the typical hormone regimen of trans women, a hormone replacement process that artificially elevates estrogen levels while suppressing testosterone. The doctor who prescribed my hormones had never mentioned anything about “estrogen toxicity,” and since toxicity is always a red flag for me when it comes to health claims, I asked for clarification. I was given a link to a website that described the dangers of estrogen toxicity and offered to help me find a naturopath in my area to treat it.
Ah, a naturopath. I was beginning to understand.
It turns out that estrogen toxicity is more commonly called estrogen dominance, or ED. It is a term originally coined by Dr. John R. Lee in his book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause. You can still read Lee’s full description of the illness on the website dedicated to his work. In short, Lee’s hypothesis is that many of the symptoms of menopause were the result of the loss of progesterone — the other female hormone — to levels far below those of estrogen, and that it was this imbalance that needed to be treated. Lee promoted the use of natural progesterone creme as an alternative treatment to standard hormone replacement therapy undertaken by some women during menopause.
Lee’s hypothesis never caught on in science-based medicine, but it was picked up by alternative health practitioners. The hypothesis was quickly broadened and tied to general fears about phytoestrogens and xenoestrogens in the environment, and pretty soon it became a full blown “syndrome.” Anyone, not just women with menopause, could suffer from ED. Today, a search of Google for “estrogen dominance” or “estrogen toxicity” brings up a laundry list of alternative medicine websites and blogs like Natural News, all warning about the dangers of ED.
Here’s a typical passage from one of these ED websites:During the last century mankind has created and released over 80,000 synthetic, persistent chemicals into the environment, many of which act like estrogen inside the human body!
These chemicals have been sprayed onto our food, released in the air, and dumped into the rivers, lakes, streams and aquifers all over our country. They do not degrade and they stay around in the environment for hundreds and even thousands of years. If they did no harm then that would be one thing. But we are finding out that many of these common chemicals — found in your carpet, your car, your plastic containers, etc. — have estrogen-like activity in the human body. And when men get high levels of fake, toxic, poisonous estrogen into their systems, it starts to cause health problems!
You might be thinking that these toxins are so diluted that it doesn’t cause a problem. However, these chemicals are strong enough to cause fish to be born with two heads and to cause male fish to grow female sex organs. If they are strong enough to do that to fish, what can these toxins do to humans? Oh, my! What can they do? Apparently a lot. Depending on the website, ED is supposedly “associated with” or “correlated with” (none of them go so far as to say “causes”) everything from cancer and lupis to depression and hair loss. It also “accelerates the aging process,” whatever that means. In truth, the symptoms are vague enough and broad enough that any “symptoms of life”, as well as symptoms of aging, can be attributed to ED. This is, of course, a common red flag of pseudoscience.
It’s not the only one, though. There’s the fearmongering language — “toxins in the environment” and “toxic chemicals” — as well as the connection of ED to other popular alternative health topics like Bisphenol-A and soy. It’s a lot of the same weasel-wordy rhetoric we hear connected to any pseudoscience health claim, such as arguments for organic foods and cleansing diets.
Then there’s the predictable lack of identifiable victims. Those who warn about ED spend a lot of time scaring you with the possible effects, but providing an actual case study is beyond their ability. There’s only anecdotes and vague claims that victims of other conditions have ED to blame as an underlying cause.
And like many pseudoscience health claims, proponents of ED all cite the same handful of resources, including Dr. Lee’s book and a number of self-published research articles. One doctor’s page on ED was loaded with references … to other things she’d written on ED!
Mainstream online health reference WebMD only mentions it on one page, a discussion of progesterone creams. The Mayo Clinic, also a popular online health reference, only has two pages with the words “estrogen” and “dominance” on them, and not next to each other. When you search more scholarly health science resources like PubMed or the Health Reference Center Academic database, you get a small handful of journal articles, some from “alternative medicine” publications and several written by the same person (and focusing on veterinary medicine), as well as some magazine and newspaper articles, including some obituaries of the late Dr. Lee. There simply isn’t any medical evidence, nor any real medical recognition of, “estrogen dominance.”
That’s not to say that there isn’t legitimate research and discussion about hyper- and hypometabolic estrogen levels or legitimate evidence that xenoestrogens in the environment may effect things like precocious puberty in young people and reproductive health in adult women. But these are known medical issues that have or are curently undergoing legitimate mainstream testing, and neither of these is the same thing as, nor do they justify the invention of, a made-up condition used to sell people on alternative health products and lifestyles.
So, no, women, neither cis nor trans, should be worried about ED, and nor should anyone else. If you do have concerns about your estrogen or progesterone levels, talk to an endocrinologist — your primary physician will almost certainly be able to give you a referral — and listen to the advice they give. And bring your “correlated” symptoms to a real doctor, who can provide real treatment for what actually ails you.
What is Estrogen Dominance as a Hormonal Imbalance in Women?
PMS, fibroids, cellulite, menopause, hair loss, allergies, hip fat, belly fat, thyroid nodules or cancer, breast or uterine cancer, endometriosis or infertility? It could all be due to your estrogen.
What you will learn in this article:
- Understand what Estrogen Dominance is and the 3 common reasons that cause it.
- Learn how to identify if you have Estrogen Dominance and if you do have it, why you should quickly take proactive actions to address it.
- The steps you should take if you show symptoms of Estrogen Dominance.
What is Estrogen Dominance?
You might have heard of the term before used loosely in magazines and conversations.
That’s hardly surprising – Estrogen Dominance is one of the most common hormonal imbalances women experience today.
In fact, it is so common, that we assume that feeling PMS, being menopausal and having fibroids is pretty normal. I want to show you that it is not and there is a way to fix it.
Which 3 Reasons Cause Estrogen Dominance?
You can experience estrogen dominance if you have one or even all three of the below:
1. E1, E2 and E3 ratio: When there is too much estrone (E1) and estradiol (E2), also known as the “aggressive estrogens”, as compared to estriol (E3), which is the “protective estrogen.” This measurement is called the “Estrogen Quotient” and can be measured with a simple saliva test.
2. Progesterone: Estradiol ratio: When there is insufficient progesterone to oppose the more aggressive estradiol (E2) – this shows up as a ratio of progesterone to estradiol in saliva or urine tests.
3. Metabolites: When estrone metabolites called 2:16 hydroxy-estrone get broken down unfavorably towards the “dirty” metabolite – 16 hydroxy-estrone (that tends to be highly estrogenic and act on the estrogen receptor).
What Are Estrogen and Progesterone?
Before we go any further, let me first explain the role of these hormones. In very simplistic terms, think of estrogen as the “builder” and progesterone as the “differentiator,” and as the name implies, “pro-gestation” hormone.
Estrogen and progesterone do a beautiful dance together. We can’t function without them and can only function well with both these partners in a delicate balance.
Take a look at the below chart to gain an understanding and appreciation of how these two hormones dance together.
Do You Have Estrogen Dominance?
If you have not done any tests yet, that’s OK. A good diagnosis is always based on lab work, symptoms and family health history, especially from your mother’s side (this applies to women).
Start by taking my Free Estrogen Quiz which will help to determine if you’re experiencing any symptoms of Estrogen Dominance.
Why Address Estrogen Dominance Proactively?
If you are already diagnosed with Estrogen Dominance you are probably motivated to do something about it. Some women experience painful PMS or other symptoms and learn to live with it. However, there is a far greater question:
“How is estrogen affecting me in the long run?”
The evidence that worries me the most is that of the clear connection between Estrogen Dominance and breast cancer. You can read the medical research and references here.
Breast cancer is second only to non-melanoma skin cancer as the most common cancer among women in the United States. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 192,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the United States. Other conditions that have been linked to Estrogen Dominance are uterine cancer, autoimmune diseases, and infertility.
Why Do We Become Estrogen Dominant?
Estrogen Dominance is a complex condition and can be caused by some of these:
- Eating non-organic food – which is grown “conventionally” (this term is ridiculous, in my world), contains a high amount of pesticides, fertilizers as well as growth hormones and antibiotics that are fed to animals. They contribute to endocrine disruption in every way you can imagine
- Excess exposure to environmental xenoestrogens – a number of chemical compounds (like phthalates, BPA, SLS, and many others) found in consumer products such as detergents and skincare products.
- Use of synthetic estrogens such as the birth control pill and hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Digestive issues which inhibit the estrogen detoxification process in the liver and overproduce cortisol which blocks progesterone receptors
- Chronic stress which strains the adrenals and the thyroid,
- Unresolved emotional issues from the past and present-day
- Poor diet
- Poor liver function, as the liver is responsible for eliminating metabolized or “used up” estrogens
- Lifestyle choices such as drugs (prescription and recreational), smoking, and alcohol
- Genetic variants that make some women more prone.
What Should Be Your Next Steps In Regards To Estrogen Dominance?
Here is the good news. You can do many things to help yourself right away.
There is always an option of taking topical creams but I do not recommend this as an immediate solution. Build a healthy foundation for yourself so you can prevent other conditions – like autoimmune conditions which are also becoming a pandemic. Your food and lifestyle choices can take away the underlying causes of Estrogen Dominance. Here is how:
1. Test first
It’s important to confirm your suspicion of experiencing Estrogen Dominance. You can get your doctor to test it for you at your next appointment (be sure to get urine or saliva, not blood testing) or you can start by taking a Free Estrogen Quiz. I’ve designed it to help women discover Estrogen Dominance. The truth is Estrogen Dominance symptoms occur to 75% of women, but a whopping 90% of them don’t even realize they have it. I recommend to take this Quiz to find out for yourself.
2. Go organic
If you think that organic food is just a hype or a “hippie thing” to do, think again. Most of the chemical compounds used in raising “conventional” food and growing animals are highly detrimental to your hormonal balance. If you are on a tight budget, there might be surprising options in your neighborhood like food co-ops. Many people like to get their food directly from an organic farmer (dropped off in the city).
3. Eliminate xenoestrogen
Xenoestrogen are compounds found in general consumer products such as creams, lotions, soaps, shampoos, perfumes, hair sprays, and room deodorizers. Such compounds often have chemical structures similar to estrogen and indeed act like estrogen.
Other sources of xenoestrogens include: car exhaust, petrochemically derived pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides; solvents and adhesives such as those found in nail polish; paint removers, and glues; dry-cleaning chemicals; practically all plastics; industrial waste such as PCBs and dioxins, and synthetic estrogens from urine of women taking HRT and birth control pills that are flushed down the toilet and eventually find their way into the food chain and back into the body. They are fat soluble which means we need the engage the liver to get rid of them.
4. Improve your liver function
I wrote extensively about the role of our liver in hormonal health. In short: your liver is responsible for the evacuation of metabolized estrogens (the methylation pathway in the liver) to make way for more healthy estrogens. The article I referenced here will give you many ideas about how to detoxify your liver naturally.
Please note that in order to detox your liver, you need to make dietary and lifestyle changes for a period of time. Powders, pills, and supplements alone will NOT be effective enough to help your liver.
5. Restore the health of your digestive system
The health of your gut is central to your overall health as much as your hormonal balance. I am yet to meet a person who is healthy but has digestive issues. When I say “digestive issues” I mean chronic constipation, gas, bloating, diarrhea, acid reflux, burping, and frequent stomach aches.
A distressed digestive tract will prompt the adrenals to release cortisol. Cortisol is a progesterone blocker at the cell level. Can you see now why any form of stress (emotional, physical, digestive, etc.) can lead to Estrogen Dominance?
Another interesting data point is the recent findings on the estrobolome – a subset of the gut bacteria that helps metabolize estrogen. Who would have thought that the poor gut bacteria would bring on Estrogen Dominance?
“The estrobolome provides a framework for understanding how an individual’s resident gut bacteria may modulate lifetime estrogen exposure,” said Dr. Plottel. “States of estrogen excess are associated with an increased risk of developing estrogen-related cancers, so knowledge and characterization of the estrabolome represent a novel area of promising scientific and biomedical research.” – source.
Are you struggling with mood swings, weight gain, or low libido? If so, you could be dealing with a hormone imbalance called estrogen dominance. Estrogen is one of the most important female reproductive hormones and is crucial for day-to-day functioning. It regulates menstruation, improve the thickness and quality of the skin, helps regulate cholesterol production in the liver, contributes to bone health, and more. Without it, you end up with symptoms of menopause, like vaginal changes, hot flashes, moodiness, irregular periods, and more.
But, too much of a good thing causes biological chaos, in the case of high estrogen.
Estrogen dominance can wreak havoc on your whole body!
Having too much estrogen, and not enough progesterone–known as estrogen dominance–is not only linked to a long list of frustrating symptoms; it also puts you at risk for a variety of chronic issues. By far the greatest risk associated with estrogen dominance is hormone-dependent cancers such as estrogen receptor positive breast cancer in women. The statistics are staggering, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Thyroid issues can also occur because excess estrogen blocks the thyroid hormones from hitting their receptor sites and doing its job. Excess estrogen can wreak havoc on your body if it’s not in proper balance with your other reproductive hormones, mainly progesterone. Since progesterone is a natural diuretic; estrogen dominance can also lead to high blood pressure. Properly balanced progesterone will also stabilize blood sugar; therefore, estrogen dominance has been linked to insulin resistance and diabetes.
American Statistics associated with estrogen dominance and hormone imbalances.
Could I be estrogen dominant?
Are you struggling with mood swings, weight gain, or low libido? If so, you could be dealing with a hormone imbalance. Similar to low progesterone, estrogen dominance can cause a variety of symptoms, some obvious and some subtle.
Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
- Weight gain (particularly in hips, midsection, thighs)
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Abnormal menstruation
- Reduced sex drive
- Breast tenderness
- Mood swings
- Brain fog
What causes estrogen dominance?
Excess body fat is one of the main causes of estrogen dominance. Not only does fat tissue absorb and store estrogen in your bloodstream, it also synthesizes estrogen from your other hormones. As expected, the more fat cells you have, the more estrogen you will make. The more estrogen you make, the more fat you store, and the cycle continues.
Chronic stress is one of the main reasons women become estrogen dominant. When you are stressed, or overly busy, your cortisol levels go sky high and your body must use up its progesterone to keep up, which will ultimately deplete your “oh so helpful” hormone, progesterone. As more progesterone is used for cortisol production, less is available to balance estrogen – leading to increased estrogen levels. Also, excess estrogen will cause the pancreas to over produce insulin, so you can’t burn fat efficiently, no matter what you are eating!
Thousands of man-made products contain xenoestrogens, industrial chemicals that mimic the behavior of estrogens and disrupt your hormone balance. You would literally have to live in a bubble to escape the excess estrogens we’re exposed to in our daily, modern environment. They’re everywhere–in our water, our food, personal care products, furniture and clothes. You encounter a shocking number of these hormone imbalancing xenoestrogens each day, without even knowing it.
Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Erratic periods and heavy bleeding are often a result of estrogen dominance. Hormone replacement therapy medications and most oral contraceptives only add more estrogen on top of excess estrogen, without the balance of progesterone. Progesterone balances the effects of estrogen, and without enough, you end up with symptoms of estrogen dominance.
What can I do to correct estrogen dominance?
Eat a whole food nutrient dense diet.
Eliminate all toxic, processed foods from your diet that contain hidden estrogens, including conventional meat, dairy products, and produce. Choose grass-fed, pasture-raised, and organic whenever possible to avoid added hormones, pesticides, and fertilizers used in conventional farming methods. It’s also important to consume adequate amounts of fiber. Fiber helps remove excess estrogen from the body and helps stabilize blood sugar levels which is critical for optimal hormone balance.
Filter your water.
Thanks to runoff and pollution, hormone-disruptors are rampant in our water supply. Bottled water is equally problematic. Estrogenic chemicals in plastic bottles leaches out into the water. To protect your water, install water filters on all your facets and shower heads. Look for a triple-stage filter: a sediment filter, a ceramic filter, and an activated charcoal filter.
Quit birth control.
Talk to your functional medicine doctor about non-hormonal birth control options.
Exchange your personal care products.
Switch out chemical-filled personal care products for safer versions that are free and clear of any synthetic compounds such as parabens and sulfates.
Exercise can speed up the liver’s detox processes, sharpen insulin sensitivity, boost weight loss, help mitigate mood swing problems associated with estrogen dominance, and reduce levels of stress hormones in the body. Choose lower impact exercises as opposed to high impact, which can raise cortisol levels.
Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, and gratitude. Start a de-stressing practice that will free up that pregnenolone for progesterone. It is also important that you make sure you’re getting adequate sleep at night to let your body detox and recover from the stresses of the day.
Magnesium: Magnesium allow the body to absorb calcium and regulates the pituitary gland, which in turn regulates hormone levels. It has also been known to have a calming effect which will help reduce stress and aid with sleep. Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 helps to regulate your hormones and can help reduce blood estrogen levels and result in improvements in PMS symptoms.
Let Bebalanced Hormone Weight Loss Centers help!
Until you balance your hormones, you will have problems with stubborn weight, mood, sleep, energy, and a host of other frustrating symptoms. The BeBalanced program is a simple, effective way for the body to correct hormone imbalances – naturally. Our natural hormone balancing program works with your body, unlike traditional HRT, which has risks and often causes more weight gain and symptoms. Our mission at BeBalanced is: Empowering women to live the highest quality of life through hormone balance. We believe that women deserve to look and feel their best at any age. Contact us today to find out how!
How To Treat Estrogen Dominance Through Diet And Lifestyle
The post How To Treat Estrogen Dominance Through Diet And Lifestyle appeared first on Annex Naturopathic Clinic.
Estrogen dominance is a sinister hormone imbalance that typically isn’t caused by one single factor.
Our previous two articles – What Are The Causes of Estrogen Dominance?, and Estrogen Dominance: The Hormone Imbalance You’re Told You Don’t Have – outlined the main reasons why someone may have estrogen dominance and the health conditions associated with having poor estrogen metabolism.
Understanding that liver health, diet, inflammation and environmental exposures all play a crucial role in your estrogen health, here are a few simple changes you can make in order to optimize your estrogen status
1. Support liver health
We have a whole article on why liver health is important, and now we know that liver health is also important in preventing estrogen dominance.
Improve your liver health by eating clean, emphasizing consumption of bitter leafy greens, drink a good amount of water and reduce your toxin load by reducing preservative-laden foods.
2. Eat Brassicae family (Cabbage) vegetables
This food group is particularly important in estrogen dominance.
Brassicae family vegetables contain a compound called Indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which has been found to favour healthy phase 1 conversion of estrogen to 2-OH-estrogens in women, which we know is protective against estrogen dominant conditions while decreasing other metabolites (16-OH-estrogens), known to exacerbate estrogen dominant conditions (1-3).
This group of veggies are a great source of fibre, which is also great for binding and clearing estrogens, contain tonnes of antioxidants that help protect the liver against oxidative damage.
Members of this family include:
- Brussel sprouts
- Collard Greens
I always suggest lightly cooking these vegetables before consuming – raw forms can be hard on the stomach and can also slow down thyroid function.
3. Reduce stress
Practicing stress-relieving activities is good for overall health.
The stress hormone cortisol, when secreted in excess, will alter blood sugar metabolism – increasing glucose and insulin.
High insulin states perpetuate inflammation, and promote obesity, two risk factors for estrogen dominance.
Imbalanced cortisol on its own has been linked to higher inflammatory states. Progesterone, the hormone that balances estrogen and regulates its effects, is also lowered by high cortisol and inflammation.
Try reducing stress by exercising, practicing mediation and mindfulness.
You can read more about how to reduce stress from a previous article.
4. Eat clean meats and reduce meat consumption
A diet full of poor quality saturated fat and trans-fats promote inflammation – poor quality meats tend to be riddled with high amounts of these type fats.
Animals fed grain and corn aren’t as lean and tend to be fed antibiotics and injected with hormones to increase their weight for greater profit.
These added chemicals not only increase the chemical load on our body when we consume these foods, the added hormones add estrogen to our bodies, promoting estrogen dominance!
Go with grass-fed, pasture-raised meats, or at least try to pick meats that are raised hormone and antibiotic-free.
Compounds found in well-cooked meat (heterocyclic amines and metabolites) can bind to and activate estrogen receptors (4).To control levels of inflammation related to increased meat consumption, try eating 4-5 ounces, high-quality red meat 1-2x a week, poultry up to 3x/week, and fish 2-3x/week.
Focus on legumes and eggs to fill the protein for the rest of your meals. If you go with soy, pick organic soy, and eat 1 cup cooked 1-2x/week for a balanced phytoestrogenic effect.
Dairy should be avoided as many people are sensitive to dairy and it’s proteins (not just lactose), and milk from pregnant cows are very high in estrogen.
If you choose to eat dairy, go for ethically raised, organic cheeses and yogurt as they are better for the digestion, and stay away from liquid milk forms as a whole.
5. Avoid chemical products
As we saw, there are a number of chemical compounds that mimic estrogen in the body, increase aromatase, are liver toxic, and in general are carcinogenic.
Chemicals specifically found to lead to estrogen-dominant conditions, specifically, cancers, include (4):
- Found in cosmetic products and soaps:
- metalloestrogens such as aluminum salts
- triclosan (found in hand sanitizer)
- UV sunscreens
- Plastic packaging:
- Styrene – a widely used plastic for food packaging
- Bisphenol-A (BPA): the WORST – found to activate aromatase, lower progesterone effect, bind and activate estrogen
6. Balance your progesterone
Many women are walking around with low levels of progesterone, typically due to stress – which could be the biggest reason why estrogen dominance is present.
Symptoms of low progesterone include
- PMS symptoms such as depression (intense), breast tenderness in the upper outer quadrants of the breast, acne, migraines and night sweats
- Pre-menstrual spotting or spotting throughout the cycle (breakthrough bleeding)
- Many women come in feeling that their PMS symptoms start long before 1 week before their menstrual flow – typically starting right after ovulation. This is a classic sign progesterone deficiency.
If you suspect that you might have estrogen dominance, progesterone deficiency, or you’re unsure, book with one of us – we are able to provide a thorough assessment on your hormonal health.
We also offer testing to assess estrogen dominance through measuring the different estrogen metabolites (such as 2-OH, 4-OH, 16-OH) through urine testing.
If you’re curious to learn more about this subject or would like to consult with Dr. Marnie Luck ND feel free to book a visit or contact us.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D
572 Bloor St W #201, Toronto, ON M6G 1K1
“My hormones feel so out of balance” a female patient will tell me. “I’m tired of feeling crappy and terrible all the time. Do I need to do hormone replacement to feel better, or is there a natural way to get my hormones in balance?”
Hormone imbalances are epidemic these days. When talking about hormones, I want you to think of a symphony. All of them interact, so when one gets out of whack, others quickly follow. There are many key players in this orchestra – adrenals, thyroid, insulin – but today, we’re focusing on women’s sex hormones.
While many things can cause an imbalance in our sex hormones, the good news is that many women can fix these imbalances without medications.
You might never know this from conventional medicine, which seems to subscribe to the idea that women are destined to suffer throughout their reproductive life. Women suffer from mood and behavior swings resulting from the three P’s: Puberty, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and peri-menopause (the years leading up to and just after their final period), or the three M’s: menstrual cramps, menopause and mental anxiety!
Are Women’s Bodies Defective?
Why do sex hormone levels drop up to 90 percent during the aging process? Are women destined to suffer from impaired mood, muscle loss, poor sleep, memory difficulties, and sexual problems?
Of course not!
The suffering related to your reproductive life cycle is unnecessary. It is not a result of bad luck; it’s due to bad habits, such as drinking alcohol and smoking; eating a high-sugar and refined-carbohydrate diet; consuming dairy and often, gluten; not exercising enough; being exposed to environmental toxins; and being chronically stressed.
To think that 75 percent of women have a design flaw that gives them PMS and requires medical treatment is just absurd. To think that women have to dwindle, shrivel, and lose emotional, physical, and sexual vitality is a burdensome, self-fulfilling prophecy.
We now have endless examples of balance and thriving at any age. An 81-year-old female patient once told me, with a twinkle in her eye, about her new boyfriend and their wonderful love life! Thriving is possible at any age and it doesn’t always have to result from a pill.
Simply put, PMS, menopausal symptoms, and other problems are all signs of imbalances in your sex hormones. They are not the result of mutant genes that destroy our sexual vitality as we age. Instead, they are treatable symptoms of underlying imbalance in one of the core systems in your body. Get your sex hormones back in balance, and these problems will usually disappear.
The truth is: Women do NOT need to suffer.
Instead of immediately resorting to a hormone replacement (which might be your conventional doctor’s first line of treatment), you need to figure out the “why” – what is causing the symptoms. If you find that you do need hormones, then you need to find the way to replace them that most aligns with your body – low dose, topical, bio-identical, short duration.
In other words, figure out what creates these imbalances – and treat the underlying problem. That’s where Functional Medicine comes in: You treat the underlying cause(s), create balance, and symptoms get better.
Most of us are living life completely out of balance. Unfortunately, many symptoms we come to accept as “normal” are just signs of imbalance, and the type of imbalance that affects almost everyone in our society is hormonal imbalance.
These and other imbalances are all fixable.
Do You Struggle with Out-of-Balance Sex Hormones?
When female patients suspect sex hormones might be out of whack, I ask them to self-evaluate using this quiz:
I have premenstrual syndrome.
I have monthly weight fluctuation.
I have edema, swelling, puffiness, or water retention.
I feel bloated.
I have headaches.
I have mood swings.
I have tender, enlarged breasts.
I am depressed.
I feel unable to cope with ordinary demands.
I have backaches, joint, or muscle pain.
I have premenstrual food cravings (especially sugar or salt).
I have irregular cycles, heavy bleeding, or light bleeding.
I am infertile.
I use birth-control pills or other hormones.
I have premenstrual migraines.
I have breast cysts or lumps or fibrocystic breasts.
I have a family history of breast, ovarian, or uterine cancer.
I have uterine fibroids.
I have peri-menopausal symptoms (hot flashes, mood swings, headaches, irregular cycles, heavy bleeding, fluid retention, breast tenderness, vaginal dryness, brain fog, muscle and joint pain, low sex drive, weight gain).
I have hot flashes.
I feel anxious.
I have night sweats.
I have insomnia.
I have lost my sex drive.
I have dry skin, hair, and/ or vagina.
I have heart palpitations.
I have trouble with memory or concentration.
I have bloating or weight gain around the middle.
I have facial hair.
I have been exposed to pesticides or heavy metals (in the food, water, and/ or air).
Score one point for every time you answered “yes,” and then check out how you scored using the scale below:
0 to 9 – You may have a mild sex hormone imbalance.
10 to 14 – You may have a moderate sex hormone imbalance.
15 or more – You may have a severe sex hormone imbalance.
Now that you have determined the severity of your imbalance, let’s talk about the one thing you can do today to begin treating your symptoms.
The Right Diet Becomes Your Number-One Reset Button
Balancing your hormones is a process, and sometimes it has little twists and turns. But by sticking with it, you can become vital, happy, alert, brilliant, and thriving.
Your diet is the foundation that helps balance your sex hormones.
The first step involves removing the bad stuff. We know that sugar, caffeine, alcohol, stress, and lack of exercise all contribute to worsened PMS and all hormonal imbalances – including menopause.
Imbalances in your hormones are triggered by bad food. If you eat sugar, you’ll produce more insulin, more estrogen, and more testosterone. Any type of flour and sugar can lead to these imbalances. Dairy and gluten are often triggers for inflammation and hormonal imbalances. Xenobiotics or environmental chemicals like pesticides in our food can act like powerful hormone disruptors and trigger our own hormones to go out of balance. If you are interested to know how these toxins disrupt our hormones then read Our Stolen Future by Theo Colburn.
Dairy is one of the biggest triggers of hormonal imbalances because of all the hormones found naturally in milk and because of the hormones and antibiotics added to milk. Even organic milk can come from pregnant cows, jacking up hormone levels. In fact, dairy has over 60 hormones that can contribute to imbalances. Dairy and gluten are among the most common food sensitivities that you might benefit from eliminating from your diet.
After removing the bad stuff, you will want to replace it with good stuff. Eat a whole, real, unprocessed, organic, mostly plant-based diet with organic or sustainably raised animal products. When you focus on this type of diet, you minimize intake of xenoestrogens, hormones, and antibiotics. Taking simple steps like choosing organic food and drinking filtered water can hugely impact hormone balance.
You might consider doing my Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, which will naturally help reset your hormones by eliminating sugary, processed foods and food sensitivities while focusing on organic, whole, unprocessed foods. To reset female hormones, focus on specific hormone-balancing foods. Increase certain foods like flaxseeds, cruciferous veggies, good fats, and traditional organic non-GMO whole soy foods (tofu, tempeh, miso, natto, and edamame). Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds a day to your diet.
Other Strategies to Balance Your Sex Hormones
Diet aside, there’s a lot you can do to balance your sex hormones without resorting to medication.
Supplement smartly. Fish oil and additional vitamin D and B vitamins help balance estrogen. Take these in addition to a good multivitamin and mineral with sufficient calcium and magnesium. Probiotics, antioxidants and phytonutrients (vitamin E, resveratrol, curcumin, n-actetyl cysteine, green tea, selenium), and the anti-inflammatory omega-6 fat (GLA or gamma linoleic acid) can help balance sex hormones. You can find these and other hormone-balancing supplements in my store.
Exercise. When you exercise, you have less PMS and other problems. Find something that you love to do. Running, long walks, weight training, dance, or any other form of movement that you enjoy.
Reduce stress. Chronic stress can trigger or exacerbate hormonal imbalances. The key here becomes finding something that works for you to reduce stress. That might include meditation, yoga, tapping, therapy, or finding a creative or expressive outlet. My UltraCalm CD helps melt away stress, anxiety, and tension.
Sleep well. Insufficient sleep can adversely impact PMS, menopause, and other conditions. Getting eight hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night is one of the best things I can think of to balance hormonal levels. You will find 19 ways to do that in this blog.
Reduce or eliminate alcohol. Alcohol – yes, even red wine – jacks up estrogen and increases chances of cancer.
How to Do Hormone Replacement Therapy Safely
For 50 years, hormone replacement therapy was thought to be the fountain of youth that would keep women “feminine forever” until it was found that unopposed estrogen increased the incidence of uterine cancer eight-fold.
For more than three decades, women were the subject of widespread experimentation founded on absent or weak evidence, creating unnecessary harm through increases in uterine, breast, and ovarian cancer, as well as heart attacks and strokes. These methods provide a temporary solution to intractable (and often transient) menopausal symptoms.
Despite potential drawbacks, there are some cases in which hormone replacement and medications are helpful and even necessary for women whose symptoms are unmanageable. Occasionally, despite lifestyle therapies – diet, exercise, stress reduction, nutrient supplementation, and herbs – hormone therapy can be lifesaving (as well as mood- and brain-saving).
Only a physician knowledgeable and experienced with bio-identical hormone therapy should prescribe them. I recommend if you go that direction, talk with a knowledgeable functional practitioner who could discuss the pros and cons of hormone therapy so you make the most informed decision.
If you believe hormone replacement therapy might be necessary for you, please discuss the pros and cons with your Functional Medicine practitioner.
If you’ve struggled with PMS, peri-menopause, or other problems, what did you find best helped alleviate the issue? Did you have to look beyond conventional medicine to find those answers? Share your thoughts below or on my Facebook page.
What Are Hormonal Imbalances?
When you support a healthy diet with the right nutrients and lifestyle factors, you can dramatically improve hormone levels. These seven strategies provide a solid starting point.
1. Reduce or eliminate sugar and other food sensitivities.
Sugar keeps insulin elevated, knocking other hormones out of balance and paving the way for insulin resistance. Food sensitivities including gluten can also increase inflammation and contribute to hormonal imbalances including cortisol. Research shows that a healthy gluten-free diet can reduce inflammation and insulin resistance. Consider working with a chiropractor or other healthcare professional with an elimination diet to see if your symptoms improve.
2. Balance stress levels.
Chronic stress is all-around bad news for hormonal balance, creating or exacerbating hormonal imbalances. Research shows a six-month meditation practice could improve insulin levels while improving stress levels, but what matters is what helps you de-stress. That could be yoga, deep breathing, or taking your dog for a walk.
3. Address toxicity.
We are bombarded daily with chemicals nearly everywhere —in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the products we put on our bodies. Many of these chemicals are considered endocrine or hormone disruptors because they interfere with hormonal production and create wide-ranging damage. Among them include bisphenol A (BPA), found in plastic water bottle and cans, which can disrupt multiple hormonal pathways. Xenoestrogens, chemical compounds that mimic estrogen, can impact testosterone and estrogen production. Consider working with a chiropractor or other healthcare professional on a professionally designed detoxification program.
4. Lower inflammation.
Hormonal imbalances can increase inflammation, which in turn can further disrupt hormone production. When your adrenals over-secrete cortisol, other hormones including insulin become disrupted and lead to chronic inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet, rich in wild-caught fish and high-fiber plant foods, is your best foundation to lower inflammation. If you aren’t regularly eating fish, consider a quality fish oil to get those crucial anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
5. Get great sleep.
Your circadian system impacts many hormones including cortisol and ghrelin. Sleep disturbances can contribute to numerous problems including hormonal imbalances. Getting optimal sleep levels can be a challenge in today’s plugged-in society. Sleep hygiene can help — turn off electronics an hour or two before bed, unwind with an Epsom salt bath, and consider a supplement that naturally helps you fall and stay asleep.
6. Exercise regularly.
The right amount and kind of exercise can positively impact nearly every hormone, including potentially balancing insulin levels. Exercise can also boost growth hormone, your “fountain of youth” hormone that keeps you lean and energetic. While many studies have looked at the benefits of higher-intensity exercise for hormone balance, what matters ultimately is what you actually do. Follow our tips to start exercising more, no matter what your current physical condition.
7. Talk to your healthcare professional.
Doctors use blood tests to measure how much of a hormone your body makes and sometimes use bioidentical hormones to correct imbalances. They might use testosterone therapy, for instance, if you have low levels of this hormone. Always discuss potential side effects and other drawbacks before you begin treatment. You may able to treat hormonal imbalances naturally. Talk to your chiropractor, who can complement your doctor’s recommendations by designing a customized dietary and lifestyle hormone balance protocol. Research shows, for instance, that chiropractic care can help balance cortisol and other adrenal hormones to help manage your stress response.
Every hormonal imbalance requires a unique strategy to create balance. No one should have to live with the unpleasant symptoms of hormonal balances like fatigue, mood disorders, and low sex drive. At the same time, the right diet, nutrients, and lifestyle factors along with working with a chiropractor or other healthcare professional can go a long way towards balancing hormones.
How do vitamins affect your hormones and mood?
We all experience feelings of nervousness, anxiety and apprehension. Some of us will even struggle with conditions such as depression at some point in our lives. While fluctuating emotions are part of being human, sometimes they can be heavily influenced by what’s going on inside of our bodies, not just our minds.
Hormones play a key role in the emotional state of both men and women, but as women we are more likely to experience extreme and sudden changes in mood as a result of our hormones, mainly due to the monthly cycle and changing levels of progesterone and estrogen.
Imbalances in hormones can affect our physical health, as well as our mental health. The hormonal shifts caused by the menstrual cycle, the menopause and pregnancy, can lead to irritability, lethargy, cravings and more for many women. A decrease in testosterone levels that typically occur in men in their 50s, can cause hair loss, weight gain and lethargy. In both sexes, imbalances of certain hormones can lead to thyroid problems and diabetes.
The good news is that with the right nutrition, vitamins and lifestyle, we can help support and regulate our hormones, thereby lessening some of the unwanted physical and mental symptoms of hormonal imbalances.
Why does hormone imbalances occur?
Hormonal level changes occur naturally at certain times in our lives; during puberty, in pregnancy and during the menopause. Hormone imbalances can be caused by an unbalanced lifestyle, inadequate nutrition, stress and environmental toxins.
In order to help prevent such imbalances occurring, it is important we understand the exact causes of them in female hormones.
The environment can play a role in disrupting our hormones and causing imbalances. For example, the chemical found in plastics known as bisphenol-A (BPA) can disrupt the endocrine system (the body’s chemical messaging system, consisting of hormones and the glands that produce them and carry them to the circulatory system) and has been linked to hormonal disruption. More than 90% of the world’s population are thought to have BPA in their urine. Such chemicals can bind to hormone receptor sites and disrupt the body’s natural hormonal balance – and these are known as endocrine disruptors.
Pesticides such as DDT are also regarded as a cause of major hormone dysfunction in humans, as can dioxins, certain cosmetics and household chemicals such as detergents.
Being exposed to the environmental estrogens found in chemicals, plants and the environment mimics the effect of the estrogen hormone, resulting in unnatural hormonal patterns.
The food you eat
Food regulates many of our bodily functions, including the transport of certain hormones.
Consuming certain foods in moderation can help the body maintain a healthy hormone balance. For example, sugar is known for wreaking havoc on the hormones as it can lead to spikes in the hormone insulin. A diet that is high in sugar can cause insulin levels to rise until the cells develop resistance. This causes the body to focus more on processing the sugar and less on the other hormones, resulting in an imbalance in estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, amongst other hormones.
Other food can disrupt hormonal balance. The combination of gluten and sugar found in white bread, for example, can increase inflammation in the body, putting stress on the adrenal glands. This can lead to a fall in the production of estrogen and progesterone, adrenals and thyroid, negatively affecting the balance of the hormones.
Stress, both physical and mental, can also affect the balance of our hormones due to rising levels of cortisol, when we are feeling stressed our hormones can become out of sync. In stressful situations, our bodies start using progesterone and transforming it into cortisol.
During stressful periods when cortisol levels are raised, the adrenal glands steal vital nutrients from the thyroid gland in order to manage this stress-state. This ‘cortisol steal’ can impact negatively on our thyroid function – the gland that regulates most systems in the body – potentially leading to poor memory, weight gain, lower immune function and affected ovarian function.
Hormone imbalances can also be caused by certain medication. Hormone drugs, like birth control pills, disrupt a woman’s normal hormone production with a synthetic version of progesterone and estrogen. Some birth control pills prevent ovulation by eliminating the peak of estrogen, so the ovary doesn’t receive the signal to release an egg.
What Vitamins can help to balance hormones?
Whilst many hormonal imbalances should be discussed with a doctor, vitamins can play an effective role in supporting and balancing the healthy hormone production in your body. However, it is important to consult your GP if you have lots of symptoms or a condition that needs further support to ensure that any supplements you take are suited to you and are not interfering with any medication that you may be taking.
If you do suffer from physical or mental issues caused by hormonal imbalance, you may want to consider taking the following vitamins to help support a more healthy and balanced system:
Vitamin D and thyroid dysfunction
Vitamin D can help play a part in regulating insulin and the thyroid hormone. Research shows that a deficiency of vitamin D is associated with a high risk of thyroid antibodies, which are found in individuals suffering with autoimmune thyroid disorders. A vitamin D supplement can help with the regulation of insulin flow and balance blood sugar, allowing the body’s natural hormone cycles to function more effectively.
Vitamin B6 and PMS
Vitamin B6 can help alleviate some of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), such as mood changes and irritability. Studies have proven that taking around 100 milligrams of B6 daily can be an effective way to ward off PMS symptoms associated with mood and emotion – it helps in synthesising some of the neurotransmitters that affect these feelings.
Vitamin E and menopause
For menopausal women, supporting the body with vitamin E can help ease certain symptoms. Taking vitamin E as a supplement can help alleviate the severity of many common menopausal symptoms, including insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats, palpitations and vaginal dryness. It is believed that vitamin E actually reduces stress through its natural antioxidant properties.
Vitamin Niacin (B3) and stress
Niacin is one of theB-complex vitamins known as B3. One of B3’s unique properties is its ability to help you relax and aid a more restful night of sleep. This is due to the fact B3 relaxes the muscle tissue, allowing the arteries to widen and blood flow to increase. This leads to increased blood flow and reduced blood pressure. By aiding relaxation and better sleep, niacin is associated with significantly reducing stress, anxiety and depression. Niacin can cause skin flushing so take advice on dosage from a health professional.
4 Tips to Help Prevent Estrogen Dominance, A Risk for Breast Cancer in Women and Men
Low estrogen levels in women can cause weight gain, mood swings and headaches. It also raises the risk for cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and dementia. And in men it may raise body fat, lower sex drive and contribute to erectile dysfunction.
Seems awful. But there is one bright spot – lower levels of estrogen also lower your risk for breast cancer as well as other estrogenic cancers such as ovarian, uterine, thyroid and prostate. A pooled analysis involving nine studies suggested that having high levels of the estrogen estradiol doubles your risk for breast cancer, according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
“There are different types of estrogen,” says Dr. Andrea Klemes, endocrinologist and chief medical officer, MDVIP. “Low levels of one type can lead to a host of health issues, while high levels of another type raise the risk for cancer.”
Estrogen is a group of female hormones comprising estrone, estradiol, estriol:
- Estradiol is the estrogen that keeps us looking and feeling young. It’s produced by the ovaries in women and derived from testosterone in men. It promotes our sex drive and helps protect us from cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and cancer. Levels beginning waning in your 30s. It’s pretty much depleted in women by menopause, but it varies in men.
- Estriol and estetrol are the pregnancy estrogens. Your body releases estriol during pregnancy to provide nourishment to the placenta. Recent studies credit it with anti-inflammatory properties and link it to gut health. The fetus’ liver produces estetrol, though its function is unclear. After giving birth, levels of both hormones become undetectable.
- Estrone is known as the menopause estrogen. It’s secreted by ovaries, converted by testosterone or produced by fat tissue. This is why some experts consider being overweight a risk for certain cancers. Although it helps protect the heart and brain in women and men, it can cause some weight gain, raise the risk for estrogenic cancers and has been linked to type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis in men.
Genetics are involved in breast cancer but not as much as you might think. Around 10 percent of breast cancer cases have familial ties, according to BreastCancer.org. Hormones play a role in at least some types of breast cancer.
Breast cancer has lots of potential causes, according to National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences-funded research. Causes include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, exposure to ionizing radiation and being overweight, particularly after menopause. Taking combination hormonal therapy products (estrogen and progesterone together) and using of diethylstilbestrol (or DES) – a medication used years ago to prevent miscarriages and premature deliveries are also considered potential causes.
However, estrogen also plays a critical role in the development of breast cancer, according to a study published in Cancer Letters. Researchers found that cells involved in estrogen-receptor (ER) positive breast cancer cells – one of the most common forms of breast cancer — need estrogen grow.
Every month a woman’s menstrual cycle stimulates breast tissue with estrogen that can attach to hormone receptors of breast cancer cells, so the fewer menstrual cycles you have, the lower your risk for ER positive breast cancer. That’s why three risk factors for breast cancer include: beginning menstruation before age 12, starting menopause after age 55 and never getting pregnant. And since women have more exposure to estrogen, particularly estrone, their breast cancer rates are higher than men’s.
Sometimes the body produces an imbalance of hormones — in women it’s a high estrogen to progesterone ratio and in men it’s a high estrogen to testosterone ratio. There are three usual causes for this: Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), genetic issues or lifestyle issues. This is called estrogen dominance.
HRT is often prescribed for severe perimenopausal or postmenopausal symptoms, surgically-induced menopause It’s typically intended for short-term use. Although there are different types, some experts consider long-term HRT use to be risky.
Genetic issues also occasionally interfere with the body’s ability to process and get rid of excess estrogen. Lifestyle issues like diets high in processed foods, chronic stress, poor liver function, inadequate sleep and substance use also contribute.
“Estrogen is metabolized in the liver. This means if you’re liver isn’t healthy, it can affect how estrogen is metabolized,” Klemes said. This can lead to elevated levels of estrogen in the body.
It’s not always easy recognizing the symptoms of estrogen dominance, especially in postmenopausal women, as typical symptoms include irritability, insomnia, headaches, depression, weight gain (particularly through the hips), uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, memory issues, low sex drive, premenstrual syndrome and fatigue. In men, it’s usually enlarged breasts, sexual dysfunction and infertility. It’s often related to or mistaken for low testosterone.
Estrogen dominance and buildup of bad estrogen metabolites may not be completely preventable, but you can take some steps to help control both issues, such as:
Exercise: helps lower estrogen levels and control body fat, which releases estrogen. Talk to your doctor about starting an exercise program.
Choose organic, whole, plant-based foods: because they aren’t sprayed with pesticides, herbicides or fungicides that may disrupt your hormones. They also don’t have the hormones, whether naturally occurring or injected into the cattle.
Avoid plastic containers and bottles: they contain xenoestrogens – natural or synthetic compounds that imitate estrogen. They’re found in many plastics. When possible, store your foods and beverages in glass. Just as a heads up: Xenoestrogens are commonly found in many cosmetics, hair, skin care and hygiene products. There isn’t any federal regulation on these items and they’re nearly impossible to cut out or your lifestyle.
Manage stress: when stressed, your body uses progesterone (the other female hormone) to create cortisol, which helps your body handle the stressful situation, but it leaves an excess of estrogen in its wake.
Managing your hormones is not easy. But your primary care physician may be able to help. Need a primary care physician? Check out MDVIP, a nationwide network of primary care doctors who focus on personalized medicine and prevention and have the time to develop close, doctor-patient relationships. Find one near you and begin your partnership in health ”
Women’s Health: Is Your Estrogen Too High or Too Low?
“Estrogen dominance” and “estrogen deficiency” are key factors underlying many female health concerns and understanding what they are and how they happen can help us reverse their effects.
Understanding Estrogen Dominance
Estrogen dominance occurs when there is an excess of estrogen in the body relative to the amount of progesterone. In other words, the ratio of these two hormones is very important and when the amount of estrogen outweighs or “dominates” the amount of progesterone, there can be many undesirable effects such as PMS, bloating, breast tenderness, breast cancer, uterine fibroids, and osteoporosis. Common reasons why a women might experience estrogen dominance include high-stress, poor diet, constipation, current or past use of hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives, and excess weight. Sound familiar? Many women will experience one or more of these at some point in their life and experts claim that approximately 50% of women over 35 are estrogen dominant.
Understanding Estrogen Deficiency
Conversely, “estrogen deficiency” is most common in menopausal and perimenopausal women (particularly among those who are petite and/or slender) but can also be caused by hysterectomies, radiation and chemotherapy treatments, or conditions such as anorexia, genetic disease, insufficient body fat, and thyroid problems. Common symptoms experienced in those with estrogen deficiency include hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, mood swings, depression, memory problems, dry skin, painful intercourse, and loss of libido. Symptoms of estrogen deficiency are experienced by most women in their lifetime.
Nutrition & Hormone Balance
We put food in our bodies about 3 times a day and each time we do so we have the opportunity to choose foods that can act as powerful medicines. Proper nutrition can aid in balancing hormones. Something as simple and inexpensive as adding 2 tablespoons of flax meal to a woman’s diet each day can have a balancing effect on both estrogen dominance and estrogen deficiency. Similarly, daily doses of Brassica vegetables such as kale, cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts can also help improve the body’s metabolism and balance of estrogen.
Botanical Medicines Commonly Used to Balance Hormones
Vitex, also known as Chaste tree berry, is used to regulate menstrual cycles and boost fertility and in clinical trials has been shown to increase progesterone levels and improve symptoms of PMS.
Black Cohosh increases estrogen levels and is utilized in treatment of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia, and depression.
Maca has quickly become a popular herb for hormone balancing, which makes sense because it actually belongs to the Brassica family of cruciferous vegetables.
Supplements for Balanced Hormones
Other major dietary considerations for optimal hormone function include making sure a woman’s body is getting adequate levels of essential fatty acids, magnesium, B-complex vitamins, and vitamin D from her diet and/or supplementation.
Naturopathic doctors are trained in all of these areas and can help determine the right combination of nutrients, botanical medicines, and supplements to help bring a woman’s hormones back into balance.
Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel.
And because no good blog post goes without an awesome foodie recipe attached, here is a wonderfully delicious hormone-balancing smoothie for you to try featuring flax seeds, cacao, and maca powder!