If you’ve struggled with infertility, endometriosis, allergies, autoimmunity, or PMS, you know how powerful hormones are. Any woman who’s gone through menopause can explain in graphic detail the symptoms of having too little estrogen, with it’s unique array of miserable symptoms. So no, this post isn’t about vilifying estrogen. It’s the balance, or ratio of estrogen to progesterone, that is key. Protect your health by familiarizing yourself with these 7 signs of estrogen dominance, especially considering that estrogen levels tend to rise with age in relation to other hormones.
What Is Estrogen Dominance?
You may not equate your depression, mood swings, hair loss, abdominal weight gain, and candida to high levels of estrogen, but these levels could be the culprit underlying many of your symptoms. Even slight fluctuations in estrogen levels can significantly change the way women, and men, feel physically, emotionally, and mentally. The term “estrogen” refers to a group of hormones, including estradiol, estriol, and estrone, that the ovaries produce, with the adrenals and fat cells producing lesser amounts, particularly before menopause.
Estrogen is responsible for the regulation of over 1,000 genes. These estrogens are powerful steroid hormones that are tightly regulated, with even small alterations leading to symptoms. Estrogen dominance is a common hormonal imbalance of simultaneously having low progesterone and excess estrogen. Estrogen levels can be low, normal, or high, with lower levels of progesterone, hence the name, estrogen dominance.
It’s possible to be deficient in estrogen, yet still be estrogen dominant, due to a skewed ratio of estrogen to progesterone. High estrogen levels can be dangerous, increasing your risk of female cancers, such as breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers. Men can also be estrogen dominant, particularly as they age, giving them a higher proclivity to developing prostate cancer.
The good news is you can turn your estrogen dominance around by implementing a variety of strategies, including stopping the influx of xenoestrogens, or endocrine disruptors, into your body. These fake estrogen-like compounds disrupt hormonal balance by mimicking the effects of estrogen. Certain medications, fungicides, mycotoxins, pesticides, and phthalates are all examples of xenoestrogens.
Add to this list grilled meat, car exhaust, cigarette smoke, and the xenoestrogens found in cosmetics and cleaning supplies. As you can see, these compounds are everywhere, making it difficult to escape exposure. They’re even in the water we drink and the air we breathe so be extra cautious and filter your drinking water. Furniture, carpeting, and other chemicals in household furnishings are also problematic.
Alarmingly, 160 xenoestrogens are implicated in the development of breast cancer. Parabens, chemicals in sunscreen, triclosan in hand sanitizers, and estrogenic compounds in cosmetics are a few sources. These compounds are absorbed transdermally through the skin, and go directly into the bloodstream, without the added advantage of being filtered by the liver.
Even moderate amounts of alcohol can increase serum estrogen levels. Milk is a significant source of estrogen-like compounds due to the milking of pregnant cows. Eliminating dairy from your diet is a good strategy on many levels, including the reduction of histamine. Estrogen dominance exacerbates histamine intolerance by activating mast cells, initiating a vicious cycle of histamine stimulation, which causes the ovaries to produce more estrogen.
Strategies To Reduce Excess Estrogen
Reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens by cleaning up your diet and environment. Buy organic produce, dairy products and meat to decrease exposure to pesticides, which are estrogenic. Stop drinking out of plastic water bottles, marinate your meat before grilling to cut down on harmful heterocyclic amines, and be cognizant of what chemicals are in your medications, cosmetics, and cleaning supplies. Mycotoxins are estrogenic and disrupt the metabolism of estrogen. If you suspect your house has mold, get it checked.
[Read More: Mycotoxins and Cancer]
Maintaining a healthy body weight, along with implementing a regular exercise routine, is a great strategy to combat estrogen dominance due to the fact that fat tissue produces estrogen. Ensure you’re getting enough protein, healthy fat, fruits and vegetables, and fiber. Fiber is critical for escorting estrogen out of the body. If it’s not eliminated, estrogen will be reabsorbed. Flaxseeds are a good source of fiber, and are often recommended for estrogen dominance.
Optimal liver function is also crucial for detoxifying and clearing excess estrogen from the bloodstream. If the liver is not functioning as it should, estrogen is recirculated. Bioidentical progesterone can be indispensable for alleviating the symptoms of estrogen dominance, and balancing the ratio of both hormones. DIM, or diindolylmethane is an effective supplement for balancing estrogen metabolites, and promoting healthy estrogen metabolism, by blocking the enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen. Consult with your doctor before using DIM.
Infrared saunas are an incredible way to detoxify the body of excess estrogen, heavy metals, and toxic chemicals. Relaxing in a sauna is also a beneficial way to reduce stress. Inadequate sleep can exacerbate estrogen dominance because of the reduction in melatonin. Aim for a minimum of seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Reduce alcohol consumption to occasional indulgences. Read my post below for ways to mitigate its negative effects.
[Read More: 5 Tips To Mitigate Alcohol Damage To The Liver]
Nutrients and Stress
Magnesium, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids can improve your body’s ability to regulate hormone ratios. Herbs like chasteberry, and adaptogens such as ashwagandha, may be helpful. Estrogen dominance can cause disruptions in the microbiome, which can interfere with estrogen excretion. A daily probiotic can help to restore balance in the GI Tract.
Take antibiotics judiciously, and only when absolutely necessary to avoid imbalances in gut bacteria. The birth control pill contains ethinylestradiol, an estrogen that harms intestinal bacteria, inhibiting the metabolism and detoxification of estrogen. Supplementing with zinc is important for the breakdown and excretion of estrogen. Zinc is also needed for the proper functioning of enzymes that convert testosterone to estrogen.
A daily multivitamin and mineral supplement can cover your bases in terms of nutrient deficiencies. Unfermented soy can make estrogen dominance worse so be sure to eat only soy that has been fermented. Iodine is another supplement you may want to consider if you have estrogen dominance as it down regulates estrogen receptors, making them less sensitive. Iodine is also used for fibrotic conditions and breast tenderness. 0.5 milligrams a day is generally a safe dose.
[Read More: 5 Ways To Make Self Care A Priority]
Signs of Estrogen Dominance
1. Heavy Periods
Your period provides vital information in regard to how your hormones are behaving. Heavy, painful periods that involve clotting, are a red flag for estrogen dominance. Menstruation lasting longer than five days is also a sign, as are periods that occur too frequently. Short follicular and luteal phases are indicative of low progesterone and estrogen dominance.
PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, doesn’t sound like that big a deal. In reality, it can significantly impact your life, and has been referred to as premenstrual disruption syndrome. Symptoms of this condition of estrogen dominance can appear 10 days before menstruation, meaning you could be symptomatic for approximately 1/3rd of your life. Symptoms include bloating, water retention, digestive problems, fatigue, insomnia, cravings, skin breakouts, cramping, irritability, and depression.
4. Accelerated Aging
Balanced estrogen levels are essential for youthful skin, a well-functioning metabolism, and for maintaining a healthy body weight, all factors that correlate to youth. Estrogen binds thyroid hormone, which can lead to a sluggish metabolism, hypothyroid-type symptoms, and potential weight gain. This can make you not only look older, but feel older.
Estrogen and progesterone work in tandem to breakdown and build up bone through the actions of osteoclasts and osteoblasts. Female hormones play a pivotal role in the production of these cells, and in the maintenance of bone mass and bone density, a loss of which can cause osteoporosis, a condition of brittle, fragile bones. Healthy bone density is dependent on hormonal balance, calcium and other minerals, and vitamin D.
6. Endometriosis and Infertility
Endometriosis is a condition in which the endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus. It is characterized by heavy and painful menstrual cycles, and can lead to infertility. Interestingly, endometriosis is an inflammatory condition that is fueled by hormones, yet is not a hormonal condition per se. Chronic inflammation causes estrogen receptors to be more sensitive, and is one more reason to cut out inflammatory foods like dairy and gluten.
7. Breast, Ovarian, Uterine, and Prostate Cancer
The most dangerous risk factor of estrogen dominance, especially long-term estrogen dominance, is the development of cancer. Breast, ovarian, uterine, and prostate cancer are hormonal cancers that have an association with stored body fat. Adipose tissue produces estradiol, a potent form of estrogen, that the body has a hard time detoxifying. Estrogen that isn’t cleared results in more circulating estrogen, along with harmful metabolites. These bad metabolites, in addition to the number of metabolites, significantly increase cancer risk, as well as increasing the risk of stroke, thyroid, and lung cancer.
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If you’ve been through puberty, had a baby, or been through menopause, you’ve experienced the powerful effects of hormones. When they’re balanced, we feel good, when they’re not, we feel fat, off-kilter, and emotionally unhinged. The goal is to have a balanced ratio of estrogen to progesterone. Like most other conditions in the body, diet and lifestyle are major contributers to hormonal health. How we live our lives does matter…
Have you experienced estrogen dominance? Let me know in the comments:)
(1) NCBI PMC US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Environmental exposure to xenoestrogens and oestrogen related cancers: reproductive system, breast, lung, kidney, pancreas, and brain.
(2) women’s health network: What is estrogen dominance?
(3) NCBI PMC US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Estrogen-like endocrine disrupting chemicals affecting puberty in humans–a review.
(4) Christiane Northrup MD: What Are the Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance?
(5) Dr. Natasha Turner ND: Is Toxic Estrogen Causing Your Weight Gain?
(6) Mayo Clinic: Endometriosis
(7) Lara Briden – The Period Revolution
(8) healthline: Signs and symptoms of High Estrogen