What is Estrogen Dominance?
Did you know that there are at least two dozen identified estrogens in the human body, and they have a wide variety of functions?
These estrogens are uniquely responsible for the growth and development of female sexual characteristics and reproduction. Estrogen controls the growth of the uterine lining during the first part of the menstrual cycle, causes changes in the breasts during adolescence and pregnancy, and regulates various other metabolic processes, including bone growth and cholesterol levels. Estrogen balance is also essential for achieving and maintaining fat loss!
In men and women (especially pre-, peri-, or menopausal), too much estrogen (an aptly named condition called Estrogen Dominance) can cause toxic weight gain, water retention, bloating, and a host of other health issues.
What Causes Estrogen Dominance?
Hormones continually change from the time a woman starts to menstruate until menopause. Even after menopause, hormone levels are in a constant state of fluctuation. As women age, there is a natural decline in testosterone and progesterone levels, leaving a relative excess of estrogen.
Estrogen secretion is relatively stable and does not fall much until close to menopause, when estrogen production starts to fluctuate in large up-and- down swings until it finally falls dramatically with menopause.
Thus, estrogen dominance can occur naturally as women age, because of the decline in testosterone/progesterone levels.
Unfortunately, another widely researched area that is contributing to many of the estrogen dominance cases I see in my practice is harmful toxins in our environment.
Environmental Toxins and Estrogen Dominance
One of the most common hormonal disruptors is plastic. Plastics contain large amounts of Bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates, whose chemical structures look like estrogen, so much so that they have been called xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens mimic estrogen in the body and contribute to estrogen dominance.
When plastics get hot – such as when microwaved – they release even higher levels of these compounds and cause this hormonal imbalance.
And the problem doesn’t stop there.
Many of the pesticides and organic solvents used in our food and water supplies act as xenoestrogens too, as do our conventional household cleaners and our daily beauty products, like shampoo, moisturizer, nail polish, and lipstick.
Beyond the natural impacts of aging, estrogen dominance is showing up in younger and younger men and women because of our environmental conditions.
Signs and Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
If you are a woman with estrogen dominance, you will likely have PMS, too much belly fat and difficulty losing weight. You may also have a history of gallstones, varicose veins, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, headaches/migraines before periods, sore breasts and/or heavy and painful periods.
In both men and women, estrogen dominance is thought to be responsible for many types of cancers such as breast, uterine, and even prostate cancer.
Correcting Estrogen Dominance
The solutions to estrogen dominance are lifestyle changes in the form of diet and exercise, reducing exposure to xenoestrogens, and using certain natural supplements to correct the estrogen imbalance.
Start incorporating some of these steps today!
Love your Liver
The liver is responsible for breaking down estrogen, alcohol, and drugs, and therefore any health issue that impairs healthy liver function (fatty liver disease) can cause an estrogen buildup. Support liver function with herbs such as milk thistle, dandelion, turmeric, and artichoke and essential estrogen balancing supplements such as indole-3- carbinol, calcium-d- glucorate, and DIM.
Get Your Good Bugs
Bacterial imbalance in the gut and/or poor digestion can interfere with the proper elimination of estrogen from the body through the digestive tract. Include a daily probiotic in your diet.
Insoluble fibre binds to excess estrogen in the digestive tract, and then helps it to be excreted by the body. Fibre can also improve healthy intestinal bacteria. Great sources include: flaxseeds, rice bran, fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, lentils and most beans.
Try to choose organic produce, dairy and meats to minimize your exposure to potential estrogen mimicking pesticides.
Clean up House
Start switching over to environmentally friendly household cleaners and detergents, choose organic beauty products and makeup, and minimize your exposure to plastics. Remember xenoestrogens mimic the effects of estrogens, and tend to be found in water, soil, and food products.
Manage your Stress
When you are stressed, progesterone is depleted to manufacture more of the stress hormone cortisol, often leaving a relative excess of estrogen. Choose stress busting vitamins such as: vitamin C, B vitamins, magnesium and adaptogenic herbs such as Rhodiola, Siberian ginseng, and Ashwagandha.
Get your Zzzz’s
Poor sleep habits cause a reduction in the hormone melatonin, which helps to protect against estrogen dominance. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Consider Bio-identical Hormones
Women who are deficient in progesterone often have estrogen excess. In these situations, natural bio-identical progesterone may be helpful. Talk to your medical or naturopathic doctor for more information.