What is Estrogen Dominance?
A lot of women are becoming more and more aware of the vital roles that hormones play within the balance of our bodies. Estrogen dominance is one of the more common hormonal imbalances that occur in modern-day women. It has been referred to by Dr. Lam as “Hormonal imbalance of the 21st century”. It is a very near and dear subject to my heart as I have personally experienced Estrogen dominance for years. It is a condition where a woman can have excessive, normal, or deficient estrogen while having little or no progesterone to help balance its effects within the body. Even a woman with low estrogen levels can have symptoms of estrogen dominance due to a lack of progesterone.
How to diagnose estrogen dominance?
The best way to test for estrogen dominance is to do a saliva or urine hormone test. One can also pay close attention to the symptoms one may be experiencing as well as looking closely at family history for clues there.
Estrogen dominance symptoms one might experience:
- Lowered sex drive
- Hair loss
- Bloating (or water retention)
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Ovarian fibroids
- Irregular or otherwise abnormal menstrual periods
- Breast swelling and tenderness
- Headaches (especially premenstrually)
- Painful period
- Memory loss
- Foggy thinking
- Blood clotting
- Gallbladder issues
- Sluggish metabolism
- Breast cancer
- Trouble falling asleep or insomnia
- Mood swings, irritability, and anxiety
- Weight and/or fat gain around the abdomen and hips
- Cold hands and feet (a symptom of thyroid dysfunction)
- Thyroid dysfunction and more!
It is clearly a long, big list of symptoms right? It’s hard to know where to start but it is important to know that if you are experiencing four or more of the above, there is the possibility that you may have estrogen dominance.
Conditions associated with too much estrogen:
- Fibroid Breasts
- Uterine Fibroids
- Uterine Cancer
- Weight Gain
- Breast Cancer Risk
- Thyroid Imbalances
How do female hormones work?
The two primary female hormones are estrogen and progesterone which are both secreted by the ovaries. They offset each other and help to maintain optimal balance within our body. If one hormone becomes disrupted or out of balance, it can create a ripple effect that may create problems within the entire body system. In a simple way, I will explain the role of each within the body to help one have a better understanding of estrogen dominance.
Estrogen is produced in the ovaries and it is responsible for the development of female characteristics during puberty such as the development of breast tissue and pubic hair. Additionally, the hormone also regulates the menstrual cycle and is a growth-promoting hormone. There are three primary components of estrogen: estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3) which should ideally be a 15/15/70 mix. There are additional estrogens within the female body that still need to be studied.
Our body is designed to attain homeostasis yet if there is too much estrogen in the body it will increase another hormone to offset the imbalance and that is where we can get into a situation of excess estrogen. The hormone the body calls upon is called progesterone.
Progesterone is what is referred to as a pro-gestation hormone. Pregnancy will not be successful if there is not a sufficient amount of progesterone. It protects us against the “growth effect” of estrogen. Progesterone, similar to estrogen, is made in primarily in the ovaries and also in the adrenal glands. Progesterone is made from pregnenolone, which comes from cholesterol.
The table below reflects how both of those hormones balance one another:
Source: Dr. Lam.com
|Estrogen Effect||Progesterone Effect|
|Causes endometrium to proliferate||Maintains secretory endometrium|
|Causes breast stimulation that can lead to breast cancer||Protects against fibrocystic breast and prevents breast cancer|
|Increases body fat||Helps use fat for energy|
|Increase endometrial cancer risk||Prevents endometrial cancer|
|Increase gallbladder disease risk|
|Restrains osteoclast function slightly||Promote osteoblast function, leading to bone growth|
|Reduces vascular tone||Restores vascular tone|
|Increase blood clot risk||Normalize blood clot|
How does estrogen dominance occur?
- The ratio of progesterone to E2 is too low. The body doesn’t produce enough progesterone and E2 estrogen can become too dominant.
- There is too much estrone (E1) and estradiol (E2), which are often referred to as the “aggressive estrogen”, in comparison to estriol (E3), a “protective estrogen.” This is called the “Estrogen Quotient” and it can be measured with saliva or dried urine test.
What are the causes of estrogen dominance?
Over time, our sex hormones decline with age gradually and naturally. From the ages of 35 to 50, there is a 75% reduction in the production of progesterone in the body. During this time, estrogen declines about 35%. Once the body reaches menopause, women hardly make any progesterone, yet we still have about half the amount of estrogen. When progesterone drops, it cannot counteract the estrogen.
This state is called estrogen dominance and it can happen as early as the mid-thirties and will potentially increase during perimenopausal and menopausal years. Additionally, the estrogen can be received transdermally from external sources. These are called Xenoestrogens. These are fat-soluble and non-biodegradable in nature. Some primary sources of Xenoestrogens are pesticides, detergents, petroleum products, plastic products, cosmetics, spermicides used for birth control, condoms and vaginal gels.
Additional reasons for estrogen dominance may be excess body fat, chronic stress, poor digestion, poor liver function, impaired immune function, eating conventional, non-organic foods, consuming too much alcohol and coffee and a low fiber diet.
Ways to Decrease Estrogen Dominance
Here are some ideas for helping to reduce estrogen dominance:
- Follow a hormone-balancing diet:
- Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Eat healthy fat
- Eat enough protein
- Balance your blood sugar:
Sugar is one of the causes of highs and lows in mood and energy. Sugar can also disrupt one of the most powerful hormones in the body known as insulin. This hormone is connected to all of the other hormones within the body, including estrogen and testosterone.
When we experience insulin spikes, typically after a meal high in carbs or sugar. Doing this regularly can lead to the lesser availability of an essential protein known as the sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). The role of SHBG is to bind to excess testosterone and estrogen within the blood, yet when the SHBG is low, hormone levels increase. The delicate ratio of estrogen and progesterone is disrupted and can lead to estrogen dominance symptoms. To balance blood sugar levels, it is important to eat protein, fats, and fiber during each meal and as well as having breakfast within one hour of awakening.
As mentioned earlier, estrogen is processed by the liver, yet it is also processed partially by the gut flora and excreted through the digestive tract. It is crucial for the health of our hormones to heal the gut for proper excretion of estrogen. Recent studies show that we also have a set of bacteria in our gut called estrobolom which aids us in metabolizing estrogen. If the gut functions poorly, it can also be another factor for estrogen dominance.
- Get enough fiber.
The bowel excretes estrogen; if stool remains in the colon, estrogen will be reabsorbed, and it will become more toxic.
- Improve liver function
The liver is one of our most active and important filters. Along with helping us detoxify harmful toxins, it also helps us to excrete metabolized estrogen. If there is an excess need to focus on the elimination of toxins such as alcohol, drugs, caffeine, the liver cannot focus on cleansing the blood of estrogen. If the estrogen isn’t properly detoxified it will recirculate within the body and estrogen can build up.
- Decrease stress
Stress decreases the production of progesterone in the body. If we are stressed out the adrenal glands “steal” the precursor to progesterone and instead use it to produce cortisol, the stress hormone. This process is called “pregnenolone steal”.
- Limit chemical estrogen exposure
Xenoestrogens are found in creams, shampoos, cleaning supplies, lotions, soaps, perfumes, hair sprays, and more.
You can find them also in paint, dry-cleaning, pesticides, plastic, aluminum cans, chemicals, car exhaust, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides; nail polish; glues and paint removers.
You can evaluate the quality and pureness of your cosmetics on here www.ewg.org.
- Quit alcohol
Alcohol increases estrogen in the body in both men and women, disrupts blood sugar regulation, which creates additional stress on the body. Even in moderation, alcohol can tip the scales for estrogen dominance. Studies have found a link between alcohol consumption and high levels of the potent estrogen—estradiol. This process is happening because your liver is breaking down and clearing toxins and other substances that the body doesn’t need from the bloodstream, including alcohol and estrogen. When alcohol is consumed the liver is preoccupied with eliminating the alcohol toxins, which impacts the liver’s ability to clear estrogens from the body.
- Decrease body fat
Fat cells produce more estrogen via aromatase enzymes that convert testosterone into estrogen. Building a lean body mass and decreasing body fat are necessary steps to reduce estrogen levels in the body. Certain foods and nutrients can help to decrease aromatase such as the flavones found in citrus (specifically the skins), green tea, zinc, melatonin and selenium.
- Skip the caffeine
When we consume caffeine the adrenal glands are stimulated which causes them to release cortisol and other stress hormones in preparation to fight a perceived threat. Having caffeine every day exhausts the adrenals and can cause them to stop releasing adequate levels of essential hormones. One of those hormones is insulin, which can cause blood sugar fluctuations and lead to chronic inflammation. Additionally, the thyroid gland, which is responsible for the production of many essential hormones, relies on the adrenal glands for proper function and may weaken without proper balance. This process increases inflammation even more and the result is a reduction in sex hormones like progesterone and testosterone, which are required to keep estrogen in healthy harmony and balance.
Proper detoxification of estrogen is extremely important for women's health. Your body is detoxifying on daily basis, but a longer detox twice a year can help you dtoxyfy on all levels. Check out my Thriving Hormones Detox here.
Do you want to learn more about your hormones? Schedule a session with at email@example.com