Dealing With Estrogen Dominance
One of the most common hormonal imbalances in women can be extremely difficult and can express itself by presenting many different symptoms.
Estrogen Dominance was one of my main hormonal imbalances, and it wasn’t fun. Initially, it took me a good while to figure out what it was. I was struggling for a year and a half before discovering the root of the problem.
I remember suffering from fibro-cystic breasts, hair loss, weight gain, water retention, PMS, brain fog, extreme anxiety, bloating, fatigue and mood swings. I was trying to hide from the world as well from my partner. I was mean, snippy and irritable. I had no idea what was going on with me. Interestingly enough, the person who advised me to check my hormones was my friend, who was a sex therapist and counselor. I was 38 years old and had no idea about hormonal imbalances! I did a hormone test which confirmed that, indeed, I had an estrogen dominance. I wasn’t happy about it, but at least I knew what was wrong so I could do my research and take care of it.
With that hormonal imbalance diagnosis, I experimented with a lot of different things.
It took me about a year to get my hormones in balance, so ladies it takes a commitment, and it is not going to happen overnight! I want you to know that. I know that my clients are anxious to see results, and they will see them, just not after two weeks.
Trust me, I get it. I suffered through years of painful symptoms, and I was also anxious to see results quickly.
What is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen Dominance happens when estrogen levels are too high relative to progesterone levels in the body. It has a set of uncomfortable and frustrating symptoms, but also puts you at risk for a lot of different health issues…. everything from mood swings, irritability, thyroid dysfunction, fatigue and autoimmune conditions to cancer (estrogen-driven cancers).
Unfortunately, estrogen dominance is at an all-time high, and the rates of cancers and chronic illnesses linked to an overload of estrogen are on the rise right along with it.
Estrogen is not bad: it helps regulate women’s cycles; it increases the feel-good chemicals in our brains; it helps build strong bones, keeps skin elastic and helps hearts stay healthy. It only becomes problematic when we have too much estrogen in our bodies and when we can’t detoxify the metabolized estrogen from our bodies.
What causes estrogen dominance?
In the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle (two weeks before a woman’s period), estrogen levels start to rise. The body is preparing for egg fertilization, all that extra estrogen is needed because it helps build the uterus lining and it also amps up a woman’s libido, energy and confidence.
If the egg isn’t fertilized, the uterine lining is shed (menstruation) and estrogen levels drop dramatically. The estrogen floating around in there is swept out and the body starts prepping for next month.
Estrogen dominance happens when that extra estrogen doesn’t get eliminated properly.
There is another problem on the rise with estrogen- xenoestrogens – that we are constantly bombarded by. These are industrial chemicals that mimic the behavior of estrogen. They are everywhere in our modern environment… in our food, furniture, plastic, clothes and personal care products. 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.
Xenoestrogens are chemicals that mimic physiological estrogen compounds, therefore potentially acting as estrogen or possibly interfering with the actions of endogenous estrogens. They are foreign to our bodies and the body doesn’t know what to do with them; therefore, they are being recirculated in our bodies and are binding to estrogen receptor sites, with potentially hazardous outcomes.
Additionally, if your gut is unhealthy, your body won’t be able to clear estrogen the way it should. Research has shown that gut microbes help regulate circulating estrogen levels.
That gut bacteria is called estrobolome, which is a collection of microbes capable of metabolizing estrogens. Microbes in the estrobolome produce beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme that de-conjugates estrogens into their active forms. Beta-glucuronidase activity produces active, unbound estrogen that is capable of binding to estrogen receptors and influencing estrogen-dependent physiological processes.
Stress has a huge impact on estrogen dominance and exacerbates estrogen dominance symptoms too. The higher and more sustained the stress levels, the more severe the estrogen dominance symptoms will likely be. How many women do you know living stress-free lives? Not many? Yeah, me neither!
Estrogen Dominance Symptoms
Swollen or tender breasts
Polycystic ovarian syndrome
Cancer – breast, uterine, prostate
How is estrogen metabolized in the body?
Estrogen is metabolized by the liver through three different pathways. It can be converted into good or bad metabolites.
There are 3 metabolic pathways of estrogen:
2-hydroxy metabolic pathway, which is considered good. This can help lower the risk of cancer and other problems. The estrogens produced during that pathway can help with mood, healthy breasts, good libido and can help with reproductive health.
16-hydroxy and 4-hydroxy pathways are considered bad. They are associated with higher risks of breast cancer. When your body is converting too many of your hormones using the 16-hydroxy and 4-hydroxy pathways, that’s when you experience estrogen dominance symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, irritability, vaginal dryness, breast tenderness and PMS, and you have a higher risk of developing cancer.
So it’s not just about your total estrogen levels. It’s about your total estrogen metabolites, liver health, gut health, nutritional status, stress, sleep and diet. All these factors help determine which metabolic pathways are used.
There are also gene mutations such as COMT and MTHFR, that can impair your ability to methylate and detoxify your estrogen.
Causes of estrogen dominance:
personal care products
conventional hormone replacement therapy
birth control pills
With my hormonal imbalance diagnosis, I experimented with a lot of different things. Here is what helped me and what is helping my clients:
Follow a hormone-balancing diet:
* Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables
* Eat healthy fats – food containing omega-3-fatty acids, such as wild fish, walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, sacha inchi seeds and hemp seeds
* Eat enough protein
* Eat cruciferous foods – they contain a compound called sulforaphane, which helps restore estrogen receptor expression and can thus protect from cancer. Cruciferous vegetables include kale, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, bok choy, collard greens, mustard greens, arugula, cabbage and turnips
Foods from the Brassica family, also include a compound called Indole-3-carbinol, which is a regulator of estrogen. Eat more of Avoid processed food, soy and soy products, conventional dairy and meat, sugar and non-organic food.
Love and detox your liver:
The liver is the most important organ in detoxification, and without addressing liver health, you won’t be able to get rid of estrogen dominance. Estrogen is processed by and detoxified in the liver, so we need to make sure to optimize our liver function. Do a detox, or cleanse, periodically. You can check one out here!
Saunas are one of the best ways to support detoxification within the body. More about the liver detox here!
Balance your blood sugar:
Sugar disrupts one of the most potent hormones in the body: insulin. Insulin is connected to all of the other hormones, including estrogen and testosterone.
When we experience insulin spikes, usually after a meal high in carbs or sugar, this might lead to a reduced availability of an essential protein known as sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). The role of SHBG is to bind excess testosterone and estrogen in the blood, but when the SHBG is low, then these hormone levels increase. Estrogen and progesterone ratios are then disrupted, which leads to estrogen dominance symptoms. You can balance blood sugar by eating protein/fats/fiber during each meal and having breakfast within one hour of waking.
Heal the gut:
Estrogen is also processed by the gut and excreted through the digestive tract. A properly functioning gut is crucial for hormone health and excretion of estrogen. Latest findings show that we also have a set of bacteria in the gut, called estrobolom, which help metabolize estrogen. If our gut functions poorly, it could be one of the reasons for estrogen dominance as well.
Get enough fiber:
The bowel works to excrete estrogen; if stool remains in the colon, estrogen will be reabsorbed, and it will become more toxic.
Stress reduces the production of progesterone in the body. When we are stressed, our adrenal glands “steal” the precursor to progesterone and instead use it to produce cortisol, the stress hormone. This process is called ‘pregnenolone steal’.
Get rid of toxins in your personal care products:
Xenoestrogen is found in creams, shampoos, cleaning supplies, lotions, soaps, perfumes, hair sprays and more. They can also be found 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 here www.ewg.org
Quit your Cup of Joe:
Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands, causing them to release cortisol and other stress hormones for preparation to fight the perceived threat. Drinking caffeine every day can exhaust your adrenal glands, and can cause them to stop releasing adequate levels of essential hormones.
Caffeine is detoxified by the same pathway as estrogen, and the body has to metabolize caffeine first. Estrogen needs to wait its turn, and it can be recirculated in the body, causing too much estrogen left to float around.
Alcohol increases estrogen in the body, disrupting blood sugar regulation, which creates stress on our bodies. Alcohol, even in moderation, 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 your body doesn’t need from the bloodstream, including alcohol and estrogen. When you drink alcohol, your liver becomes preoccupied with eliminating the alcohol toxins, which impacts the liver’s ability to clear estrogen from your system.
Reduce body fat:
Fat cells produce more estrogen via aromatase enzymes that convert testosterone into estrogen. Building lean body mass and decreasing body fat are necessary steps to reducing estrogen levels in the body.
Nutrients which help with decreasing the aromatase process are zinc, melatonin, green tea, selenium and citrus flavonoids (found in the skin of citrus fruits).
Take supportive supplements such as:
Milk thistle, Vitamin C, Calcium D-Glucarate, Alpha lipoic acid, Diindolylmethane (DIM), Maca Powder, Vitamin B6, B12 and Folate.
Exercise, especially sweating, is another great way of supporting detoxification.
Drink clean water:
I really recommend investing in a water filter, like the Berkey Filter. This is because we have so many toxins and potential endocrine disruptors in our drinking water. In fact I consider drinking pure water as one of the best things you can do for your health.
Avoid hormonal birth control:
If possible, you should avoid hormonal birth control because it messes with hormonal balance in your body.
Once you have the right tools and you start taking your hormonal healing seriously, you can absolutely see results fast. True, lasting, permanent change takes time and patience, but there’s nothing more encouraging than seeing evidence that things are moving in the right direction.
Do you want to know more? Book a session here: https://calendly.com/thrivinghormones-llc/15-minute-free-consultation
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