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Estrogen dominance is becoming much more prevalent in the modern world for a variety of reasons, and I think this is a really important topic to cover to make sure you know what to look for, the signs associated with it and what you can do to counteract it.
We all know that estrogen plays a big role in our menstrual cycle, but what exactly is estrogen dominance?
There are three types of estrogen: estradiol, estrone, and estriol. Estradiol and estrone are the more dominant types of estrogen in the body, and estradiol specifically is the type of estrogen most common in hormonal birth control pills.
Estradiol and estrone are also the more potent types of estrogen linked to cancers in women such as breast and endometrial. Estriol, on the other hand, despite being considered a weaker form of estrogen, can help to protect the body from the more dominant types and prevent estrogen-related diseases and symptoms from appearing.
Estrogen dominance means that there is an elevated estrogen to progesterone ratio in our bodies.
This can manifest in very wide ranging symptoms:
- Irregular or abnormal menstrual cycles
- Low energy
- Decreased libido
- Mood swings
- Headaches (particularly premenstrually)
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Cold hands and feet (symptomatic of potential thyroid issues)
- Accelerated aging
- Cervical dysplasia
- Cancer: breast, ovarian, endometrial, uterine
- Autoimmune disorders
- Foggy memory
- Breast swelling, tenderness
- Hair loss
- Polycystic ovaries
- Sluggish metabolism
- Weight/fat gain in abdominal area, buttocks, thighs, hips
How Estrogen Dominance Occurs
The endocrine system works as a whole and encompasses all hormones, not just our sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone. This includes hormones such as cortisol, melatonin, adrenalin, and thyroid hormones, all part of the body’s interconnected network that keep us healthy and happy with even moods, deep sleep that leaves us well rested, regular digestion and a strong immune system.
When even one small part of this system is thrown out of balance, there is a snowball effect that creates imbalances and issues throughout the body.
There are an enormous number of factors in today’s modern society that influence the amount of estrogen we are taking in and absorbing, with a huge impact to our endocrine system and overall health.
These can include:
Birth Control Pills
- Add excess amounts of estrogen to the body, specifically the more dominant estradiol. These quantities can overwhelm progesterone, leaving the ratio of one to the other skewed in favour of higher estrogen levels.
Lack of sleep
- Little or poor quality sleep decreases the hormone melatonin in the body, which also opposes estrogens naturally, and leaves excess estrogen circulating throughout the body.
- An overburdened liver cannot efficiently excrete estrogens and clear them from the blood. The liver is strongly affected by the intake of artificial additives, dyes and preservatives, unhealthy fats that are oxidized or trans (think fried foods, and other junk foods), alcohol, drugs (birth control pills or otherwise), an imbalance of unhealthy microbes in gut, and an overconsumption of food in general that can stress the body.
- Urine test can be taken to determine liver health and one of the areas to look for is estriol, the weaker but best type of estrogen that can protect our bodies. High levels of estriol generally indicate that the liver is in good working order to detoxify.
- Xenoestrogens are synthetic estrogen-mimicking pollutants that can be found in a huge percentage of the things we touch, consume, apply and absorb today. They may stimulate estrogen production, or fill receptors in body that can then stimulate the cell to produce more estrogen and accumulate in our fatty tissues
- Examples include pesticides on our foods or grass, paint, detergents, soaps, toiletries such as shampoos and lotions, cosmetics, any type of plastics, insides of metal cans (such as canned beans, fish), even some some paper products
- Meat and other products derived from animals can often contain hormones. Industrial feedlots is unfortunately where much of the meat available in your average grocery store today is coming from, and livestock is often injected with hormones to increase lactation for dairy cows, encourage faster than normal growth in the animal, and a range of other issues. These hormones remain in the flesh of the animal after slaughter, and we consume them upon eating the meat.
- Instead, look for organic (no pesticides, which also contribute to high levels of estrogen), grass-fed and free range on the packaging or get to know a local farmer to trust where the meat is being sourced and how the animals are being raised.
- Extra weight carried around the abdomen especially contributes to hormonal issues, as the adipose (fat) tissue create estrogens in the body
- The water we drink matters. Due to the large number of people undergoing hormonal treatments or taking medications like birth control pills, all of these hormones are ending up in our water supply through the urine and feces that we excrete.
- There are a variety of water filters available that you can use or have installed in your home. They can also range widely in price, so you can find one to fit your budget.
- Constipation give the “bad” bacteria in our colon time to produce estrogen-like substances, and the body reabsorbs
- This also occurs with microbes in the gut if there are issues with digestion
- As the endocrine system is strongly interconnected, thyroid issues hormones are impacted by estrogen dominance and vice versa. Hypothyroid in particular can slow down all the systems in the body and lowers the efficiency of the thyroid.
So What Does This Mean?
If the symptoms listed above sound all too familiar to you, excess estrogens in the body may very well be one of the main root causes of many issues you’re experiencing. Some of the symptoms listed are so common these days, such as PMS, bloating, sugar cravings, and digestive issues, that we can start to believe they are our new normal. This is simply not the case.
Hormones are highly sensitive and our endocrine system needs care and attention to remain balanced. I’ve listed the eight ways to begin addressing estrogen dominance below.
8 Ways to Decrease Estrogen Dominance
- Nutrient dense, plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits
- Adequate protein and healthy fats
- Reducing sugar, refined grains
2) Increase fibre
3) Hydrate thoroughly
4) Well-sourced protein sources, particularly for meat
- Look for organic, hormone and antibiotic free, grass-fed
- Varies depending on individual but can include folate, maca root, vitex chaste berry, B vitamins, zinc, magnesium
- For more specific info work 1:1 with me to find what would best suit your body and lifestyle
6) Regular Movement and Exercise
- Particularly walking daily
- Improves circulation to keep blood moving, especially helpful to liver
7) Support Liver
- Eliminating caffeine, alcohol, drugs
- High fibre will aid liver’s ability to detoxify
- Bitter foods (greens such as arugula, dandelion, chicory, mustard, Swiss chard, collards)
- Herbs such as milk thistle and dandelion root
8) Managing Stress
- Self-care, whatever that may look like for you
- Saying no to activities that don’t excite you and serve you (other than basic necessary tasks)
For more on this, download the Hormone Happy Handbook for specific ways to rebalance hormones.
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Read more about estradiol and cancer risks here.