Estrogen dominance. Have you heard of it?
I’m guessing you’ve answered yes because estrogen dominance has become a bit of a buzzword. And while buzzwords do become familiar the reality is we don’t always know what they actually mean.
It can occur in our 30s, during pre-menopause, and can be particularly prevalent in perimenopause. So let’s get some clarity.
In simple terms estrogen dominance (ED) refers to the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone.
It means estrogen levels are high in relation to progesterone.
In a perfect world estrogen and progesterone work in synergy.
However, because progesterone levels decline around age 35 and estrogen doesn’t begin its downward descent until later they often become imbalanced.
Progesterone is lower and estrogen levels seesaw. And when the seesaw is on an upward swing? Hello, estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance. An undiagnosed epidemic?
These hormonal shifts are a natural occurrence. However, they can be magnified by life in the 21st Century and the abundance of xenoestrogens in our lifestyles. Xenoestrogens imitate estrogen and are found in modern diets and water, plastics and environmental pollutants. Many items like household cleaners and personal care products like skincare and makeup contain them.
Several functional medicine practitioners* believe estrogen dominance is one of the most undiagnosed epidemics globally.
What estrogen dominance may cause
Estrogen dominance has been linked to many conditions. These include fibroids, endometriosis, fibrocystic breasts, headaches, mood swings, weight gain, allergies and accentuated menopausal symptoms.
Excess estrogen has also been associated with thyroid dysfunction, autoimmune disease and hormone-dependent cancers such as breast, ovarian and uterine.
18 possible signs of estrogen dominance
- Heavy periods
- Diminished libido
- Breast swelling/tenderness
- Breast lumps
- Mood swings and irritability
- Crying spells
- Trouble sleeping
- Spider or varicose veins
- Hair thinning/loss
- Weight gain
Excess estrogen is usually filtered out of our body via the liver. Therefore to combat estrogen dominance we need to address liver health. The liver has two detoxification pathways but unfortunately for many of us they’re not working optimally. Dr Libby explains it well:
“High levels of estrogen are usually the result of the liver recycling estrogen, rather than detoxifying it. The liver has to change estrogen before it can be elimimated. But if the biochemical pathways for estrogen detoxification are congested and are too busy dealing with other ‘liver-loaders’, estrogen gets recycled rather than detoxified,” she says.
What can you do?
- Take 40+ or 55+. They are evidence-backed and formulated to help balance estrogen.
- Use a water filter.
- Eat whole foods with an emphasis on plants. Some fresh vegetables produce substances that behave a lot like progesterone and may help balance estrogen.
- Load up on the cruciferous vegetable family daily because they support the liver and help negate an overabundance of estrogen. Cruciferous veggies include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, bok choy and brussel sprouts.
- Go for five to nine servings of fresh fruit and vegetables per day.
- Get educated. Read up on the Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.
- Ditch processed, refined foods.
- Put the brakes on ‘liver-loading’ alcohol and caffeine.
- Get rid of plastics and use glass or stainless steel instead.
- Make it a priority to reduce your stress levels to support your adrenal and thyroid glands. They are also affected by estrogen overload.
- Reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens by using natural household cleaners, makeup, skincare and body care.
Estrogens are actually a group of hormones. The most well studied are:
- Estrone (E1) – mainly stored in fat and muscle tissue. It’s a weaker estrogen commonly found in post-menopausal women.
- Estradiol (E2) – the strongest type of estrogen and generally the main player in women of childbearing age. Sometimes labelled ‘aggressive’ it’s been linked to female disorders such as fibroids and other gynaecological conditions.
- Estriol (E3) – the weakest estrogen – pregnancy is the only time we have a lot of it.
Our articles are a guideline only. Any signs and symptoms you are experiencing could be due to a number of reasons. For this reason, this should not take the place of medical advice. If you’re experiencing ongoing signs please see a functional medicine practitioner.