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.
So let’s get some clarity.
In simple terms estrogen dominance (ED) refers to the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone. It means estrogen is dominating over progesterone. In a perfect world estrogen and progesterone work in synergy. However, because progesterone levels decline (quite rapidly) around age 35 and estrogen begins a downward descent a little later they often get out of balance. Progesterone is lower and estrogen levels seesaw and when the seesaw is on an upward swing? Hello, estrogen dominance.
An Undiagnosed Epidemic
This natural hormonal shift 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, environmental pollutants and items like household cleaners and personal care products like skincare and makeup.
Many 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 conditions like 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. Who better to explain this than the inimitable Dr Libby:
“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’, then estrogen gets recycled rather than detoxified,” she says.
What can you do?
- Take 40+ or 55+ as they are evidence-backed and formulated to help balance estrogen.
- Use a water filter.
- Eat whole foods with an emphasis on plants because 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 may 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 the processed, refined foods.
- Put the brakes on with ‘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 as 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.
- Estradiol (E2) – the strongest type of estrogen and generally the main player. It’s sometimes labelled ‘aggressive’ as 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.
Disclaimer: Our articles should not take the place of medical advice. If you are experiencing ongoing signs do ask your GP to order hormone measuring blood tests.