What is Estrogen Dominance?
When the levels of estrogen, the primary female sex hormone is increased relative to the levels of progesterone circulating in the blood, women are said to be experiencing estrogen dominance.
Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
The symptoms of estrogen dominance in women include: weight gain (mainly in hips, waist, and thighs), edema, infertility, mood swings and depression around cycle time, anxiety, breast tenderness, variations or skipped cycles, vaginal dryness or itchiness, loss of sex drive, excessive or scanty blood flow during periods, cyclic insomnia, night sweats, fatigue, varicose veins, breast cancer, benign breast disease, and pre-cancerous conditions.
For men the symptoms include enlarged breasts, sexual dysfunction, infertility.
Why Does Estrogen Dominance Occur
“Normally, the liver treats estrogen like a poison, removing it immediately from the body. If the liver gets sluggish from malnutrition or too much estrogen (or other damage), it can allow the hormone to build up to very high levels” – Dr. Ray Peat, PhD
By far one of the biggest sources of excess estrogen in our bodies is caused by our diet. The hormones, pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides that are added to our food make their way into our body where they can disrupt our own natural hormone balance.
The water is not any better. Our water has become heavily polluted with hormone-disrupting compounds including pesticides and fertilizers, synthetic and natural estrogens from livestock and prescription medications, and an unknown number of industrial chemicals from chemical plant runoff or the disposal of plastics and chemicals in landfills.
Malnourished liver. Our liver needs an abundance of proteins, vitamins, and minerals in order to detoxify used hormones out of the system. If estrogen can’t be detoxified, it recirculates in the body causing dysfunction, and this allows estrogen to build up in the body.
Poor hormone production due to poor diet. Estrogen and progesterone are supposed to be in balance with one another, but a poor diet can result in low progesterone. The body needs some raw materials to make progesterone including cholesterol, vitamin A, and thyroid hormone (T3). Being low in any of these nutrients or if you have low thyroid function, then low progesterone is a very common cause of estrogen dominance.
Stress of any kind decreases progesterone. When you’re chronically stressed (as so many of us are), your body begins to use the sex hormone progesterone to make cortisol which is a stress hormone.
Birth control pills and estrogen replacement therapy. Adding synthetic estrogen to your body increases estrogen, and thus the estrogen burden on your body. Synthetic estrogen’s cardiovascular risks have been known since 1940, this includes an ability to cause blood clots, varicose veins, miscarriage, and PMS.
Personal care products like cosmetics, lotions, shampoos, soaps, toothpastes, and the numerous other body products we use often contain parabens, phenoxyethanol, phthalates and other compounds that all have estrogenic activity.
Your gut microbiome regulates circulating estrogen using an enzyme known as beta-glucuronidase. When your microbiome is out of balance, these enzymes can’t properly metabolize estrogens, which leaves you more susceptible to breast cancer and other conditions caused by estrogen dominance.
Plastic in all its forms, including in water bottles, food wrap, and storage containers, contain hormone mimicking xenoestrogens that can leach into what you’re eating or drinking and cause major problems for your health. Even products marked “BPA-free” are not safe, and in fact contain chemicals whose effects aren’t as well-known. Microwaving, dishwashing, and exposing plastic to sunlight increases the estrogenic activity of plastic even more.
Similar to plastics, heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, and mercury have estrogen-mimicking properties. It’s even been suggested that the presence of these endocrine-disrupting elements in our environment may be behind the earlier-onset puberty that has become the norm in our modern societies.
When it comes to body shape excess body fat (especially stored in the hips, waist, and thighs) is one of the leading causes of estrogen dominance. Because fat tissue absorbs and stores estrogen circulating in your bloodstream, it also synthesizes estrogen from your other hormones. Having high levels of estrogen tells your body to make more fat cells, which then produce even more estrogen, creating a cycle.
Your age matters. Estrogen levels tend to increase with age, as pregnenolone and progesterone levels decline.
How to Clear Your Body of Excess Estrogen
Clean up your diet. Skipp the low-fat dieting and eat more real food. Opt for grass-fed, pasture-raised, and organic whenever possible to avoid added hormones, pesticides, and fertilizers used in conventional farming methods. Balance blood sugar by eating protein/fats/carbs together during each meal, and eating frequently to help stabilize blood sugar. Filter your water.
Nourish your liver by increasing your daily protein intake. Make sure you eat a variety and include eggs, dairy, collagen, fish, and shellfish, in order to help balance muscle meats like chicken, lamb, beef, turkey. By eating all of the different sources you are helping create the amino acid (building blocks of protein) balance. By doing this, you empower the liver to detoxify properly and ensure the bad stuff goes along with the excess estrogen. Eat easy-to-digest foods to reduce endotoxin that can back up the liver.
Supplement for a better hormone production. Check for differences specifically calcium, magnesium, potassium, zink, and copper. Increase hormone synthesis promoters in the diet using food. Decrease hormone synthesis blockers.
Reduce stress and environmental toxins. Identify and reduce stressors in your life. This could be a variety of things like lack of sleep, not eating enough, not exercising regularly, food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities (which activate the stress response). Detoxify your home by getting rid off the chemicals in your cleaning and beauty products.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the main sources of estrogen and begin taking the proper lifestyle measures to avoid them in the future, you can start feeling your best again. And you can feel even better knowing you’re reducing your risk for a number of chronic illnesses!