What is estrogen dominance?
Estrogen dominance is a hormone imbalance that can occur in both men and women. Estrogen is more present in women because it is one of the female sex hormones that plays a role in your menstrual cycle. (In a previous post I wrote about the basics of your menstrual cycle and how you can fast around it.)
During the menstrual cycle there is a peak in estrogen right before ovulation. After ovulation, the corpus luteum starts producing both estrogen and progesterone, but progesterone becomes the more dominant hormone after ovulation. When progesterone is low, estrogen becomes the more dominant hormone. This is called Estrogen Dominance.
Symptoms of estrogen dominance
- PMS (Post Menstrual Symptoms)
- Weight gain (especially around the hips, waist and thighs)
- Abnormal menstruation
- Reduced sex drive
- Breast tenderness
- Mood swings
- Brain fog
- Headaches or migraines
- Mood changes
- Irregularity in menstrual cycle
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Irregular or absent period
What can cause estrogen dominance?
When our hormones are in the right balance at the right time, we experience optimal health. When there is an imbalance, our body becomes disregulated and starts to dysfunction. In our modern world, we are surrounded with chemicals that disrupt our hormone balance. The exposure to certain toxic chemicals can mimic the effect of estrogen in the body and make us become more estrogen dominant and suppress progesterone.
Birth control pills
Birth control pills are often prescribed to young girl to prevent pregnancy but also to manage a regular menstrual cycle. Birth control pills contain synthestic estrogen, so levels in estrogen rise and progesterone goes down. This can create estrogen dominance. Birth control pills are often precribed without mentioning the risk they entail long-term.
Birth control pills may increase the risk of:
- heart attack
- blood clots
- pulmonary embolism
- nausea and vomiting
- irregular bleeding
- weight changes
- breast tenderness and swelling
Oral birth control presents more risk for women who smoke or are over the age of 35 years. Long-term use may also lead to a higher risk of breast cancer.
Talk to a functional medicine doctor about other birth control options.
Although our body benefits from some short term stress, it doesn’t do well by being in constant stress. Chronic stress has a major impact on not only our body, but also on our sex hormones. Progesterone is very sensitive to stress and gets suppressed when too much cortisol (the stress hormone) is present. When progesterone is low, estrogen becomes dominant, and estrogen dominance symptoms start to occur.
Make sure you can find a balance in your life where you include some time to wind down, reflect, and process life events that are stressful mentally and physically.
Drinking water is often being treated with hormone disrupting chemicals to make it ‘safe’ for humans to drink. Store bought water is often packaged in plastic bottles that contain BPA (bisphenol A, a chemical used to make plastic). BPA mimics the effect of estrogen in the body and may thus contribute to the cause of estrogen dominance. BPA is often found in water bottles, food storage containers and other plastics.
Using water filters and glass food storage containers, help filter out these hormone disrupting chemicals.
Hormone disrupters in food
Conventional life stock is often treated with hormone injections, so producers can grow their cattle faster and fatter and produce more milk. Life stock is also being fed grains that have been sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, that makes these animals unhealthy. When eating the meat and dairy of these animals we ingest these hormones and they contribute to hormone imbalance.
Most conventional crops are being sprayed with herbicides and pesticides that contain the active ingredient ‘glyphosate’. (you probably have it in your garage as ’round-up’). Glyphosate has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor and can contribute to estrogen dominance.
Eating well sourced meats, from grass-fed grass-finished organic cattle and organic produce will prevent the over exposure to these hormones and chemicals and help prevent and restore hormone imbalance.
Beauty products are filled with hormone disrupting chemicals, and most of us women put it on our largest organ (our skin) everyday. They are filled with xenoestrogens (chemicals that mimic the effect of estrogen) such as Parabens, Phthalates , 4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) and Benzophenones, just to name a few.
It’s imporant to use skincare products that don’t contain any of these toxic chemicals. This can be quite challenging because half of these names I can’t even pronounce, let alone recognize them.
So the general rule I started to use is: the ingredient ‘water’ should not be present in the ingredient list. Sounds pretty weird right, since water is natural, but here’s why:
Because to make all of these chemicals and preservatives, you need water. If there is no water in the ingredient list, chances are low you will be exposed to these toxic ingredients. Also, water being used in most cosmetic products is not filtered and polluted with hormone disrupting chemicals.
Using organic oil based products is your safest option to avoid xenoestrogens.
Poor liver function
Our liver works to detoxify our bodies from all the chemicals our body can’t use, so we stay healthy. The liver processes hormones to get them ready to be eliminated from the body. When you have a poor liver function it will be difficult to clear estrogen from your body and we end up with too much estrogen.
Making sure you eat a healthy balanced diet, limit your exposure to toxins, reduce or eliminating alcohol will support a healthy liver.
Crusifurous foods aid in estrogen dominance
Cruciferous vegetables are rich in a compound called indole-3-carbinole (I3C) which is converted in the body to diindolylmethane (DIM) which are crucial for helping the liver breakdown and neutralize estrogens so they can be excreted from the body.
When you are estrogen dominant, you can add in a serving of cruciferous vegetables such as:
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Collard greens
If you’re not a fan of eating these with every meal, you can also take them in as a supplement.
Understanding how our lifestyle can impact our hormones is important in the road to optimal health. It’s impossible to never be exposed to any toxins in the world we live in today, that’s a fact. But knowing how you can limit your exposure can have a major impact on your health and weight loss journey.