Do you feel sluggish? Anxious? Have trouble losing weight? Are your menstrual cycles unbearable? Then you could be suffering from estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance is a condition that affects both men and women. Its effects can be seen as early as puberty and can extend well into menopause (for women). Yet, the condition goes largely undiagnosed and untreated.
It is a condition that can build up over time. Symptoms will often increase in frequency and severity as the individual gets older. Risk factors of estrogen dominance can include breast cancer, endometrial cancer, colorectal cancer, and ovarian cancer as well certain autoimmune disorders. It is a condition that, if left unchecked, can wreak havoc on a person’s physical and emotional well being.
What is Estrogen?
Estrogen is a naturally occurring female sex hormone that is produced in the bodies of men and women. It is largely produced in the ovaries of women. Small amounts of estrogen are also produced by the liver, adrenal glands, breasts, and fatty tissue.
In women, it influences the development and maintenance of secondary female sex characteristics (breast development), regulates menstruation, and maintains pregnancy. It also influences cell growth, blood clotting, bone strength, circulatory health, metabolism, muscle mass, fat storage, and fluid balance.
In men, it is involved in sperm development and libido.
Estrogen works hand in hand with other hormones, namely progesterone. Progesterone helps to regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle and ensures the health and well-being of a developing baby in utero. It prevents spontaneous abortion by the uterus and promotes milk production in the breasts.
It is considered the “antagonist” of estrogen, so as progesterone production increases, estrogen production decreases. The problem is that the opposite is also true, as estrogen production increases, progesterone production decreases. Most estrogen dominance is also identified as progesterone deficiency.
Hormone replacement therapy is typically prescribed for progesterone deficiency. It’s usually only prescribed in the case of extreme imbalance or menopause. You could cycle every month, but still have a hormone imbalance. In this case, it may be easier for you to manage the imbalance with over the counter supplements.
Signs of Estrogen Dominance
The combination of too much estrogen and not enough progesterone can cause a lot of problems in the body. Young girls are experiencing menstruation as early as 9 years old, which is due to estrogen dominance. Certain cancers are fed by estrogen, so the risk of those cancers also increases. Certain autoimmune disorders such as lupus and thyroid disease have also been linked with estrogen dominance.
Here are a list of some other signs of estrogen dominance:
- Breast tenderness
- Mood swings/PMS
- Fluid retention
- Weight gain
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Weight gain, especially around the abdomen, hips and thighs
- Hair loss
- Depression with anxiety or agitation
- Slow metabolism
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Adrenal exhaustion/fatigue
- Headaches, migraines
- Allergies, including asthma, hives, rashes, and sinus congestion
- Severe menstrual cramping
- Heavy, prolonged periods with clotting
- Joint and muscle pain
- Decreased libido
- Insomnia and restless sleep
- Dry eyes
- Prostate issues (men only)
- Uterine fibroid tumours
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Thickened uterine lining
- Accelerated aging
- Autoimmune disorders
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Oestrogen related cancers
While some women naturally produce too much estrogen, we are also exposed to estrogens in our everyday lives. These synthetic estrogens build up in our bodies and cause estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance affects about 50% of all women in western society.
Types of Estrogen
Steroidal estrogen. This is the estrogen that is naturally produced in the human body.
Synthetic hormones. Namely, these are the hormones that are fed to livestock and that we consume through animal products.
Phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogens are contained in plants such as soybeans, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, flax seed, and whole grains. They are weaker than steroidal or synthetic estrogens. Because the body still recognizes it as an estrogen, it can implant itself into receptor sites and block other, stronger estrogens.
Xenoestrogen. Xenoestrogen is a synthetic estrogen that is present in a number of toxic substances in our environment. It is most commonly present in plastic, solvents, pesticides, and petrochemicals. Xenoestrogens mimic steroidal estrogens in the body and is much more powerful than phytoestrogens. They are fat soluble and build up in the body.
Does Sugar Mimic Estrogen?
Many people erroneously accuse sugar of mimicking estrogen in the body. This is not true; however, a diet high in sugar can increase the risk of estrogen dominance.
Sugar causes a decrease in magnesium levels. Magnesium and B6 are necessary to neutralize estrogen in the liver so it can be metabolized.
Moral of the story: limit your sugar intake and supplement magnesium
How to Correct the Balance
Take natural progesterone supplements
Supplementing with progesterone has been shown to decrease estrogen levels. Progesterone supplements are available via prescription from your doctor. Natural progesterone sources are also available over the counter.
Limit your exposure to outside synthetic hormones and xenoestrogens
The most effective way to maintain healthy estrogen levels is to reduce your exposure. Here are a list of ways to avoid synthetic estrogens.
- Commit to a clean, real food diet.
- Buy local and/or organic produce, meats, eggs, and dairy, or raise your own.
- Avoid pesticides and fungicides.
- Avoid plastic.
- Do not microwave foods in plastic, especially plastic wrap.
- Avoid cosmetics and beauty products that contain xenoestrogens and parabens. Check the Skin Deep Database to see if your products are safe.
- Make your own home cleaning products.
- Limit your exposure to smog and vehicle exhaust.
Increase consumption of plants containing phytoestrogens
Phytoestrogens are recognized as an estrogen in the body, but are less powerful than steroidal and synthetic estrogens. They can block the more powerful other estrogens from cell receptor sites. This will limit their ability to do damage in the body and will improve symptoms of estrogen dominance.
However, you can get too much of a good thing. Phytoestrogens can increase the symptoms of estrogen dominance if consumed in excess. If you have a history of thyroid problems, you should limit your consumption of phytoestrogens.
Increase dietary fiber
Fiber binds to estrogens in the gut and allows them to be removed from the body. At least 15 grams of fiber should be consumed per day.
Limit caffeine consumption
As few as two cups of coffee per day can increase estrogen levels in the body.
Decrease alcohol and nicotine consumption
Hormones are metabolized through the liver, so it makes sense to do everything you can to improve your liver health. Reducing your liver’s exposure to toxins will improve its ability to detoxify the body.
The liver detoxifies in two phases. In the first phase, toxins are broken down through a process of oxidation, reduction and hydrolysis. The process releases a large number of free radicals. Free radical damage can be reduced by having a healthy balance of antioxidants.
In the second phase, the toxic substance is neutralized and excreted from the body through bile or urine. Flavonoids, antioxidants, and any supplements that aid in healthy liver function will aid in the detoxification process.
Body fat secretes a small amount of steroidal estrogen, plus many synthetic estrogens are stored in body fat. Limiting body fat will also help to limit excess estrogen in the body.
Studies have shown that increased physical activity results in a reduced risk of many types of cancer. Exercise, especially running, is especially beneficial to breast cancer survivors and can increase survivability by 25%.
Chronic stress can lead to adrenal fatigue, which is the leading cause of progesterone depletion and estrogen dominance. Steps should still be taken to reduce stressors. Pregnenolone and DHEA supplementation can also help support the adrenal gland and reduce adrenal fatigue.
Take a good quality multivitamin
Your multivitamin should contain A, E and C, all important antioxidants. Antioxidants eliminate the free radicals in the body and help support healthy liver function.
Supplementation is key to maintaining healthy estrogen levels following a liver detox. Many of these vitamins can be found in a high quality women’s multivitamin or through diet. Others may need to be supplemented in pill form. Some supplements to consider include:
- Diindolylmethane (DIM) is important for maintaining healthy estrogen levels. DIM contains the active ingredient in cruciferous vegetables, Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C), a phytoestrogen. It offers a concentrated source of I3C that most individuals do not consume in their daily diets. DIM prevents the body from trapping bad estrogens by blocking the estrogen receptors. This allows the excess estrogen to be removed from the body.
- Methionine is an essential amino acid. It is a powerful detoxifier that supports overall liver health. Once in the liver, methionine produces glutathione, which is used to neutralize toxins in the liver. It is available by eating meat, eggs, and dairy, and is recommended for anyone experiencing estrogen dominance. If supplementing with methionine, supplementation of folic acid and B6 is also recommended.
- S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) is the product of methionine after it is processed in the liver. It can be used to elevate mood, treat depression. and reduce inflammation. It is also used as the treatment for a number of chronic diseases.
- Taurine is a conditional amino acid found in animal protein, like meat, fish and egg yolks. It works to help cells retain potassium and magnesium while blocking excess sodium. The main benefit to this process is reduced fluid retention in the body. It is used to treat heart disease, high cholesterol, liver disease and cystic fibrosis. Women with estrogen dominance typically have low taurine levels.
- Fish oil is shown to reduce cancer risk, improve cardiovascular health, and support the nervous system. It is also shown to aid in estrogen metabolism.
- Calcium D-Glucarate increases detoxification and is one of the most important nutrients for liver function. It’s shown to prevent the formation of cancer cells and removes carcinogens, toxins, and steroid hormones from the body.
- Milk Thistle Extract (also known as silymarin) comes from the milk thistle plant. It protects the liver from damage and enhances detoxification. As an antioxidant, milk thistle extract is more effective than vitamins C and E.
- N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) is a powerful antioxidant and detoxifier. It also produces glutathione in the liver. By improving liver function, more estrogen is metabolized and removed from the body. NAC should also be taken with vitamin C to reduce the risk of kidney stones.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid is a valuable antioxidant. It can dissolve in water and fat, crosses the brain barrier, and can reach all parts of the liver. It can also regenerate other essential antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, CoQ10, and glutathione.
- Grape Seed Extract contains powerful antioxidants known as proanthocyanidins. It is a rapidly absorbed, water soluble nutrient that remains in the body for up to 72 hours. It also improves the circulatory system and strengthens blood vessels. It should be taken in addition to vitamins C and E.
My 30 Day Cleanse
About once every five years, I find I need to go on a 30 day estrogen cleanse. This includes a 2-phase liver detoxification, supplement regimen, and avoiding synthetic estrogens. Thankfully, I have a freezer full of home raised meat and a ready supply of fresh eggs. I also buy raw, grass fed milk from a local dairy.
During the cleanse, I take:
- Liver Detox by Renew Life
- DIM Plus
- Adrenal Support Dietary Supplement
- MegaFood – Women’s One Daily
- MegaFood – Balanced B Complex
- MegaFood – Magnesium
- Puritan’s Pride Vitamin C-1000 mg with Bioflavonoids & Rose Hips
- Progesterone Cream from NOW Solution
- Puritan’s Pride Psyllium Husks (for fiber)
Liver Detox by Renew Life contains milk thistle, L-methionine, NAC, Alpha Lipoic Acid, selenium, Ayurvedic Herbs, and dandelion. There is a morning formula and an evening formula to promote the two phases of detoxification in the liver.
The DIM and Progesterone Cream will also help to regulate estrogen levels and flush excess estrogen from the body.
My primary goals when I do this cleanse are to regulate my menstrual cycles and stabilize my moods. I have also found that the cleanse can help me break through any weight loss plateaus.
Following the cleanse, I continue to take all of the above vitamins except for the liver detox. To maintain my liver health, I also take milk thistle extract. I don’t need to take it during the detox, since it’s already included in the cleanse.
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References and Additional Reading:
- HealthDay News. (2013, April 9). Physical activity lowers estrogen levels in older women, study says. Retrieved February 13, 2014, from healthfinder.gov: https://healthfinder.gov/News/Article.aspx?id=675159
- Hoffman, R. M. (n.d.). Estrogen Dominance Syndrome. Retrieved December 20, 2013, from Dr. Ronald Hoffman: https://drhoffman.com/article/estrogen-dominance-syndrome-2/
- John, E. M., Horn-Ross, P. L., & Koo, J. (2003, November 1). Lifetime Physical Activity and Breast Cancer Risk in a Multiethnic Population. Retrieved February 13, 2014, from Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention: https://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/12/11/1143.long
- Lam, M. M. (2004). Estrogen Dominance. Retrieved December 20, 2013, from www.DrLam.com: https://www.drlam.com/articles/estrogen_dominance.asp
- Lee, J. R., & Hopkins, V. (2006). Dr. John Lee’s Hormone Balance Made Simple: The Essential How-to Guide to Symptoms, Dosage, Timing, and More. New York: Hachette Book Group.
- Lucille, H. N. (n.d.). Estrogen Dominance: Too Much of a Good Thing Can Certainly Be BAD! Retrieved December 20, 2013, from Naturopathic Physicians: Natural Medicine.
- Meschino, J. D. (n.d.). How Cruciferous Vegetables and Their Indole-3-Carbinol Content Help Reduce Cancer Risk. Retrieved February 12, 2014, from Natural Solutions to Healthy Living: http://www.meschinohealth.com/ArticleDirectory/Indole-3-Carbinol_In_Cruciferous_Vegetables_Reduce_Cancer_Risk
- Northrup, C. M. (2012, September 4). Estrogen Dominance. Retrieved December 15, 2013, from Christiane Northrup, MD: https://www.drnorthrup.com/estrogen-dominance/
- Thompson, B. L. (n.d.). Understanding Estrogen Dominance. Retrieved December 20, 2013, from Nutritional Weight & Wellness: https://www.weightandwellness.com/resources/articles-and-videos/articles-about-other-health-conditions/understanding-estrogen-dominance/
- Weiner, J. (2014, January 28). Running may be better than walking for breast cancer survival. Retrieved February 13, 2014, from Berkeley Lab: https://newscenter.lbl.gov/science-shorts/2014/01/28/running-may-be-better-than-walking-for-breast-cancer-survival/
* This post does not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any medical condition.
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.