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, with symptoms increasing in frequency and severity as the individual gets older. Estrogen dominance has been linked to certain types of cancer as well certain autoimmune disorders. It is a condition that, if left unchecked, can wreck havoc on a person’s physical and emotional well being.
What is Estrogen?
Estrogen is a naturally occurring steroid sex hormone that is produced in the bodies of men and women. It is largely produced in the ovaries of women, but small amounts 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 also 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.
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
I’ve highlighted the symptoms that I’ve been experiencing, especially the last two years. I also suspect it may be causing some infertility because I’ve had such a difficult time getting pregnant since my miscarriage. Other symptoms I’ve had since I was a teenager. Chances are, my body produces excessive amounts of estrogen anyway, but we are also exposed to estrogens in our everyday lives that 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 meat, eggs and dairy.
Phytoestrogen – Some plants such as soybeans, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, brussels sprouts, flax seed, alfalfa sprouts, dried prunes, and whole grains (just to name a few) contain phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens 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 – This is a synthetic estrogen that is present in a number of toxic substances in our environment including plastic, solvents, pesticides and petrochemicals. Xenoestrogen mimics steroidal estrogen in the body and is much more powerful than phytoestrogen. They are fat soluble and build up in the body.
What’s the Deal with Sugar?
I’ve heard a number of people erroneously accuse sugar as mimicking estrogen in the body. This is not true; however, sugar is related to 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).