Estrogen dominance is a hormonal imbalance that essentially entails having too much estrogen compared to the rest of your hormones. When estrogen levels are too low, women can suffer from side effects, but too much estrogen also takes a toll on both women and men, with dangers ranging from fatigue to breast cancer. Symptoms of estrogen dominance are often treated in the medical community with hormonal birth control, but there are more natural ways to cure this condition. Read on to find out more about estrogen dominance and how to temper it.
The Importance of Estrogen
In women especially, the hormone estrogen is crucial to overall health, wellness, and functioning. Estrogen regulates menstruation, insulin sensitivity, hunger and satiety, cholesterol metabolism, bone density, and beyond. Without sufficient estrogen, women have symptoms like moodiness, hot flashes, brain fog, painful urination, and irregular periods. It's important that estrogen not be too low, but high estrogen levels are an issue as well.
The Balance of Estrogen
Estrogen dominance is not solely a concern for women. Just as women also have low levels of testosterone in their bodies, men too have estrogen levels that need to stay in balance. In a woman, estrogen dominance might manifest as consistently heavy periods, whereas a man might have a more womanly shape (fuller breasts and hips) due to an imbalance of estrogen. When estrogen outweighs testosterone levels in men and progesterone levels in women, estrogen dominance can become an issue.
Estrogen Dominance Symptoms
An imbalance of progesterone (or testosterone) and estrogen, with the balance tilting way too much in favor of estrogen can result in the following symptoms in women:
- PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
- Brain fog
- Weight gain (especially in thigh, hips, and midsection)
- Mood swings
- Fibrocystic breasts (lumpiness in breasts due to benign cysts)
- Breast tenderness
- Abnormal menstrual cycle
- Reduced sex drive
Men suffering from estrogen dominance are likely to experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Enlarged breasts (gynecomastia)
- Sexual dysfunction
The Link Between Estrogen Dominance and Thyroid Dysfunction
While we're on the subject, the link between thyroid issues and estrogen dominance is unclear, though some doctors suggest that cases of hypothyroid may be consequences of estrogen dominance, as the balance between estrogen and progesterone directly impacts thyroid function.
If any of these health problems concern you, consult a physician for medical advice and ask for a blood test of your hormonal balance to find out if you're estrogen dominant. Read on for more potential causes of estrogen dominance, and what you can do on your own to alleviate or even eliminate these symptoms.
Possible Causes of Estrogen Dominance
Estrogen dominance can arise naturally due to genetics, or be influenced by environmental factors or prescribed medications. Let's take a look at the potential influences on your hormone balance that may have a hand in causing estrogen dominance.
Hormonal Birth Control
One of the top culprits for causing estrogen dominance is hormonal birth control such as the birth control pill. This form of birth control is extremely popular, so much so that its introduction in 1960 had a wide social impact on women's health.
Not only do doctors prescribe it to young women to help regulate their periods or control heavy bleeding, but it's even prescribed to help control acne. There's a commonly held belief that estrogen dominance may cause acne, though more research is still needed to determine the precise relationship between sex hormones and acne.
Women often start birth control young, and continue taking it throughout their reproductive lives without necessarily considering the side effects. Hormonal birth control can lead to a hormone imbalance, and unfortunately two of the symptoms of estrogen dominance are the very conditions doctors often prescribe birth control to treat: heavy bleeding and erratic periods. This creates a vicious cycle of excess estrogen, not to mention that birth control pills also release synthetic progesterone, which suppresses the body's natural production of the hormone. Without enough progesterone for balance, the effects of estrogen become dominant.
Personal Care Products
There are many products on the market that contain xenoestrogens, a type of xenohormone that imitates estrogen and can disrupt your hormone balance. The leading culprits include:
- Parabens: Used as a preservative in toiletries like moisturizers, makeup, hair care, and shaving products, parabens can be spotted in the ingredients list as propylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, ethylparaben, isopropylparaben, and isobutylparaben. Deodorants and antiperspirants have mostly discontinued the use of parabens, but it's a good idea to stay vigilant.
- Phthalates: Phthalates can be found in plastics and are used as an emulsifying and stabilizing agent in topical and skin care products.
- Benzophenones: This xenohormone alters estrogen and testosterone production and is often found in sunscreens.
- Triclosan: Used as an antibacterial agent, triclosan acts on estrogen receptors and has been observed to increase the size of uteri and grow breast cancer cells in rats.
One tip to remember is that if a product has a strong perfume or chemical smell, there's a relatively good chance it's affecting your hormones. Better to choose products scented with essential oils, which don't disrupt your hormones, and avoid products that only list "fragrance" on their ingredients list. You absorb the products you put on your skin, so it's wise to be cognizant of the ingredients in your daily beauty and personal care products.
Estrogen in Food
No matter what you eat—vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, omnivore—there are chemicals and pesticides used on your food that may contain endocrine disruptors and influence your estrogen levels. The most common herbicide worldwide is glyphosate. Researchers have linked glyphosate with female cancers, including one instance where it caused breast cancer cells to grow in vitro. Factory farmers also utilize hormones to spur faster growth in animals, making extra hormones an ingredient in both the meat and dairy products these animals produce.
Estrogen in Water
The Environmental Working Group has identified dozens of hormone-disrupting chemicals in our public drinking water. Food and personal care products are items you can control your consumption of, but what about the water coming from your tap? Even bottled water comes with plastic bottles leaching chemicals into the water, and canned drinks are often lined with BPA.
The cleanest water is found in locations that are far from mines, industrial complexes, and factory farms. For those in areas with suspect water, a high-quality filter is recommended.
The body produces estrogen naturally in the brain, adrenal glands, and the ovaries or testes. Estrogen is also produced in the body fat of both men and women. That means that the more fat cells you have, the more estrogen you produce.
High levels of estrogen can be the result of chronic stress. This is due to the hormone pregnenolone, the "multitasking" hormone, a precursor to both stress and sex hormones. When stressed, your body depletes its pregnenolone supply, meaning there isn't enough pregnenolone left around to make the proper levels of progesterone. Without progesterone to regulate estrogen, symptoms of estrogen dominance may arise, like weight gain and PMS.
How to Reverse Estrogen Dominance Naturally
Estrogen dominance is best corrected by treating the root cause. Consider these natural estrogen dominance treatment recommendations as potential curatives for your symptoms.
- Discontinue taking birth control. Ask your physician for non-hormonal birth control options, such as a diaphragm.
- Replace your personal care products. Seek out nontoxic versions of the toiletries you regularly use and enjoy. These days more people and companies are aware of these toxins and provide alternative options.
- Eat organic foods. You can correct estrogen dominance via diet if you do your best to choose organically sourced meats and plant foods. Purchase animal products from small-scale farmers who do not use hormones on their livestock, and produce from those who don't crop-dust with harmful herbicides.
- Filter your water. You may not be able to move away from contaminated water sources, but you can purchase a triple-stage filter (sediment, ceramic, and activated charcoal) that strains out harmful particles and viruses.
- Support your detox pathways. For those toxins that still find a way in, herbs and supplements like dandelion root tea, milk thistle, calcium d-glucarate, and glutathione help support the liver's efforts to detox your body.
- Lose weight. Reducing your body fat can help return your hormone levels to an optimal balance. Whether it's through dietary changes, increased physical activity, or both, losing weight can help you feel better in a thousand beneficial ways.
- Destress: As with your water source, you can't always control the stress that comes in, but you can control how you manage it. Stick to a regular routine, get a good night's sleep, and take time for personal care, whether that's in the form of meditation, yoga, therapy, or quality time with friends, family, and loved ones.
Assert Your Dominance
Start with these tips, and seek expert advice if needed when it comes to a hormonal imbalance. Whether it's communicating your symptoms clearly and seeking a medical professional who will listen, or taking control of the influencing factors in your daily life, you can assert your own dominance over a case of estrogen dominance.