Are you struggling with killer PMS symptoms and heavy periods? Maybe you’ve had to accept that mood swings, infertility, anxiety, tender breasts, or weight gain are simply part of life? While they may be common, these symptoms aren’t “normal.” If any of these sound familiar, you might be dealing with estrogen dominance without realizing it.
Estrogen dominance is a hormonal imbalance that can mean one of two things - either your body is overproducing estrogen, or it’s underproducing other important sex hormones, particularly progesterone. Whatever the cause, having disproportionately high levels of estrogen can throw your whole body out of whack, leading to debilitating cramps, headaches, moodiness, fertility issues, and more.
If you haven’t reached perimenopause, you may experience many of these symptoms right before or during your period, since estrogen is the leading lady during the first half of your menstrual cycle. However, estrogen dominance is also common in perimenopausal and menopausal women - so if you’ve said goodbye to periods, don’t stop reading yet! Believe it or not, we can even see estrogen dominance in men, and it’s more common than you might think.
Signs of Estrogen Dominance
Estrogen drives well over 400 different processes in the body. In addition to regulating the menstrual cycle in women, it affects the reproductive and urinary tracts, pelvic muscles, bones, breasts, heart and blood vessels, skin, hair, mucous membranes, and the brain. So it’s easy to imagine how far-reaching the effects of an estrogen imbalance can be.
In women, estrogen dominance often looks like:
Intense PMS symptoms (including anxiety, mood swings, bloating, breast tenderness, and very heavy or painful periods)
Weight gain, especially in the thighs, hips, and waist
Anxiety or depression
Headaches or migraines
In men, estrogen dominance can present as:
While these symptoms are often overlooked, they shouldn’t be. Estrogen dominance is linked to a higher risk for certain forms of cancer and chronic illness - so if you suspect you may be estrogen dominant, it’s important to work with a knowledgeable provider to seek testing and treatment.
Causes of Estrogen Dominance
Because estrogen dominance can be caused by too much estrogen OR by too little progesterone, there are quite a few possible causes. Because the liver is responsible for metabolizing excess hormones and excreting them via the bowels, our environment and the way we care for our body plays an enormous role. Some of the most common contributors include:
Hormonal birth control - the synthetic estrogen and progesterone in most oral contraceptives can signal to the body to shut down production of natural sex hormones, which can lead to thinning of the uterine lining and estrogen dominance.
Endocrine Disruptors - also known as xenoestrogens, these are chemicals commonly found in everything from household cleaners and skincare products to plastic containers and receipts. These chemicals can be absorbed through the skin. They mimic estrogen, contribute to your estrogen levels, and can push your body into estrogen dominance. Many of these chemicals leach into our water sources, so drinking unfiltered water is a sneaky source of xenoestrogens.
Chronic Inflammation - when your body is stuck in an inflammatory state, it will use whatever it can to help reduce inflammation. As those resources are depleted, your body runs out of what it needs to metabolize sex hormones properly, which can lead to too-high levels of estrogen.
Chronic Stress - when you’re in a long-term state of stress, your body uses progesterone to produce more cortisol to help you maintain that fight-or-flight mode. This can lead to progesterone depletion, moving the proportion of estrogen to progesterone to rise into an estrogen-dominant balance.
Constipation - estrogen is removed from the body via the bowels, so if you’re chronically struggling to go, it’s likely just sitting there being reabsorbed.
Poor Diet - we know that some foods can cause inflammation in the body, especially if your gut isn’t functioning optimally. Added sugars and processed foods are key culprits, as are hormone-treated meat and dairy. Soy can cause hormone imbalances, as it’s a phytoestrogen that can mimic estrogen in the body. Even moderate alcohol consumption can be detrimental, as a liver focused on metabolizing alcohol can put hormone metabolism on the back burner.
Poor Sleep - our bodies work hard while we sleep, dedicating a lot of energy to metabolism and detoxification. When you’re not sleeping well, you’re likely not eliminating excess estrogen - which can in turn reduce melatonin production, leading to even more trouble sleeping. It’s a vicious cycle!
Treating Estrogen Dominance
Lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on reversing estrogen dominance. Simple, sustainable changes are often all it takes to support the liver’s natural detoxification process and eliminate the source(s) of excess estrogen or progesterone suppression.
Saunas – Saunas are one of the best ways to support detoxification within the body.
Exercise – Exercise, especially sweating, is another great way of supporting detoxification.
Reduce stress levels – We probably sound like a broken record saying this, but reducing stress levels is one of the best things you can do for your health, and estrogen is no exception.
Lose excess weight – Estrogens are stored in fat cells in the body. So when you lose weight, you reduce storage space for estrogens, and you make it easier for your body to eliminate estrogen in the first place.
Drink clean water – There are so many toxins and potential endocrine disruptors in our drinking water. Filters like the Berkey Water System ensure your drinking water is safe from these chemicals, and it’s an incredible way to prioritize your health.
Use clean home, personal care, and beauty products – Specifically avoid phthalates and synthetic fragrance.
Avoid hormonal birth control
Improve your diet:
Eat more cruciferous vegetables, which help direct estrogen down the proper detoxification pathways:
Broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, bok choy, collard greens, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, napa cabbage, wasabi
Avoid foods high in phytoestrogens like soy, including tempeh and tofu
Prioritize organic produce, meat and dairy products
Eat more fruits and vegetables in general to incorporate more fiber into your diet
These aren’t meant to be quick fixes, but adopting lifestyle changes long-term can help treat and prevent estrogen dominance, as well as reduce your risk for chronic illness. If this feels overwhelming, we’re here to help!
If you haven’t joined our Private Facebook Group, please do HERE.
If you’re looking for a more natural way to manage your health, please contact us for a discovery call to see if our approach would be appropriate for your situation.