In the world of balancing hormones, there are definitely conflicting views about estrogen and estrogen dominance syndrome. Most of us think of estrogen as a single hormone. However, this is not the case. Estrogen is actually a class of hormones and hormone like compounds that possess estrogenic properties. There are human estrogens, animal estrogens, synthetic estrogens, phytoestrogens, and xenoestrogens. Three human estrogens belonging to the steroid hormone family, those that both women and men should monitor are estradiol, estrone, and estriol.
The term “estrogen dominance” was coined by Harvard physician John R Lee, MD and by definition is a condition where a woman can have deficient, normal or excessive estrogen, but has little progesterone to balance the effects of estrogen in the body. Even a woman with low estrogen levels can have estrogen dominance symptoms if her progesterone levels are not adequate.
Let’s look at some of the signs and symptoms of estrogen dominance syndrome.
Signs and Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance Syndrome
- Speeds up the aging process
- Weight gain around middle
- Autoimmune disorders
- Breast cancer
- Breast tenderness
- Cold hands and feet as a symptom of thyroid dysfunction
- Decreased sex drive
- Muscle and joint pain
- Dry eyes
- Early onset of menstruation
- Menstrual difficulties—irregular and heavy bleeding
- Uterine cancer
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Fat gain in abdomen, hips, and thighs
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Foggy thinking
- Hair loss
- Increased risk of gallbladder disease
- Increased blood clotting
- Memory loss
- Mood swings
- Ovarian cysts
- Pre-menopausal bone loss
- Sluggish metabolism
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Uterine fibroids
- Water retention and bloating
Causes of Estrogen Dominance Syndrome
Besides the natural hormonal fluctuations of peri-menopause and menopause, certain lifestyle choices can also contribute to estrogen dominance syndrome. Some of these are a low-fiber diet, liver toxicity, and environmental toxins.
The liver is the main filter of your body. It detoxifies your body, protecting you from the harmful effects of chemicals (xenoestrogens), toxins in food, environmental toxins, and even natural products of our metabolism, including excess estrogen.
Anything that weakens liver function or ties up the liver’s detoxifying function will result in excess estrogen levels, whether it has a physical basis, as in liver disease, or an external cause, as with exposure to environmental toxins, prescription drugs, or dietary substances.
Estrogen is produced not only internally but also produced in reaction to chemicals and other substances in our food. When it is not broken down efficiently because of a toxic liver, higher levels of estrogen can begin to accumulate.
In like manner, the estrogen dominance syndrome can be evoked in women by too much alcohol, drugs, or environmental toxins, all of which limit the liver’s capability to cleanse estrogen out of your blood.
Environmental Toxins – Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals
We live in an estrogenic or feminizing environment. Environmental hormones that mimic estrogen can create “estrogen dominance” and an overall imbalance in the endocrine system.
By definition, endocrine disrupting chemicals are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system (the system that keeps our bodies in balance, maintaining homoestasis and guides proper growth and development) and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife.
We are constantly exposed to endocrine disrupting chemicals, hormone-laden meats and dairy products, forms of toxic air and water pollution, and prescriptions for synthetic hormones (such as the ‘The Pill’ and Premarin).
It isn’t too surprising that estrogen dominance syndrome has become an epidemic in industrialized countries. Over exposure to these potentially dangerous substances has significant consequences, one of which is passing on reproductive abnormalities to offspring.
Chlorine and hormone residues in meats and dairy products can also have estrogenic effects.
In men, the estrogenic environment may result in declining quality of sperm or fertility rates. In women, it may lead to an epidemic of female hormone-caused diseases, all traceable to excess estrogen/deficient progesterone.
Low Fiber Diet
In industrialized countries such as the United States, diets rich in animal fats, sugar, refined starches, and processed foods – all with a lack of sufficient fiber – can lead to estrogen levels in women twice that of women of third-world countries.
A diet low in fiber can cause higher estrogen levels, while a high-fiber diet can lower estrogen levels in the bloodstream. Why does this happen? Surplus estrogen is expelled in the bowel. When fecal matter remains in the bowel for a longer time, as is found in constipation, the estrogen can be reabsorbed into the blood. Studies and research indicate that women who consume a high-fiber diet have lower levels of circulating estrogen. Lower levels of estrogen mean less estrogen stimulation of breast tissue, for example, which can reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Blood Sugar Imbalances
When your blood sugar is not controlled, elevated insulin and cortisol are the results. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels encourage estrogen release and lead to deficiencies in important nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin C and B6 which help to neutralize bad estrogen metabolites in your liver.
Resetting Estrogen & Progesterone: Ratio is the Key
The ratio between estrogen and progesterone levels, which can be different from one woman to another woman, is of utmost importance. Estrogen and progesterone are a “pigeon pair” and it is this ratio to one another that should always be considered when looking for estrogen dominance, not individual hormone levels. From the age of thirty-five to fifty, there is a 75% reduction in the production of progesterone in a woman’s body. During that same age range, estrogen only drops by about 35% (1). Even though estrogen deficiency syndrome is quite often used as an explanation of menopausal symptoms or hormone health concerns it is not a diagnosis that most doctors recognize or even believe. In fact, when a woman complains of even the slightest menopausal type symptoms, conventional medical doctors will usually recommend a prescription of estrogen and possibly an anti-depression med. It is my opinion that supplemental estrogen, even in the slightest amounts, in a woman who doesn’t need it, or is given without bioidentical progesterone to balance it, can lead to many serious side effects.
Suggestions to “Reset” Your Estrogen to Progesterone Ratio
Increase your intake of dietary fiber.
Bowel regularity can ensure the elimination of excess estrogen. the liver binds hormones by converting them into their “methylated” forms — converting them from fat-soluble to water-soluble. The bound hormones are then transported into the gut and excreted. When you experience constipation, that excretion doesn’t happen in a timely manner. And if your bowels aren’t moving every day, your estrogen stays around longer than it should and can actually go back into circulation in the body. Long story, short, a daily bowel movement is very important to get your bound estrogen out as well as other toxins. If constipation is a concern, consider using a qualtiy oxygen-based colon cleanser.
Perform a baseline saliva test
Saliva testing can measure your estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and cortisol levels. Testing sex hormones through saliva can be performed in the privacy of your home and will provide you with a baseline hormone profile before implementing any type of natural health program or bio-identical hormone balancing program. This baseline can then be compared to future saliva testing allowing you to know if what you are doing is actually working or not.
Under supervision, a quality iodine is helpful for fibrocystic breasts and ovarian cysts and may help with hormone balancing. Hormone imbalances in estriol, estrone, and estradiol, which can lead to weight gain can benefit from iodine. Iodine can help maintain the balance in favor of estriol which is the “weaker” of the three endogenous estrogens. Iodine can also induce apoptosis (death) in cancer cells, especially those of thyroid and breast.
Liver Gallbladder Cleanse
It is your liver that helps to remove harmful estrogens and keeping it cleansed and supported is very important. Support your liver by performing a liver/gallbladder cleanse 2-3 times yearly.
One of the largest sources of excess estrogen is the Standard American Diet (SAD). Commercially raised animals are frequently injected with growth hormones to make them grow faster and bigger or to increase milk production. These hormones eventually make their way into our food supply where they can disrupt natural hormone balance. Pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides found on conventionally grown produce are known endocrine disruptors that inhibit your body’s natural hormone activity as well as metabolism. Consume a healthy plant-based diet high in good fats and low in sugar, salt and gluten. Also, consume lots of purified water and never drink water directly from the faucet.
Human-Identical Progesterone Cream
To help balance excess estrogen, consider using natural progesterone in the form of a cream. If estrogen becomes the dominant hormone and progesterone is deficient, excess estrogen becomes toxic to the body. Progesterone has a balancing effect on estrogen.
Exercise every day. Research indicates that physical activity inhibits overproduction of estrogen. Caution: Too much exercise can abolish your menstrual cycle, resulting in a dangerous condition called Female Athlete Triad.
Excess body fat results in accumulation of estrogen. Women who carry extra weight are at a higher risk of breast and uterine cancer as well as other diseases that estrogen accumulation in fat may cause. High estrogen levels prompts the body to make more fat cells, which then produce even more estrogen, creating a very dangerous cycle.
Personal Care Products
Cosmetics, lotions, shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, as well as many other personal care products we use daily contain parabens, phthalates and other chemicals that have estrogenic activity. And since the average woman uses 10-15 body products a day, with a total of 126 different ingredients, the exposure is tremendous. Xenoestrogens in skin care products are concerning because they absorb directly into your tissues, and never have the chance to be detoxified by the liver. Also be concerned with deodorants or other personal care products that contain the word “fragrance” as an ingredient. Fragrance can be most anything and is usually a catch-all word for hidden phthalates and other hormone-disrupting chemicals.
Reduce Stress levels
Reducing stress levels can be as simple as time management skills, getting more restful sleep (in bed by 10:30 PM every night), or talking over your worries and concerns with a close friend, pastor, healthcare practitioner, or family member. However, sometimes stress relief means you must learn to say “no” to excess activities. Realize that it is not healthy or even feasible for you to attend and/or assist with every event, project, and activity that comes your way. If you are already on stress-overload, try to reduce your activity schedule as much as possible, or even take a break as you are able. Learning to politely and firmly say “no” can also be beneficial in keeping stress under control.
RELATED: How To Conquer Stress Naturally
Do Not Take Estrogen Without Progesterone
Taking estrogen alone can easily create estrogen dominance syndrome which eventually increases a woman’s risk for cancer of the endometrium (the lining of the uterus). Unfortunately many healthcare practitioners still prescribe synthetic estrogen by itself. This is not a good idea even if the amount of estrogen prescribed is a very low amount. Always use human-identical progesterone (not synthetic) to help balance estrogen. Hint: If you find that you happen to need estrogen, bioidentical estrogen is best.
If you are suffering from estrogen dominance syndrome, I highly encourage you to look for things you can change to get your lifestyle under better control. Just take it one step at a time. Are you incorporating exercise and a healthy diet in your life every day? Would making some important lifestyle changes put you in better health? When was the last time you cleansed your body? Often these are important factors in getting healthy, but not always. At any rate, if your current lifestyle choices aren’t putting your health where you desire it to be, I suggest making a decision to check out the ideas in this article. Dealing with estrogen dominance syndrome is not always easy, but the good news is that any health situation can be improved.
University of Kansas Medical Center. Iodine Supplementation.
Mnif W, Hassine AI, Bouaziz A, Bartegi A, Thomas O, Roig B. Effect of endocrine disruptor pesticides: a review. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011;8(6):2265–2303. doi:10.3390/ijerph8062265
A review of the endocrine activity of parabens and implications for potential risks to human health. Crit Rev Toxicol. 2005 Jun;35(5):435-58.
Delgado, Nick PhD, CHT. 5 Hidden But Common Causes of Estrogen Dominance Revealed.
Gibbs, W. Wayt. Scientific American Vol. 275, No. 2 (AUGUST 1996), pp. 88-94.
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Lanphier, Loretta, NP, CN, HHP. Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – What you Need to Know. OAWHealth Natural Health Blog. OAWHealth.com. September, 2013.