When it comes to hormone balancing, estrogen dominance is one of the most common imbalances we see. We see this in all ages of cycling women and it’s also common in women who are in their perimenopause years. We also see this in men as they go through andropause, the male version of menopause.
What is estrogen dominance?
Our hormones are a complicated group of chemical messengers in our bodies that are designed to be in balance with each other. When they get out of balance, unpleasant symptoms begin to occur. This is true for both men and women.
Estrogen and progesterone are two sex hormones that need to be in balance with each other. Each has its own set of important functions in the body. In cycling women, these two hormones have an intricate relationship with each other throughout the menstrual cycle, in order to make the woman’s body most suitable to carry a pregnancy.
Estrogen dominance occurs when the level of estrogen is too high in relation to the level of progesterone. This can be due to an overall high level of estrogen, or a relatively high level of estrogen to progesterone. This causes symptoms such as mood swings, heavy or irregular periods, tender breasts, low libido, headaches, weight gain, anxiety, depression, food cravings, fatigue and irritability. In more severe cases, it can be linked to uterine fibroids and estrogen-sensitive cancers.
What contributes to estrogen dominance?
Your body isn’t eliminating estrogen properly
Two things must be working well to metabolize and eliminate estrogens.
First, your liver must be working well. The liver metabolizes, or conjugates, estrogen and other hormones. These conjugated estrogens are then eliminated through the bowels. If your liver is overburdened, its ability to metabolize hormones will be compromised.
Second, you must be eliminating (yes, pooping) on a daily basis at least once. If you’re not eliminating on a daily basis, enzymes in the bowel can re-conjugate these estrogens and they are absorbed back into the body. Then your liver has to metabolize them again, bogging down the system.
Exposure to xenoestrogens
Another important contributor to estrogen dominance is xenoestrogens from our environment. Xenoestrogens are endocrine-disrupting chemicals that mimic our own natural estrogens, but are much stronger. They attach to our estrogen receptors and exert a stronger estrogenic effect. They also overburden the liver as it works to clear them along with our own natural estrogens.
Where do these xenoestrogens come from? They are everywhere. They are in personal care products, birth control pills, cleaning products, laundry products, pesticides, artificial fragrances, plastics, building materials, home furnishings, canned foods, non-stick cookware and industrial air pollution.
The natural progression of perimenopause
Perimenopause is the period of time before a woman goes through menopause. During these 5-10 years, hormones begin to fluctuate. Estrogen dominance can occur as progesterone levels naturally begin to drop relative to estrogen.
How can we lessen estrogen dominance?
- Support your liver by eating a diet high in all kinds of vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables, beets, asparagus, artichokes and leafy greens. Be moderate with alcohol and caffeine.
- Ensure 1-3 daily bowel movements by eating plenty of high-fiber foods (vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains) and drinking at least 64 ounces of water daily.
- Drink plenty of filtered water, out of a non-plastic container.
- Consider doing a supervised cleanse once or twice a year.
- Buy organic produce when possible. Wash conventional produce well.
- Choose natural unscented cleaning, laundry and personal care products.
- Ditch products with artificial fragrances, such as air fresheners, candles, dryer sheets and colognes. Choose products that are fragranced with essential oils instead.
- Consider a HEPA air filter for your home or office.
- Minimize plastic as much as possible by using glass and stainless-steel containers. Never heat food in plastic.
- Search for home furnishings and products that are used, organic or made more naturally, to minimize off-gassing.
These steps go a long way toward reducing your exposure to xenoestrogens and helping your body clear estrogen. Radiance Functional Medicine specializes in balancing hormones to minimize estrogen dominance and its symptoms.