What is estrogen dominance as a hormonal imbalance in women?

PMS, fibroids, cellulite, menopause, hair loss, allergies, hip fat, belly fat, thyroid nodules or cancer, breast or uterine cancer, endometriosis or infertility? It could all be due to your estrogen.

What is Estrogen Dominance?

You might have heard of the term before used loosely in magazines and conversations. That’s hardly surprising – estrogen dominance is one of the most common hormonal imbalances women experience today.

In fact, it is so common, that we assume that feeling PMS, being menopausal and having fibroids is pretty normal. I want to show you that it is not and there is a way to fix it.

Estrogen dominance can occur for two reasons:

1: When there is too much estrone (E1) and estradiol (E2), also known as the “aggressive estrogens”, as compared to estriol (E3), which is the “protective estrogen.” This measurement is called the “Estrogen Quotient” and can be measured with a simple saliva test.

2: When the ratio of progesterone to E2 is too low, which means we do not produce enough progesterone and the E2 estrogen becomes too dominant.

What is estrogen and progesterone ?

Before we go any further, let me first explain the role of these hormones. In very simplistic terms, think of estrogen as the “builder” and progesterone as the “differentiator,” and as the name implies, “pro-gestation” hormone.

Estrogen and progesterone do a beautiful dance together. We can’t function without them and can only function well with both these partners in a delicate balance.

Take a look at the below chart to gain an understanding and appreciation of how these two hormones dance together.

Estrogen Effect

Progesterone Effect

Causes endometrium to proliferateMaintains secretory endometrium
Causes breast stimulation that can lead to breast cancerProtects against fibrocystic breast and prevents breast cancer
Increases body fatHelps use fat for energy
Increase endometrial cancer riskPrevents endometrial cancer
Increase gallbladder disease risk
Restrains osteoclast function slightlyPromote osteoclast function, leading to bone growth
Reduces vascular toneRestores vascular tone
Increase blood clot riskNormalize blood clot

Source: DrLam.com

Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance -02_1Do you have Estrogen Dominance?

If you have not done any tests yet, that’s OK. A good diagnosis is always based on lab work, symptoms and family health history, especially from your mother’s side (this applies to women).

Take a look at the below symptoms and see if you are experiencing:

  • Spider or varicose veins?
  • Cellulite?
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding?
  • Breast or ovarian fibroids?
  • Irritability, mood swings, or anxiety?
  • Headaches or migraines, particularly before your period?
  • Fat around your hips?
  • Use of birth control pills?
  • Heavy bleeding or postmenopausal bleeding?
  • Bloating, puffiness or water retention?
  • Enlarged breasts and/or breast tenderness?
  • Endometriosis or painful periods?
  • PMS and/or depression?
  • Crying spells for no good reason?
  • Trouble falling asleep?
  • Gallbladder problems or removal?

If you have checked three or more as “yes,” there is a possibility you are experiencing estrogen dominance. To be sure, you can also order a saliva test to get a full diagnosis. I do not recommend testing your sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone are among them) with blood samples as you won’t get the “free” version but only “total” which is not reflective of what your cell receptors can actually utilize.

Why address it proactively?

If you are experiencing many of the above symptoms, you are probably motivated to do something about it. Some women experience just some, like PMS, and learn to live with it. However, there is a far greater question: “How is estrogen affecting me in the long run?”

The evidence that worries me the most is that of the clear connection between estrogen dominance and breast cancer. You can read the medical research and references here.

Breast cancer is second only to non-melanoma skin cancer as the most common cancer among women in the United States. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 192,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the United States.

Other conditions that have been linked to estrogen dominance are uterine cancer, autoimmune diseases, and infertility.

 

Related link: “How to Use Food to Rebalance Your Hormones” – Join This FREE Online Workshop 

Click Here To Join My FREE Online Workshop - Cooking For Balance

Why do we become estrogen dominant?

Estrogen dominance is a complex condition and can be caused by some of these:

  • Eating non-organic food – which is grown “conventionally” (this term is ridiculous, in my world), contains a high amount of pesticides, fertilizers as well as growth hormones and antibiotics that are fed to animals. They contribute to endocrine disruption in every way you can imagine
  • Excess exposure to environmental xenoestrogens – a number of chemical compounds (like phthalates, BPAs, SLS and many others) found in consumer products such as detergents and skincare products.
  • Use of synthetic estrogens such as the birth control pill and hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
  • Digestive issues which inhibit the estrogen detoxification process in the liver and overproduce cortisol which blocks progesterone receptors
  • Chronic stress which strains the adrenals and the thyroid,
  • Unresolved emotional issues from the past and present-day
  • Poor diet
  • Poor liver function, as the liver is responsible for eliminating metabolized or “used up” estrogens
  • Lifestyle choices such as drugs (prescription and recreational), smoking, and alcohol.

What can you do?

Here is the good news. You can do many things to help yourself right away. There is always an option of taking topical creams but I do not recommend this as an immediate solution. Build a healthy foundation for yourself so you can prevent other conditions – like autoimmune conditions which are also becoming a pandemic. Progesterone cream alone will not take away the underlying causes of estrogen dominance. Your food and lifestyle choices will. Here is how:

1. Test first

It’s important to confirm your suspicion of experiencing estrogen dominance. You can get your doctor to test it for you at your next appointment (be sure to get saliva, not blood testing) or you can order a test online from the Canary Club  without having to pay doctor consultation fees. What is key is to get your Estrogen Quotient and Pg/E2 ratio reading.

Another test that has become very popular and has been recommended by top functional practitioners is the Dutch Test which you can also order yourself but you might need the help of a skilled practitioner to interpret the results (they are pretty complex). At this point, I do not offer 1:1 consultations but if you email my team, we can point you to practitioners I recommend and trust.

2. Go organic

If you think that organic food is just a hype or a “hippie thing” to do, think again. Most of the chemical compounds used in raising “conventional” food and growing animals are highly detrimental to your hormonal balance. If you are on a tight budget, there might be surprising options in your neighborhood like food co-ops. Many people like to get their food directly from an organic farmer (dropped off in the city). For listings of farmers in your area, go to www.LocalHarvest.org

3. Eliminate xenoestrogen

Xenoestrogen are compounds found in general consumer products such as creams, lotions, soaps, shampoos, perfumes, hair sprays, and room deodorizers. Such compounds often have chemical structures similar to estrogen and indeed act like estrogen.

Other sources of xenoestrogens include: car exhaust, petrochemically derived pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides; solvents and adhesives such as those found in nail polish; paint removers, and glues; dry-cleaning chemicals; practically all plastics; industrial waste such as PCBs and dioxins, and synthetic estrogens from urine of women taking HRT and birth control pills that are flushed down the toilet and eventually find their way into the food chain and back into the body. They are fat soluble which means we need the engage the liver to get rid of them.

If you use skincare and cleaning products advertised on television and magazines, I hope you ditch them. They are the worse offenders.

One great website to evaluate your skincare and home cleaning product is www.ewg.org , a non-profit and independent testing authority for the toxicity and safety of thousands of products.

In terms of the cleanest, most effective and divine-smelling skincare brand, I recommend the Annmarie Gianni range. You can get a sample kit from them first to decide if it’s for you.

 

4. Improve your liver function

I wrote extensively about the role of our liver in hormonal health. In short: your liver is responsible for the evacuation of metabolized estrogens (the methylation pathway in the liver) to make way for more healthy estrogens. The article I referenced here will give you many ideas about how to detoxify your liver naturally.

Please note that in order to detox your liver, you need to make dietary and lifestyle changes for a period of time. Powders, pills, and supplements alone will NOT be effective enough to help your liver.

5. Restore the health of your digestive system

The health of your gut is central to your overall health as much as your hormonal balance. I am yet to meet a person who is healthy but has digestive issues. When I say “digestive issues” I mean chronic constipation, gas, bloating, diarrhea, acid reflux, burping and frequent stomach aches.

Distressed digestive tract will prompt the adrenals to release cortisol. Cortisol is a progesterone blocker at the cell level. Can you see now why any form of stress (emotional, physical, digestive, etc.) can lead to estrogen dominance?

Another interesting data point is the recent findings on the estrobolome – a subset of the gut bacteria that helps metabolize estrogen. Who would have thought that the poor gut bacteria would bring on estrogen dominance?

“The estrobolome provides a framework for understanding how an individual’s resident gut bacteria may modulate lifetime estrogen exposure,” said Dr. Plottel. “States of estrogen excess are associated with an increased risk of developing estrogen-related cancers, so knowledge and characterization of the estrabolome represent a novel area of promising scientific and biomedical research.”source.

Where do you start?

My approach to restoring digestive health always starts with identifying the potential food intolerances you might be suffering from; most often, unknowingly. I see many people not reacting well to gluten, dairy and sometimes eggs, corn, soy, grain, beef – and the list goes on.

If you have never addressed this issue, I encourage you to listen to my free online workshop called “How To Use Food to Rebalance Your Hormones.

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Join the discussion 21 Comments

  • Karen says:

    One year into menopause, only problem is painful intercourse – What is most likely cause & what can be done?

    • Julie says:

      It helped me to find a PT who specializes in pelvic floor issues. The PT can correct muscle imbalances/atrophy of the pelvic floor muscles that make sex a painful experience. You can find lots of good reading on the subject online.

  • Kristy says:

    I had a total hysterectomy because of BHRT pellets. I now take nothing. What to do?

  • Mona says:

    Thanks for this wonderful article (and all the others)! I have many of the symptoms of OD and a strong family history of hormone cancers. Recently genetic testing showed I have a greatly reduced capacity for detoxing estrogen (via CYP enzymes). Could you give me some more information on how I can support the detoxification of estrogen metabolites and if a dietary approach is enough or whether I should be taking supplements (someone recommended DIM but it’s not available in Ireland). Thanks!

  • Deborah says:

    This is a good topic, more than 20 yrs ago, I had heavy periods that would last for 30 day’s or more off and on, so my gynocologist started me on estrogen therapy injection, then my period would slow down for a few days the start back I would hemmorage, this went on for 8 month’s and after a series of test and extreme weight gain, my doctor finally figured it out, he said my body was producing to much estrogen, I finally had to have an emergency d and c, for year’s I suffered with this most of my life my doctor started giving me progestrogen injection which slowed down the bleeding when I had a period, he said I have inbalance hormones. So most of my life I have suffere with uncontrollable weight gain. I have been off the hormones for several year’s, now that I am menopausal I looking for a natural solution, these hot flashes and nights are uncontrollable this is had a negative effect on my skin so I am seeking help. I’m so glad for your site and the topic estrogen dominance finally someone who understands.
    thank you.

  • Jude Clapper says:

    Sounds like me

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  • gina says:

    Interested in your program. Can you tell me more?

  • Joy says:

    I have Candida off the charts on scale 0-9 , I scored 25 help

  • Amanda says:

    Great info. Thank you so much. I had a saliva test done last August and I was showing no adrenal function and estrogen dominant. But no one explained that to me???. My Dr put me on birth control just to help prevent migraines. It’s the only thing that helps that. Been on that about 6 years. Been on thyroid meds for about 3 years. I want to be off both of these!!!! I have been on a no gluten no dairy. Very low sugar diet for 3 months!! It works. I can feel the difference. Less inflammation. Less pain. My next step is to get new saliva test. And a hashimotos test. What do you think? ??

  • Beth says:

    Thank you! Sharing to my Breast Cancer Alternatives group…
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/1120264538013507/
    🙂

  • […] to recognize the links between elevated hormones and ill health. This is particularly true for estrogen, the female hormone that helps us develop our menstrual cycle and curves. Many women are very surprised to learn that […]

  • Renee says:

    Hello, I find your information very educational! I am a RN who developed DVT and multiple bilateral pulmonary emboli twice in the same year after taking Bio identical hormone pellets and the use of Testosterone cream.

    My hormones have only been checked via blood and never via saliva.

    This info could also help my mom also. She’s 78 with a plethora of issues including Polymyositis, poor appetite, weight loss, years of taking Prednisone and Prandin. Long story. She’s lost over 40 lbs in the past year. Been to several Dr.’s and multiple labs. They have found nothing except to say it’s probably the Polymyositis. I’ll stop now. Thank you for the great information you have provided.

  • Lisa says:

    Hi Renee – thanks for the positive feedback! Good health to you and your mom:-)

    Lisa
    Customer Support

  • […] In this study, after indole-3-carbinols from crucifers were given to people in supplement form, urine samples were taken. The results showed that increased concentrations of estrogen metabolites were filtered from the body, including greater removal of estradiol, estrone, estriol and 16-alpha-hydroxytestrone. As these estrogen byproducts can be harmful if they keep circulating at high levels, women who eat their leafy greens may reduce Estrogen Dominance. Stabilizing estrogen can also help stabilize many other hormones. I offer other tips on how to do this here in this article. […]

  • […] In this study, after indole-3-carbinols from crucifers were given to people in supplement form, urine samples were taken. The results showed that increased concentrations of estrogen metabolites were filtered from the body, including greater removal of estradiol, estrone, estriol and 16-alpha-hydroxytestrone. As these estrogen byproducts can be harmful if they keep circulating at high levels, women who eat their leafy greens may reduce Estrogen Dominance. Stabilizing estrogen can also help stabilize many other hormones. I offer other tips on how to do this here in this article. […]

  • […] Symptoms of ED include cellulite, breast or ovarian fibroids, varicose veins, weight gain around your hips, and issues like painful periods, bloating and mood swings. ED can occur due to a number of triggers – you can learn more about estrogen dominance causes and natural cures here. […]

  • verna Hebert says:

    Gee Wiz , everything mentioned here I have or had . No one ever mentioned this to me . Do doctors not know this ?

    • Julie McGinnis says:

      Hi Verna,
      Unfortunately doctors are not taught this in med school. We hope we can help you and the Cooking for Balance Program focuses on estrogen dominance.

  • […] to the development of cancers of the breast and ovaries. For more about this, take a look at my post about […]

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