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 are 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.
|Causes endometrium to proliferate||Maintains secretory endometrium|
|Causes breast stimulation that can lead to breast cancer||Protects against fibrocystic breast and prevents breast cancer|
|Increases body fat||Helps use fat for energy|
|Increase endometrial cancer risk||Prevents endometrial cancer|
|Increase gallbladder disease risk|
|Restrains osteoclast function slightly||Promote osteoclast function, leading to bone growth|
|Reduces vascular tone||Restores vascular tone|
|Increase blood clot risk||Normalize blood clot|
Do 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?
- 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.
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, BPA, SLS and many others) found in consumer products such as detergents and skin care 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.
A 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
What if food is not enough?
Over the years in my health coach practice and personally, I have discovered that sometimes food alone is not enough to heal our bodies. I recommend you start with dietary changes then add in herbs and supplements if further hormonal balancing is needed.
I have written a comprehensive article about high-quality supplements that support estrogen metabolism and liver detoxification to help reverse and manage estrogen dominance. It includes DIM, sulforaphane and Calcium d-glucarate.