Estrogen dominance is one of the most common hormonal imbalances that women experience in today’s day and age. It can be caused by many lifestyle factors including stress, poor diet, medications, inadequate liver function, and exposure to xenoestrogens (please see Ron Veitel’s video blog from last week). It is also the reason why women in perimenopause/postmenopause can have symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. In this blog I will outline the symptoms and complications of estrogen dominance, and give you helpful tips on ways to break free from the estrogen dominance cycle.
What causes Estrogen Dominance?
When a woman’s menstrual cycle is balanced, estrogen is the dominant hormone for the first two weeks leading up to ovulation. Estrogen is then balanced in the second half of the cycle by progesterone. Well, when the body is being exposed to high amounts of environmental estrogen or unable to efficiently metabolize estrogens from the body, levels remain elevated during the second phase of a menstrual cycle and dominate the luteal phase (progesterone phase).
Signs and Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
- Decreased sex drive
- Irregular or heavy menstrual bleeding
- Bloating and water retention
- Breast swelling and tenderness (especially before menses)
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Premenstrual headaches
- Mood swings including irritability and depression
- Weight gain (particularly around the abdomen and hips)
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Hair loss
- Sluggish metabolism
- Foggy thinking, memory loss
- Trouble sleeping/insomnia
This list is not exhaustive, unfortunately. Estrogen dominance can also be linked to allergies, autoimmune disorders, breast cancer, uterine cancer, infertility, ovarian cysts, increased blood clotting and endometriosis.
Practical Ways to Decrease Estrogen Dominance
1. Increase nutrients in the diet:
a. This means eating high quality unprocessed foods including organic vegetables and fruits, pasture raised meats not given hormones or antibiotics and healthy fats.
b. Of note, cruciferous vegetables play a special role in estrogen metabolism and should be eaten frequently. This vegetable group includes broccoli, broccoli sprouts, kale, arugula and cauliflower.
2. Remember to get enough FIBER
a. Estrogen is excreted by the bowel and can be easily reabsorbed if it remains in the bowel for too long. Fiber helps aid the bulking and excretion of stool on a regular basis.
b. Fiber needs water to work optimally so also remember to drink at least half your weight in ounces every day.
3. Detoxify the Liver
a. The liver acts as a filter, which metabolizes and excretes hormones from the body. When excess estrogen is constantly circulating in the body, the liver can become overloaded and harmful estrogen metabolites can accumulate.
b. Helpful herbs and plants for the liver include: milk thistle, artichoke, dandelion root and leaf and cruciferous veggies.
4. Seed Cycling
a. Seeds can do wonders for balancing the hormone cycle and is pretty simple once you get in the groove of it.
b. Days 1-14 of cycle eat 2 Tbs of flax and/or pumpkin seeds daily.
c. Days 15-28 of cycle eat 2 Tbs of sesame and/or sunflower seeds daily.
d. Rinse and repeat.
5. Manage Stress!
a. We probably all need help in this department.
b. Learn to say no to excessive demands on your time.
c. Make self-care a daily ritual in your life and find ways that you love to manage stress in a healthy way.
d. Take a vacation
6. Chaste tree (Vitex agnus)
a. Chaste tree works by increasing luteinizing hormone (the hormone responsible for increasing progesterone in the second half of the menstrual cycle). When progesterone increases it lowers the ratio of estrogen. A great herb to take days 15-28 of the cycle.
If you think you may be struggling with estrogen dominance that is not corrected with lifestyle modification, you may need extra support from your Naturopathic physician.
To health and happy hormones,
Dr. Sonja Halsey