What is Estrogen Dominance and What can you do about it
Estrogen and Progesterone are two of the primary female sex hormones. During a normal menstrual cycle, they take turns influencing different processes of fertilization, ideally functioning in a certain ratio. Both are necessary to balance one another.
Estrogen Dominance is essentially referring to the incidence of excess circulating Estrogen in comparison to Progesterone. Symptoms often include:
Difficulty falling or staying asleep
Irregular menstrual cycles
Dense, full, fibrocystic or tender breasts
Lack of mental clarity, focus or sharpness
Hair thinning or hair loss
Skin blemishes and uneven tone
Mood imbalance – depressed mood or anxiousness/irritability
Midsection weight gain
The original concept of Estrogen Dominance was developed by Dr. John Lee and described as an occurrence when Progesterone levels dropped rendering Estrogen relatively in excess. He argued that this was the real cause of perimenopause and menopausal symptoms, not the previously thought drop in Estrogen.
Another explanation is that of excess Estrogen due to exposure to environmental estrogens called Xenoestrogens. These “hormonal imposters” cause a build up that is difficult for the body to rid of. In our given world, environmental, dietary, and lifestyle factors very often play a role in creating excess circulating estrogen leading to imbalance.
Overall, the definition of Estrogen Dominance is not simplistic and involves the roles of all sex hormones – Estrogen, Progesterone, DHEA and testosterone as well as the function of other endocrine glands. When estrogen, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone are all doing their jobs, they work well together. How much or how little of each hormone is made relies on a systems within your body.
Because of the various contributing factors to hormonal imbalance, it is crucial to determine the intricacies of your specific situation. Of all women experiencing the above-mentioned symptoms, some will have low levels of progesterone and may do very well with progesterone supplementation, whereas others with normal progesterone levels may be better off focusing on ways to normalize their estrogen levels.
So what can you do?
- Simple lab testing can provide a great deal of insight about your hormonal imbalance.
- If clinically appropriate, consider Progesterone supplementation either during the later part of your cycle or throughout to help oppose elevated estrogen levels and relieve symptoms.
- Support the Liver to clear out excess estrogens. This can be done with cleansing detox protocols and herbal formulas containing liver supportive herbs. Silymarin, alpha lipoic acid and n-acetyl-l-cysteine all act to support detoxification in the liver and offer antioxidant protection.
- Eat a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables such as Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale – these vegetables contain a compound called D-Indole Methane (DIM), which promotes healthy estrogen metabolism. You can also find DIM as a dietary supplement.
- Try Seed Cycling – this is a gentle way to help your body balance your hormones naturally by using different seeds in your diet at different phases of your menstrual cycle. Different seeds help to either increase Progesterone production or promote Estrogen detoxification and by simply adding different seeds at different times in your cycle, you can help to restore balance.
Follicular Phase (Days 1-14) – incorporate 1 tbsp of both Flax and Pumpkin seeds
Luteal Phase (Days 14-28) – incorporate 1 tbsp of both Sunflower and Sesame seeds
- Increase daily intake of fiber. Estrogen is cleared through the feces and if you are not having regular bowel movements, estrogens are likely to get reabsorbed into circulation.
7. Avoid Xenoestrogens in the environment. These endocrine disrupting chemical compounds are often found in skin care products (parabens, benzophenone, 4-MBC), Plastics (Bisphenol A, Pthalates, PCBs), Food Preservatives and Food Dyes, Cleaning products and Insecticides.
Dr. Lauren Beardsley received her Medical degree from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences (SCNM). Prior to medical school, she worked with the University of Arizona in Cardiovascular Research and Diabetic health as well as with Scottsdale Healthcare completing research in Family/Community medicine. She received postgraduate training in athletic performance optimization, pain management using physical manipulation and injection therapy, women’s health and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.
Dr Beardsley resides in Scottsdale, AZ and has been an active member of the Arizona community for over 20 years. When not practicing medicine, she enjoys teaching, biking, hiking/walking with her black Labrador retriever (Logan), yoga, blogging, cooking, visiting local farmers’ markets and travel.