Estrogen plays an important role through the course of our reproductive lives and beyond. It regulates our menstrual cycle, strengthens our bones, controls our cholesterol, and much more. When our estrogen levels drop, we experience menopausal symptoms. But even before menopause, varying levels of this vital hormone can wreak havoc on the body. That’s because estrogen requires a delicate balance with other hormones. When that balance is disturbed, we can experience a wide range of frustrating symptoms because either estrogen is too high, progesterone is too low, or a combination of the two.

This hormonal imbalance often occurs during a particularly busy time of our lives, the period from about age 25 through to menopause. As a result, I see many women who are dealing with unexplained weight gain, mood swings, and libido problems. Frustratingly, women have had these problems for years before finding a solution, if they ever find one. I want you to know that there is help available. A few simple steps can help you restore balanced estrogen levels and feel like yourself again.

How Do You Know if You Have Estrogen Dominance?

Symptoms of estrogen dominance range from subtle shifts to major disruptions in wellbeing. Many women in this age group assume these issues are a normal part of aging or a consequence of their busy schedules. Even a slight imbalance in hormone levels can lead to a number of problems.

Symptoms can vary greatly by person, but often include:

  • Increased weight, especially in the belly and hip area
  • Heavier periods
  • More severe PMS
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Fibrocystic and painful breasts
  • Uterine fibroids
  • An increase in fatigue
  • Loss of libido
  • Water retention and bloating
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Foggy brain
  • Memory troubles
  • Insomnia and restlessness

Does that list look familiar? Many women suffer with these symptoms day after day, and assume it is their fate because it is so common. The complex relationship between estrogen and our emotions can only magnify the frustration. Who wants to feel irritated about feeling irritable?

Just because it’s common, does not mean it’s normal. Or healthy.

What’s more, it’s not only women who can experience estrogen dominance. You may be surprised to know that men can suffer an excess of estrogen as well. In men, estrogen dominance can manifest a bit differently, with some of these symptoms being common:

  • Enlarged breasts
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Midsection fat

What Causes Estrogen Dominance?

To understand estrogen dominance, we have to consider the role of another important hormone, progesterone. Progesterone and estrogen maintain tricky seesaw in our bodies. Estrogen dominance isn’t necessarily a surge of estrogen, but an imbalance in that seesaws when the seesaw tips to one side because there is not enough progesterone to balance out the estrogen. There’s actually no “set” number we can measure that proves an estrogen dominance diagnosis. It’s the overall hormonal profile that is important.

How does estrogen become dominant? A key factor is the timing. Or, to be more specific, the time of our lives. Consider a normal menstrual cycle during our reproductive years: After we ovulate mid-cycle, our bodies produce progesterone to balance out estrogen.

But as we near menopause, we often have some menstrual cycles when we do not ovulate. As a result, there is not enough progesterone to balance out the estrogen. Enter estrogen dominance — and its long list of possible symptoms.

To a certain extent, estrogen dominance is a natural part of our aging process. However, peri-menopausal women are not privy to estrogen dominance; recent years have seen a rise in estrogen dominance complaints, and our busy lifestyles may be a big factor. Environmental and behavior issues can increase estrogen levels, tipping the seesaw even further out of balance. What’s to blame? Here are some culprits:

  1. Excess body fat can increase estrogen levels, since fat cells produce estrogen. Of course, this creates a frustrating cycle for some women, as the fatigue associated with estrogen dominance makes it difficult to lose weight.
  2. Chronic stress will throw off your hormonal balance, often resulting in excess estrogen. In times of stress, your body produces too much cortisol. Cortisol negatively affects progesterone production, so the result is a shortage of progesterone to balance the body’s estrogen.
  3. Hormone replacement therapy that doesn’t take all hormones into account and doesn’t treat with customized dosing, can inadvertently create estrogen dominance.
  4. Environmental sources of estrogen in our environment, particularly with regard to plastics and pesticides can negatively affect hormone levels.
  5. When we’re not getting enough sleep, our melatonin levels decrease. And melatonin helps regulate estrogen levels. In other words, if we don’t have enough melatonin to keep estrogen in check, we can end up in a cycle of sleep trouble.

How Can You Restore Hormone Levels?

We can work with you to re-balance your problematic hormones. Starting with an accurate diagnosis and detailed testing, we then take those results and create a treatment and lifestyle plan that works for you. As a starting point, these changes are recommended:

  1. Increase your intake of fiber. Insoluble fiber can bind with estrogen in our digestive tract. As a result, excess estrogen is eliminated with a high-fiber diet.
  2. Go organic. Many pesticides have been identified as estrogen disruptors. That means they disturb the natural balance of estrogen. Research is still being done in this area, but the connection is becoming clear. Plus, organic food is delicious!
  3. Get enough sleep. We know – you’re busy. But sleep will help restore your melatonin levels and, subsequently, your estrogen balance.
  4. Choose your health and beauty products wisely. Xenoestrogens have a similar molecular structure to estrogen. Bisphenol A (BPA), which is often used in plastics, is an example of an xenoestrogen. When these substances enter our bodies, our system reacts as if they are actual estrogen – except even more powerful. Some simple steps, such as avoiding plastic food storage containers and products with artificial scents, can help reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens.
  5. Get moving. Exercise will relieve stress levels and could help reduce body fat. Strength training and yoga are great activities.
  6. Decrease stress. Again, we realize this is easier said than done! But an estrogen-dominant diagnosis might be the wake-up call you need to take a step back and assess your stress levels. Are you doing too much? Could you ask for help…for your hormones’ sake?

Do you think you might have a hormonal imbalance? Do the estrogen dominance symptoms sound a bit too familiar? Please contact me and we’ll get to the bottom of what’s going on and create a plan of action to bring your body back to good health.

Call or email us at 647-772-4396 and hillary@websternaturopathic.com

References
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC313802
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10188197
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15276966
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11602005
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12644393