What Is Estrogen?
Estrogen is a life sustaining sex hormone that sometimes gets a bad rap and is often referred to as a female hormone. However, it is present in both men and women (women just have more of it).
Estrogen is made from testosterone or androstenedione via an enzyme called aromatase. It can be made in the ovaries, testis, liver, adrenals, fat cells and the brain. Estrogen is important for puberty, menstrual cycles, pregnancy, sex drive, brain function, mood, cholesterol control, skin health, cardiovascular health, bone development and much more.
There are 3 main types of Estrogen made by your body…
- E1 (Estrone) – The only estrogen made by women after menopause.
- E2 (Estradiol) – The most common type in women of childbearing age.
- E3 (Estriol) – The main estrogen during pregnancy.
What Is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance does not always mean you have too much estrogen. It can mean you have too little progesterone in relation to estrogen or too much estrogen at the wrong time of your cycle. Since progesterone can be utilised to make cortisol (stress hormone), you may end up with low levels of progesterone when under chronic stress, leading to symptoms of estrogen dominance.
Estrogen stimulates fat cell development and is itself produced by fat cells, which keeps the cycle repeating. For this reason, it can be hard to lose weight especially in areas such as lower abdomen, hips, butt, thighs, chest, and the back of your arms.
Other signs of estrogen dominance are:
- Irritability and moodiness
- Acne (especially on the neck, chin, and jaw line)
- Poor quality sleep
- Digestive issues and bloating
- Fluid retention
- Cellulite & Varicose veins
- Low libido
- Hair loss or hair thinning
- Sugar cravings
- Heavy and sometimes painful periods
- Blood clots and bruising
- Unexplained weight gain
- Cold hands and feet
- Gynecomastia (accumulation of breast tissue fat)
- Underactive thyroid
What Causes Estrogen Dominance?
There are many causes of estrogen dominance. Some are endogenous (internal) and some are exogenous (external or environmental).
Common causes of estrogen dominance:
- Birth control pills or HRT
- Exposure to xenoestrogens (in personal care products, shampoo, lotions, perfume, cosmetics and chemical cleaners)
- Exposure to BPA (bisphenol A) used in the making of plastics
- Environmental air pollutants
- Excess alcohol consumption
- Excess sugar consumption
- Stress and anxiety
- Poor sleep
- Excess bodyfat
- Poor liver function
- Mould exposure
- Eating conventionally raised meats and dairy (that contain hormones and antibiotics)
- A diet low in fruits and vegetables
- A diet low in good quality soluble and insoluble fibre
- A diet low in healthy fats (hormones need fat to function)
- A diet low in quality protein
- Unfiltered tap water (which can contain endocrine disruptors)
- Bacterial imbalance in the gut (foods like sugar that feed bad bacteria, use of anti-biotics etc)
How To Reduce Estrogen Dominance?
- Reduce Exposure to Toxins, Chemicals & Xenoestrogens:
Many of the cosmetics and personal care products men and women use today contain metals, toxins and xenoestrogens (estrogen like human made chemicals). Unfortunately, many of these chemicals are cumulative and difficult to excrete.
Try to minimize their use and always spray perfume, cologne, deodorants on your clothes rather than your skin. In addition, choose cleaner less toxic natural options where possible. Find out if your cleaning or personal care products contain harmful endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals… https://www.ewg.org/
- Minimise the use of Exogenous Hormones & Antibiotics:
Synthetic hormones like the Birth Control pill, HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy), Thyroid Hormones (T3 & T4), Cortisone, Testosterone and other androgens can produce excess estrogen. In fact, the number one cause of estrogen dominance is from the use of synthetic hormones or antibiotics. Gut dysbiosis may increase the conversion of testosterone to estrogen and reduce the elimination of toxic estrogen metabolites.
Sometimes synthetic hormones or antibiotics are necessary. However, you need to be well informed of the potential side effects.
Be sure to use aromatase inhibitors like Tongkat Ali, Resveratrol, Quercetin, Indole 3-Carbinol, Sulforaphane, Zinc, Citrus Bioflavonoids, Green Tea and Medicinal Mushrooms. While these supplements may help minimise the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, they will not prevent it entirely which is exactly what you want.
Another strategy is to use phytoestrogens or natural SERM’s (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators). SERM’s like punicalagins found in pomegranates, weakly activate, or bind to the estrogen receptors. If you have excess estrogen in your system, it may be displaced from the receptors by the SERM therefore preventing the symptoms of estrogen dominance.
Additionally, using a probiotic and gut health support supplement that contains a variety of polyphenols, brassicas, mushrooms, digestive enzymes, coriander, oregano etc may help to prevent or reverse any microbiome dysbiosis created with the use of antibiotics or just poor lifestyle choices.
- Reduce Stress and Sleep Better:
Chronic (regular or long term) stress can have harmful effects on almost all areas of our body. Most of all, it can disrupt our delicate hormone balance. When you are under stress you increase the production of cortisol (stress hormone). Cortisol is made from progesterone so excess cortisol depletes progesterone and creates an Estrogen dominance.
Cortisol also causes hormone resistance which may reduce the way even balanced hormones interact with receptors and activate their functions. This means thyroid hormones may not activate your metabolism and weight gain ensues.
Make sure you minimise stressful situations and manage stress with regular acute exercise, meditation, singing, laughter, happy nostalgic music and more.
Be sure to get regular quality sleep which will help you regulate a healthy cortisol and hormone rhythm. Supplements like Glycine, Magnesium, Zinc, Ashwagandha, Schisandra, Tongkat Ali, Spilanthes, Turmeric, Vitamin D, Vitamin C and B Vitamins can all help regulate cortisol, improve recovery, and support quality sleep.
- Support Detoxification:
We here this term (detoxification) thrown around all the time. The truth is our body is good at detoxing most of the time. However, there are several things we can do to support it further.
Exercise is key to minimising stress but also activating the lymphatic system to support detoxification. In addition, exercise can support quality sleep (providing its not too close to bed) where melatonin (sleep hormone) activates our bodies most powerful detoxification phase.
There are several herbs that support detoxification by upregulating NRF2 and glutathione production. This also supports the reduction of oxidative stress and may reduce cellular aging. These herbs generally help support Phase 1 & Phase 2 Liver detoxification. They include, Sulforaphane (Broccoli), Schisandra, N-Acetyl Cysteine, Milk Thistle, Green Tea, Coriander, Indole 3-Carbinol, B Vitamins, Glycine, Turmeric and Resveratrol.
- Reduce Body Fat:
As mentioned above, fat cells are a producer of estrogen. It is not uncommon to find people with higher estrogen also have higher bodyfat. The problem is that excess estrogen leads to the accumulation of bodyfat and the cycle continues.
Regular exercise and dietary intervention maybe required to break the cycle. Both exercise and healthy eating need to be enjoyable or you will not stick with them and they will not provide a long-term result.
Some considerations would be to reduce sugary foods or drinks (do not replace the sugary drinks with artificially sweetened diet sodas as these may disrupt the gut microbiome) and starchy carbohydrate foods. Replace these with high fibre vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, and seeds.
Our standard diet these days falls chronically short in dietary fibre. Fibre is critical for estrogen detoxification and toxin elimination.
Reduce the consumption of alcohol and make better choices when drinking. Red wine contains resveratrol which may help balance hormones.
Using a thermogenic that contains carnitine may be helpful to transport fat for fuel and ketones may help your mitochondria use fat more efficiently as fuel.
As you can see, there are many contributing factors to estrogen dominance and many health consequences as a result. Much of the estrogen dominance observed today is from increasing stress, exposure to endocrine (hormone) disrupting compounds in our environment or in the medication we use.
There are many ways to combat estrogen dominance and balance the hormones of your body. The best place to start is with a healthy unprocessed organic or spray free diet. Drink plenty of filtered water and consume good quality fats and fibre. Try to get regular exercise and support your detoxification pathways.
Remember your body will not detoxify something it needs, only something that is in excess, unhelpful, or harmful. That is what makes this approach the most effective, healthy, and long-term strategy for balancing hormones.
Disclaimer: The above article is merely a guide and is in no way a recommendation or a treatment protocol for any health conditions or diseases. You should always consult with a qualified health care provider before changing your supplement, training or nutritional strategy. Supplementation should not be attempted by pregnant or breastfeeding women, anyone on prescription medication or children under the age of 15 unless advised by your qualified health care provider.