Estrogen dominance occurs when estrogen increases and levels become excessive relative to progesterone. When a woman’s menstrual cycle is normal, estrogen is the predominant hormone for the first 2 weeks leading up to ovulation then estrogen is balanced by progesterone for the second half of the 4-week cycle.
Diet and lifestyle factors such as excess body fat, high stress, high sugar diet, impaired immunity and a high toxic environmental load can lead to an increase in estrogen relative to progesterone but so can the transition into perimenopause and menopause. Most people think that their symptoms are being caused by lower estrogen during perimenopause but, in fact, the opposite is the case. When a woman enters perimenopause, she may start to experience anovulatory cycles (i.e. cycles where no egg is released), and this leads to estrogen often going unopposed by progesterone. This may only happen every few months or more often than not so some menstrual cycles may seem easier than others. That’s why it is always quite a challenge measuring hormones at this time as they are on a bit of a rollercoaster on a month by month basis.
ESTROGEN DOMINANCE SYMPTOMS
Estrogen dominance can have a major impact on overall health. Some of the symptoms include:
- Loss of libido
- Irregular, abnormal menstrual periods
- Frequent bloating
- Breast swelling and tenderness and breast cysts
- Headaches – especially pre-menstrually
- Mood swings
- Abdominal and hip weight gain
- Cold hands and feet (due to a knock on effect on the thyroid)
- Hair loss
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Slow metabolic rate – you are living on nothing and still gaining weight
- Foggy thinking and memory loss – so common
- Fatigue – also really common. Deep seated, never goes away.
- Pre-menstrual syndrome
Estrogen dominance can also drive some cancers, allergies, autoimmune disease, ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, increased blood clotting and acceleration of ageing.
When working with my estrogen dominant clients many of their symptoms are resolved by balancing blood sugar. High insulin levels can have a knock-on effect on estrogen. Also, all hormones are cleared from the blood by the liver so we need to make sure that the liver is working well and is not overloaded with alcohol, drugs, caffeine and toxic foods. It has been found that estrogen dominance has escalated in young women in cultures where binge drinking is the norm.
A high fibre diet also helps estrogen clearance in the gut and liver so plenty of fruits and vegetables are important as are adequate protein and healthy fats (which are often displaced by too many carbs ). Normalising body weight is very important as is regular exercise and I encourage all of my clients to say no to excessive demands on time and to change parts of their life that can increase stress and anxiety.
Many factors can encourage symptoms of estrogen dominance but a well-rounded nutrition and lifestyle plan can have you feeling back to your old self (or much improved) in a short period of time.