Estrogen gets its fame primarily from the drop of this crucial hormone in the menopause years, but years before that hormone shift, estrogen plays a critical role in overall health, and hormone health. Estrogen dominance is when the balance of estrogen compared to other hormones, particularly progesterone, is off. This may not be because estrogen levels are massively high, but rather if progesterone is low, then estrogen is dominating and causing health issues. It comes down to the balance of progesterone and estrogen.
Signs of Estrogen Dominance
It is important to note that many of the symptoms of estrogen dominance are also signs of other body system imbalances. Just because you experience these symptoms does not mean you 100% have estrogen dominance, but at the same time, many more people are experiencing health issues because of undetected estrogen dominance. Working with a functional medicine practitioner who can accurately and comprehensively assess your hormone status in context of your health history and current clinical symptoms is the best way to know if estrogen dominance occuring for you. There are very accurate and straight forward lab tests that can be done to find and measure estrogen dominance, but they are not part of standard laboratory offerings. Rather they are part of specialty lab services that your primary care physician is likely not aware of or trained to interpret results. Here are common issues associated with estrogen dominance:
- Irregular cycles (short, long, or having no period at all)
- Hypothyroid and hyperthyroid
- Certain types of cancers (breast, cervical, and ovarian)
- Loss of energy and low sex drive
- Depression, anxiety, mood swings
- Heart palpitations
- Asthma, hives, dry eyes, vaginal dryness
- Weight gain, weight loss and obesity
Cause of Estrogen Dominance
As with most health issues, they have taken years to develop and are a result of a combination of factors. One of the most common but undervalued causes of estrogen dominance is xenoestrogens. These are synthetic forms of estrogen that disrupt the see-saw like balancing act of estrogen and progesterone.
Xenoestrogens are most commonly found in birth control pills, but other sources actually can pose the same or greater risk because of the cumulative effect of multiple sources.
Sources of xenoestrogens
- Conventionally farmed meat and fish
- All foods containing pesticide and insecticide residue
- Tap water and bottled water
- Parabens found in body care products and cosmetics
- Phthalates found in plastics
- Artificial food additives
- Soy protein and soy isolate protein
- Dryer sheets
- Non-organic feminine care products (tampons and pads)
- Birth control medication (“the pill”)
The foods you eat can support or hinder good hormone production. Choosing organic whenever possible is key to reducing many of the xenoestrogens listed above. Find the current lists of the “clean 15” and “dirty dozen” from the Environmental Working Group to prioritize which fruits and vegetables should be organic.
Stress, poor liver function, and being overweight
Each of these works as an antagonist, enemy towards the balance of estrogen and progesterone leaving you with too much estrogen compared to testosterone.
How to Support Balanced Hormones
Balancing hormones can be a, well… balancing act, and to do this you need an experienced Overland, KS functional medicine specialist to assess your status and make a personalized plan that fits your life and health needs. Supplements that may be part of this process include: supplemental natural progesterone, magnesium, chasteberry (vitex), MACA root, and probiotics. Adequate quality sleep, stress management, and quality, high fiber foods are also major players in correcting and preventing estrogen dominance.