Signs You Have Estrogen Dominance + 6 Steps to Balance Hormones
Estrogen dominance is one of the most common hormone imbalances today affecting women’s health, and it can be the source of a lot of pain and discomfort–especially before and during your period
Excess estrogen isn’t only an indicator that you may need to dial in your diet and detox regime, but it can also lead to a buildup of the lining of the uterus, which is a major risk factor for developing ovarian and uterine cancer later.
So what is estrogen dominance, how is it caused, and how easy is it to reverse? Read on to find out if you’re experiencing estrogen dominance, and what you can do about it.
Do You Have Estrogen Dominance?
Wondering what estrogen dominance is, and whether or not you have it? Estrogen dominance is a term given to a type of hormone imbalance where your body has too much estrogen. This can be either because your body can’t get rid of excess estrogen, or your estrogen levels are out of balance compared to progesterone.This occurs for a few different reasons that we’ll discuss shortly.
When there is too much estrogen in your body, you’ll most likely have more painful periods, and it may even impact your fertility, especially if your progesterone is low.
If you have other hormone issues, like PCOS or endometriosis, you can also experience estrogen dominance. Some symptoms of estrogen dominance overlap with common PCOS symptoms, like irregular periods, infertility, or weight gain.
Estrogen Dominance Symptoms
Here are common signs and symptoms associated with estrogen dominance.
- Heavy periods
- Severe cramps
- Weight gain, especially around your hips and middle
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Mood issues (depression, anxiety, irritability)
- Low libido
- Breast tenderness
Is Estrogen Always Bad?
Estrogen is essential for dozens of functions in the body, like fertility, cardiovascular health, and for protecting several important systems. Estrogen isn’t bad, but like most things within the body, there’s a delicate balance, and estrogen is only problematic when there’s too much, or too little
When testing hormone levels, it’s important to test estrogen relative to progesterone as your estrogen level itself may not be concerningly high, but if progesterone is low, you may still have symptoms of estrogen dominance.
Problems with High Estrogen
High levels of estrogen, or when estrogen circulates “unchallenged” by progesterone, contributes significantly to the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, in addition to what’s called endometrial hyperplasia, which is an abnormal buildup of the lining in the uterus (or endometrium).
Endometrial hyperplasia can put you at greater risk for developing endometrial cancer (1). So, balancing hormones isn’t just about having a more comfortable period, a stable mood, and better skin–it’s also a major component of reducing risk for preventable diseases.
Here’s how to naturally heal women’s hormone imbalance and get estrogen and progesterone into a healthy rhythm.
How to Treat Estrogen Dominance
You can do this by…
Fixing your gut – This allows your body to absorb nutrients needed for hormone production, and helps get rid of excess estrogen through bowel movements.
Supporting detox – Your liver is your most important detox organ, and is responsible for making sure your body metabolizes estrogen you no longer need.
Stressing less and sleeping more – Stress reduces progesterone production, which you need to balance estrogen.
Testing your hormones – Work with a functional women’s health doctor to determine your hormone levels and how you can get back into balance. This is especially important if you’re trying to get pregnant, or if you have PCOS or endometriosis.
Causes of Estrogen Dominance
Endocrine (hormone) disruptors like parabens, phthalates, and other toxic compounds find their way into your body through the water you drink, the food you eat, and the products you use.
Once inside your body, they can confuse your system into producing too much or too little of your natural hormones. And, a high toxic load overworks detox systems and your liver, which can restrict the movement of estrogen out of your body.
Stress causes the adrenal glands to preferentially produce cortisol over progesterone, reducing progesterone levels and allowing estrogen to circulate ‘unopposed’ by progesterone (2).
This makes you more anxious prior to your period, and you’ll probably feel like minor life occurrences almost push you over the edge. Your body needs progesterone to help you chill out, keep a stable mood, and get you to sleep.
If your progesterone levels are low, stress is one of the top contributors. Your body can’t tell the difference between being chased by a tiger in primitive times, and the financial stress or big work presentation that’s got you nervous to the max.
Poor gut health
You already know that constipation is uncomfortable, but if you’re not having regular bowel movements, you’re not getting rid of excess estrogen either! If estrogen doesn’t leave the body through bowel movements, it can recirculate, interfering with a healthy hormone balance.
If you have low digestive enzymes, or take an acid blocker, this could cause estrogen to recirculate. An unhealthy microbiome, or dysbiosis can also impact digestion, restricting estrogen elimination. If you need a belly fix, start here.
Several aspects of modern life aren’t so friendly for healthy hormone balance. Our food typically contains much lower nutrients than it used to, starving your body of important micronutrients like vitamin A, vitamin B6, and zinc, all of which are needed to produce progesterone to properly counterbalance estrogen.
Want to eat your way to healthy hormones? Watch the video for the most important foods to balance hormones, boost progesterone, and get rid of excess estrogen.
PCOS and Estrogen Dominance
Women with PCOS produce excess estrogen. This, coupled with a reduced capacity to metabolize excess estrogen, whether due to genetics or environment, can result in worsening PCOS symptoms, coupled with symptoms of estrogen dominance.
PCOS and MTHFR
Research shows a possible correlation with PCOS, and a genetic variant which impacts detox function, antioxidant status, and other factors. This means that if you have PCOS, you may also have a greater sensitivity to environmental toxins, and your liver will be less likely to move excess estrogen out of your body.
PCOS, Pregnancy, and Infertility
PCOS is believed to be the most common cause of ovulatory infertility, which means ovulation isn’t taking place, or not happening like it’s supposed to (3). When ovulation doesn’t happen, there’s no egg to fertilize, and pregnancy cannot happen.
A lack of ovulation results in continuous high levels of estrogen, and not enough progesterone. In this case, even if you aren’t trying to become pregnant, ovulation is a healthy and important part of hormone balance.
Are you managing PCOS? Concerned about how PCOS will impact pregnancy? Get the free guide here to find out how to support healthy blood sugar, stop hair loss, and heal hormone imbalance associated with PCOS.
Healing Estrogen Dominance: 6 Steps
Here’s how to naturally balance your hormones, boost progesterone production, and get your estrogen levels back to normal.
1. Eat for healthy hormones
The easiest way to heal your hormones is to feed them what they need.
- Avocado, pumpkin seeds, and green leafy vegetables contain magnesium, which helps your body clear excess estrogen, relieves cramps, and can support healthy blood sugar if you have PCOS.
- Bell peppers, citrus, kiwi, and Brussels sprouts are rich sources of vitamin C to help your body make progesterone, which is incredibly important if you have estrogen dominance (more on this soon!)
- Chicken, salmon, sweet potatoes, and most nuts and seeds are great sources of vitamin B6, like you’ll find in Boost (which also contains magnesium) to help your adrenals glands make all your body’s important hormones (plus, it’s essential for helping you handle stress!
2. Stress less
Like you read above, stress causes your body to make more cortisol, and puts progesterone on the back burner, making you feel anxious and moody.
Managing stress is always easier said than done, but just like any other healthy habit: you have to put focus and energy towards the goal if you want to achieve it. Identify areas of significant stress in your life and either:
- Evaluate whether or not you can change, reschedule, or approach them differently
- Put into place stress management techniques you can fall back on when things get too hairy.
3. Sleep more
Your hormones need sleep, and so does your body. Too often, I see patients putting off sleep in favor of working longer, or sabotaging sleep by staying on electronics and not implementing a bedtime routine.
Adults need about 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and it’s definitely not a good idea to “catch up” on lost sleep on the weekend. Get blue blockers if you’re working late, make your bedroom your sanctuary, and maintain a consistent bedtime.
If getting adequate sleep is a pain point for you, you’ll want to check out Sleep Savior.
4. Support your liver
Your liver is your body’s detox powerhouse. Toxins, hormones, and metabolic waste all get filtered by your liver before they leave your body. With such a big job to do, it’s only fair we return the favor.
- Drink plenty of water
- Take a B vitamin (fully methylated for those with MTHFR)
- Work in a detox smoothie (this recipe is my go-to)
- Eat more broccoli, cauliflower, and other cruciferous veggies
5. Limit alcohol
Alcohol not only overwhelms your liver, slowing down other detox processes, but it can deplete your body of crucial nutrients, like B vitamins and magnesium. If you average more than one drink per day, or more than 4 drinks in a day, you may want to evaluate how your relationship with alcohol could be impacting your health.
6. Supplements + herbs for estrogen dominance
While it’s important to focus on foods and lifestyle first to balance hormones, the right supplements can help some people during the healing process. For more info, check with your integrative practitioner to find out which supplement for estrogen dominance is best for you.
- Calcium d-glucarate
- Vitex (or chaste berry)
- Methylated B vitamins
- Green tea
Putting It All Together
Estrogen is a hormone that your body needs to protect bones, support fertility, and is responsible for great things like healthy skin, and curvy hips.
But when estrogen levels are too high due to genetics, other underlying hormone imbalance (like PCOS), or a high toxic load, it can start to manifest in unpleasant ways.
Progesterone is crucial to helping balance estrogen, as estrogen circulating unchallenged by progesterone is a common cause of hormone imbalance in modern women. Living a lifestyle which supports healthy progesterone production is important for balancing estrogen.
Estrogen dominance can raise your risk for certain cancers, so it’s important to dial in diet, stress levels, and sleep to balance hormones.
Sometimes, one-on-one support is what you need, and if that’s the case, I’d like to invite you to learn about how we do things at CentreSpringMD, my integrative clinic. Virtual visits are available, and integrative women’s medicine is one of our specialties.