Estrogen Dominance — What Is It, and How Does it Affect Our Health?
Our bodies operate under a complex system of checks and balances, and our hormones are no exception. Estrogen, along with progesterone and testosterone, comprise our sex hormones. Men and women naturally have different levels and balances of these hormones, and when that balance becomes skewed and there is too much estrogen in the body in relation to progesterone and/or testosterone, we call that estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance is most definitely an under-diagnosed condition — in fact, I believe it’s the reason so many women have hormonal problems and hormonally driven diseases like breast and uterine cancer, endometriosis, and PCOS, to name just a few. The same goes for men — estrogen dominance puts them at a higher risk for things like prostate cancer, infertility, mood disorders and more. Hormonal imbalances also drive metabolic disorders and cardiovascular and cognitive disease in both sexes.
Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
In addition to the issues and diseases I just mentioned that estrogen dominance fuels, it also causes troubling and uncomfortable symptoms in both sexes.
While some symptoms may overlap — like mood swings, anxiety, inflammation and pain, headaches and migraines — there are symptoms specific to both genders, too, that stem from estrogen’s essential functions in each sex.
In women, estrogen is responsible for the development of female characteristics and the reproductive system, and specific symptoms present accordingly. In men, estrogen is responsible for maintaining libido, erectile function, and sperm production, and their symptoms reflect that as well.
In a lot of women, estrogen dominance is marked by premenstrual mood changes, extended periods, mood swings, inflammation and pain — including painful, lumpy breasts, generalized swelling, headaches and migraines, insomnia, anxiety, infertility and miscarriages, and unexplained weight gain.
In men the most common symptoms are fatigue, mood changes, low sperm count / issues with infertility, lowered sex drive, erectile dysfunction, stubborn belly fat, and gynecomastia (the development of breast tissue).
This isn’t a comprehensive list of signs and symptoms, but those are certainly some of the main ones.
A Variety of Causes at Play
There are many potential causes of estrogen dominance, and often multiple causes are at play.
First, let me explain that there is both “good” estrogen that is essential to our health, and “bad” estrogen that results from exposure to estrogen mimicking toxins (things like phthalates, BPA, dioxins, flame retardants, etc. found in man made petrochemicals, certain drugs, plastics, herbicides, pesticides, household chemicals and cleaners, beauty products and the like). The good estrogen, called 2-OH, should comprise about 60–80% of a person’s total estrogen. The bad estrogen, 4-OH, should only comprise 7–11% of the body’s estrogen. Increased levels of 4-OH estrogen puts a person at risk for developing cancer and other diseases, particularly breast cancer. Another type of estrogen, 16-OH, is not as harmful, as it’s bound to protein, but should only comprise 13–30% of total estrogen nonetheless.
This leads us to our first cause of estrogen dominance — a stressed liver from overexposure to toxins, that loses the ability to properly detoxify the body and break down estrogen.
Whenever 4-OH is formulated, it needs to be deactivated by the liver…but if the liver is stressed and not functioning properly, the excess, problematic estrogen can’t be metabolized and deactivated, and remains in the body.
We’re exposed to an unprecedented amount of toxins every day — in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and the products we use and put on our bodies. Even though we were created with an amazing capacity to detoxify through our liver and other elimination channels, there comes a point when our bodies become overwhelmed.
Toxins aren’t the only problem, however — the Standard American Diet (SAD) is chock-full of sugar, processed foods, and unhealthy fats which leads to fatty liver disease, inhibiting the ability of the liver to detoxify the body further.
Other factors that can contribute to estrogen dominance include:
- Gut dysbiosis, or an overproliferation of bad vs good bacteria in the gut. A balanced microbiome is essential for a properly functioning, balanced body. How does dysbiosis take hold? The overuse of antibiotics and antibacterial soap, exposure to toxins like herbicides and pesticides, unhealthy diets, unmanaged stress…it’s a long list. There are even types of “bad” bacteria that wield the power to convert estrogen to the damaging 4-OH variety!
- Constipation. Excess estrogen is passed out of the body through our stool, but when someone is constipated and it’s not eliminated in short order, it gets reabsorbed by the body.
- Stress and inflammation. This includes hidden infections (think old root canals, gut infections/parasites, etc.), which drive inflammation.
- Mitochondrial dysfunction. When the energy factory in your cells, your mitochondria, aren’t producing enough energy, dysfunction results. If you have low energy levels, or have trouble losing weight, it’s a safe bet that you have mitochondrial dysfunction.
- Alcohol. This is another big driver of estrogen dominance, as alcohol consumption stresses the liver.
Restoring Hormonal Balance
In order to have healthy, balanced hormones, you must have a healthy liver that’s unburdened by toxicity.
To the greatest extent possible, avoid toxins in everyday products and replace them with safer alternatives. Swap plastic food storage containers for glass, start using clean beauty and body products, replace toxic cleaning products with natural ones, filter your air and water, and eat organic whenever possible.
To purge toxins from your system, a true cellular detox protocol like the one we use in our Cellular Health Accelerator program can’t be beat. Outside of using supplements to detox, infrared saunas are also helpful in purging toxins, as is exercise — really anything that makes you sweat! Epsom salt baths are also great for drawing toxins from the body.
It’s also imperative to support liver and gallbladder health and keep bile flowing freely to effectively carry waste from the body. Eating salads composed of bitters, things like kale, arugula, or dandelion, is great for that. You can also utilize supplements like yarrow, garlic, ginger, Jerusalem artichoke, and TUDCA (which can increase bile production by 250%!) as well.
Lastly, it’s important to support methylation in the body (a chemical reaction integral to the detoxification process). A few easy ways to do that is by consuming raw carrots, celery, cumin, anise, coriander, broccoli and cruciferous vegetables, glutathione, B vitamins (make sure it says “methyl” in front of it), and magnesium.
Focus on eating a whole food diet packed full of fresh vegetables and fruits, high-quality protein, and healthy fats, manage your stress, move your body, and get proper sleep to support overall wellness on top of that, and you’ll be amazed at the improvement you see in your health!