Beyond PMS, many women don’t give a lot of thought to whether their hormones are balanced. But every system in our bodies receives messages from our hormones to operate properly, so if hormones become imbalanced, it can wreak havoc and cause many health issues.
Commonly undiagnosed, it’s important to understand estrogen dominance and what we can do to help balance our hormones to improve our overall health.
WHAT CAUSES ESTROGEN DOMINANCE?
Each of us has varying levels of hormones, each playing an integral role in our bodies working in an optimal way. Although men and women both have estrogen and progesterone, women naturally have higher estrogen levels. But, in order to keep the estrogen levels balanced, women also need sufficient progesterone.
When progesterone levels are insufficient, estrogen can take over, causing estrogen dominance.
As with every client that comes into my clinic, it’s important to get a robust health history and drill down to discover the root cause of the issue. Estrogen dominance can be caused by many factors, either due to our bodies not removing excess estrogen properly or making too much estrogen.
Contributing factors can include taking certain medications, stress, excess body fat, xenoestrogens, gut issues, and problems with liver function.
SYMPTOMS OF ESTROGEN DOMINANCE
Impacting a women’s reproductive health, estrogen dominance is a serious issue. Beyond causing many annoying symptoms, it can contribute to severe health issues, including thyroid problems, certain cancers, and autoimmune diseases.
Thyroid issues are commonly reported in women and a link between estrogen and resulting effects on the thyroid, including the pathogenesis of thyroid diseases, have been reported. Ensuring that any issues with estrogen dominance are dealt with promptly can help reduce the risk of severe thyroid problems, including cancer. 2
Common symptoms of estrogen dominance include:
● Weight gain
● Brain fog
● Anxiety, irritability
● Breast tenderness/distension
● Fibrocystic breasts
● Migraines or headaches associated with your menstrual cycle
● Irregular periods
● Recurrent vaginal yeast infections and/or UTI’s
● Low libido
In order to determine if estrogen dominance could be contributing to your symptoms, hormone testing may be suggested. In addition to any blood tests your doctor may recommend, we can also do a saliva hormone test, which measures certain hormones to indicate if there are any imbalances.
HOW FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE CAN HELP
As with anything when it comes to Functional Medicine, our goal is to reduce or eliminate symptoms while attacking the root cause of the issue. Here at the Heartland Natural Clinic, there is no blanket approach, and each individual’s plan depends on their unique symptoms and underlying causes.
When it comes to reducing estrogen in our bodies, we can do several things.
● Diet changes - one of the first ways we can attack issues is by making changes to a person’s diet. This may include the following:
○ Reduce alcohol intake - various studies have indicated a correlation between alcohol consumption and hormone imbalance. One study found “that among subjects who used oral contraceptives, estradiol levels increased and progesterone levels decreased after intake of alcohol” 1
○ Increase fiber - increasing your fiber can not only help your liver with detoxification, but it also ensures you’re using the bathroom regularly (and since estrogen is removed via bowel movements, this is important)
○ Detox-supporting foods - adding more lentils, avocado, beets, and leafy greens can help the liver detoxify. Adding in more cruciferous vegetables (like kale, cauliflower, and broccoli), can also help liver function
○ Supplements - magnesium supplements (to support liver function), Calcium D-Glucarate, supplements to support a healthy microbiome, ashwagandha, and licorice root are sometimes suggested
● Be aware of toxins in everyday products - xenoestrogens are sneaky culprits that can increase your levels of estrogen. Try removing toxic household products and cosmetics and swap them for clean, organic products
● Watch your stress levels and get enough sleep - our bodies repair and regulate themselves during rest, so getting a proper amount of sleep is imperative.
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*This article is for informational purposes only
1. Acute effect of alcohol on estradiol, estrone, progesterone, prolactin, cortisol, and luteinizing hormone in premenopausal women
2. Role of Estrogen in Thyroid Function and Growth Regulation