Saturday, 25 February 2012

Estrogen Dominance: Hormone Hell!

I'm sorry I fell of the radar for most of this month!  I'm a bad blogger :(  Work, and life, have just been a bit crazy and busy lately.  Sometimes that happens, right?

It's really time I did a post on estrogen dominance, since many women (and some men) have this.  They may suffer from certain symptoms, and not even realize why.  Women who have taken the birth control pill may have estrogen dominance.  Plus, there are so many estrogens in our environment that the scales are often tipped in the favour of excess estrogen in our bodies.  This is a topic I have become well researched in, as I have been dealing with estrogen dominance for quite some time now.  As you know from this blog, I've also been treating it with naturopathy for the past year, and changing everything about my internal and external environment.  I will be, for the most part, sharing information found directly from other sources. 


There are three forms of estrogen: estradiol, estrone and estriol.  Estradiol is 12 times more potent than estrone and 80 times more potent than estriol.  Over exposure to estradiol may increase a person's risk of estrogen related symptoms and/or disease.  Estriol, on the other hand, is considered the "good estrogen" as studies show it may actually protect against cancer.

The primary role of estrogen in women is to maintain the growth and function of the uterus so that the sex organs can become adult sized, and also to prepare the uterine lining to receive a fertilized egg. Additionally, for both men and women, estrogen affects skeletal growth, skin, fat and protein deposition, and electrolyte balance.  Maintaining a healthy balance of estrogen can be difficult, as there are many factors today that can throw off estrogen balance, including exposure to xenoestrogens, phytoestrogens and poor estrogen metabolism. 


Progesterone is the building block for many other major hormones including corticosteroids, which are essential for stress response, electrolyte balance, blood pressure, and survival.  Cortisol, DHEA, testosterone and estrogen are all made from progesterone in a process that begins with cholesterol.  Progesterone is a primary hormone needed for fertility and pregnancy. It is essential to the survival of the fertilized egg, the embryo, and the fetus. In pregnancy, it prevents the shedding of the uterine lining.   A drop in progesterone can result in a miscarriage.  Some health care professionals are beginning to make a connection between low progesterone levels and symptoms of fibromyalgia.

There is only one type of progesterone, as opposed to the three types of estrogen.  When in its all natural form progesterone is considered a very safe hormone.  When in a synthetic form, progesterone is called progestin, and is considered to have much greater health risks than all natural progesterone.

Adequate progesterone levels are essential to healthy hormone balance. 

How They Work Together

Estrogen and progesterone work in synchronization with each other like a system of checks and balances to achieve hormonal harmony in both men and women.  Estrogen is an active hormone that is actually able to increase the production of its own receptors.  It stimulates tissue to grow. When left unchecked (due to inadequate progesterone levels), it can stimulate tissue to grow inappropriately.  Progesterone works to balance estrogen.  It is able to decrease the production of estrogen receptors, thus protecting the body from estrogen induced tissue growth like uterine fibroids and estrogen positive cancers. Estrogen and progesterone need the presence of each other in order to correctly perform their individual functions.  When estrogen and progesterone become out of balance, often estrogen dominance is the result. 


Estrogen Dominance

The following is a list of symptoms that can arise when there is excess estrogen in the body, relative to low progesterone.  This list is not exhaustive:

     •   PMS
     •   decreased sex drive
     •   uterine fibroids
     •   polycystic ovarian syndrome
     •   irregular or otherwise abnormal menstrual periods
     •   bloating (water retention)
     •   breast swelling and tenderness
     •   fibrocystic breasts
     •   headaches (especially premenstrually)
     •   mood swings (most often irritability and depression)
     •   weight and/or fat gain (particularly around the abdomen, hips and thighs)
     •   cold hands and feet (a symptom of thyroid dysfunction)
     •   hair loss
     •   thyroid dysfunction
     •   sluggish metabolism
     •   foggy thinking, memory loss
     •   fatigue
     •   trouble sleeping/insomnia

    Estrogen dominance has also been linked to allergies, autoimmune disorders, breast cancer, uterine cancer, infertility, ovarian cysts, and increased blood clotting, and is also associated with acceleration of the aging process.  In men, estrogen dominance can cause problems like decreased fertility due to low sperm count, baldness, development of breasts, weight gain, and sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction.  High levels of estrogen also cause enlarged prostates.

    Birth control pills cause or contribute to estrogen dominance by keeping estrogen levels high, in order to trick the body into thinking it is pregnant, and therefore cannot get pregnant again.  The weight gain, decreased libido, depression, and mood swings that often accompanies being on the pill, is caused by estrogen dominance.

    As I've explained in other posts, we are exposed to xenoestrogens in our environment, and phytoestrogens in some of the foods we eat.  These estrogens mimic estrogen in the body, and when there aren't enough receptors available in the body to use the hormones, they kind of just float around the body and wreak havoc with our systems.

    Common sources of xenoestrogens are pesticides and herbicides, commercially raised meat, plastics, styrofoam cups, canned foods, personal care products and cosmetics, birth control pills, detergents, car exhaust and indoor toxins, all artificial scents, air fresheners and perfumes, and paints, lacquers and solvents.

    More than 300 foods have been shown to contain phytoestrogens. Most food phytoestrogens are from one of three chemical classes, the isoflavonoids, the lignans or the coumestans. Isoflavonoid phytoestrogens are found in beans from the legume family; soybeans and soy products are the major dietary source of this type of phytoestrogens. Lignan phytoestrogens are found in high fibre foods such as cereal brans and beans; flaxseeds contain large amounts of lignans. The coumestan phytoestrogens are found in various beans such as split peas, pinto beans, and lima beans; alfalfa and clover sprouts are the foods with the highest amounts of coumestans.

    So you can see that our environment constantly exposes us to compounds that mimic estrogen in our body.  Is it any surprise that so many people have high estrogen levels?  It's pretty much an uphill battle for everyone to have normal hormones, under these circumstances.

    What Can You Do?

    I am not a doctor or naturopath, or any sort of expert with formal education, though I hope to be at some point.  If you have issues with hormone imbalance, I strongly encourage you to find a naturopath.  I am not here to provide any sort of medical opinion.  I can only relate to you my personal experiences and extensive research, some of which you have read about in this blog already.

    I really think the first place to start is by cutting down, or eliminating your exposure to estrogens in your home and environment.  Replace the plastic in your kitchen, and generally stop using it for any food and drink.  Buy organic produce and naturally raised meat without hormones and antibiotics.  Stop using harmful beauty/hygiene products and perfumes.  These days, there are really wonderful, quality natural products that are just as good as any others, and widely available at any health store or online.  Use more natural cleaners in your home.  Find a natural laundry detergent (like soap nuts) and stop using dryer sheets.  These are all things you can do, to some degree hopefully.

    Once you're done detoxifying your home and lifestyle, there are other things you should keep in mind in terms of balancing those hormones.
    • Studies have shown that drinking more than two cups of coffee a day boosts estrogen levels in women.  For some women, cutting out caffeine can really reduce PMS symptoms.  
    • Watch your diet: too much refined food, and diets high in empty carbohydrates and fat can increase estrogen levels.  
    • Detoxify your liver, and watch your alcohol intake.  Intake of alcohol increases the level of excess estrogen.  When the liver has to work hard to eliminate toxins such as alcohol, drugs, caffeine, or environmental agents, the liver’s capacity to cleanse the blood of estrogen is compromised.
    • Aerobic exercise, movement that gets your heart pumping, has been shown to facilitate hormone balance.
    • Remember to get enough fibre.  Estrogen is excreted by the bowel; if stool remains in the bowel, estrogen is reabsorbed.

    Different Supplements I Have Learned About

    Again, I am not suggesting you take any of the below listed supplements without advice from a naturopath.  I just want to give you the info so you know there are lots of natural supplements that help with hormone imbalance.

    Chaste tree

    Vitex, also known as Chaste Tree or Monk's Pepper, was said to be used as herbal remedy by monks in the Middle Ages to diminish their sex drive, and its common names stem from its use by monks to maintain celibacy. Although it does seem to occasionally reduce sex drive in women, the effects are less pronounced than the name of this plant suggests. 

    In modern times, chaste tree is used primarily as a women's herb for menstrual complaints. The flavonoids in chaste tree exert an effect similar to the hormone progesterone, although the plant contains no hormonal compounds. Chaste tree acts on the pituitary gland in the brain, normalizing the release of both follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).

    The overall effect is to regulate the menstrual cycle and slightly increase the production of progesterone in women who otherwise have irregular cycles. Many menstrual complaints are known to result from a relative lack of progesterone. When progesterone levels are low relative to estrogen, the result is often infertility, heavy bleeding, lack of periods, too-frequent periods, irregular periods, and premenstrual syndrome. Because it helps normalize LH levels, chaste tree alleviates these complaints. It can normalize and regulate menstrual cycles, reduce premenstrual fluid retention, and treat some cases of acne that flare up during menstruation.  Source

    Tribulus Terrestris

    Tribulus is thought to support healthy hormone profile by boosting testosterone levels via stimulation of the anterior pituitary gland. This stimulation is thought to promote the production and secretion of Leutinizing Hormone (LH), which can lead to increases in unbound, free-testosterone levels.  As a result, this herb can enhance libido in men and women.  Source

    Biotone EFA (Essential Fatty Acid)

    Biotone EFA is a unique combination of rice bran, soybean and wheat germ oils specifically formulated to support and regulate hormonal function.  Rice bran and wheat germ oils are high in octacosanol, fatty acids, phytosterols, and in ketosteroids, anabolic growth agents, and lipotropic factors.  Octacosanol, found in wheat and in rice oil fractions, improves heart functions, increases vitality and endurance, prevents muscle spasms, and duplicates the biological effects of sex hormones and ketosteroids without the side-effects associated with hormone therapy.  Source

    Evening Primrose Oil

    Evening primrose oil is used for conditions affecting women's health, such as breast pain associated with the menstrual cycle, menopausal symptoms, and PMS.


    Please see my previous blog post on the use and benefits of maca.

    Vitamin B6

    When women become estrogen dominant, they become Vitamin B6 deficient.  Vitamin B6 has long been touted to help PMS.  Most studies confirm that women taking B6 supplements have decreased bloating, breast pain, and premenstrual acne flare, a condition in which pimples break out about a week before a woman's period begins.  Source


    Magnesium Citrate provides the body with a highly absorbable form of magnesium, which is often depleted when estrogen levels are high.  A deficiency in magnesium can lead to severe PMS, muscle cramping, and fatigue, among other symptoms.  Magnesium is important for hundreds of bodily processes and can have an effect on virtually every organ system within the body.  Therefore, it is important to be sure that your body gets adequate daily amounts.  Interestingly, chocolate is one of the foods that is highest in magnesium.  Some women with estrogen dominance have a chocolate craving just before their period.  Source

    Calcium D-glucarate

    Calcium D-glucarate is a substance produced naturally in small amounts by humans. Supplementation of calcium D-glucarate has been shown to prevent recycling of hormones and environmental toxins, promoting liver detoxification and excretion of these potentially detrimental substances.  In this way, it lowers estrogen levels.  Source

    Indinol 3-carbinol

    Indole-3-carbinol is a member of the class of sulfur-containing chemicals called glucosinolates.  It is found in high amounts in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, turnips, and rutabagas. Indole-3-carbinol acts as an antioxidant, can stimulate natural detoxification enzymes and supports normal hormone metabolism.  In the body, Indole 3-carbinol can be broken dow into diindolylmethane (DIM), another indole compound that also has similar health benefits.

    Foods to Eat

    Cruciferous vegetables like bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, collards, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, rutabaga, turnip greens and watercress.

    Fibre binds to estrogen metabolites in the stool and encourages excretion of excess estrogen through the stool.  For getting more fibre, seek out whole, unprocessed foods, nuts and seeds, vegetables, fruit, legumes and whole grains.

    Foods Not to Eat

    Soy contains isoflavones that are called phytoestrogens because they can mimic the effects of estrogen. These compounds can worsen the effects of other estrogenic chemicals and contribute to estrogen dominance.  Avoid soybeans, edamame, tofu, soy protein, soy beverages, soy cheese and other soy-based products.

    Commercially raised meat and poultry are often given hormones that resemble estrogen to speed up their growth and development.  When you eat commercially raised beef or chicken that contain hormones, these estrogen-like hormones accumulate in your body and can contribute to your estrogen dominance problems.  Avoid regular meat and chicken and choose hormone-free options.  Even better, opt for grass-fed beef and free-range chicken to reduce your exposure to these hormones.

    Conventional Produce: Most fruits and vegetables contain pesticide residues, which can disrupt the balance of your hormones by mimicking estrogen in the body.  Buy organic for the "dirty dozen," the produce with the highest levels of contaminants.  The dirty dozen includes peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce and potatoes.  Visit the Environmental Working Group for more information.

    Phew!  A lot of info there.....

    And there's a LOT more info to share still, this topic is huge.  Thanks for reading, I hope this was helpful.  My last word on the subject, just based on my own personal experience of dealing with this, is that if you are having hormonal imbalance as indicated by any of the symptoms listed above, go see a naturopath.  I see Dr. Shannon Munkley out of Balance Integrated Healthcare in Liberty Village.  She has been amazing, and she really works on the whole person, physically and emotionally, and she really gets you involved with your own treatment.  It is up to you if her treatment helps -- because it's up to you to make sure you're actually doing what she suggests.  It has changed my life, but slowly.  If you want to be prescribed a birth control pill to get a quick fix, and likely go through a long lasting tornado of imbalanced hormones in the future, then go see your GP.  If you want to work naturally with your body using herbal supplements, diet, and lifestyle change, find yourself a good naturopath.

    Have a great weekend!


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    1. Hi Christine, I have relatively same problem as you do.. I wanted to get some advice on who was ur naturopath and which supplements you took. Please write me back. Any help will be very helpful in my current condition.

    2. Hi Mery. I saw Dr. Shannon Munkley of Balance Integrated Healthcare.

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