Oestrogen (or estrogen) dominance is a term used for when we have too much oestrogen (or too little progesterone to balance it out).
And it could be the reason for increasing numbers of women suffering from PMS, heavy periods, breast tenderness, headaches, bloating and hormonal weight gain.
These are the main symptoms of oestrogen dominance, but too much oestrogen can also lead to fibroids, endometriosis, fibrocystic breast disease and oestrogen related cancers such as breast and ovarian. All of which are on the rise.
We all need oestrogen – it gives us our curves and feminine features, and is essential in the right amounts to keep our hearts healthy, our bones strong, our skin soft and supple, our brain sharp and our mood happy – as well as giving us the ability to have a baby!
Oestrogen’s main job is to promote growth – it helps cells multiply in order to thicken the uterus wall to prepare for pregnancy. This is why too much of it can lead to proliferation of cancer cells.
Why are we swimming in so much oestrogen?
Hormone disrupting chemicals
The WHO stated in its 2012 report that; ‘Close to 800 chemicals are known or suspected to be capable of interfering with hormones… The vast majority have not been tested at all’.
We are constantly exposed to chemical oestrogens that we either ingest or absorb through our skin. These can mimic our own oestrogen and cause our levels to rise (some experts think this is the reason behind so much early puberty amongst girls).
The list is huge, here’s a great article for more info, but the main ones to avoid are;
- BPA in plastics and can linings
- Phthalates in perfumes, air fresheners, cosmetics, toiletries, soft plastics (like clingfilm, toys, water resistant raincoats, shower curtains)
- Pesticides found in non organic foods and weed killers
Poor digestion and liver function
When oestrogen has done its job, it needs to be detoxified by the liver before we can get rid of it through the bowel. If our livers aren’t on top form (as they are busy with all the chemicals!), this can go wrong. And if we’re not eliminating (at least once a day) then there’s even more chance that the oestrogen goes round again.
Too much weight
Our fat cells can make oestrogen, so the more fat we have the more our levels can rise.
Too much sugar
When we have too much sugar and carbs (which break down into sugar) in our diet, we produce too much insulin to get it out of our blood. Insulin stimulates oestrogen production (as well as lay down more fat which produces more oestrogen…).
Not enough nutrients
We need certain nutrients to metabolise oestrogen effectively– B vits, Mg, Zn, omega fats and protein are key, so if the diet is lacking in these, then levels will rise.
Stress in our lives increases our hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol suppresses progesterone, which contributes to oestrogen dominance. Cortisol also suppresses our digestion (we need that for getting rid of oestrogen) and our immune system, reducing our defences against disease.
The Pill and HRT
The contraceptive pill (and other hormonal contraceptives) are designed to stop you ovulating. thereby regulating your hormones. But no ovulation means no progesterone, and higher levels of oestrogen.
HRT supplies high levels of synthetic oestrogen that the body finds harder to get rid of than natural hormones, thereby encouraging more oestrogen.
Of course, your genetics play a part in all of this. Some women will be able to handle excess oestrogen without a problem. Others will struggle.
What can we do about it?
- Eat your broccoli –cruciferous veg (also cabbage, cauliflower, watercress, kale, rocket, Brussels sprouts) really help your liver with detoxification of chemicals and also your own oestrogen’s.
- Ditch the sugar – choose a low GL diet with low sugar and carbs. Stay away from artificial sugars though (now known to make you gain weight!) . This will help balance your blood sugar and reduce insulin levels.
- Sprinkle those seeds – flaxseeds, chia, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds all contain good amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytoestrogens that can help to regulate oestrogen levels. Sprinkle in smoothies, yoghurt, porridge, salads.
- Get pooping! – Improve your digestion so you can eliminate excess oestrogen – increase your fibre (wholegrains, fruit, veg, nuts, seeds) and probiotic foods (live natural yoghurt, sauerkraut, onions, garlic, leeks). Avoid wheat and dairy if you suspect any intolerances (bloating, gas, cramps).
- Avoid chemical oestrogens – swap your plastic for glass, stainless steel or ceramic. Switch to natural brands for your toiletries, cosmetics, and household products.
- Go organic – limit your exposure to pesticides. Especially important for fruit & veg where you are eating the skins (apples, berries, peppers, etc).
- Lose weight – if you do all the above you will lose weight naturally – less fat, less oestrogen production.
- Reduce your stress – schedule in some relaxation every day, even if its just 10 minutes of deep breathing. This will help balance your cortisol.
- Consider more natural methods of contraception and hormone replacement – there are plenty of choices now for contraception. If you’ve been on the pill for a long time, consider switching. You can also swap from HRT to Bioidentical HRT, a much safer natural alternative (only available through private doctors).
- Supplements – supplementing nutrients can really help restore balance. Of course everyone is different but useful ones include;
- Multivitamin with good levels of B vits and all your minerals
- Omega fats – a good mix of 3, 6 and 9 help with hormone function
- Vitex Agnus Castus – this herb can be useful for increasing progesterone
- DIM – can help to improve detoxification and regulate oestrogen levels
- Liver support formula – to optimise detoxification of excess oestrogen’s
- Probiotics – for improved digestion
Do make sure you get advice from your health practitioner before taking any new supplements.
If you think you may have oestrogen dominance, or any hormone imbalance, download this FREE Hormone Balancing Guide.
(The information presented in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for advice from your physician or doctor or other health care professional).
WHO 2012 State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/78102/1/WHO_HSE_PHE_IHE_2013.1_eng.pdf
Davis DL, Bradlow HL, et. al. Medical hypothesis: xenoestrogens as preventable causes of breast cancer. Environ Health Perspect 1993 Oct;101(5):372-7
Graham JD, Clarke CL. Physiological action of progesterone in target tissues Endocr Rev 1997 Aug;18(4):502-19
Nelson LR, Bulun SE (September 2001). “Estrogen production and action”. J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 45 (3 Suppl): S116–24