Estrogen Dominance – The Diva Takes Control of the Dance

There are two main reasons why high estrogen can become an issue when it dominates progesterone and takes the lead.
One reason is simply that we’re getting older and no longer in prime reproductive land and progesterone levels can naturally drop.  This still needs to be addressed but it’s nothing to be concerned about as long as the imbalance is minor.
The big concern, however, is when estrogen levels are very high in relation to progesterone.
Symptoms of excess estrogen include:
  • water retention
  • breast tenderness
  • painful periods
  • endometriosis
  • mood swings
  • irritability
  • insomnia and poor sleep
  • foggy brain
  • weepiness
  • frequent headaches
  • excessive redness in your face
  • anxiety or depression
During perimenopause the emotional roller coaster can be in play all month long.  Beyond mood swings, you might experience:
  • hair loss
  • headaches
  • breast tenderness
  • bloating
  • difficulty losing weight
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • decreased libido
  • foggy brain and/or memory loss
 Estrogen dominance has been linked to:
  • allergies
  • autoimmune conditions
  • breast cancer
  • uterine cancer
  • infertility
  • ovarian cysts
  • increased blood clotting
  • accelerated aging process
Given the dance between estrogen and progesterone, let’s look at why high estrogen occurs:
1.         High estrogen relative to normal progesterone.  This occurs when the diva is getting a little too dominant compared to her partner, who is continuing to support her through the dance as he normally would.  This is common in overweight women and in women who have been exposed to xenoestrogens, which are synthetic chemicals and mimic estrogens.  Ovaries are the main source of estrogen, but fat cells make estrogen too.  More fat cells mean higher estrogen levels.
2.         High estrogen relative to low progesterone.  When the diva is dominating and her partner is just too tired to keep up, this is called estrogen dominance and is a more common occurrence than high estrogen to normal progesterone.
The main root causes of excess estrogen are:
  1. Perimenopause and diminished ovarian reserve.  In the two to ten years before your final period (this usually starts around 35 or so but everyone is different), your estrogen levels fluctuate drastically.  Generally speaking, women in perimenopause show higher estrogen relative to progesterone compared to women in their twenties.  During perimenopause, ovaries produce more estrogen because the number of eggs produced is drastically reduced.  You are born with approximately 1-2 million eggs.  By the time you reach perimenopause, you generally have 1-3 thousand.  No wonder so many women over 35 have trouble getting pregnant.  Once your hypothalamus and pituitary senses that you are running out of eggs, you make more hormones to stimulate the eggs to hatch so you can become pregnant before it’s too late.  You end up producing more follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) and FSH rises faster than LH.    With the decreasing number of eggs, estradiol rises and blocks FSH production in the pituitary.  Your hormones keep rising in order to try to get the ovaries to respond like they did in your 20s and as FSH rises too much, you become less and less fertile.

  2. Cortisol-linked estrogen dominance.  If you’re under constant stress, your cortisol levels will increase.  High levels of cortisol can block progesterone receptors, leading to low progesterone and high estrogen.  High cortisol also compromises your immune function, making you more vulnerable to illness.

  3. Xenoestrogens.  These are chemicals that can mimic estrogen. They are found in toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, food preservatives, the lining of cans that hold food and many kinds of plastic. They can also be found in cosmetics, nail polish, shampoos, shower curtains, baby toys, vinyl flooring, car interiors and medical devices such as IV bags.

  4. Obesity and weight gain.  Not only does excess fat put women at risk for sleep apnea and asthma, diabetes, heart disease, cancer of the breast, uterus, colon and gallbladder, it also increases the risk of excess estrogen and all the associated risks.  Excess weight can also lead to high levels of insulin.  Chronically high insulin levels can lead to excess estrogen, resulting in a vicious circle.  Higher insulin creates higher estrogen, which leads to higher insulin levels and insulin resistance.  This tends to make you gain weight which leads to making more estrogen, putting you at higher risk.

  5. Diet.  A diet high in conventionally raised red meat and refined carbs is likely to cause estrogen overload.  This may be because of the hormones in the meat or perhaps due to a type of bacteria cultivated in the gut by people who eat a lot of meat. If you don’t have a certain type of bacteria in your gut to process estrogen, it will stay in your system.  Instead of getting rid of estrogen like we’re supposed to, it recirculates in our system, contributing to overload.  Consumption of alcohol raises estrogen levels and slows down fat burning.  In postmenopausal women, drinking as little as 1 or 2 servings of alcohol a day raises estrone and DHEAS, another hormone that can be converted into estrogen, thereby adding to an already overloaded system.  Does this mean you can’t drink alcohol at all?  No, but one or two servings a week is a safe quantity.  If you’re at high risk for breast cancer, the recommendation is to abstain.  A diet low in fibre, nutrients and high quality fats such as avocados, nuts and coconut also contributes to high estrogen.

  6. Nutritional deficiencies.  Certain deficiencies can also lead to excess estrogen.  Magnesium, B12, folate and an amino acid called methionine are all supplements that can help produce good estrogens and decrease not so good ones.  You can have your blood tested for magnesium, zinc, copper, B12 and folate levels to determine if you have any of these deficiencies.

  7. Mercury.  If you are an avid fish eater and experience fatigue, nausea and brain fog, it might be an idea to have your blood or urine checked for mercury levels.  Always be careful when buying fish that it is low in mercury.  You can check a website that lists fish according to mercury content.  www.seafoodwatch.org  is a comprehensive listing of the best sustainable fisheries.  Other sources of mercury are high-fructose corn syrup (also known as glucose-fructose and which is in everything these days), fungicides and herbicides, dental fillings, thermometers, some drugs and some vaccines.
High Estrogen, Breast Cancer and Genes
High estrogen levels have been proven to increase your risk of breast cancer, but that is not the only factor so please don’t stress.  There are many factors involved in any type of cancer but we do want to lower our risk.  Following are some risk factors:
  • early onset of menstruation
  • excess estrogen levels in first half of menstrual cycle, although this lessens during perimenopause
  • high estrogens (linked with greater breast density, which is also a factor)
  • higher estradiol levels put you at higher risk for the type of breast cancer that involves estrogen receptors but not the type that does not involve estrogen receptors
 As you can see, estrogen dominance can wreak havoc with your life.  It can affect women at pretty much any time in their life.  It can also affect men.  The good news is that there are natural ways of dealing with estrogen balance.  If you would like to feel better, have more energy and reduce your cancer risk, give me a shout … we can work together to help you feel your best.

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