Estrogen Dominance

Estrogen Dominance

This topic comes up with nearly every woman I see. The very common symptoms for women that we attribute to hormones are most often a result of imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen promotes growth of tissue (i.e. the uterine lining in the first half of our cycle). But most women know breast tissue also can increase in size, we can gain weight, tissue can swell a bit, and mood can be affected. Progesterone helps to moderate these effects of estrogen, including the growth effects.

Here are some symptoms of estrogen not balanced well by progesterone:

PMS Breast tenderness
Excessive menstrual bleeding and cramps
Early onset of menstruation
Fat gain, especially around the abdomen, hips, and thighs
Hot flashes
Perimenopause sleep disturbance
Depression and anxiety
Fibrocystic breasts
Hair Loss
Irregular menstrual periods
Water retention, bloating
Low or absent libido
Infertility
Insomnia
Polycystic ovaries
Uterine cancer
Uterine fibroids
Cervical dysplasia
Breast cancer

Women make estrogen in their ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat cells. During the first two weeks of our cycle, estrogen is the hormone secreted to promote the growth of the uterine lining for implantation. After ovulation, the ovulating egg produces progesterone to maintain the lining and vascular system. If an egg is implanted, progesterone continues to be increased for this uterine sac to maintain the growth of an embryo. If the ovulated egg does not become fertilized, then the progesterone production falls off and the uterine lining is not maintained and it sluffs off with our monthly bleeding.

Women become out of balance with their total estrogen/progesterone hormones for several reasons. One reason is that we are being exposed to a huge number of chemicals that mimic estrogen in our body. These chemicals actually sit down on estrogen receptors and mimic the effects of estrogen.

These chemicals come from many places including:

Birth control pills
Hormone replacement drugs
Additives in lotions, shampoos, make up, and deodorants
Plastics and cookware
Growth hormones found in factory-farmed animal products beef, chicken, and fish
Pesticides and herbicides on foods and in the environment
DDT
PCBs – polychlorinated biphenyls
Foaming agents in soaps and detergents

Sometimes, women produce too little progesterone when under stress because the precursor hormone to make progesterone gets used to make the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands to help us fight or flee. It raises blood sugar, keeps us mentally alert, and heightens our immune system among other responses. Many of us under pressure at work or home or due to psycho/emotional stress maintain high cortisol and, over time, this depletes the resources to make adequate progesterone thus promoting the estrogen dominance or imbalance with progesterone.

Peri menopause is a time when we start missing some ovulations. Remember it is the ovulating egg making progesterone so a few missed cycles and our total load starts to be reduced. This often initiates the start of menopause symptoms like hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and anxiety or moodiness. The balance may have been leaning in that direction from chemical exposures or stress but with the missed ovualtions the imbalance is exacerbated and new symptoms or exaggerated symptoms develop.

The last thing I’d like to address are the functions of the liver and how they relate to estrogen dominance. The liver is the organ responsible for degrading toxins and our hormones. The liver is working hard for most people because of diets high in chemicals, environmental exposure, topical exposures, poor diet, and so on. The liver is sometimes at or past its capacity to do its job or under functioning because it lacks the nutrients from a healthy diet to work properly. Toxins that cannot be completely processed end up being stored in fat cells, including toxic estrogen. Estrogen that is only partially degraded and stored in fat cells can be recycled and has a higher growth promoting potential than regular estrogen. This creates a combined effect of more fat cells as a result of storing toxins that can potentially make even more estrogen.

What can we do?! Our past detox groups reviewed this information repeatedly to emphasize the benefit of improving diet and liver function to help remove toxins including toxic or excessive estrogen. Amazingly, almost all women see improvement in estrogen dominance symptoms – decreased hot flashes, improved sleep, lighter periods, easier premenstrual week, and they feel more calm and at ease.

Basic Recommendations to improve estrogen dominance:

Stop eating processed foods with chemicals.
Eat more vegetables and fruits, along with hormone/antibiotic free protein.
Eat at least one serving cruciferous vegetable a day. A specific sulfur chemical in these vegetables enhances the livers capability of degrading estrogen.
Reduce your exposure to xenoestrogen. A good list can be found here.
Join the next detoxification group in the new year.
Find support and learn ways to decrease your stress.

Dr. Mikel has a host of whole food products that enhance these recommendations and, depending on your symptoms can prescribe the right ones for you. SP Green Food, for example, is a combination of Brussel sprouts, kale, and alfalfa sprouts that many women love! This product has the vegetables that help the liver detox estrogen so they lose weight, have lighter periods, diminished hot flashes, and sleep better. Determining what is a appropriate for you and the cause of your imbalance will lead to the correct treatment. Salivary hormone testing is sometimes done and very useful in some cases. In my experience, 9 out of 10 salivary tests show some degree of estrogen dominance. Hormone supplementation is seldom needed for estrogen dominance if some of these other recommendations are maintained. Adding hormones for estrogen dominance may suppress symptoms by artificially balancing estrogen/progesterone but they can elevate both to alarming levels which increases the load of work on the liver which is why they often lead to weight gain from storing the by-products away in new fat cells.

There is hope and many women are finding safe and effective treatment for their complaints. I give this talk over and over and I have found that this information needs to be heard a few times in order to “get it.” Successfully using these suggestions to improve symptoms and overall health is really the best way to learn.

Resources

http://goodbyepms.com/fail.htm

http://www.sensiblehealth.com/Journey-04.xhtml

Estrogen dominance and men: http://www.greendivamom.com/2009/04/19/how-men-can-avoid-estrogen-dominance/

http://thebovine.wordpress.com/2009/09/23/are-endocrine-disruptors-making-us-fat-making-our-children-sexual-mutants/

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