Estrogen Dominance: Causes and Remedies
Dr. Ray Peat, a pioneer in the field of natural hormone therapy, coined the term “Estrogen Dominance” to describe what happens when the normal ratio or balance of estrogen to progesterone is changed by excess estrogen or inadequate progesterone. Estrogen can be potentially dangerous when not counter-balanced by adequate progesterone.
While hot flashes and night sweats are classically a sign of decreased estrogen levels in the body, the answer may not be as simple as taking synthetic or even natural estrogen. It is possible that estrogen levels are low, but rarely does a case exist where the levels of progesterone are not also just as low or lower.
It is also possible that due to xeno-estrogens in the body, the estrogen receptor sites are full and the body can’t utilize the natural estrogen available. How does this happen? Women, and men, are easily susceptible to becoming estrogen dominant in our culture today.
Studies have proven that it is more dangerous to take estradiol than to exist with the symptoms of menopause. It does relieve hot flashes, insomnia and many other symptoms, but it does not fix the cause of these problems, and creates dangerous side effects of breast and cervical cancer, strokes, heart attacks and weight gain.
Estrogen dominance is now a prevalent problem in our society. And we are now struggling to find another magical pill to take away those problems of hot flashes and insomnia without excess estradiol.
What Causes Estrogen Dominance?
There are many causes of estrogen dominance, some of which are related to lifestyle choices. Too much body fat can lead to estrogen dominance because estrogen is produced secondarily in fat cells. Low-fiber diets can also lead to estrogen dominance because fiber is needed to help estrogen leave the body through the bowel. Excessive amounts of stress, which can lead to adrenal fatigue, can also cause hormone imbalances and lead to excess amounts of estrogen in the body.
Impaired liver function can also lead to estrogen dominance. The liver acts as a detoxifying agent in the body, ridding it of harmful chemicals, foods, and excess estrogens. In like manner, the estrogen dominance syndrome can be evoked in women by too much alcohol, drugs or environmental toxins, all of which limit the liver’s capacity to cleanse the blood of estrogen. It has been found that circulating estrogen levels increase significantly in women who drink. In one study, blood and urine estrogen levels increased up to 32 percent in women who drank just two drinks a day.
Stress plays a major role today. Stress causes adrenal gland exhaustion as well as reduced progesterone output. This tilts the estrogen to progesterone ratios in favor of estrogen. Excessive estrogen in turn causes insomnia and anxiety, which further taxes the adrenal glands. This leads to a further reduction in progesterone output and even more estrogen dominance.-
Another cause of estrogen dominance is the many hormones we consume or absorb. Sugar and chemical ingestion in processed foods create chemicals called “xeno-estrogens” (foreign estrogens, discussed further in later sections) in our bodies, stimulating a vicious cycle in which fat cells are enlarged due to these estrogens, and then fat cells make more estrogen in the body.
Increase in coffee consumption. Caffeine intake from all sources is linked with higher estrogen levels regardless of age. Caffeine increases estrogen secretion and leads to depletion of key nutrients like magnesium, vitamin C and B vitamins that are necessary for the process of neutralizing bad estrogen metabolites in the liver.
What Are the Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance?
For adult women, estrogen dominance leads to weight gain, especially in the breasts, waist, and mid-section of the body. Other symptoms of estrogen dominance and/or not enough progesterone are listed below:
Decreased sex drive
Cold hands and feet
Early signs of aging
Weight gain without change in diet or exercise
Lack of motivation
How Do You Remedy Estrogen Dominance?
Adding fiber helps eliminate estrogen from the body. Eating a diet of organic fresh fruits and vegetables and moderate amounts of organic, hormone-free, antibiotic-free meat reduces the number of hormones and pesticides consumed. (Pesticides are also xeno-estrogens.) Eating this diet and exercising will lower body fat, leading to lowered estrogen levels.
Women who are estrogen dominant are also frequently insulin resistant. Lowering the refined carbohydrate intake and balancing the diet with hormone-free proteins, organic vegetables, low-glycemic fruits, and plenty of water will change many of the symptoms of estrogen dominance over time.
Natural Protocols for Estrogen Dominance
The single most important product to use in treating Estrogen Dominance is a substance called DIM, or Diindolylmethane. DIM is found in greens and cruciferous vegetables, especially broccoli and kale, and many studies have shown the need for this substance to help the body use estrogen properly, as well as diminish the effects of excess estrogens. This product works extremely well accompanied by a 3 to 4 week cleanse program. You can turn around insulin resistance and estrogen dominance with this combination.
It isn’t always necessary to use Progesterone, especially if the woman appears to have high cortisol. She most likely will rapidly convert the Progesterone to Cortisol, resulting quickly in bloating and puffiness, water weight gain and discomfort.
For this reason, we recommend lab tests for other factors before we recommend an individualized program. After checking labs we then recommend additional products that we utilize for suggested protocols to include: Tribulus (especially if testosterone is high), black cohosh, white peony, chaste tree, Maca, Hypothalamus glandular, B vitamins (especially B5 and B6), a multi-mineral combination vitamin, Gingko, and Fatty Acids for brain function can help if needed. Lecithin (a phospholipid) and the sulfur-containing L-taurine and L-methionine amino acids are compounds that will promote bile circulation, which enhances estrogen’s excretion out of the body. These lipotropic formulas support the liver metabolism of estrogen. –
Perform aerobic exercise. Research shows that physical activity curtails overproduction of estrogen.
naturopath org AANP
Robin Mayfield, D.C., L.Ac, A.C.N.
Dr. Robert Hoffman