Estrogen dominance is one of the most common hormone imbalances in women but may also occur in men.
Hormonal fluctuations are often subtle and change throughout the menstrual cycle. However, more severe symptoms become noticeable when hormones are out of wack.
If you consistently don’t feel well during a particular part of the menstrual cycle, estrogen levels may be disproportionately high.
This article will examine estrogen dominance causes, signs, and symptoms and how to reverse them naturally.
What Is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance means that you have too much estrogen in your body.
The steroid hormone estrogen is essential for female reproductive organs and developing female sexual characteristics.
That is why it is also known as the primary female sex hormone. Nevertheless, estrogen is also naturally present in male bodies. There, it is essential for sexual functioning.
Estrogen’s roles in the female body, on the other hand, are more diverse than most people think (Delgado et al. 20221):
- Breast: Estrogen is responsible for the development of mammary gland tissue. Moreover, it develops the mammary gland ducts during puberty and pregnancy, thus providing breast milk.
- Uterus: The hormone thickens the uterine lining during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle in preparation for pregnancy.
- Sex organs: estrogen is responsible for the growth of the internal and external female sex organs.
- Bones: During puberty, estrogen aids in the development of bones. After menopause, it, in turn, helps prevent osteoporosis.
- Heart: The steroid hormone helps regulate blood lipid levels, which counteracts the risk of coronary heart disease.
- Brain: Estrogen plays a role in higher cognitive functions and synaptic health that extend far beyond its effects on reproduction (Hara et al. 20152).
Estrogen works closely with progesterone, another crucial female sex hormone, to control these processes.
As long as the right amounts of both hormones are in the body, everything runs smoothly. On the contrary, things can get messy when the two sex hormones are unbalanced.
Lastly, a healthy balance of estrogen and progesterone is essential for mood (Schechter 19993).
Against this background, two types of estrogen dominance exist:
- Estrogen levels are too high
- Progesterone levels are too low
Progesteroneone deficiency leads to estrogen excess compared to progesterone, resulting in estrogen dominance.
Estrogen Dominance Symptoms
Too much estrogen in the body can cause a range of side effects that can be mild to severe. Moreover, high estrogen levels affect women and men differently.
Estrogen Dominance Symptoms in Women
- Weight gain (waist, hips, and thighs)
- Breast swelling and tenderness
- Fibrocystic breasts (noncancerous breast lumps)
- Fibroids (noncancerous tumors) in the uterus
- Abnormal uterine bleeding
- Menstrual problems, such as light or heavy bleeding
- Worsening of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Mood swings
- Depression or anxiety
- Low sexual desire
- Stomach cramps
- Hyperpigmentation of the skin
- Hair loss
Estrogen Dominance Symptoms in Men
The male body also produces the female sex hormone. For men, estrogen is just as instrumental to health.
When testosterone and estrogen are out of healthy balance, a man’s sexual development and function can be impaired.
Accordingly, too much estrogen in men can cause the following (Davidge-Pitts et al. 20226):
- Enlarged breasts (gynecomastia)
- Loss of sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Dry skin
Estrogen Dominance Test
If your doctor suspects that you may have high estrogen levels, she will probably order a blood test.
In this case, a blood sample will be taken and tested in a lab. The results of the estrogen dominance test will show whether your blood estrogen levels are too low or too high. Blood estrogen levels are measured in pictograms per milliliter (pg/ml).
What Causes Estrogen Dominance?
Here are the five most common causes of estrogen dominance:
Diet plays an essential role in hormonal health. Sugar and other refined carbohydrates, such as those found in most baked goods, significantly affect hormone balance.
Our Western high-carbohydrate diet drives insulin levels to unprecedented heights, lowering sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), another vital hormone (Daka et al. 20137).
As the name suggests, the primary role of SHBG is to bind estrogen (and testosterone) in the blood, keeping it in balance.
By decreasing SHBG, there is not enough of it to bind estrogen in the blood, and estrogen levels rise disproportionately (Laurent et al. 20168).
This way, regular consumption of sweets can trigger a domino effect and throw multiple hormones out of balance.
Also, other health conditions characterized by high insulin levels are often associated with estrogen dominance.
In these cases, the high-carbohydrate Western Pattern Diet (WPD) is the root cause of hyperinsulinemia, which can lower SHBG.
2. Body Fat
According to studies that have found higher estrogen levels in obese women, excess body fat increases estrogen activity, associated with increased breast cancer risk (Esfahlan et al. 201111).
Particularly in postmenopausal women, body fat can cause problems in this regard.
Before menopause, estrogen is mainly formed in the ovaries. After menopause, however, fat cells instead of the ovaries are the primary estrogen producer.
As body fat increases, so does estrogen production (Cleary et al. 200912).
For this reason, overweight postmenopausal women run the risk of developing estrogen dominance.
Stress affects many functions in the body, but it has the most significant effect on hormone balance.
The fastest way stress can lead to estrogen dominance is by stealing pregnenolone. Pregnenolone is the precursor to most steroid hormones, including sex and stress hormones.
Stress triggers the fight-or-flight response, a process mobilizing energy to deal with a threat.
As the body’s primary stress hormone, cortisol is instrumental in this stress response. Therefore, the body preferentially uses available pregnenolone for cortisol production under the influence of stress.
Since only a limited amount of pregnenolone is available, chronic stress decreases the production of other steroid hormones such as progesterone, estrogen, or testosterone (Ezeani et al. 201313).
If stress lowers estrogen and progesterone production, how can it cause estrogen dominance?
Progesterone is likewise a precursor needed to produce estrogen, testosterone, or cortisol. After stress increases progesterone use for cortisol production, progesterone levels drop more than estrogen levels.
As a result, estrogen dominance develops by throwing the ratio of the two sex hormones out of balance.
4. Personal Care Products
Many personal care products contain xenoestrogens, chemicals that can mimic estrogen in your body. They can bind to estrogen receptors and activate them, upsetting the hormonal system (Singleton et al. 200314).
Two groups of these endocrine disruptors are commonly used in personal care products:
- UV filters: These estrogenic substances are commonly found in sunscreens. They include benzophenones, camphor derivatives, and cinnamate derivatives. UV filters can disrupt estrogen and testosterone balance (Wang et al. 201615).
- Parabens: Together with other co-formulants in creams and lotions, parabens can impair male reproductive functions and increase women’s breast and skin cancer risk by estrogenic stimulation (Darbre et al. 200816).
Plastic containers often contain chemicals that exert estrogen-like effects on the body (Yang et al. 201117).
The best known of these endocrine disruptors is bisphenol A (BPA). It is used in plastic bottles, food packaging, dental materials, or even added to the lining of canned foods.
Long-term exposure to this xenoestrogen increases the risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, infertility, and cancer (Lazurova et al. 201318).
As a result, many companies have moved to stop using BPA in plastics. Nevertheless, being labeled BPA-free is not enough to avoid xenoestrogens.
According to studies, BPA substitutes such as acrylic, polystyrene, polyethersulfone, and Tritan™ resins also have an estrogen-like effect on the body (Bittner et al. 201419).
Accordingly, plastic-free containers like glass and stainless steel are better for your health and the environment.
How to Reverse Estrogen Dominance Naturally
Hormonal issues can be frustrating. The good news is that several natural methods exist to regulate hormone balance.
For estrogen dominance that is not due to a specific medical condition, doctors may recommend lifestyle changes to combat it.
Restoring hormonal balance involves limiting estrogen exposure and directing excess estrogen out of the body.
Here are the best tips to reverse estrogen dominance naturally:
Estrogen Dominance Diet
Lifestyle changes can help lower estrogen levels. And the most effective lever among them is diet.
1. Reduce Sugar Consumption
No matter how we turn the page, sugar is unhealthy. And one of its worst properties is that it also makes you crave even more carbs (Teff et al. 200420).
Moreover, sugar is one of the most pro-inflammatory foods.
However, not only foods and beverages sweetened with sugar but also other refined carbohydrates promote inflammation in the body (Buyken et al. 201421).
Refined means that the food has been separated from the natural dietary fiber, widely processed and preserved.
Accordingly, here is just a small overview of these pro-inflammatory foods:
- Sports drinks
- Energy drinks
- Sweetened tea and coffee beverages
In contrast to these processed foods, various natural foods can inhibit instead of promoting inflammation.
2. Focus on Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Inflammation in the body can increase the activity of an estrogen-synthesizing enzyme called aromatase. In short, the higher the levels of inflammation, the more estrogen is produced.
Consequently, high aromatase activity due to chronic inflammation increases breast cancer risk due to excessive estrogen production (Zahid et al. 201625).
Healthy fats play a supporting role in reducing inflammation. Therefore, it is an essential step to exchange pro-inflammatory seed oils for the following fats with anti-inflammatory properties:
- Olive oil: extra virgin olive oil has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and cancer risk-reducing effects (Notarnicola et al. 201126).
- Coconut oil: The fatty acids in cold-pressed virgin coconut oil exert solid anti-inflammatory properties (Intahphuak et al. 201027).
- Grass-fed butter: Compared to regular butter, the pasture variety contains more micronutrients and significantly more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids (Couvreur et al. 200628).
In addition to reducing refined seed oils containing omega-6 fatty acids (e.g., soybean, sunflower, corn oil), natural omega-3 fatty acids consumption is the second step to reduce inflammation.
Finally, the Standard American Diet (SAD) causes a highly pro-inflammatory omega-3 to omega-6 ratio of only 1:17 on average (Singh et al. 201029).
The best foods to improve your omega-3 intake are fatty fish and seafood, such as:
They contain EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). Besides inflammation, these most potent omega-3 fatty acids also help reduce body fat (Mater et al. 199930).
Hence, they help reduce estrogen dominance in two ways.
3. Eat Cruciferous Vegetables
These all-rounders combine numerous benefits when it comes to healthy estrogen levels. This particular family of vegetables includes:
- Brussels sprouts
Cruciferous vegetables contain three active ingredients at once that can naturally regulate estrogen levels:
- Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C): These plant compounds can help remove excess estrogen from the body. Studies even suggest that cruciferous vegetables may protect against hormone-dependent cancers such as breast cancer in women (Michnovicz et al. 199131).
- Dietary fiber: Although cabbage vegetables are generally low in carbohydrates, they are rich in dietary fiber, which helps to lower estrogen levels while progesterone levels remain unaffected (Rose et al. 199132).
- Phytoestrogens: Lignans in cruciferous vegetables may block estrogen action and increase SHBG, regulating estrogen levels. In addition, the antiestrogenic effects may help reduce the risk of hormone-related cancers, such as breast, uterine, or ovarian (Wang 200233).
Other good sources of these phytoestrogens are flaxseeds and berries.
Supplements for Estrogen Dominance
Although I am not an advocate of supplements, taking high-quality omega-3 supplements can be helpful to reverse estrogen dominance for the following reasons:
- No other supplements have been so extensively researched
- High-quality fish and seafood are costly
- If you live far from the sea, like me, they are hard to get as well
Accordingly, studies demonstrate the reduction of body weight and body mass index (BMI) of overweight women by taking fish oil (Kunesova et al. 200635).
In addition, marine omega-3 fats combat harmful fat deposits in the liver (Neschen et al. 200236).
And the latter is ultimately responsible for draining excess estrogen from the body.
In addition, women were able to gain significant muscle mass with the help of just two grams of fish oil per day (Rodacki et al. 201237).
However, krill oil has surpassed fish oil as an omega-3 supplement. Why?
The tiny shrimp-like crustacean is at the bottom of the food chain. Therefore, krill oil is free from contaminants ingested by other marine animals.
In addition, the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA cannot be absorbed more efficiently from any other source (Ulven et al. 201138).
In short, krill oil provides the same benefits as fish oil but at a lower dosage. Therefore, the current best omega-3 supplement you can buy online, in my opinion, is Antarctic Krill Oil.
Nonetheless, I would prefer natural, fatty fish over supplements any day, if you can get it.
Treating Estrogen Dominance Naturally
Preventing and combating estrogen dominance starts where it usually originates: In everyday life. Conscious lifestyle interventions can naturally reduce the causes of estrogen dominance.
1. Raise Awareness
Your consumer behavior can play a significant role in preventing estrogen dominance.
While it’s difficult to avoid plastic altogether, choosing more environmentally friendly alternatives becomes easier.
When buying plastic, make sure the packaging is labeled BPA-free.
If possible, store food in reusable glass containers and BPA-free water bottles to minimize exposure to xenoestrogens.
Think about reducing their consumption after creams, lotions, and other personal care products contain loads of hormone-damaging chemicals.
Always pay attention to the ingredients or reach for less durable natural cosmetics.
2. Manage Stress
Stress and sex hormones are closely related. Finally, steroid hormones share precursors.
Getting a handle on the primary stress hormone cortisol positively affects estrogen and progesterone levels.
Some of the best scientifically proven methods for stress reduction include:
- Adequate sleep (Leproult et al. 199739)
- Meditation (Klimes-Dougan al. 201940)
- Yoga (Pascoe et al. 201741)
In addition, exercise generally helps reduce stress. It loosens muscle spindles and thus interrupts the stress feedback loop to the brain.
3. Reduce Alcohol
Last but not least, alcohol should not go completely unmentioned. It distracts the liver from other metabolic and detoxification tasks, including eliminating excess estrogen from the body.
This way, the liver helps balance sex hormones naturally.
In this context, regular exercise can’t hurt either. Exercise helps improve your liver function.
Medication Is Not the Only Estrogen Dominance Treatment
High estrogen levels have a variety of causes, from diet to cosmetics to everyday stress. It is also often a combination of these factors.
If you experience any unusual symptoms or conditions, you should contact the doctor you trust.
The good news is that you can reverse estrogen dominance and feel better with lifestyle changes.
Developing an awareness of avoiding hormone-disrupting substances in plastics and skin creams is the first step in the right direction. Stress-reducing activities such as yoga also help manage too much estrogen in the body.
Using diet to lower insulin levels is ultimately the most effective way to reverse estrogen dominance naturally.
This way, SHBG can do its job of keeping estrogen levels in check (Daka et al. 201342).
There are two ways to do this without medication:
- Intermittent fasting
- Ketogenic diet
A low-carbohydrate diet rich in healthy fats prevents insulin levels from rising and reduces inflammation in the body.
And high levels of inflammation are associated with increased estrogen secretion (Zahid et al. 201643).
Intermittent fasting has the same anti-inflammatory benefits and ensures that insulin levels remain in the basement for longer. This way, also body fat is reduced, which contributes to estrogen dominance (Cleary et al. 200944).
In my book Intermittent Fasting 101: The Science-Backed Beginner’s Guide to Lose Weight Without Dieting and Working Out, you’ll learn to regulate your hormone balance naturally and start feeling better today!
Estrogen Dominance FAQ
What are symptoms of being estrogen dominant?
Symptoms of estrogen dominance range from mild mood swings to weight gain to abnormal uterine bleeding.
What happens when you are estrogen dominant?
When your estrogen is too high or progesterone is too low, you may experience mood swings, nausea, breast pain, menstrual problems, or low sex drive.
How can I reduce estrogen dominance?
You can reverse estrogen dominance naturally by reducing carbohydrate intake, managing stress, avoiding plastic packaging and skin creams.
What causes too much estrogen in females?
The most common causes of excessive estrogen in females are sugar and other refined carbohydrates, excess body fat, xenoestrogens in plastics and skin creams, and chronic stress.
Studies click to expand!
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