Estrogen dominance happens when you have too much of bad estrogen, or when you have toxic estrogen metabolites from poor metabolism or even when you have too much estrogen in comparison to progesterone. When it comes to hormones, it is all about balance.
10 Signs That You Have Estrogen Dominance
Don’t demonize estrogen. It’s all about balance!
Estrogen is a hormone produced by ovaries, adrenals and fat cells. Men also have estrogen but in smaller amounts. It is also produced in small amounts by your liver and breasts. Estrogen is what gives you your breasts, hips, buttocks and thighs. It can become your friend or foe, based on the relation to progesterone and how your body is metabolising estrogen.
Progesterone maintains your endometrium, protects your breasts, supports sleep, facilitates thyroid hormones, prevents cycel related migraines and is an anti depressant.
Remember when it comes to your hormones, it is all about balance. You can be low in estrogen and still be estrogen dominant. As you age, your estrogen starts to decline, but progesterone declines even faster, making you estrogen dominant. Many symptoms and conditions are caused by this estrogen dominance. So what are the signs that you have estrogen dominance?
PMS and Pain
Estrogen dominance makes you have uncomfortable PMS symptoms, ranging from water retention to acne to pain. If you struggle with symptoms through different phases of your cycle, then you could be estrogen dominant. These symptoms can be before your period, during your period, after your period and during ovulation. This might look different for different people, but it is important to look deeper. Specific signs that you have estrogen dominance are if PMS symptoms range from anxiety to water retention. You can read more about specific PMS here.
Estrogen feeds conditions like fibroids, endometriosis and PCOS. Estrogen dominance can cause heavy bleeding and very painful cramps. When your uterus is trying it’s best to support you, it can cramp unusually in an attempt to release. This can be debilitating and deeply impactful to many areas of your life. If you do struggle with heavy periods, do not ignore it as normal.
If you are a woman who is still menstruating and your blood sugar is imbalanced and your Estrogen and Progesterone are not in balance, then your tendency to develop cellulite is greater. As you move towards menopause, and estrogen levels drop, this imbalance can further exacerbate. Further, drop in estrogen levels can reduce blood towards connective tissue, causing it to become more rigid and tightening over those fat pockets. You can read more about cellulite here.
Irritability, mood swings and anxiety:
Progesterone is your calming hormone. When you ovulate and produce adequate progesterone, it also helps your brain to release neurotransmitters such as GABA, which help you feel calm, relaxed and without anxiety. Estrogen dominance makes you feel on the edge. It can increase mood swings at many times of the month, make you more anxious and irritable. it can also make you feel exaggerated emotions such as jealousy, overwhelm and sadness.
Migraines and headaches:
I’ve seen many women struggle with headaches and migraines that are traumatic and terribly painful. For some women, it can be post a period, for others it can be during ovulation or as part of PMS. Estrogen dominance triggers an increased risk for cyclical headaches. The answer is not to have a strip of painkillers in your handbag. A lot of women are always popping pain killers, which can in fact increase estrogen dominance as they put a load on the liver, which then impacts estrogen metabolism. Instead, explore this as a symptom. Progesterone prevents cyclical migraines.
Progesterone is your calming hormone. It helps you sleep. Estrogen dominance causes insomnia, both as sleep onset insomnia where you cannot fall asleep, and sleep maintenance insomnia where you wake up and cannot go back to sleep. This can get all the more worse at cyclical times, based on that flow and cascade of both hormones.
Impairs blood sugar control:
Many women struggle with blood sugar balance. it can be so severe that a fruit can tip the scales to headaches and insomnia. Progesterone helps stabilise blood sugar and estrogen impairs blood sugar control. This is the reason that estrogen dominance causes severe fluctuations in blood sugar, which in turn increases estrogen dominance in a vicious cycle.
Estrogen and libido share a converse axis. When estrogen is dominant then libido is low. One of the signs that you do not have estrogen dominance is when you have a healthy libido. You might have thought that it is simply your age, but when your libido starts to decline, it’s a big sign of estrogen dominance.
Fat around the hips:
A classic symptom of estrogen dominance is having heavy hips. If you struggle with squats and your trainer is making you do a lot of work on reducing the fat around your hips, think again. It can actually stress the adrenal hormones and increase estrogen dominance.
Breast pain and swollen breasts:
Estrogen dominance makes your breasts swollen, lumpy and painful. it can also lead to fibrocystic breasts. Do you find your breasts swelling up at certain times of the month? This is because estrogen stimulates breast cells. It can also increase risk for breast cancer.
Causes of Estrogen dominance:
What actually causes estrogen to be dominant? as I mentioned before, estrogen dominance can happen because it is not in balance with progesterone and if you are having problems with metabolising estrogen metabolites. This can happen because your liver is congested with toxic overload and if you struggle with constipation. But there are many reasons why you become estrogen dominant.
Birth control pills!
One of the greatest culprits for estrogen dominance is the birth control pill. It can also wreak havoc on overall health by depleting nutrients and causing multiple symptoms. You might need some form of birth control pills and I respect that, but the pills can really challenge hormonal health.
Phytoestrogens and xenoestrogens:
Phytoestrogens are plant estrogens which many claim do not cause a problem. But for someone who is struggling with symptoms of estrogen dominance, they can tip the scales. Phytoestrogens are found in soy and sesame seeds, and occupy the space in estrogen receptors. This causes estrogen to become further dominant. Xenoestrogens are found in the environment in plastics, pthalates and mimic estrogen activity.
I am fascinated by the liver’s role in health. Your liver is the major organ of detoxification. When you overload toxins from outside and inside, it struggles to cope, and then prioritises cleaning up toxins over estrogens. Hair colour, parabens, plastics, chemicals, BPA and so many other toxins thrown at the liver, all contribute to estrogen dominance.
Belly fat can increase estrogen dominance as the fat around the belly can mimic endocrine activity. The answer is not to do hundred crunches but rather work on gentle optimisation of hormones.
Cortisol and progesterone are both made from cholesterol. When you have excessive stress, your body will choose to make cortisol over progesterone. This will cause a cascade of imbalance leading to estrogen dominance.
Poor gut flora and dysbiosis:
Your gut has a specific set of microbes that help estrogen metabolism. The estrobolome in your microbiome helps you metabolise estrogen. Impact to the estrobolome from frequent antibiotics and medication can cause dysbiosis within the microbiome, leading to estrogen dominance.
High sugar and low fibre diet:
When you eat a high sugar diet without fibre, you have poor elimination. Constipation causes buildup of estrogen, as your body reabsorbs estrogen metabolites from this congestion in the colon. Fibre and healthy elimination is critical to releasing estrogen metabolites and preventing estrogen dominance.
There are some genes that can cause estrogen dominance such as COMT, MAO and MTHFR. But rather than run expensive genetic tests trying to figure this out, it’s more important to prioritise epigenetic factors. You have a big role to play through food and lifestyle choices. I would suggest focusing on those instead.
Ways to reduce estrogen dominance:
Every fat can be beneficial when used in the right way. While most healthy fats can be used for cooking, I advise staying with avocado oil, mustard oil, butter, ghee and coconut oil for high heat cooking. Use olive oil and sesame oil raw for the best benefits.
High fibre diet:
The first thing you can do for reducing estrogen dominance is to eat more fibre. Fibre is found in plant foods, and the more vegetables and fruits you can eat, the better. Fibre allows you to instantly improve elimination allowing for release of estrogen metabolites. Think of adding plant foods in every colour!
Many deficiencies can increase estrogen dominance. It is important that you eat a diet that is as diverse as possible, avoiding restriction of any kind. This allows you to derive a wide range of macronutrients and micronutrients. Think of taking a high qaulity multivitamin. You can read about how to choose the right one here.
Avoid low fat diets:
For your body to produce both estrogen and progesterone, you require high quality healthy fats from ghee, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocados and coconut milk. Eating a low fat diet impacts the health of hormones severely.
I cannot stress about stress. Even if you do not do anything else, if you bring in practices such as meditation that improve your resilience to stress, you will reduce estrogen dominance. Stress steals progesterone and impacts hormones. Choose breathwork, meditation, dancing, singing and anything else that makes you release stress.
Exercise and fat loss:
Choosing the right form of exercise that does not stress your adrenals is wonderful for improving hormonal health. It moves around your lymph, allowing you to optimise detoxification and supports healthy hormones.
Support liver detoxification:
Even if you cannot do anything else, avoid using hair colours and getting tattoos. Hair colours are so widely used and they are one of the greatest triggers for estrogen dominance. Throw the junk out and you will metabolise estrogen much better.
You can also read more about estrogen dominance here.