Estrogen Dominance: Causes, Symptoms & 7 Ways to Naturally Reverse It

The modern day trend of estrogen dominance in women is why I find it alarming that people automatically connect a woman’s age with their hormonal status.

Let me explain: because this has happened to me many a time - a woman approaching the menopause which actually could be anything from 35 to late 50s (that’s a big age bracket) would from a conventional perspective be low in estrogen and of course progesterone and testosterone too.

In theory, yes when a woman’s estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are all low, this is quite possible.

But in reality this is very often not the case. I meet an awful lot of hormonally imbalanced women, presenting with estrogen dominance symptoms.

Estrogen Dominance - Hormonal Picture:

  • High estrogen levels (irrelevant of age - could even be post menopausal)
  • Low in progesterone and probably low in testosterone
  • Cortisol - consistently high
  • Low thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism)
  • Unbalanced insulin levels

What is Estrogen Dominance?

Estrogen dominance

Estrogen dominance is a state in which estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are out of balance.

The most common scenario is where estrogen levels are very high. This excess estrogen occurs because the body is making too much, it’s coming from an external source, or it’s recirculating because the body isn’t sufficiently detoxifying estrogen.

In another scenario, estrogen levels may be high or even normal, but progesterone and testosterone are low, so the ratio of estrogen to progesterone and testosterone is high because of the rapid decrease in progesterone and testosterone production.

This means that estrogen dominance is very common in perimenopause and menopause, which conflicts with conventional thinking that associates both of these stages in a woman’s life to low estrogen levels.

Even in post-menopause, estrogen continues to be made by fat (think, excess fat around the midriff area), liver, brain, adrenal glands, hair, skin and bone marrow.

Progesterone also continues to be made by your ovaries, brain and peripheral nerves post-menopause. But again, at lower levels than in reproductive years.

Whether you are pre-menopausal or post-menopausal, the need to keep your progesterone and estrogen levels balanced is important.

Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance

  • Abnormal menstrual cycle
  • Breast tenderness
  • Bloating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Endometriosis
  • Fatigue
  • Fibroids
  • Hair loss
  • Headaches
  • Heavy periods
  • Hot flashes/ Night Sweats
  • Infertility
  • Irritability
  • Miscarriages
  • Moodiness
  • Painful periods
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Weight gain around the middle

A note about hypothyroidism - Too much estrogen also suppresses thyroid hormone and increases your need for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), while progesterone stimulates thyroid hormone.

So, excess estrogen levels and low progesterone levels can cause hypothyroidism. This is often why many women start to experience thyroid problems with hormonal imbalance.

What Causes Estrogen Dominance?

Estrogen dominance can occur due to a number of factors, including:

1. The Contraceptive Pill

The contraceptive pill floods the body with high doses of artificial estrogen and progesterone, which turns off the natural production of hormones, preventing ovulation.

Women who don't ovulate don’t produce progesterone. This hormonal imbalance situation can lead to estrogen dominance.

2. Conventional Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)

In a recent survey more than 60% of women said they wanted to support their menopause naturally.

The synthetic hormones often prescribed in perimenopause and menopause for uncomfortable symptoms, can lead to estrogen dominance in much the same way as hormonal birth control.

Conventional HRT provides high levels of synthetic estrogen, which the body finds harder to get rid of than natural hormones and all medications have side effects.

Essentially, synthetic HRT eliminates symptoms but does nothing to replace the hormones women lose.

3. Chemical Estrogens

Not only are we exposed to estrogen from internal hormone production, but also through skin, beauty and household products, pesticides, processed foods, plastics and water...

Certain chemicals, called xenoestrogens, can mimic estrogen in the body. It’s possible that exposure to these chemicals may increase TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) too and trigger the autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto's) process.

4. Excess Body Fat

Excess body fat can be a source of estrogen, as fat cells produce an excess of estrogen. The more fat you store, the more your estrogen levels can increase.

What’s more, these same cells have the ability to convert testosterone into estrogen through an enzyme called aromatase.

This is something to pay attention to for women in the menopausal and post menopausal years. As the ovaries decrease and then cease estrogen production, fat cells may try to take over.

5. Poor Liver Function

Estrogen is metabolized in the liver through 3 pathways. The pathway these metabolites take determine whether the estrogen metabolites are protective and beneficial or symptom-causing and antagonistic.

If your liver isn’t functioning optimally and you’re not eliminating estrogen through the colon, it can lead to a build-up of estrogen.

The metabolism of these estrogens is largely dependent on the health and efficiency of your liver and the digestive tract, though genetics play a role as well.

6. Constipation

Slow gut motility sets the scene for inefficient elimination of the metabolized hormones and re-circulation of estrogen throughout the body.

This prevents the endocrine glands from producing more “fresh” hormones for the body to use, and leads to a buildup of estrogen, making it challenging to lower estrogen levels.

7. Insulin & Cortisol Imbalance

These two hormones are involved with stress responses and blood sugar levels in your body. If they become imbalanced they can affect other hormones in your body and disrupt how they work, in particular your ovarian, thyroid, progesterone, testosterone and sleep hormones.

8. Genetics

Family genes can impact how well you metabolize estrogen.

For example, the COMT gene provides instructions for estrogen to be processed through a protective pathway. When stressed, the body will make more adrenalin, which makes it harder for the slow COMT enzyme to break down hormones.

A lot of women who struggle with estrogen dominance have the slow COMT enzyme gene. I have this gene, which is just one reason why I wouldn't take synthetic hormones.

9. Gut Dysbiosis

You may not be aware of this but the gut ecosystem in your digestive tract is also responsible for regulating estrogen levels.

Gut microbiome imbalances set the scene for estrogens to be recirculated in the body rather than excreted.

When they are recirculated back into the bloodstream, these estrogens are in a more toxic form than when they entered your liver in the first instance.

The collection of microbes in your gut that’s job is to metabolize estrogens into estrogen metabolites are called estrobolome. These microbes produce beta-glucuronidase, an enzyme that de-conjugates estrogens into their active forms.

When the gut ecosystem is imbalanced or the gut is inflamed, beta-glucuronidase activity is altered.

This can be a huge factor in a woman’s exposure to circulating estrogens and the health problems associated with this whether it’s low or high levels of circulating estrogens.

So, a healthy, balanced gut microbiome is important for proper beta-glucuronidase activity, which allows the body to eliminate excess estrogen.

It’s therefore critical to address any dysbiosis or imbalances in your gut microbiome to reverse and protect against estrogen dominance.

7 Ways to Naturally Reverse Estrogen Dominance

Estrogen dominance is a common issue, but thankfully there are steps that can be taken to reduce estrogen naturally.

1. Support your Liver

To metabolize estrogen appropriately and efficiently you’ll want to avoid and reduce your toxin exposure, especially alcohol.

This includes chemical estrogens by switching to natural brands for your toiletries & cosmetics, and eating organic to limit your exposure to pesticides.

Eat sufficient cruciferous vegetables which contain glucosinolates, that are responsible for the detoxification process in the liver. Some cruciferous vegetables include - kale, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and rocket.

2. Burn Excess Fat & Maintain a Healthy Weight

If you’re carrying excess fat especially around your middle you’re likely to be estrogen dominant irrelevant of your hormonal status. Losing weight can be hard especially as you get older.

Calorie deprivation slows your metabolism further and makes things worse as your body starts to store more fat.

Weight loss unfortunately isn’t as simple as burning the calories you’ve consumed through exercise either.

To shed excess fat your body needs to be in a healthy place, so it’s about working out the cause(s) of your weight gain in the first place and tackling this.

3. Manage Insulin Levels

When there is too much insulin in your system, your body produces too much sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). If there is too much SHBG, estrogen production will rise and lead to dominance.

Reduce stress and eliminate added sugar. Sugar plays a big role in estrogen dominance due to its association with insulin.

Where possible, eliminate foods with added sugars from your diet. White starches also fall under this category because when you ingest them, your body quickly converts them into glucose, which is a simple sugar.

I realise this is probably the least favourite tip of all but there are plenty of ways to do this - healthy sugar detox tips

4. Optimal Levels of Nutrients Are Crucial

There are numerous reasons as to why your body may be lacking all the micro and macro nutrients it needs to produce and metabolize estrogen properly.

These include flaws in diet whether that’s due to a lack of nutrient rich food, lack of diversity within the diet or too much of the wrong foods.

For example, the body requires B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, Omega 3 oils and protein to effectively metabolize estrogen. If you are lacking in these vitamins and minerals, then estrogen levels will likely increase.

Secondly, if your gut health is compromised in any way, poor digestion will deplete your body of nutrients and as a result negatively impact nutrient absorption in the small intestine.

5. Increase Your Awareness of Problematic Foods

Estrogen dominance in women may sometimes come from consuming too many hormones or pesticides.

Meat, especially beef and chicken may contain excessive synthetic hormones.

Additionally, inorganic foods may have pesticides which could lead to estrogen excesses. Eat the highest-quality food you can afford.

6. Restorative Mind-Body Practices

Chronic stress can cause HPATG (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-gonadal-thyroid) axis imbalance or dysregulation, which can deplete progesterone and create imbalance in estrogen receptor sensitivity.

Even if you don’t feel stressed, ongoing, unresolved physiological stress will still be interpreted by the body as chronic stress.

Things like gut infections, leaky gut syndrome, sluggish detoxification, adrenal fatigue. This is why I always advocate daily restorative breaks.

They are, I feel - an essential part of any healthy lifestyle even when you don’t feel mentally stressed..

7. Supplements

Supplements can be tricky because while they absolutely do not replace a healthy diet or lifestyle, they can definitely fill in gaps and increase your nutrient intake.

Be extremely careful when choosing which brand of supplement to take.

It’s better to start with a good multivitamin instead of taking one-off doses of vitamin C, B vitamins, or D.

If you’re going to take one thing, take a high-quality multi-vitamin. You’ll get much better value for money, and it’s more balanced for your health.

These CellSentials* are the ones I recommend due to their pharmaceutical grade quality and ability to support optimal cellular health through a natural process called cell signaling. *For a 10% discount on the CellSentials click here and select your country.

Whatever you take, do your research and get to know the company. Many supplements are not standardized and are filled with contaminants, rice powder etc.

You get what you pay for, so only buy pharmaceutical grade ones to avoid wasting money.

Hormone Health Testing & Support

I use a Complete Hormone Panel test with clients concerned about hormonal imbalance that tracks estrogen metabolism and overall hormonal health.

To learn more about hormone testing and working with me to support your hormone health naturally, contact me and book a 15 minute free discovery call.

Do comment below if you found this post helpful.

Nicola x

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Meet Nicola - blog posts

Meet Nicola

Hello, I'm a Holistic Nutritionist, Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner and Pain & Stress Management Therapist with heaps of experience of helping others tweak and transform their health and life. 

Let's work together to optimise how you look, feel and function for better wellness and health.

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