Signs of Estrogen Dominance: What That Means & How to Fix It
By Britni Vincent, RD, LD
October 19, 2021
A woman’s natural lifecycle includes lots of hormone changes. Puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause—the changes never stop! I have a special interest in hormones, after struggling with hormonal imbalance in the past. Hormones are responsible for SO much in the body. Where do you start and how do you know if your hormones are out of balance in the first place? Those are common questions I discuss with my nutrition counseling clients.
I always start by explaining estrogen dominance, which may be a completely new term for you (as it often is for my clients). Estrogen dominance means that your body has too much estrogen in comparison to progesterone. Unfortunately, it’s very common in women of all ages and occurring more frequently even in men (and has been linked to prostate cancer).
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Common Indicators of Estrogen Dominance:
- Acne along jaw line or chin, especially cystic acne
- Headaches/migraines that are triggered by period or ovulation
- Menstrual cramps
- Hot flashes
- Weight gain in hips and thighs
- Uterine fibroids
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Mood changes during menstrual cycle and during perimenopause
How Does A Body Become Estrogen Dominant
Occasionally, estrogen dominance can be due to low progesterone production, which likely means you aren’t ovulating. This naturally occurs during perimenopause and can happen from being on a birth control pill.
Estrogen dominance is when the body has too many unhealthy, artificial estrogens. These artificial estrogens, called xenoestrogens, come from chemicals in our environment that mimic estrogen in the body. However, in some cases, estrogen dominance occurs when you have both low progesterone production and too much estrogen in your body; the combination of the two makes symptoms even worse.
Xenoestrogens are found in many tampons, makeup, plastic, pesticides, and the list goes on and on. The good news is that you can familiarize yourself with where these toxic estrogens hide and reduce your exposure. If you want to learn more about this topic, we recommend reading “Estrogeneration: How Estrogenics Are Making You Fat, Sick, and Infertile” by Anthony G. Jay, Ph. D.
What To Do For Estrogen Dominance
We have helped women and men of all ages rebalance their hormones through diet, lifestyle and supplementation. We look beneath the symptoms to see what is causing the problems. Choices we make on a daily basis can make a profound impact on our health. The human body relies on so many different nutrients to maintain balance. If we are deficient, we are more out of balance and often will experience symptoms. As we work with people, we look at where those deficiencies are and put together a plan that will restore balance.
Our first recommendation is to eat real food. Eating real foods and skipping processed foods all together will help your body eliminate these toxic estrogens through healthy, normal bowel movements. Real foods help by providing the nutrients needed to support your liver and your intestinal track to ensure you’re eliminating the toxins efficiently.
Sugar and processed carbs promote inflammation and cause imbalanced blood sugar. Over time this can cause your hormones to get out of balance too. Consumption of sugar-laden foods causes your blood sugar to rise, which puts a lot of stress on the body. And it’s not just sugary foods, but highly processed carbohydrates like pasta, breads, crackers and pizza that also turn into sugar in the body. High sugar has a negative effect on how the body processes hormones. Most notably, it will create more toxic forms of estrogen which will give a person a lot more menopausal and estrogen dominance symptoms listed above. Keeping your blood sugar balanced is the fundamental piece to balanced hormones.
So how do you keep your blood sugar balanced? You eat a balance of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates at every meal and snack. Here are two particularly important food tips when it comes to balancing hormones:
- Replace those processed carbs with lots of veggies. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage and bok choy are especially beneficial because they help your body detox the harmful estrogens in your body. This will reduce the estrogen dominance. The fiber in veggies also helps to promote a healthy gut, which is a key to hormone balance.
- Fats are necessary for hormone production, so you want to make sure you’re consuming healthy fats such as avocados, olive oil, grass fed butter, unrefined coconut oil, avocado oil and nuts. These healthy fats are also important for balancing blood sugar. Avoid refined oils like canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, vegetable oil and cottonseed oil. These inflammatory fats will not help with healthy hormone production.
Helping your body get rid of toxic estrogens may be difficult to do with just food alone. Here are my go-to products for healthy hormone balance:
Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is a naturally occurring compound that comes from cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, bok choy). In addition to eating these vegetables, a concentrated form of these vegetable compounds can be found in Estro I-3-C. This supplement also contains DIM, a compound that I-3-C creates in the body. The combination of the two in supplement form has been found to be very beneficial. Here are particularly interesting insights from recent research and how I-3-C works in the body:
- Studies have indicated that I-3-C prevents the development of estrogen-enhanced cancers. I-3-C may also kill or inhibit cancer cells directly.
- Estrogen can be metabolized down one of two pathways, one that is healthy and one that can be harmful and increases the risk of certain cancers. I-3-C helps both the gut and liver metabolize estrogen down the healthy pathway.
- I-3-C helps remove the unhealthy estrogen from your cells and helps your liver to remove them from the body.
- I-3-C acts as an antioxidant and reduces levels of free radicals (molecules responsible for aging, tissue damage, and possibly some diseases).
Could your body benefit from Estro I-C-3? If you have some of the signs of estrogen dominance listed above, I would say yes. It can also be beneficial for those individuals who have a family history of breast, cervical or uterine cancer.
Take 1 capsule twice daily. Typically, the symptoms caused by estrogen dominance will start to go away or improve after three to six months of taking Estro I-3-C. I am always amazed at how quickly women notice a difference after they begin taking it. One of my clients had such severe PMS, she described it as having rage and not acting like herself. This went on for up to two weeks a month for her. Within a month of taking Estro I-3-C her mood and other PMS symptoms began to improve and, within three to four months, she didn’t have any negative symptoms relating to her menstrual cycle. Hormones take time to rebalance, so I always recommend trying Estro I-3-C for at least three months. Some individuals may benefit from taking a higher dose and for a longer amount of time. Note: Estro I-3-C may reduce the effectiveness of the birth control pill if you’re using it for contraception
Estro Rebalance helps to promote healthy metabolism of estrogen. The formula uses several highly bioavailable and clinically proven trademarked ingredients including BioFolate®, BioResponse DIM® Complex, and HMRlignan™ to help support balanced estrogen in the body.
Here’s how research suggests it works in the body.
- BioFolate® is the metabolically active form of folic acid supports estrogen balance by promoting healthy homocysteine levels.
- DIM® Complex is more bioavailable than other forms of diindolylmethane (DIM). DIM promotes healthy estrogen metabolism and detoxification of excess estrogen and supports hormone balance.
- HMRlignan™ is a plant lignan that is a phytoestrogen, helping to prevent the negative effects of xenoestrogens.
Could your body benefit from Estro Rebalance? If you have some of the symptoms or conditions associated with estrogen dominance then yes, especially if you have perimenopause or menopause symptoms, such as sleep problems, hot flashes and weight gain. Many women who experience rosacea or adult acne may benefit, too. A client of mine experienced acne that flared around her chin and jawline, and Estro Rebalance did the trick.
Taking 2 capsules daily is beneficial for many people, but some people need more, so it’s best to talk to a nutritionist. Typically, the symptoms caused by estrogen dominance start to go away or improve after three to six months for our clients taking Estro Rebalance. Again, hormones take time to rebalance, so I always recommend trying Estro Rebalance for at least three months. Note: Estro Rebalance may reduce the effectiveness of the birth control pill if you’re using it for contraception
Often times I am asked if there is a supplement that can help balance hormones while in menopause. My advice is always to start with an activated Omega-6 fatty acid from borage seed oil called GLA (gamma linoleic acid). Your body needs adequate amounts of therapeutic Omega-6’s to keep your hormones balanced. Research supports the use of GLA for reducing the severity and frequency of hot flashes, in addition to other benefits like reducing PMS symptoms, enhancing metabolism, and nourishing skin, nails, and hair. The amounts used in these studies for hot flash relief were fairly small, at 500-1,000mg per day.
Could your body benefit from GLA-160? If you experience night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings, increased inflammation, and the roller coaster symptoms of PMS or menopause, give this essential fatty acid a try. One softgel of GLA-160 per day (which is 1,000mg) may be sufficient for some women. Others may need more, especially if they struggle with vaginal dryness or other dry skin, hair, and nails issues in menopause.
No supplement (especially fat-based supplements like this one) can produce overnight results. Many studies used GLA for at least 8 weeks, and we often recommend taking GLA consistently for 3-4 months before re-evaluating your symptoms and potential benefits.
When women stop ovulating, they stop making progesterone. When their ovaries stop making estrogen, the adrenal gland will produce about 40% of the estrogen they need and fat cells also produce estrogen; however, no other organ takes over producing progesterone. So naturally, women become deficient in progesterone. Symptoms of low levels of progesterone are weak bones, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and sleep problems. Progesterone is the relaxing, calming hormone that can help reduce night sweats, increase libido, and helps you stay asleep.
Could your body benefit from a progesterone cream? Progesterone cream is safe and provides long-term as well as short-term benefits. When we are ovulating, our body makes 20mg of progesterone and since there isn’t a way for another part of the body to take on the production of progesterone, supplementing with a natural source, like this one we recommend that’s made from wild yams, is a great idea. Natural progesterone has been used for over 60 years with no negative side effects. Add ¼ to ½ teaspoon of natural progesterone, which is considered bioidentical and not synthetic, over your thyroid, on the inside of your wrists, and other thin-skinned areas at bedtime.
Not sure which vitamins are right for you? Meet with a nutritionist and get a plan just for you!
Hormone Replacement Therapy
It feels important to briefly mention hormone replacement therapy (HRT) when talking about balancing hormones. Many women come to our office desperate for relief; some suffering years with insomnia, hot flashes, depression, and memory loss. There are many different treatment avenues when it comes to hormone balance, but it is amazing how some basic lifestyle factors have profound impacts on how our bodies metabolize hormones.
As a society, the primary way menopause has been addressed is with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). In 2000, HRTs were the second most prescribed medication in the United States, 46 million prescriptions were written in that year alone. As most of us have heard, the Women’s Health Initiative brought out some scary statistics for women who were on a combined hormone medication (estrogen and progesterone). In 2002, an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed:
- 26% increase in breast cancer
- 41% increase in stroke
- 29% increase in heart attacks
- Double the risk of blood clots
When we put these synthetic hormones into our body, they may take away the symptoms, but they do not deal with the issue at hand. Without education women are left confused and frustrated about what options they are left with to treat the symptoms. Since this study by the Women’s Health Initiative, it’s been re-evaluated through the years and clinicians are careful in weighing the risks. Working with clients, we’ve found that managing excess estrogen through food and supplements paired with a bioidentical, natural progesterone naturally supports women through perimenopause and menopause.
Support Your Cycle
When it comes to hormones, there is no one-size-fits-all. Hormones are complicated! To recap, reduce your sugar intake to lower inflammation. Increase your veggies, especially the cruciferous variety, to help support your liver and your digestive system in eliminated harmful estrogens. Eat healthy fat to balance your blood sugar and help your hormone production. Supplement as needed to reduce your symptoms and compliment your real food efforts!
If you have a lot of the symptoms or conditions I mentioned in this article, you may benefit from a one-on-one counseling with me or another one of our nutritionists. During the appointment we would come up with an individualized food plan and recommend specific supplements to rebalance your hormones. Many people benefit from a combination of Estro Rebalance, Estro I-3-C, GLA, and progesterone cream so again it’s helpful to get that individualized support.
Learn more about hormonal connections to your health with these resources:
- Course: The Menopause Survival Seminar
- Listen: Weight Loss Problem - High Estrogen, Perimenopausal Weight Gain, Balance Hormones in your 40s
- Read: 5 Hormone-Related Symptoms That Often Go Ignored
- Inspiration: “I feel so healthy, less anxious and more balanced than I ever have!” Ali’s Story, Hormones Back on Track