Understanding Estrogen Dominance
By Brenna Thompson, MS, RD, LD
October 11, 2016
Hormone fluctuations that often lead to PMS, bloating, fluid retention, and breast tenderness are usually thought of as a normal part of being a woman. These symptoms, however, may be a sign of high estrogen levels or estrogen dominance. The hormone estrogen may have you thinking this is just a female issue, but men are also impacted by estrogen dominance.
Although excess estrogen in the body can lead to health issues, there are things you can do to avoid it. Read on to learn more.
Health Concerns Associated with Excess Estrogen Levels
Today, girls as young as 9 and 10 are starting to menstruate, much earlier than the typical age of 13. Other signs of excess estrogen in women include irregular menstrual cycles, endometriosis, infertility, and hormonal headaches. A body sign of high estrogen is excess weight around the hips, thighs and low abdomen, and difficulty losing weight. For some women, estrogen dominance takes a more serious and life-threatening form, such as breast, endometrial or uterine cancer. Autoimmune disorders including lupus and thyroiditis have also been linked to estrogen dominance and other hormone imbalances.
Men may experience loss of sex drive, increased abdominal fat, enlarged prostate and prostate cancer. In fact, estrogen is a key contributor to 50% of all prostate cancer cases.
Sources of Estrogen
Why are so many people becoming estrogen dominant these days? There are a few different causes:
Toxic estrogens, called xenoestrogens, lead to estrogen dominance in both men and women. Xenoestrogens come from things you may come in contact with everyday including plastic water bottles, home-cleaning chemicals, pesticides and herbicides, as well as industrial chemicals that can be found in the air and water. Common names for these chemicals are DDT, PCB, and sulfates used as foaming agents. Although you are not likely to eat these products, simply having contact with them day after day can add up to a toxic load over time in your body.
Xenoestrogens can also be found in food sources, mainly pork, beef, and dairy cows that have been given growth hormones orally or through injections. Although it is illegal to treat chickens with growth hormones, most chickens raised in confinement are given antibiotics. The antibiotics used to prevent illness in all livestock are stored in their fat, so when you eat these products antibiotic residues can lead to hormone imbalances and estrogen dominance.
Prescription medication with hormones
Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy can also cause estrogen dominance. Interestingly, the symptoms many women experience with estrogen dominance are masked by these medications. These medications keep estrogen levels consistently high so that hormone fluctuations are not felt and symptoms appear to subside. However, the cause of the symptoms—high estrogen—has not been addressed only masked.
Just being overweight or obese can lead to high estrogen levels in the body. Excess weight creates and stores excess estrogen in both men and women.
Eliminating Excess Estrogen from Your Body
It is important to eliminate excess estrogen daily. As a nutritionist, I recommend:
- Getting eight to nine hours of sleep each night.
- Drinking eight to twelve glasses (8oz. each) of water daily. Make sure it's filtered (not straight out of the tap).
- Exercising several times each week.
- Consuming a variety of vegetables, especially leafy green vegetables daily.
Supplements That Can Help
When clients have symptoms of high estrogen, I often recommend specific supplements to help them eliminate the excess estrogens.
Often I start with Estrofactors®. This product contains non-soy isoflavones which help relieve premenstrual symptoms including cramping and breast tenderness, as well as hot flashes associated with menopause. Other nutrients including turmeric, rosemary, and resveratrol help the liver convert highly-active forms of estrogen into less active and less damaging forms. However, women taking birth control pills for birth control need to be aware that Estrofactors can make their medication less effective, increasing the risk of pregnancy.
Women who are at risk for breast or cervical cancer and women taking hormone replacement therapy may benefit from the protective qualities of Meta I3C®. Indole-3-carbinol (I3C) is a compound naturally found in cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage and Brussels sprouts. Similar to Estrofactors, this product helps the liver breakdown harmful estrogens.
For clients who enjoy smoothies, I may have them use Estrium® Whey protein in our protein shake recipe. This protein powder contains many vitamins and minerals vital to liver health and estrogen detox. To increase its estrogen detox potency, try blending in extra veggies such as beet greens or baby spinach.
Start Ridding Your Body of Excess Estrogen
In the coming days and weeks, how are you going to reduce your exposure to excess estrogen?
Here are some easy ways to start:
- Pack leftovers in glass containers instead of plastic.
- Eat a variety of green vegetables every day. I like to sauté kale for a breakfast frittata, pack a large spinach salad for lunch at work, snack on cauliflower and broccoli in the afternoon, and serve braised purple cabbage at supper.
- Eat grass-fed meat and free range poultry whenever it is available.
- Drink eight to twelve glasses of filtered water daily.
- Reduce or eliminate sugar and processed carbs.
- Get eight to nine hours of sleep each night.
- Make sure you get some physical activity in each week.
If you have symptoms of estrogen dominance listen our Dishing Up Nutrition episode to learn more, or call our office to schedule a consultation for personalized solutions.