It seems like women are always dealing with hormonal changes and imbalances. Puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause – the changes never stop! 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 patients.
I always start by explaining estrogen dominance, which may be a completely new term for you (as it often is for my patients). Estrogen dominance means that your body has too much estrogen in comparison to progesterone. Unfortunately, it is common in women of all ages and occurring more even in men (and has been linked to prostate cancer).
Common Indicators of Estrogen Dominance:
- Acne along jaw line or chin, especially cystic acne
- Headaches/migraines that are triggered by menses or ovulation
- Menstrual cramps
- Hot flashes
- Weight gain in hips and thighs
- Uterine fibroids
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Mood changes during menstrual cycle, and mood changes during perimenopause
- Water retention
How Does A Body Become Estrogen Dominant?
Besides the natural hormonal fluctuations of menopause, certain lifestyle choices and conditions can also contribute to estrogen dominance syndrome, especially a low-fiber diet, overloading the liver with internal toxins, and absorbing toxins from the environment.
The liver is a filter of sorts. It detoxifies our body, protecting us from the harmful effects of chemicals, elements in food, environmental toxins, and even natural products of our metabolism, including excess estrogen. Anything that impairs liver function or ties up the detoxifying function will result in excess estrogen levels, whether it has a physical basis, as in liver disease, or an external cause, as with exposure to environmental toxins, drugs, or dietary substances. Estrogen is produced not only internally but also produced in reaction to chemicals and other substances in our food. When it is not broken down adequately, higher levels of estrogen build up. In like manner, the estrogen dominance syndrome can be evoked in women by too much alcohol, drugs, or environmental toxins, all of which limit the liver’s capacity to cleanse the blood of estrogen.
Certain chemicals in the environment and our foods, one of which is DDT, cause estrogenic effects. Although banned, DDT, like its breakdown product DDE, is an estrogen-like substance and is still present in the environment. Chlorine and hormone residues in meats and dairy products can also have estrogenic effects. In men, the estrogenic environment may result in declining quality of sperm or fertility rates. In women, it may lead to an epidemic of female diseases, all traceable to excess estrogen/deficient progesterone.
In industrialized countries, diets rich in animal fats, sugar, refined starches, and processed foods can lead to estrogen levels in women twice that of women of third-world countries. We are constantly exposed to xenobiotics (petrochemicals), xenohormone-laden meats and dairy products, forms of pollution, and prescriptions for synthetic hormones (such as the ‘The Pill’).
It isn’t too surprising that estrogen dominance has become an epidemic. Over exposure to these potentially dangerous substances has significant consequences, one of which is passing on reproductive abnormalities to offspring.