In our fertility and women’s health practice we often see women in their 30’s and 40’s start to exhibit signs of estrogen dominance. This is essentially where there is too much estrogen in relation to other hormones and it can effect both body and brain function. It is partly caused by the natural aging process, but in our modern world we find that there are many other things we come in contact with that were not there is previous generations.
Estrogen dominance has been linked to a wide variety of disorders such as weight gain, leaky gut, allergies, autoimmune disorders, breast and uterine cancer, infertility, ovarian cysts, and increased blood clotting, and is also associated with acceleration of the aging process.
So what are some signs of estrogen dominance?
- Decreased sex drive
- Irregular or otherwise abnormal or painful menstrual periods
- Bloating (water retention)
- Breast swelling and tenderness
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Mood swings (most often irritability and depression)
- Weight and/or fat gain (particularly around the abdomen and hips)
- Cold hands and feet (a symptom of thyroid dysfunction)
- Hair loss
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Sluggish metabolism
- Foggy thinking, memory loss
- Trouble sleeping/insomnia
- Leaky Gut
- Inability to ovulate
One of the more common causes is use of the birth control pill . Often women and girls spend years on the pill before coming off to try and get pregnant. Besides being prescribed for birth control it is often used to treat many menstrual problems which are caused by estrogen dominance. This just stacks more estrogen on top of excess estrogen. Second, hormonal birth control releases synthetic progesterone, which suppresses your natural progesterone production. Progesterone balances the effects of estrogen, and without enough, you end up with symptoms of estrogen dominance.
The amount of exogenous estrogen in various forms were not present a few decades earlier. Our exposure to these chemicals mimic estrogen and tend to disrupt our body’s balance of hormones. And they are everywhere!
1. Our Personal Skin Products and Fragrance- These contain xenoestrogens that act like estrogen in the body.
Parabens – common preservative
Phalates -found in plastics and as an emulsifier and stabilizer in topical creams
Triclosan- antibacterial agent
Benzophenones -found in sunscreens
2. Our Food Supply– Our current way of growing food both animal and plant typically involves exposure to a wide range of hormone disruptors. Included are glyphosate which are used on a wide variety of crops. And large amounts of antibiotics are used in the mass production of our meat.
3. Water- Depending on where you live our public drinking supply can also contain a variety of hormone disruptors.
4. Adipose Tissue- Besides estrogen being produced in our ovaries (testes for men in smaller doses), brains, adrenal glands it is also produced in adipose (fat) tissue. If we tend to carry excess weight this extra fat produces more estrogen which in turn can contribute to gaining more weight and setting up a vicious cycle of weight gain and estrogen dominate.
5. Toxic overload – All of this can lead to an overwhelm of our bodies ability to detox. Our body is able to process and eliminate excess estrogen but sometimes it can be too much for the system to handle effectively. If our digestive system is sluggish we have trouble eliminating estrogen through the bowels. Likewise our liver and kidneys may be struggling to keep up with eliminating excess estrogen.
Ways to Decrease Excess Estrogen Exposure
This can seem overwhelming as we start to look at the amount of factors in modern life that is effecting our hormonal health. And it really is a lot. So what can we do about it?
First- Start to become aware of what you put into and on your body.
1. Eat lots of vegetables.
2. Try to source you meat organic
3. Cut out sugar, soy and gluten
4. Moderate amounts of healthy fats
5. Eliminate coffee and chocolate
6. Remember to get enough fibre to help with elimination. Also taking a good quality probiotic can help with this.
7. Lose excess fat and get regular exercise. And that exercise should be the type that makes you break a sweat on a regular basis.
8. Avoid alcohol
9. Try to use more organic skin and makeup products. What you put on your skin is absorbed
10. Avoid aluminum pr0ducts- either deodorants or cookware
11. Avoid drinking from plastic bottles
12. Avoid birth control pills and HRT
13. Don’t use dyer sheets or other heavily scented products
Supplements to help increase progesterone
So if you are noticing that you may be estrogen dominant and progesterone deficient what can you do to help increase your progesterone levels? These vitamins and supplements can help improve function and hormonal ratios.
1.Vitamin B6 is proven to increase progesterone production and reduce blood estrogen levels, leading to improvements in PMS symptoms, as well as fertility. It’s considered one of the best vitamins to boost progesterone.
2.Vitamin C is an ascorbic acid that assists the ovaries in the ovulation process. At a dose of 750 mg/day, vitamin C has been shown to raise progesterone levels in women with both low progesterone and a luteal phase deficiency (when the second half of the menstrual cycle is 10 days or less, or if progesterone level is low on day 21 of the cycle, or both).
3. Zinc is another mineral that supports fertility. It stimulates the pituitary gland to release FSH, which triggers the production of estrogen and promote ovulation. And ovulation will, in turn, signal the increase of progesterone.
4. L-arginine is an amino acid that helps widen and relax arteries and blood vessels, increasing blood flow in the body. At a dose of 6 grams per day, it’s been shown to improve the blood supply to the corpus luteum (the egg follicle that releases progesterone.
5. Vitamin E is an important antioxidant to help protect sperm and egg DNA integrity. A study conducted at John Hopkins University showed that vitamin E (at a dose of 800 IU/day for 10 weeks) corrects the progesterone-estrogen ratio, increases a woman’s libido, and normalizes her menstrual cycle.
6. Magnesium influences the pituitary gland, which releases FSH (follicular stimulating hormone), LH (luteinizing hormone) and TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). These hormones, in turn, regulate the production of estrogen and progesterone.
7. DIM (Diindolylmethane) This has been shown to help metabolize estrogen and decrease estrogen dominance.
Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine
So you are doing all of these things or at least some of them and are wondering what else can be done to help with hormonal imbalance and menstrual health?
Acupuncture works on the body in a few different levels.
-It can help to regulate the nervous system when you become sympathetic dominant ( chronically stressed),
– increased blood flow to the reproductive organs,
– helps increase the body’s ability to deal with toxicity by improving the organ function of the organs of elimination and detoxification.
– can help balance hormones
-improve immune functioning to help with underlying infections and weaknesses
Chinese Medicine has been a primary form of care for centuries to deal with menstrual and hormonal issues in women. It is particularly useful for strengthening weak ares on the body, improving blood quality and removing stagnations or areas of low function. With any herbal medicine it is best to get a proper diagnosis to ensure the right fit as herbal medicines will often change as the pattern that it is being prescribed for also change