Although estrogen dominance is not a disease in itself, its effects on the body are considered a very serious health concern. A healthy organism will maintain a balance in all things, especially its hormone levels.
Estrogen dominance occurs when the body produces more estrogen than other sex hormones. This can lead to various problems ranging from weight gain and fatigue to breast cancer and infertility.
This type of hormonal imbalance can affect both women and men, and it’s important to be aware of its causes, symptoms, and treatment options. Choosing an estrogen dominance diet and making a few lifestyle changes can provide alternative means of treatment. Read on to find out how to reverse estrogen dominance naturally.
What is Estrogen Dominance?
We have to begin our journey by talking a bit about estrogen. Estrogen is a hormone that’s produced by the ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat tissue. And although it is thought of as a female hormone, men also produce small quantities of estrogen.
Estrogen plays multiple roles in the well-being of your body. Some of these are related to insulin activity, bone health, cardiovascular health, nervous system functions, fertility, and immune system functions.
Estrogen levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, but the body usually maintains this hormone within healthy parameters. If these parameters are surpassed, the entire body suffers. Estrogen dominance is linked to a multitude of health issues like ovary cancer, breast cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome, infertility, and gynecomastia.
Estrogen dominance occurs when the body produces too much estrogen, when there are changes in estrogen metabolism and excretion, or if there is an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone levels. In fact, there are two types of estrogen dominance:
- Frank estrogen dominance – the body produces too much estrogen
- Relative estrogen dominance – when the body doesn’t produce sufficient progesterone, and estrogen levels are higher in comparison
Knowing how to correct estrogen dominance is important. It’s a well-known fact that diet and lifestyle can influence a person’s health and hormone levels. Research has shown that our food habits can have a negative impact on estrogen levels.
Avoiding or limiting certain food categories, or eating specific foods may help decrease estrogen levels and help manage estrogen dominance.
What Causes Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance can be caused by numerous factors. Hormone levels can rise during the perimenopausal period, in estrogen exposure, secondary to a progesterone deficiency, or because of poor gut health.
Hormone levels can rise in estrogen exposure. Most of the time this is secondary to oral contraceptive use and hormone replacement therapy.
Other sources can be related to environmental toxins such as those found in pesticides, herbicides, plastics, and industrial solvents. These substances have a similar structure to estrogen and can mimic its effects in the body.
Estrogen sources can also be related to food that is rich in phytoestrogens. Foods like soybeans, clover, peas, flaxseed, and grapes contain molecules similar to estrogen. Although phytoestrogens have many proven health benefits, they might have some side effects when they are supplemented in excess.
The transition period towards menopause is named perimenopause. This marks the ending of a woman’s reproductive years, and it’s a time of major changes for the body. These changes are related to the declining function of the ovaries and the fluctuations of estrogen levels, and those of other hormones.
Perimenopause can be a cause for estrogen dominance if progesterone level is much lower compared to that of estrogen. Women going through perimenopause can experience symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia, anxiety, and vaginal dryness.
Progesterone is secreted in the ovary after ovulation and its role is to prepare the reproductive organs for embryo implantation. A drop in progesterone levels can lead to relative estrogen dominance.
Progesterone deficiency is often associated with the perimenopausal period and can cause issues like abnormal uterine bleeding, irregular periods, and frequent miscarriages. The imbalance between progesterone and estrogen can also cause a decrease in sex drive and weight gain.
Poor Gut Health
Although it may seem counterintuitive, having a healthy digestive system is essential to maintaining optimal hormone levels. Estrogen is in fact eliminated from the body through the digestive tract.
Frequent constipation and a lack of digestive enzymes may lead to a rise in estrogen levels through reabsorption and re-circulation. Having a good balance of gut bacteria, and staying hydrated can be beneficial to estrogen elimination from the body.
Symptoms Of Estrogen Dominance
Estrogen dominance can have a large array of symptoms, varying from mild to very serious. Although this is more commonly a health issue related to women, men can also show signs of estrogen dominance if there is a hormonal imbalance.
High Estrogen In Women
- Sleep disorders
- Brain fog
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- Water retention
- Loss of libido
- Mood changes
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Heavy and painful periods
High Estrogen In Men
- Sleep disorders
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Body hair loss
- Weight gain with loss of muscle mass
- Mood changes
- Water retention
- Erectile dysfunction
Diets & Foods That Reduce Estrogen Dominance
Choosing the right diet to reduce estrogen dominance may be an easy fix and might have other benefits for your health. Studies show promising results concerning healthy foods, especially plant-based, and Mediterranean-type diets. Fiber-rich diets that support a good digestion process can also help maintain a healthy level of estrogen and other hormones.
Scientists have pointed out that there are fewer cases of breast cancer, with a lower mortality rate in the southern part of Europe, compared to the northern part of the continent. These differences have been associated with lifestyle and dietary habits.
The Mediterranean diet is characterized by a low intake of meat and dairy products. It is rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, and beans. Fish and unsaturated fats like olive oil complete the picture of a healthy, nutritious diet.
Studies show that sticking to a Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of breast cancer, specifically estrogen-receptor tumors.
Roughage, or fiber as it is more commonly known, is a part of plant-based foods that passes through the body without being digested. Fiber keeps the digestive system healthy by facilitating bowel movements and helping the excretion of harmful substances from the body.
A diet that is rich in fiber should include foods like wholegrain cereals, fruits (berries, pears, oranges), vegetables, peas, beans, nuts, seeds, and potatoes with skin.
Fibers can reduce your body’s estrogen level by encouraging the excretion of hormones through fecal matter. This will also reduce estrogen absorption in the colon. Studies show that a fiber-rich diet, or long-term whole grain wheat and rye intake may help reduce the risk of estrogen-sensitive breast cancer.
Vegetarian or semi-vegetarian diets have many positive effects on the body. Plants are often rich in fibers, vitamins, and minerals. They are also rich in unsaturated fats and low in harmful types of fat that you might find in processed foods (saturated fats).
Having all the proper nutrients can maintain the general health of the body and promote a natural hormone balance. Also, plant-based diets have a positive effect on the digestive system, which helps lower estrogen levels.
Studies show that having a vegetarian or pescatarian diet with minimal meat intake, may lower estrogen levels, and consequently lower the risk of breast cancer.
Vegetarians also tend to weigh 3-20% less than people with a meat-rich diet. Because estrogen is also secreted by fatty deposits in the body, having a lower percentage of fatty tissue might also contribute to lower levels of estrogen.
Food Items That You Should Avoid
It’s very important to know which estrogen dominance foods to avoid. You should steer clear of red meats, processed food, refined carbs, and foods rich in saturated fats. These categories of foods have a negative impact on the body in general. They produce harmful metabolites and can increase the risk of diseases like diabetes, and cardiovascular afflictions.
Estrogen levels tend to be higher in individuals who eat a Western type of diet. High-fat, high-carb diets can have harmful effects on the body and cause hormonal imbalances which may lead to estrogen dominance.
Other Remedies to Treat Estrogen Dominance
There are other remedies for estrogen dominance treatment aside from changing your dietary habits. Some of them are as simple as making healthy lifestyle choices, and others are related to supplements. Whatever the case, there are a few options to consider.
Work On Managing Your Stress
Stress has unfortunately become a constant partner for most of us. It’s hard to manage and its effects on the body are insidious. Chronic stress is known to contribute to anything from cardiovascular problems to changes in metabolism.
The hormone associated with stress is called cortisol. When you’re constantly subjected to stress, your body has to produce large quantities of the stress hormone, and oftentimes it does so at the expense of other important hormones. This can cause hormonal unbalances which may contribute to estrogen dominance.
Avoid Chemical-Based Products
It’s important to always be informed about the products you buy. A lot of the things we use in our daily lives contain xenoestrogens, substances that are similar in structure to estrogen. These xenoestrogens can mimic the hormone’s activity in the body and cause estrogen dominance.
These chemicals can be found in everything from personal care products like soaps, make-up, and toothpaste, to household cleaning products like laundry detergent and cleaning sprays.
Try to avoid products that contain BPA (Bisphenol A), and when you’re choosing products with fragrance, go for essential oils and plant-based ingredients. There are safer options that may have a lot of long-term health benefits.
Consider Using Supplements
Certain supplements like DIM (3,3-Diindolylmethane) can help modulate estrogen metabolism. This compound can be found in vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts.
Researchers have found that DIM may have a positive effect on the regulation of estrogen and also protect against certain types of cancer. It may help lower the carcinogenic potential of sex hormones and has the potential to protect against ionizing radiation.
Oral supplements containing DIM may have health benefits but should be prescribed by a healthcare provider. Recommended doses vary with a person’s age, underlying disorders, and other medication.
Fix Your Gut Health
The gut microbiome is made out of a multitude of bacteria, microorganisms, and fungi. This ecosystem maintains the general health of a person’s digestive system and any imbalances can have negative health effects.
There are specific bacteria in the gut responsible for metabolizing and eliminating estrogen from the body. If these bacteria can’t do their job, estrogen is reabsorbed into the body, which may cause estrogen dominance.
Gut health can be improved with the use of probiotics, fermented foods, fiber-rich foods, and a generally healthy lifestyle. This means getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and reducing stress.
Reduce Your Body Fat & Exercise
Having a high percentage of fatty tissue is known to have a negative health impact. Studies show that increased body weight can promote breast cancer development. This is especially concerning for postmenopausal women because fatty tissue becomes the main source of estrogen production.
Having a high body fat percentage can lead to estrogen dominance. This may be fixed by having an active lifestyle and exercising regularly. Studies have pointed out that weight loss has the potential to reduce circulating estrogens, and the best results may be obtained by combining regular exercise with a healthy diet.
Avoid Hormonal Birth Control
Hormonal birth control works by using substances that mimic estrogen and progesterone to prevent ovulation. This means that they can produce progesterone deficiency which may lead to estrogen dominance.
Although there are many types of hormonal birth control options, choosing the right one should always be done with the guidance of a medical specialist. But the safest bet is avoiding any method that might cause a hormone imbalance. This can be achieved by opting for other contraceptive methods such as condoms and intrauterine devices.
Estrogen dominance can have a lot of unpleasant symptoms which might affect your health and quality of life. There are some natural remedies for estrogen dominance that you can try.
1. Having healthy eating habits goes a long way
Fiber-rich plant-based diets, as well as the Mediterranean diet, can have many health benefits. They can lower estrogen levels by providing the body with vitamins, minerals, and healthy types of protein and fat. Avoiding red meat and processed food is also recommended.
2. Lifestyle changes are important
Reducing stress levels and having an active life are key elements to staying healthy. Exercising regularly as well as getting enough sleep, and lowering stress may help regulate estrogen levels and impact other important aspects such as gut health and metabolism.
3. Avoid estrogen exposure
External estrogen exposure can come in the form of xenoestrogens, hormonal birth control, and phytoestrogens. Some of these substances have a similar structure to estrogen and can mimic its effects inside the body. Some easy fixes are choosing natural plant-based and organic products for everyday use, avoiding any products that contain BPA, and replacing hormonal birth control with other methods of contraception.
4. Supplements can give a helping hand
Some supplements containing DIM may help modulate estrogen levels in the body. DIM is a natural substance found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, and cabbage.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Marnie Luck, N.D
Annex Naturopathic Clinic is a clinic in Toronto that offers integrative healthcare solutions from Drs. Marnie Luck, ND, and Tanya Lee, ND