It’s the week before your period and your PMS is in full swing, with an irritable, snappy and sensitive, cry-at-the-drop-of-a-hat, snap-at-someone-for-saying-hello, whirl wind of crazy emotions. You have swollen, tender breasts and you start to dread the upcoming chronic cramping and heavy flow you all to regularly suffer from.
This is a story I have unfortunately heard repeatedly from female patients who seek my help as a Naturopath. This is the story of Oestrogen dominance.
WHAT IS OESTROGEN
Oestrogen refers to three different hormones which allow endometrial cells (cells lining the womb) to multiply, in preparation for pregnancy. Oestrogen is the sex hormone responsible for the development of the breasts, growth of the uterus and as the skeleton matures, the characteristic womanly curves, in a girl who is going through puberty. Together with other hormones, Oestrogen helps to regulate the menstrual cycle.
The timing of the menstrual cycle, along with other bodily functions is controlled by the master hormone regulator in the brain, called the Hypothalamus. Throughout your cycle, the hypothalamus stimulates particular endocrine glands such as your pituitary gland to produce hormones such as Follicle Stimulating Hormone and Luteinising Hormone, which stimulate your ovaries to produce Progesterone, and Oestrogen, at different levels and times. These hormones cause changes your body, to ultimately either support or prevent menstrual normality.
When your sex hormones, particularly Oestrogen, become imbalanced, cycle regularity and issues associated with your period, develop.
SIGNS, SYMPTOMS AND CONDITIONS OF OESTROGEN DOMINANCE:
Oestrogen dominance occurs when the levels are higher, in ratio to Progesterone. Progesterone, for example should be around 50-200 times the Oestrogen, in the two weeks leading up to your period. This is referred to as the luteal phase.
The natural design of the body is to produce the two hormones, progesterone and estrogen, in a very sensitive and precise balance so that reproductive ability is maximised.
Dr Sherrill Sellman explains in her book, Hormone Heresy. (1 Pg 49)
When Oestrogen is high and causing an imbalance in this delicate ratio, the following signs, symptoms and conditions may develop.
- Breast swelling and tenderness
- Fluid retention
- Mood swings
- Anxiety and nervousness
- Irregular cycles
- Heavy periods
- Painful periods
- Endometriosis andUterine fibroids (through oestrogen contributing to the abnormal inflammation and growth of uterine tissue)
- Headaches and migraines
- Facial flushing
- Sweet cravings
- Uterine fibroids
- Low thyroid function
- Prostate symptoms (in men)
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Weight gain, particularly abdominal fat
CAUSES OF OESTROGEN DOMINANCE
I go through causes of Oestrogen dominance in great detail in my book: Balanced, The Natural Way To Healthy Hormones. Here are a few to introduce you to.
- Exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals (Xeno-oestrogens). Including BPA (look for a number 3,6 or 7 on the bottom) in plastic water bottles, containers, the tops of take-away coffee cups, tin liners and plastic wrap; Phlalates in body care products, foods, furniture, soft kids toys, shower curtains and vinyl flooring; Parabens in body care products; modified polystyrene; as well as pesticides, antibiotics and fertilisers used in conventional farming practices.
These environmental chemicals have the ability to bind to an oestrogen receptor and mimic either a weak or strong action, causing hormonal disturbance and seriously interfering with the natural biochemical changes in your body. These compounds build up in the environment, are non-biodegradable and accumulate in fatty tissue of humans and animals and are therefore are difficult to detoxify from.
- Vitamin D deficiency. Yep, thats the free one that comes from the sun! Vitamin D helps to balance blood sugar and insulin levels and when insulin becomes resistant (due to high glucose level), this can contribute to a state of adrenal gland stress and sex hormone imbalance. Learn how you can optimise your Vitamin D levels here.
- Lack of movement. Exercise helps your detoxification organs, to help rid excess Oestrogen levels from the body. Movement also helps to reduce stress, which is a known contributor to adrenal gland weakness and the flow on effect of sex hormone imbalance.
- Soy, due to its phytoestrogenic compounds, which have the dangerous ability to mimic Oestrogen. Soy consumption can cause changes to cycle length and may play a role in increasing the risk for Oestrogen-dependent cancers.
- Sugar, high fructose foods such as agave and High Fructose Corn Syrup and a high grain diet upset liver health (through an increase in insulin levels), therefore upsetting Oestrogen metabolism and causing a build up. Read more here.
- Lack of fibre through wholefoods, like fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Irregular bowels is a major contributor to Oestrogen dominance, as the body can not eliminate the hormone excess efficiently.
- High alcohol intake, due to the stress it places on the liver (the organ responsible for metabolising Oestrogen).
OTHER FACTORS AFFECTING OESTROGEN LEVELS
- Any emotional, physical or mental stress. When your vulnerable adrenal glands are under the pump, imbalances in the thyroid and sex hormones often develop.
You will never correct a problem with your thyroid or sex hormones, without first correcting adrenal imbalance.
Nora Gedgaudas explains in her book, Primal Body, Primal Mind. (2 Pg 183)
- Antibiotics. These guys disturb the delicate balance of your beneficial gut bacteria and will therefore upset the elimination of excess Oestrogen, through the bowels.
- Synthetic hormones, such as the Oral Contraceptive Pill and other hormone secreting contraceptive devices, as well as Hormone Replacement Therapy. Learn about the dangers of the pill here.
- Inflammation fuels a state of oestrogen dominance, while oestrogen dominance drives the irregular uterine tissue growth and inflammation. Inflammation encourages oestrogen producing enzymes which further fuels the inflammation behind conditions such as endometriosis and fibroids. In the presencse of inflammation in the tissues of your body, aromatase, sulpha taste ad 17-beta hydroxysteriod dehydrogenase, convert the adrenal hormone DHEA into oestrogen. These enzymes also strengthen oestrogen, a low potency form of oestrogen, into oestradiol, the oestrogen which promotes rapid tissue growth.
It’s a vicious cycle, as the more inflammation that is produced, the higher your oestrogen production will be. Oestrogen further increases the activation of inflammation in the tissue of the reproductive system, contributing to the discomfort of heavy menstrual bleeding, clotting, increased pain and abnormal tissue growth. This hormone disrupting inflammation can stem from poor gut and liver health, insulin resistance and/ or long standing infections in your body.
PREVENT & TREAT OESTROGEN DOMINANCE
In order to gain healthy Oestrogen levels, the health of your blood sugar balance, adrenal and thyroid gland, gut and liver must be addressed. Eat foods to keep your body responsive to insulin, reduce exposure to toxins, learn to de-stress and enhance detoxification organs, to promote healthy hormones.
All this and much more is found in my latest book: Balanced, The Natural Way To Healthy Hormones. You can pick up your very own copy here. You can also download my free Hormone Blueprint Guide for a better understanding of what your hormones do in your body, here.
Image sourced from:https://pixabay.com
(1) Selmann, S. Hormone Heresy, What Woman Must Know About Their Hormones. Queensland: Joshua Books. 2008
(2) Gedgaudas, N. Primal Body Primal Mind, Beyond The Paleo Diet for Total Health and a Longer Life. Vermont: Healing Arts Press. 2009.