What is Estrogen Dominance?

When our hormones are out of balance, we feel out of balance. Estrogen dominance is a hormonal imbalance that occurs when there is too much estrogen relative to progesterone in the body. It can cause a range of symptoms and health issues but is only beginning to gain my exposure and awareness. Let’s look at the ins and outs of estrogen dominance to better understand what this all-too-common hormonal imbalance is all about, what causes it, and what you can do to take control.

What is estrogen dominance? 

Estrogen dominance occurs when there is an excess of estrogen in the body, relative to other hormones, such as progesterone. This hormonal imbalance can lead to a range of symptoms, including irregular periods, slowed metabolic processes, mood swings, and more. Estrogen dominance can affect both men and women, but it is more common in women over the age of 35 (though it can impact younger women, too).

What causes estrogen dominance? 

Estrogen dominance can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  1. Environmental toxins: Exposure to toxins, such as pesticides, herbicides, and plastics, can disrupt the endocrine system and increase estrogen levels. Many of these toxins reside in common household items we are in contact with daily. Synthetic chemicals in plastics and many commonly used fragrances (think detergent, air freshener, etc.) can mimic hormones and interfere or disrupt the endocrine system.

  2. Stress: Chronic stress can cause the body to produce cortisol, which can interfere with the balance of estrogen and progesterone.

  3. Medications: Certain medications, such as hormonal birth control, can disrupt the balance of hormones in the body and lead to estrogen dominance.

  4. Diet: Consuming foods that are high in estrogen, such as soy, may contribute to estrogen dominance. Additionally, a diet that is high in sugar and processed foods may contribute to hormonal imbalances.

What are the signs of estrogen dominance? 

  1. Irregular and painful periods: Estrogen dominance can cause changes in the menstrual cycle, such as irregular periods, heavy bleeding and painful periods, or missed periods.

  2. Mood swings: Fluctuations in estrogen levels can cause mood swings, irritability, and anxiety.

  3. Fatigue: Hormonal imbalances can cause fatigue, especially during the premenstrual phase of the menstrual cycle.

  4. Breast tenderness: Estrogen dominance can cause breast tenderness, swelling, or lumps.

  5. Headaches: Changes in estrogen levels can trigger headaches and migraines.

  6. Insomnia: Hormonal imbalances can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to insomnia.

  7. Digestive issues: Estrogen dominance can cause bloating, constipation, or diarrhea.

What can you do about estrogen dominance? 

  1. Supplements: Certain supplements such as DIM (diindolylmethane), calcium d-glucarate, and magnesium can help to improve estrogen metabolism and detoxification and can reduce estrogen levels in the body. Supporting liver metabolism is especially important when dealing with estrogen dominance to encourage detoxification. For excess estrogen to be removed from the body, detox pathways must be supported.

  2. Herbs: Some herbal remedies such as black cohosh, dong quai, and chasteberry have been shown to help regulate hormone levels and modulate symptoms of estrogen dominance.

  3. Lifestyle changes: Making lifestyle changes centered around removing toxins from your environment can help reduce endocrine disruptors and help regulate hormone levels. Ditch the fragrances, specifically assessing labels for the presence of phthalates, which are known to disrupt hormones. Pay special attention to household items with sneaky fragrance additions like trash bags. Reducing stress can also help minimize the amount of cortisol in your body, which can impact the balance of estrogen and progesterone.

While balancing your hormones might feel like a daunting task, you can take small steps to get started. The DUTCH test is a great way to get a better understanding of your hormonal baseline to know the best path to take for your unique needs. Regardless of where your hormone levels stand, making lifestyle changes can help support healthy hormone balance moving forward. We encourage you to speak to your healthcare provider about any symptoms of hormone imbalance or estrogen dominance you may be experiencing and to advocate for the treatment and testing modalities you align with.