The Wicked Side Of Estrogen Dominance
Feeling good is the result of many culminating factors and in today’s society reaching a level of optimum health is often a wretched battle. There are so many internal and external elements working together, or against each other, that contribute to an overall feeling of health or a lack thereof. In the last year, I have felt my health and energy levels declining but could not reach a determination as to the cause. My moods would swing from high energy to a feeling of burn out in the hour or so that it would take me to shower and get ready for a big event. By the time I was ready to walk out the door I was reaching for my espresso machine to keep myself going. I knew something was wrong. I went to a few family practice doctors complaining of fatigue, muscle aches, mood swings, brutally painful periods, high stress levels, and generally just not feeling well. I was told to take Ibuprofen for pain. One doctor’s solution was an antidepressant. I walked out of the office disheartened and carrying prescriptions for Ibuprofen and Lexapro that I never intended to fill. I knew that I was not clinically depressed and that there was more to +the intricate picture of my personal health than I could draw for any doctor in a 15 minute appointment. I even considered meeting with a therapist just so that I could feel heard, validated, and not rushed. After all, my yearly checkup should not feel like the express checkout line at the grocery store.
After seeking out gynecologist recommendations from every woman I knew, even coworkers, I heard about a certified nurse midwife in my area who specializes in women’s health and hormone related issues. She came highly recommended and had a reputation for taking the time to listen to her patients. I scheduled my overdue yearly appointment and a month later found myself reading a magazine in one of her patient rooms. She started my annual exam by asking me how I was feeling. I took this as my opportunity to unload. I described my symptoms and summed it up by telling her that my mood swings were reminiscent of my early teens, before I had learned to cope with the roller coaster that my monthly cycle had me riding for the last 18 years. (If you are a Utah local, maybe you are familiar with the roller coaster at Lagoon called Wicked? Well the name and the ride described my cycle perfectly!) I was a miserable mess and the symptoms were getting unbearable as I coasted into my thirties. The practitioner validated all of my feelings and said that it undoubtedly sounded like my hormones were out of balance. The plan was to wait until 14 days after the start of my last menstrual cycle and then test my hormone levels. When the results were explained to me, I cannot say that I was surprised. I am high in estrogen and low in testosterone and progesterone. The low testosterone was news to me, not because I didn’t realize that this was an important hormone for women but, because I also have symptoms of high testosterone.
These hormones all have an extensive list of symptoms and a variety of ways to balance each naturally but I would like to focus specifically on reducing estrogen in people who are estrogen dominant. The following is a list of symptoms relating to estrogen dominance:
- Depression – with symptoms of anxiety or agitation
- Decreased sex drive
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Mood swings
- Headaches – especially near menstrual cycle
- Heavy periods
Estrogen dominance can occur in two ways. The body can produce excessive amounts of estrogen or we can be exposed to external environmental factors that mimic estrogen in the body. In our modern world, we are subjected to a number of elements that affect estrogen levels, contributing to reproductive disorders and wreaking havoc on the human body. Some of these are called xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are found in certain contraceptive pills, plastics (both BPA and BPA free), pesticides, some plants like legumes, soaps, and the list goes on. Furthermore, a poor diet high in carbohydrates, alcohol, and non-organic dairy and meat products also affects estrogen levels. First, such foods simply increase estrogen levels. Then, they are taxing on the liver and digestive system making it extremely difficult for the body to rid itself of excess estrogen. Estrogen dominance is not something that must just be tolerated though. A few basic lifestyle changes can help begin the process of ridding the body of excess estrogen:
Limit exposure to xenoestrogens. This is the thing that I changed immediately. Every day for the last year I have taken my breakfast and lunch to work in BPA free plastic containers. I heated both in the microwave and thought I was being healthy by eating home cooked meals every morning and afternoon. I quickly realized through a little research that I was not doing my body any favors. I immediately began storing my breakfast and lunch in Pyrex containers to prevent xenoestrogens from seeping into my delicious home cooking. Now, I also make sure that all leftovers get stored in glass or stainless steel containers.
Buy organic, especially meat and dairy. Today, animals that are not raised organic are raised with hormones and antibiotics. Consuming meat and dairy from animals that have been given hormones can affect the consumer’s hormone levels. It should not come as a surprise that our farming practices are also less than optimal and when an animal’s welfare is not a priority. The animal usually suffers under high stress conditions. These stressful conditions increase the animal’s estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol, and adrenal levels and consuming the meat and dairy products in turn affects our hormones.
Detoxify estrogen. Estrogen is metabolized by the liver and eliminated through the digestive system. Therefore, it is important to support the liver by reducing or even eliminating alcohol consumption. Taking liver supporting herbs such as milk thistle, organic turmeric, and dandelion root will be an important step toward reducing excess estrogen. However, liver support alone is not enough. Ensuring that the digestive system is also functioning properly is a crucial step in the detoxification process. Eating a diet consisting of whole foods such as organic meat and vegetables is vital to maintaining intestinal health. This will also reduce susceptibility to leaky gut syndrome which decreases the body’s ability to effectively eliminate excess estrogen. It is important to eat cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, which are high in fiber and “sweep” the colon clean. Taking a good source of insoluble fiber like psyllium husk daily can help support colon health and reduce excessive estrogen in the body. In addition to supporting liver and digestive health, if you are estrogen dominant, it may be beneficial to complete a colon and liver cleanse. You will want to cleanse the colon prior to cleansing the liver so that as the liver cleanses it has a proper pathway to eliminate waste and toxins so that they are not reabsorbed into the body.
I know that balancing hormones naturally may seem like a daunting task in the wake of the symptoms that can leave one feeling exhausted. However, making a few lifestyle changes may greatly improve overall health and reduce the repercussions of hormone imbalance. It is important to note that when a person is estrogen dominant there are often other hormonal imbalances present as well. There is extensive research available on symptoms of hormone imbalance, natural treatments, and lifestyle changes that can alleviate problems and bring hormones back into harmony. For additional material related to the issues addressed in this article, please see the references listed below. References
4 Steps to Heal Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Disease. (n.d.). Retrieved from Dr. Axe Food Is Medicine: http://draxe.com/4-steps- to-heal- leaky-gut- and-autoimmune- disease/
Group, D. E. (2012, October 1). The Top 9 Herbs for Liver Cleansing. Retrieved from Global Healing Center: http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/top- 9-herbs- for-liver- cleansing/
Hormones. (2016). Retrieved from Grace Communications Foundation:
How to Reduce High Estrogen Levels. (2015, July 16). Retrieved from Planet Naturopath Functional Medicine and Nutritional Solutions: http://www.planetnaturopath.com/hormones/how-to- reduce-high- estrogen-levels
The Estrogen Dominance Post: Where Its Coming From, And What To Do About It. (2013, March 13). Retrieved from Paleo For Women Revolutionary Womanhood: http://paleoforwomen.com/the- estrogen-dominance- post-where- its-coming- from-and- what-to- do-about- it/
Women Living Naturally. (2016). Retrieved from Women Living Naturally: http://draxe.com/4-steps- to- heal-leaky- gut-and- autoimmune-disease/
By, Jennifer Walker