Estrogen dominance can be a female's worst nightmare.
Do you have symptoms of estrogen dominance? Such as...
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Varicose veins
- Mood swings and depression around cycle time
- Breast tenderness
- Variations or skipped cycles
- Vaginal dryness or itchiness
- Excessive or scanty blood flow during periods
- Cyclic insomnia, night sweats and fatigue
- Breast cancer, benign breast disease, and pre-cancerous conditions
I think this list pretty much describes a nightmarish myriad of symptoms for any woman. According to Dr. Ray Peat, PhD., estrogen dominance is a leading contributor to many women specific cancers, "Benign breast disease, breast cancer and pre-cancerous conditions have been found to be associated with a progesterone deficiency and estrogen excess."
So keep reading and learn the causes, so you can support your body's detoxification of estrogen for hormonal balance with diet!
Why does estrogen dominance occur?
Estrogen dominance can occur for a variety of reasons. The key to addressing it includes a multi-faceted approach that targets all the causes:
- Liver malnourishment (reducing phases 1 and 2 of estrogen detoxification): Something as simple as a protein deficiency can impact the liver's ability to detoxify estrogen. The liver needs an abundance of proteins, vitamins and minerals in order to detoxify used hormones out of the system. If estrogen can't be detoxified, it can recirculate and build up in the body causing dysfunction such as PMS symptoms.
"Normally, the liver treats estrogen like a poison, removing it immediately from the body. If the liver gets sluggish from malnutrition or too much estrogen (or other damage), it can allow the hormone to build up to very high levels" -Dr. Peat.
- Poor hormone production resulting in low progesterone, leaving estrogen unopposed: Estrogen and progesterone are supposed to be in balance with one another, but a poor diet can result in low progesterone. The body needs some raw materials to make progesterone including: cholesterol, vitamin A (deficiency is rare, toxicity is not), thyroid hormone (T3) along with zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. If you are low in these nutrients or if you have low thyroid function, then low progesterone is a very common cause of estrogen dominance.
- Chronic stress: stress of any kind decreases progesterone levels to increase production of cortisol. This is because cortisol is a stress hormone needed to help you survive stress, and surviving stress is a greater priority than reproduction.
- Blood sugar dysregulation and insulin resistance: blood sugar dysregulation can increase aromatase enzyme activity in the body driving the conversion of testosterone to estrogen, contributing to estrogen dominance.
- Birth control pills and estrogen replacement therapy: This one is pretty straightforward. Adding synthetic estrogen to your body increases estrogen, and thus the estrogen burden on your body. Synthetic estrogen’s cardiovascular risks have been known since 1940, this includes: an ability to cause blood clots, varicose veins, miscarriage, and PMS. "It is the estrogen in oral contraceptives which correlates with their effects on the clotting system. In the last 20 years there has been a general agreement that increased risk of cardiovascular disease, rather than cancer or immunodeficiency or depression, is the most important concern about the effects of oral contraceptives” Dr. Peat.
- Aging: Estrogen levels tend to increase with age, as pregnenolone and progesterone levels decline.
- Omega fatty acid imbalance and inflammation: the Western diet tends to be far too high in omega-6 polyunsaturated oils, and far too low in omega-3 fatty acids which is correlated to more cellular inflammation. Fatty acid imbalance can also contribute towards blood sugar issues, specifically insulin resistance. Learn more about how to tip the scales on inflammation here.
- Gut dysbiosis impairing phase 3 of estrogen detoxification (one of the largest factors I see): an imbalance of gut bacteria can cause estrogen dominance through the re-circulation of estrogens. This is because certain types of gut bacteria produce beta-glucuronidase enzymes that can re-activate (or deconjugate) estrogens that were already detoxified (conjugated) and on their way out of the body. Decreasing levels of beta-glucuronidase enzyme producing bacteria in your gut is key to stopping the cycle of estrogen recirculation.
And hint, the major beta-glucuronidase producing bacteria are Bacteroides fragilis, Bacteroides vulgatus, Bacteroides uniformis, Clostridium paraputrificum, Clostridium clostridioforme, Clostridium perfringens, Escherichia coli, Eubacterium, Peptostreptococcus, Ruminococcus and Staphylococcus.
How to stop the estrogen dominance madness?
A multifaceted nutrition plan that supports the liver/detoxification, gut health, hormone production, stress levels and the metabolism, is the best approach.
Nourish your liver to support phase 1 and 2 of estrogen detoxification:
- Increase protein to 70-100 grams+ per day based on your weight (about 20-25% of total calories). Make sure to include eggs, dairy (if tolerated, no allergy), gelatin/collagen, fish, and shellfish, in order to help balance muscle meats (chicken, lamb, beef, turkey, etc). This will help to create the amino acid (building blocks of protein) balance needed to reflect “eating the whole animal.” By doing this, you empower the liver’s detoxification process to help your body take out the trash, and detoxify estrogen properly.
- Eat easy-to-digest foods to reduce endotoxin that can back up the liver (especially important for those with digestive distress). This means more simple sugars (ripe fruits and honey), roots, and tubers.
- Identify any methylation imbalances or COMT pathway slow downs that could impact phase 2 detoxification
- Avoid iron overload and vitamin A toxicity that congest the liver.
Support your gut microbiome to support phase 3 of estrogen detoxification:
- Get enough prebiotic fibers in your diet to feed your healthy gut bacteria so they can crowd out the bad bacteria.
- Avoid constipation at all costs.
- Support healthy bile flow to help keep good your microbiome in balance.
- Consider gut testing to find out what's going on in your gut so you can combat it appropriately (as determined by GI MAP testing).
- Use additional supplemental support as indicated by testing.
- Find more gut health tips in my post — How to Fix Your Gut
Support hormone production:
- Address your mineral deficiencies, specifically calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and copper (instead of playing the supplement guessing game). I use hair analysis on myself and my clients for this very purpose.
- Increase hormone synthesis promoters in the diet using food: Thyroid (T3), Vitamin A, Vitamin E, copper and bright lights (red light therapy, sun, etc).
- Decrease hormone synthesis blockers: unsaturated fats (PUFA), excess estrogen (hormone replacement, birth control, or liver malnutrition to adequately detoxify used estrogen), ultraviolet light, x-rays, and excess iron (from fortified foods, vitamins, or muscle meat heavy diet).
Support the metabolism:
- Stop the low-fat dieting, and calorie counting, and instead eat MORE real food. You should especially eat enough protein and fiber-rich carbs to meet your metabolic needs. Your body temperature is a good way to check and see if you’re eating enough.
- Balance blood sugar by eating protein/fats/carbs together during each meal, and eating frequently to help stabilize blood sugar (especially important for those with blood sugar handling issues). Read more blood sugar tips here.
- Listen to your body. It’s ALWAYS talking to you. Are you listening?
Reduce stress and environmental toxins:
- Identify and reduce stressors in your life. This could be a variety of things; lack of sleep, insufficient fuel, or food allergies and sensitivities (since they activate the stress response).
- Detox your home by ditching the chemicals in your cleaning and beauty routine. Or take the 30 day Detox your Home challenge to jump-start the process!
- Find out if cellular inflammation is standing in your way of optimal health and hormonal balance with fatty acid testing. Then use your results to make dietary changes to support healthier cells and flip the switch on inflammation.
Ready to dive deeper into estrogen dominance?
Check out the How to Reverse Estrogen Dominance Masterclass 🚀🚀🚀
Do you struggle with estrogen dominance? Please share in the comments!
Peat, Raymond. Natural Estrogens. Retrieved on May 15, 2013, from http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/natural-estrogens.shtml
Peat, Raymond. Nutrition for Women. Eugene, OR: 1993.
Weatherby, Dicken. Signs and Symptoms Analysis from a Functional Perspective. Nutritional Therapy Association, 2004. Print.
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.comartcasta