By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
Working with women’s hormones, there is a lot of talk about estrogen and a term that we use commonly is ‘estrogen dominance.’
There are four scenarios that create estrogen dominance:
- High production of estrogen – from ovaries, fat cells, adrenal glands
- Low progesterone production, creating a relative estrogen dominance regardless if estrogen is high or normal
- Slow breakdown and detoxification of estrogen causing it to recycle
- Exposure to estrogen-mimicking chemicals and compounds in the environment which also increase the load
Estrogen dominance is a big deal, and important to address because it is associated with many hormonal conditions.
- uterine fibroids
- breast cysts
- heavy periods (menorrhagia)
- breast and ovarian cancers
There are however many signs of estrogen-dominance that are not yet at the point of creating a clear estrogen-dominant condition, and it is very important to identify the constellation of symptoms correctly to understand and support hormone balance. Some of them may surprise you!
Symptoms of estrogen dominance
- heavy periods
- bloating (water retention)
- breast swelling and tenderness
- premenstrual headaches
- premenstrual mood swings
- weight gain – abdomen, hips and thighs especially
- cervical dysplasia
- increased blood clotting
- slowed metabolism
5 steps you can take now to balance your hormones
- Eat fibre: Sufficient fibre is essential to clear and move your estrogen. Fibre can be found in ground flax seeds, chia seeds, psyllium, legumes, vegetables and fruits. (Read more about the gut-hormone connection here).
- Clear out estrogenic plastics and chemicals: You can significantly lower your estrogen load by minimizing use of plastics, eating organic as much as possible, and reducing exposure to chemicals in personal care products. It’s amazing how many hormone-mimicking chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis!
- Reduce stress levels: Chronic high stress can lower progesterone production creating the relative estrogen-dominance. Taking steps to manage stress and create some breaks and downtime in your day can go a long way to supporting your hormone balance. This is especially important during perimenopause when the hormonal systems are more sensitive.
- Support your liver: The starting points here is to reduce liver stress (alcohol, coffee, smoking, fried foods, processed foods), and to include liver-supportive foods such as lemon water, leafy green vegetables, turmeric, ginger and garlic.
- Get your hormones tested accurately: If you personally have an estrogen-dominant health condition, or there are many cases in your family, I would highly recommend detailed hormone testing, especially the “DUTCH” urine hormone test to understand your estrogen levels, and also how you are clearing or detoxing them.
If you suspect that you have estrogen dominance, start with some of the recommendations listed above, and definitely seek some support with this. By identifying hormone imbalance, we have something concrete and measurable to work with that can significantly change your hormonal health. Hormones really do affect everything – your energy, mood, weight and body shape, cognition, libido, immune function, stress tolerance, food cravings and more!