Estrogen Dominance—a major player in your hormone imbalance?
In my previous blog, I talked about haywire periods and wicked PMS. Estrogen dominance is a common cause of these imbalances and is very common in women 35 and up. It is a situation in which your body either has too much estrogen, usually as compared to progesterone. I discussed the causes of these imbalances and symptoms. So, if you missed that blog, read up on that now. I promised solutions, so that’s where I start off today.
In peri-menopause, basically anytime round the ages of 35 and up when hormones start to fluctuate, sometimes your ovaries can actually overproduce estrogen. As our brains (specifically the hypothalamus and pituitary gland) start to notice a decline in available eggs, it stimulates the release of hormones that stimulates the eggs to get growing. It stimulates a cascade that has the follicles (that contain the eggs) to get over-excited, thereby causing the over production of estradiol (the estrogen that is pre-dominant when we are in our menstrual years). As we get closer to menopause, I liken it to that “last hurrah!” before the ovaries close down the baby-making potential.
Couple this with the fact that many times in peri-menopause women don’t ovulate each month, and ovulation is necessary to trigger the higher production of progesterone in the second half of the menstrual cycle. So, more estrogen, declining progesterone makes the balance of estrogen and progesterone, well, more UNBALANCED.
One of the most common causes of this excess estrogen is actually ineffective clearance of estrogen through your liver. Yes, DETOX issues.
There are 2 important phases to your liver’s detoxification pathways.
The first phase processes your hormones and converts it into different forms of estrogens. What types of estrogen, called metabolites, you break hormones into has been shown to impact possible risks of cancer. And, this phase being played out properly depends on necessary nutrients and amino acids.
The second phase is another process that binds the hormones to something they can be excreted from the body with. We basically poop (and pee) out our hormones, which is why it is so important to have healthy bowel function to keep our hormones balanced. Our gut bacteria also play a key role in this excretion process. A healthy group of bacterial fellows help your body get the processed hormones out, whereas an unhealthy group of bacteria can actually make your body re-absorb these hormones. Once they’ve gone through the Phase 1 process, they are actually more dangerous to the body, and we want them out, not re-absorbed.
Science stuff aside, what the heck do you do about this imbalance?
Here are some guidelines:
· Make your meat and dairy (if you tolerate it) organic if possible. You’ll lower your exposure to hormones and the antibiotics given to non-organic meat and dairy sources. Grass-fed and pastured meat is also preferred. If you incorporate dairy in your diet, try limiting it to fermented dairy, such as that in yogurt and kefir. These contain the “friendly” gut bacteria you need and are also more easily digested for most people.
· Get plenty of fiber from real, whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables! Remember we poop out our excess and processed hormones.
· Enjoy lots of foods that are extra detoxifying to support your liver such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, apples, onions, and lots of leafy greens like spinach and collards.
· Drink pure, filtered water out of glass (best) or stainless steel. I love my LIFE FACTORY water bottles. We want plenty of water to aid detoxification, and avoid contact with foods and drinks that have been stored in plastics. The plastics act like estrogens in our body, and are called xenoestrogens. They are hormone disruptors, and that is exactly what we are trying to avoid!
· Consider going off the birth control pill if you are on it. Lots more to say about this in upcoming blogs, but in general, lowering your exposure to estrogen, like those in the pill, is helpful to get to the root of this imbalance.
· Move your body, and find joyful exercise! This helps your detoxification systems eliminate better and also helps regulate weight. Another source of excess estrogen is actually from a conversion process in our bodies from extra fat.
Supplements that help:
· I recommend the supplement called DIM. It contains the extracts of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables (the cabbages, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and kale) in a concentrated form. It has been shown to help increase the breakdown and excretion of the harmful estrogen metabolites (the breakdown products) and may balance your excess estrogen.
· Look for a supplement that contains some (or all) of the following herbs: Turmeric, Rosemary extract, Green Tea and Milk Thistle for enhanced liver detoxification, and therefore elimination of excess estrogen.
I recommend a product called DIM Detox which contains DIM, Milk Thistle and other detoxifying nutrients. You can find it here in my customized dispensary:
· As discussed above, sometimes balancing progesterone can aid in tipping the scales to a more equal place. See my previous blog on Progesterone—The Hormone You Need to Know About for more helpful tips on increasing progesterone naturally.