In both females and males, estrogen plays an important role in hormone balance. However, it is becoming increasingly common for estrogen to become dominant, which can easily lead to other hormones becoming too low. If you are wondering if you could have estrogen dominance, this article will help you to identify and naturally support healthy hormone balance.
What is the role of estrogen in the body?
There are many functions of estrogen, but here are a few of the most important. Estrogen regulates body fat composition, reproductive function in women, cardiovascular health, bone density, and cell growth.
What happens if my estrogen levels are too high?
Estrogen dominance is a common issue for women today because of our lifestyle, stress, environment, and diet. Too much estrogen in a body can not only cause annoying symptoms, but also has been tied to an increase in chronic disease including thyroid disease, heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer (1).
How does estrogen dominance develop?
Here are a few of the ways that high levels of estrogen can develop in the body.
hormonal birth control
stress, both physical and emotional
personal care products
compromised immune system
damaged gut lining
high estrogen can also run in the family
What are the symptoms of high estrogen?
Symptoms of estrogen dominance can vary from woman to woman, but the most common symptoms of excess estrogen includes:
heavy bleeding during period
irritability and depression
low sex drive
swollen, tender breasts
acne and blotchy skin
How can I find out what my hormone levels are?
There are a few options for testing hormones. The most comprehensive assessment of sex hormones and adrenal hormones is the DUTCH test.
The DUTCH Hormone panel is a comprehensive assessment of sex and adrenal hormones, as well as their metabolites. This means the test is measuring not only how much of these hormones are being produced in the body, but also how are those hormones being metabolized (used) and excreted (detoxified).
The DUTCH panel also includes a 24-hour cortisol pattern, organic acids, melatonin (6-OHMS), and 8-OHdG.
The best part about this test?
The sample collection is extremely easy to collect yourself and you can do so in the comfort of your own home! Find more information on the Comprehensive DUTCH Hormone Panel
As mentioned above, there are many factors in our life that can disrupt hormone balance and cause estrogen dominance. These factors include chemicals and toxins found in our environment through the air, water, personal care products, cleaning products, fragrances, and more. We also can disrupt hormones through changes in our diet, lifestyle, and most importantly stress - both physical and emotional stress.
If you still have questions on hormone test, I recommend watching this short video by expert Dr. Carrie Jones on the DUTCH panel.
How can I naturally support hormone balance in my body?
1. Limit chemical and toxin exposure in your environment.
To balance hormones naturally we want to first make sure we are limiting our exposure to xenoestrogens (2). Xenoestrogens are estrogen-like compounds that trick our body into thinking they are estrogen in the body. These chemicals can be found in our perfumes, shampoos, lotions, soaps, makeup, cleaning products, plastic containers and bags, plastic water bottles, and more.
The most common and harmful xenoestrogen chemicals to avoid, include:
BPA (bisphenol A)
PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)
FD&C food colorings, especially Red No.3
Benzophenone found in sunscreens
Pesticides and insecticides
Ethinylestradiol found in hormonal birth control
If you are wondering if your personal care or cleaning products are safe, you can check them in the online database called SkinDeep by the Environmental Working Group. Find more information and tools at www.ewg.org
2. Avoid chemicals and pesticides in your diet.
To avoid chemicals and pesticides that can act as estrogen in the body, it is recommended to choose USDA organic food. All animal foods and products contain some estrogen because the animal itself produces the hormone. In conventional dairy farming the cows may even be given high doses of estrogen to increase their milk supply, so choosing organic milk and yogurt is important for balancing estrogen.
Alcohol and sugar should also be limited in the diet. Both alcohol and sugar can contribute to increased estrogen levels by increasing inflammation and body fat. Our body fat can store estrogen contributing to symptoms of estrogen dominance.
3. Eat a whole food, low sugar diet rich in fiber and nutrients.
Fiber is an important part of estrogen balance because it binds and excretes estrogen metabolites from the body before they can become reabsorbed. The recommended intake for fiber in the U.S. is 25 grams per day, but I always encourage my clients to aim for at least 30 grams of fiber daily. Fiber should come from whole-food plant sources including vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and legumes.
Keep in mind when you are increasing fiber in your diet you need to also increase the amount of water you are drinking so that you do not cause uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms or constipation.
Are there specific foods that can help reduce estrogen?
Flax seeds contain phytoestrogens, which are the plant's natural estrogen. Phytoestrogens help to support estrogen balance, as well as help to clear excess estrogen from the body to prevent imbalance. Add 1-2 tablespoons ground seeds to your oatmeal, smoothie, or yogurt.
Pumpkin seeds contain phytoestrogens also, helping to weaken estrogen in the body, making it easier for the body to eliminate excess levels. Raw pumpkin seeds called pepitas are green and delicious as a snack.
Cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and Brussesls sprouts contain isoflavones, which are compounds found to help prevent converting testosterone into estrogen (3).
Mushrooms may help to lower estrogen levels by increasing the body's natural testosterone levels. Since hormones are all in balance with each other, if you are able to increase a hormone that is low it will then affect the dominant hormone by bringing that level down (3).
Turmeric is another food that has been found to work positively on testosterone balance and therefore helping to reduce estrogen levels. In one study they found the compound in turmeric called curcumin, to reduce estrogen levels in human cells (4).
It can feel like our body is working against us, but please know that is never the case!
If you're looking for additional guidance and support, let me know. Now is the time to invest in yourself and your body. You deserve to feel happy, energized, and comfortable in your body! Apply to work with me here
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Liz Riesen, Registered Dietitian
works specifically with women's hormones, inflammation, and digestive health. Often these conditions coexist and share common disruptive symptoms including bloating, weight gain, anxiety, mood swings, irregular cycles, and other inflammatory symptoms.
Liz is trained in identifying and healing food sensitivities, as well as balancing hormones naturally through nutrition and lifestyle. Follow me @moms.hormone.dietitian