Dawna Ara, L.Ac.

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Estrogen Dominance and Natural Ways to Balance Hormones

Recently I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter about estrogen dominance and how it could be responsible for a long list of dire ailments. Honestly we shouldn’t be blaming estrogen for the downfall of female health. Afterall, without this hormone the human race would cease to exist. Estrogen has a lot of great qualities. It is responsible for your glowing skin, it helps you to think clearly, it is responsible for your sensuality, and it helps you to feel sexual.

Estrogen levels fluctuate throughout your menstrual cycle as well as throughout your lifetime so it’s normal to see and feel these changes as the levels go up and down. We start to get into trouble when the delicate ratio of estrogen to progesterone gets out of balance. Even women with low amounts of estrogen could be considered estrogen dominant because their levels of progesterone are so low. In this case, you are not feeling symptoms of estrogen dominance because you have too much estrogen, it is because you have too little progesterone!

It’s also important to know that there are more than one estrogen in the body. Estrogen is actually a group of hormones that are involved in many different functions in the body. Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2), and Estriol (E3). Just like the balance of estrogen to progesterone is important, we also want to keep the ratio of each estrogen in balance.

When health care practitioners mention Estrogen Dominance they are usually referring to E1 and E2. These estrogens are considered aggressive and research suggest that high levels of E1 and E2 could be responsible for increased risk of breast and uterine cancer.

Signs & Symptoms Associated with Estrogen Dominance
  • PMS
  • Mood swings
  • Impatience
  • Sensitive
  • Short Tempered and Snappy
  • Heavy and/or Painful Periods
  • Swollen, Painful, and/or Tender Breast
  • Irregular Menstrual Cycles
  • Fatigue
  • Migraines
  • Low libido
  • Sluggish Metabolism
  • Weight Gain
  • Water Retention
  • Insomnia
  • Ovarian Cysts
  • Fibrocystic Breasts
  • Fibroids
  • Infertility
  • Endometriosis
  • Adenomyosis
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Breast, Ovarian, or Cervical Cancer

Now before you run out the door screaming that you have estrogen dominance, remember that these are just signs and symptoms associated with the imbalance, not a diagnosis. There are many reasons why you could be experiencing these symptoms so just relax and do not diagnose yourself without a proper evaluation.

Here are a few things you can do on your own if suspect or have been told you have Estrogen Dominance:

Eat More Cruciferous Veggies

Cruciferous veggies like brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower, kale, mustard greens, turnips, and rutabaga contain a natural chemical called Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C). I3C helps with estrogen metabolism and keeps the ratio of 2 hydroxyestrone (good estrogen) to 16alpha-hydroxyestrone (bad estrogen) in balance. Plus, these veggies contain vitamins like A, B, C, D, E, and zinc which are beneficial to hormone health.

Eat More Fiber, in particular Flaxseeds

Lignans found in flaxseeds and other fatty seeds bind to estrogen in the gut and usher them out for removal. Flaxseeds contain phytoestrogens otherwise known as weak plant based estrogens. Phytoestrogen can take up space on the receptor sites of cells blocking the more powerful estrogens like E1 and E2 from attaching to cells.

I grind my flaxseeds in a coffee grinder and try to eat 2 tablespoons of ground flax a day.

Support Your Liver

Estrogen and thousands of other chemicals get synthesized and broken down in the liver. If your liver is overburdened or not working properly it is going to have a harder time doing it’s job. Support your liver by eliminating alcohol and cutting back on your fatty food intake, increase sulfur containing foods like garlic, onions, cruciferous veggies, and egg yolks, and eat more bitter leafy greens like dandelion. Artichokes, beets, and apples also support the liver. Drink warm water with lemon and herbal teas throughout the day.

Heal Your Gut

A healthy gut is key to proper hormone elimination. Eat cultured veggies, make your own yogurt, and/or take a probiotic. Bad bacteria in your gut make an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. This enzyme is not good because it allows old estrogen that was on it’s way out of the body to re-enter circulation. If you have trouble with elimination, chemicals and waste products like estrogen can get reabsorbed back into the body. You don’t want this to happen so make sure you are consuming enough good bacteria to crowd out the bad, eat high quality organic chemical free unprocessed foods as much as possible and increase your consumption of fiber, prebiotics, and probiotics.

Exercise & Maintain a Healthy Weight

Exercise helps with sugar metabolism and insulin regulation. Plus it helps you to stay at an optimal weight, and we want this for various reasons but mainly because fat cells are estrogenic so keeping extra weight off will help keep your levels in check. I can’t say enough good things about exercise so just do your best exercise 30 minutes or more 3 times a week.

Go To Bed

I know it sounds a bit mundane but good sleep has an effect on all physiological systems in the body. Overtime poor sleep habits will lead to an imbalance in hormone levels. Lack of sleep stresses the adrenal glands which in turn lowers progesterone. Low progesterone leads to signs and symptoms of estrogen dominance. If you are having trouble getting into a good sleep pattern read my article on the Benefits of Sleep.

Decrease Your Exposure to Xenoestrogens

Xenoestrogens are estrogenic chemical compounds found in the environment. Due to our modern lifestyles the world is saturated with these foreign estrogen chemicals. You can limit your exposure to them by using glassware instead of plastic, eat fresh organic foods and don’t eat anything that came out of a can, use natural detergents and cleaning products, chemical free shampoo, conditioner, soap, and creams.

Get Off The Pill

The pill contains synthetic estrogen. Studies have shown that long term use of birth control pills can affect your hormone levels by lowering progesterone and leaving you in a state of estrogen dominance. It’s important to find non-hormonal solutions like using condoms, the rhythm method, and charting your cycle so you can avoid intercourse when you are most fertile.

Find Ways to Play and Manage Stress

The connection between stress levels and hormone imbalance can not be understated. When cortisol levels swing, our female hormones are affected. Sometimes we can’t eliminate the stressor so it’s important to find and learn ways to manage stress. Acupuncture, massage, meditation, taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music, spending time with loved ones, going out to dinner, exercising, hiking, camping, going to a movie, are all ways to manage stress and help you to unwind.

Go See Your Acupuncturist

I’m not saying this because I happen to be one, but because acupuncture and herbal remedies have been found to decrease symptoms associated with hormonal fluctuations. In other words, you will feel better. Plus acupuncture is relaxing and can help you manage your stress. Acupuncture and herbs are great preventative medicines. Getting regular treatments can help prevent or dampen the effects of hormonal imbalances.

References
About Dawna Ara
Dawna is an acupuncturist, herbalist, functional medicine practitioner, a mom, wife, writer, nature lover, chef and whole foods advocate. She teaches how to live a healthy lifestyle through her website Eat Play Work Sleep.