What Is Estrogen Dominance? An Imbalance That Should Be On Everyone’s Radar
Estrogen dominance is a common hormone imbalance that can cause an array of challenging symptoms and lead to many serious health conditions.
Here we will explore what estrogen dominance is, its many symptoms, causes, testing options, and treatment.
What Is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen is considered a steroid hormone and is one of the primary sex hormones within the body. It is present in both men and women although women have much more estrogen in their body than men.
A sex hormone is any hormone that is involved in sexual development and reproduction.
Estrogen is produced mainly by the ovaries and adrenal glands. It can also be stored in and produced by fat cells.
There are 3 forms of estrogen in the body including estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3). Estrone is a less potent form of estrogen that is higher in women who are in the postmenopausal stage of life. Estradiol is the most potent form of estrogen that is highest in women during the reproductive stage of life. Estriol is highest during pregnancy.
Another important sex hormone that is also made by the ovaries and adrenal glands is called progesterone. Progesterone plays a key role in the balancing of estrogen.
Estrogen and progesterone levels rise and fall according to the phases of the menstrual cycle which include menstruation, follicular, ovulation, and luteal. Each performs important designated tasks throughout the body.
Estrogen dominance can develop when there is a higher level of estrogen in relation to progesterone. Sometimes this doesn’t necessarily mean a high estrogen level, but a higher level than is appropriate in relation to progesterone, as there must be a balanced ratio between them for optimal health.
Estrogen plays key roles within the body such as:
- Preparing the female body for pregnancy
- Development of sperm
- Regulation of libido
- Supporting bone, heart, and immune health
- Supporting mental health
However, balance is absolutely key when it comes to our hormones and this balance is required for our endocrine system to function properly.
When this vital balance is disrupted in favor of excess hormones, many systems of the body are impacted and many symptoms and conditions can develop.
Both women and men can develop estrogen dominance, however women are more prone due to having higher levels of estrogen than men.
Estrogen Dominance Symptoms
The following are symptoms associated with estrogen dominance.
Several “symptoms” you see here are health conditions of their own, of which estrogen dominance can be an underlying cause of.
- Chronic fatigue
- Weight gain
- Water retention
- Bloating (often severe, involving a feeling of abdominal pressure and fullness)
- Digestive upset
- Tender/sore breasts
- Swollen breasts
- Breast cysts
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Brain fog
- Difficulty concentrating and memory issues
- Mood swings
- Low libido
- Worsened premenstrual or menopausal symptoms
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Headaches and/or migraines
- Heavy menstrual flow
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Severe menstrual cramping
- Uterine fibroids
- Difficulty conceiving
- Thyroid imbalance such as low thyroid function/hypothyroid function – which includes additional symptoms such as severe fatigue, low body temperature, heart palpitations, hair loss, dry skin, weight gain, and many more.
- Endometriosis – which includes additional symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, difficulty conceiving, irregular periods, and more.
- Copper Toxicity – which includes additional symptoms such as severe fatigue, anemia, anxiety, weakened immune function, cessation of the menstrual period, adrenal fatigue, and many more.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome/PCOS – which includes additional symptoms such as hair loss, weight gain, ovarian cysts, and many more.
- Some cancers such as some types of breast and ovarian cancer
An additional symptom that is experienced by men (along with most of those above) is called gynecomastia, which is an enlargement of the breast tissue.
Causes of Estrogen Dominance
- Liver Dysfunction
The liver is the main organ that is responsible for metabolizing and eliminating excess estrogen from the body. If the liver is not functioning properly, many of its over 500 functions will become dysfunctional. This can lead to an excess of estrogen and subsequently estrogen dominance.
There are also gene variants that can interfere with proper liver detoxification and estrogen metabolism. If these gene variants are expressive, they can contribute to the development of estrogen dominance as well.
- Gut Imbalance
The gut is one of the main elimination pathways of the body.
If one’s gut is imbalanced for any number of reasons, excess hormones are unable to be properly eliminated which leads to the reabsorption of excess hormones.
This can then contribute to hormone imbalances including estrogen dominance.
- Biotoxin Illness/Mold Toxicity
Biotoxin Illness is a chronic illness that is developed as a result of prolonged exposure to mold in one’s environment. This condition can contribute to estrogen dominance in a couple ways.
First, it catalyzes a state of chronic stress within the body, which decreases progesterone production resulting in excess estrogen (this is explained further below).
Second, this condition can cause compromised liver and gut health, which will adversely impact the body’s ability to properly metabolize and detoxify excess estrogen, leading to estrogen dominance.
Much more on this condition can be found here.
Xenoestrogens are chemicals that disrupt our body’s hormone balance, also known as endocrine disruptors. They mimic the estrogen hormone in the body, contributing to imbalance.
Xenoestrogens can be found in many common items such as conventional household cleaners, food preservatives and dyes, plastics, industrial waste, synthetic hormone replacement therapies, tap water, the birth control pill, nail polish, some prescription drugs, dryer sheets, chlorinated water, receipt paper, pesticides, and more.
Phytoestrogens are compounds that are found in plants that mimic the hormone estrogen in the body.
Several examples of phytoestrogens are soy (including soybeans, tofu, tempeh, and more), black cohosh, dong quai, licorice, red clover, and ginseng.
Soy is often thought to be a “health food,” so people can be loading up on it thinking they are benefiting their health, without realizing that this can contribute to significant hormone imbalance.
Consumption of notable amounts of phytoestrogens can lead to estrogen dominance and its associated complications.
- Synthetic Birth Control
Most types of synthetic birth control such as the pill, IUDs, rings, patches, and more include estrogen. These are often referred to as “combination” forms of birth control, as they will typically include both synthetic estrogen and progestin.
These types of birth control can greatly disrupt the body’s natural sex hormone balance, often causing a state of estrogen dominance because of the extra estrogen that is being introduced to the body on a continuous basis.
- Chronic stress
In response to chronic physical, emotional, and/or mental stress, your body will continuously produce high amounts of one of the main stress hormones, cortisol. This then reduces the body’s ability to produce sufficient amounts of progesterone.
Because sufficient levels of progesterone are needed to balance estrogen, this physiological response to chronic stress can then lead to estrogen dominance.
There are a variety of different hormone testing methods which include blood, urine, and saliva testing.
While blood or urine testing can be somewhat helpful, saliva testing is typically the most accurate, as it will measure your hormone levels over the course of a 30-day period.
This is helpful to gauge your body’s specific hormone patterns and to measure the particular imbalances that are currently present.
Treatment for Estrogen Dominance
Addressing estrogen dominance includes:
- Improving estrogen metabolism/detoxification by supporting liver and gut health
- Lowering one’s exposure to sources of excess estrogen and endocrine disruptors
- Increasing progesterone to encourage balance
- Reducing stress
- Addressing certain lifestyle factors such as making sure to get enough sleep
Avoiding xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens is key. Switching to natural skincare, personal care products, and natural household cleaners is important to reduce one’s exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals.
Furthermore, there are a variety of effective natural healing agents that can be used to balance estrogen dominance and support improved estrogen metabolism, all of which are outlined in this article.
As we’ve explored here, estrogen dominance is a common sex hormone imbalance that is associated with many challenging symptoms and health conditions.
It is important to be mindful of estrogen dominance to ensure that you can achieve and maintain your body’s hormone balance, which is one of the most significant aspects of our health.