If you’re doing all the ‘right’ things for your health but still feel off, it’s time to take a look at your hormones. Hormonal imbalance can be a difficult thing to decode, but when we know which symptoms to screen for we can start exploring ways to get back to balance.
Over the next few weeks, holistic nutritionist and women’s health expert, Kristin Dahl, will be breaking down an often misunderstood hormonal state: estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance is an issue at the root of many common women’s health conditions these days. Follow along with Kristin’s comprehensive series this month — sign up for our weekly newsletter here so you don’t miss out.
The female body is a complex system that functions with great precision when all hormones are performing as required to fulfill their role as messengers in the body. When this happens, we have proper functioning between the main organs in the reproductive system — the brain, ovaries and adrenal glands.
Estrogen is one of the key hormones in regulating smooth functioning of the female reproductive system and sexual system. Estrogen must be balanced with the hormone progesterone for these systems to function properly. Unfortunately, the balance between estrogen and progesterone can be easily disturbed by excessive exposure to environmental toxins, diet, medications, poor sleep, stress and poor elimination of excess hormones.
Estrogen dominance can lead to weight gain, hormonal complications, blood sugar imbalance, mood swings and depression. Though with proper nurturing, nourishment, movement and self-care, estrogen and other hormone-related imbalances can be normalized and overcome.
What Is Estrogen Dominance?
Before going into detail on estrogen dominance, it’s important to understand what a hormone actually is. Hormones are messengers that send signals to organs telling them how to perform. If we have too little or too much of a hormone, then our organs do not receive the proper signals needed for our bodies to function optimally. Estrogen and progesterone are the two main female sex hormones. They have many different roles in the body and are equally important for reaching and maintaining optimal health.
Estrogen sends messages to the lining of the uterus to grow and thicken in preparation for pregnancy. It also affects sexual urges, sexual response, brain function and bone density. Estrogen impacts the functioning of the thyroid, hypothalamus, anterior pituitary, thymus, skin and the nervous system.
Progesterone also instructs the uterine lining to grow and thicken in preparation for pregnancy. If fertilization does not occur, progesterone levels drop signaling the beginning of the menstrual cycle. Progesterone also decreases cell growth (particularly that of breast cells), reduces anxiety and depression, promotes sleep, influences bone growth and increases the activity of thyroid hormone (which affects metabolism).
Estrogen dominance is one of the most common hormonal imbalances women experience, which can be due to either excess estrogen or a lack of progesterone in the body. Either way, there is an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone and this imbalance can negatively impact health in numerous ways.
Symptoms can include:
Low sex drive
Uterine and breast cancers
Difficulty losing weight
Excessive hair growth on the body
Fat accumulation around the hips, thighs and abdomen
Altered thyroid activity (mimicking hypothyroid)
Heavy and irregular menses
Early onset of menses (before age 12)
The body accumulates excess estrogen in two ways:
We make too much of our own estrogen and it’s not being properly eliminated.
When we make too much of our own estrogen and it’s not being properly eliminated:
Stress | The number one cause of endogenous estrogens. Excessive and/or prolonged stress decreases progesterone production to make more cortisol, the main stress hormone. This results in high estrogen levels in relation to progesterone.
Impaired liver function | One of the many roles of the liver is to remove excess hormones from the body. If the liver is impaired the ability to perform this role also becomes impaired leading to estrogen dominance.
Dysbiosis | A higher presence of bad bacteria verses good bacteria in the gut inhibits the conversion of estrogen into water-soluble molecules. This causes the estrogens to recirculate back into the bloodstream where it can re-exert its effects. Gut health is very important for the metabolism of all hormones.
Other causes | Overconsumption of drugs and/or alcohol, nutrient deficiencies, obesity and sleep deprivation.
Excess estrogens enter the body from external sources, such as foods, the environment, toxins, and chemicals and are not being properly eliminated.
When excess estrogens enter the body from external sources and are not being properly eliminated:
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) | HRT is a form of therapy often used to treat symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. The hormones used in HRT are synthetic.
Growth hormones | Growth hormones contain estrogen. Animal products from conventionally farm-raised animals usually contain growth hormones.
Xenoestrogens | Xenoestrogens are synthetic substances that mimic estrogen. However, unlike estrogen, which the body eliminates after its job is done (typically within about 12 hours), xenoestrogens are stored in fat cells where they disrupt the proper functioning of the reproductive system and increase the risk of disease in the breast and ovaries.
Be sure to catch our full series on estrogen dominance with Kristin Dahl — sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss out!
The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programs.