Irritability, PMS, extremely heavy or light periods, exhaustion, weight gain, low libido, skin breakouts, food cravings and binges – these are all signs that your hormones are out of balance and that you may be dealing with excess estrogen.
In the past 40 years, the rates of estrogen-related disorders and cancer in both sexes have reached epidemic proportions.
The underlying problem is often estrogen dominance.
Causes of Estrogen Dominance
The primary causes of estrogen dominance are adrenal fatigue, excessive environmental estrogen, obesity, stress, poor diet, lack of exercise, and unopposed estrogen given as part of a hormone replacement therapy. With the advent of industry in the past 70 years, our body has been subjected to unprecedented insults from environmental estrogenic substances. We, who live in the developed world, are bathed in a continuous sea of estrogen and do not realize it.
A low-fiber diet causes estrogen levels to be higher, while a diet high in fiber results in decreased estrogen levels in the bloodstream. Why? Excess estrogen is excreted in the bowel. When stool remains in the bowel for a longer time, as in constipation, the estrogen is reabsorbed. Studies have shown that women on a high-fiber diet have lower levels of circulating estrogen.
Commercially raised cattle and poultry are fed estrogen-like hormones and growth hormones that are passed onto humans. Our animal food is mostly female. The male animal that we eat is either castrated (capon) or treated with estrogen to tenderize the meat. Half of all antibiotics in the United States are used in livestock — 25 million pounds a year. These antibiotics contribute to hormone disruption. The use of antibiotics is especially prevalent in poultry farms. Feeds used contain a myriad of hormone-disrupting toxins including pesticides, heavy metals like arsenic, antibiotics, and drugs to combat disease.
Commercially grown fruits and vegetables contain hormone-disrupting pesticides. Pesticide residues have chemical structures that are similar to estrogen. In the past 100 years, several hundred billion pounds of pesticides have been released into the environment. Pesticides that are banned in the US, such as DDT, are still sold to third world countries, which sell their pesticide-laced produce back to the US. Illegal pesticides are being used on crops that we eat everyday. Produce with the most pesticides reported in A Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce include strawberries, bell peppers, peaches, apples, apricots, and spinach. Foods with the least amount of pesticides include avocados, corn, onions, sweet potatoes, bananas, green onions, broccoli, and cauliflower. If you are eating non-organic fruits and vegetables, peel and wash them well with diluted vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. This will help to reduce pesticides on the surface. However, this will not help to eliminate the pesticides on the inside of the produce. You must eat an organic, whole foods diet.
Caffeine intake from all sources is linked with higher estrogen levels. Studies have shown that women who consumed at least 500 milligrams of caffeine daily, the equivalent of four or five cups of coffee, had nearly 70% more estrogen than women who consume no more than 100 mg of caffeine daily, or less than one cup of coffee. Tea is not much better as it contains about half the amount of caffeine compared to coffee. The exception is herbal tea, which contains no caffeine.
Stress causes adrenal gland exhaustion as well as reduced progesterone output. This tilts the estrogen to progesterone ratios in favor of estrogen. Excessive estrogen in turn causes insomnia and anxiety, which further taxes the adrenal glands. This leads to a further reduction in progesterone output and even more estrogen dominance. After a few years in this vicious cycle, the adrenal glands become exhausted. This dysfunction leads to blood sugar imbalance, hormonal imbalances, and chronic fatigue. For more information, see my article Epidemic Adrenal Fatigue.
Lack of Exercise
You need to exercise to metabolize excess estrogen. An exercise program must incorporate flexibility, cardiovascular, and strength training exercises. All it takes is 5 minutes of stretching every day, 20-30 minutes cardiovascular training 3 times a week, and 15-20 minutes of strength training 2 times a week. A properly structured program takes an average of 30 minutes a day. Pilates is the perfect exercise program, as it incorporates strength and stretching. Add some walking and you’re done!
Improper Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) with estrogen alone lacking sufficient opposing progesterone, such as the drug Premarin, should be banned. This increases the level of estrogen in the body. Premarin, an estrogen-only drug commonly used in the past 40 years, is the mainstay of estrogen replacement therapy. It is a patented, chemicalized hormonal substitute that is different than the natural estrogen in your body. It contains 48% estrone and only a small amount of progesterone, which is insufficient to have an opposing effect. The indiscriminate and over-prescription of Premarin to many who may not need it is a problem. The excessive estrogen from ERT also lead to increased chances of DNA damage, setting a stage for endometrial and breast cancer. HRT is safe if done properly, but should be a last resort after suggestions below in the section ‘Resetting the Balance’ are tried.
Overloading the Liver
The liver is a filter. It detoxifies our body, protecting us from the harmful effects of chemicals, elements in food, environmental toxins, and even natural products of our metabolism, including excess estrogen. Anything that impairs liver function or ties up the detoxifying function will result in excess estrogen levels, whether it has a physical basis, as in liver disease, or an external cause, as with exposure to environmental toxins, drugs, or dietary substances.
Taking drugs that can impair liver function may also contribute to a higher level of estrogen. Even taking over the counter medications like Advil or Tylenol overload and are toxic to the liver. It is best to avoid medications, use them as a last resort, and determine and resolve your issues’ underlying cause to avoid use of medication.
Alcohol has a major impact on estrogen. Liver diseases such as cirrhosis from excessive alcohol intake reduce the breakdown of estrogen. Alcoholic men with impaired liver function develop a condition called gynecomastia (enlarged breasts), loss of male pubic hair, and eunuch-like features. Estrogen dominance syndrome can be evoked in women by too much alcohol. It has been found that circulating estrogen levels increase significantly in women who drink. In one study, blood and urine estrogen levels increased up to thirty-two percent in women who drank just two drinks a day. Consequently, breast cancer risks are higher for women drinkers.
Men, women, and children are notably fatter across the world. There is a direct correlation between elevated estrogen and disorders involving obesity, blood sugar problems, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. This is due to estrogen dominance syndrome. Fat is an active substance, which aids the body in increasing estrogen. Fat has an enzyme that converts adrenal steroids to estrogen. Overeating is the norm in developed countries — half of Europe and two-thirds of the US are obese. The heavier one is, the higher the incidence of menopausal symptoms and estrogen-related symptoms and disease. People who have a normal weight and eat more wholesome foods have a far lower incidence of menopausal symptoms because their pre- and post-menopause levels of estrogen do not drop as significantly.
Xenoestrogens are estrogenic chemicals produced industrially. They are substances that mimic estrogen in your body. They are everywhere and one of the main reasons why men and women are suffering today. Xenoestrogens contribute to estrogen dominance and must be avoided as much as possible to reverse your symptoms and excess estrogen-related disease.
Plant estrogens, are rich in hormone-modulating factors called phytoestrogens, many of which can actually help reduce harmful estrogen activity in the body, particularly related to reducing the growth and spread of cancer cells. However, there is emerging evidence that some phytoestrogens may, in fact, do the opposite, and cause negative effects similar to estrogenic chemicals — causing cancer and promoting their growth.
Recent research has also confirmed the existence of a previously unknown class of cancer-causing estrogen-mimicking compounds: “metalloestrogens.” The following metals, which are added to thousands of consumer products have been identified as being capable of binding to cellular estrogen receptors and then mimicking the actions of physiological estrogens.
Resetting the Balance
If you suffer from some of the problems mentioned earlier, you may want to consult with an innovative physician or nutritionist who recognizes the syndrome of estrogen dominance. A naturopathic doctor can measure the levels of hormones in your blood or, in the case of progesterone, in your saliva.
Estrogen dominance is not a standard medical diagnosis but is entering the lexicon of alternative-minded physicians. I encourage you to speak to your doctor and learn more about estrogen dominance.
I also HIGHLY recommend a Hair Mineral Analysis. It is a great screening tool when it comes determining you amount of toxic heavy metal exposure as well as:
- Adrenal functioning (stress)
- Mineral deficiencies
- Mineral and metal toxicities
- Liver and kidney functioning
- Carbohydrate tolerance
- Cortisol and stress hormone indicators
- Thyroid function
- Nervous system imbalances
- Metabolic rate
All of these factors come together to paint a picture of health imbalances you may have. Even more importantly, however, they can give you insight into how to best move forward with a customized detox towards optimizing your health and hormones.
Since heavy metal toxicity does not happen in a vacuum, you can be sure that if your hormones are being impacted, other areas of your body are also taking a hit. With a hair mineral analysis, you can get the big picture view of what’s really happening in your body so that you can take actionable steps based on your own metabolism and body chemistry towards recovering your health and clearing excess estrogen!
Click Here for References+
1. Benson, Jonathan. Research finds flaxseed can help prevent, treat hormone-associated Cancers.
October 29, 2012. http://www.naturalnews.com/037736_flaxseed_hormones_cancer.html
2. Hoffman, Ronald, MD. Estrogen Dominance Syndrome. http://www.drhoffman.com/
3. Hoffmekler, Ori. The Anti-Estrogenic Diet. North Atlantic Books, 2011.
4. Kent, Linda Tarr, Estrogenic Effects of Tea Tree Oil. April 28, 2010. http://www.livestrong.com/article/113251-estrogenic-effects-tea-tree-oil/
5. Lam, Michael, MD. Estrogen Dominance. http://www.drlam.com/articles/estrogen_dominance.asp
6. Laurel, Melissa. A List of Xenoestrogens. http://endojourney.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/a-list-of-xenoestrogens/
7. Mercola, Joseph. Environmental Toxins Causing Early Puberty in Both Boys and Girls. December 19, 2012
8. Rogers, Sherry.Detoxify or Die. Prestige Publishing, 2002.
9. Ross, Julia. The Mood Cure. Penguin Books, 2002.