Balanced hormones keep us energized and feeling good. But when one hormone starts to take over, it can wreak serious havoc on our health. This is especially true when there's too much estrogen in the body.
Estrogen is responsible for so many functions in the body, from promoting regular menstrual cycles to keeping the heart, brain, skin, and hair healthy. But just like with anything else in life, there's such a thing as too much of it.
What is estrogen dominance?
Estrogen dominance is exactly what it sounds like: There's simply too much estrogen floating around the body relative to progesterone. These sex hormones will ebb and flow naturally throughout your cycle but should generally balance out, with higher estrogen in the first half of your cycle and higher progesterone in the second half.
Estrogen dominance occurs when estrogen doesn't get metabolized and eliminated properly through the bowels. When this happens, it gets reabsorbed into the body, leading to an imbalance.
What causes estrogen dominance?
There are two types of estrogen: one that the body produces naturally, and one that comes from external sources like food and the environment. When an imbalance occurs, it could be caused by one of many factors—or a combination.
Endocrine disruptors: Also called xenoestrogens, these chemicals—think household cleaners, makeup and skin care products, synthetic fragrances, plastics, birth control pills, conventional meats and vegetables, and preservatives—mimic estrogen, disrupting the body's normal processes.
Gut imbalances: Balancing gut bacteria is critical for balancing hormones, especially for processing and excreting excess estrogen. If it doesn't leave the body, it gets recirculated.
Insulin resistance: This condition, often closely linked with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can kick estrogen production into high gear.
What are symptoms of estrogen dominance?
Symptoms of estrogen dominance can range from having painful, irregular, heavy periods to experiencing anxiety and depression, reduced libido, fatigue, and weight gain. The best way to determine whether you have estrogen dominance is to take the DUTCH test, which dives deep into your sex hormones.
Strategies for overcoming estrogen dominance
Luckily, there are ways to reverse estrogen dominance naturally by removing excess estrogen from the body. Here are some quick tips.
Reduce exposure to xenoestrogens. Swap plastic bottles for glass, and replace personal-care products and household cleaners with more natural versions whenever possible. Fortunately, the past few years have given rise to the availability—and affordability—of natural products made without synthetic chemicals. Essential oils are also great replacements for both fragrances and household cleaners.
Eat phytoestrogens, but in moderation. Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring compounds found in plant-based foods (think soy, broccoli, carrots, and oranges). While healthy, they also mimic estrogen in the body. If you have estrogen dominance, it's best to limit your intake of these foods at least until your estrogen is better balanced.
Try foods that support balanced hormones. Opt for organic whenever possible to steer clear of pesticides—or wash traditional fruits and vegetables in a vinegar-and-water solution to remove them—avoid drinking too much coffee or alcohol, and kick refined sugar to the curb. Make sure you're getting plenty of fiber through cruciferous vegetables and probiotics through fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha so you can boost liver detoxification and promote estrogen elimination.
The bottom line
Regardless of whether you get tested to confirm or rule out estrogen dominance, it's still helpful to take these steps toward reducing your toxic load. Endocrine disruptors can do more than lead to an estrogen imbalance, and reducing your exposure to them can do wonders for the body.