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Thanks for coming back for another round of my balanced living with a hormone imbalance series!
If you’re just tuning into this blog series, I’m discussing how to live a balanced life with a hormone imbalance. Being diagnosed with a hormone imbalance can be a scary, overwhelming thing.
But, you don’t have to just deal with living a life filled with the symptoms of a hormone imbalance.
In fact, you can live harmoniously with your hormones … despite your hormone imbalance.
While there are situations and circumstances where medical therapies are necessary, I truly believe that natural remedies are foundational, and should always go hand in hand with medicinal therapies.
You can catch up on the hormonal imbalances that we’ve already covered below:
balanced living with a hormone imbalance: uterine fibroids edition
balanced living with a hormone imbalance: endometriosis edition
balanced living with a hormone imbalance: PCOS edition
balanced living with a hormone imbalance: low progesterone edition
The sixth, and final edition—blocked fallopian tubes—will be comin’ at you in the coming weeks, so be sure to check back soon :).
Today’s topic? Estrogen Dominance!
Estrogen is one of the most important female reproductive hormones.
Estrogen is produced by the developing follicles in a woman’s ovaries, as well as the corpus luteum and the placenta.
Estrogen helps to create a thick endometrium (aka uterine lining), which is critical to allowing a newly fertilized embryo to imbed successfully in the uterine wall.
Estrogen is also essential for:
Estrogen dominance essentially means that estrogen levels are too high relative to other hormones, specifically progesterone. It can also happen when progesterone levels fall too low. It can occur at any time during life: during reproductive years, perimenopause, or even menopause.
Like low progesterone, estrogen dominance can cause a variety of symptoms, some obvious and some subtle. Keep in mind that many of the symptoms of estrogen dominance coincide with symptoms of other health issues, so even if you have some of these, it doesn’t necessarily mean your estrogen levels are elevated—but it’s one of the possibilities and worth looking into.
irregular cycles: this could mean that your cycles are longer or shorter than normal, come sporadically, or you don’t have a period at all.
menstrual cycle issues: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, fibroids, severe menstrual cramps and PMS symptoms like swollen breasts, water retention, and digestive issues.
infertility: difficulty conceiving and issues related to not ovulating.
loss of energy and sex drive: low libido, “foggy” brain, memory lapses, chronic fatigue, insomnia, and sluggish metabolism (resulting in weight gain).
emotional issues: headaches, depression, anxiety, mood swings, heart palpitations, and sleep disturbances.
skin disruptions: allergy-like symptoms (asthma and hives), dry eyes, vaginal dryness, and hair loss.
metabolism: weight gain, low thyroid, water retention, and obesity.
other medical issues: allergy symptoms, migraines, joint pains, hot flashes, night sweats, incontinence, and bone loss.
Several things can lead to estrogen dominance, but no specific thing has been determined as a root cause. Here are some of the factors that we do know can play a role:
Processed foods or foods that are high in unhealthy fats and sugar can increase estrogen levels. Not having enough magnesium and Vitamin B6 can also affect estrogen levels.
Estrogen and progesterone work like a seesaw, so as one goes up the other goes down. We live in an estrogen-dominant world, and we’re bombarded by environmental estrogens, or xenoestrogens, every single day. They’re everywhere—in the plastics, canned foods, conventional meats, non-organic fruits & veggies, our body care products, cleaning supplies, and many more daily exposures.
Fat cells perform a function called “aromatization” which converts testosterone to estrogen. The more body fat, the more the body tips the balance towards estrogen and away from testosterone.
The liver is responsible for clearing the body of “old” hormones, especially estrogen. If the liver is overburdened with a hyper-caloric diet, a diet filled with excess sugar, alcohol, vegetable oils, GMOs and/or chemicals, it becomes sluggish in its ability to process everything. When the liver slows down, estrogen ends up becoming backlogged, and wreaks havoc on the reproductive system as it waits for the liver to heal and to catch up in its bloodstream clearing capacity.
Cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, is released whenever we’re feeling stressed. When this happens your hormone’s activity is inhibited, and hormonal balance is thrown out of whack. When the adrenals are stressed, the increased need for cortisol depletes the progesterone levels used in making cortisol. As more progesterone is used for cortisol production, less is available to balance estrogen—leading to increased estrogen levels.
When there is too much estrogen in the luteal phase, your entire cycle gets thrown off and the delicate orchestra of hormonal balance is interrupted.
When you’re hormonally imbalanced, your menstrual cycles become irregular and you begin experiencing many of the estrogen dominance symptoms listed above. Fertility may be affected because the recruitment of follicles is altered by insufficient FSH. Slowly the body stops recruiting premium, dominant follicles.
Also, the quality of your uterine lining is negatively affected by estrogen dominance, so even if you become pregnant, your risk of miscarriage or issues during pregnancy is increased.
The good news—there are many ways to naturally decrease estrogen levels!
As with any major diet and lifestyle changes, it takes at least 6-12 months of consistent change, along with natural therapies, to bring about real change in the body when living with estrogen dominance. So don’t give up when things get tough—I promise that these changes will be worth it in the long run!
It’s important to AVOID foods that increase estrogen levels in the body. The top foods to stay away from include:
It’s also important to consume adequate amounts of fiber. Fiber helps remove excess estrogen from the body and helps keep blood sugar levels balanced, which is critical for optimal hormone balance. Examples of great sources of fiber include:
Consuming a whole food nutrient-dense diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruits, wild-caught fish, organic grass-fed meat, dark leafy green vegetables, and herbs are beneficial for keeping estrogen levels in balance.
Royal Jelly has been shown to promote balanced hormones by supporting the endocrine system. It’s also been shown to reduce symptoms associated with hormonal imbalances. Because Royal Jelly has the propensity to mimic estrogen, it is similar to phytoestrogens, which have been found to protect the body from xenohormones and estrogen dominance.
Don’t be overwhelmed by supplement options that help with estrogen dominance! I’ve rounded up my fav five to help you navigate the supplement world:
Magnesium: Not only does magnesium allow the body to absorb calcium, it also regulates the pituitary gland, which in turn regulates hormone levels. The pituitary gland regulates the production of FSH (follicular stimulating) and LH (luteinizing) that in turn regulate the production of estrogen and progesterone. When it is lacking, your body will produce less of the hormones necessary to keep your reproductive system in good shape. Boosting your magnesium can help to heal PMS, PCOS, adrenal fatigue, menopausal symptoms, and all other hormone-cycle related health problems. And the great news is that once your magnesium levels are balanced, the positive changes happen fast.
Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 helps to regulate your hormones. One research study has shown that taking Vitamin B6 at doses of 200-800 mg/day can reduce blood estrogen levels and result in improvements in PMS symptoms. Research has also shown that women with high levels of Vitamin B6 have lowered their chances of miscarriage by 50% and improved their fertility by 120%.
Maca: Maca works by controlling estrogen and progesterone in the body. Estrogen or progesterone levels that are high or low at the wrong time can keep a woman from becoming pregnant or keep her from carrying a pregnancy to term. Taking maca may help to balance the estrogen to progesterone ratio which is essential to getting pregnant successfully and carrying a healthy, full-term pregnancy. Check out this blog post to find out why Maca is GREAT for fertility.
DIM-Evail: DIM (diindolylmethane), is a compound that helps to support healthy estrogen metabolism. DIM balances the hormones by breaking down estrogen and removing it from the body.
Vitex: Vitex is one of the most powerful herbs for women’s fertility and menstrual health. There are numerous studies and testimonials of Vitex and its effects on the body. One of the reasons Vitex is so effective and popular is because of its ability to balance hormones while not containing hormones itself. Vitex supports hormonal balance in the body by affecting the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis (hormonal feedback loop), correcting the problem at the source. Typical dose is 1000 mg per day.
Lifestyle changes are some of the most effective ways to help naturally balance your estrogen levels. The following lifestyle suggestions complement your dietary and nutrition changes. I suggest implementing as many of the following as possible.
The easiest, and potentially the most important change to make, is to limit your exposure to xenoestrogens. What exactly are xenoestrogens? They are substances not naturally found in nature that have hormonal effects on the body. They have an estrogenic effect on both the male and female bodies. Because estrogen and progesterone work like a seesaw, as one goes up the other goes down, so decreased progesterone levels can cause increased estrogen levels. These toxic substances are easily absorbed through the skin and build up in the body over time.
So what do xenohormones look like in our daily lives? Here’s what you need to avoid:
Check out the Environmental Working Group’s website to find the cleanest cosmetics, sunscreens, personal care products, house cleaners, and everything else. You can also check out the Shop My Home & Beauty Favorites section of my website to optimize your skincare, body products, cleaning supplies, etc.
Exercise is incredibly important, as it can speed up the liver’s detox processes, sharpen insulin sensitivity, boost weight loss, help mitigate mood swing problems associated with estrogen dominance, and reduce levels of stress hormones in the body.
Excess estrogen is stored in adipose tissue – body fat. Being overweight or obese contributes to hormonal imbalance because fat cells are known to change the hormone produced by the ovaries called androstenedione into estrogen. Estrogen is then stored in these fat cells and slowly released into the body. The more body fat, the more potential for excess circulating estrogen.
One common symptom of Low Progesterone is irregular menstrual cycles. Lunaception can help to regulate your cycles and bring some hormonal balance back to your body. This practice focuses on sleeping in complete darkness except for three nights out of your cycle/month. This is what our bodies are traditionally used to when we would only be exposed to light at nighttime during the three nights around the full moon. Darkness is closely tied to optimal hormone production and when we sleep in a room with light pollution from street lamps, nightlight, and alarm clocks, it can disrupt the natural production of hormones while we sleep.
To practice lunaception, you need to sleep in complete* darkness from the beginning of your cycle until day 13. Starting on day 13, and then on days 14 and 15, use a dim night-light to sleep, or even better google the moon cycles and base your “nightlight” nights on the day before, the day of, and the day after the full moon. The rest of the time you sleep in total darkness. After a while, you should find that you ovulate at the full moon and experience menstruation at the new moon.
* to ensure complete darkness, I recommend blacking out your room entirely—that means no LED lights from alarm clocks, fire alarms, TV’s, etc! You can get blackout curtains or use a sleeping mask to keep ALL the light out.
Natural progesterone is very useful to balance excess estrogen. Natural progesterone can also be used by the body as a precursor or starting material to make other hormones such as adrenal hormones.
Natural progesterone is used for a variety of reasons including:
There is also research and medical theory indicating the appropriate balance of progesterone:
Progesterone, which plays a crucial role in brain function, is often called the “feel-good hormone” because of its mood-enhancing and antidepressant effects.
Natural progesterone oil is applied to the vaginal tissue. It’s important to be supervised and to have progesterone levels monitored because too much progesterone can cause side effects like mood changes, depression, water retention, weight gain, and absent or abnormal menstrual bleeding.
To read more about dosing and how bioidentical progesterone works, see Increasing Progesterone with Progesterone Cream.
High-stress levels can lead to lower progesterone production … and in turn, lead to estrogen dominance. Cortisol—your body’s “stress hormone”—is involved in the stress response but is also needed to make other hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. Prolonged stress can lead to elevations in cortisol, which practitioners say may decrease the available progesterone and result in a hormonal imbalance.
The present world is filled with stress, that’s non-negotiable. But how you respond and react to stress is entirely in your control. Practice managing your daily stressors with ease. My favorite tools for this are: restorative yoga, long slow walks in nature, biofeedback, a hot bath, a massage, or whatever else brings your unique soul pleasure! This may be one of the most important things you can do to naturally balance your estrogen levels!
Estrogen is one of the most important female reproductive hormones.
Estrogen not only plays several important parts in your fertility and pregnancy, but it’s also responsible for healthy bone formation, healthy gene expression, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, and promoting a healthy menstrual cycle.
You CAN naturally balance estrogen levels through diet and lifestyle changes!
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