The information in this article should in no way be intended as medical advice.
If anyone is struggling with annoying symptoms and cannot figure out what is causing them, they may be suffering from estrogen dominance. Our endocrine system is made up of a widespread group of glands and organs that control the production, storage, and secretion of special substances called hormones. Hormones play a very important role in almost every part of the body's functioning. When they are unbalanced, this can cause many different unwanted symptoms.
Estrogen dominance is just one of many different ways our hormones can be out of balance. Some women have progesterone dominance for example, however this is much less common. So how do you know if you are experiencing estrogen dominance? The following is a partial list of symptoms caused by estrogen dominance:
Cold hands and feet
Depression and/or anxiety
Water retention or bloating
Unfortunately, our modern lifestyle and environment is wreaking havoc with our endocrine system. Estrogen and progesterone are not the only hormones that are affected, however. DHEA, testosterone, cortisol, and many other hormones may be out of balance as well. Many times, when one is out of balance, they all are. While excessive estrogen can lead to problems, it's a little more complicated than simply "too much estrogen." All hormones are important, and work together to keep us healthy. Once the following steps I lay out at the end of this article are implemented, all hormones should balance themselves, not just estrogen and progesterone. After all, the body is constantly trying to keep itself healthy -- a process called homeostasis. It is when negative outside influences affect this delicate system that disease occurs.
Women need approximately 300 times more progesterone than estrogen. When estrogen, progesterone and testosterone are working well together, everything is fine and we feel great. We all have a complex feedback system between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, the ovaries, and the adrenal glands that determine how much of each hormone is made at any one time. Any disruption of this feedback system, and you will start experiencing uncomfortable symptoms.
Conventional doctors have always maintained that menopausal symptoms were caused by a drop in estrogen. We are now starting to realize that these women may have too much estrogen. Progesterone drops during this time as well, so these two hormones become unbalanced. Even young women who are no where near menopause are experiencing high levels of estrogen, and suffering needlessly. Remember though that your estrogen levels can be in the normal range, but if you are low in progesterone, you can still be estrogen dominant. It is the ratio of these two hormones that is important.
Our livers play a very important role in hormonal health. Anything that impairs liver function will result in excess estrogen levels, whether it is from liver disease, or exposure to environmental toxins, drugs, stress or a poor diet. The liver normally inactivates excess estrogen, and the inactivated estrogen is cleared by the kidney in the urine. If the liver is congested or impaired in any way, this can cause too much estrogen to build up in the body.
As you may know, sleep is essential to good health. If your body is not producing enough melatonin at night, you will not sleep well. After time, this can cause health problems. According to studies published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, women who regularly work the night shift may be putting themselves at an increased risk for breast cancer. Bright light during night time interrupts the circadian biological cycle, significantly reducing the amount of melatonin that is produced. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. it helps break down excess estrogens like estrone and estradiol. It also helps regulate other hormones and maintains the body's circadian rhythm. Sleeping in complete darkness seems to help the body produce melatonin. In addition to this, tryptophan (an amino acid found in foods) converts to 5-HTP, then converts to serotonin, then to melatonin, then to dimethyltryptamine (the dreaming chemical). So getting enough of this amino acid is improtant as well.
Foods containing tryptophan include pumpkin seeds, hemp, gogi, bee pollen, chlorella, spirulina, bananas, raw cocoa, sunflower seeds, eggs, raw milk (goat, cow and sheep), raw seaweed, walnuts, figs, papaya, banana, strawberries, sweet cherries, mango, pineapple, grapefruit and hazelnuts.
So we have two goals here when dealing with hormonal imbalance. One, we need to stop introducing synthetic estrogens, and two, we need to help the body (mainly the liver) rid itself of excess estrogen.
Step One - Avoid Xenoestrogens
The word "xeno" literally means foreign. So, xenoestrogens are "foreign estrogens." There have been over 80,000 chemicals introduced into our environment since the 1940's, and many of these are known carcinogens.
There are hundreds of chemicals that are
estrogen-like in their composition. Pesticides, chemicals in plastics, the lining of cans, body care products, laundry detergents and soaps, commercially raised beef, poultry, and dairy products, birth control pills, medications, sunscreen, fragrances in air fresheners and perfume, cleaners and other products, DDT, bleach and many many more. It is essential to rid the house of these products, and eat only organic, hormone free food. Even if one is not experiencing symptoms, these chemicals will eventually build up in the system and cause problems. The following tips are ways I keep my hormones balanced:
I use a reverse osmosis filter so that I do not have to drink out of plastic water bottles. I then store this water in a glass carafe in the fridge. When I travel, I keep water in glass or stainless steel water containers.
I got rid of plastic containers and switched to ceramic or glass when I need to store food. I do not cook food in Teflon cookware, and only use cast iron, stainless steel, glass or ceramic. I do not own a microwave because heating plastic in the microwave leaches chemicals into the food -- even microwave-safe containers. Microwaves also change the molecular structure of food into a substance the body does not recognize.
I only purchase lotions, makeup, sunscreens, deodorants, shampoos and soaps that contain no parapens, phthalates, fragrances, or any other ingredients I do not recognize. I do not use perfume or air fresheners, but use essential oils instead.
I use only plant based cleaning products in my home, or make home made ones. I use a paste of baking soda and vinegar to scrub toilets, sinks and bathtubs. Vinegar works great to clean windows and counter tops, and I use a steam mop to sanitize my floors and garbage cans. I avoid bleach and bleached products like paper towels, toilet paper and sanitary napkins.
I also avoid buying canned food. Eden Foods brand sells canned beans that do not contain BPA in the lining of their cans, however they are expensive. I buy dried beans instead and save myself a whole bunch of money.
I eat only organic food, and grass-fed organic animal products. This is a huge source of hormones and xenoestrogens.
Step Two - Help the Liver Detoxify
Fortunately there are many foods and herbs that can aid the liver in ridding itself from excess estrogen.
First off, consuming plenty of cruciferous vegetables can help tremendously. Indole-3 Carbinol is found in cruciferous vegetables. When your body digests indoles, a bunch of compounds are released. DIM (Diindolylmethane) is one of them. DIM helps increase the metabolism of estrogen, helping break it down into its beneficial or "good" estrogen metabolites. Many of the benefits of estrogen, including its ability to protect the heart and brain, are now known to come from these "good" metabolites, as opposed the more aggressive forms of estrogen.
Calcium D-Glucarate is a relatively common nutrient found grapefruit, apples, oranges, broccoli, spinach, and Brussels sprouts. It is also made naturally in small quantities by the body. This nutrient aids the body in the elimination of many harmful substances and helps to lower abnormally high levels of steroid hormones including estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone.
Herbs such as chaste tree, milk thistle, false unicorn, nettle leaf, and red raspberry leaf all support hormonal balance. Milk thistle helps the liver detoxify itself, while chaste tree and red raspberry both help increase progesterone. Nettle leaf is very high in most vitamins and minerals, and it also nourishes the whole body.
Sweating is very important when you want to rid the body of chemicals and toxins. Exercise does double duty because it helps you sweat and also boosts the lymphatic system to release toxins. Sitting in a sauna or a hot bath are also great ways to get the body sweating. I usually drink an infusion of yarrow to further help this process.
Avoiding refined sugar, white flour, and caffeine will help keep the adrenals working better, which has a direct affect on hormones.
Stress plays an incredibly important role in hormonal health. Do not ignore this, especially if you are suffering from symptoms. You absolutely have to find time to relax and unwind.
If you are having at least half of the symptoms listed at the beginning of this article, it would be wise to talk to a doctor and get your hormone levels tested. This is a saliva test that can be purchased online or at a naturopath's office. Once you find out your actual hormone levels, you can work with your doctor to see if you need supplemental progesterone, estrogen, or both. However, I would highly advise anyone to do all the tips I have given you above before taking any sort of hormone. If you are still having symptoms, you may need progesterone cream that can be applied to your skin. Talk to your doctor about this.