Oestrogen dominance is a hot topic in the health space right now, but what if oestrogen is not really the bad guy? There is a lot to take into account when looking at hormone balance and in this video I give an overview of the main things you need to know about oestrogen.
Before we do a deep dive, we need to understand the term ‘Oestrogen Dominance’. While it’s not officially a medically recognized term, it’s rather a concept used to describe a pattern of hormone imbalance which typically presents itself in these ways.
How Oestrogen Dominance Is Caused
Today, I want to explore a concept that seems to be on the radar for a lot of women at the moment, and one that I see a lot of in clinical practice, and that is oestrogen dominance. Sometimes it’s called oestrogen imbalance, oestrogen excess or unopposed oestrogen (or depending on your country, you might have heard it called estrogen dominance), and it is something that seems to be a bit demonized at the moment and I think oestrogen does get a bit of a bad wrap.
It’s a very important hormone for female health, it’s important for egg development, cycle regularity and helping our endometrial lining to grow, bone health, muscle strength, mood, skin health, cognition, and lots of other jobs that has in the body. But, the problem seems to be that many women have an issue where oestrogen is either in excess or there’s different types of oestrogen, so some of what we consider bad oestrogens are in higher amounts than the good oestrogens. Or the concept of oestrogen being in a higher amount in the body than progesterone, or not in balance with progesterone because they do have different levels.
What Happens In The Body?
So what happens when this occurs is we get symptoms and signs. Some common symptoms and signs of oestrogen dominance are things like heavy and painful periods, there can be mood disturbances, like irritability, and teariness, and especially symptoms that peak just before the period can be like PMS type symptoms, low libido, weight gain, bowel issues, bloating, and fluid retention.
These are all the kinds of symptoms that we hear when women do have high oestrogen or oestrogen imbalance. Some signs that are a real indicator that we need to investigate this further would include a heavy period because oestrogen is a proliferative hormone, especially what we consider a more negative oestrogen, oestrone, and, so, the heavy period is caused by over proliferation of the endometrial lining.
Also important to consider would be, fibroids or growths in the uterus, cystic breasts, or even cysts on the ovaries; anything that involves growth.
How Do Oestrogen Levels Adapt As We Age?
One of the bigger issues I have discovered is to do with the aging process (aren’t they all). As we age progesterone levels significantly decrease. From about the age of 35 to 50, we have around a 75% decrease in our progesterone levels whereas we have about a 35% decrease of oestrogen levels. So, all of the sudden, oestrogen is not being kept in check by progesterone, and a lot of these symptoms do occur for women in their late 30s, 40s, and 50s.
In saying that, I see stacks of young women, teenagers, in their 20s, that are really presenting with these issues and I think there’s a number of reasons why this is occurring and I think it’s particularly a modern day problem.
So what do I mean by a ‘modern day problem’? Here are some key contributing factors that are contributing to oestrogen dominance.
- Perimenopause: This is a stage in life that not many of us look forward to. Here progesterone is declining due to anovulatory cycles or less robust ovulation while oestrogen does a rollercoaster, meaning levels are imbalanced – resulting in those challenging symptoms.
- Liver toxicity or poor liver function: Phase II detoxification is the most important and this often needs support. If the liver is burdened by toxins or not functioning optimally, the process of conjugation is diminished meaning that oestrogen is not metabolised efficiently.
- Gut imbalance: Dysbiosis (bad bugs taking up residence in the microbiome) causes increased beta-glucuronidase that un-conjugates the detoxified oestrogen and makes it active again. It can then be reabsorbed through the gut wall and back into the system through a process called entero-hepatic recirculation.
- Constipation & low modern day low fibre diets: These foods contribute to the same effect – increased dysbiosis and increased reabsorption (this is why constipated stools are more hard and challenging to pass – more fluid reabsorption). Our body likes to recycle bile which is what the liver uses to transport the detoxed oestrogen into the bowel.
- Modern environmental factors: With our ever changing environment, especially with an overload of chemicals, these are important to consider. Especially look at your proximity to:
- Phthalates and Bisphenols – these are known hormone disruptors.
- Toxins in general – clogging up your detox systems.
- Diet: External factors aren’t the only things that are changing – so is our diet, the very things we nurture our bodies with. The modern diet is rich in foods that are low fibre (as mentioned before), cause higher burdens on the liver and are inflammatory. They are also lower in healthy sources of vegetables and protein, which are essential for phase II detoxification support.
- Alcohol & drugs (even hormonal contraception): Alcohol and drugs (both prescription and recreational drugs) are a big contributor to oestrogen dominance as they disrupt phase II detoxification by burdening the body with toxins. Hormonal contraception, especially that in higher doses, floods the body with artificial oestrogens and blocks progesterone entirely (as no ovulation occurs), contributing to further imbalance.
How Do We Remedy This?
Because it’s such a huge field, there’s so much that we can do to help and learn about what’s occurring. With the right practitioner, we can look at lots of beautiful strategies that we can utilize through diet, herbs and supplementation to really turn it around.
If you’re interested in discovering how we can work together, head here to book your free 20 minute consultation.