Happy Sunday all!
I am relaxing on the couch with my morning coffee (which I have tried numerous times to cut out, no clue HOW I am going to do that in order to repair my adrenal glands, and subsequently my estrogen and progesterone levels) but I digress! The boy is still sleeping – I don’t know how he sleeps SO long, but it just means peace and quiet for Sully and I so I’m alright with that 😉
Because I have been trying to level out my estrogen and progesterone levels lately with my naturopath, I wanted to do a few blog posts on this topic, since I’m sure it affects numerous women (and men actually) out there reading. I came across the Detox Diva, who has a whole wealth of information on this topic, so I have borrowed from her 🙂
Today we’ll be talking about what estrogen dominance IS, and tomorrow I’ll go into detail about some nutritional and lifestyle adjustments that can be made to help with this problem.
What is estrogen dominance?
Most women don’t think of estrogen until around menopause when they clamor to their doctors at the first symptom of “the change” and their doctors quickly write them a prescription for an estrogen replacement. The problem with this conventional mindset is that a significant drop in estrogen levels does not appear until after the very last period a woman has in her life. Until then she is still producing estrogen. In fact, she is probably producing much more than she did in her earlier years.
In a completely healthy woman, free of menstrual issues and hormonal imbalances, and in normal weight ranges, estrogen levels are a bit like a race car. From the onset of menstruation, through the childbirth phases of life, the race car is going at a steady pace, with a full tank of gas (or in this case, estrogen production.). Estrogen dominates the first half of the cycle and progesterone brings up the rear in the last half of the cycle. It’s a well-oiled machine. The race car knows he has quite a long race and to be able to reach the finish line the race car needs to pace itself. As a woman gets older, and it might shock you to know this starts happening as early as the early 30’s, the race car starts to move a little faster. This phase is known as premenopause. It’s generally marked by more PMS symptoms and slight changes in the cycle. This goes on until the woman enters perimenopause. Perimenopause is the period leading up to menopause and can begin a full 5-8 years before the onset of menopause. When a woman enters perimenopause the race car punches the “gas” and tries to compensate by producing estrogen like a demon possessed. This usually happens when a woman fails to ovulate (anovulatory cycles) in a cycle and the estrogen just keeps on being produced instead of the progesterone taking over as would happen during a cycle where an egg is released. This is what happens in a normal healthy woman living in a bubble, eating organic food, using non-toxic products, and breathing the freshest of air purified by angels. ALL of this happens in a perfectly healthy woman. It’s the revving of the accelerator to overproduce estrogen while the production of progesterone stays largely the same as at a younger age that causes much of the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.
What SHOULD happen during a healthy woman’s cycle:
What happens to a woman’s cycle who is currently estrogen dominant (progesterone deficient):
It’s at this time unenlightened doctors prescribe estrogen tablets or patches (like trying to overfill a gas tank) to a woman whose body is already racing to the proverbial “finish line” of menstruation. This is one of the major causes of “estrogen dominance” by which I mean too much estrogen in relation to the progesterone production.
Here’s even worse news. Estrogen dominance is not just a problem faced by “women of a certain age” these days. In fact, estrogen dominance is one of the main contributors to infertility issues in the Western world today. It affects younger and younger women and it is a major contributor to certain kinds of cancers such as breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers. As in my case, I am estrogen dominant, most likely due to my non-functional adrenal glands, and all of the xenoestrogens I have come into contact with over the span of my life the last 31 years.
What causes estrogen dominance?
Being overweight is a prime cause of estrogen dominance. Estrogen is produced in the ovaries but it is also produced in adipose tissue (fat cells) so a woman with a high BMI runs the risk of overproducing estrogen. There is another complication to the overproduction of estrogen because of being overweight. (Estrogen stimulates alpha receptors which stimulate fat cells to store fat while beta receptors help break down fat.) So bottom line, the heavier you are the more estrogen you will produce (no matter your age) and you will store it on the tummy, hips and thighs. I have definitely experienced this over the last 10 years of my life – I have become an expert at covering up this extra weight by wearing loose tops, lululemon sweatpants, and the list goes on. My current teacher cannot believe I am as “thin” as I am with my adrenals so shot and estrogen through the roof, but he has failed to see what’s hiding behind my heavy sweater lol.
What causes being overweight and/or obesity? For starters, a low- fiber, high refined carbohydrate, low- nutrient diet full of modern wheat (and refined at that) and highly inflammation causing processed foods. Our Standard American Diet (SAD) full of acid producing foods is the number one cause of obesity in the Western world today. Low quality mass-produced meat and poultry products laced with antibiotics, hormones, and other environmental toxins (and they are fed on grain which means that the meat itself is low quality and toxic), is throwing our delicate hormonal balances into free fall. Pesticide laden, not to mention genetically modified, toxic produce is triggering immune reactions which throw those delicate balances further into a tailspin. Soy products, found in absolutely every processed food on the market, is a MAJOR cause of estrogen dominance today! First, we eat too much of it as it is touted as a health food; we eat it unfermented and unsprouted, and we eat genetically modified soy. (Soy is the number 2 most genetically modified crop in the United States.) Since it is in every processed food (textured soy protein and soy isolates, to name a few) and it is not even used WHOLE, it is one of the hidden causes of obesity today! It is also phytoestrogenic which means it adds to the cascading amounts of estrogen already being produced.
Stress causes imbalances in cortisol, noriepinephrine, and insulin. This causes adrenal fatigue which can trigger insulin resistance triggering obesity which then causes estrogen dominance. Is it starting to gel that the human body MUST be treated holistically and cannot be selectively “healed” with medication treating symptoms? Hence why I am studying to become a HOLISTIC nutritionist – we have to look at the body is a whole, not as separate parts!!!
An impaired immune system as in those suffering from an autoimmune illness such as rheumatoid arthritis, polymyositis, lupus, and fibromyalgia can trigger estrogen dominance but as chronic inflammation and alkalinity in the body is restored so the symptoms of these illnesses will dissipate curbing estrogen dominance.
Environmental factors, the biggest ones being toxic chemicals in beauty and personal care products from your face cream to your shampoo, are prime endocrine (hormonal) disruptors. Parabens, found in 98% of products today, and phtalates, hidden in ingredients lists as “fragrance” mimic estrogen in the body. They have both been linked to breast cancer in both women and men.
Symptoms of estrogen dominance?
Here are just some of the symptoms of estrogen dominance.
- Irregular periods
- Heavy, painful periods and large clots present during menstruation
- Breast Swelling and Tenderness
- Weight gain around tummy, hips and thighs,
- Cold hands and feet (a symptom of hypothyroidism)
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Mood swings or anxiety/depression
- Premenstrual headaches
- Breast cancer
- Decreased sex drive
I can tell you I have numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 11, 12, a bit of 14, and definitely 15. Yikes!
I am currently on day 20 of my cycle, which means that progesterone levels should be coming up, however, they have not, hence the moodiness, irritability, depression, anxiety, etc. If you are in the same boat as I am, and have been able to treat this issue naturally, please enlighten me! I would love to take all of the help I can get!
Enjoy your restful Sunday everyone – no homework for me today, just rest and relaxation. Ahhhhhhhhhh. Stay tuned for my next post on estrogen dominance tomorrow 🙂