Hormonal Imbalance & Estrogen Dominance in Women
By Shana McQueen, N.D.
The status of our health and how we feel on a daily basis is greatly determined by the orchestra of hormones playing their “music” within our bodies. Similar to musicians creating beautiful masterpieces when they work cooperatively as a team, the same principle applies to hormones. These chemical messengers carry important signals throughout the body, and they must work in harmony with each other to establish conditions for optimum health. When hormones stop working cooperatively and are no longer produced in their ideal proportions, hormonal imbalances ensue and problems arise.
Any human being living in the modern world today has a good chance of being influenced by the hormonal imbalance commonly referred to as estrogen dominance. This is a situation where there are abnormally high levels of estrogen and estrogen activity going on in the body. Estrogen is essentially running the show and having a bigger impact on the body than it would under normal circumstances.
In women experiencing estrogen dominance, there is too much estrogen in the body relative to its balancing hormone, progesterone. Put another way, there may be a normal amount of estrogen in the body paired with a deficiency of progesterone or a high amount of estrogen paired with a normal amount of progesterone. Either scenario leads to the same estrogen dominance effect.
Too much estrogen in a man’s body is also problematic and can lead to an array of negative health consequences. However, estrogen dominance seems to be a much more prominent problem in the female gender due to the bigger role that estrogen plays in the female body. Estrogen dominance in women has been linked with the following conditions:
- Cyclical breast swelling
- Cyclical breast pain or tenderness
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Mood swings/PMS – emotional, sad, weepy
- Anxiety or depression
- Headaches or migraines
- Painful periods
- Irregular or heavy periods
- Periods with large clots
- Uterine fibroids or polyps
- Gallbladder problems
- Cervical dysplasia (precancerous cervical tissue)
- Hormone related cancers such as ovarian, uterine or breast cancer
By skimming over this list, you can get an idea about how far-reaching the effects of estrogen dominance extend. Chances are good that you or someone you love has probably been influenced by at least one or more of these conditions at some point in your life.
Estrogen dominance is clearly a big problem in our world today, but is there anything that can be done about it? Absolutely! Before trying to provide solutions to any problem, first we need to recognize the contributing factors at play. And there are many – Dietary and lifestyle choices, stress levels, digestion and nutrient status, toxic exposures and detoxification abilities, genetic tendencies, and methylation pathways, to name a few! To be a little more specific, here are some of the reasons why many women develop estrogen dominance and associated conditions:
- Excess exposure to environmental estrogens (xenoestrogens and metalloestrogens) –
- Consumption of commercially raised cattle & poultry that are fed synthetic hormones.
- Consumption of commercially raised fruits & vegetables that contain pesticides, which mimic estrogen.
- Use of many consumer products that contain petrochemical compounds – cosmetics, lotions, soaps, shampoos, perfumes, hair sprays, deodorizers, etc.
- Exposure to car exhaust, solvents and adhesives in nail polish, paint removers, and glues. Dry-cleaning chemicals. Almost all plastics. Industrial waste products like PCBs and dioxins.
- Exposure to toxic metals that mimic estrogen – some examples are aluminium, antimony, cadmium, cobalt, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, and tin
- Obesity and higher BMI (body mass index)
- Use of synthetically-produced estrogens like birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Imbalanced ovarian function in women
- Anovulatory cycles (failure to ovulate during the menstrual cycle, periods may be otherwise regular)
- Surgically-removed ovaries
- Poor diet – Lack of nutrition and too many processed foods
- Poor digestion
- Poor liver/gallbladder function and overall detoxification
- Chronic stress, unresolved emotional issues
- Other lifestyle factors including smoking and alcohol use
Without a doubt, environmental estrogen exposures paired with our contemporary lifestyles make it difficult for our bodies to detoxify and keep our hormones in proper balance. To maintain and/or restore optimal hormonal function so that we can live life to its fullest, we all must be proactive when it comes to our health.
Some of the important actions we can take to protect ourselves and our loved ones from excessive estrogen exposures include the following:
- Eat a diet rich in organic whole foods.Aim for 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
- Eat “clean” animal products (meat, dairy, and eggs), meaning raised without antibiotics and hormones.
- Decrease exposures to environmental estrogens.Use non-toxic household cleaning products and personal care products that are free of parabens and phthalates.
- Reduce your usage of plastics in your kitchen.Use glass and stainless steel containers instead.
- Find methods of reducing your daily stressors, either by changing the situation or changing your mind.This can be easier said than done – If you need help with this, work with a professional.
- Establish a healthy sleep routine if you don’t already have one.Restful sleep is essential for adrenal health and hormone balance.
- Address digestive imbalances or problems you may be dealing with.It’s critical to have the right balance of micro-organisms in your gut for healthy hormone metabolism. It’s also essential to have a well-formed bowel movement at least once or twice daily.
- Reduce your intake of alcohol.Alcohol stresses the liver, which plays a critical role in the detoxification of estrogen and xenoestrogens.
- Move your body daily in some way that you enjoy.It’s especially great if you can break a little sweat!
- Optimize your methylation pathways.To do this, you will want to work with a practitioner knowledgable in nutrition, detoxification, and of course, methylation.
By following these guidelines, you will be well on your way toward supporting natural hormone balance in your body, in addition to lowering your risk for virtually all types of chronic disease. If you find yourself going through difficult hormonal transitions, feeling stuck with your health, or simply would like to receive guidance from a practitioner experienced in this area, please contact our office and make an appointment. I would be honored to be a part of your healing journey!
To find out more about Dr. Shana McQueen, click here.