Estrogen is one of the two main sex hormones in the female body, the other being Progesterone. The ovaries are the main site of Estrogen production as well as smaller amounts being made in the adrenal glands and fat cells.
Estrogen is important for promoting the development and maintenance of female characteristics in women. They are essential in the growth and development of secondary female characteristics, such as breast development, pubic hair, and the regulation of the menstrual cycle and reproductive system.
This important hormone is essential in the female body, however, what happens when we have too much of it? Is it possible to have too much of a good thing?
Estrogen dominance is when your Estrogen levels are higher than they should be, or when they outweigh your levels of Progesterone. Estrogen and Progesterone work together to help maintain a healthy reproductive system. All the hormones in our body work closely together to perform specific functions, so when one hormone ratio is higher than it should be, the rest of your hormones are negatively impacted.
When your hormones are all functioning optimally, you have plenty of energy, your skin stays clear, you’re sleeping well and your digestive system is happy. However, when your hormones are imbalanced, you are constantly exhausted, you can’t seem to lose weight, have mood swings and anxiety, your libido goes and your menstrual cycle is all out of whack.
Estrogen dominance is becoming an increasingly common health condition. We are constantly being exposed to Estrogen in our food and our environment, in the air we breathe and in our household products, cosmetics and medication.
Some of the potential side effects of being Estrogen Dominant include headaches and migraines, mood swings, bloating and weight gain, decreased sex drive, acne, as well as more serious conditions including Endometriosis, Ovarian cysts and Fibroids.
What Causes Estrogen Dominance?
When your Progesterone levels are too low, this can lead to Estrogen Dominance, even when your Estrogen levels are optimal. Low levels of Progesterone are commonly seen in those who experience chronic stress. When we are stressed, our body produces a hormone called cortisol (stress hormone) to respond to the crisis. Progesterone is a precursor to cortisol. Living in a world where we are constantly exposed to stressful situations means our Progesterone levels are constantly depleted in order to respond to stress.
Estrogen Dominance can result from medication. Estrogen Replacement Therapy is a common method of treatment among perimenopausal and menopausal women which can throw off hormonal balance.
The hormonal birth control pill is also another cause of Estrogen Dominance. The birth control pill is very commonly prescribed by doctors to regulate or control periods, to treat acne or to prevent pregnancies, just to name a few. These women tend to stay on the pill for years without understanding its long-term effects.
The liver is responsible for maintaining hormonal balance, thereby reducing Estrogen Dominance. When liver function is impaired, it becomes sluggish in its ability to process everything, and when the liver slows down, Estrogen gets backlogged wreaking havoc on the reproductive system.
Excess body fat can also lead to Estrogen Dominance. Fat tissue absorbs and stores Estrogen circulating in the bloodstream. Having high levels of Estrogen cues your body to make more fat cells, which produces more estrogen, which becomes a vicious, endless cycle.
Xenoestrogens are man-made chemicals in the environment that mimic natural Estrogen in the body. Overexposure to xenoestrogens can disrupt hormonal balance. Xenoestrogens are found in many forms in our food, personal care product, toys, cooking utensils, heavy metals, plastics, and even in skin care products and cosmetics, which are especially bad as they are directly absorbed into your tissues.
Phytoestrogens are also known as dietary Estrogen, which is naturally occurring Estrogen in plants. Phytoestrogens can be found in soy products including soy milk, soy sauce, tofu, miso and tempeh.
How To Reduce Estrogen Dominance
Choose organic or pasture fed meat and dairy where possible. Many farmed animals are pumped with hormones and antibiotics to increase their growth and milk production. Organic or pasture fed products contain lower levels of pesticides which are common hormone disruptors.
Wash your food thoroughly to remove any traces of pesticides used, and include plenty of fiber into your diet. The body gets rid of excess Estrogen through digestion.
Avoid plastics, including water bottles, containers, and bags, as they contain xenoestrogens. Choose glass or ceramic water bottles or food storage containers, and be careful not to heat plastics as this can break down chemicals and cause them to leach into your food and drink.
Choose to cook with ceramics or cast iron, as non-stick utensils contain xenoestrogens, and as mentioned, when heated, can leach into your food.
Choose cosmetics, skin care and laundering products with fewer or organic ingredients to help limit your exposure to xenoestrogens.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
If you are Estrogen Dominant and need an excuse to exercise, this is it. As mentioned earlier, Estrogen can be stored in our fat cells. Exercise helps lower your weight and reduce the number of fat cells which lowers the amount of Estrogen in the body.
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