What is Estrogen Dominance?
(with normal or low progesterone)
Can it be treated naturally?
Estrogen dominance can occur at all ages. It brings a feeling of fullness and bloating and adds to weight loss resistance and irregular menses in women. Many women want to know if this can be treated without medication and the answer is absolutely yes. We see estrogen dominance most commonly as we age especially as women enter their 40’s.
Originally thought of as simply ovarian failure as we age we now know it is more complicated than that. It is important to understand that peri-menopause and menopause are not simply states that can be defined by a blood test. Peri-menopause is actually thought to begin up to 10 years prior to the true ovarian failure of menopause. Early irregular hormone function (perimenopause) begins more likely with a disruption of, or decreases in the efficiency of the connection between brain and ovaries.
Cells communication is the basis of how our body functions as a whole. As our cells and their DNA divide, the new cells in our aging body become less efficient at talking to each other-similar to a bad cell phone connection. The once fast and sharp brain-ovary hormone system not only slows -but sometimes the response of the ovary to the brain signal can even be inappropriate. Therefore this system begins to not function as well and results in lack of organized hormone regulation. The ovaries can go months at a time producing high or dysregulated levels of estrogen in an unpredictable way. We see this also in how we regulate our blood sugar and this combination is a large part of the cause of this ‘frustrating weight gain’ that begins to develop in our 40s.
The non-synchronized estrogen-progesterone hormone cycle acting on the uterus another parts of the body lead to Estrogen dominance.
Estrogen elimination is very important but becomes even more so in the peri-menopausal high estrogen years. It is done through detoxification in a healthy liver. This process requires well functioning enzyme reactions and the right level of vitamins and nutrients. Estrogen molecules as they function in our body cannot dissolve in water. They must be chemically converted, in the liver, to slightly different substances enabling elimination in urine or stool. Poor ability to eliminate estrogens in the high estrogen state can only lead to more significant symptoms.
Throughout this above process progesterone can be low or normal. Yes, estrogen dominance can occur even with a normal progesterone!
An inappropriate or excess estrogen stimulation from the brain can build an abnormally thickened uterine lining that will lead to shortened or irregular and/or long cycles.
A combination of excess production of estrogen along with problems with its elimination can create also an elevation of estrogen at the level of our body tissues. This process will have women feeling as if they retain excess fat in their waistline and have increased breast fullness and tenderness. Often the estrogen will be converted to testosterone and women will develop abnormal hair growth, greasy skin and acne almost like a teenager. As some younger women can have genetic or lifestyle issues with liver detoxification they can also develop estrogen dominance.
Remember these symptoms can go on for months and years and bring with them a see-saw of symptoms. Although lab testing can give an indication of what is happening remember as stated above at any given moment there is not definitive test that determines if you are in peri-menopause.
Treatment—As of the fluctuation of hormones occurs so frequently the simple blood test diagnosis can be difficult. Estrogen and progesterone levels are constantly changing so an understanding of what is happening is the best tool any woman can have. Remember fluctuation of symptoms can be minimized by maximizing Balanced Interventional Wellness (TM)- stress management, healthy diet, sleep and exercise. This regimen will also be helpful to your liver as it detoxifies. Your body will compensate more efficiently and your symptoms will lessen. For the above reasons simply taking progesterone should not be a first line therapy. Saliva evaluation can add insight should the above not be enough.
Diet support— Estrogen elimination is accelerated through a pathway that is unregulated by exercise and cruciferous vegetables(broccoli, kale, cauliflower) and antioxidant fruits such as dark berries.
Supplements—DIM(Di-Indole Methane), Indole 3 Carbinol, Antioxidants and Zinc have all been shown to aid estrogen metabolism. Be careful however about just haphazardly supplementing as not all vitamins are created equal and each individual is different. Micronutrient testing(via Spectracell Labs) is an excellent way to check for individual nutrient deficiencies. If we are thoughtful about what we put into our body and how we exercise and are vigilant with self-care—hormone balance can be achieved!