Some of the symptoms of estrogen dominance in menopause can be weight gain, fluid retention and mood swings. So, not only do we have to contend with the likelihood that estrogen is on the way out and baggy sweat pants, handheld fans and irrational tantrums are on their way in. If it so happens that estrogen is dominant (in relation to progesterone) in our bodies we also have to deal with all the crazy that goes with that. This is why I
Estrogen dominance. The first time I heard this term I had no idea what it was. I had enough to contend with considering I was in perimenopause, my estrogen was declining and other hormones were doing their own thing leaving me feeling like some brainless alien in my own body.
Long term if estrogen remains high issues such as fibroids and fibrocystic breasts can result. So let’s see what we can do about making sure that doesn’t happen.
Having hormone balance within our bodies is important for both hormonal health and you feeling like you’re actually a contributing member of the human race.
In this article, I’ll talk about the main signs and symptoms of estrogen dominance, what causes it, and the changes you can make in your life for better balance.
What is Estrogen?
Estrogen is the main female hormone that the body produces. Its levels increase while progesterone levels decrease during a woman’s reproductive years, preparing her body for pregnancy (and is often associated with PMS).
Why should you care about estrogen dominance in menopause? During perimenopause or early menopause, estrogen dominance can lead to weight gain, fluid retention or mood swings as well as many other unwanted symptoms.
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What Causes High Estrogen?
There are several reasons why estrogen might be high in menopause.
When you have too much estrogen it usually means there is a hormonal imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. Either estrogen is normal and progesterone is too low. Or, estrogen is high and progesterone normal.
The main reason for estrogen dominance in menopause is the body’s inability to produce enough progesterone or utilize it properly. The ovaries stop producing eggs, and thus estrogen without corresponding progesterone can result.
Other Possible Causes Of Higher Estrogen Levels
- Not enough fibre to help move estrogen through the bowel
- Alcohol can muck up the amount of estrogen in the body
- A deficit of the minerals zinc, selenium, iodine and magnesium
- Vitamin deficiencies: of folate, B6, and B12
- An under-functioning thyroid: by slowing down eestrogen metabolism
- An unhealthy microbiome in the digestive system
- Endocrine disrupting chemicals: pesticides, plasticisers (BPA), heavy metal toxicity
- Birth control pills: as they contain estrogen these can have a significant impact on the levels of estorgen in your body.
Estrogen is one half of estrogen and progesterone, the female sex hormones that are responsible for menstruation and fertility in women. If estrogen levels become too high at any point in menopause, progesterone levels drop. This imbalance can cause some estrogen side effects that may lead to weight gain or other issues depending on the individual situation.
Short-term estrogen dominance is usually not a problem because your body will eventually correct itself and produce more progesterone to bring estrogen back down. However, in menopause, progesterone production declines to leave those with higher levels of estrogen to suffer its consequences.
How do you know if it’s estrogen dominance? There are a number of signs and symptoms to look for.
Symptoms Of Excess Estrogen In Menopause
Estrogen is known to raise body temperature.
With progesterone on the decline, the heat-inducing effects of estrogen can be left unchecked.
Weight gain is typically not a problem in early perimenopause when estrogen is still high and estrogen receptors are estrogen sensitive.
Later as the estrogen in our bodies remains high, it is more likely to accumulate in the body as fat cells..
This can lead to long-term health issues such as type two diabetes or cardiovascular disease. It may also be a factor in infertility due to anovulation (not ovulating) associated with estrogen dominance.
Another estrogen-dominance indicator. Estrogen drives fluid into the tissues, which can lead to weight gain and bloating.
These are estrogen dominant conditions as well since hormones such as progesterone that help alleviate moodiness, decline during perimenopause.
Hot Flashes and Night Sweats
Estrogen can cause our body temperature to rise.
With progesterone on the decline, the heat-inducing effects of estrogen can be left unchecked.
A lumpy, bumpy breast may be a sign of estrogen dominance. Estrogen is the hormone responsible for creating milk and estrogen is also made by cells in the breast.
Estrogen causes cells to divide more rapidly which results in an increase in size and number of lobes or nodules on the breast. These nodules can cause tenderness during monthly periods as well as cause pain.
Breast cancer is estrogen dominant because estrogen stimulates breast cells to grow rapidly and divide. This process can lead to the formation of a tumour in the breast that may eventually become malignant or cancerous.
If estrogen is high, it’s important for women over 40 to get mammograms every year as well as perform monthly self-checks.
Foggy thinking/ poor memory
Estrogen helps produce acetylcholine, an important brain chemical involved with memory and cognition. When estrogen levels drop during menopause, so does the production of acetylcholine. This can lead to problems with both memory and concentration.
The estrogen hormone is responsible for maintaining estrogen levels in the vagina. Estrogen dominance in menopause can cause vaginal dryness because the levels are too high.
The same side effect can also happen when estrogen is low. This is what often happens during perimenopause due to the change in hormones that affect estrogen production.
Treat vaginal dryness with lifestyle changes, including more water intake. Estrogen is not the only reason for vaginal dryness so if this does not work or is uncomfortable there are additional treatments available such as estrogen cream or estrogen tablets.
Estrogen dominance is also a common cause of hair loss
Estrogen dominance can cause adrenal dysfunction. If the adrenals are not working properly, they will stop producing progesterone to elevate cortisol production. Of course, the downturn of progesterone causes an imbalance between it and estrogen with the result being estrogen imbalance.
Women may choose hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to bring about hormone balance. Detect imbalances with hormonal testing. It is important to talk with your health care provider to determine if HRT is right for you. However, whether or not you choose HRT, there are lifestyle changes that can ease estrogen dominance-related concerns.
How to Reduce Estrogen Dominance Naturally
Eat phytoestrogen rich foods
This estrogen-reducing tip is a simple one. Found in plants, phytoestrogens are estrogen-like compounds. They reduce estrogen by binding to estrogen receptors and blocking them from being activated so that more of the stronger estrogens have to bind with estrogen receptor sites instead which reduces overall estrogen dominance in menopause.
Cruciferous vegetables, soy (non-GMO) and soy products, linseeds, and sesame seeds are all high sources.
Reduce alcohol consumption
Alcohol affects our estrogen metabolism. It activates estrogen, which may lead to higher levels. When the levels become high, alcohol slows down the body’s ability to flush it out. This means more estrogen will circulate through your system at any given time. So cut down on the amount of alcohol you consume or avoid it completely.
Eat cruciferous vegetables
These contain nutrients that help to block estrogen production in the body. They also affect estrogen metabolism so that estrogen can be eliminated from your system instead of building up, making it more difficult for estrogen dominance to occur. Crucifers include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and cabbage.
Include plenty of fibre in your diet
Cells in our digestive tract make the estrogen hormone. When estrogen levels are high, it’s important to activate estrogen and help remove it from your system so that estrogen dominance doesn’t occur. Fibre helps move things along through our small intestine and colon where most of the estrogen metabolism occurs.
Drink plenty of water every day
Water helps estrogen evacuation.
Increase your magnesium intake
Magnesium increases estrogen metabolism helping to keep it at a healthy level.
Use natural skin and hair care and makeup products
Our bodies can absorb estrogen-like compounds found in many makeups and skincare products. They don’t necessarily cause hormonal problems, but they do have a cumulative effect over time which is why it’s important to choose natural alternatives with as few ingredients as possible.
Use as many natural cleaners around the house as you can
As with skincare products, cleaners can contain estrogen-like compounds that can be absorbed through your skin. Try to use natural where you can or wear gloves.
Avoid plastics wherever possible
Plastics can contain estrogen-like compounds that we can absorb. They make their way to the estrogen hormone receptor sites in our cells. Try not to use cling wrap or plastic containers where possible, opt for glass if you’re able.
Avoid meat from animals that have been given hormones
Hormones can affect estrogen levels. Check on meat labels to ensure there no hormones were used in its production or opt for organic, hormone-free alternatives.
Limit processed carbohydrates/sugar intake
Processed carbohydrates and sugar can cause high blood sugar which can eventually lead to insulin resistance. This can lead to the production of more estrogen by our bodies as it tries (and fails) to compensate for this higher demand.
Estrogen dominance is a complex condition. An estrogen and progesterone imbalance is usually the cause therefore it’s important to get familiar with our hormone levels by having tests and knowing what we can do to improve any imbalances.
Estrogen dominance has been linked to estrogen-dependent cancers such as breast cancer in postmenopausal women. It’s also linked to estrogen-dependent conditions like endometriosis, uterine fibroids and polycystic ovary syndrome which can be very difficult to treat.
Reduce estrogen levels as much as possible using the tips above. It may take a while but by being proactive eventually estrogen levels will improve.
Estrogen dominance isn’t the only thing we need to be mindful of in menopause. As estrogen levels decrease there or other hormone imbalances that can also cause menopause symptoms that can be disruptive in our lives.