What Is Estrogen Dominance and Why Is It So Common?

What are the root causes of estrogen dominance?

Many women wonder, what is estrogen dominance and do I have it? Estrogen dominance is increasingly common in the Western world, and you may be experiencing estrogen dominance without even knowing it. Symptoms of estrogen dominance include:

  • Heavy periods, meaning you go through a pad or tampon in 1-2 hours or less for at least one day of your flow
  • Bleeding for longer than four days
  • Painful cramping during your periods
  • Headaches before or during periods, or around ovulation
  • Mood swings before your period
  • Bloating or gaining weight weight before or during your period
  • Strong food cravings before or during your period
  • A history of fibroids or ovarian cysts
  • Endometriosis

All of these are common symptoms of having excessive estrogen in your body, also called estrogen dominance. You probably know a lot of women who experience these frustrating, painful, and annoying symptoms. Maybe you’re experiencing them yourself! But just because estrogen dominance is common does not mean it’s normal. Why are so many of us estrogen dominant?

Estrogen 101

There are a few key factors behind estrogen dominance. Before we get into them, it’s important to know some facts about estrogen. Estrogen is a main female sex hormone. There are actually three forms of estrogen: Estradiol is what we’re talking about today and is the main form of estrogen found in pre-menopausal women. Estriol is the form of estrogen that’s predominant in pregnant women, and estrone is the form of estrogen made by post-menopausal women. Estrogen is produced in the ovaries and in fat cells. That means that men can and do produce estrogen (and in fact high levels of estrogen are observed in overweight and obese men), and it also means that women with higher levels of body fat will produce more estrogen. Your body has two main pathways for excreting, or getting rid of, excess estrogen: The liver and the gut.

High Rates of Obesity

It makes sense that one factor behind estrogen dominance is the higher levels of body fat we’re seeing in American and Western women. That’s because women who have more body fat will naturally produce more estrogen. However, I regularly see estrogen dominance in women who are far from overweight or overfat, so this one may or may not pertain to you.

Poor Liver Detoxification

Keeping in mind those excretion pathways we mentioned, I see poor liver detoxification very often as a key factor in estrogen dominance. Our liver is already overburdened metabolizing all of the environmental toxins we encounter every day, and then we add insult to injury with a standard American diet that is more focused on foods that impair liver function vs foods that aid in liver detoxification. So improving liver health becomes crucial so that your body can actually work to metabolize that excess estrogen and it doesn’t continue to build up. This has so much to do with improving your diet, moving towards an anti-inflammatory diet, adding in key foods that we know support healthy liver function, and getting rid of the foods that are known to impair estrogen metabolism in the liver. Hint: caffeine and alcohol are two of those suspects.

Suboptimal Gut Health

Most estrogen dominant women also have poor gut health. In fact, I’m going to say the majority of Americans have poor gut health. Not only are we very often dealing with constipation, bloating, gas, and overall poor digestion, which can all mean toxins and excess hormones are not being excreted and can build up, we’re not eating and living in ways that support a healthy microbiome. Did you know there’s an entire subset of your microbiome, called the estrobolome, that works to break down and metabolize excess estrogen? Your estrobolome is trying to do its job, but up against the Standard American Diet and our lack of pre and probiotic foods, the estrobolome is not able to do it’s job. If you’re not pooping and your gut microbiome is imbalanced, that estrogen will continue to build up.

Endocrine Disruptors

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interact with and impact our body’s endocrine system, meaning they can actually influence our hormone levels. The majority of endocrine disruptors are close enough in molecular structure to act as estrogens in the body. These are called xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens interfere with the production, metabolization, and cellular response of our our natural estrogens. Many xenoestrogens are used like natural estrogens in the body, and can lead to estrogen building up. Endocrine disruptors are unfortunately all around us. I’m willing to bet they’re in your personal care and makeup products, your cleaning products, your cookware and food storage containers, your soaps and laundry detergents, and even in the pads and tampons you use. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s not realistic to avoid all xenoestrogens – not even for someone like me who lives this every day. Instead, figure out the biggest sources of xenoestrogens in your life and replace them with nontoxic and safe products to reduce your overall estrogen load.

Balance Your Estrogen For Good!

I really hope this article helped cut through some of the white noise about estrogen dominance and gave you a better sense of what you need to start changing in your lifestyle to promote healthy estrogen levels. Estrogen interacts with so many hormone pathways and body systems and of course has a big impact on fertility. I work with women every day to normalize estrogen and balance hormones. We see positive results in just months because I pinpoint the root cause of the imbalance and correct it from there. If you could use the support of an experienced women’s health expert to help balance your sex hormones and eliminate estrogen dominance you can book your complimentary 30-minute Functional Fertility consult with me here!

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