What is excess oestrogen (aka oestrogen dominance) and how do you reduce excess oestrogen naturally? Well that’s exactly what you’re going to learn in this post.
So if you’re looking for:
- A period that is regular (every 26 – 35 days);
- A period without pain, bloating or breast tenderness;
- A consistent and manageable flow;
- Steady moods;
Then you’ll love the actionable techniques in this article.
Let’s get started.
- What are hormones?
- Common causes of hormonal imbalances
- What is oestrogen?
- Why is oestrogen important? It’s not all bad.
- What is excess oestrogen?
- Signs and symptoms of excess oestrogen
- Common contributing factors of excess oestrogen
- Recommendations: 7 ways to reduce oestrogen simply
- Where to from here?
What are hormones?
Created and regulated by the endocrine system, hormones are chemical messengers that communicate with our organs. Some of the key functions of hormones include growth, repair, sexual function and reproduction, digestion and homeostasis.
Hormones become active only when they find a receptor site that matches their structure.
Given the huge role that the endocrine system and hormones play in overall well-being, it’s not surprising that a hormone imbalance can cause some debilitating symptoms.
So how do your hormones become imbalanced? Let’s dive right in.
Common causes of hormonal imbalances:
The balance of hormones in your body is finely orchestrated. Women need oestrogen and progesterone, along with a small amount of testosterone. Oestrogen and progesterone act like a see-saw: you want them to work in tandem and in the right part of your cycle. For oestrogen it should dominate in the first part of your menstrual cycle and progesterone should dominate in the second half of your menstrual cycle.
Underlying almost every female hormonal condition are a number of key foundational drivers. Common hormonal imbalances can result from chronic inflammation, long-term stress, unstable blood sugars, xenoestrogen and toxin exposure, liver overload, nutrient deficiencies, and hormonal contraception.
Your hormones can influence:
- The intensity of your flow (heavy or light);
- The duration and frequency of your cycle;
- Whether you ovulate;
- PMS symptoms – your mood, acne breakouts and food cravings;
In other words: balanced hormones can improve nearly every aspect of your menstrual cycle (and life!). When oestrogen and progesterone are imbalanced or not working at their optimal state you can experience a whole range of signs and symptoms in your menstrual cycle.
I’ll share with you the signs and symptoms of excess oestrogen later on. But for now I’ll explain what oestrogen is and the important role it plays in women’s bodies.
What Is Oestrogen?
Oestrogen is arguably the best known sex hormone, and while it is present in both men and women, it plays a bigger role in women’s bodies. A steroid hormone, it may surprise you to learn that oestrogen is made from cholesterol. It is produced mainly by the ovaries as well as in some fatty tissues and is dominant in the first half of your menstrual cycle.
There are three types of oestrogen women produce; all of them are present throughout a woman’s life, but one will dominate depending on your life stage:
- Oestradiol (E2) during childbearing years;
- Oestriol (E3) during pregnancy and;
- Oestrone (E1) after menopause;
Endogenous oestrogen is produced by the body, whereas exogenous sources of oestrogen are produced externally and include:
- Xeno-oestrogens – dioxins, bisphenols (found in pesticides, petrochemicals and plastics), hormone replacement therapy and hormonal birth control;
- Phyto-oestrogens (plant oestrogens) – red clover, flaxseeds, soy, lentils, hops;
Why Is Oestrogen Important? It’s not all bad.
As a sex hormone, it isn’t surprising to learn that oestrogen heavily influences puberty (breast development, deposition of fatty tissue around the hips and abdomen, and pubic hair growth), the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. Oestrogen also plays an important role in bone strength, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and helping your skin look plump..
When you hear the term oestrogen dominance it is usually oestradiol that is being referred to. So what role does oestradiol play in the menstrual cycle?
Oestradiol levels fluctuate in line with the menstrual cycle, peaking during the follicular phase, just before ovulation, and is at its lowest during menstruation. As you finish menstruating and ovulation approaches, oestradiol levels rise and trigger thickening of the endometrium in preparation for implantation of a fertilised egg.
Now that we’ve covered oestrogen and the role it plays in your body, let’s dive into excess oestrogen.
What Is Excess Oestrogen?
With excess oestrogen your ovaries may make too little, too much or a normal amount of oestrogen, but have little or no compensating hormone to cushion its effect in your body (remember the see-saw action of hormones I described earlier).
Excess oestrogen, commonly referred to as oestrogen dominance, does not usually occur because the ovaries make too much oestrogen, on the contrary, there is usually a problem with availability and clearance of oestrogen.
Please note oestrogen dominance is not actually a condition, but an indication that “something” is not working as it should. Think of it as it’s an invitation to dive deeper. Oestrogen dominance can be an aggravating factor in conditions such as endoemtriosis and adenomyosis.
Signs and Symptoms Of Excess Oestrogen:
- Heavy, painful periods;
- Fibroids, cysts on the ovaries;
- Weight gain around the hips and thighs (as opposed to the stomach region);
- Headaches or menstrual migraines;
- Endometriosis (which is an oestrogen-dependent condition);
- Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) including the following symptoms: breast tenderness, irritability, mood swings, food cravings, bloating, painful cramping and fatigue;
Common Contributing Factors Of Excess Oestrogen:
Prolonged exposure to oestrogen, unopposed oestrogen or poor clearance of oestrogen can cause excess oestrogen.
Earlier we discussed how you need oestrogen and progesterone to work in tandem. Well if you also have too little progesterone in the second half of your menstrual cycle then it is likely you are experiencing relative oestrogen dominance: too little progesterone to oppose your oestrogen. This is a common cause of PMS symptoms.
Other contributing factors involve enhanced sensitivity to progesterone coupled with serotonin deficiency, an inability to convert linoleic acid to prostaglandin precursors, and nutritional deficiencies or excesses.
Inadequate or impaired excretion of oestrogen metabolites via the liver may result in excess circulating oestrogens. The main route of elimination of excess oestrogens is via the liver. If toxins overload the system, excretion pathways of the liver can become congested. But there are ways you can support your liver.
How The Body Deals With Chemicals:
An important naturopathic consideration is to assist the body in clearing circulating oestrogen metabolites and thereby reduce relative oestrogen excess.
Oestrogen metabolism and detoxification take place primarily in the liver through Phase I (hydroxylation) and Phase II (methylation, glucuronidation, and sulfation) pathways. Therefore, assisting liver detoxification is essential, however, targeted use of herbal and nutritional substances further assists in blocking the formation of unfavourable stronger oestrogen metabolites, while favouring less harmful ones.
Recommendations: 7 ways to reduce excess oestrogen simply:
1. Go heavy on the water:
- Aim to drink 2 -3 litres of good quality (filtered) water every day.
- Drinking enough water and keeping yourself properly hydrated is key to supporting your liver. Water helps flush out toxins from the body, assisting the normal cleansing process and promotes optimal liver function.
- PS This is another way of saying: “crowd out coffee and alcohol with water”.
2. Keep it SLOW (Seasonal Local Organic Whole):
- If you follow this way of eating you’ll naturally eat anti-inflammatory foods and reduce your exposure to pesticides. Also remember fruit and vegetables that are in season are a lot cheaper than imported, out of season produce.
3. Eat plenty of cruciferous (cabbage family) vegetables:
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli sprouts, brussels sprouts and cabbage are a natural source of indol-3-carbinol which actively promotes the breakdown of oestrogen to the beneficial metabolite 2-OH. improves the body’s ability to detoxify and eliminate harmful chemicals and oestrogen. In this sense, I3C protects oestrogen-sensitive tissues and reduces oestrogen dominance.
- If you’re concerned about your thyroid health ensure you cook cruciferous vegetables first.
4. Don’t skip on the fibre:
- Aim for 30+ grams of fibre each day. Fibre from vegetables, flaxseed meal and mucilaginous fibres from slippery elm along with water-soluble fibres such as pears, apples, and legumes are important to keep the bowel moving. In order to effectively remove toxins from your body you need to be able to eliminate them. A good dose of fibre ensures you have a daily bowel movement.
5. Be cautious about soy:
- Enjoy traditional, fermented soy products such as miso, tempeh and natto made from organic, whole soy beans. However it is best to stay clear of substitute meat and vegan products made with textured soy protein and soy isolates.
6. Use glass or stainless steel containers for food and water storage instead of plastic bottles or containers.
- Plastics contain xento-oestrogens such as petrochemicals, PCB’s and dioxins.
7. Use natural cleaning products.
- You can make your own cheaply with vinegar and baking soda. I like New Zealand company Green Goddess, for recipes and cleaning products that are free from synthetics, phosphates, preservatives and fragrances.
Where To From here?
Take my Women’s Period Health quiz. I have designed this quiz to help you understand what your period is telling you and where to focus right now.
Book an online appointment. If you are struggling with PMS or experiencing signs of excess oestrogen or other hormonal imbalances it is important to understand and address the underlying cause/s. With a naturopathic consultation I provide you with a clear strategy tailored to your individual needs. This helps you fast forward your health journey and remove any confusion.
Want to learn more about your amazing body? Purchase my new ebook: “Riding The Wave” – The definitive guide to embracing your menstrual cycle.