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General Description

Something strange is happening to modern girls: menstruation is starting much earlier than it should.  The traditional age of onset for menstruation is between ages 12 and 13, or around two years after the first signs of puberty begin. However, more and more girls are beginning to menstruate at 10 years of age – up to five years early.  What is causing this significant and frightening shift?

At the same time, another curious change is occurring in the American population: people are becoming more and more overweight.  Other, seemingly unrelated patterns are developing simultaneously: cancer rates and infertility levels are spiking.

While it may seem hard to imagine, these four unique problems – and myriad more - are intricately interrelated and caused by the same thing: estrogen dominance.

Estrogen is typically considered the female hormone due the fact it is responsible for many definitive feminine traits, like breasts, menstruation, and lactation.  Yet estrogen is naturally found in both sexes, just significantly less in men.

There is no doubt that estrogen is a vital component to all human bodies and an essential player in the miracle of reproduction.  But like all things, too much of a good thing can make it bad, and in the case of estrogen too much can be downright dangerous. 

In spite of the serious health threat estrogen dominance poses, humans continue to expose themselves to more and more of the hormone.  Natural and synthetic versions are found in countless products we touch or ingest on a daily basis, from food to plastic to prescription medications.  The result is a growing yet silent epidemic that is affecting all levels of society and all ages. 

While the facts about estrogen dominance and the havoc it can wreak on the body are shocking and scary, the good news is that every individual can take control of their level of exposure and reclaim their health.  Many health and environmental agencies have also been constantly alerted to the dangers and prevalence of estrogen contamination, and with continued pressure from individuals will hopefully enact stricter regulations in our lifetime.

To empower you as a patient and provide you as much information as possible, Health911 has compiled a comprehensive guide to estrogen dominance and how to manage it.  This document contains the following information related to estrogen dominance:

  • What Is Estrogen dominance?
  • Symptoms of Estrogen dominance
  • Causes of Estrogen dominance
  • Diagnosing Estrogen dominance
  • Treating and Reducing Estrogen dominance

Note: Health911 presents the following information for educational purposes only and does not claim it is a replacement for the recommendations of a trained professional.  Before you start or stop any form of supplementation or medication, check with your health care provider.

What is Estrogen Dominance?

Estrogen dominance is a hormonal state that occurs when the amount of estrogen in the body increases while the level of progesterone stays the same or decreases. Progesterone, another hormone, is the body’s natural counterbalance to estrogen.  The imbalance between the two chemicals can be caused by abnormal body function, exposure to chemicals containing estrogen, or the use of medications that stimulate or suppress hormone production. Dr. Aftab J. Ahmed calls estrogen a “turncoat agent” for its duplicity in the body; while it is an essential player in many basic bodily functions, it also has the ability to wreak havoc on overall health.

The term “estrogen dominance” was coined by Dr. John Lee in his 1996 book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause. Since it was first hypothesized, estrogen dominance has been linked to the development of a host of conditions, from fibrocystic breasts to breast cancer.  It can also cause water retention, weight gain (as it affects the body’s ability to process fat), uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and cervical dysplasia. Some indications of too much estrogen in the body include insomnia, tremors, sensitive skin, short term memory problems, heavy menstrual period symptoms, and severe PMS.

In the mid-90s, estrogen dominance was predominantly attributed to menopausal women who utilized estrogen replacement therapy to reduce their symptoms.  However, over the past ten years clinical awareness of estrogen dominance has grown, along with the rate of incidence in society.  It is also now understood that both men and women can suffer from estrogen dominance, as estrogen – like its masculine counterpart testosterone – exists naturally in both sexes.

The Role of Estrogen in Women

In the female body, there are two hormones that work together to manage the reproductive cycle: estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is arguably the most essential hormone involved in all elements of creating, supporting, birthing, and then sustaining a baby.  Levels of estrogen in a woman’s body change throughout her 28 day cycle, peaking at the end of the second week and triggering the release of an egg from one of the ovaries. Raised estrogen levels during the second week of the menstrual cycle also decrease the viscosity of cervical mucus to allow sperm easier access to the uterus and therefore a better chance of fertilizing the egg.  Once the egg is fertilized, estrogen plays an important role in cell division that helps the single cell entity become a fetus.  

In addition to running the menstrual cycle, estrogen is key for preparing the body for pregnancy and initiating the lactation process. Estrogen also serves important functions outside of the reproductive cycle, including reducing calcium loss, maintaining a clear complexion, providing energy, and clearing cholesterol blockages from the coronary arteries. Sexual desire, memory (long term and short term), and normal sleep patterns are also partially regulated by estrogen.  Dr. Michael Lam notes that estrogen also “lifts…mood and gives us a feeling of well-being.” 

Estrogen is the hormone responsible for staving off menopause.  As estrogen naturally decreases with age, the onset of menopause occurs, resulting in the completion of menstruation and the end of the reproductive cycle. To reduce the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause, hormone replacement therapy, which heavily utilizes estrogen, is prescribed. As Dr. Lam writes, “For the past 40 years, the conventional wisdom is that menopause is caused by the absolute deficiency of estrogen. Estrogen replacement has been prescribed to millions of women since the mid 1960s.”  He also points out women who have reduced estrogen levels experience menopause an average of 2 years earlier than other women. Conversely, women who are obese experience menopause later due to an excess of estrogen.

Progesterone, another key female hormone, works in tandem with estrogen in the reproductive process; its basic role is to provide a natural partner and counterbalance to estrogen. Progesterone is produced by the adrenal glands in both men and women; however, it is also made in the ovaries in the days before the egg is released.  It is a derivative of cholesterol. In addition to promoting emotional balance, progesterone counteracts the effects of estrogen in many ways, such as reducing water retention and assisting in the proper processing of alcohol, sugar, and foods with high fat content. 

Progesterone is so successful in managing the effects of estrogen that it is often given in prescription form to help women reduce the symptoms of severe PMS.  Many birth control pills utilize a special ratio of progesterone to estrogen to prevent ovulation as well as reduce water retention and heavy menstrual flow.  Dr. Lam notes, “[progesterone] protects us against the “growth effect” of estrogen. When progesterone is secreted, further ovulation is prevented from taking place in the second half of the menstrual cycle, and a thick mucus that is hostile to sperm is produced that prevents it passage into the womb.”

The Role of Estrogen in Men

Estrogen is present in men throughout life and naturally waxes and wanes.  As children, males have almost equal parts of estrogen and testosterone in their bodies; however, during puberty the levels of testosterone spike while estrogen decreases, causing an increase in muscle mass, deepening of the voice, and loss of “baby fat.”  The reduction of estrogen and increase of testosterone also causes an increase in libido and sperm production to intensify.

This balance of high testosterone and low estrogen persists through a man’s forties; however, as he begins to age his testosterone begins to transform into estrogen though a process called “aromatase reaction.”  As a man ages, estrogen production outside of the aromatase reaction also increases, leading to a new balance of high estrogen levels and low testosterone levels.  This causes several hallmark symptoms of aging in men: loss of muscle mass, reduced libido, and weight gain, particularly around the belly.

Symptoms

Estrogen dominance in both men and women creates a variety of symptoms, many of which affect and reduce an individual’s quality of life. One alternative medicine practitioner stated that “the problems with estrogen dominance are many.  Two of the main ones are [that] the sperm count is headed toward zero and [also] we have developed an obese population with all the complications of heart trouble, diabetes, etc.”

Here is an extensive list of all symptoms that have been linked to estrogen dominance:

  • Weight gain (specifically at the hips and thighs)
  • Sweet cravings
  • Reduced libido
  • Increased PMS symptoms
  • Water retention
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Hot flashes
  • Migraines
  • Cervical cramping
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Allergies
  • Sinus infections
  • Irregular moods, mood swings, bouts of depression
  • Anxiety
  • Resistant weight loss (aka “stubborn fat”)
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Premature commencement of menstruation
  • Loss of hair
  • Insomnia
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
  • Infertility
  • Osteoporosis
  • Enlarged breasts in men
  • Broken capillaries, specifically on the stomach, inner arms, and breasts
  • Swelling of fingers and feet
  • Irritability
  • Endometriosis
  • Low blood sugar

Another major symptom that women experience as the result of estrogen dominance is fibrocystic breasts disease.  Fibrocystic breasts is a condition that occurs due to changes in a woman’s hormone levels at the peak of her menstrual cycle. The most common symptom is the formation of a non-cancerous lump typically located on the upper breast or outer side of the breast up to the armpit.  These lumps, individually referred to as “fibroids,” become noticeable a week before a woman’s period is due to start, and typically subside as soon as bleeding begins.  In addition to the development or swelling of fibroids, a woman may notice that the texture and consistency of all of her breast tissue changes; during the final week of the menstrual cycle breast tissue becomes denser and feels bumpy. Dr. Jonathan Wright, noted alternative remedy practitioner, notes that sometimes the symptoms can be so severe that “some women have cysts so painful they can’t lie on their stomachs or even be hugged without pain.” Women may also experience dull pain or an itching sensation on and around the nipples, or a sensation of fullness (which some women describe as “swollen”).  Click here to read more about fibrocystic breast disease

Reduced thyroid function, clinically known as hypothyroidism, can be a symptom of estrogen dominance as too much estrogen inhibits thyroid hormone production. The thyroid is a small, butterfly shaped gland located just above the collarbone. As a member of the endocrine system, the thyroid is responsible for controlling many aspects of bodily function, most notably metabolism and hormone regulation. The two main hormones the thyroid is responsible for producing are called triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).  These hormones travel through the blood and enter into every cell in the body to stimulate protein synthesis, provide energy, and encourage healthy functioning.

Normally, estrogen and T3 and T4 oppose and balance each other; estrogen stores calories as fat, while the thyroid hormones utilize calories as usable energy.  However, a surplus of estrogen in the body triggers the liver to produce thyroid-binding globulin, a compound that binds to and neutralizes T3 and T4 in the blood.  While the thyroid is producing sufficient amounts of hormone an insufficient amount of hormone is making it to the cells, resulting in hypothyroidism.

The symptoms of hypothyroidism are eclectic and include weight gain, fatigue, intolerance to cold, constipation, inability to concentrate, depression, short term memory loss, and dry skin. Click here to read more about hypothyroidism.

The most serious result of estrogen dominance is cancer.  Too much estrogen in the body has been shown to cause uterine cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer. There is some controversy not only on what causes cancer to develop but also what role estrogen plays in the process; however, the National Cancer Institute links estrogen to cancer through the role it plays in cell division. On their website, they state, “The most serious problem arises from the ability of estrogen to promote the proliferation of cells in the breast and uterus.”

One of estrogen’s responsibilities during the monthly hormonal cycle is to assist in the creation and division of new cells in the milk receptors of the breast in anticipation of fertilization. If the egg becomes fertilized, these new cells will be needed to help start milk production; however, if insemination does not occur these extra cells will eventually wither and die.  As the National Cancer Institute points out, a woman typically experiences 40 or more years of this monthly cycle of cell creation and death.  A similar cycle also occurs every month in the uterus as it prepares for the fertilized egg to attach to the lining.

One of the major threats this seemingly innocuous cycle poses to cellular health is that it increases the risk for DNA damage or mutation, the cause of cancer.  While cancer mutations may be inherited or created due to chemical damage (from smoking, drinking, exposure to harmful agents), the National Cancer Institute states that “Mutations also can occur spontaneously as a result of mistakes that are made when a cell duplicates its DNA molecules prior to cell division. Although estrogen does not appear to directly cause the DNA mutations that trigger the development of human cancer, estrogen does stimulate cell proliferation.” The more estrogen in the body, the more cells will be stimulated to divide, therefore significantly increasing the odds of spontaneous mutant cell creation.

Causes

Estrogen dominance is estimated to affect millions of men and women every year, however there is no one specific cause.  Instead, there are myriad causes, including food sources, environmental petrochemicals, weight, stress levels, prescription medications, caffeine intake, and nutrient deficiencies.  These factors create estrogen dominance through not only adding synthetic and unnaturally produced estrogen into the body but also reducing progesterone levels.

Estrogen dominance is so easy to develop because the body has a hard time distinguishing between its own, naturally produced estrogen, and estrogen that is ingested through food or other chemical compounds that have almost identical properties to estrogen.  The result is that bodily processes that are regulated by estrogen (breast cell division, menstruation, etc) will be unnaturally triggered or stimulated by foreign estrogen, synthetic estrogen, or estrogen-like compounds.

All experts agree that industrialization and the dawn of processed food have contributed overwhelmingly to the problem of estrogen dominance.  Dr. Michael Lam, author of Fighting Cancer with Natural Medicine, writes “Women in non-industrialized cultures whose diets are whole food based and are untainted with modern processed foods and pesticides seldom suffer a deficiency of progesterone and the signs of estrogen dominance.”  Ori Hofmekler, author of The Warrior Diet, quips, “…our ‘estrogen cup is full.’ Estrogenic chemicals cause a ‘spill over’ effect in the form of excess estrogen and its related disorders.” 

It is important to note that in any individual’s life, their estrogen dominance is likely the result of several of these factors overlapping, not just one.

One of the major sources of estrogen for modern man is food. Some types of food, like soy beans, naturally contain a type of estrogen which has the ability to stimulate estrogen regulated functions in the body.  However, a main problem with estrogen in food occurs as the result of growth hormones fed to livestock.  Commercial livestock are fed estrogen as part of growth supplements designed to increase the size and tenderness of marketable meat retrievable from each animal.  The estrogen remains in the cells of the meat as it is processed and is passed onto those who consume it.  Cooking the meat does not reduce the amount of estrogen.

Yet commercially farmed meat contains another element that can contribute to estrogen dominance: antibiotics.  Dr. Lam writes, “It is interesting to note that one-half of all antibiotics in the United States are used in livestock – 25 million pounds a year. These antibiotics can contribute to hormone disruptor exposure.”  This exposure can lead to a decrease in progesterone or an increase in estrogen production, adding more fuel to the estrogen dominance fire.

Unfortunately, meat is not the only dietary element that is laced with dangerous amounts of estrogen and hormone disrupting compounds.  Fruits and vegetables sprayed with herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides are major contributors to the problem of estrogen dominance.  Not only are these chemicals known hormone disruptors but they are also filled with compounds known as “xenoestrogens.” 

Unlike natural forms of estrogen, xenoestrogens are synthetic compounds that are the result of industrial production. Dr. Ben Kim, an acupuncturist based in Ontario, Canada, offers a direct and simple explanation of these compounds, stating they are best understood as any “estrogens that are produced outside the body.” He notes that in addition to pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, xenoestrogens are commonly found in birth control pills, spermicides, cosmetics, DDT, PCBs, and foaming agents (like sulfates) used in cleaning and personal care products.

The effects of xenoestrogens on the body are profound and insidious. In 2008, a study was published in Environmental Science Technology stating fish that were exposed to wastewater tainted with xenoestrogens experienced significant reproductive problems, including growths on the ovaries. It is incredibly disturbing to think that humans are exposed on a daily basis to such chemicals through fruits and vegetables, foods that are supposed to be healthy and staples of our diets.

In addition to being found in pesticides and other chemicals, xenoestrogens are also found in the plastic used for water bottles and storage containers.  They not only act as a surplus of estrogen in the body, but also suppress the natural levels of progesterone, leading to a significant estrogen dominant state. 

Yet estrogen dominance is not just caused by the consumption of estrogen and estrogen-like compounds; estrogen dominance also occurs as the result of a diet high in fat and processed foods. In his book Natural Progesterone, Dr. John Lee notes, “In cultures whose diets are rich in fresh vegetables of all sorts, progesterone deficiency does not exist. Likewise, it follows that a general American diet of highly processed and stale foods has a serious deficiency of progesterone while at the same time produces estrogen dominance.”

A diet high in processed foods and fat depletes basic nutrients like magnesium and B6 but also promotes obesity, a physical state that triggers the natural production of more estrogen. While it is not commonly known, in addition to being produced in the adrenal glands and sexual organs, estrogen is also produced in fat cells.  Individuals who are overweight or obese have significantly higher levels of estrogen in their bodies than individuals who are a normal weight.  As Dr. Ben Kim notes, “The more fat cells a person has, the greater chance he or she has of experiencing estrogen dominance.”  Dr. Michael Lam explains that the fat cells create estrogen by converting adrenal steroids to estrogen.

Caffeine is also a common culprit in the cause of estrogen dominance. Dr. Lam reports that “Caffeine intake from all sources was linked with higher estrogen levels regardless of age, body mass index (BMI), caloric intake, smoking, alcohol, and cholesterol intake.”  He points to studies which state that “women who consumed at least 500 milligrams of caffeine daily, the equivalent of four or five cups of coffee, had nearly 70% more estrogen [during the second week of their cycle] than women who consume no more than 100 mg of caffeine daily, or less than one cup of coffee.”

Stress, either physical or emotional, can also prompt the body to produce more estrogen than normal. Dr. Ben Kim lists chronic stress as a key cause of estrogen dominance.  He writes, “When a person experiences chronic physical and/or emotional stress, his or her body will begin to convert progesterone into the stress hormone, cortisol…the point is this: stress can lead to a depletion of progesterone, which creates the same condition of estrogen dominance that a woman experiences when she has too much estrogen in her system.”

How is it Diagnosed

If you suspect you may be suffering from estrogen dominance, the first step to treating the condition is confirming your diagnosis with a health care provider.  We recommend making an appointment at your earliest convenience; however, be careful not to adjust or change your diet or lifestyle before your visit so an accurate reading of your hormones can be taken.  Any steps you take to reduce your estrogen exposure before the appointment can result in a misdiagnosis or under diagnosis of your condition.    

If you are starting to suspect you may suffer from estrogen dominance, we here at Health911 recommend you keep a Symptoms Journal.  The Symptoms Journal is essentially a record of your observations regarding the nature, severity, frequency, and duration of any symptoms you experience.  You should also include a daily record of all the food you eat; be sure to note whether the food is organic or not. After you have 2-3 weeks of data recorded in your Symptoms Journal, call your health care provider and make an appointment to investigate.  Be sure to take your Symptoms Journal with you to the appointment!

During your first appointment, your health care provider will ask questions regarding your symptoms, your family medical history, your daily diet, and your stress levels.  They will also perform a standard physical exam to check basic nerve function and check your vitals, including blood pressure, pulse, and respiratory function. During your appointment, help direct the examination and also advocate for yourself by asking specific questions regarding what your health care provider is noticing.  Here are a few questions to ask as they are performing a physical exam:

  • Are you noticing any cysts or firmness in my breasts?
  • Do I appear to be retaining water?
  • Does my skin have a different consistency than normal to you?
  • Have I gained or lost weight since my last visit?

Remember, just because your health care professional doesn’t ask about a symptom doesn’t mean it isn’t important.  Many patients don’t share some pieces of information because they feel it is irrelevant; however these seemingly disjointed things can help make their diagnosis.  Therefore, be sure to volunteer as much information as you can throughout the entire examination as you think of issues without waiting to be asked directly.  In addition to sharing the results of your Symptoms Journal, be sure you share information about your recent diet, travel, alcohol and drug consumption, etc.

Many people feel embarrassed sharing certain pieces of information with their health care provider, especially when it comes to sexual habits, vaginal health and lubrication, and other “personal” subjects. However these unsavory details may provide the key to diagnosing your condition. Health care providers have heard it all and worse and they are some of the only people you should never feel embarrassed in front of.  Therefore, be open and honest with them about all your symptoms, all your recent habits, and all your vices (including illicit drug use, alcohol abuse, or sexual activity) without fear.  Your health care provider is bound to confidentiality and therefore your secrets are safe with them. 

Don’t assume that your health care provider has all the information on what prescription medications you are taking. While it seems counterintuitive, information on prescriptions isn’t typically passed between doctors, especially if you are seeing several at the same time for different reasons. Be sure to share this information openly and early in your visit, along with any herbs or vitamin supplements you are currently taking.

If you suspect estrogen dominance, press your health care provider to check your hormone levels for a confirmation of your condition.  There are several quick tests that can be done to identify if your estrogen levels are abnormally high or your progesterone levels are unnaturally low.

The old standard for checking hormone levels was a traditional blood sample test. However, more and more health care professionals are utilizing saliva tests for their increased efficiency and decreased cost. Hormones in the body exit in two forms, referred to as “bound hormones” and “free hormones.” Bound hormones, the majority of the hormones found in the body, are those being utilized by the various cells and systems. Free hormones, which only account for up to 5% of the hormones in the body, are floating around and available to be used when needed.

Traditional blood tests report on the total amount of hormones in your body, the bound and the free. However, when it comes to estrogen dominance, the most important information is the amount of free estrogen that is floating around in the blood unused. Saliva tests only measure the amount of free hormones in the system, providing the vital information for diagnosing estrogen dominance. 

When administering a saliva test for estrogen dominance, your health care professional will swab the inside of your mouth to take a sample of saliva. The sample will be sent for laboratory analysis and results returned within a week. If you are a woman who has not gone through menopause, you need to take the test three weeks into your cycle.  Men and menopausal women may take the test anytime. 

At the end of your appointment, be sure to ask for information about where you go from here.  Some good questions include:

  • When can I expect to hear back from the laboratory about my saliva test?
  • What is your opinion at this stage?
  • What can I do immediately to start relieving my symptoms?
  • When can I expect a final diagnosis?
  • When should I follow up with your office?

A final question you should ask if you believe you are suffering from estrogen dominance but your health care provider is reluctant to diagnose you (and doesn’t believe you are suffering from something else) is: “When can I come in for a follow up appointment to check on the state of my symptoms?” 

If they say anything longer than one month, approach another health care provider for a second opinion. Estrogen dominance can not only cause daily discomfort but also cause cumulative long term damage. An accurate and confident diagnosis is important to proceeding with appropriate treatments.

Treating & Reducing Estrogen Dominance

While an official diagnosis of estrogen dominance may be made through testing estrogen and progesterone levels, this problem should be something that everyone in developed and developing countries works to reduce in their lives on a daily basis. As Dr. Lam writes, “Strictly speaking, all of us, men or women alike, suffer from estrogen dominance. There is simply so much of it around and it is impossible to fully escape its impact.”

It is true that we are affected by estrogen containing and estrogen triggering chemicals that are out of our control; the air we breathe, the cars we drive, even the furniture we own is tainted by compounds that we cannot fully escape. However, there are numerous things we can do on a daily basis to significantly reduce the amount of exposure to compounds we receive that contribute to estrogen dominance as well as treat the high levels of estrogen in our bodies.

Dietary Changes

One of the primary ways men and women can reduce excess estrogen in their bodies and prevent estrogen dominance is through adjusting their diet. However, it is important to note that these adjustments need to be utilized on a consistent basis to see optimal results.  Many substances that can trigger excess estrogen production can linger in the body for days or weeks after you have ingested them, so it can take several months of an adjusted diet to feel results.

The overall rule of thumb when it comes to reducing dietary sources of estrogen is to pick foods that are unprocessed and organic.  Fruits and vegetables grown organically mean they are not exposed to the dangerous petrochemicals that contain xenoestrogens, and organic meat is produced without the use of dangerous antibiotics and ingested hormones. These choices will always be significantly better than processed, non-organic choices. Additionally, it is important to stay away from foods that are packaged and stored in plastic containers. 

Julia Tolliver Maranan, alternative health writer, suggests dropping the amount of dietary fat consumed to a meager 20% of all ingested calories.  She also praises fiber as a key food product for managing the condition, which she says will help the body remove estrogen.

Dr. Lam also recommends a significant reduction of fat.  He writes, “Overeating and under-exercising are the norm in developed countries. Populations from such countries, especially in the Western Hemisphere, derive a large part of their dietary calories from fat.” Dr. Lam points to studies that have reported women who shifted to a diet high in fibrous foods, fruits, and vegetables, experienced a significant drop in their estrogen levels. Organic fruits and vegetables naturally contain compounds called sterols that exhibit “progestogenic effects,” meaning they counterbalance the effects of estrogen in the body.

Certain foods, including many fruits and vegetables, also contain compounds called phytoestrogens.  Phytoestrogens are a type of plant formed estrogen compound similar to the hormone found in soybeans.  However, unlike the specific phytoestrogens found in soy, those phytoestrogens do not mimic human estrogens when they are in the body.  Instead, they bind with progesterone receptors without stimulating them.  Elizabeth Smith, M.D., writes, “The…phytoestrogens compete with other estrogens that would otherwise stimulate the estrogen receptor. The…phytoestrogens acts as a blocker.”  Foods that contain phytoestrogens include flaxseed, broccoli, kale, bok choy, Brussels spouts, and cauliflower.

Other dietary compounds that have been shown to inhibit the production or absorption of estrogen include flavonoids, anti-oxidants, and indoles.  Good sources of these compounds include chamomile, garlic, onions, and citrus fruits.

Dr. Jonathan Wright, noted alternative health practitioner, supports cutting all sources of caffeine from the diet; some sneaky sources of caffeine include chocolate, hot cocoa, over the counter weight loss aids like Dexatrim, and pain medications, such as Excedrin.  Furthermore, items that state they are decaffeinated, such as decaf coffee, are not completely caffeine free; decaf coffee is typically 97.9% caffeine free. Click here for more information on how caffeine works and affects the body.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

All medical specialists and alternative remedy practitioners agree that one of the most effective things an individual can do to reduce and control their estrogen levels is to maintain a healthy weight.  Dr. Ben Kim writes, “…reaching and maintaining your ideal body weight is essential to addressing chronic estrogen dominance.” Dr. Michael Lam echoes this sentiment: “Half of adults in Europe and 61% of American adults are overweight. If you are overweight, lose it as fat cells increase estrogen production.” He points out that increasing more calories than is necessary also leads to the creation of more free-radicals in the body, which cause damage to cells and contributes to cell DNA mutation.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Increasing the amount of exercise you receive on a daily basis can help drop estrogen levels.  Exercise helps the body regulate its hormonal production and maintain a consistent metabolism. Regular moderate to severe exercise has also been shown to reduce a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer, which indicates it regulates estrogen levels and promotes better removal of excess estrogen.

Another significant lifestyle adjustment that can be made to quell estrogen dominance is stress management. Physical and emotional stress is a part of everyday life; however the more an individual can reduce stress the less estrogen their bodies will unnecessarily produce. The human body and mind can experience stress over myriad experiences and situations; however, moderate to severe stress has become such a part of modern life that humans are no longer consciously aware of the strain they are placing on themselves.  Common stressful situations include job loss, romantic discord or lack of romantic connection, family pressures, child birth, death of a loved one, physical injury or infirmity, retirement, aging, moving, the holidays, and of course money and finances.

Fortunately, there are a variety of effective stress management techniques that can be employed to provide relief and prevent an estrogen related physical reaction from occurring.  Such techniques include practicing yoga, meditation, taking up a hobby like painting or playing an instrument, or caring for an affectionate pet. 

Another effective stress management strategy is to engage in conscious time management.  Time management is the practice of effectively scheduling tasks and to-do items on a daily, weekly, monthly, or even yearly basis to ensure they are completed in a timely and leisurely manner, thus reducing the stress and strain that last minute work tends to cause.  In addition to reducing stress, time management also allows an individual to make and enjoy time to engage in other, non-stressful opportunities, like spending time with loved ones, reading, or exercising. Gastroenterologist G. Richard Locke, M.D. suggests that individuals interested in stress reduction consider taking stress-management classes offered by community hospitals and wellness centers.  He says, “They can evaluate how you respond to stress and teach you new techniques for dealing with it.”

The bottom line when it comes to stress management is actively seeking out a strategy that is effective for you as an individual.  Not everyone will find a Pilates class relieves their stress, just as settling in with a good book or spending time with family won’t necessarily soothe everyone’s frazzled mind.  What is important is that you establish what calms your mind and then consciously work to include that element into your lifestyle. Click here to read more about stress and stress management

Nutritional Supplementation

In addition to making dietary and lifestyle adjustments, there are a variety of nutritional supplements that can help contain and reduce estrogen levels while providing the body the essential elements it needs for optimal functioning. 

Iodine is a key element not only in estrogen management but overall health.  In addition to being used by the thyroid gland to help regulate metabolic function, protein synthesis, and hormone production throughout the body, iodine also plays a vital role in the proper immune functions of the body.  It is found in notable levels in the thymus, the central gland of the immune system, indicating iodine is essential for the production of mature white blood cells.

Iodine is involved in the regulation of estrogen production; studies have shown that when there is a lack of iodine in the body estrogen production spikes. Dr. Dave Derry, breast health specialist, states that “iodine enables the excess cells [in the breasts] to be cleared out,” essentially flushing out excess estrogen as well as withering and dead milk gland cells. 

Tori Hudson, N.D., a naturopath and author of Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, recommends her estrogen dominant patients try supplemental iodine as iodine can reduce the body’s sensitivity to estrogen. There are several brands of liquid iodine, such as Lugols, that can be purchased over the counter at alternative health stores.  Dr. Jonathan Wright recommends SSKI to his patients; it’s a combination supplement of both iodine and potassium.  He suggests taking eight drops of the formula daily in a glass of water or milk; however recommends that when using this product that a close eye is kept on thyroid hormone levels as iodine can disrupt normal function.  Dr. Wright states that he has seen this treatment show results after two to five months.

Dr. Lam believes that “the body of a hormonal imbalanced person needs to be fortified,” and therefore recommends a variety of vitamin supplementations to help reduce the effects of estrogen dominance.  He suggests 15,000 IU of vitamin A (as mixed beta-carotene), 1,000 mg of vitamin C, and between 500 and 1,000 mg of magnesium.

He also recommends including evening primrose oil into the daily diet. Evening primrose (oenothera biennis) is a flowering plant native to the Americas.  Its oil has been used as a medicinal aid for centuries which is why the plant has garnered the nickname “Kings cureall.”  Evening primrose seeds contain a unique mixture of essential fatty acids, especially gamma-linolenic acid, a compound that is used in reducing autoimmune inflammation.  This compound has also shown promise for treating breast cancer, however this assertion has not been clinically verified. Evening primrose oil is often used as a natural treatment for PMS, as well as fibrocystic breast disease and several other classic indicators of estrogen dominance.

Tori Hudson, recommends her patients with fibrocystic breasts ingest 3-4 grams of evening primrose oil daily, not just when symptoms flare up.  She reports that her patients who follow this program see a complete relief of symptoms within three months.

Cindee Gardener, Ph.D., recommends taking 500 milligrams of evening primrose oil three to six times daily.  She also notes it is important to drink plenty of water simultaneously to help the oil flush out extra estrogen and other environmental toxins.

Utilize Natural Progesterone

Natural progesterone, applied to the body as a cream or ingested in pill form, may be utilized to counterbalance high levels of estrogen in the body when first treating estrogen dominance.  Dr. Lam calls natural progesterone “the cornerstone of estrogen reduction therapy.”  He notes that before utilizing natural progesterone, it is important to get a “baseline” of estrogen and progesterone levels.  He also suggests that any individual interested in pursuing this course of treatment work with a natural remedy specialist to perfect and manage dosing and application.

Natural progesterone is just a first step to help reduce the amount of estrogen in the body as quickly and safely as possible. It should be coupled with other estrogen reducing techniques (dietary changes, lifestyle adjustments, nutritional supplementation) and then gradually reduced as estrogen levels return to normal.  If you utilize this form of treatment, be sure to have your estrogen and progesterone levels checked every month or 6 weeks to prevent a surplus of progesterone. 

Conclusion

Estrogen dominance is an incredibly pervasive condition in developed countries and leads to a series of health problems ranging from the uncomfortable to the life threatening.  It is changing the physical nature of entire populations, causing premature development, obesity, and generations riddled with cancer.  It affects men, women, and children, and shows no signs of stopping.

In the one hundred years the developed world has been industrialized, we have managed to so thoroughly surround ourselves with hormone disruptors and xenoestrogens that just about every aspect of our lives, from the food we eat to the clothes we wear to the air we breathe, participates in our slow poisoning.   

Yet the good news is that many of these harmful elements are within our control.  We can limit our exposure to many of these chemicals starting immediately. Furthermore, our bodies – as much as we abuse them – are forgiving entities that can bounce back quickly and almost completely once these toxins are removed.   

For the sake of not only future generations but also the present ones, we must pay more attention to the elements all around us that contribute to estrogen dominance and take immediate steps to rectify them.
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