Estrogen dominance is the first fat storage hormone imbalance we are going to talk about over the next couple weeks in our hormone health series.
If you are someone how has been eating clean & exercising but cannot seem to lose the weight or you are someone who loses 5 lbs then gains 8 back then listen up! I know it can be incredibly frustrating. But here is my secret: the reason and culprit behind this weight loss resistance are one or many hormone imbalances!
When hormones are out of whack, losing weight is very challenging to the point of almost impossible and often disappointing. Today we are going to focus in on estrogen and in particular why if estrogen is high is it so darn difficult to shed those excess lbs.
Estrogen is present in both men and women. When in appropriate amounts, especially in relation to other hormones like cortisol, insulin, and progesterone, all is well. Estrogen is thought of as the “feminine” hormone and gives women their female characteristics like breast tissue and hips. Estrogen is important in the first half of the menstrual cycle for the growth and development of the uterine lining but too much estrogen can also stimulate pathological growth. In fact, long term effects of estrogen overload include an increased risk of breast, uterine, and endometrial cancer as well as atypical pap smears.
Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance:
- Resistance to weight loss
- Mood changes: anxiety, depression, irritability
- Heavy periods
- Painful periods
- Water retention
- Fibrocystic breast changes
- Breast pain
- Abnormal paps
Risk factors for developing Estrogen Dominance
- Age: At some point in our mid-thirties, women begin to produce less progesterone as their ovarian reserves decrease. Although estrogen levels don’t provide a clear picture on their own. Instead, the level of estrogen in your body must be considered in relation to your progesterone levels. Estrogen & progesterone oppose one another and work harmoniously throughout our cycles. If progesterone is low that is going to show up as a relative estrogen dominance in the body and produce the estrogen dominance symptoms.
- Stress: Stress management, sleep, and mindset are critical but their value is often underappreciated. When you are in a constant state of stress, at least initially, your cortisol levels will be high. Cortisol is produced at the expense of progesterone and other important sex hormones like DHEA. Supplementing with progesterone may fix the issue temporarily, but if the root cause is a cortisol issue then this should be addressed.
- Impaired Liver Function: The liver is where hormones and toxins are conjugated and prepared for excretion. Under normal circumstance, the liver performs well and does not require extra support. But if your liver is not performing up to bar hormone imbalances may result.
- Poor Gut Health: There is new fascinating research emerging that suggests the foods we eat directly change and influence our microbiome. The microbiome is the aggregate microbes that live in your gut that we now know play a major role in your risk of diseases such as obesity, cancer, and diabetes (1). The more of the hormone damaging foods you consume, the more you are promoting the growth of the wrong bacteria in your gut, a double whammy.
- Exposure to Environmental Estrogens: Chemicals & compounds resembling natural estrogens can overburden our bodies ability to detox and eliminate estrogens, and I’m not just talking about the pill, your plastics, water, foods (particularly meat & alcohol), canned foods, personal care products, cleaning supplies may all contain chemicals that resemble estrogen or raise estrogen levels in the body.
- Constipation: Our hormones, as well as toxins, are excreted from our bodies through our bowels. If you are not having at least one large bowel movement a day, chances are your hormones are being reabsorbed.
What Can You Do to Correct Estrogen Overload?
If stress an issue for you, and for most women I work with the answer is going to be yes, this is going to be the first thing to address. This is why I heavily focus on mindset, gratitude, and engaging in things like yoga, meditation, deep breathing, mindfulness daily in the Wild Side Wellness program. Keep in mind stress is not only mental emotional but also takes on the form of over exercising (especially cardio), chronic disease, underlying inflammation, inadequate sleep, and food sensitivities.
Action Items: Go for a 10 min walk outside, take 10 deep breaths or write down 3 things you are grateful for each day.
Give your Liver some Love:
A significant number of people in North America have fatty liver, between 30 and 50% to be exact. This may lead to problems with how you utilize hormones in the body since your liver is like a traffic cop for hormones determining what stays and what does. To help combat this avoid fructose, sugar, and sugar substitutes. Focus on getting liver detoxifiers such as beets, dandelion leaves or tea and Cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous Vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, Brussel sprouts, and cabbage. These foods are great at supporting the liver because they contain phytonutrients—flavonoids, carotenoids, sulforaphane, and indoles—to help your liver neutralize chemicals, pesticides, drugs, and carcinogens. Finally, for added support, my favorite at home detox tool for happy hormones is a castor oil pack. Read more by clicking here.
Action Items: Eat cruciferous vegetables every day in additon to foods high in fiber to help eliminate excess estrogen. In additon, consider applying castor oil at night topically to you liver.
Repopulate the Gut:
Your gut bacteria play a large role in whether you are fat or thin. They control how you respond to the food you eat: whether you store it as fat or use it as fuel. In order to promote the growth of the “good guys” consume a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as fermented foods and/or probiotics. Reduce your intake of red meats and alcohol to prevent the growth of the wrong bacteria in your microbiome (2,4).
Omega 3 all the way:
Eating more fish and cutting down on red meats may improve estrogen dominance. Look for fish varieties that are low in mercury; always wild, and not farmed. Other sources of omega-3 fatty acids include organic eggs and walnuts (3).
Reduce Environmental Estrogens:
Limiting environmental estrogens is an important step in combating estrogen dominance. Limit your exposure to plastics, Teflon pans, unfiltered water, and reduce the amount of red meat you consume. If possible choose organic, locally sourced and hormone free meats.
Help your body eliminate hormones by consuming 30-40 grams of fiber per day. Make sure to also stay hydrated and do not ignore the urge to have a bowel movement (everyone poops, even in public washrooms). If sluggish bowls are an issue for you, consult with your care provider about adding in additional supplemental fiber or items such as vitamin C or magnesium. A tsp of coconut oil to tea or coffee will often do the trick for stubborn constipation but caution as it may cause diarrhea.
Above we talked about the importance of considering progesterone levels in relation to estrogen. After age 35 progesterone levels decrease ensuring the liver has enough vitamin and minerals to support in detoxification of estrogen such as Indole-3-Carbinol (cruciferous vegetables) and vitamins B6, B12 as well as antioxidants (ex: curcumin, Vit E, A, C, beta carotene, NAC, alpha lipoic acid, flavonoids, polyphenols, selenium, green tea catechins).
Aside from herbs like Vitex and bioidentical hormones to raise progesterone, is it also important to consume adequate micro-nutrients that provide the environment needed to support your bodies natural production of progesterone levels.
Hormone imbalances in women are commonly seen but there is so much you can do with simple diet & lifestyle interventions to restore your sanity. I feel like I’ve had almost every hormone imbalance and have finally reset my hormones through proper nutrition and smart supplementation. Whether you are dealing with thyroid hormone, estrogen/progesterone, cortisol, or leptin, the best way (in my opinion) to reset and sustain hormone balance is what you put on your fork! There is an emerging new field of research highlighting what I firmly believe, which is the importance of FOOD FIRST. For help on getting starting feel free to download my free 3-day hormone reset cleanse.
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|Parazzini, F. et al. “Diet and endometriosis risk: a literature review.” Reproductive Biomedicine Online 26, no. 4 (2013): 323-336.
Turnbaugh, P., J. et al. “An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest.” Nature 444, no. 7122 (2006): 1027-131.