When it comes to understanding what estrogen dominance might look like, it’s important to first understand exactly what it is and what it does. Simply put, Estrogen is considered a female sex hormone, but don't worry gentlemen, it's essential for you, too. From puberty, menstrual cycles, pregnancy and skin health to your sex drive, brain function, mood, cholesterol control, cardiovascular health, bone development and more, estrogen plays an extremely important role in many functions.
There are three types of Estrogen:
Estrone (E1) – is common after menopause and converted from androstenedione in men and women.
Estradiol (E2) – is the most common estrogen in women of childbearing age and is converted from testosterone in men and women.
Estriol (E3) – is the main estrogen during pregnancy and converted from estradiol.
It's worth noting, most estrogen is converted from testosterone or androstenedione via the enzyme aromatase. It can be made in the ovaries, testes, liver, adrenals, fat cells and the brain. Too much aromatase can lead to too much estrogen in both men and women.
What is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance may be too much estrogen or too little progesterone in relation to estrogen. They are the yin and yang that keep your hormones in balance. When we are under stress, our body converts progesterone into the stress hormone, cortisol, which may result in estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance can also be too much estrogen at the wrong time of your cycle, or for men, too much conversion of testosterone into estrogen.
Top 14 Signs of Estrogen Dominance
Irritability & moodiness
Depression & anxiousness
Acne & rosacea (especially on the face, neck, chin, and jawline)
Unexplained weight gain (especially around the belly, hips, thigh, butt, breast and back of arms)
Digestive issues and bloating
Poor quality sleep & fatigue
Heavy and sometimes painful periods
Cramping & headaches
Hair loss or hair thinning
Blood clots & bruising
But, what can cause Estrogen Dominance?
While there are many factors that can contribute to estrogen dominance, here are the top 10 reasons:
Birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy & antibiotics
Stress, anxiety & poor-quality sleep
Exposure to BPA & other xenoestrogens (in plastic bottles, cans, takeaway coffee cups, personal care products, perfume, cosmetics, shampoo, lotions, and chemical cleaners)
Excess sugar & alcohol consumption
Poor liver function
Excess body fat
A diet low in quality fats, micronutrients, antioxidants, and fibre
Bacterial imbalance in the gut (foods like sugar that feed bad bacteria, use of antibiotics etc.)
Environmental air & water pollutants & mould
Excess estrogen increases fat storage and body fat increases the production of estrogen, so the cycle keeps repeating. For this reason, it can be hard to lose weight, especially in areas such as the lower abdomen, hips, butt, thighs, chest, and the back of your arms. To minimise symptoms of estrogen dominance we may have to take a multi-prong approach.
4 tips to help break the cycle:
1. Minimise the use of Exogenous Hormones and Antibiotics
Synthetic hormones like the birth control pill, HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy), Thyroid Hormones (T3 & T4), Cortisone, Testosterone and other Androgens are sometimes necessary. However, finding a natural way to balance hormones without medication would be ideal. You may want to find a functional medicine doctor to work with you to come off medication in favour of natural hormone balancing nutrients. However, it's important that you first seek medical advice regarding your medication.
Antibiotics, again, can be essential under certain circumstances. Just be aware that they can cause gut dysbiosis which may lead to increased conversion of testosterone to estrogen and a reduction in the elimination of toxic estrogen metabolites. We recommend that you use a good quality probiotic towards the end of any antiobiotics prescription, and four weeks past the use of antibiotics. Resveratrol, Pomegranate, Quercetin and Zinc may reduce aromatase, resulting in less testosterone or androstenedione being converted to estrogen.
Reduce Stress and Improve Sleep Quality
Stress is arguably the most destructive mechanism to the balance of our hormones and health in general.
When we are physically, emotionally, or psychologically stressed (even if we don’t feel it consciously), we increase the production of adrenalin and cortisol (stress hormone). Cortisol is made from progesterone, so excess cortisol depletes progesterone and creates an estrogen dominance.
Cortisol may also cause hormone resistance, which may prevent your hormones from performing their intended functions. This means thyroid hormones may not help us burn calories, luteinizing hormone may not support ovulation, testosterone may not help muscle recovery and libido etc.
Here are some proven ways to minimise stress: Firstly, identify the cause and avoid it if possible, get regular acute exercise, perform meditation or breathing techniques, singing, laughing, movies, music and more.
Using Adaptogens like Ashwagandha, Schisandra, Tongkat Ali and Turmeric can also help lower cortisol, reduce fatigue, improve energy throughout the day, and support a balanced stress response. Also, Glycine, Magnesium, L-Theanine and Zinc can be super helpful in supporting our nervous system and helping us relax and get a better night's sleep.
3. Support Detoxification
Many of the cosmetics and personal care products men and women use today contain metals, toxins and xenoestrogens (estrogen-like human-made chemicals). Unfortunately, many of these chemicals are cumulative and difficult to excrete.
Try to minimise their use and always spray perfume, cologne, deodorants on your clothes rather than your skin. In addition, choose cleaner less toxic natural options. You can check out if your cleaning or personal care products contain harmful endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals at the Environmental Working Group website. Detoxification is a critical function of our bodies daily processes. In today's world, with the overexposure to human-made chemicals and toxins, our detox systems (especially the gut and liver) need all the help they can get.
Exercise is critical in helping to minimise stress. However, it also helps activate detoxification. In addition, exercise can support quality sleep (providing it's not too close to bedtime), where melatonin (sleep hormone) supports detoxification also.
Upregulating NRF2 which stimulates one of the most powerful internal detoxification antioxidants, called glutathione, is critical in supporting the reduction of oxidative stress (cellular ageing) and reducing toxic load.
Some foods and herbs that help boost NRF2 activity and therefore detoxification are Broccoli Sprouts (Sulforaphane & Indole 3 Carbinol), Turmeric, Resveratrol Schisandra, Milk Thistle, Green Tea, Coriander, B Vitamins, N-Acetyl Cysteine and Glycine.
4. Reduce Body Fat
Fat cells are a site for estrogen production. Therefore, the more fat you accumulate, the more estrogen you produce. The more estrogen you produce, the more fat you accumulate, and the cycle continues.
Some considerations would be to reduce sugary foods or drinks (do not replace the sugary drinks with artificially sweetened diet sodas, as these may disrupt the gut microbiome), alcohol, and starchy carbohydrate foods. Replace these with high-fibre vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, and seeds and freshwater or green tea.
Fibre is critical for a healthy balanced microbiome and helps bind up excess estrogen and remove it from the body through the faeces.
Alcohol and sugar increase aromatase, which converts more testosterone to estrogen. This is why we often see men who drink alcohol excessively with higher body fat around their belly and chest like a woman would if she was pregnant. Red wine is a better choice as it contains resveratrol, which is a natural anti-aromatase nutrient. However, more than a glass a day will still outweigh the benefits.
Using a thermogenic that contains Carnitine, Green Tea and Tyrosine may be helpful to breakdown and transport fat for fuel. If you are having constant cravings or hunger pangs, try using ketones to control ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and create a calorie deficit.
So, what does this all mean?
Much of the estrogen dominance observed today is from increasing stress, exposure to endocrine (hormone) disrupting compounds in our environment or in the medication we use. The reality is: we also need to accept that both Men and Women will eventually go through andropause or menopause which will see a shift in the hormones we produce. We can make this transition more enjoyable by using the approaches above.
Eating a healthy diet, reduce sugar & alcohol, minimise stress, get quality sleep, exercising regularly, drink plenty of filtered water and avoid synthetic hormones, antibiotics, and toxins where possible. This will be the best strategy in balancing your health and hormones now and into the future.
Disclaimer: The above article is merely a guide and is in no way a recommendation or a treatment protocol for any health conditions or diseases. You should always consult with a qualified health care provider before changing your supplement, training or nutritional strategy. Supplementation should not be attempted by pregnant or breastfeeding women, anyone on prescription medication or children under the age of 15 unless advised by your qualified health care provider.