Estrogen dominance is at an all time high across the globe. Though there are many theories as to why, it’s likely a complex combination of factors including everything from the food that we eat, to the increase in xenoestrogens in our products, and even glyphosate – the ubiquitous Monsanto herbicide that’s recently come under fire.
Estrogen dominance essentially means high levels of estrogen in the body, which are not being properly balanced by other sex hormones. Progesterone balances estrogen in women, while testosterone balances estrogen in men. Estrogen is also broken down by the liver. You may be surprised to hear this, but proper estrogen levels are just important to men as they are to women.
Estrogen Isn’t Just a Female Hormone
We often equate estrogen with women, but it’s equally as important men have just the right levels of estrogen. Your body actually produces three different types of estrogen.
- Estrone (E1) – Estrone is the second most common estrogen and a weaker type.
- Estradiol (E2) – Estradiol is a more potent version of estrogen known for supporting bone growth, serotonin levels, memory, and heart health.
- Estriol (E3) – Estriol is the weakest and known for being the predominant estrogen during pregnancy. It is thought to be protective against breast cancer.
Estrogen is essential to maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, bone density, a balanced mood, and more. Both men and women need their estrogen to be balanced by other hormones and properly broken down. But when it isn’t broken down well or there is simply too much, it can lead to estrogen dominance.
Estrogen is Complex – Receptors & Metabolites
We often oversimplify estrogen. First we lump three different types together, then we don’t acknowledge the different effects estrogen has on receptors, and finally estrogen metabolites are often missing from the conversation.
Not only do you need proper balance and breakdown to keep estrogen in check, these different types antagonize one another in the body. These three different types of estrogen bind to two different types of estrogen receptors – alpha receptors that promote cell growth and beta receptors which inhibit cell growth.
Many tissues throughout the body have both types of receptors where estrogen antagonizes against itself via alpha and beta receptors.
- Estrone (E1) – This form of estrogen primarily activates alpha receptors in a 5 to 1 ratio, which increases cell proliferation.
- Estradiol (E2) – E2 binds to both alpha and beta receptors equally.
- Estriol (E3) – This estrogen is mostly activate beta receptors in a 3 to 1 ratio, which inhibits cell proliferation but at a lower rate than E1.
Estrogens’ effects on different receptors make the type of the estrogen dominant in a body important. Estrogen metabolites are also important. Estrogen is broken down along two pathways into two metabolites:
- 2-Hydroxyestrone – Generally, this metabolite works to block stronger estrogens.
- 16Beta-Hydroxyestrone – While this metabolite promotes cell proliferation, Higher levels of 16Beta-Hydroxyestrone have been associated with obesity, hypothyroidism, pesticide toxicity, and higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids.
Some research has suggested that the ratio of these two metabolites may be predictive of breast cancer.
As it stands, we still have a lot to learn about estrogen dominance. While we often simplify the diagnosis as too much estrogen in the body, it’s likely differences in ratios and imbalances among the three types of estrogens and their metabolites. What we do know is some of the most effective way to support somebody with estrogen dominance is to implement detoxification, diet, and supplementation that encourage the body to restore homeostasis this delicate balance.
19 Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance in Women
- Low libido
- Irregular periods
- Swollen or tender breasts
- Fibrocystic breast
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Brain fog
- Thyroid nodules
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Cancer – breast, uterine, prostate
3 Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance in Men
- Enlarged breasts
- Sexual dysfunction
Supporting Estrogen Metabolism or Detox
- Saunas – Saunas are one of the best ways to support detoxification within the body.
- Exercise – Exercise, especially sweating, is another great way of supporting detoxification.
- Reduce stress levels – You’ve probably heard me say time and time again that reducing stress levels is one of the best things you can do for your health and estrogen is no exception.
- Lose excess weight – Estrogens are stored in fat on the body. So when you lose weight, you reduce storage space for estrogens.
- Drink clean water – I really recommend investing in a water filter, like the Berkey Filter. This is because we have so many toxins and potential endocrine disruptors in our drinking water. In fact I consider drinking pure water as one of the best things you can do for your health.
- Use clean personal care and beauty products – Beauty products and personal care products are some of the worst culprits for xenoestrogens (chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body). Clean out your products and opt for only pure options.
- Avoid hormonal birth control – If possible, you should avoid hormonal birth control because it messes with hormonal balance in your body.
Estrogen Dominance Diet
Estrogen Dominance – Foods to Eat
- Food with sulforaphane, which restore estrogen receptor expression. This includes:
- Brussels sprouts
- Bok choy
- Collard greens
- Foods from the Brassicae family, which include the compound Indole-3-carbinol and are a negative regulator of estrogen. These include:
- Napa cabbage
- Bok choy
- Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such wild caught fish, nuts and seeds.
Estrogen Dominance – Foods to Avoid
- Soy & soy products – These include tempeh and tofu.
- Foods high in pesticides – Whenever possible go organic.
- Meat and dairy where hormones are used.
Estrogen Dominance Supplements
- Milk thistle
- Alpha lipoic acid
- Diindolylmethane (DIM)
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin B6, B12, Folate
As a society, it’s important that we work to reduce the number of xenoestrogens in our water and food supply. Hormones are delicate and need to be carefully managed. If you suspect you have estrogen dominance I recommend working with the functional medicine doctor who has experience in the condition.
Too often people jump right to hormonal treatments when we should take a step back and work to restore function within the body. In cases where estrogen dominance has caused serious conditions such as endometriosis, these recommendations will not reverse the condition but can hopefully restore some normalcy.