Estrogen Dominance in Women and Men
What is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance generally occurs when a body has too much estrogen in relation to progesterone. Many women in their twenties, mid thirties through forties, and even women who are menopausal can be overloaded with estrogen. At the same time they may be suffering from a deficiency of progesterone due to a severe drop in the body’s production, which leads to insufficient progesterone to counteract the amount of estrogen in the body. It is most noticeable among peri-menopausal women who do not ovulate, which is quite common. You may have a fairly normal cycle, but no egg is released and very little progesterone is produced.
Estrogen dominance can cause a host of problems such as:
- Night sweats
- Vaginal Dryness
- Weight gain
- Tender breasts
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Mood swings
- Memory Loss
- Dry skin
- Irregular periods
- Heavy bleeding
- Low thyroid symptoms
- Low libido
- Water retention/bloating
- Polycystic Ovary Condition
- Cyclical migraine headaches
- Prostate problems
- Man boobs
- Male patterned baldness
- Weight gain
- Low libido
Even if a woman has low estrogen levels, she can have symptoms of estrogen dominance, because she may have little or no progesterone. However, estrogen dominance can be caused by more than the body’s production of hormones. For example, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), birth control pills, environmental estrogens, plant estrogens, stress, obesity, poor liver function, peri-menopause, and glandular dysfunction.
The end result of an imbalance between estrogen in relation to progesterone adds up to a condition Dr. John Lee has termed “estrogen dominance.” Dr. Lee's book, Hormone Balance Made Simple, explains this more in-depth. This book is available on our website.
Men too can suffer from estrogen dominance. Estrogens from plant estrogens and environmental sources, also known as xenoestrogens, produce hormonal stimuli that can contribute to inappropriate growth of mammary tissue cells, resulting in a problem society is calling “man boobs.” Some theorize that estrogen dominance in men is contributing to hair loss, atherosclerosis, prostate problems, lowered libido, weight gain, and impotency.
Causes of Estrogen Dominance
- poor liver function
- birth control pills
- plant estrogens (soy, flaxseed)
- Hormone Replacement Therapy
- glandular dysfunction
- environmental estrogens
Health Consequences of Estrogen Dominance
Estrogen dominance can lead to many different related health conditions. For example, in women, over-stimulation from estrogen of the breast tissue can cause tenderness, swelling, and fibrocystic breasts. In the uterus, excess estrogen stimulation may lead to endometriosis, hyperplasia, heavy or irregular menses, menstrual cramping and uterine fibroid tumors. If estrogen over-stimulation occurs in the liver, we see weight gain, constipation, cyclical headaches and migraines, depression, mood swings, fluid retention, and low libido among many other symptoms. Review the following link for a more complete list of symptoms http://www.johnleemd.com/store/estrogen_dom.html.
- Not only has it been well established that estrogen dominance encourages the development of breast cancer…it also stimulates breast tissue that can trigger fibrocystic breast disease.
- Estrogen dominance can cause weight gain, headaches, bad temper, chronic fatigue and loss of interest in sex…among other symptoms.
- Excess estrogen can lead to a decrease in the rate of new bone formation…Although most doctors are not yet aware of it, this is the prime cause of osteoporosis.
- Estrogen dominance increases the risk of fibroids...
- In estrogen-dominant menstruating women where progesterone is not peaking and falling in a normal way each month, the ordered shedding of the womb lining doesn't take place. Menstruation becomes irregular.
- Water logging of the cells and an increase in intercellular sodium, which predispose a woman to high blood pressure or hypertension, frequently occur with estrogen dominance.
- The risk of stroke and heart disease is increased dramatically when a woman is estrogen-dominant.
Source: Leslie Kenton, Passage to Power, Random House, UK, 1995
Educational Audio Series
Topic: Hormone Balance in Women and Men
Featuring: Nutritionist Janelle Deeds
Estrogen Dominance and Xenoestrogens
We are constantly assaulted by estrogens in our environment from the food we eat and the chemicals we use. Estrogen mimickers in the form of food/plants (phytoestrogens) and chemicals (xenoestrogens), can mimic the action of estrogen produced in cells and can alter hormonal activity. Exposure to xenoestrogens is a concern for everyone, and those with an estrogen dominance condition should be particularly concerned about avoiding xenoestrogens.
Xeno literally means foreign, therefore xenoestrogens means foreign estrogens. Some of the 70,000 plus registered chemicals for use in the United States have hormonal effects in addition to toxic effects. These chemicals can be found in many of the items we use daily. For example, household cleaning products, cosmetics, and body care products. The synergistic effects of exposure to many xenoestrogens are well documented, but largely unknown.
Xenoestrogens found in certain pesticides, plastics, fuels and drugs are usually synthetic and difficult for the body to break down, and can amplify the effects of estrogen. These substances can increase the estrogen load in the body over time, and are difficult to detoxify through the liver.
Xenoestrogens can be found in many of our meats and dairy products in the form of chemicals and growth hormones that are given to the animals. These can be quite powerful, and should be avoided where possible. For a more extensive list of xenoestrogens, see our Environmental Estrogens page.
Evidence is steadily growing that xenoestrogens and other hormone mimicking substances are implicated in a wide range of human and wildlife health problems. Estrogen dominance from these environmental hormone disrupters is causing an imbalance of hormones, creating a host of estrogen dominance symptoms. Girls and boys are reaching puberty too early as a result of these disrupters.
Phytoestrogens (phyto meaning plant) are naturally occurring estrogenic compounds that are found in a variety of foods, herbs, spices. Their chemical structure resembles estrogen. These compounds are generally weak estrogens, in comparison to real estrogen and xenoestrogens, but in a body that is already experiencing too much estrogen, adding more may contribute to the problem.
Some of the strongest phytoestrogen containing substances are soy, the lignans found in flax seed products, red clover, black cohosh, chasteberry, and dong quai. Soy includes soybeans, soy milk, tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein, roasted soybeans, soy granules, miso, and edamames.
According to Dr. John Lee M.D., an authority on hormonal imbalances and estrogen dominance, “it is possible that we—men, women, and children—are all suffering a little from estrogen dominance, because there is so much of it in our environment. You would have to virtually live in a bubble to escape the excess estrogens we’re exposed to through pesticides, plastics, industrial waste products, car exhaust, meat, body care products, and indoor toxins.” (pg. 48 Premenopause book).
Sources of Xenoestrogens
- commercially raised meat
(beef, chicken and pork)
- canned foods
- plastics, plastic food wraps
- plastic drinking bottles
- styrofoam cups
- industrial wastes
- personal care products
- plant estrogens (soy, flaxseeds)
- car exhaust and indoor toxins
- birth control pills and spermicide
- all artificial scents
- (air fresheners, perfumes, etc)
- pesticides and herbicides
- paints, lacquers and solvents
Supplements for Estrogen Dominance
DIM is a naturally occurring phytonutrient that is found in cruciferous vegetables. Though discovered over ten years ago, the connection between plant-derived dietary ingredients and estrogen metabolism are just now beginning to be understood. Research has shown that DIM has the ability to act as an estrogen balancer in both women and men.
A slow metabolism of estrogen can result in too much active estrogen known as estradiol in the body, which can be problematic for both sexes. DIM is not only beneficial in reducing symptoms of estrogen dominance in women, it can also benefit men by improving their estrogen dominance related health issues, as previously mentioned. The benefits of DIM include:
- Promotes healthy estrogen metabolism
- Protects against conditions related to estrogen dominance
- Protects against cancer, heart disease
- Promotes fat loss, healthy skin, and bones
- Supports healthy prostate tissue in men
- Promotes healthy estrogen metabolism
- Promotes fat loss
- Protects against heart disease
- Protects against cancer
- Promotes health skin and bones
- Promotes health brain tissue
- In men it supports healthy prostate tissues
- In women it supports healthy breast, cervical and uterine tissues
- In women it relieves PMS symptoms
Poor estrogen metabolism in middle aged men has been attributed to various causes including regular alcohol use, obesity, zinc deficiency, and exposure to drugs or environmental chemicals” as stated Dr. Michael Zeligs, M.D., co-author of the “All About DIM” book.
DIM can help increase the specific aerobic metabolism for estrogen, multiplying the chance for estrogen to be broken down into its beneficial or "good" estrogen metabolites. Many of the benefits that are attributed to estrogen, which includes its ability to protect the heart and brain with its antioxidant activity, are now known to come from these "good" metabolites.
When supplemental DIM increases the ‘good’ estrogen metabolites that are known to be antioxidants, there is a simultaneous reduction in the levels of undesirable or ‘bad’ estrogen metabolites which are not antioxidants and can actually cause cancer.
Dr. Zeligs claims that “supplementing with DIM can help overcome the need to eat 3 pounds of broccoli per day and can effectively shift the balance of sex hormones…An optimal estrogen balance has implications for cancer prevention and successful aging. http://www.vrp.com/art/477.asp
||Myomin is a formula of Chinese herbs that promote proper hormonal balance. Like DIM, Myomin also metabolizes excess estrogens. Myomin inhibits aromatase, which can reduce levels of bad estrogens (estradiol and estrone), and promotes production of the good estrogen (estriol). For men and women, this action prevents the conversion of testosterone into bad estrogens, and leads to the unhindered production of more estriol from progesterone, DHEA and other hormones. Additionally, some of the herbs help promote shrinkage of tumors and cysts.
||Progesta-Care is a natural progesterone cream that can be used to address a progesterone deficiency. When a woman’s body is estrogen dominant, there is usually too little progesterone being produced naturally, causing an imbalance. Progesterone helps prevent estrogen from becoming harmful to our health among other protective factors. Therefore, supplementing with a natural progesterone cream can help correct hormonal imbalances that cause symptoms associated with estrogen dominance.
||Calcium D-Glucarate is a botanical extract found in fruits and vegetables that can be beneficial in helping to remove excess, used hormones before they become re-absorbed back into the bloodstream where they can be deposited into fatty tissues and areas such as breast tissue and the uterus. Calcium D-Glucarate differs from DIM; while DIM helps convert bad estrogen to good estrogen, Calcium D-glucarate helps assist in the elimination of metabolized (used) estrogen that the body is attempting to excrete.
You can reduce your exposure to xenoestrogens by choosing skin care products without chemicals, using chemical-free cleaning products, limiting daily intake of phytoestrogens, as well as reducing exposure to exhaust fumes and indoor pollutants.
Choosing lean, organic meat and dairy products is best. Purchase organic fruits and vegetables as much as possible. If they are not available, thoroughly wash or peel all produce to remove at least some of the pesticides.
Heat food in metal or porcelain container, not plastic, and definitely not in the microwave with plastic wrap. Using glass containers to drink from rather than plastic, previously used water bottles, or Styrofoam cups can also help reduce xenoestrogen exposure.
Key points to reducing estrogen dominance
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