“Estrogen dominance” may sound like the crowd at a showing of Wonder Woman, but it’s actually a fairly common hormonal experience among women in perimenopause and menopause, according to Nicole Negron, Women's Health Consultant.
Estrogen is a wonderful thing: it helps regulate women’s cycles, it increases the feel-good chemicals in our brains, it helps build strong bones, keeps skin elastic, and helps hearts stay healthy. With all those good benefits, you’d think, the more estrogen the merrier; bring it on!
You know what they say about “too much of a good thing,” right?
Estrogen dominance happens when estrogen levels are too high relative to progesterone levels in the body. And according to Nicole Negron, certified Integrative Women’s Health, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Consultant, it can cause a host of discomforts, including a decreased sex drive, insomnia, difficulty articulating thoughts … sound familiar?
Spoiler alert: according to Nicole, estrogen dominance “is a direct result of the foods we eat, the products we use, stress, poor sleep, and other environmental circumstances.” Because these factors are within our control, she says, this challenging hormonal experience can be managed through better nutrition and stress management. The menopause clinic team at Gennev will break it down for you. Read on!
During a menstrual cycle, in the two weeks before a woman’s period, her estrogen levels go on a steady rise. The body is preparing a soft landing for an egg, and to increase the chances of fertilization, all that extra estrogen works to line the uterus but also to amp up a woman’s sexual thoughts and bump up her energy and confidence.
If the egg isn’t fertilized, the rich uterine lining is shed (that’s a period), estrogen levels drop, the estrogen floating around in there is swept out, and the body starts prepping for next month.
Estrogen dominance, Nicole says, is when that extra estrogen doesn’t get eliminated properly. And that starts with a bad balance in the gut.
If your gut biome (the living bacteria in your intestines that help you digest your food along with a whole lot of other stuff) isn’t healthy, it doesn’t clear estrogen from the body the way it should. And because modern women get extra estrogen from food and from the environment, not only are we not sweeping out what we’ve already got, we’re adding to the problem.
(learn more about your gut biome and how food, stress, inflammation, and health are all connected)
Even more, stress exacerbates estrogen dominance, so the higher and more sustained the stress levels, the more severe the estrogen dominance symptoms will likely be. How many women do you know living stress-free lives?
The symptoms look a lot like standard perimenopause/menopause symptoms: limp libido, irregular periods, mood swings, breast tenderness, cold hands and feet, hair loss, bloating. These can start as early as the mid-30s and continue for 10-15 years.
However, Nicole warns, women shouldn’t ignore their symptoms or try to simply suffer through them. Estrogen dominance has been linked to autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s syndrome, arthritis, Grave’s disease, lupus, and others, some of which can be life-threatening if left untreated.
You convinced me. So, how do I reverse estrogen dominance naturally? Here's what we recommend.
Your gynecologist should be able to test your estrogen levels to determine if they’re high or otherwise problematic. However, Nicole says, many women return a “normal” result even if their levels are high, so if you feel something is wrong, get a second opinion and start the lifestyle changes that (a) are healthy anyway, and (b) can help reduce estrogen levels naturally. Estrogen imbalance is common, but isn't always obvious.
It’s possible that high estrogen can be traced back to food sensitivities that cause leaky gut syndrome, weakening the biome responsible for sweeping estrogen from the body. Nicole suggests a food protocol of removing the usual suspects for sensitivities: wheat, gluten, sugar (that’s a biggie), corn, possibly eggs. Eating free of these for 2 – 3 months, then gradually reintroducing them one at a time can help you identify culprits.
Add in gut-friendly foods that decrease estrogen. Fermented foods are great for healing the gut and intestinal lining and sweeping extra estrogen, Nicole says. Kefir, kimchee, sauerkraut, and kombucha with no added sugar are great pre- and probiotics that can support a healthy, diverse biome.
(looking for local kombucha or other gut-friendly foods? (try your local farmers’ market)
Lots and lots of leafy greens, grilled or baked veggies, lean proteins, and no refined carbs or added sugars. If you’re still having a period, you can even plan your food to account for the body changes that come with your cycle. During the two weeks before the period when the body is ramping up estrogen, cut back on bread, dairy, and other foods that dump sugar into the blood stream and overtax the liver.
We know, we know … easier said than done, but since not feeling well is a major stressor, it’s worth it to try to reduce stress where you can. Get regular exercise. Sleep (and that means for reals turning off the devices well before bedtime. Bonus: you can start getting through that stack of books on the nightstand). Embrace the glory of “no.”
Xenoestrogens (“foreign” estrogens, i.e. not created by the body) can contribute to estrogen dominance, so getting them out of your home and food is critical. Look for natural shampoos, soaps, cosmetics, etc. Eat organic food, look for “phthalate-free” plastics. The DC-based advocacy initiative Environmental Working Group has a list of products it believes to be safe, which is a good place to start. Wash your hands. Don’t wear outside shoes in the house.
Managing hormone levels is really safest and most effective with some expert oversight. Find a functional nutrition specialist like Nicole Negron to help you assess your body, detox your personal spaces, manage stress, and eat right for your biome. Look for someone who specializes in women’s bodies, especially in women over 40.
By the time we reach perimenopause or menopause age, we should be experts at our own bodies, even in times of change, Nicole says. But the modern world often makes women feel they need to consult “professionals” for the facts.
If you need expert guidance to help, a menopause-certified health coach can be helpful. Book 30 minutes for your personal consultation with a health coach.
The truth is, we are the only one in there, and that means we have more information and experience than anyone. It also means we have more control. If your body doesn’t feel right and isn’t performing normally, don’t assume it’s a natural part of aging, or it’s “just menopause.”
“It’s important to tell women, ‘you’re not crazy, you’re hormonal, and that’s OK’.” Nicole reminds us. “Symptoms are a form of communication, your body’s way of expressing its need for realignment. Once we learn our body’s language, we can begin to build a relationship, trust what we experience, and start making the changes that feel right to us.”
Nicole Negron is a women’s health advocate, educator, and community leader with a passion for brain health, empowering women, and all things nutrition.
Nicole is a Certified Women’s Health and Nutrition Specialist and is on a mission to bring female brain chemistry and hormonal health to the forefront of everyday conversation. She teaches that understanding the correlation between the female brain and the four phases of a women’s cycle is the key to productivity, better health, and better relationships.
Nicole attended the State University of New York (SUNY), where she studied Nutrition, Gynecological and Wellness Studies. Additionally, she studied at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and the Integrative Pelvic Health Institute.
If you have dealt or are dealing with estrogen dominance (or you think you might be, after reading this), we’d love to hear about it. Tell us your experience in the comments below, or on Gennev's Facebook page or Midlife & Menopause Solutions, our closed Facebook group.
*The information in this blog is for education only and not meant to replace the advice of a medical professional. Feeling dominated by estrogen? Please – talk to your doctor.
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