What is Estrogen Dominance, and What to Do About It

Dr. Jolene BrightenPublished: Last Reviewed: Sex Hormones Leave a Comment

Estrogen dominance is one of the most common issues that I see in my practice, especially in women in their late 30s and beyond. It can develop for various reasons: age, excess body fat, exposure to hormone mimicking chemicals in your environment, poor digestion, stress, adrenal issues, and even autoimmune conditions. 

The good news is, there are ways to get your estrogen back into balance naturally. 

What is Estrogen?

Estrogen (or oestrogen) is a group of hormones that triggers the development of secondary sex characteristics (hips, breasts, pubic hair, etc.) during puberty and regulates your reproductive system in adulthood. 

Although we typically think of estrogen as a female hormone, men have estrogen too, in lesser amounts. 

Women have three types of estrogen, and amounts vary during different life stages. 

  • Estrone (E1). After menopause, your body stops making estradiol and estriol, and makes only estrone.
  • Estradiol (E2). Estradiol is the dominant type of estrogen in women from menstruation through menopause. 
  • Estriol (E3). Your body increases estriol production during pregnancy.

Estrogen fluctuates throughout your menstrual cycle. During menstruation (when you’re bleeding), estrogen is low. It rises during the follicular phase as your body prepares to release an egg, peaks just before ovulation, and drops going into the luteal phase (the phase between ovulation and your period.) You can read more about the phases of the menstrual cycle here.

You may have read about estrogen in the context of hormone imbalances and related problems, but you do need estrogen in the right amount. It only creates problems in excess.

What Is Estrogen Dominance?

Estrogen dominance is a type of hormone imbalance where you have too much estrogen in relation to progesterone. 

There are two main types of estrogen dominance: 

  • Frank estrogen dominance: your body makes too much estrogen 
  • Relative estrogen dominance: You have too much estrogen relative to progesterone 

Sometimes, the term “estrogen dominance” is used interchangeably with “high estrogen.” That doesn’t tell the whole story because high estrogen won’t make you feel bad if you have enough progesterone to balance it out. 

Common Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance

There are a range of estrogen dominance symptoms to look out for if you suspect you have too much estrogen, although it is different for every woman. Some women will experience a range of symptoms, and others may experience just one or two. Excess estrogen can cause symptoms such as:

Estrogen dominance can also lead to decreased amounts of available thyroid hormone.

In this video, I discuss estrogen dominance in great detail and provide you the information you need to start balancing your hormones.

The First Steps to Solving Estrogen Dominance

If you are concerned about your estrogen levels, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor about hormone testing. In the meantime, there are some simple steps you can try to reduce that excess estrogen and get back into balance. 

1. Improve Your Sleep and Reduce Stress

Stress reduction and quality sleep can go a long way to restoring happy hormones. Here are some stress-busting practices that have helped my patients. 

2. Maximize Your Nutrition

Focus on increasing dietary fiber, eating more liver-supportive foods, and organic nutrient-dense meals. If you’re not sure where to start, grab a free meal plan here

If you develop gas, bloating, or other symptoms during this step, it is imperative that you have lab testing done to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms.

3. Find a Practitioner to Partner With

You will need lab testing to understand if and why you have estrogen dominance. In my clinic, we use advanced hormone lab testing to develop an individualized protocol based on your body's needs. 

What Causes Estrogen Dominance

There are many ways in which our environment, food, stress, and other lifestyle factors can mess with our hormones and create estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance causes many of the symptoms we ladies dread, like PMS, hot flashes, terrible periods, weight gain, and even hair loss.

Estrogen and Your Liver

Your liver is responsible for packaging up estrogen so your gut can move it out. If either your liver or your gut doesn't do its job, then estrogen could build up, and you might develop estrogen dominance. You must supply your liver with what it needs to process estrogen, and you must poop every day to remove excess estrogen from the body.

Estrogen-mimicking Chemicals

Environmental toxins known as xenoestrogens can also be behind your symptoms. A lot of household and personal care items expose you to xenoestrogens. You can watch a quick video explaining more about this here.

Anovulatory Cycles 

Anovulatory cycles (months where you don’t release an egg) could also lead to estrogen dominance. If you don't ovulate or are otherwise having issues getting progesterone levels up during your luteal phase, this can cause relative estrogen dominance.

How Your Gut Health Can Cause Estrogen Dominance

Oh and you know those rockstar gut bugs that your body depends on to function? If they are out of balance and making too much beta-glucuronidase, you can also find yourself with estrogen excess.

Calcium d-glucarate can help with this, which is why you'll find it in Balance Women's Hormone Supplement. This supplement also contains B vitamins, DIM, and broccoli seed extract to support the liver's role in breaking down estrogen. 

Do you notice constipation around period time? How does your skin look? How is your mood? Are your breasts more tender? Have you had hot flashes or difficulty sleeping?

In my naturopathic medical practice, these are the kinds of things I ask my patients to monitor. Many of my patients are able to begin making the connection between their gut health and how their gut functions with how this impacts their hormones. I'd encourage you to do the same.

Download your free copy of Dr. Brighten's Quick Guide to Balancing Your Hormones.

Stress and Estrogen Dominance

Yes, we all know stress is a problem. But did you know that when you're stressed it pushes you into cortisol production at the expense of progesterone? This leads to a relative estrogen dominance because there isn't enough progesterone around to challenge estrogen. The result?

  • You have sleep trouble 
  • You lose your cool
  • Your periods are worse
  • Your breasts are tender
  • You feel like every stressor will break you

Reducing stress is key to optimizing hormones! That's why you'll find stress-reducing practices all throughout my book, Beyond the Pill.

Some stress reduction techniques you can try to eliminate estrogen dominance include:

  • Deep Breathing
  • Massage
  • Journaling
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Walking
  • An epsom salt bath
  • Essential oils
  • Meditation
  • Mindfullness
  • Painting
  • Dancing

You get the idea! Next time you feel stressed, try to practice techniques to help you reclaim your chill.

Can Diet Help Estrogen Dominance?

Absolutely! Your diet can help to reduce estrogen dominance naturally, and there are loads of foods that can help balance your hormones. You can grab a free meal plan and recipes here that are designed to help you get your hormones in balance.

Foods to Support Hormone Balance include:

  • Broccoli and broccoli sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Flaxseeds and seed cycling
  • Protein like grass-fed beef, lentils, eggs
  • Shiitake mushrooms
  • Carrots
  • Jicama
  • Avocado
  • Blackberries
  • Beets
  • Burdock root
  • Dandelion root
  • Dark chocolate

Concerned you may have estrogen dominance?

Get the Hormone Balancing Starter Kit and start loving your hormones today!

Supplements for Estrogen Dominance

It's important to determine why you have estrogen dominance to begin with and address that. But, that can take time. In the meantime, leveraging high-quality supplements is a great way to provide your liver with nutrients to process estrogen and could help some women create more favorable estrogen metabolites. 

In addition, probiotics and nutrients that help your body's stress system may help address some of the other factors that can lead to estrogen dominance.

This is why we designed the Period Problems Kit to provide adrenal, gut, and sex hormone support.

5 Steps to Reverse Estrogen Dominance Naturally

You’ll need to work with a doctor to figure out why your estrogen is out of balance in the first place. But for now, here are some steps you can take to reduce that excess estrogen:

1. Love Your Liver

Your liver is responsible for getting estrogen ready to be moved out of the body. This could honestly be a whole article of it's own (and it probably will be), but here are some basics of how to show your liver some love and support:

  • Eat quality protein
  • Eat plenty of garlic and onions
  • Take a B complex
  • Eat a minimum of 3 cups of cruciferous vegetables weekly
  • Consider a supplement with DIM, a nutrient that supports the liver in processing estrogen

2. Fix Your Gut

Once the liver processes estrogen for elimination, it is up to your digestive tract to move it out. If you are experiencing constipation, there is a good chance your estrogen exiting efficiently, and instead, going back into circulation in the body. 

Figuring out and treating the underlying cause of your digestive issues is crucial in creating optimal hormonal health. When there is dysbiosis or an imbalance of gut flora, these organisms can make more beta-glucuronidase. This is an enzyme that can lead to higher levels of estrogen in the body. 

Taking a high-quality probiotic may help shift the flora to be more favorable in some women.

3. Eat Fiber

Aim for at least 25 grams per day by eating plenty of vegetables and fruits. Fiber will keep your bowels regular and help eliminate waste, including unnecessary estrogen.

One study reports that two months of a 15-30 g of additional fiber per day reduced estrogens in premenopausal women.

Foods that contain fiber include:

  • Avocado – 10g per cup)
  • Raspberries – 6.4 g per 100 g serving
  • Artichokes – 6.91 g in 1 medium artichoke
  • Oatmeal – 11 g per 100 g serving
  • Almonds – 8.95 g per 1/2 c serving
  • Broccoli – 3.93 g in 1 stalk

4. Stress Less

Easier said than done — I know! But here's the thing, all that stress is wrecking your mood, your hormones, and, well, your life. Do I sound dramatic? Maybe a little. But I cannot emphasize enough how much of an impact stress can have on your hormones. 

So remember, when you’re feeling stressed, take some deep breaths and try to let it go, and bring some of the calming tactics discussed above into your life.

For some women, supplements like Adrenal Support can help their body's hormonal stress response in addition to lifestyle practices.

5. Sleep!

Seven hours sleep is the minimum you should be getting nightly. Your body needs sleep and your hormones demand it. For many of my patients, I recommend wearing light blocking glasses 1-2 hours before bed to help them get the rest they need and shift their hormones to a more favorable state. 

If you're struggling with sleep, I recommend you meet with your doctor to determine the cause and treat appropriately. Your hormones could be a cause of sleep disturbance!

Keeping Your Hormones Balanced

Estrogen is a hormone that can sometimes get a bad rap, especially in the context of estrogen dominance. But estrogen is what helps keep your heart healthy, your bones strong, and it also helps your skin look youthful. It is also very important for stable moods.

This hormone also plays a crucial role in thyroid health and, when in excess, can lead to decreased amounts of available thyroid hormone.

Although estrogen dominance can make you feel miserable, it is reversible! By implementing the 5 steps above, you can improve your estrogen-progesterone balance and begin to heal your entire hormonal system.

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References

  1. What Is Estrogen?. Hormone.org.
  2. D P Rose, M Goldman, J M Connolly, L E Strong. High-fiber diet reduces serum estrogen concentrations in premenopausal women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1991. 54. 520-525.
  3. Food Data Central. US Department of Agriculture.
About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is one of the leading experts in women’s medicine and is a pioneer in her exploration of the far-reaching impact of hormonal birth control and the little known side effects that impact health in a large way. In her best selling book, Beyond the Pill, she shares her clinical protocols aimed at supporting women struggling with symptoms of hormone imbalance, including Post-Birth Control Pill Syndrome and birth control related side effects. A trained nutritional biochemist and Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Brighten is the founder and Clinic Director at Rubus Health, an integrative women’s medicine clinic. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and has been featured in prominent media outlets such as Forbes, Cosmopolitan, ABC news, and the New York Post. Read more about me here.