Understanding Estrogen Dominance (Is Estrogen Really To Blame)
Understanding Estrogen Dominance (Is Estrogen Really To Blame?)
As a woman, it is extremely important to be in tune with your hormones and really understand the female menstrual cycle. Hormones play a big role in our everyday lives, for both males and females. Only difference is as a woman, our hormones are changing on a day to day basis. These hormone fluctuations and potential imbalances (either having too much or too little) are often blamed for mood swings, libido changes, anxiety, irritability and odd food cravings.
In today’s post we will delve into the main sex hormone for females - estrogen. Estrogen in balanced amounts has positive effects on the body. It is important for primary and secondary sex characteristics and plays a big role in puberty onset, fertility and the menstural cycle. Estrogen also has many positive effects on the body including, regulating menstruation, insulin sensitivity, reducing hunger, helps to maintain optimal bone density and protects against cardiovascular disease. Estrogen requires a very delicate balance with other hormones and when this balance is lost, the symptoms mentioned above can arise.
As I said earlier, it is first very important to understand what is happening in our bodies as women, every day of the cycle before learning what could go wrong. Being in tune with your body is a fundamental pillar in both mental and physical wellness.
So let’s start off by learning the hormones that are involved in the female cycle.
Understanding The Female Cycle
Women have 4 reproductive hormones that are in constant motion - estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Throughout a woman’s lifetime, these hormones may be affected to varying degrees. Estrogen is the primary hormone that dominates in the first 2 weeks of the female menstrual cycle and progesterone is the primary hormone that dominates in the last 2 weeks of the cycle. These hormones are opposing by nature - estrogen is the energetic hormone while progesterone is the calming hormone.
There Are 4 Stages In The Menstrual Cycle:
Now that we understand what is happening throughout the full female cycle, let's discuss what happens when hormones, mainly estrogen start to lose their balance.
What Is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance is one of the more common conditions among women. Many women will experience these symptoms monthly, some more severely than others. It is defined as, a relative excess of estrogen to a relative deficiency of progesterone. Estrogen dominance isn’t necessarily a surge in estrogen, but in imbalance between both of these hormones. So estrogen dominance happens when there is too much estrogen and not enough progesterone to balance out the estrogen.
Estrogen is produced in different areas of the body: adrenal glands, the brain, ovaries, fat cells and testes. Too little estrogen can result in painful intercourse, brain fog and irregular periods. However, too much estrogen has its own slew of problems.
Did you know that excess estrogen over time places women at risk for hormonal issues such as early menopause and breast cancer?
Now, how does one develop estrogen dominance...
What Are The Causes Of Estrogen Dominance?
Physiology, environmental factors and lifestyle choices can all lead to estrogen dominance. Let’s delve into each of these a bit more to see how this can happen.
What Are Symptoms Of Estrogen Dominance For A Woman?
How Can You Test For Estrogen Dominance?
You would think that on blood work estrogen levels would be seen as extremely high. However, this is most often not the case and estrogen comes back ‘within normal limits’. This is because estrogen dominance is relative to other hormones, not technically an excess condition. Therefore, it is important to test for BOTH estrogena and progesterone on bloodwork to assess for estrogen dominance.
Many women will experience symptoms of estrogen dominance and are told they are “normal”. But this is based on what society tells us. So just because many women experience it, it doesn’t make it normal. And from a physiologic perspective these symptoms are not normal. If these symptoms are severe and they affect your day to day life, it needs to be addressed from a multifaceted approach. Mainstream approach for these symptoms involve birth control or antidepressants. None of these solutions really target the root cause of the problem.
As we talked about in this post, there are many possible reasons for a woman to be estrogen dominant and multiple things can worsen this. Thus, it takes a multifaceted approach in treatment. Stay tuned for next week’s post on how to treat estrogen dominance from a 360 approach!
** Disclaimer: The advice is in this article is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the care of a Naturopathic physician.