Updated: Mar 7, 2021
What is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen is a sex hormone responsible for the development and support of the female reproductive system. It usually peaks during the follicular phase, just before ovulation. Estrogen dominance is one of the most common hormone imbalance issues for women. The main functions of estrogen are:
Stimulates the growth of the egg follicle
It helps to build up the endometrial wall.
Helps with breast tissue growth
Stabilizes bone density
Controls the metabolism of lipids and glucose
Estrogen levels are very sensitive to our environment and lifestyle, so it is a common condition. Estrogen dominance happens when there is too much estrogen in relation to progesterone. We can actually face three different patterns:
High estrogen, low progesterone
Normal estrogen, low progesterone
High estrogen, normal progesterone
It can be very complicated to get rid of estrogen excess because we are surrounded by endocrine disruptors. When our body's elimination system is not working optimally, it cannot process and eliminate estrogen efficiently.
10 common symptoms of estrogen dominance
1. Painful periods
Period cramps or dysmenorrhea can be caused by strong contractions and high levels of prostaglandins. Their levels increase with the decrease of progesterone before menstruation. As estrogen compensates for low progesterone levels, painful periods are considered a common symptom of estrogen dominance.
2. Mood swings
Mood disorders and depression are directly related to estrogen and progesterone balance. There is solid scientific evidence expressing the neuromodulatory and neuroprotective effects of estrogen, directly related to mood swings. Estrogen and especially Estradiol, a different form of the estrogen molecule that we produce, has antidepressant effects at normal levels. When progesterone and estrogen are out of balance, mood swings and irritability can appear.
3. Irregular or heavy periods
Heavy Menstrual Bleeding (HMB) refers to the secretion of more than 80 mL of blood per menstrual cycle. We consider that normal bleeding is around 50 mL. HMB is caused when there is enlarged tissue growth in the endometrial cavity. As estrogen is responsible for the menstrual wall build-up, HMB is directly related to estrogen dominance.
A study demonstrated that sodium retention and water retention during the luteal phase are increased with high estrogen levels. Estrogen often acts as a fluid retaining hormone, while progesterone is a natural diuretic. Therefore, when these two are out of balance, you may notice bloating.
Anxiety is a combination of feelings of fear and worry. It is a common symptom of estrogen dominance. Estrogen plays an important role in balancing our emotional response. A scientific study demonstrated that administrating rats with optimal estrogen amounts helped decrease their anxiety and depression.
6. Memory problems and brain fog
Brain fog is difficult to detect. It can be associated with memory problems, confusion and difficulties to focus. Estrogen receptors have a crucial role in brain function and cognition. Hence, when estrogen is higher than progesterone, brain fog can appear.
Estrogen dominance is the most common cause of hormonal headaches. It can appear when there is an excess amount of estrogen in your system either because your body cannot eliminate it effectively or because you are making too much, or even because you are overexposed to xenoestrogens. Estrogen can interfere with cerebral vessels as it can cross the blood-brain barrier easily.
8. Decreased sex drive
Women with estrogen dominance may have a lower libido than normal. Sex drive is strongly depended on the balance of sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. High estrogen levels can cause a change in the homeostasis of other hormones.
9. Trouble sleeping
Trouble sleeping is a common symptom of many hormone imbalances. Good quality sleep is strongly dependent on balanced hormones. A study found that balanced estrogen and progesterone levels can have positive effects on sleep quality. This is why troubles sleeping can be a sign of estrogen dominance, as we need our hormones to be balanced to have a good night sleep.
10. Weight gain
Putting on weight, especially around the belly, when you didn't change anything to your diet or exercise habits might be a sign of estrogen dominance. This symptom may also present itself as an increase in body or carrying your weight in different places than before. To eliminate estrogen excess, you need to have a diet rich in fibre (leafy greens and cruciferous veggies), healthy fats and good quality protein.