Oestrogen dominance is rife in today’s society. It is basically an imbalance in the female sex hormones such that there is an excess of oestrogen compared with progesterone. There are 3 different types of oestrogen (E1, E2, E3), some or all of which may be increased compared with progesterone.
In many cases, there is an association between copper excess and oestrogen dominance. It also appears that the regular intake of non-organic meats, particularly chicken, which may contain hormones, can also affect our own endogeneous hormone levels.
What Conditions are related to Oestrogen Dominance?
PMT, Heavy and painful Periods, Endometriosis, Polyscstuc Ovaries, Breast Tenderness/Cysts, Ovarian Cysts, Weight Gain...
What are possible Symptoms/Signs of Oestrogen Dominance?
There are many signs of oestrogen dominance that can present at various times of a woman’s life, from puberty through to menopause. Heavy, clotty and/or painful periods of lengthy duration, Mittleschmerz (painful ovulation), and the various symptoms of PMT (mood swings-teary, angry, bowel disturbances, headaches, breast tenderness and/or sinusitis) that may occur up to 2 weeks prior to menstruation.
As oestrogen is an anabolic hormone, this means that excess oestrogen can also be associated with weight gain, particularly around the abdomen.
It is important to note that progesterone is a “feel good” hormone that is just as important as serotonin in controlling our moods and behaviour. Many women with oestrogen dominance may experience symptoms of depression, anxiety and mood swings for no apparent reason throughout their lifetime. This is most often due to the strong influence of hormones.
What Conditions may be linked to Oestrogen Dominance?
Menorrhagia (heavy periods), Dysmenorrhoea (painful periods), Endometriosus, Polycystic ovaries, Ovarian cysts, Obesity, Breast cysts and other benign and/or malignant breast lesions. Although not medical conditions, peri-menopause and menopause may also be associated with oestrogen dominance.
Should you be taking the oral contraceptive pill for Oestrogen Dominant conditions?
Ideally, the OCP should only be used for the purpose for which it was designed- Contraception.
Unfortunately, as there are no specific medications for simply balancing hormones, the OCP is often prescribed for this purpose. In many cases it does help to alleviate the symptoms, however, it does not correct the underlying hormonal imbalances, rather simply masks them.
If you do take the Oral Contraceptive Pill, what Protection should you take against its Effects?
The OCP can reduce the absorption of some vitamins and minerals, therefore a multi-vitamin/mineral supplement (including magnesium, in particular) should be taken to guard against this. In a similar manner, the OCP can also reduce the amount of probiotics (good bacteria) in the gut and therefore a probiotic supplement should also be taken.
Are there any Nutrient/Herbs that can help with Oestrogen Dominance?
In order to correct hormonal imbalance, high dose magnesium (350mg elemental Mg twice daily) combined with the herb Vitex agnes castus (1g daily) can help in the vast majority of cases. It is also important to note that Mg should always be used with Calcium in a 1:2 ratio and with the B Vitamin family to help absorption.
There are many different herbal regimes that may also help to reduce oestrogen dominance and increase progesterone that may be prescribed by a practitioner (Doctor, naturopath, herbalist, nutritionist). A 3 month trial of supplementation is always necessary to maximise a regime’s effects - You should notice some effect in the first month, more in the second and maximunm in the third.
It is imperative to understand that nutrient and/or herbal regimes do not provide contraception.
Why is Magnesium so Important?
Magnesium is needed for more than 350 different biochemical processes. One of these most important pathways involves the need for magnesium to help produce progesterone.
What are some Signs/ Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency?
* Eyelid twitches
* Feelings of tightness/cramps in your legs/feet
* Restlessness/ Restless legs
* Chocolate cravings, especially before periods.
Can your Diet affect Oestrogen Dominant conditions?
Most definitely. As stated above, it appears that the regular intake of non-organic meats, particularly chicken, which may contain hormones, can affect our own endogeneous hormone levels. Oestrogen Dominance conditions (in particularly, Polycystic Ovarian Disease) commonly occur coupled with Insulin Resistance and therefore similar dietary interventions are recommended.
What Eating Plan should you use?
Due to the aforementioned relationship, an Insulin Resistance Healthy Eating Plan is generally recommended if Oestrogen Dominance is identified, particularly if IR is present.
What about a Structured Weight-loss Programme?
If you are overweight, can join a structured weight loss programme and can truly commit yourself, this approach may very well be successful. Whatever the dietary approach, structured programmes often reinforce commitment through peer support, critical to the success of many weight loss attempts.
Are there any Superfoods you should eat more of?
Several categories of food are recommended if you have an Oestrogen Dominance related condition. These include:
Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage (raw or lightly cooked)
Leafy greens, bananas, nuts and seeds (high Magnesium foods)
All other high fibre foods
Moderate intake of natural soy foods if you are tolerant to them
Omega 3 fish; Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel, Sardines, Herring
Seaweed (high in Iodine)
Are there foods you should avoid?
It is recommended that you avoid non-organic meats, especially poultry, which can possibly increase an individual’s oestrogen levels.
Dairy products should be limited to one serve per day.Please note that if you have a known dairy intolerance, this can significantly affect hormones in a negative manner.
How about exercise?
Regular exercise is important in managing normal hormonal and blood sugar regulation as well as encouraging weight loss associated with many Oestrogen Dominance Conditions. You should aim at between 30 and 60 minutes of exercise per day.
Smoking? The answer's Obvious
This is probably the most significant change you can make in your life if you are a smoker. If you cannot quit without assistance, this being the majority of smokers, it may be sensible to join a multidisciplinary programme. Peer support is often essential to the success of any quit smoking plan.
Remember, although pharmaceutical approaches that replace nicotine via chewing gum, patch or otherwise are often helpful, eventually they must be weaned otherwise you may simply be trading the risk of lung cancer for other diseases.
Is Sleep important?
Healthy sleep patterns are important for all hormonal imbalances as hormonal regulation follows regular daily cycles (circadian). If you have irregular or unhealthy sleep patterns seek to normalise these (see Sleep Health section by clicking this link).
How does Stress affect Oestrogen Dominance?
Stress affects all hormonal imbalances through the physiological stress response. If you are experiencing stress in your life, managing this can be an important contribution to hormonal balance.
What should I consider doing about this?
Interventions to reduce stress include:
Relaxation and Meditation independent or as part of a Yoga programme
Other Effects Based Stress Managements techniques
Cause Based Stress Management Techniques
Achieving Work Life Balance
Learning to effectively manage Emotions
Prioritising Family and other Relationships (including healing old wounds)
Becoming connected with your community, environment and, if you are spiritual,
the concept of God/Universe that matters to You.