What Is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance is a condition in which estrogen and progesterone levels are out of balance. When the ratio of estrogen is higher than it should be, it can lead to numerous uncomfortable symptoms, including sore throat before ovulation, a puffy face, heavy or painful periods, fatigue, weight gain, fertility issues, and mood swings or depression.
It’s important that every woman understand the role estrogen plays in a healthy body and mind, as well as the signs of hormone imbalances.
What Is Estrogen and What Does It Do?
Estrogen is a reproductive hormone responsible for preparing the body for potential pregnancy, as well as maintaining healthy bones and cholesterol levels. It is essential to growth, signaling changes to a female’s body during puberty and helping maintain a normal menstrual cycle.
Estrogen is the dominant hormone for the first week or so after menstruation (see diagram below), stimulating the build up of tissue and blood in the uterus as the ovarian follicles simultaneously begin their development of the egg. Levels of estrogen peak and then taper off, just as the follicle matures and just before ovulation.
Progesterone is another major reproductive hormone, most present during the latter two weeks of the menstrual cycle. It keeps the inner lining of the uterus ready to receive a fertilized ovum, and later provides the nurturing for the development of the embryo. If the egg is not fertilized, progesterone levels drop dramatically causing the uterus to shed its lining, and a menstruation flow results.
The diagram below demonstrates what actually happens to a woman’s body during her 28 cycle and where estrogen and progesterone fit into that picture.
(Ask Dr Sandra Cabot Newsletter, Edition 3)
Estrogen dominance occurs when a woman’s estrogen levels remain elevated when compared to progesterone or other reproductive or endocrine hormones. As a result, the calming effects of progesterone are suppressed, wreaking havoc with fertility, mood, and sleep. Estrogen dominance can also cause a cascade of other difficult symptoms.
Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
Estrogen dominance is typically associated with progesterone deficiency, and it may be influenced by a number of other hormonal, environmental, and genetic factors. As a result, symptoms are wide-ranging and can affect every aspect of health, including metabolism, libido, and healthy function of the endocrine, immune, and neurological systems.
The hallmarks of estrogen dominance are:
- Anxiety, mood swings, and/or depression, including postnatal depression
- Decreased sex drive
- Dry eyes and/or skin
- Fat gain, especially around the abdomen, hips, and thighs
- Fatigue or low energy
- Fertility issues, including endometriosis, PCOS, and/or uterine fibroids
- Insomnia or other sleep problems
- Painful, irregular, and/or heavy periods, often pronounced PMS and beginning at a young age
- Poor muscle tone
- Puffy face and bloating
- Sore throat, specifically before ovulation
As the list above demonstrates, estrogen dominance is life-altering, and its reach goes far beyond problems with periods or pregnancy. Additional symptoms may include:
- Acceleration of the aging process, including wrinkles and stretch marks
- Adrenal exhaustion
- Allergy symptoms (asthma, hives, rashes, sinus congestion)
- Autoimmune disorders (fibromyalgia, lupus erythematosus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Sjögren’s disease)
- Brain fog and memory loss
- Breast tenderness or fibrocystic breasts
- Cancer of breasts or uterus (or prostate in men)
- Cervical dysplasia
- Gallbladder disease
- Hair loss
- Increased blood clotting and risk of strokes
- Nutrient deficiencies, including magnesium and zinc
- Premenopausal bone loss and osteoporosis
- Thyroid dysfunction
Estrogen dominance often goes unrecognized for years, even decades. Prolonged stress can multiply its effects, and suffering the symptoms of estrogen dominance is certainly stressful! If the lists above have you nodding your head, read on…
What To Do if You Suspect Estrogen Dominance
There are many factors that can contribute to estrogen dominance, including genetics; nutrient deficiencies; imbalances in cortisol or insulin; poor liver function; the use of oral contraceptives; and exposure to toxins or environmental chemicals which mimic estrogen.
When investigating suspected estrogen dominance, it’s important to look for the root causes. Your holistic health practitioner should conduct a thorough review of every aspect of your lifestyle, as well as performing supportive lab testing. The DUTCH (Dried Urine Test For Comprehensive Hormones) offers comprehensive insight into stress and reproductive hormone levels, and it is often the first step in identifying potential estrogen dominance, as well as other chronic health issues.
The results of your consultation and DUTCH can help your practitioner develop a customized protocol to address any estrogen dominance or progesterone deficiency. Your plan may include dietary or lifestyle changes and supplementation designed to restore optimal hormone levels and improve your energy, fertility, and mood.
If you think you are experiencing estrogen dominance, please call us at 734-222-8210 or schedule a free consultation now.
1) Role of Estrogens in Menstrual Migraine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9025552/
2) Estrogens, Neuroinflammation, and Neurodegeneration: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4971309/
3) The Effects of Estrogens on Neural Circuits That Control temperature: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8237993/
4) Estrogen Receptors and Human Disease: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2373424/
5) Estrogen Receptors: How Do They Signal and What Are Their Targets: https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/physrev.00026.2006
6) Estrogen Receptors: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/estrogen-receptor
7) Role of Estrogen Receptors in Health and Disease: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2022.839005/full
Additional Hormone Imbalance Support
Hormone imbalances are not limited to estrogen dominance, and it can be challenging to find a comprehensive list of symptoms. For your convenience, the Natural Progesterone Advisory Network has collated, through documented observation, a cluster of hormone imbalance symptoms not easily found in mainstream publications.
These symptoms are in addition to those already cited above for estrogen dominance, and they may reflect an imbalance in reproductive hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) or endocrine hormones, such as thyroid, cortisol, insulin, or vitamin D. They include the following:
- Aching or tender joints, especially heels and/or feet, from sensitive to burning
- Aching teeth, with dental checkup inconclusive
- Acne or pimples, particularly just prior to menses, also in older women
- Alienation and loss of confidence
- Bouts of diarrhea prior to the menses, sometimes alternating with constipation, especially with women who have cysts and endometriosis
- Chronic recurrence of candida, thrush, cystitis, vaginitis
- Cyclical throat problems – throats that don’t clear, consistent sore throats every month, tonsillitis
- Extreme dream agitation and anxiety
- Facial hair, increased body hair, increased thickening and blackening of limb hair
- Feeling fragmented physically, emotionally, and spiritually
- Heartburn or acid reflux symptoms
- Heart palpitations
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Inability to lose weight and/or shift fluid
- Inflamed bowel, including colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut syndrome
- Itchy, burning, and/or sore ears
- Lack of lateral thinking and ability to multitask
- Loss of control over bladder (stress incontinence), inability to empty bladder, feeling tender and sensitive in the absence of bladder infection, fluctuation/variation of bladder paralysis
- Loss of short-term memory
- Low resistance to infection
- Obsessive, irrational thought and behavior patterns
- Painful ovaries, either upon ovulation or in the absence of ovulation
- Painful, throbbing face, often reported in one side more than the other
- Panic attacks
- Pins and needles, sciatica, or hip pain down one side predominantly, despite normal bone mineral densities and hip x-rays
- Premature wrinkling
- Premenstrual asthma
- Restless legs, particularly at night time or in bed
- Sinusitis, head congestion, flu-like headaches
- Sluggish liver function
- Social phobia, sense of loss of social skills, withdrawal
- Tinnitus or sensation of a foreign object in ear such as bees or insects
- Vertigo, particularly around ovulation time onwards (more profound when lying down in bed)
- Vocabulary or speech difficulty, feeling tongue tied or experiencing a verbal stammer
Hormonal imbalances may take many years to accumulate and can be insidious in their physical presentation. Just remember, it took time to arrive at this point in your life, and it may take time to improve, reverse, and eliminate many of these problems. The team at Ann Arbor Holistic Health is here to help!