By Sarah A LoBisco, ND
A relative estrogen dominant pattern is very common in women and even men today. This
doesn’t necessarily indicate that absolute levels of estrogen is too high. It simply means that the
ratio of estrogen is too high in comparison to progesterone to provide adequate hormonal feedback. This can be due to a variety of
reasons, not just excessive estrogen replacement.
What are some factors that can contribute
to estrogen dominance?
1. Exposure to
environmental estrogens, such as those found in pesticides and plastics
2. Genetically modified
foods, such as conventional meats and dairy that contain growth hormones,
or excess soy products that are high in phytoestrogens.
3. Blood sugar imbalances
that can cause a down-regulation of progesterone and increase insulin, adrenaline, and cortisol.
This can also cause imbalanced androgen production, such as increasing
testosterone metabolites and leading to hair in unhappy places.
4. Nutrient deficiencies or poor diet which contributes to inefficient metabolism and production of hormones
5. Imbalanced flora in
the gut causing estrogens to not be effectively processed out of the body
6. Poor liver breakdown
predispositions that decrease hormonal detoxification of certain enzyme
8. Stress which
down regulates progesterone to cortisol
9. Excess weight
10. History of birth
control or hormone replacement
Across the spectrum of women’s health, pre-menses,
peri-menopause, and menopause exhibit the most pronounced relative decline in progesterone. Achieving
hormonal balance is important because chronic
over production of estrogen can increase a women’s risk of certain cancers. Furthermore, it can
cause a lot of uncomfortable symptoms and create other hormonal imbalances,
such as with thyroid hormone.
The ovaries are the
organs that we focus on most commonly at menopause, but the physical foundation
of a woman’s menopausal experience actually rests on the health of all her
endocrine (hormone-producing) organs. Thyroid problems are very common during
the perimenopausal and postmenopausal years. While many women with these
problems are completely asymptomatic, others may have a wide variety of
symptoms. Among the most common symptoms are mood disturbances (most often seen
in the form of depression and irritability), low energy level, weight gain,
mental confusion, and sleep disturbances. (See chart above for similarities.)
Thyroid problems are
intimately intertwined with menopause. According to the late John R. Lee, M.D.,
a noted clinician and author, there appears to be a cause-and-effect
relationship between hypothyroidism, in which there are inadequate levels of
thyroid hormone, and estrogen dominance. When estrogen is not properly
counterbalanced with progesterone, it can block the action of the thyroid
hormone, so even when the thyroid is producing normal levels of the hormone,
the hormone is rendered ineffective and the symptoms of hypothyroidism appear.
In this case, laboratory tests may show normal thyroid hormone levels in a
woman’s system, because the thyroid gland itself is not malfunctioning.
to Consider to Correct High Estrogen Ratios
solution is not just supplementing with progesterone or precursor
hormones. The root cause should be addressed. For example, what if a women has
so much stress that the progesterone she is rubbing on eventually converts to more cortisol
and even more problems!
This is why supporting the ovaries backup organ, the
adrenals is important. This can be accomplished with proper diet, therapeutic and individualized nutrition or herbals,
and stress modulation. Furthermore,
a practitioner who can help you decode all the contributing factors and help you interpret various lab methods for optimal hormonal health.
Next week, I’ll be exploring more into the pros and cons of lab
assessment and hormonal replacement therapy risk on my homepage of my blog, When Should a Woman Consider Hormone
Replacement? What is the REAL Risk? PART I. I hope you join me there as well! 🙂
Northrup, C. Estrogen Dominance: A True Balancing
Act. Dr. Northrup’s Blog. July 22, 2013.
Fildei, M. “Estrogen Dominance” Means That Women
Rule the World… Right?! Dr. Amen’s Blog. July 22, 2013.
Brown, E. Study Upholds Breast Cancer Mortality For
Hormone Replacement. Los Angeles Times (latimes.com). March 30, 2013.
National Cancer Institute. Oral Contraceptives and
Cancer Risk. NCI. 4/22/13 accessed.
National Cancer Institute. Hormone Replacement
Therapy and Breast Cancer Relapse. NCI.