Are You Estrogen Dominant? Try fixing it naturally.

The terms hormonal acne, PMS, fibroids, and bloating, among others, are thrown around very casually between women these days. (And maybe it’s always been that way?) These are normalized terms, and oftentimes we think they are troubles we simply have to put up with and painfully ignore or cover up with ibuprofen. I learned something recently that blew my mind: these things don’t have to exist, and the solution to our hormonal troubles is not always to layer more synthetic hormones on top of our own (aka birth control).

I had a recent mishap by trying a birth control that did not suit me (the Nuvaring). After just a few days, I felt easily frustrated, angry, and my boobs grew a size practically overnight (which didn’t feel so great). I immediately stopped, and have now chosen to go au naturale. Why did I try the Nuvaring in the first place? My internal dialogue was: taking a low estrogen, high progestin birth control would help balance my estrogen dominant body. This was not correct, but my mistake triggered a search for natural remedies.

Birth control “hormones” are not exactly hormones. They are actually synthetic endocrine disruptors. In other words, they disrupt your body’s natural hormone production with chemical means. According to OBGYN Felice Gersh, “If you went to the toxicology site at the US National Institutes of Health, you would find the ingredients of birth control pills listed as endocrine disruptors. The fact that they are marketed widely around the world as contraceptives and are called hormones by most doesn’t make them natural hormones.” Over time, interrupting your body’s natural production of hormones can lead to irreversible side effects, and actually cause more disrupted hormones for years, even after stopping the birth control.

So you may be wondering, what are the symptoms and signs of estrogen dominance? You may have all of them or only some. Here they are:

  • bloating

  • swelling and tenderness in your breasts

  • fybrocystic lumps in your breasts

  • irregular, heavy, or long menstrual periods

  • increased symptoms of PMS (depression, major mood swings, irritability)

  • hormonal acne

  • mood swings

  • headaches

  • anxiety and panic attacks

  • weight gain

  • hair loss

  • cold hands and feet

  • trouble sleeping

  • fatigue

  • loss of sex drive

  • memory problems

Now what exactly is the cause of estrogen dominance? Well, largely it is due to our modern toxic environment, tap water, food, plastics, and beauty products. All of these bombard us with xeneoestrogens, bad estrogens that mimic our own bodies’ estrogen and disrupt our endocrine system.

So what can we do to rebalance our estrogen dominant system? Here are a few things:

- Exercise. Getting rid of excess body fat is a crucial way to get rid of estrogen. Fat not only absorbs and stores excess estrogen, but, according to Amy Myers MD on her medical blog, it also synthesizes new estrogen from other hormones, therefore creating more! Being estrogen dominant also causes you to store more body fat, therefore creating a terrible estrogen cycle. Exercise and eat a balanced diet to escape the cycle and get back on track. Exercise also reduces stress, which can be another trigger for estrogen production.

-Take DIM. First, DIM (diindolylmethane) is an aromatase inhibitor, which means it stops the conversion of testosterone into estrogen. Second, it supports liver detoxification thereby improving the process of estrogen breakdown, helping to create “good” estrogens instead of “bad” ones. It is also venerated for clearing adult acne in estrogen dominant women.

-Eat the right foods. The best foods to eat for ED are:

  • Cruciferous veggies - Broccoli, bok choy, bruseel sprouts, cauliflower and dark leafy greens like kale are loaded with sulforphane, which stimulates the body’s production of enzymes that eliminate toxic estrogens and xeneoestrogens.

  • Green tea - the polyphenols in green tea help eliminate xeneoestrogens.

  • Mushrooms - shiitake, portobello, crimini, and baby button, work to block estrogen in the body. They've been known to prevent the production aromatase, which is responsible for converting the hormone androgen over to estrogen.

  • Red grapes - Their skins contain a chemical called resveratrol and their seeds contain a chemical called proanthocyanidin. Both of these chemicals work to block estrogen production.

  • Seeds - Certain types of seeds, such as flax and sesame, contain micronutrients called polyphenols. Polyphenols are found in plants and reduce estrogen levels in the bloodstream. According to information from Oregon State University, flax seeds contain some of the highest levels.

-Avoid the wrong ones.

  • Dairy. Cows are fed estrogen loaded grains and hormones, and this ends up in their milk. Avoid dairy at all costs.

  • Coffee. According to Dr. Michael Lam, a specialist in preventive and anti-aging medicine, a higher caffeine intake has a greater effect on estrogen levels. Lam notes that studies on coffee consumption and estrogen have shown that women who drink four to five cups of coffee a day, about 500mg of caffeine, had nearly 70 percent more estrogen during the early part of the menstrual cycle than women who drink less than one cup of coffee a day. Lam recommends that women limit coffee intake to one or two cups a day.

  • Others include, refined sugars, processed or inorganic soy, (organic non-GMO soy has been found to be okay, but even this is up for debate), tap water (contains estrogen from birth control via urine that ends up in our water supply) , alcohol, and processed grains.

For some people ED requires medication and surgery, but for many, a few diet changes and supplements can shift you back into the proper hormonal gear. Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements or making any big lifestyle changes. If you are not estrogen dominant, but balanced, or even lacking estrogen, you could negatively disrupt your hormones by making drastic changes. Your doctor can take a blood sample and find out your exact hormone levels, so you can approach your hormones correctly.