Did you know that hormones are chemical messengers produced by endocrine glands?
The primary role of hormones is to transmit messages from one part of the body to the other. In other words, they communicate with organ systems and tissues of the body and direct them on how to function. They profoundly affect our mental, physical, and emotional health.
When it comes to women, hormones play a vital role in regulating the menstrual cycle. Estrogen and progesterone are mainly produced by ovaries, while the pituitary glands produce luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
Estrogen is one of the main female sex hormones, which significantly affects the body’s functions. In women, one of the most prevailing hormonal imbalances often pertains to estrogen. It plays a vital role in regulating the menstrual cycle and developing and maintaining a female characteristic. It also affects the urinary tract, the heart, blood vessels, bones, breasts, skin, hair, mucous membranes, pelvic muscles, and the brain. Hence, any kind of imbalance in estrogen levels can lead to several health issues.
This article offers insights into how to flush excess estrogen from the body and strike a healthy hormonal balance.
Understanding Estrogen and its Types
First things first, estrogen is a group of hormones primarily accountable for the growth and development of female sexual characteristics (hips, breasts, etc.), pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause.
Primarily, there are three types of estrogen. Let’s take a look at them.
1. Estrone (E1): It is the main type of estrogen that is produced after menopause. Estrone is one of two sex hormones related to people assigned female at birth (AFAB). It plays a vital role in women’s reproductive health. For example, the development of secondary sex characteristics (like breasts, hips, and others), pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause include a significant role of estrone.
2. Estradiol (E2): Also known as oestradiol, estradiol is the most potent and primary form of estrogen during a female’s reproductive years. It has an important role in first maturing and then later maintaining the reproductive system. E2 is produced within the ovaries through the function of the granulosa cells situated in the ovarian follicles (little sacs that hold the eggs). Interestingly, it can be produced by the placenta during pregnancy too.
3. Estriol (E3): This is the main type of estrogen produced during pregnancy and works in harmony to ensure the proper functioning of the women’s reproductive system. E3 helps the uterus grow and keeps the unborn baby healthy. Pregnant women make high levels of estriol. This hormone prepares women’s bodies for the two major functions – childbirth and breastfeeding.
The Importance of Estrogen Balance
Estrogen has a crucial role in most conditions that fall under the umbrella of women’s overall health. The estrogen levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle. However, it is essential to maintain a healthy balance of estrogen levels for overall wellness. Both high and low levels can lead to the symptoms of hormonal imbalances and cause several health challenges.
Excess estrogen can lead to symptoms like irregular periods, mood swings, and weight gain. Low levels of estrogen are associated with symptoms like hot flashes, fatigue, and osteoporosis.
Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance or High Estrogen Levels
The dominance of estrogen can occur due to many factors:
- Exposure to environmental estrogen
- Overproduction of estrogen
- Underproduction of progesterone
- The body’s inability to flush out excess estrogen due to poor gut and liver health.
The human body is intelligent and gives various indications of the dominance of estrogen levels. All we need to do is to be mindful and look for a few signs and symptoms – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Here are a few common symptoms of excess estrogen:
- Mood swings and irritability
- Weight gain (lower body)
- Painful periods
- Heavy menstrual flow
- Tender breasts
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Bloating and water retention
- Headache and migraine
These symptoms severely affect women’s body function and the quality of life.
Signs of Low Estrogen Levels
Various factors, including excessive exercise, eating disorders, and poor lifestyle, contribute to low estrogen levels. When a woman reaches her 40-50s and her body experiences the perimenopausal phase, the production of estrogen goes down.
The low production of estrogen can lead to the following symptoms:
- Vaginal dryness
- Irregular periods or absence of periods
- Mood swings
- Night sweats
- Bone loss
- Hot flashes
- Joint pain
- Skin issues
- Low sex drive
- Brain fog
How to Improve Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance can worsen and cause several symptoms. Hence, it is important to harmonize the estrogen and progesterone balance. Here are some functional medicine backed ways to do so.
1. Healthy Workout Routine
A well-thought-out workout routine is a great way of regulating estrogen levels. Regular exercise helps reduce the excess circulating estrogen levels and improves the signs and symptoms of PMS and other estrogen-dominant conditions.
2. Include a Fiber-Rich Food Into Your Diet
Fiber effectively helps in eliminating excess estrogen from the body. Hence, a fiber-rich diet can help improve symptoms of high estrogen. Fiber is crucial for healthy bowel movements, which is the main way for excess estrogen to exit the body. Fiber is a natural source that binds to estrogen excreted by the liver and brings it into the intestinal tract for elimination while preventing estrogen reabsorption.
Good sources of fiber are lentils, berries, avocados, pear, broccoli, and whole grains, which boost the body’s capability to metabolize properly and flush out excess estrogen.
3. Add Cruciferous Vegetable Family (Kale, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Broccoli)
These vegetables contain a compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which helps the liver to break down excess estrogen – aim for at least one serving daily of one of these vegetables.
4. Keep Stress Levels in Check
Managing stress is the key to fighting against hormonal imbalances in the body. Chronic stress severely disrupts hormonal balance, including estrogen. Incorporate practices such as exercise, meditation, yoga, relaxation techniques, and deep breathing for stress management.
5. Take Care of Your Gut Health
Health experts say that a healthy gut is a sign of a healthy body. The gut microbiome is one of the important regulators of circulating estrogens. A healthy gut helps ensure that estrogen is being excreted properly. Hence, gut health plays an important role in regulating estrogen levels.
Improving gut health can metabolize estrogen and prevent its reabsorption. One way to do it is by consuming probiotics and foods with fiber, like fruits and vegetables.
If you suspect gut imbalances, consider getting a gut microbiome test.
6. Limit Alcohol and Caffeine Consumption
Overconsumption of alcohol and caffeine disrupts the estrogen metabolism and can cause high estrogen levels in the body. Try to consume alcohol and caffeine in moderation.
7. Avoid Environmental Estrogens
You can prevent estrogen dominance in the body by reducing exposure to environmental estrogens found in plastics, cosmetics, and pesticides. Install water filters certified to remove such harmful substances. Also, eliminate plastics from your kitchen, and replace chemical-based cosmetics with natural options. Try to eat organic foods and wash your vegetables thoroughly before consuming.
Estrogen dominance is a common condition that I frequently come across in my functional medicine practice. A healthy lifestyle and nutritious diet can help you balance estrogen in your body. However, if symptoms surface and persist, it is advisable to see a functional medical practitioner. A functional medicine practitioner will do a health assessment and run lab tests like the Dutch test. Based on their assessment, they will be able to make the right protocol for the specific root cause of estrogen dominance