Estrogen, one of the primary female sex hormones, is a growth-promoting hormone. It stimulates ovaries, endometrial lining and maintains bone, skin and muscle structure. Progesterone, another very important female sex hormone, acts as an estrogen antagonist, balancing out the stimulatory effects of estrogen. This balance is key to maintaining health. Unfortunately, there has been an increasing prevalence in hormonal imbalance resulting from estrogen mal-metabolism and/or insufficient progesterone production. This imbalance results in what is known as ‘estrogen dominance’
Estrogen dominance is a physical state in which estrogen levels are elevated and progesterone levels are deficient. This type of imbalance means the body is in a stimulatory, growth state resulting in fibroids, cysts, cervical dysplasia and tumors. Approximately 50% of women over 35 are estrogen dominant.
Excess estrogen can result from increased exogenous estrogen exposure, excess fat storage, high stress, dietary factors and poor estrogen metabolism.
Exogenous exposure to estrogens includes consuming conventional dairy and meat products from animals that have been treated with hormones, and consuming high quantities of soy products. Choosing organic animal products is recommended to avoid excess estrogen exposure as well as for multiple health and environment reasons. Choosing other sources of alternative protein aside from soy and tempeh. Exogenous estrogens also come in the form of environmental toxins in plastic water bottles, both single and re-usable, and heating food in plastic Tupperware containers and plastic wrap. Use a glass or metal re-usable water bottle to avoid this exposure as well as glass food containers for any microwaving of food you might do.
Fat cells produce estrogen in addition to your ovaries. Thus, if you are carrying excess fat storage on your body, you will generally have elevated levels of estrogen. Getting your total body fat percentage below 25% for women is ideal.
When you are in a state of high stress for prolonged periods of time, your progesterone levels will drop. Taking time out every day to relax, making sure you are getting 8 hours of sleep each night and supporting adrenal function will help offset your stress and maintain your progesterone levels.
Dietary factors such as excess sugar and alcohol consumption increase your estrogen levels.
Your liver, in addition to processing all your toxins, metabolizes all your estrogen. If you liver is sluggish or not metabolizing toxins and estrogens correctly, you will have higher levels of estrogen in your system. Supporting healthy liver function is the first step in correcting and/or preventing poor estrogen metabolism and reducing your estrogen levels. Easy ways to support liver function already include the previous recommendations of reducing body fat, consuming organic animal products, avoiding environmental toxins and reducing sugar and alcohol intake. Additionally, methyl-folate supplements to support the methylation pathways of the liver, and liver herbs such as milk thistle and dandelion all help with general liver support. There is also a compound named Diiodolylmethane, or DIM, that works to improve healthy estrogen metabolism directly. You can find this compound in the Brassica or cruciferous family of vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, mustard greens and Brussels sprouts. Calcium D-Glucarate also directly improves estrogen metabolism and helps to reduce total estrogen levels. Natural sources of Calcium D-Glucarate also include the Brassica family of vegetables, Rutaceae citrus fruits, Cucurbitacease family of vegetables that includes, cucumbers, pumpkins, cantaloupe and squashes. As well as Rosaceae stone fruit, apples, pears, peaches, apricots, cherries and plums.
Your take home message is to reduce your total estrogen and support your total progesterone as much as possible to prevent estrogen dominance and reduce your risk for developing cysts, fibroids, dysplasias and tumors. The following summarizes steps you can take to achieve this goal:
- Consuming organic animal products
- Minimizing soy products
- Avoiding plastic containers
- Reduce body fat to 25% or less
- 8 hours of sleep each night
- Adrenal support and relaxation exercises
- Liver support
- Milk thistle and/or Dandelion root
- Methyl Folate
- DIM as a supplement and/or from Brasica vegetables
- Calcium D-Glucarate as a supplement and/or from Brasica vegetables, cucumbers, melons, stone fruit and citrus fruit.
Dr. Brooke Leverone is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor in the state of California and currently practicing at Bloom Natural Health in Encinitas. She is a highly trained and caring practitioner whom is passionate about educating her patients and empowering them to be an active participant in their own health. Her specialties include hormone balancing, digestive health, detoxing and micronutrient deficiencies.