Estrogen Dominance: Is It Always Bad? Part 2

By Dr. Brooke Kalanick

In my previous article about estrogen dominance, I discussed what exactly estrogen dominance means and how it can happen.  Here, I will touch on how it can affect body fat levels, indicators that you might have it, and what to do about it.

While estrogen does play a role in body composition, if fat loss is your goal and you have too much estrogen or it's overrunning progesterone, it can interfere with your progress.

Here’s how:

  • Excess estrogen causes lower free thyroid hormone—remember, its thyroid hormone, namely free T3, that has the activity.
  • When estrogen dominates progesterone we lose some balancing effects progesterone has against our stress hormone cortisol (this mess leads to more belly fat).
  • The more body fat we have, the more estrogen we make in our fat cells (not our ovaries) via a process called aromatization.  An enzyme in our fat cells can turn testosterone (considered a lean hormone) into estrogen.  This process is ramped up when we have blood sugar highs and lows (via the hormone insulin).

Do you have Estrogen Dominance?

If your periods are on the heavy side, you have significant PMS, cramps and/or clots with your period as well as breast tenderness, water retention, or fibroids, you may have estrogen issues.

If you have PCOS, you can have high or low estrogen. If you are on the pill, or HRT (hormone replacement therapy) you are estrogen dominant (although this not as a big a problem for some women).

If you struggle to shed fat particularly in the hip and thigh region, you may be estrogen dominant as well (although this is more complicated than just estrogen).

And if you are in peri-menopause or menopause, you will be at least relatively estrogen dominant.

estrogendominance1-products-450x306What to do about it:

1. Start with minimizing estrogens in the environment by avoiding plastics (or at least not heating your food in them or using very soft water bottles).  Consider paraben-free cosmetics, shampoos and body care products.  Buy hormone-free meat and minimize or avoid dairy.

2. Minimize booze. It is very estrogenic overall.

3. While it can seem really daunting to start to tackle all of these higher level hormones, like estrogen, without a degree in biochemistry - focus on the ones you can control: insulin and cortisol.

4. These two are managed by eating within your carb tolerance, getting enough sleep, and minimizing stress (including not skipping meals).  Most peripheral hormone imbalances will clear up at about 75% by focusing on these two key metabolic hormones - and you don’t need to be an endocrinologist to watch when and what you eat.

5. Consider estrogen detox support such as cruciferous veggies and supplements like DIM (di-indole-methane).  Taking in 200 mg a day should be fine for most women, (but check with your doctor about contraindications if you are taking other medications such as Tamoxifen for breast cancer). And while they aren't the end-all, be-all, cruciferous veggies can be helpful if you're struggling with estrogen dominance.

Green tea is also excellent at balancing out estrogen metabolism.  And ladies, you have to move those bowels daily.  Fiber such as psyllium husks, flax seed, etc. can be helpful  - as is plenty of water and loads of veggies in the diet.  If you err on the side of constipation, consider calcium-d-glucarate as a supplement (which helps scoot more estrogen out the digestive tract).

6.  And most importantly, don’t panic!

Seems as soon as we start thinking about how much estrogen is in our world, we wonder how in the heck we’d be able to avoid it all?

You can’t.

But do consider significant sources like the pill and minimize where you can with diet, cosmetics and plastics; boost your estrogen detox capacity with more green tea and broccoli; and of course, mind your blood sugar and stress.

Beyond that, if you suspect you’re still having an estrogen dominance issue, work with someone who can do some thorough thyroid and estrogen testing to see where you’re really at. I recommend salivary testing to pick up this type of estrogen issue—blood tests will rule out scary pathology, confirm menopause, etc. but aren’t as helpful with these more subtle, functional issues.

Your hormones also shift in response to factors like the kind of training you’re do and the nutrition choices you make. If you’d like some guidance in those areas, we can help.

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About the author:  Dr. Brooke Kalanick

Dr. Brooke Kalanick earned her Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University. Known as “The Hormone Whisperer,” Brooke's balanced approach to health, using both conventional and alternative therapies, allows her to successfully treat patients with Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism and PCOS as well as other female hormone imbalances. Learn more about Dr. Brooke on her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

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