Many who have heard the term estrogen dominance have been a little confused about what it entails. After all, this term is not commonly used in the medical world, although naturopaths and healthcare professionals who focus on providing alternative medicine tend to use it. However, this does not make it a condition to take lightly. Women largely experience estrogen dominance, but men can also experience similar symptoms produced by excessive exposure to the female hormone. Unfortunately, it can be virtually impossible to control the body's exposure to estrogen since it is present in many foods, but it is possible to take action to reduce direct consumption.
What Is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance, in reality, is a misleading name for the condition, as the definition actually refers to an abnormally low level of progesterone in the female body. Their estrogen levels may be low as well, but their levels can also be high or even normal. It's all based on their age and level of health. However, their progesterone does not necessarily equate to the level of estrogen their body produces. As a result, women can experience a variety of symptoms ranging in severity.
Signs And Symptoms
All bodies are unique, which means patients may experience different symptoms than others affected by estrogen dominance. However, the following ones are considered the most common. For starters, complications with menstruation and fertility are often seen. In addition to this, many women experience excessive premenstrual syndrome (PMS), unexplainable mood swings, or even depression. Memory loss, migraines, and confusion can also be related to estrogen dominance. Physical signs include hair loss, thyroid dysfunction, which often results in cold extremities, and difficulty losing weight due to a slow metabolism. Many women also experience accelerated aging of the skin such as premature wrinkles, fine lines, and discoloration.
Symptoms Seen In Men
Though estrogen is often associated with women, men also need a certain amount of estrogen to function. It's important for them to have a healthy balance of testosterone and estrogen for sexual development and growth. When there's too much estrogen, this balance is thrown out of whack. Men with too much estrogen might experience infertility, gynecomastia, and erectile dysfunction. Estrogen has a role in creating healthy sperm, but too-high estrogen can cause lower sperm levels, which leads to problems with fertility. Estrogen also stimulates the growth of breast tissue. If a man's estrogen levels are too high, it may be difficult to maintain or get an erection.
What Causes It?
Stress is largely believed to be the number one cause of estrogen dominance, though it is important to note excessive and chronic stress has a negative impact on all hormone levels in the body, not just estrogen. It can also contribute to premature aging, migraines, and stubborn fat deposits. Diet can also be one of the leading causes of estrogen dominance, particularly with processed food, as eating a diet rich in these foods can impact hormone levels. Women who eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and limit their processed food intake to less than ten percent of their daily diet are less likely to experience estrogen dominance and other hormonal complications.
Diagnosing Estrogen Dominance
If patients have symptoms of estrogen dominance and too-high estrogen levels, their doctor will typically order a blood test, which checks their overall hormone levels. Blood tests are done by collecting samples through a needle. These samples are taken to a laboratory. When the results come back, they'll show whether the patient's hormones are off balance. They'll be able to see whether their testosterone and estrogen levels are high, low, or where they're supposed to be.
Blood estrogen levels will be measured through pictograms per milliliter (pg/mL). Estrogen comes in three types: estrone, estriol, and estradiol. Estradiol is the main female hormone, while estrone and estriol are minor female hormones. Unless a woman is pregnant, estriol should be almost undetectable.
Certain things can increase an individual's risk of developing estrogen dominance, such as a family history of cancer, hypothyroidism, and female-specific conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Having high-stress levels and, or anxiety on a chronic basis can also be a red flag. Other major risk factors include obesity, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption. Those who feel they are at risk should have their primary care physician test their hormone levels to get started on a path to wellness.
Treatment And Prevention
For the treatment and prevention of estrogen dominance, patients should first speak with a doctor to find the best option for their needs. Besides getting sound medical advice, everyone can effectively prevent further symptoms of estrogen dominance by eating more plant-based foods, especially dark leafy greens. Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, kale, and radishes are excellent for regulating female hormones. Patients may also use bioidentical progesterone in a topical ointment to reduce their physical symptoms. Getting plenty of exercise and reducing stress is also critical for the treatment of estrogen dominance.
Medication For Estrogen Dominance
There is medication for estrogen dominance available, though the right kind depends on the underlying cause of the estrogen levels. When high estrogen is a result of hormone therapy, a doctor may change the therapy plan. A doctor may prescribe a medication like tamoxifen for patients who have estrogen-sensitive cancer to keep estrogen and cancer cells from binding.
Another kind of medication is aromatase inhibitors, which stop aromatase, an enzyme in the body, from turning androgens into estrogen. Aromatase inhibitors include letrozole, exemestane, and anastrozole. A doctor might prescribe medication to stop the ovaries from producing estrogen. Two commonly prescribed medications in this category are leuprolide and goserelin.
Doctors may recommend surgery for patients who have estrogen-sensitive cancer. An oophorectomy is the most commonly recommended procedure, and it involves the removal of the ovaries. Removing the ovaries lowers the body's estrogen levels because the ovaries produce the majority of the body's estrogen. This procedure leads to surgical menopause, otherwise known as menopause caused by a surgical procedure.
Patients who have a high risk of developing ovarian or breast cancer may want to undergo a preemptive oophorectomy to lower their chances of getting cancer. When patients are at a very high risk of developing breast cancer, studies show the removal of both ovaries reduces that risk by around fifty percent.
Complications Of Estrogen Dominance
High estrogen and estrogen dominance can increase an individual's risk of developing certain conditions, such as ovarian and breast cancer. The American Cancer Society has stated estrogen dominance leads to an increased risk of developing endometrial cancer as well. This is cancer that develops in the inner lining of the uterus. It's the most common form of uterine cancer and makes up about six percent of cancers that occur in women in the United States. High estrogen levels increase an individual's chances of developing blood clots or having a stroke. It's also possible for estrogen dominance to increase the patient's chances of developing thyroid issues. Thyroid problems can lead to tiredness, depression, and significant changes in weight.