Age, weight, various medications and health conditions may cause estrogen dominance. There are also claims that diet and environment have an impact on one’s likelihood to develop estrogen dominance.
Estrogen is a female sex hormone that plays a number of integral roles in the body. Estrogen dominance occurs when estrogen levels are increased relative to circulating progesterone levels in the blood.
Let’s take a look at the most common causes of estrogen dominance.
What Are The Causes Of Estrogen Dominance?
Some of the leading causes of estrogen dominance include:
- Related Health Conditions
- Environmental factors
As mentioned, estrogen dominance occurs when estrogen levels are increased relative to circulating progesterone levels in the blood, leading to a number of unpleasant day to day symptoms. Estrogen dominance may also be described as not having enough progesterone in the blood to balance the effects of estrogen.
Let's take a deeper look at some of the most common causes of estrogen dominance.
After the age of 35, many women enter the phase of reproduction called “perimenopause”.
From the age of 35 to 50, there is a 35% overall decrease in the amount of estrogen you produce, but a much bigger drop in progesterone of 75% as your cycle becomes increasingly anovulatory (you don’t ovulate).
In this instance, estrogen levels remain high but your body can no longer combat them with appropriate amounts of progesterone. As a result your estrogen levels are much higher than your progesterone levels, causing estrogen dominance.
Not only does this condition cause irregular periods, it can also contribute to a whole host of other symptoms.
Body fat and estrogen dominance often go hand in hand. Think of fat as a functional part of your body that produces hormones and provides an important role in insulation.
Fat cells produce estrogen. This is why women have a naturally higher body fat percentage than men, as a backup hormone source for a developing baby.
This also means that those who carry more weight are more likely to have higher estrogen.
Certain medications may lead to a rise of circulating estrogen in the body, and while often the purpose of these medications is to raise estrogen levels, in some rare instances, it may lead to estrogen dominance. Medications that alter estrogen levels in the blood include hormonal contraceptives, antibiotics and phenothiazines which are used to treat emotional and/or mood disorders. It is important to remember that if your doctor has recommended these medications, they are not guaranteed to cause estrogen dominance and your physician will know the correct treatment path for you.
Related Health Conditions
Health conditions that have been linked to estrogen dominance include diabetes, high blood pressure, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), autoimmune conditions including thyroid issues, ovarian cancer and cysts and endometriosis. If you are living with these health conditions, you should consider female hormone testing as part of your routine screening.
There are also claims that one’s environment and their nutrition may lead to estrogen dominance. Let’s take a look at some of the research that supports these claims.
Xenoestrogens , or synthetic estrogen compounds are found in everything from styrofoam containers to detergents and lotions. There are clams that your environment may have an impact on estrogen production.
Pesticide, plastic, and car exhaust fumes all contribute to high levels of xenoestrogens in our everyday environment. While it is not possible to avoid all synthetic estrogen, there are ways to counter-balance estrogen levels by being proactive in other areas of your life.
For instance, the hormone cortisol is directly linked to the fight or flight response we all experience when we are stressed. Your body will actually use progesterone to produce cortisol, stressing your adrenal glands to produce more progesterone for normal hormonal balance. In many women, this balance cannot be maintained, progesterone levels will drop, and estrogen dominance can emerge.
Remember those xenoestrogens? Turns out they’re fat soluble, accumulate over time, and are typically stored in your fat cells.
This means the fat cells that were producing estrogen are now overloaded with synthetic estrogens as well resulting in a never-ending estrogen assault on your body. Reducing your body fat percentage to below 28%, and maintaining a healthy BMI can have a profound effect on any signs and symptoms of estrogen dominance.
We all know a well-balanced diet is important to looking and feeling great, but there are claims that your diet can actually affect the levels of estrogen in your body.
While soy products are key replacement for protein in many vegetarian diets, the consumption of soy has been linked to estrogen dominance.
Soy contains phytoestrogens that mimic the role estrogen plays in your body. When you eat a diet rich in soy products, your body’s estrogen receptors are activated.
If your body continues to produce the same amount of estrogen it normally needs, you may experience estrogen dominance.
It is not enough to simply stop drinking soy milk. Most women do not consume enough of the twin minerals magnesium and calcium. While calcium is linked to bone, hair, and tooth health, it cannot be absorbed without sufficient magnesium in the body. However, your body also uses magnesium to metabolize extra estrogen and get rid of it through the liver.
If you are already deficient in magnesium (which many women are), your body will burn through your magnesium stores trying to bring back your hormonal balance and you can end up with kidney stones, blood clots, or gallstones.
The connection between your diet and your estrogen levels is still an emerging science and therefore at this point, should be taken with a grain of salt. Read our latest article: Foods That Increase Estrogen | Do They Actually Exist?
How Is Estrogen Dominance Diagnosed?
If you suspect your symptoms are linked to estrogen dominance, the first step is to record your symptoms, at what point in your menstrual cycle they appear, and how long they last.
At this point, you should not change your diet, begin an exercise routine, or begin taking hormonal supplements before an appointment with a medical professional.
Next you have one of two options:
Discuss your symptoms with your doctor. At your appointment, give your doctor all of your information including any medications you are taking and ask your healthcare provider to check your hormone levels.
Order an at home hormonal imbalance blood test to measure your progesterone and estrogen levels. At LetsGetChecked, we offer easy to use female fertility test kits. When you send your kit back to the lab, one of our trained nurses will call you to discuss your results and to make sure you fully understand what the results mean.
Written by Hannah Kingston | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Susan O' Sullivan