Estrogen Dominance - 6 Signs of an Imbalance
Estrogen dominance and its awareness in the medical community is steadily on the incline. Consumers and physicians are becoming more attuned to this necessary hormone, which can turn destructive if not kept under control. How do you know if you have too much estrogen, and what does an estrogen dominant profile look like.
What is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance by definition is the accumulation of too much estrogen; this can occur in both men and women, however, women tend to see this at a higher frequency. In women, this can be levels of estrogen present that can outweigh levels of progesterone that would usually help to maintain balanced hormonal profiles, and in men, this can be higher levels of estrogen conversion from testosterone through the hormone conversion method called ‘aromatase’.
How do I know if I have Estrogen Dominance?
In men and women, some symptoms overlap. So, for clarity, we will cover the major signs, of which some are also identifiable in males.
1. Mood swings – One of estrogen’s roles in the body is to increase serotonin, as well as the number of serotonin receptors in the brain. This plays a key function in the nervous system too. So, when we have too much of this feel-good hormone produced, it can extend the opposite effect, and create irritability, with higher nerve cell activity. Estrogen contributes significantly to the central nervous system function, and neurotransmissions[1,2].
2. Decreased Sex drive – Testosterone and estrogen levels, need to maintain a healthy balance in both men and women, they both contribute to libido function. However, when you have too much estrogen, and lower levels of free or total testosterone available, it can diminish libido. In women, we tend to see this occur often from the use of the contraceptive pill. One of the main functions of the contraceptive pill is to bind up sex hormones, in particular, androgens. It does this by inhibiting the androgen synthesis that occurs in the ovaries and adrenal framework. This can cause an increased imbalance of estrogen and androgen ratios.
3. Worsened PMS Symptoms – Having heightened levels of estrogen in the body during the first half of the cycle during the lining building phase, can see a more drastic drop in the second half; as both progesterone and estrogen levels decline before the beginning of menses/your period. This decline difference is believed to trigger the hypothalamus in the brain to release noradrenaline, increasing blood pressure, while also decreasing dopamine, acetylcholine and serotonin; leading to a likelihood of poor sleep, mood irritability and fatigue.
4. Increased Bloating – Excessive levels of estrogen, and the inability to actively clear the accumulation of this hormone can lead to an increase in retention of water. This combined with the inability to clear and remove unbound estrogen as we talked about in the estrobolome blog, can contribute to bloating, fluid retention and discomfort[5,6].
5. Irregular Menstrual Cycle – When estrogen occurs in excess in the body, it can significantly outweigh the benefits and effects of progesterone in the cycle. This can also lead to having very heavy periods.
6. Increased levels of Anxiety – Interestingly both the increase and decrease of estrogen in the body can trigger an anxiety response. It is thought that this is more to do with estrogen’s impact on neurobiological systems. This is likely to be caused by the receptivity of estrogen across the estrogen receptors that form along the process of what we know as a 'stress response'.
When the hypothalamus in the brain is provided information that there has been stress, it relays this information for action to the pituitary gland via the secretion of a compound called, Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH), this then flows on for the request of Glucocorticoids from the adrenal gland to be secreted. Once assessed, provides feedback in what is called a ‘negative - feedback loop’, to prevent further activity required from this system.
However, along the pathway, both alpha and beta estrogen receptors are scattered along this process. They have been shown that they can act on their own, in an agonist format. Meaning that it can exhibit this response on its own, and or exacerbate/prolong it when actioned.
Keeping a Keen Eye on the Signs
These signs are not all qualifying or determining factors on their own, as there can always be other mechanisms that these can occur. However, keeping in mind that one or more of these potential key signs over time may be worth checking in with your preferred health care specialist to see what is going on, and help get on top of it.
Lifestyle factors that can assist with keeping Estrogen levels happy and healthy include:
- Supporting phase 1 and phase 2 liver pathways through a nutritious diet, often loaded with vibrant cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli/broccoli sprout, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radish etc.
- Drinking plenty of water to help assist with the detoxification processes after estrogen has been used and conjugated, the bound-up deactivated form needs to move through the bowel to be cleared from the body. Supporting this process through adequate intake of fibre and water is helpful.
- Avoid environmental mimicking agents, xeno-estrogens are provided from external environmental factors. They can mimic the hormone estrogen almost identically, and as such can be accepted by the body as a form of estrogen. This has been linked to potentially harmful effects and an imbalance of the endocrine system of the body.
- Chapter Six - Effects of Estrogens on Central Nervous System Neurotransmission: Implications for Sex Differences in Mental Disorders Kristen N.Krolick*QiZhu* https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.pmbts.2018.07.008
- Zimmerman, Y., Eijkemans, M. J., Coelingh Bennink, H. J., Blankenstein, M. A., & Fauser, B. C. (2014). The effect of combined oral contraception on testosterone levels in healthy women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Human reproduction update, 20(1), 76–105. https://doi.org/10.1093/humupd/dmt038
- Stat Pearls. Premenstrual Syndrome Pratyusha R. Gudipally; Gyanendra K. Sharma. 2021
- Heitkemper, M. M., & Chang, L. (2009). Do fluctuations in ovarian hormones affect gastrointestinal symptoms in women with irritable bowel syndrome?. Gender medicine, 6 Suppl 2(Suppl 2), 152–167. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.genm.2009.03.004
- Stachenfeld N. S. (2008). Sex hormone effects on body fluid regulation. Exercise and sport sciences reviews, 36(3), 152–159. https://doi.org/10.1097/JES.0b013e31817be928
- Borrow, A. P., & Handa, R. J. (2017). Estrogen Receptors Modulation of Anxiety-Like Behavior. Vitamins and hormones, 103, 27–52. https://doi.org/10.1016/bs.vh.2016.08.004
- Raftogianis R, Creveling C, Weinshilboum R, Weisz J. Estrogen metabolism by conjugation. J Natl Cancer Inst Monogr. 2000;(27):113-24. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.jncimonographs.a024234. PMID: 10963623
- Paterni, I., Granchi, C., & Minutolo, F. (2017). Risks and benefits related to alimentary exposure to xenoestrogens. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 57(16), 3384–3404. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2015.1126547