A Brief Look into Relative Estrogen Dominance Syndrome
Although many of us think of menopause (and perimenopause) as a phase in women’s lives where hormones begin to decline, it’s actually common for some women to experience abnormally high estrogen levels. When women have a deficiency of progesterone during this phase, estrogen is in a relative excess, which causes a myriad of symptoms.
The hormonal fluctuation of perimenopause and menopause are not the only causes of relative estrogen dominance. Many of our day-to-day lifestyle and dietary choices, play a role when it comes to this delicate hormonal balance.
Causes of relative estrogen dominance syndrome
1. Our Environment
The things that surround us can play a role in relative estrogen dominance. Xenoestrogens, any of various chemical compounds that imitate natural estrogens, can cause these estrogenic effects. Chemicals like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), dichlorodiphenyl-trichlorethane (DDT), some drugs (e.g., antiepileptic drugs), fungicides, cotinine, phytoestrogens, mycotoxins, bisphenol A (a plastics additive), phthalates, alkylphenols, and metalloestrogens mimic estrogen action, affect estrogen levels, or bind to estrogen receptors (1-6). Hormone residues found within conventionally raised meat and conventional dairy products, may also contribute to estrogenic effects within our bodies. Lurking around every corner, xenoestrogens are also present in a number of other things such as cigarette smoke, automobile exhaust, chemical industry pollutants, water, and even cosmetic products (7).
2. Low-fiber High-fat Diet
Studies have now demonstrated that a diet low in fiber causes estrogen levels to be higher. Since excess estrogen is excreted in the bowel, if stool remains there for long periods of time due to constipation, estrogen will be reabsorbed.8 Consequently, women on a high-fiber diet have lower levels of circulating estrogen (8). Similarly, studies have also demonstrated a relationship between high fat diets and higher levels of estrogens circulating in the bloodstream (9).
3. Liver Burden
Our liver is a wondrous organ. It takes on numerous functions, from detoxifying harmful chemicals to clearing excess estrogen, it is responsible for filtering a lot of what goes on in our body. You can only imagine then, if the liver is overwhelmed and can’t perform its job optimally, one of the outcomes will indeed be excess estrogen levels. When estrogen is not broken down adequately, higher levels of estrogen build up. What burdens our liver and limits its capacity to cleanse the blood of estrogen? Well, anything that is taxing to the liver: environmental toxins, drugs, and alcohol (11).
Think you may be suffering from estrogen dominance syndrome?
The following is a list of the many issues and diseases that may be related to this phenomenon:
- Weight gain secondary to insulin resistance especially weight in the hips, thighs and lower abdomen “the pouch”
- Fibrocystic breast disease
- Breast cancer
- Menstrual disturbances—irregular and heavy bleeding
- Uterine cancer
- Ovarian cysts
- Cystic acne
- PMS (including breast tenderness, irritability, cravings, emotional and weepy)
- Low libido
Restoring the Balance
If you suspect from the list above that you may be suffering from relative estrogen dominance syndrome, or that perhaps your diet or the things you come in contact with each day may be potentially causing you health concerns, you may want to consider measuring your hormone levels. Hormone levels can be measured via the blood, or even in the saliva (in the case of progesterone).
In order to reset estrogen balance, limiting environmental exposure to xenoestrogens along with implementing an adequate diet and exercise, need to be considered. In addition, specific supplementation can also be of benefit in these cases.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the dietary recommendations for these cases is to guarantee adequate amounts of fiber in the daily diet. Bowel regularity will ensure that excess estrogen is eliminated. In addition, maintaining a diet that is relatively low in saturated fat may also be of benefit.
The use of dietary supplements is also further arsenal to be taken advantage of in this battle.
Both lecithin and amino acids L-taurine and L-methionine are often used to promote bile circulation. If we have an efficient bile circulation, this will by default optimize the excretion of estrogen from the body.
Of important note are also flaxseeds! These tiny helpers contain lignans which work by reducing excess estrogen from binding to receptor sites such as the breast tissue.
Exercise and Weight Optimization
Physical activity will ensure that you optimize your weight. Since excess body fat results in conservation of estrogen, an ideal BMI is what we want, especially when dealing with relative estrogen dominance syndrome. Physical activity on its own also helps prevent the overproduction of estrogen within the body. So, get out there and get active!
There are numerous herbs that may be useful in helping your liver detoxify. The one more indicated for you will depend on your unique complains. Traditionally, milk thistle, dandelion, black radish and beet are all excellent liver-stimulating herbs.
In order to further help balance the excess estrogen seen in these patterns, the use of bio-identical progesterone cream may be an option for you.
While relative estrogen dominance may be accompanied with a variety of signs and symptoms and associated with various diseases, there are plenty of things that you can be doing to curtail some of those effects. The underlying key is to decrease your exposure to xenoestrogens and help your body process estrogen appropriately.
- Darbre PD. Environmental oestrogens, cosmetics and breast cancer. Best Practice & Research. Clin Endocrinol & Metabolism. 2006;20(1):121–143.
- Barbieri RL, Gochberg J, Ryan KJ. Nicotine, cotinine, and anabasine inhibit aromatase in human trophoblast in vitro. J Clin Invest. 1986;77(6):1727–1733.
- Wang SL, Chang YC, Chao HR, Li CM, Li LA, Lin LY, Papke O. Body burdens of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, dibenzofurans, and biphenyls and their relations to estrogen metabolism in pregnant women. EHP. 2006;114(5):740–745.
- Hsieh M, Grantha E, Liu B, Macapagai R, Willingham E, Baskin LS. In utero exposure to benzophenone-2 causes hypospadias through an estrogen receptor dependent mechanisms. J Urol. 2007;178:1637–1642.
- Birnbaum LS, Fenton S. Cancer and developmental exposure to endocrine disruptors. EHP. 2003;111(4):389–394.
- Andersen HR, Bonefeld-Jorgensen EC, Nielsen F, Jarfeldt K, Jayatissa MN, Vinggaard AM. Estrogen effects in vitro and in vivo of the fungicide fenarimol. Toxicol Lett. 2006;163(2):142–152.
- Fucic A, Gamulin M, Ferencic Z, et al. Environmental exposure to xenoestrogens and oestrogen related cancers: reproductive system, breast, lung, kidney, pancreas, and brain. Environ Health. 2012; 11(Suppl 1): S8.
- Aubertin-Leheudre M, Gorbach S, Woods M, Dwyer JT, Goldin B, Adlercreutz H. Fat/fiber intakes and sex hormones in healthy premenopausal women in USA.. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2008 Nov;112(1-3):32-9.
- Ingram DM, Bennett FC, Willcox D, de Klerk N. Effect of low-fat diet on female sex hormone levels. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1987;79:1225-1229.
- Genes SG. Role of the liver in hormone metabolism and in the regulation of their content in the blood. Arkh Patol. 1977;39(6):74-80.
- Hartman TJ, Sisti JS, Hankinson SE, Xu X, Eliassen AH, Ziegler R. Alcohol Consumption and Urinary Estrogens and Estrogen Metabolites in Premenopausal Women. Horm Cancer. 2016 Feb;7(1):65-74.