Oestrogen Dominance // Hormonal Imbalance

Today I really want to discuss the female sex hormone oestrogen (Australian spelling) in particular what can arise as a consequence of having too much oestrogen relative to the other sex hormones progesterone and testosterone.

First, a summary of their actions.

Oestrogen:

  • Promotes the development of female characteristics, the feminising hormone.
  • It is the dominant hormone in the first half of the menstrual cycle.

Progesterone:

  • Prepares the lining of the womb for implantation with a fertilised egg.
  • It is the dominant hormone of the second half of the menstrual cycle: ovulation through to onset of menses and the dominant hormone of pregnancy.

Testosterone:

  • Not strictly limited to men, this hormone peaks along with oestrogen in the later part of the first half of the menstrual cycle, heightening sexual desire.

Signs and Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance // Oestrogen Dominance:

  • Irregular, abnormal or heavy menstrual period.
  • Fluid retention, bloating.
  • Breast swelling and tenderness, fibrocystic breasts.
  • Weight gain or fat deposition around the abdomen.
  • Problematic PMS.
  • Mood swings.
  • Sleeping troubles, fatigue, poor concentration, poor memory recall.
  • Headaches, particularly premenstrually.
  • Thyroid dysfunction, sluggish metabolism, hair loss (related.)
  • Decreased libido.

Whilst an excess of oestrogen is largely responsible for the above list of signs and symptoms, it is important to note that a balance of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone work synergistically, feeding back to each other in order to keep the female reproductive system and indeed, the body as a whole – ticking along in an optimal fashion.

Many of these signs and symptoms can also be considered part of other underlying causes and if you have read them and thought “Oh my, I am oestrogen dominant!” please don’t freak out. Rather if you have true concern make an appointment with your health care practitioner for hormone testing: ideally at staggered times throughout your menstrual cycle to test the different hormones at the times they are supposed to be higher or lower.

However, with very common and basic contributing factors – my guess is that many women are at risk of or are experiencing hormone imbalance (my good self included!)

Contributing Factors to Hormone Imbalance:

Stress.

The body reacts to stress by releasing adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine) and cortisol from the adrenal glands, which is a healthy response in appropriate situations but isn’t healthy as an ongoing physical state and can end up as adrenal exhaustion.

Cortisol functions to promote the synthesis of glucose as well as the release of glucose from liver and muscle stores in order to keep us running (from the stressor.) Cortisol also depresses the immune system, which is why those who are stressed are also ill.

Sustained stimulation of the adrenal glands and elevated circulation levels of stress hormones can interfere with the feedback system of hormones.

Stress also results in higher levels of insulin, which over time can lead to obesity – which in turn interferes with the metabolism of hormones.

Weight.

Whilst adipose tissue (fat tissue) plays an important role in the synthesis of hormones, excess fat tissue, particularly around the waist and sexual organs interferes with the communication systems between the organs as well as the clearance of hormones: fat tissue stores fat-soluble compounds such as hormones.

As such, oestrogen can accumulate in the body.

Further, hormones such as insulin struggle to carry out their job effectively when they have too much fat tissue to communicate through. Kind of like trying to give detailed instructions to someone from underneath a mattress behind closed doors with a thunderstorm brewing overhead!

Diet.

Our modern day diet is heavy in animal products, saturated and trans-fats, processed grains and sugars, artificial this and that, caffeine, alcohol and medicines.

All of these place a burden on the liver, kidneys and bowel: excretory organs – which means that we wind up all choked up and toxic with consequent side effects such as hormone imbalance.

Basically when we think hormone clearance we think liver support because it’s the liver that breaks down hormones.

And if the bowel is sluggish due to a poor diet and lifestyle, then hormones that might have left the body can be reabsorbed back into the bloodstream, leading to oestrogen accumulation.

And if the kidneys are struggling to filter the by-products of hormone metabolism then we get a similar toxic feedback with associated health complications.

Environmental.

Exposure to oestrogen-like compounds found in food (animals and plants) that has been raised and grown using synthetic hormones, chemicals and pesticides interfere with our own biochemistry and detoxification pathways.

So… to balance hormones in simple “at home” ways (i.e. as an adjunct to other therapy such as nutritional or herbal supplements, hormone therapy etc.):

Stress less.

Seriously I can’t believe I just wrote that. I totally need to heed this advice myself, as I am President of the I Stress Club.

What used to work for me, prior to having SP was taking time alone to sit and meditate, or listen to a meditation body scan on my iPod on the way to sleep. I stopped doing this when I had to have one ear out for the baby monitor. Maybe I can assume I’ll hear a three year old hollering out for me these days and get back onto that.

What works for you? You know it. Do it.

Address weight.

I know, I know, easier said than done. But all weight loss starts with the first 3Kg. Whether you’ve got 10Kg or 60Kg to lose, the loss starts somewhere and having more weight to lose doesn’t mean that you’re going to be punished for the fact; or that those with less weight to lose will lose it magically overnight.

I guess the message I’m trying to convey is: love yourself the way you are right NOW but put measures in place to lose weight.

  • Structure a brisk walk (20 – 30 minutes) three times a week into your routine.
  • Re-join the gym and treat yourself to a personal trainer so that you can learn how to use all of the equipment.
  • Blow the dust off your yoga mat and set the alarm earlier to get up and enjoy the quiet of a new day.
  • Put your favourite dance music on and shake your booty until you start sweating.
  • Have sex!

Eat more plants.

Simply by increasing fruit and vegetables, legumes and nuts you displace meat and fat from your diet.

Fruit and vegetables provide the nutrients required for the synthesis of hormones, the metabolism of energy, antioxidants to support the liver and immune system, fibre to slow down digestion thereby keeping you full longer as well as curbing sugar cravings.

Fibre also acts like a toilet brush, scraping clean the lining of the intestines and absorbing toxic by-products and adds bulk to stools making them easier to pass.

Certain plants provide phytoestrogens (plant estrogens), which help to block the uptake of estrogen into the cells.

Good sources of phytoestrogens are: legumes (particularly soybeans), linseeds/flaxseeds, sweet potato, onions and the cabbage-family foods as well as nuts and seeds.

Eat me biatch!

Eat me!

Eat less refined food and animal products: These place stress on the digestive system, the liver, provide little nutritionally, cause spikes and then dips in blood glucose and can impair the immune system by causing inflammation as well as the aforementioned nutrient-poor quality.

Buy organic produce: To limit exposure to environmental chemicals.

Reduce alcohol intake: take a few nights off per week. You can do it.

Reduce coffee and tea: replacing them with green or white tea, or other herbal teas such as dandelion (for the liver) or nettle or fennel (for the kidneys.) I’m not saying don’t drink coffee or tea, I’m saying replace two or more of them per day with substitutes that not only hit the spot when you’re hankering for a hot drink, but provide therapeutic benefits.

Increase intake of filtered water: flush out toxins, soften stools, and provide a medium for transport of nutrients and wastes. Hunger and thirst are easily confused and often if you drink a glass of water instead of reach for a snack you’ll find that your hunger abates.

Address use of painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen as these place a burden on the liver also and can commonly be misused or relied upon inappropriately.

Consult with a practitioner who can arrange a supplement protocol tailored to your individual needs. I can recommend supplement X, Y and Z but it’s not my place to advise for all and sundry here on my blog and what works for one may not be the solution for another. We are all biologically unique!

Pay attention to your menstrual cycle.

  • Note the duration of bleeding, the amount, colour, scent and consistency of the blood. Use pads to do this, not tampons.
  • Track the phases of your cycle, with the pre-ovulation and post-ovulation physical and mental symptoms, energy levels, moods, food cravings etc.
  • Keep this for at least three cycles to take with you to a therapist if that’s your plan, so that they have a clear picture of what’s going on.

Ladies, can we get some womb service in here?, K180, x

Comments

  1. Workingwomenaus says:

    Great, logical advice. I was talking to a dietician yesterday and we came to the following conclusion: we all know what we need to do to get our bodies back on track, we just find excuses not to. The logic is buried begins the lack of sleep and ‘food is a reward’ cells in our brains. Must. Find. Them.

    As for meditation? It’s the only thing that gets me back to sleep at 3am. Couldn’t survive without it.

    • Katie180 says:

      Yes we do all know what to do, with our diet, with our exercise, with our relationships and with our kids ~ we’re in tune down to our marrow but the language gets fuzzed out by the now. I think that’s why I’m so anti-hype, not just with nutrition, but with most things. I mean, I didn’t even used to collect My Little Ponies!
      Wow you wake up at 3am? That bites the big one :(

  2. Lainie T says:

    Katie, I love your posts. Just the right amount of humour, piss-taking and information to keep me reading each time.

  3. Leanne H says:

    I need to read this again when my head is not full of booger. You’re welcome.

  4. Fabulous article Katie, really great.

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