Significance of High Estrogen

Another name for high estrogen is “Estrogen Dominance”.

First of all, I need to tell you there actually is no hormone called “estrogen”. We use this term to define three separate hormones with similar functions: estrone, estradiol and estriol. For simplicity though, I’ll use the term “estrogen”.

Estrogen and Progesterone are like dance partners and they need to be balanced for you to feel your best.

When Estrogen is higher than Progesterone we call that “Estrogen Dominance”.

There are several possible reasons for Estrogen Dominance:

Not Enough Progesterone

This is caused by failure to ovulate, or sometimes “luteal phase deficiency”, where you don’t make as much progesterone even when you ovulate. In this case, because you don’t make enough progesterone to balance the estrogen, you FEEL as if you have too much estrogen.

Treatment for this involves figuring out WHY you aren’t ovulating. In the meantime, you can balance your cycles by taking extra progesterone. This requires keeping track of your cycles and taking it at the appropriate “time of the month”.

If you’re not ovulating and you want to have a baby, this is obviously a problem… You might need fertility treatment, but ideally we could get you to start ovulating on your own, without fertility drugs.

Extra Estrogen

There are four causes of extra estrogen.

1. Inability to dispose of estrogen

This is when your body makes the right amount (or you may be taking the right amount) but you can’t dispose of estrogen properly, so it accumulates and ends up being too much. The key to healthy hormone metabolism is to use the hormones and then dispose of them. We certainly don’t want them hanging around indefinitely!

Believe it or not this is most often related to gut health problems. Dysbiosis, or an abundance of unfriendly bacteria (aka a rowdy crowd) in your gut, can cause the estrogen that is supposed to be disposed of to get reabsorbed. Because you can’t get rid of the estrogen, it builds up and leads to too much over time…

The treatment is to fix the gut! Decreasing processed foods and sugar will stop feeding the bad bacteria and is a great start.

2. Exposure to things that MIMIC estrogen–Xenoestrogens

Plastics and many chemicals have a similar molecular shape to estrogen. In biochemistry shape determines function. So a similar shape will allow these molecules to attach to the estrogen receptor and trigger an estrogen response. This is pretty bad news, because the body cannot regulate this and shut off the estrogen. This leads to a massive increase in estrogen.

The treatment is to detoxify. Stop the exposure and help your body get rid of the fake, ugly, xenoestrogens.

3. Weight struggles that lead to the conversion of testosterone to estrogen in fat tissue

Testosterone can be converted to estrogen by an enzyme called aromatase. This enzyme is very prevalent in adipose (aka fat) tissue. This is likely a big part of the reason that obesity is considered a risk factor for estrogen-related cancers like breast, ovarian and endometrial (uterine) cancer.

The treatment is to lose weight. Forgive me if this sounds too simple. It’s not. While dietary changes are certainly indicated for many people who struggle with weight, some people can’t seem to lose weight even on an appropriate nutrition plan. This is often from too much inflammation. Taking a deep dive into what is causing the inflammation may be necessary.

4. Fertility treatment

If you’re receiving fertility drugs, then you might make a lot of estrogen in response to the medication. This is an expected occurrence in this situation.

Beware of a Quick Fix with Birth Control Pills…

Here’s where I’ve totally changed from the way I was trained as an OB/Gyn… The easy standard treatment for any estrogen/progesterone imbalance was hormonal birth control–either pill, patch, injection, or IUD. While these methods WILL help with heavy periods, they don’t address the underlying problem and they are NOT natural hormones. Over time, these very strong “fake” hormones can lead to health problems, even breast cancer. It really is best to address the ROOT and not just put a bandaid over the symptoms.

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