The Dangers of High Estrogen Levels, Even for Women

December 15, 2017

According to the Census Bureau, during the 20th century, the number of people in the United States under age 65 tripled. At the same time, in 2015 the number aged 50 or over represented 45% of the U.S. population. That same year, 10,000 Americans turned 60 every day. [1] It is estimated that the elderly population will more than double between now and the year 2050, to 80 million. 

 

Women’s life expectancy has changed greatly in the last decade, increasing from age 47 in 1900 to age 80 in 2005. [2] This massive change translates into nearly four decades of life after menopause. This is why it is important to address hormonal balance. A healthy hormonal system is vital in maintaining good quality of life. 

 

The major hormones that affect women are estrogens, progesterone, testosterone (yes! Even women need testosterone), DHEA, and cortisol. The estrogen group contains estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3). Both estrone and estradiol are made in the ovaries and peripheral tissue and estrone is converted to both estradiol and estriol. [3]

 

In both men and premenopausal women, too much estrogen, a condition called estrogen dominance, causes toxic overload on the body.  This condition might cause symptoms that similar to menopause, such as anxiety, mood swings, sleep disturbance, and increase for risk of certain cancers. In this article, we will cover the problem of excess estrogen and ways to balance it.  To understand 

 

What happens when you have too much estrogen

Excess estrogen refers to a state of excess estrogen in relation to progesterone. It is common in women of reproductive years, postmenopausal women, menopausal women and in women who take hormone replacement therapy. Excess estrogen can affect many parts of your body. According to Dr. John R. Lee, MD, the author of ‘What your doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause’, excess estrogen is a dangerous condition. It can increase aging and is associated with higher risk for cancer, stroke, high cholesterol, and development of fibroids. Here are some of the symptoms of a state of excess estrogen and low progesterone: [4]

  • Anxiety

  • Bloating

  • Increased risk of blood clots

  • Increased risk breast Cancer

  • Increased risk of gallstones

  • Increased risk of postpartum depression

  • Irregular menses

  • Irritability

  • Mood swings

  • Ovarian cysts

  • Weight gain

  • Breast tenderness

  • Decreased libido

  • Fibrocystic breasts

  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

  • Uterine fibroids

  • Food cravings

  • Headaches

  • Heavy menstrual periods

  • Hypersensitivity

  • Increased triglycerides

 

Functions of progesterone

Progesterone is an essential hormone in maintaining your health.

  • Promotes sleep patterns with calming effect on the brain/GABA receptors

  • Reduces cholesterol

  • Improves metabolism of sugar and improves insulin resistance

  • Improves absorption of estrogen by cells, which leads to a reduction in estrogen levels.

  • Enhances thyroid hormone activity by decreasing thyroid binding globulin

  • Increases scalp hair

  • Helps to burn fat for energy

  • Anti-depressant

  • Promotes osteoblasts to maintain healthy bone mass

  • Essential for maintaining pregnancy

As you notice from these symptoms, progesterone plays a key role in maintaining your health. It is important, therefore, to maintain balanced and sufficient levels of progesterone. Progesterone is vital in maintaining normal levels of estrogen and to protect the brain, breasts, and endometrial tissue from the harmful effect of estrogen.

 

 

What causes excess estrogen?

Several factors lead to an excess of estrogen. The main reason is excess in prescription estrogen or insufficiency of progesterone. However, there are other factors:

  • Environmental toxins, such as flame retardants are associated with hormonal imbalance.

  • Poor diet – such as processed food.

  • Insulin resistance - meaning your sugar metabolism is not working well. The beginning of diabetes.

  • Anovulation (lack of ovulation) - Ovulation is the time of the month where an ovarian follicle releases an ovum (egg) from the ovary to the uterus in preparation for fertilization. When the follicles become dysfunctional, eggs are not being released, which is called ano-vulation. According to Dr. Michael Lam, M.D., who specializes in nutritional and anti-aging medicine, “anovulation is commonly caused by exposure of female embryos to environmental estrogen (also called xenobiotics) such as pesticides, plastic, and pollution.” [5]

 

 

How to balance excess estrogen?

To regain your hormonal balance, it is important to change your lifestyle and diet to allow healthy changes to take place in your body. Here are a few simple steps to restore healthy hormonal function:

  • Exercise regularly and be active as much as you can. Exercise plays a large role in hormone balancing by regulating insulin levels and reducing insulin resistance. Studies found that weight bearing exercise or strengthening exercises were very beneficial in reducing excess estrogen. [6]

  • Reduce consumption of dairy products. Studies show that about 60–80% of estrogens come from milk and dairy products. [7]

  • Eat organic. Conventional fruits and vegetables are full of pesticides, herbicides, and insect repelling toxins. Animals in the food industry are fed with cheap grains and are administered antibiotics and hormones on a regular base. All these chemicals effect and disturb our hormonal system. Estrogen and estrone were found in different parts of beef and veal including muscle, liver, and fat tissue. [8] Choose animal products raised on grass and natural organic feed.

  • Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). HRT with estrogen alone without sufficient opposing progesterone, such as the drug Premarin, is dangerous and should not be taken.

  • Support your liver detoxification. The liver has an important role in in clearing excess estrogen. A dysfunction of the liver or insufficient detoxification in the liver might lead to excess estrogen.

  • Make dietary changes that reduce excessive intakes of sugar, fast food, and processed food. According to Dr. Michael Lam, M.D., an intake of these leads to a depletion of magnesium, which is necessary for the balance of excess estrogen in the liver. [5]

  • Manage your stress. Stress, both emotional and physical, triggers the adrenals to secrete stress hormones. The adrenals have a role in the secretion of all sex hormones, including progesterone. If you are exposed to too much stress, you might fatigue your adrenals and they might not be able to secrete enough progesterone. Decrease of progesterone might lead to an increase of estrogen. [9]

 

References:

  1. Think Progress. As Baby Boomers Age, There’s A HealthCare Crisis on the Horizon for Seniors. Available at: http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/05/29/2072011/baby-boomers-looming-health-crisis/%20metabolic%20syndrome%20in/. Accessibility verified February 10, 2014.

  2. Mead JH, Lommen ET. Slim, Sane & Sexy: Pocket Guide to Natural, Bioidentical Hormone Balancing. Rancho Mirage, CA: Fountain of Youth Press: 2009

  3. Speroff L. Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinology and Infertility. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2005.

  4. Lee J. What Your Doctor Didn’t Tell You About Menopause: Balance Your Hormones and Your Life from Thirty to Fifty. New York, NY: Warner Books; 2004

  5. Michael Lam, M.D., M.P.H., A.B.A.A.M., Estrogen Dominance – Part 1. Retrieved from https://www.drlam.com/blog/estrogen-dominance-part-1/1704/

  6. Shinoda M, Latour M, Lavoie J. Effects of physical training on body composition and organ weights in ovariectomized and hyperestrogenic rats. International Journal Of Obesity And Related Metabolic Disorders: Journal Of The International Association For The Study Of Obesity [serial online]. March 2002;26(3):335-343. Available from: MEDLINE Complete, Ipswich, MA. Accessed December 11, 2017.

  7. Estrone in food: a factor influencing the development of obesity? Remesar X, Tang V, Ferrer E, Torregrosa C, Virgili J, Masanés RM, Fernández-López JA, Alemany M. Eur J Nutr. 1999 Oct; 38(5):247-53.

  8. Residue levels of endogenous estrogens in beef tissues. Henricks DM, Gray SL, Hoover JL. J Anim Sci. 1983 Jul; 57(1):247-55.

  9. Balfour WE, Comline RS, Short RV. Secretion of Progesterone by the Adrenal Gland. Nature. 1957;180(4600):1480-1481. doi:10.1038/1801480a0

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