What is Estrogen?Estrogens (or female sex hormones) are hormones responsible for the development and maintenance of secondary sexual characteristics in females. While estrogens are produced mainly by the ovaries, they are also secreted by other parts of the body like the adrenal glands and even the male testes.Estrogen plays various important roles in women. It promotes maturation of follicles, development of endometrium for implantation of the fertilized egg, production of fertile mucus, softens the cervix, lubricates the vagina during intercourse and helps sperm to swim in the female reproductive system. It is the key hormone for the development of female sexual organs and it’s important for the overall health of your breasts, fallopian tubes, ovaries, and vagina. And when you reach your menopausal years, you can thank estrogen deficiency for hot-flushes, dry vagina and the elevated risk of osteoporosis. Besides regulating female reproductive functions, estrogens also mediate other body processes like bone metabolism and blood clotting.
Estrogen Dominance: Too Much of a Good ThingEstrogen dominance, essentially, is having too much estrogen in your body. So how come something that’s so good and important for female health can be also causing a host of conditions which can predispose to infertility and cancer? Balance and moderation is the key to any successful endeavor. Too much exercise can actually break down your muscle tissue and cause you to gain weight. Too much vitamin C can give you diarrhea and too much estrogen can cause a hormonal imbalance. There are three different types of estrogen produced by the ovaries: E1 (estrone), E2 (estradiol) and E3 (estriol). The fourth type of estrogen we recognize belongs to the group of so-called xeno-estrogens. Xeno in Greek means ‘foreign’ i.e. not made by the body. In this context, it refers to estrogens which we get exposed to through the food we eat, drinks we drink, creams, lotions and potions we put on our skin and the chemicals we inhale – some from the environment and some from exposure to commercial perfumes and cleaning solutions. Xeno-estrogens look similar to body-made estrogen and can dock on your estrogen receptors (key-lock system) and activate the same reaction in a cell that real estrogen would. As all hormones depend on each other and secretion of one prompts the secretion of other hormones, soon you end up with the uncoordinated release of hormones that start creating havoc in the body.
What are the Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance?Individuals with estrogen dominance experience side effects as a result of a hormonal imbalance in their body. If you have high estrogen levels, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- irregular periods
- decreased libido
- breast tenderness and swelling
- mood swings
- anxiety and panic attacks
- weight gain
- hair loss
- cold hands and feet (also a symptom of poor thyroid function)
- difficulty sleeping
What Causes Estrogen Dominance?While estrogen dominance can occur naturally, it is often caused by external factors, like the food we eat, the water we drink, or the products we use:
- Birth control pills (hormonal).Hormonal contraceptives used in regulating periods or controlling heavy menstruation may interfere with the body's normal hormone balance
- Estrogen replacement therapy. A popular treatment for women experiencing menopausal symptoms, estrogen replacement therapy may also contribute to excessive estrogen in the body
- Xeno-estrogens in consumer products. These three substances are the most common xeno-estrogens found in food and other consumer products:
- BPA - Bisphenol A, used to make plastic
- Estrogen in food and water. Farmers commonly administer growth hormones to their animals and use pesticides that contain endocrine disruptors that usually end up in your food. On the other hand, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), of the 267 contaminants found in drinking water, 45 are linked to hormonal disruption.
Medical Conditions Related to Estrogen DominanceEstrogen dominance is the main culprit in many conditions which lead to infertility and worse – estrogen-dependent cancers. Some examples of estrogen dominant conditions are:
- PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome)
- ovarian cysts
- low sperm count
- poor sperm quality as a result of low testosterone
- fibrocystic breast disease
- and obesity
5 Foods to Reduce Estrogen Dominance NaturallyDaily agitation over prolonged time can lead to tissue and function changes, ultimately resulting in a chronic condition. Chronic conditions respond best to dietary and lifestyle changes. So what can you do to prevent estrogen dominance in your body? You can begin by eating foods that can help you reduce your estrogen levels naturally. Here are our recommendations:
1. Meet the Cruciferous Vegetable FamilyThey are broccoli, cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts and cauliflower. This family of vegetables contains sulfur compounds (can be gas forming) and indole-3-carbinol. These guys bind to estrogen and escort it out of the body, reducing estrogen dominance.
Recommendation: Have three servings a day. These veggies can be eaten raw in salads (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale) or steamed (brussels sprouts). Kale makes wonderful healthy chips baked in the oven with some olive oil and sea salt.
2. Hello Green Leafy VegetablesSpinach, celery, rucola, parsley, dandelions, Swiss chard.
Recommendation: Have 2-3 servings a day. Green leafy’s make great salads and can be blended in smoothies. Adding one banana or a whole lemon with the peel to your smoothie will mask the grassy taste. If drinking a green drink is not your thing, add a handful of frozen blueberries or cherries to make it purple and taste of berries. A dash of stevia or xylitol and ground vanilla complement this gourmet combination.
3. Good Morning Sunshine: Citrus FruitsFruits that remind us of our beautiful sun are all the citrus fruits; lemons, oranges, grapefruits (ruby red and yellow), mandarines, tangerines, pomelos and limes. Citrus fruits contain d-limonene Which helps detoxify estrogen. Aim for one serving a day to reduce estrogen dominance.
Recommendation: You can juice them, eat them and add their juice to a variety of dishes. Organic lemons and oranges can be blended whole and make a great addition to smoothies making them taste delightful.
If you are going to use the peel (which is very healthy) make sure to wash the fruit and use only organic fruits as pesticides can get absorbed into the essential oils found in the peel of citrus fruits. Pesticides act as xeno-estrogens, so you want to avoid getting exposed to them.
If you are planning to store your smoothie for the next day do not include the white pith (the spongy white part lining the rind of citrus fruit) as it will make the smoother taste bitter after 12-24h. It's best to have your juices and smoothies right after making them.
4. Grandma Know Best: 'an Apple a Day, Keeps the Doctor Away'Insoluble fiber found in apples, oats, berries and beans binds to estrogen in your small intestines and stops it from being absorbed. This can help reduce your exposure to xeno-estrogens from your diet.
Recommendation: Aim for two servings a day.
5. These Small Seeds Contain More Than What Meets the EyeSesame seeds and flax seeds contain estrogen binding lignans.
Recommendation: Aim for two to three tablespoons a day. You can have flaxseed oil or ground up flaxseeds, sesame seeds sprinkled in a salad or ground up in a paste called tahini. Flaxseeds are also rich in omega 3 fatty acids.
These foods should be part of your daily staple diet. They are very versatile and can accompany many dishes as sides or feature as a main dish. Get creative and aim to have them daily. For other ways to reduce your estrogen levels naturally, check out this read our article on reducing estrogen naturally or download “21-tip checklist to reduce estrogen” for free.
Estrogen Dominance Diet: What To Eat
Foods That Lower Estrogen - Eat Plenty
- Brassica/cruciferous vegetables – Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cabbage, Brussel sprouts, Kale, Turnips and Asian greens such as Bok choi and Pak choi.
- Green leafy vegetables
- Flaxseeds/linseeds and sesame seeds
- Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans
- Fibre-containing foods– Vegetables, fruit, legumes/pulses, psyllium husk, flaxseeds
- Herbs such as Turmeric, Milk thistle, Rosemary and Green tea
- Citrus fruit such as oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapefruit, tangerine, pomelos and limes
Foods that contain Estrogen - Avoid these foods
- Conventional (non-organic) fruit and vegetables
- Conventional (non-organic) meat and dairy products
- Tinned food
- Food served in plastic (particularly hot food)
- Bottled (plastic) drinks
- Tea made from water boiled in plastic kettles
- Coffee can also disrupt estrogen balance in the body!
Share your thoughts on estrogen dominance and if you have a delicious recipe featuring food to reduce estrogen, (a.k.a. estrogen dominance eliminators) we’d love to try it out!
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Swanepoel, A. C., Emmerson, O., & Pretorius, E. (2017). The effect of endogenous and synthetic estrogens on whole blood clot formation and erythrocyte structure. Microscopy and Microanalysis, 23(3), 599-606. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28478790
U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2019, July 23). Steroid Hormone Implants Used for Growth in Food-Producing Animals. In U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/ProductSafetyInformation/ucm055436.htm
Lyle J., Naidenko O. (2017, December 22). 2017: EWG Sets Health Standards for Chemicals in Tap Water, Pushes Industry Transparency in Cosmetics, Cleaning Products and More. In EWG. Retrieved from: https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2017/12/2017-ewg-sets-health-standards-chemicals-tap-water-pushes-industry
Sun, J. (2007). D-Limonene: safety and clinical applications. Alternative Medicine Review, 12(3), 259. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18072821