Estrogen – it’s not a dirty word.
Estrogen plays an important role through the course of our reproductive lives and beyond. It regulates our menstrual cycle, strengthens our bones, controls our cholesterol, and much more. When our estrogen levels go “out of tune” we experience PMS or menopausal symptoms. But even before menopause, varying levels of this vital hormone can wreak havoc. That’s because estrogen requires a delicate balance with other hormones. When that balance is disturbed, we can experience a wide range of frustrating symptoms.
This hormonal imbalance often occurs during a particularly busy time of our lives, the period from about age 25 through to menopause. As a result, our practice sees many women who are dealing with unexplained weight gain, mood swings, and libido problems. But there is help available. A few simple steps can help you restore balanced estrogen levels and feel like yourself again.
How Do You Know if You Have Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance can impact many areas of our lives, with symptoms that range from subtle shifts to major disruptions in wellbeing. Many women in this age group assume these issues are a normal part of aging or a consequence of their busy schedules. Just because it is common, does NOT make it a healthy normal!
Even a slight imbalance in hormone levels can lead to a number of problems.
Symptoms can vary greatly by person, but often include:
Does that list look familiar? I see many women in my practice each month with complaints like these. I totally understand how frustrating they can be, especially when you’re unable to find effective treatment. And, of course, the complex relationship between estrogen and our emotions can only magnify the frustration. Who wants to feel irritated about feeling irritable?
It’s not only women who can experience estrogen dominance. You may be surprised to know that men can suffer an excess of estrogen as well. In men, estrogen dominance can manifest a bit differently, with some of these symptoms being common:
What Causes Estrogen Dominance?
To understand estrogen dominance, we have to consider the role of another important hormone, progesterone. Progesterone and estrogen maintain an often tricky seesaw in our bodies. Prior to menopause, the balance shifts at different stages of the menstrual cycle. Estrogen dominance isn’t necessarily a surge of estrogen, but an imbalance in that seesaw. Simply put, estrogen dominance happens when the seesaw tips to one side because there is not enough progesterone to balance out the estrogen. There’s actually no “set” number we can measure that proves an estrogen dominance diagnosis. It’s the overall hormonal profile that is important – the DUTCH test is an extremely valuable tool that I use regularly for assessing this balance.
How does estrogen become dominant? A key factor is the timing. Or, to be more specific, the time of our lives. Consider a normal menstrual cycle during our reproductive years: After we ovulate mid-cycle, our bodies produce progesterone to balance out estrogen.
But as we near menopause, we often have some menstrual cycles when we do not ovulate. As a result, there is not enough progesterone to balance out the estrogen. Enter estrogen dominance -- and its long list of possible symptoms.
To a certain extent, estrogen dominance is a natural part of our aging process. However, recent years have seen a rise in estrogen-dominance complaints, and our busy lifestyle may be a big factor. Environmental and behavior issues can increase estrogen levels, tipping the seesaw even further. What’s to blame? Take a look at this list.
How Can You Restore Hormone Levels?
Our practice can work with you to re-balance your hormonal havoc. Starting with an accurate diagnosis, we can create a lifestyle plan that works for you. As a starting point, these changes are recommended:
Do the estrogen dominance symptoms sound a bit too familiar? Please contact our clinic and we’ll get to the bottom of what’s going on and create a plan of action to bring your body back to good health.
I had a new patient come into my office this week. A lovely, sweet young woman, she was concerned about her fertility and hormone health because since coming off the Pill, she felt "like a crazy person" 3 weeks of the month. She sat in my office and said "It's not enough. It's not fair that I only get one good week a month. What am I doing wrong?"
She is right. So many women believe they have to put up with their periods. The cramps, the mood swings, the bloating (although in my books, you NEVER need an excuse to wear comfy pants!), the crappy libido... we're often told that we just need to suck it up.
If we're expecting to have an average of 450 menstrual cycles throughout our lifetime (minus pregnancies) it is simply not enough to put up with feeling awful.
The first step is information. Our sex-ed classes often focus so much on STI and pregnancy prevention (thankfully that's changing) and dry biology lessons that fail to teach young girls how to read their body's clues.
Here's what IS normal:
Hormonal imbalances like low thyroid function, anxiety (YES, this can be caused by hormones!), heavy periods... or periods that have gone MIA or are ridiculously painful, infertility and mood swings from hell are NEVER normal.
These things are common, but certainly not normal. A healthy woman that eats well, exercises the right amount for her body, gets enough rest (this is NOT just Netflix time), quality sleep and generally takes care of her body should not be experiencing these things. And she knows it.
Masking it with medication is not the answer. Nor is powering through it for yet another awful cycle, or being told that she's crazy for asking questions about her ahead or being irrational or a hypochondriac.
The answer is HONESTY. Has "everything" really and truly been tried? Consistently tried? For how long? If she is still drinking coffee like a Gilmore Girl or wine like a leading lady on Sex & The City, staying up too late or pretending that everything is OK because she's on the Pill "to regulate" per periods we're not being honest.
Honesty with your health care provider should look like open communication, a commitment to lifestyle and dietary factors FIRST and if things are not improving, looking at the right tests. Looking outside the box where necessary. Consistent follow up and frank discussions about what is normal, what isn't. A completely personalized approach to fit YOUR needs.
Coming from a 15+ year personal history of hormonal issues that resulted in so many missed periods, crazy hair loss, weight gain and terrible acne, I WISHED a physician back then would have taken this approach with me. Not that anyone was negligent... far from it. Most just didn't have the right tools.
This same progressive approach that I take with women every. single. day. in my practice. The person-centred, I-actually-give-a-damn-about-you approach that helps you get back your cycle, get pregnant, age with grace, keep your sex drive and grow into the (boss) lady you are meant to be... it WORKS.
If you are experiencing anything else, you may have a subtle.. or more obvious.. hormone imbalance. Your period should NOT be a nightmare.
Let me help. Set up a complimentary Health Discovery Session with me.
I love this video. Keep in mind that many of the symptoms we consider "normal" like bloating, acne and moodiness CAN be modified with an individualized Naturopathic plan to keep you feeling at the top of your game.
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Dr. Keila Roesner is a Naturopathic Doctor. When not treating patients she is also an enthusiastic barefoot-strolling, music-loving, yoga-doing kitchen wiz - who also happens to be a wrestling fan.