Published August 19th 2013
Many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid disorders have the condition known as estrogen dominance. People who have this condition either have an excessive amount of estrogen, and/or a progesterone deficiency. There are numerous factors which can lead to estrogen dominance, and in this article I will discuss some of these factors, and explain what can be done to help correct the cause of this condition.
So how does someone develop estrogen dominance? Here are a few of the different ways:
1. Bioidentical hormones. I’m not opposed to people taking bioidentical hormones. However, I usually don’t recommend them to my patients unless if I feel they’re absolutely necessary. Many people treat bioidentical hormones like supplements, but hormones are very powerful, and they can cause a lot of problems if one isn’t cautious. This is especially true when it comes to using hormone creams, as I’ve seen numerous patients taking natural estrogen and/or progesterone and have these hormones build up in the tissues.
2. Oral contraceptives. Many women take oral contraceptives to regulate their cycle. However, taking oral contraceptives will lead to a progesterone deficiency, which will in turn is what causes estrogen dominance. For more information on the risks of taking oral contraceptives I recommend reading my blog post entitled “Yes, Taking The Pill Can Affect Your Thyroid Health“.
3. Xenohormones. I speak a great deal about xenohormones, as I usually discuss the impact of them during my free webinars, and I have written articles about them, including one entitled “The Impact of Xenohormones on our Health“. Synthetic estrogen is found in many products, including most plastics, many perfumes and air fresheners, many cosmetics, and other products. As a result, you want to use as many natural products as you can, and try not to drink water out of plastic bottles on a frequent basis. Numerous studies have shown that the plastic from water bottles could act as endocrine disruptors (1) (2).
4. Adrenal problems. Many people don’t realize that the adrenals are a source of the sex hormones. And while the ovaries are the main source of the sex hormones in cycling women, in menopausal women the adrenals become the primary source. But regardless of whether a woman is cycling, or is in perimenopause or menopause, if she has low progesterone levels it is very important to look at the adrenals. Weak adrenals very well can be the source of a progesterone deficiency, thus leading to estrogen dominance.
5. Problems with the HP Axis. The hypothalamus-pituitary axis regulates the secretion of the sex hormones. The hypothalamus communicates with the pituitary gland, and the pituitary hormones follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) are responsible for the release of estrogen and progesterone. It can be challenging to determine if someone has HP Axis dysregulation, but if they do have this problem then this can also lead to estrogen dominance.
How Can One Determine If They Have Estrogen Dominance?
Evaluating the hormones is the best method of determining whether someone has estrogen dominance. One is obviously looking for high estrogen levels and/or low progesterone levels. But it’s also important to pay attention to the ratio of estrogen to progesterone.
Natural Treatment Solutions For Estrogen Dominance
When it is determined that someone has estrogen dominance, one needs to address the cause of the problem. While this sounds obvious, many healthcare professionals will simply prescribe bioidentical hormones. Once again, sometimes this might be necessary, but frequently it’s not. And so here are a list of things to keep in mind when trying to treat estrogen dominance naturally:
1. Be cautious about using hormone creams. Although taking bioidentical hormones can do wonders, if you’re not careful it can cause problems. And even if you are careful it can still cause problems. I’ve had a number of patients who were taking small doses of hormone creams, yet had very high levels of estrogen, progesterone, and/or testosterone show up on the hormone panel. While I don’t recommend bioidentical hormones too frequently, when I do recommend them I advise my patients to take them sublingually so that they won’t build up in the tissues.
2. Be aware of the effects of oral contraceptives. I never tell any patient to stop taking oral contraceptives, but I do try to make them aware of the potential side effects. Besides affecting the hormones and potentially causing a condition such as estrogen dominance, some of the common side effects of taking oral contraceptives include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, gingivitis, weight gain, acne, bleeding or spotting between menstrual periods, changes in menstrual flow, as well as other symptoms (3). Some women continue to take oral contraceptives while following a natural treatment protocol, while others make the decision to stop taking them.
3. Minimize your exposure to xenohormones. This is where using natural products comes into play. And while drinking bottled water every now and then probably isn’t a big deal, drinking water in a plastic bottle on a regular basis may cause problems. Plus, in the long run it’s cheaper to get your own filter, along with your own BPA free water bottle. I personally use a glass water bottle with an outside padding from the company Lifefactory.
4. Make sure your adrenals are healthy and strong. Since the adrenals are one of the areas responsible for the secretion of the sex hormones, it is important to make sure that your adrenals are healthy and strong. I recommend for just about all of my patients to get their adrenals tested. Some people try to go by symptoms when it comes to evaluating the adrenals, but you can’t rely on symptoms alone.
5. Do a liver detoxification. This isn’t necessary in all cases of estrogen dominance, although most people can benefit from doing a liver detox every now and then. But with regards to estrogen dominance, if someone has high levels of estrogen, whether it’s from bioidentical hormones, or from xenoestrogens, then doing a liver detoxification can help to clear some of the excess estrogen from the body.
6. Correct HP-Axis Dysregulation. If one suspects that there is HP-Axis dysregulation, then one can do things to help address this. Diet plays an important role, and herbs such as Ashwagandha can help as well. And sometimes other supplements can help to resolve problems with the HP Axis.
7. Take herbs to help with hormonal support. If someone has a progesterone deficiency, then certain herbs might be able to help with this. One of the most common herbs is chaste tree, which can help to increase progesterone output and offer luteal phase support. There are times when I might recommend chaste tree to my patients, but keep in mind that if someone has low progesterone due to taking oral contraceptives, weak adrenals, or another cause, then this needs to be addressed. As usual, I would recommend working with a competent natural healthcare professional before taking any herbs for hormonal support.
8. Eat a healthy diet. You of course want to avoid eating foods with xenohormones. Hormones are frequently fed to livestock to increase their size, and most non-organic fruits and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides, which contain xenohormones. The best way to minimize your exposure to xenohormones through diet is by eating organic.
So hopefully you have a better understanding about how someone can develop estrogen dominance, and what you can do to help restore the health of someone with this condition. You definitely want to eat well, and try to use natural products. A liver detoxification might be necessary, and you want to make sure your adrenals are healthy and strong. You also need to be cautious when it comes to using bioidentical hormones or taking oral contraceptives. Estrogen dominance is common in people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions, but by following some of the recommendations given in this article it is something which can be corrected.