Estrogen dominance is becoming one of the more common hormone imbalances due to the prevanence of environmental hormone disrupters.
Due to the ubiquity of environmental estrogens, most people over the age of 35 have some form of estrogen dominance.
The typical 4-step protocol for reversing estrogen dominance includes:
1. dietary tweaks,
2. estrogen-clearing supplements (or bioidentical hormones),
3. weight loss
4. reducing xenoestrogen exposure.
5. Lifestyle Changes:
Estrogen dominance – Contributor #1: Stress
Stress causes the release of cortisol, which can lead to a progesterone deficiency because progesterone gets used-up in the manufacturing of cortisol. Stress also compromises adrenal gland health, reducing the adrenals’ ability to produce progesterone. Low progesterone in relation to estrogen = estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance – the Stress Fix
Eliminate all stimulants and meditate at least 15 minutes a day. Also, incorporate a range of stress reducing activities into your daily life, such as: yoga, deep breathing, tai chi, sex, cuddling, Epsom salt baths, or simply getting lost in an activity you enjoy.
Estrogen dominance Contributor #2: Sleep
Sleep is the time when your body rebalances hormones and a good night’s sleep helps to dramatically reduce cortisol levels. Sleep also increases leptin, which is a hormone that helps you feel full. Extra fat cells can result without enough leptin, which is a problem because fat cells produce estrogen, and the more fat cells you have the more estrogen you will produce.
Estrogen dominance – the Sleep Fix
Sleep for 7-9 hours a night, and go to bed as early as possible because peak hormonal restoration occurs between 8 pm and 4 am. Practice proper sleep hygiene, limit daytime naps to 20 minutes, avoid stimulants, heavy, fatty and spicy foods; and expose yourself to natural sunlight for at least 15 minutes a day.
Estrogen dominance – contributor #3: Exercise
Regular exercise helps to reduce stress and enhance sleep. It also helps to detoxify excess estrogens and eliminate them through your sweat. In addition, it increases sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) levels, and SHBG deactivates harmful estrogens. Finally, exercise lowers body fat reserves, which (as referred to above) reduces estrogen levels.
The Exercise Fix
A balanced blend of cardiovascular, strength training and flexibility-enhancing exercises should be employed. High intensity interval training (HIIT) programs should be done in moderation because they place stress on your body which can upset hormonal balance. Balance out HIIT with gentler forms of exercise such as yoga and tai chi.
Contributor #4: Your Mindset
The 4 steps for overcoming estrogen dominance (mentioned in the intro) in combination with reducing stress, prioritizing sleep, and increasing exercise, is understandably overwhelming. Thoughts of resistance, such as “This protocol is way too hard,” will prevent you from achieving full recovery.
The Mindset Fix
Meditation will make you feel centered and in-turn, help you to realize that everything is possible. Hypnosis and NeuroLingustic Programming are two additional powerful tools for reprogramming your subconscious mind. They help to replace negative thought patterns and belief systems with positive ones, which virtually guarantees long-term success.
1 Avoid Pesticides
How to Avoid Them
· Eat organic foods as often as possible
· Use natural pest control in your home and garden
· Avoid synthetic flea shampoos, flea collars, and flea pesticides for your pets and home
· If you must use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, follow directions exactly.
· Campaign against pesticide use in
schools and workplaces. Children are especially susceptible to the effects of xenoestrogens
2Meat Dairy and Eggs
Meat, Dairy, and Eggs
The growth hormones fed to cattle, pigs, poultry, and other livestock are another major source of xenoestrogens, and high consumption of conventionally raised dairy products is especially associated with high estrogen levels, due to the combination of naturally and artificially occurring hormones in the milk.
How to Avoid Them
· Choose organic meat, eggs, and dairy products
· Better yet, choose 100% grassfed meat and dairy products, and pastured pork and poultry
· Reduce your consumption of animal products in general, especially uncultured dairy products
Cosmetics and Toiletries
Unfortunately, one of the most effective ways to absorb xenoestragens is through skin contact. Xenoestrogens absorbed by the skin are ten times more potent than those taken orally, because they travel directly to the tissues instead of passing through the liver.
Many types of cosmetics, toiletries, and other products applied directly to the skin contain xenoestrogens. Some shampoos, particularly those aimed at the African American community, even advertise their estrogen (estradiol) content! Nail polish and sunscreen are more common sources of xenoestrogens, including phthalates, benzophenone-3, homosalate, 4-methyl-benzylidene camphor (4-MBC), octyl-methoxycinnamate and octyl-dimethyl-PABA. Other products, including body lotions, toothpastes, soaps, gels, hairsprays, and more may contain xenoestrogens in the form of parabens, phenoxyethanol, phthalates, and other compounds.
How to Avoid Them
The best source of information about the safety of cosmetics and beauty products is the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database.
Plastics, especially soft plastics, contain many compounds that are considered to be xenoestrogens. Phthalates, a type of plasticizer used to make plastics soft and flexible, are an especially common offender. These compounds can leach out or volatize over time or in response to heat or other stimuli. Phthalates are used in products from food storage containers and packaging to children’s toys to certain clothing and footwear items to toiletries to pesticides to IV bags to baby bottles… the list goes on and on.
How To Avoid Them
· Use cling wrap that does not contain DEHA and replace cling wrap on meats and other foods as soon as you get home from the store, unless it is from a chain such as Whole Foods that doesn’t use DEHA cling wrap
· Never heat food with plastic in the microwave, even if it claims to be microwave-safe. Use glass or ceramics instead.
· Avoid Teflon and other non-stick cookware. Cast iron is an inexpensive, durable, and healthful alternative.
· Buy bottled water and other drinks in glass bottles instead of plastic.
· Minimize consumption of foods from tin cans. In the USA, over 85% of tin cans are lined with bisphenol-A (BPA) to reduce the metallic taste that can be present in canned foods. Unfortunately, BPA is a known xenoestrogen that leaches when exposed to heat, such as the sterilization process some cans undergo, or acid. BPA is also present in many plastic baby bottles, food storage containers, and other products.
· Don’t drink from styrafoam cups or containers.
Vinegar and baking soda, the two main ingredients of that volcano you made in first grade, are also safe and effective household cleaners. Photo by Andrew in Raleigh.
Many household cleaners contain xenoestrogens. Particularly dangerous are laundry detergents and fabric softeners, because residues on clothing, towels, and other items are worn against the skin.
Air fresheners and insect repellents are also major sources of xenoestrogens.
How to Avoid Them
· Use old-fashioned household cleaners like baking soda, Borax, and vinegar whenever possible.
· Avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets.
· Use a simple laundry detergent with few chemicals.
· Ventilate your house frequently and well and avoid the use of air fresheners, insecticide foggers, and other products that release chemicals into the air.
Are frogs the canary in the coalmine? Photo by Noël Zia Lee.
Unfortunately, water treatment plants are not currently designed to remove hormonal pollutants, and agricultural and pharmaceutical runoff have created a curious epidemic among fish and
frogs in many waterways in the developed world. These aquatic creatures are actually switching gender due to high levels of effluent estrogen in their watery homes!
Although human bodies are more complex than frogs and fish, the hormonal pollutants can affect us as well when we drink or bathe in water containing them.
Water in many parts of America is also contaminated with agricultural runoff, including many pesticides and fertilizers containing xenoestrogens, and urine and manure from animals fed growth hormones.
How To Avoid Them
Don’t switch to bottled water, which is unregulated and may be more polluted than tap water. Instead, install a reverse osmosis water system. These can include under sink or whole house systems.
Other Common Sources of Xenoestrogens
· Coffee and other caffeinated beverages
· BHA and BHT, the common food preservatives
· FD&C Red No. 3, a common food dye (erythrosine)
Sadly, with the near-ubiquitous spread of these compounds, no article of this length could possibly be comprehensive. I have done my best to include an overview of some of the most common sources of xenoestrogens in our lives, but I encourage you to read further on the subject and educate yourself, your family, and friends. In the end, voting with your pocketbook and spreading information to enable others to do the same is likely to be the single most important thing you can do to help slow the spread of estrogen dominance and its accompanying health problems.