The Rise of Hormone Problems in Women
In the past 40 years, there’s been a rise in female-related illnesses never seen before in history. Today, we see the age of puberty and a girl’s first menstrual cycle dropping to as low as 10 years of age, endometriosis afflicting 10% of all perimenopausal women; Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), rising and afflicting close to 30% of perimenopausal women, uterine fibroids affecting close to 25% of women from age 35 to 50, and breast cancer afflicting close to 10% of all women.
Some of these changes have been linked back to things like endocrine disruptors, man made estrogens that activate a woman’s own receptors, but there are a growing list of variables that impact a woman’s hormone production and create an environment to exist where estrogen rises un-naturally which we’ll discuss later. But first let’s look at the two hormones responsible for estrogen dominance and find out exactly what it is.
What Are Estrogen and Progesterone?
A common misconception is that estrogen is a specific hormone. Estrogen actually refers to a category of hormones natural, environmental, and man-made that bind to and trigger estrogen receptors in the body’s cells. Estrogens vary in strength. They vary in how long they bind to the receptors and how powerfully they stimulate them. In general, when estrogen receptors are stimulated by an estrogen hormone, the message to the cell is to grow and replicate. This is the reason estrogen is associated with growth, increased fat (a feminizing trait), and when unbalanced or unchecked – cancer (breast and uterine). The body naturally produces three main estrogens: estradiol, estrone, and estriol.
Estradiol is made in the ovaries and is responsible for breast enlargement as well as changes in the body shape affecting bones, joints and fat deposition. It is the strongest natural estrogen made in the body.
Estrone is primarily made in the adrenal glands. Elevated levels of estrone in obese women is associated with higher risk of breast cancer. It is a moderately strong estrogen.
Estriol is made in the placenta during pregnancy. During this very critical time in life when the developing embryo is differentiating into hands, feet, eyeballs, brain and myriad other functional organs, it is bathed in estriol. Estriol is the weakest estrogen made in the body.
Progesterone is produced mostly in the ovaries and to a lesser extent in your adrenal glands. Progesterone has a calming effect in the body. It builds bone, and is a natural diuretic and fat burner. It restores proper cellular oxygen levels, improves vascular tone, normalizes blood clotting, and prevents cyclical migraines and arterial plaque.
Progesterone helps balance the actions of estrogen and acts with estrogen and testosterone to prevent cancer and other degenerative diseases. Deficient levels of progesterone results in irritability, anxiety, obsessive behaviors, weight gain, itching, bloating, sweating, digestive problems, and loss of memory.
How are estrogen and progesterone different? “heating ” versus “cooling ”
One way of looking at the relationship of estrogen and progesterone is that estrogen is the “heating hormone” causing tissue to grow, body fat to increase, bloating, irritability and progesterone is the “cooling hormone” causing tissue to differentiate and mature, emotional calmness, and in general balancing the effects of estrogen. Both are necessary and must work in balance for good health and vitality. Women that are pregnant have high levels of progesterone throughout their pregnancy. This contributes to their glowing skin, full hair, and calmer demeanor. Progesterone plummets after giving birth and the benefits reverse themselves. In many ways, progesterone can also be called “the youth hormone” when it works with and properly balances estrogen.
When it’s unbalanced relative to estrogen you get estrogen dominance. Many think that being estrogen dominant just means you have too much estrogen. But that’s not always true. There are actually three types of estrogen dominance and each can have it’s own unique set of causes.
Three types of estrogen dominance
- Estrogen is high and progesterone is low
- Estrogen is high and progesterone is normal
- Estrogen is normal and progesterone is low
Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
- Decreased sex drive
- Irregular or otherwise abnormal menstrual periods
- Bloating (water retention)
- Breast swelling and tenderness
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Headaches (especially premenstrually)
- Mood swings (most often irritability and depression)
- Weight and/or fat gain (particularly around the abdomen and hips)
- Cold hands and feet (a symptom of thyroid dysfunction)
- Hair loss
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Sluggish metabolism
- Foggy thinking, memory loss
- Trouble sleeping/insomnia
Causes of estrogen dominance in young women
- Chronic stress
- Being stressed out more than you’re not will fatigue your adrenal glands. They burn out. Since your adrenals are one of the places where progesterone is produced you’ll produce less of it creating estrogen high/progesterone low scenario. This doesn’t happen overnight but if you are poor at managing stress you will inevitably develop adrenal gland problems, which over time can lead to a progesterone deficiency and estrogen dominance.
- Hypothyroidism – many women are misdiagnosed as having a thyroid problem and given thyroid medication for it. Problem is it won’t work because when you’re estrogen dominance your body blocks proper thyroid function. More on that below.
- Endocrine disruptors
- Xenoestrogens– are external or man-made chemical agents, often referred to as “endocrine disrupters” or “hormone disrupters” can bind to and stimulate estrogen receptors in our body. Xenoestrogens can be found in pesticides, cleaners, plastics, shopping receipts, and other places in our environment.
- Phytoestrogens – estrogens found in plants and other foods we eat, like commercially raised chicken and beef
- Poor diet
- A low-fiber diet and deficient in nutrients and high quality fats
- High carbs
- High sugar
The relationship of your thyroid to estrogen dominance
Three ways your thyroid impacts estrogen:
- Coversion of T4 to T3 – when you have too much estrogen T4 doesn’t convert to the active T3. There’s nothing wrong with your thyroid in this scenario which is why thyroid medication won’t help.
- Blocking thyroid hormone – too much estrogen can block the uptake of thyroid hormone essentially making it inactive
- TBG – many cells have a binding protein that help carry hormones around in your body to the places that need them. For thyroid it’s TBG. Problem is if you have too much estrogen both your T3 and T3 can be low because they get attached to the protein and don’t let go to get into the cells.
Three things you can do right now to fix your estrogen dominance
- Reduce PMS – using Asensia Fast Acting can help reduce symptoms of PMS by helping your body better balance progesterone when it’s at it’s lowest during your cycle.
- Add some fiber to your diet – Estrogen is excreted by the bowel; if stool remains in the bowel, estrogen is reabsorbed.
- Find better ways to manage stress – exercise, don’t drink during the week and lay off the caffeine. Remember that stress will affect your adrenals and when they’re blown you won’t produce enough progesterone.