Oestrogen and progesterone are sex hormones that work together to achieve hormonal balance in the body.
Usually these hormones balance each other and keep us women strong, healthy and fertile.
Unfortunately, poor dietary choices and increasing exposure to toxic chemicals in food, cosmetics and medications are constantly throwing this balance out of whack.
In certain women, this ratio becomes permanently unbalanced, leaving the body exposed to a relative excess of oestrogen compared to progesterone (oestrogen dominance).
While oestrogen dominance can occur at any age, it is particularly observed in the years immediately preceding and following the menopause. This is due to the fact that in the perimenopausal period ovulation becomes erratic, leading to a decline in progesterone and unopposed oestrogen levels.
By menopause, there is hardly any progesterone being made and about half the premenopausal levels of oestrogen. This is why the incidence of breast cancer is much higher in post-menopausal women.
Effects of Oestrogen Dominance
The effects of unopposed oestrogen in the body are well documented and have been linked to a series of conditions such as PMS, endometriosis, infertility, PCOS, uterine fibroids, fibrocystic breast disease, cancer of the breast, ovaries and endometrium, auto-immune disease, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, and endometrial polyps among others.
What Are the Causes of Oestrogen Dominance?
- A diet low in fibre and high in saturated fat from non-organic sources
- Being overweight or obese
- Exposure to oestrogen-like toxins (from pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones in cattle and dairy, phthalates in soft plastics, BPA in hard plastics, oral contraceptives, conventional cleaning products, hair dyes, chlorinated swimming pools, tap water)
- Poor liver function
- Genetic predisposition
- Lack of exercise
How to Lower Excess Oestrogen Naturally
- Eat a high fibre diet: oestrogen is eliminated via bowel movements. Constipation increases oestrogen reabsorption in the large intestine.
Eat 4-5 cups of fresh vegetables daily. You can achieve this easily by having raw veggies sticks for snacks, mixed salads and vegetable soups for lunch, and adding vegetables to casseroles, stews and stir fries for dinner.
- Favour brightly-coloured vegetables and leafy greens: these have higher levels of antioxidants which help liver clearance of oestrogens.
- Eat one portion of cruciferous vegetables daily (broccoli, cauliflower, bok choi, kale, brussel sprouts, cabbage): these contain indole-3-carbinol, a substance that increases liver clearance of oestrogen.
- Eat apples daily: they’re a terrific source of calcium-d-glucarate, which has been shown to decrease oestrogen reabsorption.
- Include lentils and beans several times a week and flaxseeds daily: they’re foods rich in weak phytoestrogens, which helps decrease oestrogen effects in the body.
- Include onions, leek, garlic, turmeric, rosemary and ginger as often as possible: these stimulate liver detoxification of oestrogen.
- Include high fibre wholefoods (please avoid fibre supplements like bran) such as oats, raw nuts, brown rice, buckwheat and quinoa: as well as being high in fibre they contain great amounts of minerals and B-vitamins, essential for proper liver detoxification.
- Have a fresh vegetable juice daily (celery, beetroot, carrot, ginger and apple)
- Include deep sea fish (sardines, mackerel, cod, salmon, ocean trout, anchovies) three times a week: these have the lowest contamination of heavy metals such as mercury and highest levels of essential fatty acids. These are essential for hormonal balance.
- Eat a low GI diet, favouring good quality protein (chicken, fish, eggs and red meat from pastured, organic animals) and with a moderate consumption of wholegrains: this decreases your blood sugar levels, insulin and leptin, high levels of which have been linked to oestrogen dominant conditions.
- Eat prebiotic fibres daily: garlic, onions, lentils and beans, cooked and cooled potatoes, radishes, jerusalem artichokes, chicory, asparagus, beetroot, snow peas, green peas, okra, mushrooms, pomegranate, watermelon, figs and dried fruit. Prebiotic fibre has been shown to feed beneficial bacteria in the gut and promote their production of short chain fatty acids like butyrate. High levels of these compounds have been linked to reduced inflammation, reduced levels of circulation LPS toxins, better balance of insulin and blood sugar, reduced risk of non alcoholic fatty liver disease and lower levels of the estrogen-increasing beta-glucuronidase enzyme.
Foods to Avoid
- High saturated fat diet
- Non-organic animal produce – also aim to have several vegetarian days weekly
- Shop-bought pastries, cakes and scones, vegetable spreads/margarines: they contain high levels of trans-fats and rancid vegetable oils (if it has sunflower, canola, soy oil or margarine don’t eat it). These fats have estrogen-like effects in the body
- Alcohol: circulating oestrogen levels increase with alcohol consumption.
- High amounts of dairy.
- Charcoaled, grilled and BBQd foods. The toxic compounds produced in these foods are processed by the same liver enzymes that detoxify estrogen and other sex hormones.
Optimise Your Weight
Being overweight puts you at a higher risk of oestrogen dominance as fat cells convert androgens (male hormones) into oestrogen.
Reduce Your Exposure to Xenoestrogens
- Switch to organic, grass fed meat and dairy: intensively-reared dairy cows and farm animals are fed a cocktail of antibiotics, hormones and/or growth promoters, antiparasitic drugs and GM soya. The toxic residue from these drugs is passed on directly to you when you eat non organic meat or dairy.
- Eat organic fruit and vegetables: the average conventionally-grown apple has 20-30 artificial poisons on its skin, even after rinsing.
- Choose mineral make up and natural hair dyes: conventional make up contains titanium dioxide and hair dyes have dangerously high levels of ammonia and ethanolamines, both of which are carcinogenic.
- Invest in a good quality filter: tap water is chlorinated and fluoridated, both of which increase your oestrogen levels and interfere with thyroid function by competing with iodine. Low iodine has been linked to breast cancer in clinical studies.
- Store food in glass Tupperware and don’t be fooled by the new ‘BPA-free’ labelled containers – these also contain a new type of plasticiser that has been shown to have estrogen-like effects in preliminary studies. Never wrap dairy or animal products in cling film or other soft plastics: the phthalates and BPA in plastics easily leach into fatty foods.
- Protect yourself from the toxic effects of xenoestrogens (it’s virtually impossible to avoid them all) by making sure you have plenty of iodine rich foods in your diet: seaweed, seafood, pastured eggs, fish roe (I like Yarra Valley’s organic salmon roe).
Address Mental Health & Heavy Metals
- If you have a tendency to poor stress resilience, anxiety or depression, I would highly recommend having your urine tested for urinary kryptopyrroles. This condition makes you prone to low levels of vitamin B6, zinc and molybdenum and high levels of copper, which is estrogenic. Chronic anxiety and stress also contribute to high levels of estrogen by increasing cortisol, which in turn depletes your progesterone levels, leaving you in a condition of relative estrogen dominance.
- Take up a regular exercise programme: women who exercise for at least 30 minutes five times a week have lower levels of oestrogen.
- Aim to build up to 1 hour of exercise on most days. You don’t need expensive membership gym. Get outdoors and walk daily in the fresh air. You will be amazed what this simple, cheap suggestion will do to your health.
- Start swimming, walking, dancing or join a guided outdoor fitness programme. The main thing is take up something you enjoy so as to help you stick to it!