Hormones play an important role in our health and how we feel. A hormonal imbalance can trigger everything from acne to anxiety. Often people will complain that they “feel off” or “just don’t feel like themselves.” Usually those feelings can be attributed to a hormonal imbalance, and for women aged 35 to 50, estrogen dominance may be to blame.
In women ages 35 to 50, a 75 percent reduction in the production of progesterone naturally occurs (preparing the body for menopause), while estrogen levels only decline by 35 percent. Combine this imbalance with a few other factors, such as poor diet, stress and lack of regular exercise, and estrogen dominance may result. (This can also occur in women who are over age 50 as progesterone levels are extremely low after menopause.)
Estrogen dominance is exactly how it sounds; the estrogen-to-progesterone ratio is off in favor of estrogen, which can result in all sorts of nasty symptoms:
– Swollen, tender breasts
– Rings don’t fit
– More impatient than usual
– Severe menstrual cramps
– Irregular or missed periods
– Swollen legs and feet
– Feel tired all the time
– Increase risk of cancer
If any of these symptoms sound familiar you may be suffering from estrogen dominance.
This hormonal imbalance occurs naturally, but some women may experience more symptoms depending on individual body chemistry or lifestyle choices. The good news is there are things you can do to normalize your estrogen-to-progesterone ratio and start feeling like yourself again:
Switch to organic produce from the “Dirty Dozen” (list of produce that have the highest level of pesticides). Pesticides from conventional fruits and vegetables are known hormone-disruptors. Conventionally raised cattle and poultry are treated with estrogen-like hormones, which are passed on to humans.
Switch to natural beauty products
Chemicals found in popular lotions, shampoos, cosmetics, soaps, perfumes, hair spray, deodorant, nail polish, nail polish remover, cleaning products and room spray can disrupt hormones. Review David Suzuki’s shopping guide to learn more about the harmful chemicals that are used in common products. Click here for some of my favorite healthy beauty products.
Stress causes progesterone to convert to cortisol (a hormone designed to support us when we’re stressed). This further depletes progesterone levels, which will result in estrogen dominance. Manage stress by exercising regularly, practicing yoga and eating a diet rich in fresh, whole, good quality foods.
Eat foods that detox your liver
The liver is like a filter, which can easily become clogged with excess estrogen. Fibre-rich foods such as apples, flaxseed and oatmeal help flush estrogen out via the colon. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and bok choy are rich in indole-3-carbinol, which supports the detox of estrogen from the liver.
Limit alcohol and caffeine
Both raise estrogen levels. Limit coffee and tea to one, 12-ounce cup per day and consume alcohol in moderation (five to seven drinks per week). Green tea is a healthy choice because it’s a source of antioxidants (polyphenols, catechins and flavonoids), which provide protection against estrogen dominance.
Natural progesterone cream
Your doctor or a naturopath can prescribe this. It’s a topical cream that will help re-balance estrogen and progesterone levels.
Nutrients that support proper estrogen/progesterone ratio*
– B vitamins: found in many raw fruits and vegetables, as well as lean protein
– Omega-3: found in fatty fish (wild salmon, mackeral, herring, sardines), nuts and seeds (walnuts, hemp, chia, flax)
– Vitamin E: found in almonds, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, leafy greens, whole grains, eggs
– Magnesium: found in fresh vegetables
– Vitamin C: found in fresh fruits and vegetables
– Probiotics: kefir (a type of yogurt high in healthy bacteria), sauerkraut, miso
If you’re experiencing symptoms of estrogen dominance you may benefit from supplementing these nutrients to help re-balance your body, but consult a nutritionist or naturopath first.