Estrogen tends to be the culprit behind many symptoms of PMS and menopause, specifically estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance is where the hormonal balance is offset (the whole endocrine system plays a dance that keeps us health, full of energy, sane and happy) and there is too much estrogen and not enough progesterone. Hormonal function relates to the health of the whole body, not just estrogen or progesterone, the health of the ovaries, liver, lymphatics, and thyroid are all affected. The whole body needs to be functioning well for there to be proper hormonal balance. There are many drugs out there given for this, but there are also FOODS we can eat to help bring balance back to our bodies.
The endocrine glands work in concert with one another. If one system fails, others will suffer, which can lead to various issues: digestion, infertility, weight gain, mood changes, depression, apathy, sleep disorders, immune system, etc.
Chronic stress and liver congestion are considerable contributors to excessive estrogen levels. This is a functional imbalance for which most doctors do not test because it is not a clinical diagnosis.
Some symptoms of low progesterone/ high estrogen (around the menstrual cycle): PMS, heavy bleeding, spotting, clotting, cramping, water retention, bloating, weight gain (especially common in pre/menopausal women), headaches/migraines (could also be not enough estrogen), depression, breast tenderness, lumpiness, post menstrual headaches/migraines, irritability, anxiety, anger, nervousness, decreased sexual response, endometriosis (low progesterone), infrequent menses.
Estrogen and the Liver. If the liver is stressed by excess toxins it can result in a hormonal imbalance. Examples of toxins are: processed foods, trans fats/partially hydrogenated oils, sugar (including gluten, which acts like sugar in the digestive tract), infections (especially mononucleosis).
The endocrine glands secrete hormones that need to be altered and eliminated by the body. This job falls to the liver. The liver excretes these waste products into the bile, which then gets eliminated by the bowel. If the liver is not functioning properly (or is over taxed by environmental and/or dietary toxins), there may easily be an excess of hormones circulating in the body. A poorly functioning liver is often a primary reason for excess estrogen.
Balancing estrogen starts with the liver: eliminating environmental and dietary toxins that are over stressing the liver.
Correcting excess estrogen also involves increasing the body’s ability to detoxify (i.e., estrogens and toxins), and addressing the health of the whole body. Nutrition that can help in these processes, especially with liver detox of estrogen, are:
- Only eating organic produce, pasture-raised, hormone free meat & dairy, wild caught fish
- Avoid processed foods
- Lots of cruciferous vegetables (3-5lbs/week, fermented, cooked, or raw), such as cabbage, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts
- Whole food sources of vitamin B: sardines, salmon, tuna, chicken, venison, kombucha, turmeric, dark berries, potatoes, spinach.
Supporting progesterone. Progesterone cream can help some, adrenal gland support (see section on adrenals), Iodine (sea vegetables, meats, Celtic sea salt), Chase tree (vitex) in the morning to support the ovaries. It strengthens the link between the brain and the ovaries—stimulates the pituitary to send a message to the ovaries to produce more progesterone.
Xenohormones. Other major contributors to imbalance of hormones are xenohormones. These are man-made substances that have hormone-like properties. Most have estrogen-like effects on the body; however, they are foreign to the body and can cause many menstrual and fibroid issues. Common sources of xenohormones are:
- Birth control pills
- Conventional meat sources (beef, chicken), which are fed estrogen to fatten them up faster
- Pesticides, herbicides (nearly all are petro-chemicals)
- Solvents/adhesives (nail polish and remover, glue, cleaning supplies)
- Car exhaust
- Emulsifiers (soap, cosmetics)
- Plastics (BPAs)
- PCBs (industrial waste)
What harm can they do? Decrease fertility, increase reproductive cancers, decreased sperm count, lower testosterone levels and abnormally small penis size, increase incidence of retracted testicles, increase PMS issues, estrogen dominance.
How can they be avoided?
- Organic meat, dairy, and produce
- Avoid all synthetic and horse hormones (oral contraceptives, and conventional HRT, hormone replacement therapy)
- Reduce/eliminate conventional pesticides, lawn and garden chemicals
- Do not cook or heat in plastics, substitute with glass
Adrenals & hormone balance. Stress is the most common interrupter of hormonal balance. If the female body is in a chronic state of stress its likely going to shut down a system that requires 9 months-to several years of attention.
During times of stress, the adrenal glands will trigger an overproduction of cortisol and DHEA (precursor hormone to estrogen and testosterone). Chronic overproduction eventually leads to adrenal gland exhaustion, in which state the body can no longer respond to stress adequately. Depleted DHEA leads to less available reproductive hormones and, hence, poor reproductive health.
Diet: Adrenals need essential fatty acids, from a quality source. Omega 3s: fish oil, cod liver oil. Chia seeds, flax seeds (fresh ground), salmon, sardines, whole eggs, and real butter, olive oil. Eat whole fat, skip the ‘low fat’ or ‘non’ fat; it will contribute to adrenal exhaustion as well as poor cellular health (which equals poor overall health).
What to do:
- Try to get 8 hours of quality sleep (this will go a long way for hormonal balance.
- Take time to rest (or better, meditate) each day.
- Reduce/eliminate sugar (including gluten, acts like sugar).
- More protein in the diet, to help energy stabilization.
- Opt for Celtic or Himalayan sea salt, over conventional (processed) salt.
Sources: Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements, scientificpsychic.com, phytochemicals.info, Dr. Bob’s Drugless Guide To Balance Female Hormone, Robert DeMaria