Keeping our hormones in check is a complex a balancing act – if just one piece of the puzzle is out of place, the whole system is thrown off course. Estrogen is one such hormone that can cause a host of unpleasant symptoms when we start producing too much of the stuff – let’s take a look at the signs of estrogen dominance.
Estrogen is a sex hormone responsible for the initiation of sexual and reproductive development in women, along with regulating and maintaining these systems – though it's worth noting men also have low levels of this hormone, but we’ll get into that later. The many functions of estrogen include:
- Supporting egg development
- Promoting uterine lining growth
- Supporting ovulation
- Supporting bone, brain and heart health
- Playing a role in skin and hair health
This is all well and good until we come upon a hormonal imbalance known as estrogen dominance. This condition occurs when the levels of estrogen are elevated too high in relation to progesterone levels. It can come about for a number of reasons, including having excess body fat, the use of some medications, stress and diets high in ultra-processed meats, refined oils and grains, sugary foods and other inflammatory, highly-processed products. These factors can lead to abnormally high levels of estrogen in comparison to other sex hormones like progesterone and testosterone. Let’s take a look at some of the signs you’re dealing with a case of estrogen dominance.
Signs of estrogen dominance in women
Breast tenderness: Women with breast tenderness and swelling could be dealing with estrogen dominance – while some women experience these symptoms during ovulation or just before the menstrual phase (the period) begins, it can be more severe and prolonged for those with elevated estrogen levels. The reason for this is the hormonal disturbances which overstimulates the breast tissue cells, leading to uncomfortable swelling, tenderness and pain.
Hair loss: Excess estrogen can result in hair loss or thinning due to hormonal imbalances, which then disrupt the hair growth process. You might notice hair damage, thinning, shedding or weakness. So, if you notice half your hair ends up on the brush and not your head, you might have a case of estrogen dominance on your hands!
Irregular periods: Due to estrogen’s significant role in building up the uterine lining, an imbalance can cause heavy and irregular periods as a result of excess tissue in the lining. It’s a sign of low progesterone levels paired with high estrogen levels, and happens to be one of the most common signs of hormonal troubles.
Infertility: Elevated estrogen levels may prevent ovulation from taking place – the result? Infertility issues. It may become harder to conceive due to the unreliable ovulation phase of the menstrual cycle.
Headaches: While the occasional “hormone headache” can be a common pre-menstrual ailment, more severe headaches can be a sign of elevated estrogen levels.
But these aren’t the only signs, there are a few others that often crop up as a result of estrogen dominance:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Lower sex drive
- Uterine fibroids
- Fibrocystic lumps in breasts
- Unexplained weight gain
- Cold hands and feet
- Sleeping difficulty
- Mood swings
- Mental clarity issues
Note: Women are more likely to experience high levels of estrogen if they have PCOS or are going through perimenopause.
Signs of estrogen dominance in men
Women aren’t the only ones with estrogen – men and male bodies utilise this hormone too. A good balance of testosterone and estrogen plays a significant role in male sexual development and reproductive system regulation. But, like women, this balance can be thrown off kilter, resulting in a host of uncomfortable symptoms. Here are a few of the signs indicating something is amiss:
- Erectile dysfunction: Men struggling to get or sustain an erection could be dealing with a hormonal imbalance like estrogen dominance.
- Infertility: Having trouble conceiving? For those who are dealing with fertility issues, hormonal problems are often involved. Estrogen plays a role in producing healthy sperm, but when the levels of this hormone are too high, this can lead to a reduction in sperm count.
- Gynecomastia: Estrogen dominance can often lead to the growth of excess breast tissue in men.
Estrogen does a whole lot more than just maintain the reproductive system – as you can see from the host of signs and symptoms above, it affects your whole body. For a healthy hormonal balance, it’s important to keep your added sugar count down. Remember, around 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men is the general recommended sugar limit for the day. But, keep in mind, a can of soft drink can pack a whopping 10 teaspoons of sugar, shooting you well past the daily limit in just one serve.
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