Estrogen Dominance is a term that seems to be popping up more often on the natural health and alternative medicine websites I read. It describes the condition of too much estrogen (or estrogen-like chemicals) in the body, and its symptoms are the ones we typically associate with menopause and PMS.
If you're going through menopause or perimenopause, you probably assume that your symptoms are the result of too little estrogen, but (according to the theory of estrogen dominance) that's not necessarily the case. They say that it's still possible to be "estrogen dominant" during the menopausal transition because, even while your ovaries shut down their estrogen production, you're exposed to environmental estrogens and estrogenic chemicals. Plus, your body may not be producing enough progesterone to balance out those estrogens, since reduced progesterone production is another feature of the menopausal years
I recently spoke with Scottsdale-based naturopathic doctor Decker Weiss about estrogen dominance. A few months back I interviewed Dr. Weiss about natural cures for heart disease and was really intrigued by his fresh take on health. Here's what he had to say about estrogen dominance:
What are the symptoms of estrogen dominance?
"For women who are premenopausal, the symptoms are irregular periods, endometriosis, cysts, stubborn weight in hips, backs, breasts. And for menopausal women some symptoms are an especially difficult menopause, mood swings, depression, and fluid retention. Thyroid problems are often a sign of estrogen dominance as well."
Why is estrogen dominance a problem right now? Where are we getting all of this excess estrogen?
"First of all, there is no such thing as 'estrogen' singular. There is a family of compounds called estrogens, plural. Some protect us and create babies, others cause cancer. When we gave women synthetic estrodial as hormone therapy that was ignorant, it shut off hot flashes but caused disease."
"These days we're exposed to all sorts of estrogens from the environment. Many petrochemicals act like estrogen, so, for example, drinking from a plastic bottle could be a source. Hormones in meat and dairy are estrogenic, then there's birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, which work their way into the drinking water, and some soys and other plants have estrogenic properties. When the body isn't able to clear them it leads to disease. Estrogen is a survival hormone, it's about continuing the species, so the body tends to store it. It's an expensive hormone for the body to make, so it's eager to store these environmental estrogens."
And this causes cancer?
"A lot of cancers are fueled by estrogen—breast, uterine, ovarian. And the only male organ that has estrogen receptors is the prostate, and American men's prostates are either blowing up like grapefruits or getting cancer."
"We're dumping money into drugs that block estrogen receptors instead of looking at environmental things that contain estrogen and reducing those. If we're going to solve breast cancer, we need to solve this. It needs to be about more than pink ribbons on plastic bottles of water that sit in the sun."
"One thing women need to understand is that every woman who has gotten breast cancer has had a warning, and often it's these estrogen dominance symptoms. If you have lumpy breasts, fibrocystic breasts, it tells you that the breasts are not clearing well."
How can we get rid of excess estrogen in our bodies?
"One of the biggest things is exercise—the exercise component of preventing and beating cancer is giant—so get sweating. Sweating in a sauna is also helpful, as is lymphatic massage. Every woman should be getting a lymphatic massage 3 or 4 times a year."
What about supplements?
"Another cause of estrogen dominance is iodine deficiency. Part of nature's way of preventing too much estrogen storage is iodine, and iodine deficiency is more widespread that people realize. One problem is that iodized salt contains only one type of iodine, but three different types exist in nature and our bodies need all three. So I put patients who are estrogen dominant on a supplement that contains all three types of iodine. I like a formula called Tri-Iodine, by a company called Europharma."
"I also recommend people use natural sea salts, which contain iodine in the form that nature intended. Iodine deficiency is a problem because we started getting land salt from mines, which is just sodium chloride and not the natural blend of minerals that are found in sea salts."
"Other supplements I recommend are glutathione and calcium d-glucarate. Both detox the liver to help move estrogen out of the body. If you detox your liver, take iodine, get lymphatic massage and make sure to exercise and sweat, you'll hugely help your odds of never suffering breast cancer."
More About Estrogen Dominance
As with most things related to health, different experts have divergent takes on some of the details. To get more perspectives on estrogen dominance, check out the websites of Dr. John Lee and Dr. Christiane Northrup, for starters. For more about iodine deficiency and supplementation, check out Dr. Brownstein's blog.