This weekend I was in London attending a 2 day Yoga Workshop where we mostly just sat and breathed.
I also spent some time catching up with close and special friends and seeing my fellow yogi’s from the various retreats I have been on (if you are reading this – love you guys!)
It was just what the doctor ordered and actually really relevant considering the topic for this post, oestrogen dominance.
I introduced the topic of oestrogen dominance briefly in my previous post of this series, looking at a general overview of the cycle.
It is often misunderstood.
Often people think that oestrogen dominance is having high levels of oestrogen.
This isn’t necessarily true.
Oestrogen dominance is when oestrogen is high relative to progesterone.
This means that you can have normal levels of oestrogen, but if progesterone is low, you can present with oestrogen dominance (OD).
OD is a common characteristic in many female hormone related conditions from PMS, to PCOS, to endometriosis, fibroids and even menopause!
Signs and symptoms of oestrogen excess are generally associated with:
- mood swings
- bowel disturbances
- breast tenderness
- painful ovulation
- heavy bleeding
- painful periods
- hormone related acne
- water retention and bloating
- reduced sex drive
- weight gain (centrally and around hips)
- thyroid dysfunction
- foggy brain
- sleep disturbances (especially as approaching menopause)
- interestingly many auto-immune conditions may be associated with oestrogen
I’d like to explore what causes OD today and what you can do about it.
The biggest cause of low progesterone is stress. I have touched on this previously with the concept of the progesterone steal. When we have a high need for the production of stress hormones we steal the tools needed to make progesterone and hence progesterone is low and oestrogen can become relatively high (even if it remains within a “normal” range).
(Just to add here that sex hormones are made from fats so a low fat diet can also lead to low levels of sex hormones generally)
This is why I said that my yoga workshop weekend was really relevant to today.
Part of managing stress is about tapping into and activating the parasympathetic part of the nervous system. Yoga, singing & chanting, meditating and breathing slowly and deeply – all of which I spent A LOT of time doing this weekend, activate this part of our system.
This weekend I also spent time with some of my favourite people. Positive social relationships also act as stress relief.
Other things you can do include:
- Exposure to cold – taking a cold shower (or a cold dip in the sea in my case) may help with parasympathetic balance as can…
- Eating Carbohydrates (!)
- Tai Chi
- Having Sex
- Eating seafood (because of the EPA and DHA)
- Eating Fibre
So we can have stress driving oestrogen excess.
We can also have oestrogen excess due to poor oestrogen metabolism and poor oestrogen excretion.
Oestrogen being high because we are making too much oestrogen from hormones like testosterone.
Oestrogen being high because we cannot metabolise it in the liver and clear it from the body in the digestive system (hello gut and liver health!)
It’s a big word and what it refers to is the process where testosterone is converted to oestrogen.
This is part of normal metabolism, but, performed in excess, it can cause problems.
So what causes it?
- Being overweight
- High alcohol consumption
- Zinc Deficiency
- Insulin Resistance (eating too many carbs)
- Low vitamin D3 (not enough sunshine)
- And of course…. stress
So you can see that better dietary habits; more zinc rich proteins like seafood, reducing alcohol and processed carbohydrates and getting outside and some sun on your skin (sadly not this time of year) help with hormonal balance but so does losing weight.
So losing weight helps with hormone balance and hormone balance helps with weight loss. Therefore the two are not separate, but the same journey!
Things that improve the picture are:
- Flaxseeds – grind them up and put them in a porridge or a smoothie
- Green Tea – 2-4 cups per day
- Isoflavones – found in pulses
- Flavonoids – onions, broccoli, celery, parsley, apple, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, blueberries, raspberries, red wine in moderation, apple
- Stinging Nettle
- Vitamin C
So the rules are simple, eat more of the good stuff and less of the bad.
I’d like to keep this short and sweet.
Detoxification is a really misunderstood process by the general public – I will dedicate a post soley to explaining why.
For now I just want you to know that hormones must be detoxified and broken down and the liver is the place where this happens.
Healthy liver function is really important for healthy hormone balance and this means:
- Generally reducing exposure to environmental toxins
- Eating foods that supply the nutrients for the different pathways in the liver to work well.
For oestrogen metabolism, these foods are important ones to have in your diet:
- Cruciferous vegetables containing Indol-3 Carbinol (I3C) and DIM
- Caffeine – woohoo!
Things that may get in the way include:
- Thyroid problems
- High fructose diet (fruit juices, dried fruits, processed foods or excessive fruit consumption)
- Excess sugar consumption
- Omega 6 fatty acids (especially processed seed oils)
- Various medications
- PCBs found in plastic packaging
- Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons – found in blackened or barbequed meat
Finally, I MUST add…
Once we have processed oestrogen in the liver, it needs to get out somehow.
This happens via the bowels. So basically, you need to make sure you toilet habits are “regular”, which means good digestive health, otherwise you potentially risk reabsorbing oestrogen back into the body again.
So all you need to do this week is reflect on these lists.
How can you increase the good and reduce the bad?
What small (or big) changes could you make to take one step further forward to better health.
I think it would be a good idea to bust some of the myths about detoxification in the next “episode”.
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