Too Much Estrogen: A Common Problem in Modern Women
Women need a certain amount of estrogen to function properly. After all, the absence of estrogen during menopause leads to unpleasant side effects like mood swings, hot flashes and vaginal dryness. However, estrogen levels of either extreme are unhealthy. Having too much estrogen can be just as bad, or even worse than having too little of this important hormone.
What are the Causes of High Estrogen Levels?
High estrogen levels can be a result of a number of different things. Estrogen replacement therapy to treat menopause symptoms can inadvertently tip the scales in the opposite direction, causing high estrogen. Some medications can put too much estrogen into the body, and we also absorb foreign estrogens into our bodies via our environment. Sometimes, the cause is purely internal, such as a problem with the ovaries or the pituitary gland that causes the organ to produce too much hormone.
Regardless of the cause of high estrogen, the symptoms are often the same. These can include:
- Breast tenderness
- Cold extremities
- Fibrocystic breast tissue
- Hair loss
- Irregular periods
- Low libido
- Mood swings
- Poor memory
- Sleep disturbances
- Weight gain
- Worsened PMS symptoms
If you have too much estrogen in your body, you don't have to put up with these symptoms. There are steps you can take to help your body reduce its estrogen levels in a natural and safe way.
How to Avoid External Estrogens
Although human estrogen is a unique chemical, there are many other chemicals that act just like it called xenoestrogens—meaning foreign estrogens. Essentially, when your body has absorbed a xenoestrogen, it mistakes it for the real thing. Although the presence of xenoestrogens may not be the exact same chemical as the estrogen your body produces, these compounds will have the same effect as estrogen on your body, contributing to symptoms of high estrogen.
There is a chemical additive used in plastics called BPA, short for bisphenol A. Although this compound may improve the durability of the plastic material, it easily makes its way out of the plastic and into your body, where it will act as estrogen. Avoid using plastic food and drink containers, cosmetics and toiletries that contain BPA. More manufacturers are starting to create BPA-free products that say on the label that they are BPA-free; look for these.
Avoiding BPA-containing products has a real effect on the body's BPA levels, as demonstrated by a study conducted at California Polytechnic State University. This study separated a group of women into two groups. One group was to avoid BPA for three weeks, and the other was to make no effort. After three weeks, the women who avoided contact with BPA had much lower levels of BPA in their urine. This study, published in the Journal of Women's Health, is concrete evidence that using BPA products increases the body's levels of this endocrine disruptor.
Another way to avoid xenoestrogens is to educate yourself about which foods and herbs contain the highest levels of phytoestrogens, or estrogens found in plants. There are too many foods that contain phytoestrogens to realisitically cut out completely from your diet; rather, you should avoid the common ones that contain the highest amounts of estrogen.
These main foods are soy products and grains, which you should consider eliminating completely from your diet if you are concerned about having too much estrogen. Limit your intake of nuts, seeds, and legumes. Before taking a botanical dietary supplement, make sure it doesn't contain high levels of phytoestrogens. The botanicals to watch out for include hops, licorice, oregano, red clover, thyme, turmeric and verbena.
How to Promote the Removal of Excess Estrogen
Not letting xenoestrogens into your body is a great first step. Next, you should help your body flush out the excess that is already there. Drinking more water, eating more fiber, and eating probiotic foods can help your digestive system remove the unwanted estrogen. Dry skin-brushing at home as well as professional massage can help to stimulate your lymphatic system, which may in turn help it drain away your excess estrogen. Exercise is also great for overall health, so don't neglect it.
Your liver is responsible for detoxifying your body, so be sure to support your liver health. Eat healthy, drink plenty of water, and avoid alcohol—common sense solutions that hopefully you are already practicing anyway. Foods that support liver health include artichoke, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, dandelion greens, dark leafy greens, eggs, garlic, kale, leeks, onions and shallots. Botanical supplements that you can take for this purpose include milk thistle, Oregon grape root, barberry, burdock, dandelion root, gentian, ginger and rosemary.
If you follow these suggestions and your high estrogen symptoms still persist, be sure to make an appointment with a medical doctor.