What causes insulin resistance, mood disorders, osteoporosis, insomnia, infertility, PCOS, uterine fibroids, allergies, autoimmune diseases, acne, brain fog, weight gain, cold hands and feet, low libido, gall bladder problems, sweet cravings, and breast, cervical, ovarian and uterine cancer?
The answer to that very long question is estrogen dominance, or hormone imbalance.
Estrogen dominance is a condition in which a woman has excessive levels of estrogen and too little progesterone to balance it. This is a condition common to menopausal women and cycling women alike.
When the sympathetic nervous system is over active, (fight or flight response is stuck), the adrenal glands, (which feed the body the necessary hormones to fight the attacker or flee from the attacker), become exhausted over time. There is a wonderful book called, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky that illustrates this stress response beautifully. He talks about zebras on the savanna being stalked by lions. When the zebra herd gets scent of the lions they run, the lions give chase, and take down the weakest or slowest of the herd and begin eating. When they realize the lions have gotten what they need, the zebras stop and resume grazing within sight of the lions completely unphased because their “fight or flight mechanism has turned off.”
We aren’t chased by lions much these days. Our stressors that set off the fight or flight response are usually relationships, finances, the news, work, traffic, etc. and we don’t ever turn it off. This is a problem for the body. In a woman, the ovaries act as the back-up system to the adrenal glands. However, as a woman ages, her ovarian hormones decrease over time. If the back-up system is beginning to retire, but the stress response system isn’t, there is a problem. The body will then steal pregnenolone, or the precursor to progesterone, to help keep the system balanced. This leaves a female in a state of estrogen dominance, which leads to all of the symptoms that women who are hormonally imbalanced experience.
2. Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is caused by stress, too much coffee, not enough sleep, driving the body to exhaustion, too much work and not enough rest, sugar, extreme sports, rotating shift work, illness, and more stress.
If the adrenal glands, or any other part of the endocrine system, are out of balance, the thyroid will try to compensate and eventually it will go into sleep mode like your computer does when it needs to power save. If your body is in a constant state of emergency, the brain will signal the heart to send oxygenated blood only to the life support systems of the body. (like the brain, heart, kidneys, and lungs). Superfluous appendages like the hands, feet and hair will get shorted; hence the cold hands and feet and hair loss associated with hypothyroidism.
In postmenopausal women, estrogen is made in the fat cells; excess fat cells make excess estrogen. In cycling women who are using hormone gels and creams, the fat becomes another organ in the endocrine system that will deliver stored up hormone from the creams to the body randomly. This is why women get hormone overdosed when they use these creams, especially if they are overweight. This is also why they feel better when first starting to use hormone gels, but soon feel worse. The fat tissue has taken over the delivery and storage of the hormone.
5. Diet (high carb/sugar, low fat, high trans-fat, and nutritional deficiencies like magnesium, zinc, copper, and B complex vitamins)
Estrogen dominance causes sugar cravings, which in turn create insulin resistance, which causes obesity, brain fog and mood swings, inflammation, which are then treated with more sugar. The vicious cycle must, and can be broken with nutritional supplementation.
6. Oral or injected contraceptives and conventional hormone replacement therapy
Many women today take oral contraceptives to either stop cycling or to keep cycling when they are supposed to be menopausal. This does nothing more than create more trouble with estrogen dominance.
7. Xenohormone exposure
Since World War II approximately 87,000 new chemicals have been created in the United States alone. 2,000 new ones are being invented each year. Almost NONE of these chemicals are adequately tested and they wind up in our water and food supply, in most of our building materials and products in our homes, and are NOT required to be tested for safety, and are considered safe until proven guilty. These chemicals, also known as endocrine disruptors and/or xenohormones.
First, a good hormone test must be done. I use an adrenal stress index and a hormone panel. Blood testing only tells us what is going on in that moment and we really need to know trends. So I use saliva testing, blood testing and hair mineral analysis for a good look at the whole picture.
- A diet low in inflammatory foods is essential. This usually means going off of caffeine, sugar, gluten, soy and dairy for some time.
- Gall bladder support by thinning the bile.
- Liver detoxification four times a year is essential for getting rid of extra estrogen build up.
- Pituitary, thyroid, adrenal and ovarian function support through supplements depending on what the lab tests reveal.
- Weight loss and exercise.
- Turn the lights back on in the hypothalamus and adrenal axis so the neurohormonal brain signals to the adrenals and ovaries appropriately and re-establishes endocrine function and balance.
- Fix your gut! If you are not eliminating or absorbing, you will store up estrogen.
In a nut shell, you know you need to detox if you have PMS or any menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia, severe mood swings and weight gain. You are meant to move through these cycles like the ocean’s tides move through theirs – with beauty and grace. If this isn’t happening, you may be estrogen dominant.