This guest blog post was written by naturopathic doctor Dr. Leah Gordon, ND.
Disclaimer: the information in this article is for educational purposes only and is not designed to replace individualized recommendations from a practitioner. Always check with your doctor before adding supplements or making changes to your treatment plan.
Starting around age 12, my journey with estrogen dominance began.
I experienced early puberty, debilitating migraines, painful and heavy periods, and painful and swollen breasts throughout my young life. Unfortunately, so many of our patients are experiencing the same imbalances when they initially join our practice.
So what is estrogen dominance, and what is at the root of this hormonal imbalance?
"Estrogen dominance is a sign that something is not right."
Estrogen Dominance 101
Read on to learn more about what estrogen dominance is, as well as its' root causes.
What is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen is one of the sex hormones both females and males have.
It is the hormone that creates many of the female sex characteristics we are familiar with, such as breasts, wider hips, and pubic hair. It is an incredibly important hormone, playing an essential role in a healthy female cycle, reproduction and growing a baby, it’s needed for bone and heart health, energy and vitality, and it’s the hormone that drops off after menopause when so many women start to feel awful.
Although estrogen is needed, we don’t want too much of it and we also don’t want it in a toxic form.
- Breast Cancer
- Fibrocystic Breasts
- Painful Periods
- Low Libido
- Mood Swings
- Weight Gain
- Many Other Symptoms.
We obviously don’t want to experience symptoms like these, but estrogen dominance is a sign that something is not right.
Just like any symptom, the unpleasant feelings we feel are actually our friends letting us know something is off that we need to pay attention to. We get to ask the right questions, look in the right places, and correct the imbalance it is highlighting.
So thank goodness for symptoms! Without a fire alarm going off or the smell of smoke, we may not know there is a fire.
Root Causes of Estrogen Dominance
There are many factors that play with this hormonal imbalance, such as genetics and epigenetic factors, liver detoxification imbalances, our body’s preference on which hormones turn into estrogen or not, environmental toxicity, dietary choices, and one of my favorites...gut health!
- The first is if too much estrogen or synthetic estrogens are coming into or are being made in the body.
- The second is if not enough estrogen is leaving the body. Many of the factors we often talk about with estrogen dominance are about bringing it in. Gut health, on the other hand, is more involved with the elimination of estrogen.
Gut Health and Estrogen Dominance
One is a microbiome imbalance.
- The second is how often and well we poop!
Our microbiome is the community of mostly bacteria, and possibly yeasts, viruses, and parasites or worms that share our body with us.
The majority of these bugs exist in our digestive tracts, in particular our colon or large intestines. To give you an idea, for every human cell, there are 10 x more bacterial cells in or on our body. This is a significant ecology that exists within us, so imbalances here can really impact our health!
What do I mean by a microbiome imbalance? To help explain this, let’s think of a nice grassy field.
The grass represents “good bacteria” or the healthy microbiome bugs we want. Weeds represent, “bad bacteria” or “opportunistic bacteria” that can become overgrown and cause problems. Poisonous weeds represent pathogens, such as salmonella or giardia that we often get from food poisoning or contaminated water.
In a normal field, there will always be some weeds present, but if a lot of grass is present, they have a way of keeping the weeds at bay and the field nice and lush. Let’s say we have a field caretaker who doesn’t like the weeds, or perhaps there are poisonous weeds that he is afraid his horses will eat. So he takes buckets of toxic chemicals and pours it all over the field in hopes of killing these pesky weeds.
What happens next is that most of the grass dies along with the weeds because they are living plants as well. Grass is great at holding space when it is given a healthy environment, but weeds really thrive well in harsh environments. So now that the grass is dead, the “opportunistic” weeds see a great opportunity and start to grow out of control. The field is now worse off than it was originally. In our story, the toxic chemicals represents many rounds of antibiotics or insults to our gut microbiome.
Our gut is a complex ecosystem, just like a field is.
The state of our gut ecology depends on many things. It can become imbalanced as early as the day we are born, from our mother’s imbalanced microbiome or the gut bugs in the hospital we are exposed to. It can become imbalanced over time with many rounds of antibiotics or poor dietary choices. In certain situations, such as food poisoning, the seeds of highly toxic weeds may become spread throughout the field. Or maybe we have an overgrowth of really poisonous weeds or a really bad infection that requires IV antibiotics, equivalent to buckets of toxic chemicals in our story.
The Microbiome's Role in Estrogen Dominance
When it comes to estrogen, there is actually a large group of bacteria collectively known as the estrobolome that impacts estrogen metabolism.
In particular there is an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase that “bad bacteria” in this estrobolome produce. In order for estrogen, and other toxins, to leave the body, they have to be processed, or conjugated, in the liver.
This essentially means they need a special ticket to board the poop train that is exiting the body. The pesky beta-glucuronidase enzyme actually takes the estrogen’s ticket away so it gets kicked off the poop train and reabsorbed back into the body, usually in a more toxic form.
This can contribute to estrogen dominance because you are being exposed to estrogen from your environment PLUS your body is making it daily AND you are not able to eliminate what is in there...so it builds up and causes problems.
Eliminating any Poisonous Weeds
Strategically Pulling the Opportunistic Weeds Rather than Dumping Toxins on your Gut Field
Creating the Environment for the Grass, or Good Bacteria, to Grow.
For the Tribe Medicine Quick Guide to Gut Healing, visit www.tribemedicine.com/free
All Aboard the Poop Train
The Poop Train's Role in Estrogen Dominance
The second key player in getting rid of estrogen is actually having a properly functioning poop train to begin with.
When we are constipated and not pooping properly, the train that estrogen is trying to leave the body on is backed up so it stays in the system, often getting reabsorbed; often as a more toxic form. These not-so good forms of estrogen have implications in conditions such as breast cancer and endometriosis, and this adds to the overall estrogen burden we do not want.
So even if estrogen receives its ticket from the glucuronidation process in the liver and it boards the train AND if beta-glucuronidase isn’t elevated, meaning estrogen gets to keep it’s ticket, it still won’t leave the body if the train isn’t moving.
This is why daily bowel movements are so incredibly important.
If you naturally have healthy daily bowel movements, consider yourself lucky and thank your body daily.
If you are like me and you feel like having daily bowel movements can seem like a delicate process, consider downloading Tribe Medicine’s Proper Pooping Protocol for Stubborn Poopers.
Many of the tips for improving your bowel movements seem simple AND they work. However, many of us don’t make them a part of our daily routine. Don’t underestimate the simplicity and power of these suggestions.
Tribe Tips on Proper Pooping
Purchase a Squatty Potty or another bowel movement stool to help you have proper form while pooping.
- The way toilets are designed are not optimal for the anatomy of our bowels. Stools like this help to put us in the correct position for optimal pooping.
Wake up and drink 8 ounces of warm water with juice from ½ a lemon in the morning.
- This helps to active and warm your bowels and stimulate them to move the train along.
Drink at least ½ your body weight in room-temperature spring or filtered water daily, more if you are active.
- Check in with yourself, do you actually drink enough water?
- Balance your microbiome.
Oftentimes our gut microbiome is imbalanced and this is contributing to constipation or stubborn poops. For more information on the process for this, download Tribe Medicine’s Quick Guide to Gut Healing here.
So just like I always tell my patients, we want most things in our body to be like Golidlocks; everything needs to be just right.
Estrogen is an important and necessary hormone and we need enough to be healthy and feel good. However, we don’t want too much either.
Addressing your gut is something you have a say in when it comes to your health that can make a big difference not only in your estrogen balance but in your overall health in every way.
I am wishing you healthy, happy guts; a well functioning daily poop train; and beautifully balanced estrogen.
Dr. Leah Gordon (ND) is an expert in root-cause medicine, dedicated to uncovering the sources of hormonal, gut, and sex drive imbalances. She is passionate about empowering motivated women to create a thriving and healthful life so they may bring their beautiful gifts into this world.
She especially loves supporting women prior to pregnancy so that they are optimal and their future babies, families, and communities benefit from their health and lifestyle practices.
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