Infertility: Estrogen Dominance
One condition that can affect a woman's chances of getting pregnant is estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance is a condition that can affect both female fertility as well as male fertility, thereby hindering pregnancy. In addition to infertility, high estrogen levels have been linked to a variety of other conditions and illnesses. However, natural estrogen dominance treatments are paving the way for individuals seeking to improve their chances of trying to conceive.
What is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance is a condition in which there is an excessive level of estrogen in the body compared to progesterone levels.
Estrogen and progesterone are the two principle types of female sex hormones; during a typical menstrual cycle, these two hormones take turns in the maturation and release of an egg, as well as in the preparation of the uterus for a potential pregnancy.
During the first half of the menstrual cycle, estrogen levels are high and eventually peak at the time of ovulation before declining as progesterone levels peak during the second half of the menstrual cycle.
The pituitary gland and hypothalamus regulate the levels of these hormones in the body through a complex feedback system and release follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) and luitizening hormones (LH), both of which stimulate the ovaries.
Causes of Estrogen Dominance
The causes of estrogen dominance are stress, poor diet, weight, hormone replacement therapy and exposure to environmental sources of estrogen, called xenoestrogens.
Stress results in the exhaustion of the adrenal gland, which leads to high estrogen levels and low progesterone levels, in turn causing stress and anxiety, which put extra strain on the adrenal glands.
A poor diet can lead to estrogen dominance because foods that are processed or that are high in fat and sugar can increase estrogen levels, as can caffeine. Similarly, low levels of magnesium and vitamin B6 are also linked to estrogen dominance, as magnesium and vitamin B6 help to neutralize estrogen levels. Women living in Western Europe and the United States were found to have higher levels of estrogen compared to those living in underdeveloped parts of the world, a discrepancy that is linked to diet.
An unhealthy weight can also contribute to unhealthy estrogen levels; this is because fat has an enzyme that converts adrenal steroids into estrogen. Therefore, the greater the fat intake, the greater the level of estrogen in the individual's body, meaning that obese individuals are at particular risk of estrogen imbalances.
Hormone replacement therapy can also cause estrogen dominance. This is because hormone replacement drugs that are high in estrogen but low in progesterone create an imbalance in the endocrine cycle. Luteal insufficiency, a condition in which progesterone levels are low, also contributes to this condition.
Exposure to xenoestrogens is also a major cause of estrogen dominance. Xenoestrogens function by mimicking bodily estrogen and therefore function as endocrine disruptors even when they are present in small concentrations. The leading source of xenoestrogens is pesticides, which are stored in the fat cells of fish, poultry and other food sources consumed by humans. It is estimated that the average American ingests more than one pound of pesticides annually in this manner.
The second leading source of xenoestrogens are growth hormones, which are given to livestock and poultry, and which contain fat-soluble estrogens absorbed by the body upon consumption. Other sources of xenoestrogens are plastics and pollution. Exposure to xenoestrogens can lead to anovulation (lack of ovulation), which also contributes to high estrogen levels.
Estrogen Dominance Complications
When estrogen levels outweigh levels of progesterone, the following conditions and symptoms can occur:
- cyclical headaches and migraines
- digestive problems
- irregular menstruation
- water retention
- weight gain
However, low estrogen levels can also be the cause of the above conditions.
Estrogen dominance has also been linked to:
- impaired cognitive ability
- hypermenorrhea (heavy periods)
- uterine cancer
Estrogen Dominance and Fertility
Estrogen dominance can affect both men and women, as it has been linked to male and female infertility, thereby reducing individuals' chances of getting pregnant.
In women, high estrogen levels can inhibit conception by causing conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). High estrogen levels in women also decrease the chances of getting pregnant because they reduce libido. Estrogen also accelerates the rate of reproductive maturity in women; because of increased exposure to estrogen, girls are beginning to develop secondary sex characteristics (pubic hair and breasts) at a younger age.
In men, high estrogen levels are linked to low sperm count. In some studies, sperm count levels were found to have dropped by 50%.
Estrogen Dominance Treatment
There are many natural treatments to minimize estrogen dominance.
Dietary changes can reduce estrogen levels in the body. Reducing fat consumption and increasing fiber consumption, as well as starting a plant-based diet (featuring soy and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and kale) can lower excessive estrogen levels. Limiting the consumption of caffeine is also beneficial. Similarly, regular exercise can help maintain a healthy weight, reducing the risk of estrogen dominance.
Detoxification is another effective form of estrogen dominance treatment. Minimizing exposure to pesticides, pollutants and plastics reduces estrogen levels. Some ways in which to do this include using organic soaps and toothpastes, natural-based perfumes and avoiding the use of plastics. Properly washing food while preparing meals also helps to eliminate pesticides.