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Lately it seems like estrogen has gotten a bit of a bad rap.
And while estrogen dominance is a very common hormonal imbalance (hellloooo painful periods), it’s important to understand that estrogen is absolutely essential for a healthy menstrual cycle as well as optimal skin, bone, metabolic and reproductive health.
It’s when things get out of balance that issues occur, especially because ALL hormones work together intricately, meaning that when one hormone (like estrogen) is out of balance, others (such as progesterone) tend to follow suit.
The goal with estrogen (and all hormones) is to support them in maintaining a goldilocks level approach (i.e. not too much, not to little, but just right).
In this post I’ll help you investigate if you have high estrogen levels contributing to uncomfortable symptoms, as well as simple and natural tips to support estrogen detox and feel your best.
Estrogen is a powerful sex hormone that plays a large role in maintaining and building proper tissue structure. It’s instrumental in orchestrating the female menstrual cycle and reproductive health, primarily by by stimulating egg follicle growth, promoting lubrication and sex drive, enhancing uterine lining and forming breast tissue.
Estrogen dominance, or excess estrogen, is a term used to describe a state of the body where estrogen levels are higher than they should be. This happens in one of two ways, either our body is making too much estrogen (frank estrogen dominance) or we have too much estrogen in the body in relation to progesterone (relative estrogen dominance).
When this hormonal imbalance occurs we tend to experience a variety of uncomfortable symptoms such as pms, heavy/painful periods, breakouts, weight gain, fatigue, breast tenderness, depression and more.
Common signs and symptoms of estrogen dominance include:
Unfortunately, our modern society is set up in a way that tends to inadvertently promote estrogen dominance. The key culprits tend to be:
When we support our body’s ability to detoxify excess estrogen, we will naturally start to reduce uncomfortable symptoms associated with estrogen dominance, such as heavy or painful periods, pms, weight gain, headaches, acne, fatigue, bloating and depression.
Furthermore, when your estrogen levels are healthy in relation to progesterone, you’ll begin to experience a boost in energy, confidence and sex drive, especially during the first half of your cycle. You’ll feel lighter, digest food better, sleep more restfully and be able to maintain a healthy weight much more effortlessly. You’ll ovulate regularly, which supports a healthy and symptom-free period and menstrual cycle.
If you’re thinking ummm, ok, sign me up for healthy estrogen levels, than I’ve got you covered with nine simple and actionable steps to help you detox estrogen naturally below:
The liver plays a key role in detoxing estrogen, as it is tasked with repackaging any leftover estrogen not used by the body into an intestinal-friendly form that can exit the body via our bowels. If we have a sluggish, overburdened liver, the estrogen can sit in our intestines for too long and become reabsorbed, circulating the body and leading to excess estrogen.
A healthy liver = efficient estrogen detoxification, and one of the best ways to support our liver is to regularly consume liver boosting foods such as raw carrot (check out my raw carrot salad recipe!), beets, dandelion greens, cruciferous veggies, broccoli sprouts, citrus (especially lemon), chlorophyll (found in leafy greens) onions, garlic and turmeric.
When we’re chronically exposed to stress, our body has to ramp up the production of stress hormone cortisol to keep up with the demand, which takes away from the production of progesterone in a process called “pregnenolone steal.” This process lowers the output of progesterone, leading to higher levels of estrogen in relation to progesterone, aka estrogen dominance.
While we’ll never be able to completely rid our lives of stress, it’s important to remove stress-inducing habits or situations when possible (i.e. toxic people, not eating enough, too much high intensity training, checking your phone often, watching the news, etc.) as well as build up your stress resilience with habits like meditation, breath work, walks outside, no screens an hour before bed, therapy, etc.
Many toxins, particularly BPA’s and xenoestrogens (commonly found in unfiltered water, pesticides, herbicides, canned goods, plastics, cleaning products, etc.) mimic estrogen in the body and add to our liver’s toxic load (and remember an overburdened liver leads to less efficient estrogen elimination, contributing to estrogen dominance).
Try replacing all plastic containers with glass, filtering your drinking water (I love our berkey), purchasing organic produce and BPA-free canned goods, and opting for clean home and beauty products when possible.
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, bok choy and Brussels sprouts contain a compound called 3.3-Diindolylmethan (aka DIM) that has been show to reduce estrogen levels and support the liver in detoxing excess estrogen, as well as indole-3-carbinol, a chemical with anti-estrogen effects.
When we support our gut health we are also supporting our estrobolome, a unique set of bacteria in our gut that specifically works to break down estrogen and eliminate it safely via the bowels. Thus a good way to tell if we have a healthy gut and estrogen levels is how often we’re pooping, which should be a minimum of 1-3 times per day to avoid estrogen reabsorbing.
One of the simplest and most effective ways to help your gut with this important task is to take a high quality probiotic. I’ve been taking this brand for years, which contains 24 clinically proven strains of pre and probiotic strains designed to support regularity, healthy stool hydration and ease of evacuation. **Use code SOFRESH15 to save 15%
As mentioned above, it’s very important we’re pooping 1-3x per day in order to eliminate excess estrogen. Besides taking a daily high quality probiotic, one of the best ways to support estrogen elimination is by consuming enough dietary fiber, which draws water into the colon, adding bulk and softness to your stool, thereby helping it pass more smoothly through the digestive tract.
Foods with high sources of fiber include cruciferous vegetables, starchy root vegetables, quinoa, gluten-free oats, artichokes, pears and apples, beans and lentils, seeds, nuts, and avocado.
Digestive bitters and herbs such as dandelion, burdock, slippery elm and artichoke leaf give the liver a boost by triggering the production of bile, a digestive compound that breaks down fats and improves nutrient absorption (which also boosts gut health!) as well as aiding in the elimination of toxins.
As mentioned above, DIM is a compound derived from cruciferous vegetables that has been shown to support the liver in eliminating excess estrogen. While I encourage you to focus on boosting your DIM intake via cruciferous vegetables first (which has the added benefit of all of that gut-healthy fiber!) you can also look into taking a supplement for additional support (please speak with your medical practitioner first, especially with any pre-existing conditions).
Hormonal birth control supplies the body with a synthetic form of estrogen (i.e. xenoestrogens) that keeps your body from producing its own. This prevention of natural hormone production stops ovulation from occurring, which is a process needed to produce adequate progesterone levels. This lowers progesterone, which leads to high levels of estrogen in relation to progesterone (aka estrogen dominance).
Additionally, hormonal birth control can lead to gut bacteria imbalances, adversely affecting estrogen metabolism and detoxification. There are many other forms of non-hormonal birth control out there, but I prefer tracking my cycle and using the Fertility Awareness Method (which has SO many added benefits!)
Supporting estrogen detoxification all comes back to the basics — a high quality diet, reduction in stress and toxins, and the incorporation of herbs and supplements when needed (as well as supporting progesterone production!).
Additionally, if you’re experiencing more severe conditions such as PMDD, endometriosis, etc. you will mostly like need to take a more in-depth approach (and as always, please consult with your medical practitioner first).
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I’m honored to support you on your journey to optimal hormone health + happiness. Thanks for being here babe.