A Comprehensive Protocol for Overcoming Estrogen Dominance
The female body is a complex system that functions with great precision when all hormones are performing as required to fulfill their role as messengers in the body. When this happens, we have proper functioning between the main organs in the reproductive system - the brain, the ovaries, and the adrenal glands.
One of the key hormones in regulating smooth functioning of the female reproductive system and sexual system is estrogen. Estrogen must be balanced with the hormone progesterone for these systems to function properly. Unfortunately, the balance between estrogen and progesterone can be easily disturbed by excessive exposure to environmental toxins, diet, medications, poor sleep, stress, and poor elimination of excess hormones.
Estrogen Dominance can lead to weight gain, hormonal complications, blood sugar imbalance, mood swings, and depression. Though with proper nurturing, nourishment, movement, and self-care, estrogen, and other hormone-related imbalances can be normalized and overcome.
Before going into detail on Estrogen Dominance, it’s important to understand what a hormone actually is. Hormones are messengers that send signals to organs telling them how to perform. If we have too little or too much of a hormone, then our organs do not receive the proper signals needed for our bodies to function optimally.
Estrogen and progesterone are the two main female sex hormones. They have many different roles in the body and are equally important for reaching and maintaining optimal health.
Estrogen sends messages to the lining of the uterus to grow and thicken in preparation for pregnancy. It also affects sexual urges, sexual response, brain function, and bone density. Estrogen impacts the functioning of the thyroid, hypothalamus, anterior pituitary, thymus, skin, and the nervous system.
Progesterone also instructs the uterine lining to grow and thicken in preparation for pregnancy. If fertilization does not occur, progesterone levels drop signaling the beginning of the menstrual cycle. Progesterone also decreases cell growth, particularly that of breast cells, it reduces anxiety and depression, promotes sleep, influences bone growth, and increases the activity of thyroid hormone which affects metabolism.
Estrogen Dominance is one of the most common hormonal imbalances women experience, which can be due to either excess estrogen or a lack of progesterone in the body. Either way, there is an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone and this imbalance can negatively impact health in numerous ways.
Signs and Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
Low sex drive
Uterine and breast cancers
Difficulty losing weight
Excessive hair growth on the body
Fat accumulation around the hips, thighs & abdomen
Altered thyroid activity (mimicking hypothyroid)
Heavy and irregular menses
Early onset of menses (before age 12)
Causes of Estrogen Dominance
The body accumulates excess estrogen in two ways:
Endogenously - We make too much of our own estrogen and it’s not being properly eliminated.
Exogenously - Excess estrogens enter the body from external sources, such as foods, the environment, toxins, and chemicals, and are not being properly eliminated.
Endogenous Estrogens - Common causes/sources:
Stress - The number 1 cause of endogenous estrogens. Excessive and/or prolonged stress decreases progesterone production to make more cortisol, the main stress hormone. This results in high estrogen levels in relation to progesterone.
Impaired liver function – One of the many roles of the liver is to remove excess hormones from the body. If the liver is impaired the ability to perform this role also becomes impaired leading to estrogen dominance.
Dysbiosis – A higher presence of bad bacteria vs. good bacteria in the gut inhibits the conversion of estrogen into water-soluble molecules. This causes the estrogens to recirculate back into the bloodstream where it can re-exert its effects. Gut health is very important for the metabolism of all hormones.
Others causes/sources include: Overconsumption of drugs/alcohol, nutrient deficiencies, obesity, and sleep deprivation.
Exogenous Estrogens - Common causes/sources:
Xenoestrogens – are synthetic substances that mimic estrogen. However, unlike estrogen, which the body eliminates after its job is done, typically within about 12 hours, xenoestrogens are stored in fat cells where they disrupt the proper functioning of the reproductive system and increase the risk of disease in the breast and ovaries.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) – HRT is a form of therapy often used to treat symptoms of perimenopause and menopause. The hormones used in HRT are synthetic.
Growth hormones – Growth hormones contain estrogen. Animal products from conventionally farm-raised animals usually contain growth hormones.
Sources of Xenoestrogens
Plastics – Our world is filled with plastics, many of which leach hormone-like chemicals into the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Even BPA-free plastics still leach estrogenic chemicals.
Instead of plastic chose glass or stainless steel containers and never heat food in plastic.
Pesticides – Pesticides contain a plethora of harmful chemicals that wreak havoc on the reproductive system.
Conventionally raised meat and dairy – Farmed animals raised by conventional methods are fed harmful synthetic hormones. These hormones bioaccumulate in the animals over time and remain in the body of the animal even after slaughter. When we consume meat or dairy we consume whatever the source animal consumed.
Always choose meat and dairy from organic, pasture and grass-fed sources as those are fed without synthetic hormones.
Water – It’s great that the water from our kitchen taps is treated to remove harmful bacteria and other pollutants, but the truth is that the chemicals used to do this are not filtered out of the water by the time it reaches our homes. The other sad truth is that the water still contains many harmful substances that treatment plants simply cannot remove. For example, hormones in birth control pills that are excreted in urine are not filtered out. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) identified 45 hormone-disrupting chemicals in public drinking water.
A common practice to avoid this is to buy bottled water, often in plastic. Unfortunately, hormone-disrupting chemicals from the plastic also leach in the water. Your best alternative is to invest in a good quality water filter for your home or opt for spring water delivery to your home.
Personal care products - Many personal care products such as cosmetics, shampoos, hair creams, and body lotions, contain many harmful chemicals. For example, one of the most common chemicals found in personal care products is “Fragrance,” which can be made up of hundreds of various chemical compounds. Fragrances are linked to liver and kidney damage, cancer and endocrine disruption which interferes with your adrenal, thyroid and reproductive glands.
When we use these personal care products we can inhale the toxins as well as absorb them through our skin (the largest organ that connects to the inside of our body). Opt for natural plant-based alternatives with simple ingredients that have names you recognize…and can pronounce. Check EWG’s website for a list of safe cosmetics & rating scale.
Birth Control Pills – Birth control pills contain synthetic hormones. The pill raises estrogen levels and often causes further hormonal imbalances and complications. Your liver is then taxed with having to detox these hormones which, in excess, gets recirculated in the body in a more harmful form.
Phytoestrogens – Phytoestrogens are derived from plants. They have a similar structure to estrogen but have a weaker estrogenic effect inside the body than other xenoestrogens. This subdued effect can decrease estrogenic activity and can be beneficial for healing estrogen dominance.
Sources of phytoestrogen include oats, alfalfa, lentils, barley, apples, sweet potatoes, carrots, sesame seeds, licorice root, red clover, soy products (tempeh, miso).
Foods for Healing
Increase / focus on
Whole-Foods, Brassica family/cruciferous vegetables, Plenty of Fiber, Probiotic-rich foods, Water
Water is needed for all bodily functions including healthy bowel movements.
Try: aim for 2.5 L of pure filtered water daily to help remove toxins and excess estrogen from the body.
Whole food simply means food in its natural form (the way it is right after harvesting). A diet high in processed and refined carbohydrates and sugars can increase estrogen to unhealthy levels.
Try: whole foods such as root vegetables, dark leafy greens, kale, collards, berries, quinoa, avocado, and nuts & seeds.
Brassica/cruciferous vegetables are great at supporting the liver’s detoxification processes.
Try: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, kale, watercress, turnip, horseradish, mizuna, cilantro. *Note that if eaten raw ,this family of vegetables can inhibit thyroid function.
Fiber is critical for healthy bowel movements which are the main way for excess estrogen to exit the body.
Try: a diet mostly of whole foods. The general rule is at least 35 g of fiber/day. However, it is easy to reach this if consuming a whole foods-based diet. Fiber-rich whole-food examples: broccoli, pears, lentils, ground flax seeds. If you’re in need of more fiber, try having oatmeal + oat bran a few times a week or psyllium husks. Fiber is a natural source that binds to estrogen that is excreted by the liver and brings it into the intestinal tract for elimination while preventing estrogen reabsorption. Try psyllium husks powder - 200 mg daily + plenty of water.
Probiotic-rich foods are essential to digestive health, energy production, healthy skin and metabolism of hormones but will also create an environment of higher good bacteria in the gut. This reduces the risk of bad bacteria converting estrogen that reaches the bloodstream and promotes regular bowel movements + elimination.
Try: Probiotic-filled foods like cultured vegetables that are fermented, such as, kimchi & sauerkraut, coconut kefir, apple cider vinegar, natural kombucha (look for low sugar content) and organic tempeh + miso.
Healthy Fats - Healthy fats support healthy hormones.
Try: avocados, walnuts, olive oil, coconut products, and nuts + seeds. Flax seeds contain lignans that help balance hormone metabolism and block the negative effects of excess estrogens.
Eliminate / Reduce
Unfollow the SAD – The ‘Standard American Diet,’ consisting of sugar, wheat, dairy, and artificial ingredients, is a nightmare for the human body. The guidelines from the SAD are wreaking havoc with our blood sugar and hormones. Foods are processed with xenoestrogens in the form of chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics - substances which contribute to the increase in obesity by adding to fat storage in cells and burdening the liver which is trying to detoxify excess estrogens.
Limit animal products (meat, dairy) - especially important to avoid conventional animal products, choosing only grass-fed, free-range and organic but also be mindful of the intake of these products.
Soy - use only organic soy, and in moderation. If you choose to consume soy, choosing organic and fermented soy, such as miso and tempeh is the healthiest way to go.
Alcohol and caffeine- The liver is forced to work extra hard to eliminate alcohol from the body and so it cannot focus on eliminating estrogen and other toxins at the same time. The estrogen marked for elimination then accumulates in body fat instead and is recirculated in the body. Excessive intake of caffeine exhausts the adrenal glands and can further drain these glands which increase estrogen levels.
Try: replace cold drinks with water, smoothies, and herbal infusions. Replace warm drinks with herbal teas (e.g. dandelion, burdock, and milk thistle teas) which support the liver’s detoxing process. Caffeine-free lattes such as turmeric lattes, pumpkin lattes, hot cocoa, etc. The key is to use natural, healthy products, and minimize the consumption of dairy.
In general, enjoy fresh, organic, raw or lightly cooked produce as much as possible. Eat organic, free-range, grass-fed meat, poultry, and dairy but in limited quantities. Avoid commercial wheat, if you must occasionally eat wheat, make it organic and try sprouted /fermented options like sourdough. Replace refined sugar with natural sweeteners like dates, honey or maple syrup, again in small quantities. Drink lots of clean, filtered water and ensure there is fiber in every meal. Keep in mind that estrogen is excreted from the body via the bowel, so, the better the bowel movement the more estrogen leaves the body.
Herbs & Supplements for Healing Estrogen Dominance
DIM + Calcium D-glucarate – DIM is a strong estrogen metabolizer and helpful for those with estrogen clearance issues. Calcium D-glucarate is a natural substance that helps the detoxification process.
Try: A supplement that combines the two - take 2 capsules (600 mg) per day with meals.
Vitamin D3 - plays a role in regulating estrogen levels as well as supporting healthy functioning of the immune system.
Try: 1,000-2,000 IU/day (and often higher doses for those in need - get blood work to see where your levels are at - if you go for a much higher dose, do this only temporarily)
B6- help boost progesterone production to counteract excess estrogen while supporting liver function.
Try: 1.3 mg daily, with 1.7 mg daily for adults over 50.
Probiotics – Probiotics contain “good” bacteria which encourages further growth of good bacteria and discourages the growth of “bad” bacteria which helps to rebalance gut flora if dysbiosis is present.
Try: a daily probiotic of 10-50 billion (Take a higher dose for more severe cases - start slow and build up. If desired, 10 billion can be taken as a preventative or maintenance). You can also consume probiotic-rich foods. These are fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, natto, and coconut yogurt.
Magnesium - responsible for hundreds of enzyme responses that impact natural hormone balance. It aids in liver detoxification that detoxifies excess estrogen from the body.
Try: Magnesium Chelate (natural form found in the body) or Magnesium Glycinate both are highly absorbable with low laxative side effects. 300-400 mg per day. If you’re having constipation or trouble falling asleep at night - magnesium citrate may be more helpful for you - try 200-400 mg per day (depending on bowel tolerance)
Transdermal natural progesterone cream - Many of the symptoms of estrogen dominance can be relieved with natural progesterone cream which can be found in most health food stores.
Try: apply ¼th or ½ tsp behind your knees, and inner elbows daily for two-three weeks prior to the onset of your menstrual cycle. Pause the week of your cycle. Use for 3 cycles max.
Try Seed Cycling - This refers to the use of specific seeds at specific times in your cycle to promote normal hormonal changes during your cycle. See our post on the journal to learn how to seed cycle!
*It’s best to work with a holistic practitioner before taking herbs or supplements to suggest a plan specific to your body & needs.
Chaste tree berry (Vitex) – supports the pituitary gland to produce progesterone and luteinizing hormone – both of which are necessary for your body to ovulate, for regular menstrual cycles, and to avoid symptoms of hormonal imbalance.
Try: tincture 1-3x per day for 3-6 months. It often takes 3-4 months to fully experience the benefits.
Liver supporting herbs – These herbs all help to cleanse the liver of excess estrogen:
Burdock - This gentle diuretic aids to remove excess estrogen from the body by supporting elimination.
Try: a tea or infusion consumed daily.
Dandelion root - This bitter herb helps in the detoxification process to remove excess estrogen naturally from the body. It’s a gentle laxative that helps increase bowel movements.
Try: A tea or infusion consumed daily.
Milk thistle - Supports the liver while helping to clear excess estrogen.
Try: tincture or capsules between 50-150 milligrams daily.
*It’s best to work with a holistic practitioner before taking herbs or supplements to suggest a plan specific to your body & needs.
Lifestyle Tips for healing estrogen dominance
Exercise - Our body requires movement for optimal health. Exercising facilitates liver detoxification, helps normalize bowel movements, regulates blood sugar balance and supports better weight management. These all play critical roles in moving excess estrogen out of the body.
Try: A daily exercise routine can start with just 30 mins of brisk walking. But, any consistent physical movement will do – yoga, swimming, running, pilates, strength training, etc. Whatever you choose you simply must keep moving! Check out our piece on cycle syncing.
Stimulate the lymphatic system – Try Dry brushing or Abhyanga self-massage daily for at least 10 minutes to stimulate your lymphatic system and release toxins. Do not dry brush when your skin is wet. Dry brush your body starting from your feet with long sweeping upward strokes towards your heart. The strokes should add pressure but must be gentle enough not to damage your skin. Shower when done. Practice deep breathing for 10 mins daily.
Reduce Stress- The adrenal glands are our stress glands, they help the body manage stress by releasing hormones such as cortisol, insulin, and adrenaline. If we are always stressed, these glands are overworked and fatigued and borrow progesterone from the body creating an imbalance in progesterone availability which creates the conditions for estrogen dominance to set in.
Do any activity which helps you relax. Be outside in nature. Being in nature reduces rumination, lowers cortisol levels, and boosts the immune system. Deep breathing, meditation, long baths, and listening to calming music can help balance hormones via effects on the HPA axis. The key is consistency, add one of these rituals to your daily routine.
Get more sleep - A schedule that consists of too little sleep will contribute to hormone imbalance. Our hormones recover and regulate while we sleep, especially our stress hormones. A combination of high stress + poor sleep reduces immunity, causes anxiety and increases the secretion of cortisol (the stress hormone) which essentially makes for an imbalance in all hormones including estrogen.
To avoid any additional estrogen imbalance, try creating a regular sleeping schedule - ideally getting to bed by 10 pm and aiming for a consistent waking and sleep cycle that provides 7 to 8 hours of sleep. This is going to allow for optimal hormone function and help balance estrogen.
Take time for self-care - Self-care will be different for everyone. For example, a walk in nature, taking a bath, preparing a nourishing meal, or simply relaxing at home. Whatever it is that helps you feel grounded and relaxed will be welcomed by the adrenal glands and benefits the entire body including the endocrine system, so indulge!