Every day, most of us are subjected to an onslaught of high-inflammation, environmental, social, and chemical stressors that wreak havoc on our hormones, aka chemical messengers in our body. Estrogen dominance is one of the most common factors disrupting our innate flow, and commonly happens when there’s too much ‘yin’ and not enough ‘yang’ (think stagnation, weight gain, and perimenopause). It’s when the ratio of our progesterone to estrogen goes out of balance, and the estrogen and its very strong effects becomes dominant without progesterone to cool it down. Excess estrogen is the leading cause of cancer for everyone. Our hormones themselves are not to blame; it’s more due to our circumstances, environment, and lifestyles that impact them.
Cultivating hormone balance is almost an art, and it’s imperative in this day and age to be vigilant about the many environmental stressors on our bodies, no matter your gender – it affects every one of us equally. If you’re serious about your well-being, I highly recommend looking into these factors as they could be worsening your PMS, PCOS, fibroids, endometriosis, and irregular cycles, and can be a major problem for reproductive and whole body health for any gender. It’s important to know that there isn’t anything inherently wrong with you, it’s all messaging from the body that happens for a reason, and the good news is that we can rebalance them through simple lifestyle shifts!
Over time, as I have cultivated a greater awareness of body literacy (which continues to evolve by the day), I’ve learned to strike a balance between the pressures of modern society and how I was brought up with a greater awareness, knowledge and the innate intelligence and intuition of my own body. As someone who menstruates and feels the impact and pressures of the “yang” masculine dominant Western “go-go-go” society that permeates the way we operate, I’ve learned to honour my innate cyclical rhythms and needs that are more “yin” or feminine in nature, and allow space for deep rest while not falling into the trap of doing the same thing (such as constant high intensity exercise) all month while depleting my Jing (life force energy). Note that this has nothing to do with gender or identity, all beings and all genders carry both feminine and masculine energy within, and understanding the impacts of your environments and striking a balance will help you to balance your hormones and arrive at a place of thriving!
By gradually eliminating as many sources of toxins possible in my daily life since around 2014, cleaning up my diet and getting daily sunlight, proper sleep and vital repletion of nutrients and minerals, all traces of depression, anxiety, certain fears, mood swings, reactivity, hyper-emotionality, hypoglycemia, bloating, PMS, cystic acne, lethargy, and painful periods have largely been resolved in my own biology. This will always continue to shift due to multifactorial and multisystemic factors, and as long as you can identify and tackle the underlying causes, you’ll undoubtedly find answers yourself which are usually found by living as close to nature as possible.
Causes of estrogen dominance include:
- toxic blue light from screens
- rigid, externally imposed diet (ie. the church of plant-based/veganism, in my experience, will cause inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, and hormonal imbalances long-term. Extreme in any direction is a generally harmful mentality)
- pesticides, glyphosate, herbicides in most of the food supply (even organics can be contaminated with them)
- endocrine disruptors and environmental toxins in conventional beauty and personal care products, the food and water supply, household products, etc. Glyphosate in particular displaces glycine in myelin sheaths then all gene expression (I consume grass fed and finished, pasture raised bone broths, collagen supplements to prevent/reverse this damage)
- EMF/EMR exposure from cell phones, televisions, wi-fi, cell phone towers, airplanes, all electronic devices cause adverse biological damage to cells as they increase the influx of calcium ions through voltage-gated calcium channels in the plasma membrane that surrounds all of our cells, increasing cortisol and altering hormone levels
- Stress (chemical, emotional, or physical) – humans are very resilient and your body can adapt well to stressful environments to a certain extent, though if you want to thrive instead of just survive, try becoming more in tune with your body and mitigate or redirect stress and become antifragile: shift your mindset, spend time in nature and with her rhythms and synergy, optimize your circadian rhythm by watching sunrise and sunset, cultivate a regular sleep cycle
- excessive exercise
- too little exercise
- hormonal birth control
- poor diet
- commercial, factory-farmed animal foods
- low magnesium and/or zinc levels
- poor estrogen metabolism or detoxification
- insulin resistance (ditch the sugars!)
- mast cell and histamine activation (immune response)
Signs of excess estrogen include:
- irregular periods
- painful, heavy and/or excessive periods (I’ve been there)
- accelerated aging process (hello, wrinkles)
- allergies such as asthma, hives, rashes, sinus congestion
- breast cancer, or increased risk of it
- cervical dysplasia
- abdominal pain or bloating
- fibrocystic lumps in breasts
- depression with anxiety or agitation (bitchy)
- dry eyes
- early onset of menstruation
- fat accumulation around the abdomen, hips and thighs
- breast tenderness prior to the menstrual phase
- headaches and migraines
- hair loss
- brain fog
- decreased libido
- thyroid dysfunction
- increased blood clotting (increases risk of strokes)
- memory loss
- anxiety/panic attacks
- erectile dysfunction
- PMS in general (just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s “normal”)
- sluggish metabolism (can’t lose weight)
- trouble sleeping
- uterine fibroids
- hypersensitive emotionality – the result of xenoestrogen exposure and estrogen/hormone waste accumulation, creating irritation, inflammation and oxidative stress in the nervous system
Endocrine disruptors are found in nearly everything in modern life and should be avoided. From the food and water supply, to all of the drugs we consume and the majority of foods and alcohol, all induce a hyper estrogenic state. Regardless of gender or identity, if you’re interested in hormone balance, it requires lifelong management to ensure you don’t fall into estrogen induced cancers or related imbalances.
The good news is that it’s easy to find substitutes or to let go of any exogenous, often expensive products that don’t serve your highest good (and honestly, no makeup is the best look). Toxins in personal care products get stored in your fat cells if not properly detoxified. Avoid these nasties lurking in whatever you come into contact with:
- Resorcinol: found in hair dyes, topical creams for skin conditions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, warts
- Oxybenzone: found in cosmetics across the board from lip balms to moisturizer, sunscreen, nail polish, skin and hair care, makeup
- Triclosan: soaps, antibacterials, hand sanitizer, hand wash, mouth wash, deodorants
- Phthalates (BPAs): found in food cans, fragrances, water bottles, food packaging, nail polish, and perfumes, plastics, receipt paper (I use gloves for this)
- Xenoestrogens: man made chemicals permeating the environment that mimic estrogen in our bodies, also found in both pesticide sprayed conventional plant foods and the many growth hormones in conventional, factory farmed livestock and poultry, and their milk and by-products. They’re also in plastics, household chemicals, dry cleaning, bleach in menstrual hygiene products, tissues and paper towels, chlorine, air fresheners, perfume, fertilizer, food colouring, shampoos, lotions, soaps, and cosmetics with parabens and phenoxyethanol, hygiene products, sunscreen, cleaning chemicals, oral contraceptives, and the food and water supply (especially non-organic). They create hypersensitive emotionality, and the trace quantities of these chemicals that enter the bloodstream negatively influence gene expression far more significantly than actual physiological dosages of these chemicals would induce
- Parabens: found in cosmetics and skin care across the board
As you can see, we are literally swimming in estrogen both in the external world and in our own bodies, so it’s important to be proactive and strike a balance while considering the environments and materials you are exposed to daily. Estrogen detox begins with maintaining proper liver/gallbladder health, low levels of beta-glucuronidase, a strong gut microbiome, and enough fiber for our metabolic type. Though it is possible and effective to get your hormones tested with something like a DUTCH test, you can also shift your lifestyle to benefit your body! Sustained habits will create sustained results, day in and day out, so practice your habits regularly.
Some practical ways to promote estrogen detox and modulate your estrogen levels:
- First, breathe, sweat, pee and poop daily. After conjugation in phase II detox, estrogen is primarily excreted in the stool. A DAILY serving of organic flax seeds, chia seeds, psyllium husk and/or other whole food sources of insoluble fiber work great for me. Not only do they serve to hold water in the stool, they act as physical binders to toxins as well. Get more fiber in your life!
- Promote phase I detox that converts cholesterol-based estrogen to a water-soluble molecule trough chemical pathways in the liver: organic foods like chlorella, whole food resveratrol, and DIM can work their magic here, including cruciferous vegetables, antioxidants, and plant-heavy meals in general, with bonus phytonutrients and fiber for the gut
- Promote phase II detoxification processes where the modified, water-soluble molecule is conjugated to a carrier protein for elimination. Critical nutrient intake of molecules like glutathione, sulfur groups (cruciferous vegetable) and methyl groups (methylation that requires B vitamins and methyl donors), as well as essential amino acids such as branched chain amino acids – pasture raised eggs, sprouted tofu, grass-fed, pasture raised meats, buckwheat, hemp seeds, and tryptophan – pasture raised, grass fed meats, sprouted tofu, wild caught fish, sprouted beans, grass fed dairy, activated nuts and seeds, pasture raised eggs
- Eat raw carrots that detox estrogen (I like to include them in a salad with an apple cider vinegar dressing). A carrot a day keeps PMS at bay!
- Use a wild crafted pine pollen supplement in your cooking and baking, along with other hormone balancing adaptogenic tonic herbs
- Live closer to the earth’s rhythms (reduce artificial light exposure, wake at sunrise, sleep at sunset, use blue light blockers at night if using screens, or use beeswax candles or salt rock lamps instead of night lights)
- If you need to take exogenous hormones for whatever reason, lower your dose
- Take deep breaths, practice moderate yoga and breathwork, sweat daily, drink plenty of properly filtered, structured, remineralized, hydrating water. Different yoga poses and movements actually help to activate different energy pathways and channels in the body opening, enhancing the work of organs responsible for hormonal balance, while reducing cortisol and stress levels.
- Ditch caffeine and sugar, as not only do they prop you up with a false sense of energy, they will trick you into doing more than you should especially during your period, so learn to honour your inherent intelligence, true energy levels and need for rest or more gentle movement. I’m nearing my second month with zero coffee!
- Ditch alcohol, I know this can be difficult for many, but this artificial depressant and poison will reduce your sleep quality and induce dehydration, impairing liver clearance, increasing conversion of testosterone to estrogen, affecting hormone balance down the line. I would suggest cutting down to 1 glass of biodynamic red wine on special occasions, or just cooking with it as I do
- Ditch the birth control pill or taper off of it, this includes all hormonal contraceptives. I’ve been fortunate enough to never have had an experience with it, but the pill is essentially chemical castration and you’re better off without it. It is a blindfold, a gag, and a bandaid that disconnects us from the earth’s rhythms and cycles, and promotes infertility. It can take years to return to a regular cycle after coming off of the pill!
- Ditch refined sucrose/sugars, it shifts estrogen metabolism towards cancer-inducing, inflammatory 16-hydroxyestrone
- Consume glucaric acid from grapefruit or apples DAILY for the liver to bind the used up hormones of every kind, especially estrogen. However, it is important to know that the bound toxins can be then unbound in the colon and reabsorbed back to blood circulation eventually leading to cancer growth and hormonal imbalance (hence the inability to process overwhelming emotional load) if you don’t have dietary fiber to properly handle it, especially flax lignans, so also consume ground flax DAILY to ensure elimination takes place. Combine this with daily sunlight, movement, magnesium, whole foods diet, and sufficient hydration.
- Whole food phytoestrogens are actually beneficial for men, women and all genders. Not all estrogens are “bad” and the one that tends to be high in estrogen dominance is Estradiol, or E2. Excessive levels of this has been linked to breast and prostate cancer. Flax seed suppresses E2 production and also nudges E2 metabolism into a more positive direction through generating a higher ratio of the protective metabolite, 2-hydroxy-estrone. Opt for organic whole food phytoestrogens, including ground flax seeds, resveratrol, turmeric (curcumin), and rosemary
- Nutritional surplus. The mass amounts of heavy metals, environmental toxins, agricultural toxins, xenoestrogens, mold, etc. all increase nutrient demand as the body seeks homeostasis, increasing the rate of protective processes. One of the greatest ways to support the body in these times is through a nutritional surplus, and this all affects hormone balance. Individualized, intuitive, non-dogmatic nutrition can help chelate heavy metals and detoxify the body. Peep my recipes on this blog for more guidance!
- Maintain a body weight that’s best for you, gain more muscle, practice body neutrality. Gaining muscle feels great, but you are so much more than how you look and appear
- Reduce conversion of testosterone to estrogen, consume ground flax seed, grape seed extract, foods rich in zinc
- Increase methylation of estrogens, B-complex whole food sources will be helpful, touching dirt/soil (ie. in the garden) will also introduce the B-complex topically via the bacteria and may increase your lifespan. Sand does not contain the same level of bacteria as soil does.
- Support liver detoxification – I use a wildcrafted liver support tincture containing milk thistle on occasion, schisandra berry works well too
- Ditch plastics in your food packaging, cooking, and storage – hop on the zero waste bandwagon
- Ditch inflammatory foods including conventional dairy, gluten, sugar, processed food, industrial seed oils
- Go to town with the organic, colourful whole foods rich in fiber, and consume organic whole food sources of phytoestrogens
- Ditch caffeine, especially coffee, or if you like your matcha/green tea, cycle it on and off
- Consume more sea vegetables
- Chaste tree berry for those struggling with anovulation/sub-optimal ovulation
- Sleep well – this is important – have a regular, consistent routine, avoid artificial light and blue light at night, breathe through your nose, sleep at sunset and wake up with the sun
- Evening primrose oil
- Sunlight/whole food sources of vitamin D – follow the wisdom of your ancestors
Tips for overall hormonal health and boosting your body’s innate ability to regulate and work properly by itself:
- Resolve nutritional deficiencies in the body, and practice zero tolerance and eliminate all processed foods, including sucrose/sugar and artificial sweeteners, corn and all of its processed derivatives, soy, caffeine, alcohol, GMOs, herbicides and pesticides, hybridized food such as modern wheat, flours/gluten/grains, industrialized vegetable/seed oils, low quality commercial cow dairy, and conventional, factory farmed animal foods.
- Mitigate or redirect stress and make it work for you. Reduce cortisol levels, as they can interfere with the healthy production of other sex hormones such as progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. Stress will put more energy into the activities you’re pursuing rather than towards the self-healing of the body, so try getting into parasympathetic state. Turn off the news, find a better job, deprogram, forgive, heal your inner child and transgenerational trauma, reduce EMF exposure (wi-fi, cellphones, computers, microwaves, dirty electricity)
- Heal your gut, repair any leaky gut by repopulating your gut bacteria with fermented foods, grass fed/finished bone broths, and organic whole foods. “Good” gut bacteria play an important role in estrogen control, hormone balance and melatonin production
- Simplify, go outside and expose bare skin to direct sunlight during sunrise and sunset every single day. Allow sunlight to enter your retinas, remove any eyeglasses. We were meant to be naked in Nature, not bleached in chemicals and living in cages of concrete and plaster walls, watching screens all day.
- Remember that we are cyclical beings and this runs antithetically to the rigidity and largely masculine structure of Western society, it’s so important to really tune in, honour your fundamental nature and your feminine (no matter your gender) while supporting your body’s needs, take breaks from whatever it is you’re doing, and check in with yourself. Honour your luteal and menstrual cycles with more introspection, warmth and rest. Your period is not a burden; it is a vital gauge of your health status. Learn to listen to your body, using any unfavourable signs as information and a portal into thriving, and step into your power.
- Resolve circadian rhythm dysfunction by waking with the sunrise and sleeping near sunset. This rhythm acts as the backbone for health, including sleep, hormones, etc.
- Have a source of protein with every meal, pasture raised eggs, sprouted tofu, sprouted legumes/beans, or ethically pasture raised, grass fed and finished animal foods. Ethically raised, nose-to-tail animal-based protein most effectively repairs and maintains body mass and tissue including muscles, bones, hair, nails, and skin health. It helps regulate your appetite by creating a great feeling of satiety that feels so right (that I did not experience in my rigid vegan/vegetarian days), increases your metabolism and fat burning capacity.
- Healthy fats are our friends. Include them with every meal. Great sources include activated nuts and seeds, tallow, lard, coconut, avocado, grass fed butter, activated raw nut butters, virgin cold-pressed coconut oil, grass fed ghee, pasture raised eggs, oily wild caught fish, and authentic olive oil. Healthy fats decrease insulin resistance within the body as essential building blocks for some hormones. Healthy fats and protein serve to stabilize blood sugar levels, and prevent energy crashes, reducing hormonal fluctuations and acne breakouts (something I’ve personally experienced and overcome). They also promote naturally glowing skin, hair and nails, and you won’t need to spend a fortune on exogenous, toxic beauty products. If you menstruate, you need a higher body fat percentage which helps produce hormones such as estrogen and progesterone.
- Quality food, ideally organic as much as possible, regularly on a day-to-day basis. Try to maintain your unique body’s healthy weight, this will come naturally when you eat organic, reduce stress, and move in ways that feel right for you. Your body needs to feel safe and loved in order to regulate itself correctly. Having nourishing, consistent meals helps your body to feel safe and relaxed enough for it to produce hormones and cycle itself, increasing your absorption and stores of nutrients, and regulated blood sugar levels. Have abundant pasture raised, grass fed and finished, nose-to-tail animal foods
- Ease out of toxic, co-dependent relationships and opt towards structures of autonomy, free association, sovereignty, interdependency or whatever works best
- Choose proper hydration with properly filtered, structured, remineralized water, or spring water
- Ditch toxic body care products, makeup, detergents, and household cleaning products
- Movement – not too little, not too much! Do it out of a place of sustainable self-love. It is common for younger women/menstruators to over exercise and under eat, and this spells disaster long-term. Honour your need for rest during periods that require more rest, truly get to know your cycles, tune into your intuition. Move if you feel the craving to move. I’ve always intuitively known to rest especially during the menstruation cycle, even before I was aware of my own inner cycles.
- Get in touch, tune in and bring a degree of awareness to your cyclical nature. When you get in touch with your body, you bring more focus and energy towards healing your body, aiding the body to recognize what you are trying to work on. One of the ways this can be done is through visualization meditation where you actually visualize yourself as a perfectly hormonally balanced being. Specifically focus on what you’re trying to work on, such as attaining a regular period, clearing your skin, or resolving PMS symptoms (yes, it’s possible, I have done it). Imagine your body in perfect symbiosis, having clear, naturally glowing skin in the sunlight, and how good that makes you feel. Focus on this feeling and give it time, patience and consistency, like watering a plant – it takes time to blossom.
- Have patience. It is said that the body needs at least 3 months to be fully able to use and apply what has been changed. I’ve found this to be true when I shifted from a rigid, caffeinated, full time vegan diet that was wrecking my hormones to an ethical, omnivorous life, guided by my intuition, vitality, and the seasons, as local as can be. It actually took me 3 months after intuitively reintroducing pasture raised eggs into my meals to no longer feel period pains or PMS symptoms!
Everyone needs estrogen for healthy bodies and minds, but estrogen excess is very common, almost ubiquitous, and most likely should be rebalanced. When you take an individualized approach and consider these accessible suggestions while cross-referencing them with how you actually feel, guided by your own intuition, you’ll be well on your way to a more thriving life experience and perhaps even resolve other issues you may have been experiencing. It’s going to be imperfect, and that’s just part of the process. Work with your body’s true nature and begin to flourish by truly being able to harness the divine power of the feminine. What a gift it is to experience this life! There is no need to allow fear to take over your experience: when we step into our power and start to honour our bodies, the more the heavily masculine, rigid aspects of society will be forced to adapt to the feminine, unfathomable and unknowable, beyond the logical mind. Most people have no idea how good their body is designed to feel!
I truly hope you’ve found something useful out of this, you are worthy of vibrant health. May we find a greater connection to our body, and may our days be filled with compassion, grace, inner clarity, and inner peace. Do you have any tips of your own? Let me know in the comments below!
Jan Gill, THE EFFECTS OF MODERATE ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION ON FEMALE HORMONE LEVELS AND REPRODUCTIVE FUNCTION, Alcohol and Alcoholism, Volume 35, Issue 5, September 2000, Pages 417–423, https://doi.org/10.1093/alcalc/35.5.417
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Baker JM, Al-Nakkash L, Herbst-Kralovetz MM. Estrogen-gut microbiome axis: Physiological and clinical implications. Maturitas. 2017;103:45-53. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2017.06.025