Estrogen dominance is a term popularized by Dr. R. Lee – a Harvard trained medical doctor-in the early 90s. From his research, he reached the conclusion that perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms arise as a result of progesterone deficiency. He revolutionized the concept of using estrogen and progesterone for hormone replacement therapy and particularly for treating symptoms associated with menopause.
As you approach menopause, your hormone balance becomes drastically altered. There is low estrogen in the luteal phase (second half of the menstrual cycle) because the quality of the eggs gradually diminishes. You also ovulate less often.
Progesterone is produced by the corpus luteum (what is left after the egg is released from the ovary). In the absence of ovulation,there is no corpus luteum and therefore no progesterone.
In contrast, estrogen levels drop to about 40-60% of pre-menopausal levels, leading to an imbalance between the levels of estrogen and progesterone.
Shortly after menopause, there are no eggs left in the ovaries so progesterone and estrogen are no longer produced there. However, estrogen is still being produced from the conversion of the hormones testosterone and androstenedione (androgens) in other parts of the body e.g. fat cells.
Factors that affect the degree of estrogen dominance
The levels of estrogen vary from one menopausal woman to another depending on various factors.
- Body weight – the more you weigh, the more estrogen you will have. This is because fat converts androgens into estrogen. This also explains the increased tendency of obese women to develop cancer of the uterus (womb)which is stimulated by high estrogen levels relative to progesterone (i.e. unbalanced estrogen).
- Levels of binding proteins – Most of the estrogen in your body is attached to special proteins and circulates in the blood in this form. The amount of free estrogen is thus very small and this is the one that produces its effects. At midlife the levels of these special proteins tend to lessen, leaving more free estrogen in the blood.
- Levels of androgen – After menopause and with increasing age, the adrenal glands produce less androgens, which means less formation of estrogen.
- Stress – Prolonged stress leads to increased production of androgens by the adrenal glands which are converted to estrogen and can lead to estrogen “excess” and estrogen dominance symptoms.
- Exposure to environmental toxins – Substances like car exhaust fumes, pesticides, hormones in meat and some soaps contain xenoestrogens that act like estrogen in the body.
Symptoms of estrogen dominance include:
- Irregular periods
- Mood swings
- Memory loss
- Sore breasts
- Migraine headaches
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- Decreased sex drive
Dr. Lee revolutionized the treatment of menopausal (estrogen dominance) symptoms. He concluded that natural progesterone, especially applied to the skin in the form of a cream, would relieve these estrogen dominance symptoms.
Natural progesterone as an estrogen dominance supplement corrects hormone imbalance by opposing many of the effects of unbalanced estrogen.
Progesterone increases sex drive, helps normalize sleep patterns, prevents bloating, works as an antidepressant, helps memory loss and mood swings, normalizes periods, helps with hair loss and reduces breast tenderness due to estrogen dominance.
Progesterone is absorbed through the skin and into the blood when applied to areas where the skin is thin and there are many capillaries (tiny blood vessels). In contrast, about 80% of the progesterone thatâ€™s taken orally is lost in the liver by what is known as the “first pass ” effect. Thus much higher doses are required for treatment.
A good natural progesterone cream, especially in combination with exercise and a healthy diet will go a long way in relieving your estrogen dominance symptoms.
Estrogen dominance and fenugreek
Fenugreek is amongst the variety of herbs that women use to relieve symptoms of “estrogen dominance” associated with perimenopause. It has been used since ancient times for various conditions.
Uses of fenugreek
Over time, fenugreek has been used for a variety of things:
Fenugreek seeds are ground and taken by mouth or made into a paste for applying to the skin.
Side effects of fenugreek include:
- irritation when applied to the skin
Fenugreek should be used with care or avoided altogether:
- in pregnancy because of the possibility of stimulating early labor
- in people who have blood clotting disorders or are taking medication for such disorders
- in diabetics or anyone taking medication that lowers blood sugar
Does fenugreek relieve symptoms of estrogen dominance?
Very good question. In terms of documented research, so far there is evidence that fenugreek:
- lowers blood pressure in diabetics
- lowers (LDH) bad cholesterol in the blood
But, as with many herbs, some people will say that it works for them while other will disagree. So, if you’re game, you could give it a try. If you do, be sure to tell your doctor to avoid reactions with any medication you’re taking.
Low estrogen and zinc deficiency
Zinc is an important mineral which you need for several reasons. It helps in controlling blood sugar, in wound healing and helps prevent infection with viruses. It helps some vitamins to function properly e.g. Vitamin A. It helps in the production of histamine.
Low histamine levels may make it more difficult to achieve orgasm.Women are particularly prone to zinc deficiency because of monthly blood loss through menstruation and the tendency to diet which limits intake of essential nutrients to help replace the monthly loss. As you experience menopause, the lack of estrogen and zinc deficiency together can have a negative effect on sexuality.
- Use natural hormone replacement therapy to restore hormone balance. This will help with menopausal symptoms and help libido.
- Increase your histamine levels by increasing your zinc intake. Eat more seafood like sardines and oysters and more seeds and nuts. You may also add a good zinc supplement which will be most effective when taken with a healthy, balanced diet.