Is your lack of sex drive ruining your relationship? Or have you hit a dead end despite increasingly long hours at the gym? If yes, then you might be experiencing estrogen dominance. Imbalances in your estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels can cause decreased libido and increased levels of body fat in both women and men. Not to worry though, there’s plenty you can do about it. But first…
What is estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone?
Hormones are like messengers responsible for sending signals to different parts of the body, signaling organs to do their jobs. Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterones are sex hormones related to reproduction. Although estrogen and progesterone are mostly female hormones and testosterones are predominant in men, these are all present in both sexes.
Estrogen is the hormone responsible for the changes girls undergo during their puberty such as breast development and menstruation. This hormone is also responsible for protecting bone mineral density (BMD) in both men and women. High BMD means less tendency for bone fractures. Some other negative effects of excess estrogen include increased body fat, decrease desire for sex, increased risk for breast cancer, and fibrocystic breasts.
Progesterone is an important hormone in pregnancy. It thickens the uterus lining to prevent miscarriage. Progesterone also acts as a balance checker for estrogen. It has opposing effects in contrast with estrogen. And it helps reduce fat, increases desire for sex, prevents breast cancer, and prevents fibrocysts (tumors) in the breasts.
Testosterone is a hormone responsible for male reproductive development, bone and muscle growth, and libido (sexual desire). Testosterone levels is also related to libido in women, although at lesser amounts than in men.
What is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance is basically an imbalance in hormones where the effects of estrogen overpower the effects of testosterone and progesterone. This could be the reason why you have no desire for sex. Or why you are gaining body fat so quickly instead of muscle, or why it’s hard for you to build muscle.
Whether your estrogen levels are low or high, you can experience estrogen dominance. It can happen when your progesterone levels are not enough to counter the estrogen's effects, or when your testosterone levels are very low. The ratios between the hormones often matter more than the actual levels themselves.
Causes of Estrogen Dominance
Estrogen dominance can be caused by several factors:
Estrogen mimickers – Xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens are compounds that act like estrogens and in so doing, disrupt normal hormonal functions. Xenoestrogens can come from BPA found in plastics, from commercial food products subjected to growth hormones, synthetic bath products, pesticides, birth control pills, etc. Phytoestrogens come from plant sources such as foods like soy and beer.
Fat – A process called aromatization is when testosterone is converted to estrogen. This process takes place in fat cells. If there is too much fat in the body, there will be more places for this process to occur. Obesity is often the cause of estrogen dominance as well as the cause that makes it worse.
Stress – When under stress, your body produces the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone comes from progesterone. The more cortisol that is produced, the more progesterone is spent. Less progesterone means less hormones to counterbalance estrogen, hence disrupting the ratios and fueling excess estrogen further.
Aging – A study conducted in the US shows that women often suffer from progesterone deficiency at age 30s, and progesterone levels decrease further after menopause. As for men, a study was also conducted and it concluded that testosterone levels decrease with age. This stage is being called andropause or “male menopause”.
Estrogen Dominance in Men and Women
One distressing effect that happens with estrogen dominance is fat build up. This occurrence does not end with aromatization. One of estrogen's effects is increasing body fat (which explains why women are more naturally curvy than men, which is normal in healthy levels).
However, this process goes into a loop where excess estrogen levels promote fat increase, fat cells promote further aromatization, and aromatization further increases estrogen even more. What's more is that estrogen decreases metabolism of body fat for energy use. This continuous cycle only worsens the condition.
This fat gain could be really frustrating if you aim is to lose weight and become even fit and slightly skinny. Furthermore, the prevalence of estrogen also promotes muscle atrophy, or decreases in muscle mass. This will be another downside for those who wish to stay fit.
Estrogen has another effect that causes anguish to men specifically: feminine features. When there is too much estrogen compared to testosterone, men may develop the dreaded “man boobs”. This conditions may require prescription medication or even surgery.
Other symptoms in men can include low sexual desire, mood swings, depression and erectile dysfunction.
How to Overcome Estrogen Dominance
The effects of estrogen dominance could really dampen your dream of achieving that ideal body or worse, create cracks in your relationship. But the good news is, you can overcome it easily by naturally balancing your hormonal ratios. You wouldn't want to completely eliminate estrogen as this can lead to decreased bone mineral density; and estrogen in healthy amounts can help build muscles, too.
Just keeping the levels at bay is enough. The quickest way to do this is by taking natural estrogen blockers, which are either of the SERM type or AI type.
Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) like tamoxifen are drugs or supplements that bind to estrogen receptors and block the effects of excess estrogens; Aromatase inhibitors (AIs) are drugs or supplements that hinder aromatization, thereby decreasing overall estrogen production.
The problem with using estrogen blocking drugs is that they can come with side effects that negatively affect the bones, joints, vision, and sexual functions. Therefore, it is not recommended and only natural estrogen blocking supplements should be used that are made from herbs. However, the best ways to overcome estrogen dominance is still through natural lifestyle changes such as the following:
1. Avoid the culprit
The primary cause for increased estrogenic effects are the xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens. These may be prevalent in your surroundings or diet, but there are ways to avoid them. Avoid eating processed foods that contains artificial hormones or chemicals. You can also avoid BPA exposure by not eating or drinking from plastic containers, especially heated ones.
2. Less beer, more red wine (I’m sure you love to hear that!)
Beer that is made from the hops plant contains lots of phytoestrogens. Unfortunately, a lot of beer brands are made from hops. The good thing is, you can still have some alcohol from red wine. Even better, red wine contains resveratrol that, according to studies, enhances progesterone secretion and inhibits aromatase.
3. Limit desserts
Simple sugars coming from foods such as ice cream, cakes, and other sweets cause an increase in insulin levels. This hormone directs the glucose from simple sugars into fat cells where aromatization takes place. And the result? More estrogen and body fat. So ditch the dessert as often as you can and go for number 4!
The most recommended dietary change for estrogen dominance is consuming cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage daily. These contain indole-3-carbinol (I-3-C) and diindolylmethane (DIM); both of these makes the body metabolize estrogens faster and improve testosterone levels.
5. Go natural
Some natural supplements are also available to help overcome this condition. Tongkat Ali, or Eurycoma Longifolia, is an herb known to be a testosterone booster. It has also been found to be an effective anti-estrogen supplement in studies. It is often promoted for men as a libido booster both it is equally effective in women for burning fat, improving body composition and increasing sex drive.
Other good natural supplements is zinc and grape seed extract. The mineral zinc acts as a SERM and also inhibits aromatase. Grape seed extract reduces aromatase itself.
The most potent natural aromatase inhibitors include the anti-estrogen supplement, Arimistane, which permanently inhibits aromatase that it binds to. Another is the seaweed Eucheuma Cottonii that has SERM like effects. These two are to be used if your condition is quite bad and nothing else have worked to balance your excess estrogen levels.
6. Exercise & sauna
Sweating helps eliminate toxins. This is just what you need to get rid of those xenoestrogens you got from practically everywhere. For men, weight lifting could help boost testosterone levels. So go hit the gym or wear your running shoes and don't be afraid of a little sweat. Saunas are even better to break a good sweat!
If you find yourself losing interest in sex or unable to gain muscle after exercising day in and day out, estrogen dominance could be your enemy. Go get your blood levels tested at a local clinic if you suspect this is indeed your problem. Before this condition develops into the loss of your relationship or beautiful body, fight it at the onset.
Natural remedies such as the right food, exercise, and natural supplements may be slow-acting compared to estrogen blockers from the pharmacy, but they will be more beneficial in the long run due to absence of side effects.