Written by: Dr. Amy Beckley, PhD, Founder and Inventor of the Proov test — the first and only FDA-cleared test to confirm successful ovulation at home.
Written on: 7/26/21
Estrogen dominance is a hormonal imbalance that can impact your fertility and overall quality of life.
We tend to talk a lot about progesterone. What can we say, it’s our favorite hormone!
But, we also know how important our other hormones are to our cycles and overall health. Women’s health deserves a more holistic approach and we’d be lying if we said progesterone was the only piece to our hormone puzzles.
This is why today we’re going to focus on the yin to progesterone’s yang: estrogen! Specifically, estrogen dominance, which is a hormonal imbalance that can impact your fertility and overall quality of life.
What is estrogen and why is it important?
Estrogen is the dominant hormone during the first half of your cycle — the follicular phase. At the very beginning of your cycle, your brain sends a signal to your body to start producing follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) in order to stimulate your follicles to grow and mature. As these follicles are growing, they start producing estrogen and your levels should rise as you near your suspected day of ovulation.
During the follicular phase, estrogen thickens your uterine lining in preparation for implantation and pregnancy. It ensures the embryo has a comfy place to thrive! After ovulation occurs, estrogen levels are lower, allowing progesterone to be dominant during the second half of your cycle.
Aside from regulating your menstrual cycle and aiding in conception, estrogen has other functions in your body. In young girls, estrogen is the hormone that starts causing their bodies to change during puberty, including breast growth, pubic and underarm hair growth, and the start of menstrual cycles.
Estrogen also keeps cholesterol levels under control and aids in bone health. Not only this, but estrogen also affects your brain (including your mood) and various tissues throughout your body. Needless to say, estrogen is pretty important!
Aside from regulating your menstrual cycle and aiding in conception, estrogen has other functions in your body, including lowering cholesterol levels and aiding in bone health.
What is estrogen dominance?
Estrogen dominance is a hormonal imbalance where your body produces too much estrogen in relation to progesterone. As we mentioned, estrogen is the yin to progesterone’s yang. In order to have a healthy menstrual cycle, both need to be elevated to an adequate amount during their respective phases of the cycle (estrogen during the first half and progesterone during the second half).
Estrogen dominance is common in women entering perimenopause and can be caused by a few different factors, including:
- Overproduction of estrogen by the body
- Changes in the way your body metabolizes and gets rid of estrogen
- An imbalance between estrogen and progesterone
Think of the estrogen to progesterone balance like a seesaw: estrogen and progesterone need to be present in balanced amounts to support a healthy cycle. And when each is elevated, we want them to reach a similar amount to remain balanced. This is why low progesterone is often mislabeled as estrogen dominance.
Sometimes, a normal amount of estrogen is produced during the first half of your cycle, but after ovulation your body struggles to produce a sufficient amount of progesterone. In this case, there is a lot of estrogen in comparison to progesterone, which can seem like estrogen dominance. This is why it’s important to test your post-ovulation levels to ensure low progesterone isn’t disguising itself as high estrogen.
Estrogen dominance can also unfortunately lead to more serious health issues. Excess estrogen has been linked to obesity since fat cells produce estrogen. This can lead to other issues such as blood clots or stroke. Excess estrogen can also put you at a higher risk for endometrial cancer.
How do I know if I have estrogen dominance?
Aside from hormone testing which you can get through your doctor, there are a few signs and symptoms associated with estrogen dominance that you can look out for, including:
- Unexplained weight gain, specifically in the waist, hips, and thighs
- Abnormally light or heavy periods
- Fibrocystic breasts (non-cancerous breast lumps)
- Uterine fibroids
- Decreased libido
- Changes in mood, including increased depression and anxiety
- Worsening premenstrual (PMS) symptoms
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, we recommend consulting your doctor. You also may want to ensure that low progesterone levels aren’t appearing as estrogen dominance.
Proov Confirm is the first and only FDA cleared PdG test kit to confirm successful ovulation at home. PdG is the urine metabolite of progesterone and needs to remain adequately elevated for long enough following ovulation to allow for a healthy hormone balance. We like to see 3-4 positive PdG tests on days 7-10 past peak fertility (with a positive on 10 DPP) to confirm successful ovulation.
If your PdG test results look good, you can feel confident your post-ovulation levels are adequate. If you’re still experiencing symptoms of estrogen dominance, we recommend consulting your doctor for further testing.
You may want to ensure that low progesterone levels aren’t disgusting themselves as estrogen dominance by testing PdG, the urine metabolite of progesterone.
How can I prevent estrogen dominance?
First and foremost, studies (1) show that estrogen dominance can be prevented with a healthy lifestyle. If you’re concerned about estrogen dominance or have been told by your doctor you’re at risk for developing it, you may want to consider making some of the following lifestyle changes:
Exercise: Engaging in moderate daily exercise can help promote a healthy body weight.
Diet: Eating mostly vegetarian (2) or anti-inflammatory foods (like ginger) can help promote healthy estrogen excretion via bowel movements. Omega-3 fatty acids — from fish, avocados, or nuts — are also recommended. Finally, getting enough fiber can help promote healthy bowel movements in order to decrease the amount of estrogen absorbed and increase the amount of estrogen excreted (3).
Stress management: We know — this one is much easier said than done. However, it is so important for hormonal balance and overall health. The stress hormone, cortisol, and progesterone are produced on the same hormone pathway. When your body is under a lot of stress, it will “steal” the less-important progesterone from your reproductive system in order to produce more cortisol, which can lead to low progesterone levels and an overall hormonal imbalance.
Understanding estrogen dominance and how it plays into your overall hormonal balance can help you reach your health and wellness goals faster!
(1) Warshowsky A. Uterine Fibroids. In: Rakel D, ed. Integrative Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders; 2018:578-591.
(2) Gorbach SL, Goldin BR. Diet and the excretion and enterohepatic cycling of estrogens. Prev Med. 1987;16(4):525-531.
(3) Low Dog T, Micozzi M. Women’s Health in Complementary and Integrative Medicine: A Clinical Guide. St Louis, MO: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2005.