Once oestrogen completes its function, it travels to the liver for metabolism. From there, it is sent to the gall bladder and then to the intestines for excretion from the body. Additionally, oestrogen is excreted in urine. However, if the liver, gall bladder, or gut are overwhelmed or imbalanced, the body may struggle to break down and eliminate oestrogen, leading to its recirculation and symptoms of oestrogen excess.
Common symptoms of oestrogen dominance include:
Tender breasts, heavy and painful periods, acne, fatigue, bloating, and PMS. Over time, it can also lead to issues like ovarian cysts, fibrocystic breasts, uterine fibroids, and an increased risk of oestrogen-related cancers.
Reasons for Oestrogen Dominance:
The Liver: The liver plays a crucial role in processing oestrogen and rendering it inactive in the body through phase I and phase II liver detoxification pathways. However, three main reasons can hinder the liver from processing oestrogen correctly:
Overburdened with toxins from food and the environment, including alcohol, medications, recreational drugs, chemical food additives, herbicides & pesticides, cosmetics, plastics, and cleaning products.
Nutrient deficiencies, especially protein, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), magnesium, zinc, selenium, and B vitamins, which are essential for optimal liver function. Inadequate diet, hormonal contraception, medications, pregnancy, breastfeeding, or intense physical exercise can cause nutrient depletion.
Stress: Excess stress leads to elevated levels of stress hormones, cortisol, and adrenaline, which also need to be broken down in the liver for elimination. In the presence of too much cortisol, the liver may struggle to process oestrogen, affecting hormone balance.
To improve oestrogen dominance and optimize liver function, it is essential to:
The Gall Bladder and Oestrogen: The gall bladder plays a vital role in processing fat and is involved in managing oestrogen and other toxins in the body. Bile, produced in the liver, helps eliminate these substances after detoxification. Issues with bile production or flow can lead to toxin buildup, which is stored in the gall bladder. Periods of high oestrogen exposure, like during pregnancy or when using synthetic oestrogens in hormonal birth control or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), can increase cholesterol production in the liver, burdening the gall bladder and potentially leading to gall stones.
Additionally, studies have shown that high-fat diets can increase oestrogen levels in the body. Fat consumption promotes the reabsorption of oestrogen from bile secretions, contributing to oestrogen dominance. Interestingly, removal of the gall bladder can lead to a temporary increase in oestrogen dominance symptoms.
Gall bladder issues related to oestrogen dominance are more likely to occur during the perimenopause period when oestrogen levels fluctuate, and metabolic changes take place. Improving gall bladder function is linked to enhancing liver function, avoiding overeating and consuming overly fatty or greasy foods, and limiting exposure to external oestrogens from hormonal birth control and HRT. Taking care of the gall bladder can also improve liver and gut function, potentially reducing symptoms of oestrogen dominance.
The Intestines and Oestrogen:
The gut plays a crucial role in safely removing metabolised oestrogens from the body. Constipation can lead to oestrogen reabsorption, highlighting the importance of regular bowel movements (1-3 times a day) for proper excretion of oestrogen. A healthy gut microbiome is also essential in aiding oestrogen elimination. Gut dysbiosis, or an imbalance of gut bacteria, can contribute to oestrogen dominance. Some bacterial strains release an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase, which reactivates inactive forms of oestrogen, causing them to re-enter the bloodstream and circulate in the body. Improving gut function may require professional attention but can be supported by consuming fiber-rich whole plant foods to trap oestrogen in the stool and promote a healthy gut microbiome. Studies have shown that women with high-fiber diets exhibit significantly increased oestrogen excretion in the stool.
Oestrogen Dominance and its External Sources:
Oestrogen dominance can arise from various external sources, impacting the body’s delicate hormonal balance. Everyday cosmetics, cleaning products, herbicides, and pesticides often contain “xenoestrogens,” mimicking oestrogen’s actions and contributing to an increased oestrogen load in the body. Consuming animal products introduces real oestrogens from the animals’ bodies, even without added hormones, as environmental toxins accumulate in animal fat, burdening liver cells and the gall bladder. The saturated fat from animal-based products also negatively affects the gut’s microbiome.
Moreover, the level of body fat plays a crucial role in oestrogen dominance. Inadequate body fat can lower ovary-produced oestrogen, leading to a lack of ovulation and menstrual loss, as observed in women with eating disorders. On the other hand, excess body fat can contribute to oestrogen dominance because fat cells produce oestrogen, and more fat cells mean increased oestrogen production.
A critical process in maintaining hormonal balance is the conversion of testosterone to oestrogen via aromatisation. Some women, often due to genetic factors, may experience a rapid conversion, resulting in an excess of oestrogen, especially during perimenopause or when using testosterone hormone replacement therapy.
Genetics can also influence oestrogen dominance, particularly impaired oestrogen detoxification in the liver, as revealed by DNA testing. While we cannot alter our genes, we can modify their behaviour through lifestyle and dietary changes to manage oestrogen levels effectively. Understanding and addressing these external factors and genetic predispositions can help individuals tackle oestrogen dominance and promote overall health and well-being.