Insomnia, mood swings, irregular bleeding, irritability, anxiety, water retention, low thyroid symptoms, depression, fat gain (especially around hips, thighs, and abdomen), fibrocystic breasts, uterine fibroids, and low sex drive.
If you’re a woman approaching middle age, there’s a good chance that you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms. Often my patients ask me, “Am I going crazy? Why does it seem like my body is rebelling against me?” The answer may be as simple as having too much estrogen in your system—a condition known as estrogen dominance.
Most women are aware that as they enter perimenopause their bodies begin to produce less estrogen. So how is it possible that along with that decrease the body may actually have too much estrogen?
The answer to that question is that estrogen dominance is relative to a progesterone deficiency. A decade or so before actual menopause the woman may stop ovulating, which causes a lack of production of progesterone from the ovaries. Menstrual cycles will continue even without the progesterone so there is no awareness that the lack of progesterone is causing symptoms of hormonal imbalance. In perimenopause and the menopausal and post-menopausal years estrogen levels drop 40-60%, but without ovulation, progesterone output drops to nearly zero.
In Dr. John Lee’s book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause, he writes: “Estrogen dominance is a condition in which a woman can have deficient, normal, or excess estrogen, but in the absence of ovulation, little or no progesterone to balance its effects upon the body. When estrogen is dominant and progesterone deficient, estrogen becomes toxic to the body.” * It’s this hormonal imbalance that can result in many of the frustrating symptoms that women associate with menopause.
However, it’s not just middle-aged women who can suffer from estrogen dominance. Younger women can experience it, too, in the form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The hormonal imbalance in this case may be linked to toxins, contraceptive use, stress, extremes in diet and exercise, or xenoestrogens found in foods.