Estrogen dominance is at an all time high across the globe. Though there are many theories as to why, it’s likely a complex combination of factors including everything from the food that we eat, to the increase in xenoestrogens in our products, and even glyphosate – the ubiquitous Monsanto herbicide that’s recently come under fire.
Estrogen dominance essentially means high levels of estrogen in the body, which are not being properly balanced by other sex hormones. Progesterone balances estrogen in women, while testosterone balances estrogen in men. Estrogen is also broken down by the liver. You may be surprised to hear this, but proper estrogen levels are just important to men as they are to women.
Estrogen Isn’t Just a Female Hormone
We often equate estrogen with women, but it’s equally as important men have just the right levels of estrogen. Your body actually produces three different types of estrogen.
- Estrone (E1) – Estrone is the second most common estrogen and a weaker type.
- Estradiol (E2) – Estradiol is a more potent version of estrogen known for supporting bone growth, serotonin levels, memory, and heart health.
- Estriol (E3) – Estriol is the weakest and known for being the predominant estrogen during pregnancy. It is thought to be protective against breast cancer.
Estrogen is essential to maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, bone density, a balanced mood, and more. Both men and women need their estrogen to be balanced by other hormones and properly broken down. But when it isn’t broken down well or there is simply too much, it can lead to estrogen dominance.
Estrogen is Complex – Receptors & Metabolites
We often oversimplify estrogen. First we lump three different types together, then we don’t acknowledge the different effects estrogen has on receptors, and finally estrogen metabolites are often missing from the conversation.
Not only do you need proper balance and breakdown to keep estrogen in check, these different types antagonize one another in the body. These three different types of estrogen bind to two different types of estrogen receptors – alpha receptors that promote cell growth and beta receptors which inhibit cell growth.
Many tissues throughout the body have both types of receptors where estrogen antagonizes against itself via alpha and beta receptors.
- Estrone (E1) – This form of estrogen primarily activates alpha receptors in a 5 to 1 ratio, which increases cell proliferation.
- Estradiol (E2) – E2 binds to both alpha and beta receptors equally.
- Estriol (E3) – This estrogen is mostly activate beta receptors in a 3 to 1 ratio, which inhibits cell proliferation but at a lower rate than E1.
Estrogens effects on different receptors make the type of the estrogen dominant in a body important. Estrogen metabolites are also important. Estrogen is broken down along two pathways into two metabolites:
- 2-Hydroxyestrone – Generally, this metabolite works to block stronger estrogens.
- 16Beta-Hydroxyestrone – While this metabolite promotes cell proliferation, Higher levels of 16Beta-Hydroxyestrone have been associated with obesity, hypothyroidism, pesticide toxicity, and higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids.
Some research has suggested that the ratio of these two metabolites may be predictive of breast cancer.
As it stands, we still have a lot to learn about estrogen dominance. While we often simplify the diagnosis as too much estrogen in the body, it’s likely differences in ratios and imbalances among the three types of estrogens and their metabolites. What we do know is some of the most effective way to support somebody with estrogen dominance is to implement detoxification, diet, and supplementation that encourage the body to restore homeostasis this delicate balance.
19 Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance in Women
- Low libido
- Irregular periods
- Swollen or tender breasts
- Fibrocystic breast
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- Brain fog
- Thyroid nodules
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Cancer – breast, uterine, prostate
3 Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance in Men
- Enlarged breasts
- Sexual dysfunction
Supporting Estrogen Metabolism or Detox
- Saunas – Saunas are one of the best ways to support detoxification within the body.
- Exercise – Exercise, especially sweating, is another great way of supporting detoxification.
- Reduce stress levels – You’ve probably heard me say time and time again that reducing stress levels is one of the best things you can do for your health and estrogen is no exception.
- Lose excess weight – Estrogens are stored in fat on the body. So when you lose weight, you reduce storage space for estrogens and how to lower estrogen levels.
- Drink clean water – I really recommend investing in a water filter, like the Berkey Filter. This is because we have so many toxins and potential endocrine disruptors in our drinking water. In fact I consider drinking pure water as one of the best things you can do for your health.
- Use clean personal care and beauty products – Beauty products and personal care products are some of the worst culprits for xenoestrogens (chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body). Clean out your products and opt for only pure options.
- Avoid hormonal birth control – If possible, you should avoid hormonal birth control because it messes with hormonal balance in your body.
Estrogen Dominance Diet
Estrogen Dominance – Foods to Eat
- Food with sulforaphane, which restore estrogen receptor expression. This includes:
- Brussels sprouts
- Bok choy
- Collard greens
- Foods from the Brassicae family, which include the compound Indole-3-carbinol and are a negative regulator of estrogen. These include:
- Napa cabbage
- Bok choy
- Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such wild caught fish, nuts and seeds.
Estrogen Dominance – Foods to Avoid
- Soy & soy products – These include tempeh and tofu.
- Foods high in pesticides – Whenever possible go organic.
- Meat and dairy where hormones are used.
Estrogen Dominance Supplements
- Milk thistle
- Alpha lipoic acid
- Diindolylmethane (DIM)
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin B6, B12, Folate
As a society, it’s important that we work to reduce the number of xenoestrogens in our water and food supply. Hormones are delicate and need to be carefully managed. If you suspect you have estrogen dominance I recommend working with the functional medicine doctor who has experience in the condition.
Too often people jump right to hormonal treatments when we should take a step back and work to restore function within the body. In cases where estrogen dominance has caused serious conditions such as endometriosis, these recommendations will not reverse the condition but can hopefully restore some normalcy.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.
Is there a supplement that contains all the ingredients you listed for estrogen dominance? Milk thistle
Alpha lipoic acid
Omega-3 fatty acids
Vitamin B6, B12, Folate
I like Hormone Essentials and Omega Plus 1300 and B complex.
What supplements do you recommend in case of breast cancer er+, her-? Currently on exemestan and zoladex
Unfortunately, I cannot give you medical advice here… you should discuss with your doctor.
DIM causes hives for me after taking it for a few days. I tried it twice with 2 different brands. I have high estrogen levels. Do you know why or what I can do?
Hi Brooke – it sounds like you had an allergy to an ingredient in the supplement. Make sure you are using professional grade clean brands.
You mention to avoid Soy and Soy products. Far too confusing. I am 20% ER+, PR- / 2/12 years NED. Id just like to know why this is so disputed. My breast cancer support site says;
…Many women are told to avoid soy, but this is not what the research actually indicates.
There are two major groups, whole plant soy and soy protein isolates. Whole plant soy, including tofu, soy milk, and edamame is beneficial to our health and is an excellent plant protein.
Soy protein isolate (or concentrate) is highly processed and stripped of almost everything except the protein. Soy protein isolate is in many prepackaged, processed, and convenience foods. THIS is the soy to avoid.
BUT – not everything is labeled as a Soy Isolate. I dont know what is bad anymore.
I do not recommend any soy with history of estrogen dominance except traditional fermented soy like organic tempeh and miso.
This is a bit confusing, since you say above not to eat tempeh. But now you’re saying tempeh is OK…
I eat soy every day and my estrogen levels are optimal, and I feel great.
Yes, of course… because fermented soy like tempeh and miso has been shown to be protective while others forms of soy have not
I also am in desperate need of answers to th3 above question regarding soy please refer me to studies with science saying soy needs to be avoided for Estrogen + Breast Cancer. Am trying to understand this. Thank you
I am sorry that I am unable to function as you research assistant but I generally find all the data I am looking for on PubMed to support my writing and blogs or its referenced in article. I suggest you try searching by topic of interest…
We vegetgarians often depend on soy products.
Isn’t there a difference between estrogens and phytoestrogens (in soy)?
My oncologist says I can have one soy product per day, not just fermented.
My excellent nutritionist says phystoestrogens don’t have the same effect & in fact, phytoestrogens have been found to discourage cancer cells from growing.
According to me, I have read both, so I understand previous commentor’s confusion.
the only strong evidence I have seen has been regarding fermented soy products like tempeh and miso and would not apply to processed soy foods
Can estrogen dominance cause sudden, diffuse hair loss? I’m 42 and my testosterone levels are normal, my LH and FSH are good, but my progesterone is low. My endocrinologist hasn’t tested my estrogen levels because I still menstruate regularly and don’t have hot flashes. I’m just trying to figure out if it’s worth it to have him check my estrogen levels. I’m so desperate to figure out why my hair is falling out. Any thoughts you have are greatly appreciated.
check DHT which can be converted from to much estradiol converting to too much testosterone and on to DHT
check also thyroid
Thank you so much! I’ve lost more than a third of my hair since August and it isn’t slowing down. It’s incredibly distressing, especially since I have no idea what is causing it. I really appreciate your feedback. Thank you.
The article has a beneficiary content, which has helped me a lot in understanding. It is a very informative blog which everyone should read to know, Estrogen dominance essentially means high levels of estrogen in the body.
Thank you so much Dr. Carnahan this is so very helpful.
I have a question regarding the timing/combining of your different recommendations please.
I’d like to create a daily ‘liver detox’ smoothie in an attempt to support my liver detoxification processes and rectify my hormone imbalance. If I was to combine some of the foods you recommend eating (such as kale and collard greens) with some toxin-binders (such as chlorella, bentonite clay) and consume them at the same time (in a smoothie), would you expect the binders to absorb some of the nutrients (sulforaphane) from the food before the liver gets a chance to utilise them? Or should I be taking these separately (ie. take the binders together then eat later, or eating first then taking binders after a couple of hours?)
Any advice would be very much appreciated.
Thank you for your work!
I recommend you take binders 1-2 hours away from food or other supplements
What are proper equalizers for boys?
What means of tracking daily testosterone and oestrogen exist ?
What daily pharmaceutical AND diet corrections exist?
Active – not sedentary – boys are growing breasts at 6-7yrs of age, it is not natural.
Do tester kits for testosterone/ oestrogen exist like diabetes (pin pricks) ?
Is this fundamentally a pharmacological problem or nutritional ?
Do you believe this is an emergency for boys teens in 2020+?
DIM works for both men and women
Hello! I am in chemical menopause, taking Kliovance.
I have definitely noticed fat being stored (BIG TIME) in the areas that indicate estrogen dominance, along with other symptoms. Now I have been taking Maca Root supplements for 6 weeks which really seems to have helped balanced me, but is this adding to the estrogen dominance? I think from you very Interesting article that it should be a good choice, but I don’t want to be misinterpreting it and adding to my problems. Thank you so much.
Eating grass fed meats and dairy can help lower estrogen levels. Since soy is used as a filler in livestock feed when we consume meats or dairy products from animals raised on soy blend feed we are inadvertently consuming extra soy into our diet. Soy is a high source of estrogen.
Thank you for you advice!
Look into the connection between zinc/copper balance and PCOS.
yes of course, Copper excess is associated with estrogen dominance.
Based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Approximately 93.3 million adults in the United States had obesity in 2015–2016.
You’re wrong about organic soy. The studies I looked at show that they actually block excess estrogen. You need to look at independent research on this. I’m estrogen dominant and I have tested every kind of food. You’re also incorrect about organic grass fed animal products for example. I tested that as well, animals naturally have their own hormones that impact our hormones. I ate organic grass fed for years and my tumors increased in size then I eliminated animal products and my symptoms reduced and tumors decreased in size (I have both endometriosis and uterine fibroids). Now I avoided soy for decades because I believed in that myth about estrogen and soy. But my symptoms are sensitive with what I eat. So again I tried grass fed pasture raised eggs because I love eggs and it increased my swelling and symptoms. When I stopped egg then I felt better again. I went and tested organic tofu and found no increase in swelling or symptoms just because every current study showed estrogen blocks excess estrogen and this is true. My body is an estrogen radar. You need to do more research, you are misinformed.
Hi Rita, most of the studies were on fermented organic soy products like miso and tempeh and not tofu so it is important to know what your source of soy is as the research does show there is a difference.
Hi Marriam! I’m afraid I don’t have good information on Instagram, and it’s a lot more difficult there since a lot of people buy followers. If you’re using that as your main platform and have no blog or YouTube, then you’d be looking at a baseline of 50k followers I think.
Hi Dr. Jill,
Can you shed some light on how mold toxicity influences estrogen metabolism? I researched the Shoemaker protocols and saw that hormone aromatization is addressed in one of the steps. What is your take on mold toxicity and estrogen dominance? Thanks!
Too many don’t know that shampoos that grow your hair fast (of course with no sulfates, no parabens or DEA) are a thing. We can now achieve longer hair and experience more possibilities. Undoubtedly worth looking up.
If you’re exploring alopecia, damaged hair, avoiding skin disorders, fast hair growth, hair and scalp care more often than not, almost the same ideas actualize.
In most cases, you have to avoid hair products and treatments that include chemicals such as parabens, DEA or sulfates.
What’s good for your hair is healthy for your skin as well.
Obviously the content here hits the nail in the head for so many reasons. It avoids the usual traps and mistakes most fall into- utilizing horrible alternatives. Keep it up!