What do constipation, high performance and alcohol have in common? These seemingly unrelated factors all have an unexpected link to estrogen dominance. While estrogen dominance has become somewhat of a buzzword in media and diet culture recently it actually encompasses all the symptoms related to having too much estrogen (which we will be covering). Busy and high performing individuals are at risk of this and no we’re not only talking about women here. I know that I have a community of strong achievers so I know this is a topic I need to be covering. Let’s clear up what it is, the symptoms, unexpected causes and most importantly what you can do about it.
Raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimised by the following symptoms:
That just covers what both sexes might experience you might also be experiencing these:
Estrogen Dominance refers to an imbalance between the important hormone estrogen and it’s counterpart progesterone. These hormones are produced in the ovaries or testes. Estrogen and progesterone are commonly thought of as female hormones. Yes, there is a higher level of them in women but progesterone is needed for the creation of testosterone so this is for our high performing men too.
If you’re not pooping you’re holding onto estrogen. Yikes – I know. It might surprise you to discover that a high stress lifestyle could cause constipation. Many people don’t connect the dots at first that emotions manifest physically. But once you’re aware it becomes hard to unsee how interlinked our inner world and body really are. If you are not resting and restoring sufficiently your body is not able to switch out of “fight, flight or freeze” into “rest and digest”. This is because when your cortisol (stress hormone) is raised your body is not going to (or able to) prioritise tasks such as digestion while it falsely believes it’s fighting for survival.
This might also be an insight into any struggle you might have with letting go emotionally. Even this can manifest in our bodies. I have a flurry of surprised responses from the Poop Horoscope I created when people found out how and why these are linked. Remember I didn’t say this is one of the leading causes – but rather some of the more surprising and unexpected ones.
Your liver is vital for life. It’s in the name “Live(r)” so this is not an aspect to be overlooked. Our liver is our detox superhero and it helps release all the waste, toxins and excess (including – yep – you guessed it: hormones like estrogen), that we’ve built up.
Most of us are keenly aware that alcohol puts stress on our liver. But so does an array of other toxins found in the environment (discussed next), smoking and even anger. Wait what? Yep you read right. It might also surprise you that strong emotions like anger, especially holding onto it – can be adding stress onto an already overworked liver. If you think that relationship is complex (yet fascinating) then you’ll love the relationship between your liver and your thyroid.
Your thyroid is a major player in helping your metabolism function effectively. A sluggish or under-active thyroid means you might hold onto excess body fat. To complete the cycle you need to realize that your adipose cells (ie: your fat cells) are estrogenic (meaning your fat cells are a comfy place for estrogen to nest). To bring it back, supporting your liver, supports your thyroid, which helps you maintain a lower body fat and have less space for the excess estrogen to live. THAT should, however, also show you just how vicious this cycle can be if we don’t support our bodies in the waste removal process.
The world as it is set up today is one big estrogen filled cake. The sponge is being pre, peri and/or post menopausal women. The filling is our inflammation due to the overload of modern day stressors. Excess body fat will ice that cake up real nicely. But then, then it’s time to decorate – I’m talking white chocolate chips in the form of the birth control pill you’ve been taking since you were 17. Fondant flower petals for all the BPA we experience in our plastic. And just when you think you’re done with this masterpiece – we sneeze a multi-coloured glitter bomb on top to represent all the animal products we’re allowing into our already estrogen filled sponge (our bodies).
The birth control pill works by using hormones to interfere with your menstrual cycle by suppressing ovulation. The most popular pill, the combination pill uses the hormones estrogen and progestin (synthetic progesterone). So of course it makes sense that this would increase the amount of estrogen in our body. But while this one might then seem obvious but it is wildly overlooked and underestimated when working out a plan to reduce the symptoms of estrogen dominance.
Dairy has been well noted for causing and/or increasing your inflammation. Do not, however, overlook your meat consumption from factory farmed animals who are often fed gut harming antibiotics in their feed as well as injected with HGH (a growth hormone to make them grow bigger and fatter faster). If you’re looking to get bigger and fatter faster – look no further than estrogen. This is linked to why women have, in general, a higher body fat than men. And why we carry children – with all the estrogen we produce during and post pregnancy – it’s the perfect growing ground for a baby. Which brings us back to dairy, since the milk produced by mama cow is packed with all the estrogen needed to grow a calf, a calf roughly double the size you want to be with double the amount of estrogen you want to be consuming.
Another overlooked and overused source of external estrogen is your plastic, more specifically the BPA in your plastic. Did you know BPA was orignally supposed to be used medicinally? In fact in the 1930’s it was used as a synthetic estogen. Since it wasn’t working very well as a medicine food manufacturers took it over by the 1960’s and used it to make hard clear plastic perfect for baby bottles and the lining of tins and cans. Suddenly we realize WHY plastic containing BPA can wreak havoc on our hormones and increase our risk for developing symptoms of estrogen dominance. Avoiding plastic containers and bottles where ever possible should become standard practice from now on. As a rule avoid ever heating your food in plastic containers as well. Consol isn’t kidding with their slogan “glass is good”. But yes, I also understand how abundant plastic is and how wildly convenient it can be so when it does come into your life – just try your best to opt for BPA free options.
If you do believe you are suffering from the symptoms of estrogen dominance the best protocol would be diving into your detailed history, going through some comprehensive testing and creating a personalised plan. The good news is that is what Gut Health Agency was created for. But I am just passionate about you getting help so even if not through us I know that many functional medicine doctors are moving down this path as well. The even better news is there are small steps you can take TODAY to start relieving those symptoms and reducing your exposure.
Exercise is the kind of stressor humans need more of, the doesn’t-kill-us-so-it-makes-us-stronger kind, and the kind of stressor that reduces stress; (sounds counterintuitive I know but one sweat sesh after a hard day and I won’t have to show you the studies – you’ll feel it for yourself). Start with where you are – even if it’s just 15 minutes a day.
Adding more fibre into your diet will be essential to reducing instances of constipation. It is also the superhero of a healthy and happy gut. All plants contain fibre – but some contain more fibre than others. This topic is so important I have an entire article coming up dedicated to it. But adding in more plant based meals is already a great leap forward for your fibre and nutrient intake. Another neat trick is to add ground flaxseed into your smoothies, cereals and onto your salads.
I cannot stress the importance of proper hydration enough. Along with helping your liver, it also relieves constipation AND there’s a bonus: Well hydrated people don’t have time for bullsh*t because they’re too busy peeing out all their excess toxins. While I’m mostly kidding there I am not kidding about how important this point is. If all this article does is make you stop and drink a glass of water right now – I have done my job.
I know I have given you a LOT to think about. But I want to reiterate that clear is kind so let me be clear with you here: feeling constantly bloated, having irregular periods, excess belly fat, insomnia, low labido or losing your hair – does NOT have to be your reality. You taking the time to read this and get educated shows me you are willing to do the work it takes to heal. I am always here to help along with my team at the Gut Health Agency. Take these actionable steps and implement them today and you’ll see for yourself just how much control you have over how you feel.
All my love
Disclaimer: As a 1:1 Gut Health Coach and as a team for the Gut Health Agency (with our clinical dietician) we are here to empower you into action by combining clinical and coaching. But we are not medical doctors that diagnose and prescribe medicine. The advice we give here are ways to improve potential symptoms of estrogen dominance through health promoting and non-harmful means. Any serious medical issues should always be attended to by your trusted medical practitioners.
Chelsea interviews professionals to bring YOU today’s most updated knowledge on nutrition and wellness.