Many women desire to lose weight for a variety of reasons. We want to be healthy, look great, and feel our best. Unfortunately, excess estrogen, among other hormonal imbalances, may prohibit you from shedding those pounds at the gym. This article teaches you how to lose weight with estrogen dominance and, perhaps more importantly, how to achieve hormonal balance.
Hormonal Imbalance in Women
Tender breasts, irritability, pain during menstruation, and heavy bleeding are NOT normal symptoms. In fact, they may help explain why diet strategies and intense exercise aren’t working for you.
The female body is beautifully complex and full of hormones, chemical messengers that tell your body how to function. When these hormones are balanced, your body works as it should. But, when even one hormone goes out of balance, a cascade of hormonal disruptions takes place.
One of the most common hormones to fall out of balance is estrogen. It can be either too high or too low. In my practice, I often find clients experiencing estrogen dominance, or high estrogen levels. This imbalance can significantly affect your mood, eating habits, sleep, sexual desire, reproductive capabilities, and more!
Estrogen vs. Progesterone
So, before we discuss how to lose weight with estrogen dominance, let’s cover the role of estrogen in your body.
Estrogen is a hormone produced by the ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat tissue. It is often considered a female sex hormone, although men make small quantities of estrogen too.
There are several types of estrogen in the female body: estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3). The most abundant and powerful form of estrogen is estradiol (E2). Estradiol is responsible for building up the thick lining in your uterus in the first half of the menstrual cycle in preparation for potential implantation.
Estrogen is essential for your well-being. It supports insulin activity, bone health, cardiovascular health, nervous system function, immune system function, and fertility. However, as with anything, too much of a good thing becomes undesirable. In this case, too much estrogen can lead to a phenomenon known as estrogen dominance.
On the other hand, progesterone is secreted in the second half of the menstrual cycle after ovulation. It is responsible for maintaining the uterine lining. If you become pregnant, it helps create an environment that nurtures the developing baby.
Estrogen and progesterone work together to balance levels of each other and encourage smooth communication with our brains, ovaries, and adrenal glands.
What is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance occurs when there is too much estrogen in relation to progesterone. There are two situations in which you may become estrogen dominant:
- Estrogen levels are normal, but progesterone is low.
- Estrogen levels are high, but progesterone levels are normal.
Essentially, estrogen dominance is an imbalance between the hormones estrogen and progesterone. When estrogen levels are too high, or progesterone levels are too low, the result is the frustrating symptoms of estrogen dominance.
Related Post: Learn more about estrogen dominance.
Estrogen Dominance Symptoms
Symptoms of estrogen dominance are signals from your body that your hormones are out of balance.
Here are common symptoms of estrogen dominance:
- Irregular or heavy periods
- Clots in your period
- Painful periods
- Breast tenderness and breast changes
- Headaches and migraines
- Water retention and swelling (i.e., feeling ‘puffy’)
- Uterine fibroids
- Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
- Storing fat around the hips, stomach, and thighs
- Mood swings (feeling teary, frustrated, or irritable)
- Sugar cravings
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Changes in memory and brain function
- Sleep disorders
- Brain fog
- Hair loss
- Loss of libido
What Causes Estrogen Dominance?
Many factors go into the development of estrogen dominance. Here are two leading causes:
First, your body can create too much estrogen or struggle to detox or eliminate natural estrogen through the liver and bowel properly. These are internal causes of estrogen dominance.
Second, exposure to environmental sources of xenoestrogens, or estrogen-like substances, can increase the overall estrogen load in the body. These are external causes of estrogen dominance.
For most women, a combination of both internal and external causes leads to estrogen dominance.
Learning how to lose weight with estrogen dominance starts with an understanding of estrogen sources. Let’s go into more detail about estrogen’s internal, or endogenous, sources:
One cause of estrogen dominance is gut dysbiosis, a phenomenon when more bad bacteria inhabit your gut than good bacteria. How does this relate to estrogen dominance? Well, when gut dysbiosis is present, it can affect the body’s ability to remove excess estrogen. As a matter of fact, there is a subset of bacteria in the gut microbiome called the estrobolome that is primarily responsible for metabolizing estrogen. An imbalance of bacteria within the estrobolome will cause estrogen to be reabsorbed back into the bloodstream instead of getting cleared out through the proper detoxification channels, i.e., the digestive tract. In turn, this will cause circulating estrogen levels to increase.
Estrogen may also be reabsorbed back into the bloodstream if the liver is not functioning correctly. The breakdown of estrogen in the liver requires several key nutrients such as B vitamins, magnesium, glycine, and selenium. A deficiency in any of these nutrients can slow or impair the liver’s ability to breakdown estrogen. Liver function is also impaired by a high intake of alcohol, caffeine, and pharmaceutical drugs.
External sources of estrogen, or exogenous sources, are called xenoestrogens. These refer to synthetic substances that mimic natural estrogen in the body.
Hormonal birth control and hormone replacement therapy are types of xenoestrogens that can contribute to estrogen dominance. They contain synthetic estrogen that is far more potent than natural estradiol. For many women, the estrogen burden from internal and external sources is very high, which makes it even harder for the body to excrete this estrogen load. This is why taking the pill (or any form of synthetic hormone) may hinder weight loss efforts.
Other sources of xenoestrogens include:
- Bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical found in plastics, the lining of tin cans, and receipts.
- Synthetic fragrances (i.e., perfumes and air fresheners).
- Conventionally-raised meat and dairy.
- Non-organic fruits and vegetables.
- Traditional personal care products that contain chemicals like parabens, preservatives, and artificial fragrances.
Does Estrogen Dominance Cause Weight Gain?
Here is the million-dollar question: how to lose weight with estrogen dominance? Before answering this question, you must understand how estrogen interacts with fat tissue.
In normal amounts, estrogen does not cause weight gain. Instead, estrogen benefits muscle mass, bone health, and insulin sensitivity, thereby reducing insulin resistance, a common precursor to diabetes and obesity.
However, when estrogen is out of balance and too high in relation to progesterone, the relationship between estrogen and fat changes. In fact, excess estrogen will signal more fat storage. Research has uncovered that estrogen decreases lipolysis, or fat breakdown, in adipose tissue (fat tissue) through the estrogen receptor called ER-alpha. The more estrogen that binds to receptor ER-alpha, the less fat that is broken down. In other words, estrogen inhibits the breakdown of fat. Furthermore, estrogen and fat tissue have a bidirectional relationship. Excess fat tissue will further increase estrogen production.
Ultimately, estrogen balance is essential for weight loss and maintenance.
Do I Have Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen and progesterone levels can be tested using traditional blood draw methods. However, I often find that these tests may not be sensitive enough to uncover a true hormone imbalance. Instead, I use the DUTCH (Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones) Test in my practice because it offers a significantly more comprehensive assessment of women’s hormones. This panel measures essential reproductive hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, as well as their metabolites, to provide a complete picture of a female client’s overall hormone levels and detoxification capabilities.
How to Lose Weight with Estrogen Dominance
Intervention approaches for women with estrogen dominance vary depending on underlying contributing factors. My recommendation is to work with a functional medicine nutritionist since we specialize in uncovering the root cause and offering tailored solutions based on these underlying root cause factors. In general, here are the following protocols for someone wanting to learn how to lose weight with estrogen dominance and restore overall hormone balance.
Related Post: How to heal estrogen dominance.
Estrogen Dominance Diet
Consuming a diet to reduce estrogen dominance is critical as you begin your hormone healing journey. An estrogen dominance diet is essentially a whole foods diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Ditch the processed foods and opt for whole foods that promote the breakdown of estrogen in the liver (estrogen detoxification). Here are a few essential components of an estrogen dominance diet:
- Caffeine and alcohol should be avoided. Instead, make hydration a priority. Staying hydrated helps your digestive system, which in turn aids in the removal of excess estrogen. Make sure you drink plenty of water from a glass or a stainless steel bottle to avoid potential BPA exposure from plastic sources.
- Consume high-quality protein sources such as organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed, and/or wild-caught red meat, poultry, salmon, eggs, and tofu with each meal. A palm-sized serving of protein is adequate. The amino acids packed in these protein sources will aid the liver in estrogen detoxification. Bonus: These protein sources are also high in B vitamins, which will further support liver function.
- Aim for 6-9 cups of fruits and vegetables daily, especially cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. These vegetables contain a compound called indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which also helps the liver break down excess estrogen.
- Prioritize other fiber sources as well, such as whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Flax and chia seeds possess wonderful hormone balancing properties and are also incredibly helpful for digestive issues like constipation.
- Probiotic-rich foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, and other fermented foods aid in rebalancing the gut microbiome and, in turn, estrogen levels too!
Reduce Exposure to Toxins
Unfortunately, environmental toxins like xenoestrogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals can wreak havoc on your hormones. Here are a few tips to reduce exposure to toxins and help you naturally lower your estrogen levels and lose weight:
- Eat pasture-raised meat and dairy.
- Prioritize organic fruits and vegetables.
- Minimize canned foods and choose BPA-free items (when possible).
- Use glass and stainless steel containers instead of plastic.
- Use essential oils instead of perfumes.
Support Gut Health
The ecosystem of bacteria in your gut is vital to your overall health. Estrogen metabolites leave the body through the digestive system, so it’s important to have regular bowel movements. You can support gut health by using probiotics, eating a forkful of fermented food daily, and consuming a fiber-rich diet. Avoid unnecessary prescription drugs and antibiotics, as these can damage your gut.
If you suffer from constipation, this will be a key symptom to address for weight loss success. To promote daily stools, you can consider adding 1-2 tbsp of ground flax or chia seeds to a smoothie each morning. You can also consider adding a magnesium citrate supplement to your diet since magnesium helps to increase the amount of water in the intestines, which can help with bowel regularity.
Recommended Product: Check out my favorite magnesium citrate supplement through my online supplement dispensary.
Ditch Hormonal Birth Control
If you want to learn how to lose weight with estrogen dominance, you first need to understand how birth control pills promote estrogen dominance. The ethinylestradiol (synthetic estrogen) found in birth control can burden your liver’s detoxification capabilities and contribute to a poor ability to clear out natural estrogen from the body. Synthetic estrogen can also damage intestinal bacteria, impact your estrobolome, and further impair your body’s ability to eliminate estrogen.
Related Post: Learn how to ditch hormonal birth control for good.
As always, remember to speak with your prescribing physician before stopping any medication. If you want to learn more about your hormones and a natural approach to birth control (a.k.a the fertility awareness method), I encourage you to speak to a functional medicine nutritionist or another qualified practitioner.
Working with a Functional Medicine Nutritionist
Like a domino effect, if one hormone goes out of balance, other hormones will also fall out of balance. If you are struggling to lose weight and are dealing with symptoms of estrogen dominance, I encourage you to explore potential root causes of weight loss resistance, such as poor diet, toxin exposure, and gut imbalances.
If you feel like you have hit a weight loss plateau, I recommend consulting with a functional medicine nutritionist. My one-on-one coaching program takes a functional medicine approach to women’s health issues. I can help you get to the root cause of your hormone imbalance and teach you exactly how to lose weight with estrogen dominance. Apply to become a client here!