Integrative Health Blog

Estrogen Dominance Doesn't Mean What You Think

Posted by NIHA Staff on Mon, Mar 05, 2012

Many women have heard the term ‘estrogen dominance’ (ED) but are not sure of the meaning.

Estrogen Dominance is a term every woman should be familiar with. PMS, infertility, post menopausal symptoms, and breast cancer often relate to ED.  Estrogen Dominance doesn’t mean that a woman is high in estrogen. Rather, it means that the estrogenic effects are stronger than the (counterbalancing) progesterone hormone balancing effects. If we think of the analogy of the body as a car, the estrogen would be the accelerator (stimulant) and the progesterone  (calmer) would be the brakes. We could have too little ‘accelerator’ function and still be crashing into cars because our ‘brakes’ are even weaker.

DEFINITION: Estrogen and Progesterone work with each other either as opposites or as complementing hormones. Estrogen is a stimulant (anxiety, insomnia, cellular proliferation at breast, uterus etc) and Progesterone is a calmer (patience, sleep, inhibits cell division). They also complement each other (Estrogen decreases bone loss while Progesterone promotes bone growth) and  testing and balancing hormones is important as we age and hormone levels fluctuate.

What is Estrogen Dominance?

CONCEPT: Estrogen dominance is a condition in which a woman can have deficient, normal, or excessive levels of estrogen, but has too little progesterone to balance the estrogen level. It means a predominance of estrogenic effect as opposed to progesterone effects. It is the balance of the two that matters more than how much we have. A woman can have a low estrogen but a lower progesterone (regarding effects) and still be estrogen dominant.

Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance

Anxiety, irritability, anger, agitation, Cramps, heavy bleeding, prolonged bleeding, clots, Water retention/weight gain, bloating, breast tenderness, lumpiness, enlargement, fibrocystic breasts, mood swings, depression, weepiness, headaches/migraines, food cravings, sweet cravings, chocolate cravings, Muscle pains, joint pains, back pain, acne, foggy thinking, memory difficulties, fat gain, especially in abdomen, hips and thighs, cold hands and feet (i.e., stressed adrenals), blood sugar instability, Insulin Resistance/syndrome X, irregular periods, decrease sex drive, Gall bladder problems, infertility, insomnia, osteoporosis, endometriosis, polycystic ovaries, uterine fibroids, cervical dysplasia (abnormal cells on PAP smear), allergic tendencies, autoimmune disorder, breast-uterine-cervical-ovarian cancer.

What causes Estrogen Dominance?

In a word, STRESS. Let's define stress. Stress is anything that causes us to adapt or threatens our survival. The source can be emotional (e.g., difficult people or circumstances), physical (injury/pain, noise), chemical (pesticides, heavy metals etc.), hormonal (non-bioidentical hormones, excessive thyroid replacement etc.) or biological (e.g., bacterial, viral, parasitic).

How to Fix Estrogen Dominance:

Remove or reduce the stressor as much as you can. Avoid re-exposure. Support adequate progesterone levels (natural/bio-identical only!). Here is some information on how to sensibly balance the progesterone. A good book that teaches how to balance female hormones is Natural Hormone Balance for Women by Uzzi Reiss. If you’re not sure of what you’re doing, a safe way (only if you’re not pregnant) is to use Chaste Tree or Vitex  1-2 tabs daily, first thing in the morning, but always first consult with your integrative physician.

Appearance of Estrogen Dominance with Thermography:


This is a thermographic (infrared) image of the back. The colorized version shows regional heat patterns best (red is hot and blue is cold). Thus the right shoulder has more red because there is inflammation there. The grey scale shows vascular patterns best. The leopard spot pattern is one of several patterns suggestive of estrogen dominance. On day 2 of hormonal balancing  we already see a lessening of the estrogenic leopard spot appearance, thus we can see a pattern starting to balance.


For more information see Metabolic Therapy: Thyroid, Adrenal and Hormone Correction,
It is best to do a thorough evaluation of all the hormones, not just estrogen, as they work together synergistically to affect the systems of the body.

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Topics: hormones, estrogen dominance