Many different causes of high estrogen

The Causes Of High Estrogen – and how to fix it

What causes high estrogen

There are a number of supplements out there that can effectively lower your estrogen levels, but the first thing that you should try and do if you suspect that you have high estrogen is to find out what the causes of high estrogen are for you, as this will make treatment more effective.

The causes of high estrogen are going to vary from person to person depending on their diet, lifestyle and genetics. There are 3 core reasons why you are going to have high estrogen, for most people it will be a combination of all, and for others it maybe an issue with one main cause.

3 Main causes of high estrogen

  • Your body is producing too much
  • You are exposed to high levels of environmental estrogens
  • You are not detoxifying or eliminating estrogen effectively

Estrogen is essential for your health, this goes for both men and women, but it needs to be in the right balance so while too much estrogen can be a problem, it is also a problem if you have too little estrogen.

Signs and Symptoms of High Estrogen

There are many different symptoms of high estrogen levels and you don’t have to have them all, and because estrogen levels fluctuate throughout the month you may only have high estrogen symptoms for part of the month. For example estrogen should peak around mid cycle, but if your estrogen stays high in the second half of the cycle (the luteal phase), you may only experience symptoms of estrogen dominance in the second half of the cycle before you get your period.

Symptoms of High Estrogen Levels

  • Weight gain
  • Fluid retention
  • Bloating
  • PMS
  • Heavy periods
  • Mood swings
  • Low libido
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Hair loss and skin problems
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue

And this is only a short list of the many signs and symptoms that high estrogen levels can cause! Another thing to watch out for is that these symptoms can also be caused by other hormone imbalances like low thyroid or adrenal dysfunction, this is why it is important to “test and not guess” when treating hormone imbalances. I highly recommend doing a comprehensive test for your sex hormones, adrenal function and thyroid function to help identify the underlying cause which will help to give you a specific treatment plan.

High estrogen symptoms can help identify the cause of high estrogen

Testing your estrogen levels.

The signs and symptoms of high estrogen can be similar to low estrogen, so before you start to try and lower your estrogen levels a good idea would be to test your estrogen levels.

Low thyroid function and adrenal dysfunction can both have similar symptoms to high estrogen levels, this is another reason why testing your estrogen levels is important so that you know that you are addressing the right hormone.

There are 3 main ways of assessing your estrogen levels and they all have their pros and cons, it is also important when assessing your estrogen levels that you also check your progesterone and testosterone levels as the ratio between these hormones is important.

3 Types of Estrogen Testing

Blood testing which is often done by your doctor, this can be a great way to assess your levels of estradiol which is the more potent form of estrogen, but estriol and estrone levels are often not tested for. One of the downsides to blood testing is that it only gives your total estrogen levels and does not show how well your body is detoxifying estrogen.

Saliva testing is easy and convenient and does not require a visit to the doctor, it also measures the 3 different types of estrogen. Saliva testing only shows your levels of estrogen and also misses out on showing you how your body is detoxifying estrogen, problems with detoxification are one of the main causes of high estrogen levels.

Urine testing is also easy and convenient as it does not require a visit to the doctor, and can easily be done at home with a DUTCH hormone test kit. This is my favourite way to test estrogen levels, not only because it is so convenient to do but because it measures the 3 different types of estrogen AND how your body is detoxifying estrogen, as well as progesterone and testosterone levels.

There are three ways that the liver can detoxify estrogen, there is the 2-OH Estrogen pathway which is the healthy way to detoxify estrogen, but there is also the 4-OH and 16-OH Estrogen pathways that are associated with an increased risk of fibroids and estrogen dominant cancers like breast and ovarian cancer.

The DUTCH test also measures how your body is methylating estrogen, this is important for phase 2 of liver detoxification. There is a lot of research into methylation and people who have genetic snps in the MTHFR or COMT genes can have problems with the methylation of estrogen.

Finally the DUTCH test is also the best way to assess adrenal function, high cortisol is another cause of high estrogen so assessing adrenal function is another great way to find out the underlying cause of high estrogen.

You can find out more about the DUTCH test here and how to order

causes of high estrogen

What is Causing your High Estrogen Levels

Now that you know what the symptoms of high estrogen are, and the importance of testing to help you identify your estrogen levels, and the level of your other hormones, the next step is to address the different causes of high estrogen.

If you have high estrogen also read this article on how to lower your estrogen levels

How Diet Causes High Estrogen

There are foods that you eat that can cause high levels of estrogen, and specific foods that you can eat to help lower your estrogen levels. You need to decrease or eliminate the foods that will lead to high estrogen, while increasing the levels of foods that can help your body detoxify estrogen.

Foods that cause high estrogen

One of the main causes of high estrogen levels is the Western diet which is high in processed foods, it is the combination of high sugar and/ or high levels of industrial processed fats that can contribute to high estrogen levels. This includes foods such as pastries, cookies, packaged convenience foods, most “treats” and fast foods, basically if it comes in a box and has a list of ingredients that you would not find in nature then avoid it.

Conventionally raised meat and dairy, this is a much bigger problem in the U.S where animals are raised in inhumane feedlots, and given hormones to stimulate growth and antibiotics to prevent disease. The hormones that are fed to these animals will affect our own hormone levels, for years this practice was promoted as being safe but more and more research is showing that it is having a negative effect on our hormone health. Aim for organic or grass fed beef, it is more expensive so maybe this is something that you will have to minimize from your diet rather than totally eliminate.

Sugar comes under the processed food category, but I think it deserves a special mention as excess sugar can affect the body in so many ways that if you were only going to cut out one thing then I would recommend going on a trial to eliminate sugar for at least 30 days and then reassess how you feel. This includes all forms of sugar and sugar substitutes which are found in both food and drinks (it can be so easy to drink too much sugar). Stevia is the only acceptable sweetener that you can use as a sugar substitute as the other calorie free sugar substitutes have been shown to have a negative effect on your gut bacteria which can affect the elimination of estrogen.

Excess alcohol will also affect the detoxification of estrogen, it is also high in sugar and should only be drank in moderation, or even trial a alcohol free month.

Do you need help with knowing what to eat? Check out Real Plans the best meal planning program out there

Foods that will lower high estrogen

If you are going to cut out or at least minimize industrial processed meats and processed foods in general then you need to add in some foods that are going to be beneficial to lowering your estrogen levels.

The best foods to lower your estrogen levels are the cruciferous vegetables which help to promote estrogen detoxification through the liver, this includes cabbage, broccoli and in particular broccoli sprouts, cauliflower and brussel sprouts. While eating a wide range of vegetables in general will be beneficial to overall health it is the cruciferous vegetables that are the best for high estrogen, adding them to soups, stews, smoothies and salads is a great way to increase your intake.

Cruciferous vegetables can address the cause of high estrogen

Foods high in phytoestrogens can be controversial when you are trying to lower your estrogen levels, many people say to avoid as they contain estrogen but it is not so simple. Soy is a good example of a food high in phytoestrogens and while a highly recommend avoiding processed soy products like soy milk and soy flour (in many processed foods) if you eat fermented soy products like tempeh, traditionally prepared tofu, miso and natto you don’t get the negative effects of soy.

Phytoestrogens have a much weaker effect on the body so they can actually help to reduce the effects of high estrogen by binding to the estrogen receptors, so that the more potent forms of estrogen can’t produce a negative effect. Other sources of phytoestrogens include alfalfa, legumes, flaxseed and red clover tea.

How poor detoxification causes high estrogen

While consuming excess levels of estrogen through your diet is a problem, this will be made worse if your body is not detoxifying estrogen very well. There are 3 phases to estrogen detoxification and it is important that all 3 phases are working well to ensure adequate estrogen elimination, otherwise this estrogen will be reabsorbed back into circulation contributing to the high estrogen levels.

Phase 1 of liver detoxification is controlled by the cytochrome P450 enzymes, there are many of these enzymes and some them are specific to estrogen detoxification, if you have done any genetic testing you can find out if you have a problem with these enzymes. The ideal way to detoxify estrogen is through the 2OH estrogen pathway and how well you are doing this can be assessed with the DUTCH hormone test.

  • 2OH estrogen is metabolized predominantly through CYP1A1 this is the liver detoxification pathway that you do want to safely metabolize estrogen down
  • 4OH estrogen is metabolized predominantly through CYP1B1 this is the one that you want to be low due to the DNA damage that it can cause leading to breast or ovarian cancer.
  • 16OH estrogen is metabolized predominantly through CYP3a4 can also increase cancer risk and higher levels can be associated with more high estrogen symptoms
  • The CYP19A1 enzyme is also important as it is involved in the aromatisation of estrogen

If you have problems with phase 1 of liver detoxification then diet changes are going to be a great help, and depending on your estrogen levels I would also consider adding in a DIM supplement which works by improving estrogen detoxification down the 2OH pathway.

Phase 2 of liver detoxification is the next step, if you don’t have good methylation function this can be another reason why you may not be able to eliminate estrogen. Once again genetics can play a part and in particular the COMT and MTHFR genes will affect the methylation of estrogen, but your genetics are only part of the story and having a good diet and lifestyle will lessen the negative effects of your genetics.

Having adequate levels of B vitamins, ideally from diet or in the active form like this B complex, fat soluble vitamins, amino acids such as glycine, taurine and n-acetyl-cysteine, and nutrients such as choline.

Optimal digestion is important for optimal hormone function, if you have digestion issues you can find out more information on how to address your digestion problems here.

Glucuronidation is another phase 2 liver pathway involved in the detoxification of estrogen, and high levels of the enzyme beta-glucuronidase can block this pathway leading to estrogen reabsorption. The supplement Calcium D Glucarate (not normal calcium supplements) can help to improve estrogen detoxification through the glucuronidation pathway by lowering beta-glucuronidase. The best way to test beta-glucuronidase is through a stool test like the G.I Map test.

Read this article for more in depth information on estrogen and beta-glucuronidase

Phase 3 of estrogen detoxification is the elimination of estrogen through the large intestine. An imbalance in your beneficial bacteria can lead to higher levels of beta-glucuronidase in the intestines, once again Calcium D Glucarate will help but it is important to address the gut bacteria. The G.I Map Test will also help to assess your levels of beneficial bacteria and pathogenic bacteria.

Good levels of fibre is important to help bind and eliminate the estrogen, diets high in processed foods are also low in fibre, having constipation will also make it difficult to eliminate the estrogen. Good sources of fibre include flax seeds, psyllium husk, sprouted legumes and of course lots of vegetables.

How Weight Gain and Insulin Resistance are Causes of High Estrogen

High insulin levels and weight gain are caused by poor diet, sleep and lifestyle habits, we have talked about this already but when you become insulin resistant which is either pre-diabetic or diabetic (many people don’t know if they have either) this becomes more of a problem that can not be addressed by short term solutions.

High insulin levels will suppress ovulation will which lead to low progesterone levels, and this makes the symptoms of high estrogen worse as progesterone has a balancing effect on estrogen.

Insulin resistance will also make it difficult to lose weight, and easier to gain weight and increased body fat will also be a cause of high estrogen levels. Diet change is still going to be the key but it may take longer to lose weight, and you may need to adopt a lower carbohydrate diet.

Getting good quality sleep is also important as well as controlling stress levels, as high stress and poor sleep will lead to high cortisol which will further raise insulin levels.

Supplements to lower insulin include:

  • Gymnema which helps to control sugar cravings
  • Blood sugar support formula are also good to help balance blood sugar levels, insulin and sugar cravings.
  • Lipoic acid is great for liver function and insulin resistance
Poor sleep can be one of the causes of high estrogen

8 Hours of good quality sleep every night is one of the best gifts you can give yourself

How High Stress and Inflammation is a Cause of High Estrogen

We can’t take away all our stress, but we can learn to manage stress better, learn to say no and practice techniques that will help us become more resilient to stress.

High stress will lead to high cortisol which will have a negative effect on our sex hormones, lead to low thyroid function, and increase insulin levels leading to weight gain. Unless you learn to manage stress you are going to have a hard time balancing your hormones.

High cortisol will also lead to high inflammation, which will affect digestion and liver function and how your body processes hormones. Inflammation will cause depression, headaches, joint and muscle pain and make it harder to balance your hormones. Your cortisol and adrenal function can be tested with the DUTCH hormone test.

Steps to reduce stress

  • Make sure you get at least 7 to 8 hours sleep a night, more if you need it, this article can help you with some tips to improve your sleep
  • Practice meditation and/ or breathing exercises, Oak meditation app is a good free resource
  • Avoid long exercise sessions and focus on shorter sessions with resistance training, also incorporate more relaxing exercises like yoga.
  • Once again reduce the processed high sugar foods and get adequate protein
    Walk in nature
  • Laugh and enjoy the company of friends
  • Supplements that can help lower cortisol include Ashwaghanda, phosphatydlserine and Relora

The Next Step

If you have not yet had your sex hormones and adrenal function properly tested, and this includes how your body is detoxifying estrogen, then the next step is to do the DUTCH hormone test. You can find out more about the DUTCH hormone test, costs and how to order by going to the DUTCH Test page Here

The DUTCH hormone test can be sent anywhere in the world, the test is a special type of urine test, DUTCH actually stands for Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones, once the test is done it is sent back to the lab for analysis. When we have the results we will set up a video or phone consultation and I will explain the results and the best treatment plan for you, you will also be given a written report on the results and action steps to take.

If you have already done the hormone test and you need help to implement the necessary diet, lifestyle and supplement changes (not all supplements are good quality) then you can Schedule a Consultation Here

I can’t get give specific treatment advice in the comments below but if you have any general questions or feedback let me know

About the Author Michael

Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions.

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