Estrogen is the hormone that ultimately makes us women and is essential for keeping our bodies functioning optimally. However, excess estrogen can result in a condition termed estrogen dominance, which can make fat loss more of a challenge and negatively impact your feelings of wellbeing. Estrogen dominance is caused by an imbalance between the amount of estrogen and the amount of progesterone—the two primary female hormones secreted by the ovaries—present in the body.
Estrogen plays a significant role in reproduction and regulating ovulation—our monthly cycle. Estrogen is actually the name given to a group of hormones. A balanced ratio of various estrogen hormones is necessary for optimal health. The other female hormone progesterone counterbalances estrogen in our bodies.
Staying Balanced With Progesterone
Progesterone plays a role in fetal development during pregnancy, ensuring a protective affect against the growth effects of estrogen. When progesterone is secreted, further ovulation is prevented from taking place. Progesterone is also secreted during the luteal phase of a cycle. Progesterone acts as an antagonist to estrogen. While estrogen can increase body fat, slow metabolism, increase bloating and water retention, progesterone can actually help you’re the body use fat for energy, increase metabolism, reduce bloating and even reduce water retention.
As we age, the effects of excess estrogen become more relevant. Between the ages of 35 and 50, there is a significant reduction in the production of progesterone in the body. Estrogen declines to a lesser extent. With this drop, there can be insufficient progesterone to counterbalance estrogen, which can lead to estrogen dominance.
That said, estrogen dominance can also occur in younger women as a result of biochemical imbalances, genetics and the environment. Having said that, there are a number of things you can do to help keep your estrogen and progesterone levels in balance. Consider these items:
The environment we live in is loaded with xenoestrogens found in pesticides placed on the food we eat, plastics, fuels and even daily toiletries we use on our skin. Xenoestrogens are man-made chemicals that act like estrogen in the body. Reduce your exposure to harmful xenoestrogens by using BPA-free containers, choosing organic foods and paraben- and sulphate-free soaps.
If you are using birth control or hormone replacement, you may be supplying your body with a synthetic form of estrogen. It has been shown that hormonal therapy can affect insulin sensitivity, carbohydrate metabolism, glucose intolerance and changes in cholesterol levels. Discuss low dose options with your physician.
If you are not buying organic, free-range meat, poultry or dairy products, chances are they may contain a higher amount of estrogen-like hormones from pesticides, toxins, antibiotics and growth hormone as a result of the feed they are being supplied. That also goes for fruit and vegetables that have been sprayed by pesticides. Be sure to buy organic whenever possible.
Stress can result in higher cortisol levels, reduce insulin levels, shut-off fat burning hormones, and also increase estrogen. The body uses progesterone to produce cortisol when the body is under stress. This can impair your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, causing greater cravings for sugary food, as well as affecting your body’s ability to process carbohydrates. Excess estrogen and cortisol can also cause sleep disturbances. Lack of sleep can reduce recovery, and have a direct impact on your ability to lose weight. Get at least 8 hours of sleep every night and de-stress by performing yoga or mediation.
Excess Body Fat
Fat contains enzymes that aromatize the muscle-building hormone testosterone into estrogen. The more body fat you have, the more aromatization occurs, which can lead to increases in estrogen and imbalances in the estrogen to progesterone ratio. What’s more, the estrogen present in body fat can actually block the enzymes responsible for fat breakdown including regulating the HSL or hormone sensitive lipase and blocking LPL or lipoprotein lipase. Regular exercise is the key! Exercise can have a significant impact on lowering estrogen levels, not to mention reduce stress and improve insulin sensitivity.
Low Fiber Diet
If you are following a diet that is low in fiber and high in refined sugar, you can increase estrogen in the body. Research has shown that women on a high-fiber diet have lower levels of circulating estrogen. Eat a diet rich in fiber including a variety of organic whole grains, fruits and vegetables. A few good sources of fiber include beans, berries, oatmeal, sweet potato, broccoli and dark leafy greens! The recommended daily intake of fiber is 25 grams per day.
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