Updated: Dec 16, 2022
So, in the last post we talked about hormone imbalance and estrogen dominance. So, you believe you have estrogen dominance, how can you know for sure? Convince your conventional doctor to run a hormone level test or find a Functional Medicine practitioner who specializes in estrogen dominance. They might perform a DUTCH test, which is a Dry Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones, which can be expensive. However, this is a comprehensive test that will give a detailed look at your hormone levels and whether they are balanced. But what can you do if they aren’t in balance?
How can you fix it? How can you bring balance back to the hormones? Of course, I recommend having the guidance of a Functional Medicine practitioner to help you with this journey, but there are ways you can help your body heal. There are three key areas to focus on: gut health, liver, and blood sugar.
Like everything I talk about, food is the foundation for healing. Food is medicine and that is the best place to start. Food may not fix everything, but without changes in the diet first, supplements, herbals, and even conventional medications will be a waste of time and money.
Where to start:
1. Eliminate fast foods and processed foods and choose whole foods (the kind that don’t need an ingredient label). Try to find a local farmer’s market to get local, seasonal produce. Even in winter, there are farms growing many kinds of greens, lettuces, broccoli, and other vegetables that love the chill in the air. Greenhouses, cold frames, and aquaponic systems can grow fresh vegetables throughout the winter. If this is not an option, choose frozen organic vegetables in the supermarkets. These are usually frozen at the peak of freshness, not picked early to be more stable for shipping long distances. They will most likely contain more micronutrients vs. “fresh” produce that has been shipped from foreign countries.
2. Choose organic, non-GMO foods whenever possible. Make sure your beef is grass-fed and grass finished from an organic or regenerative farm. Conventionally grown foods usually contain high amounts of pesticides, growth hormones, fertilizers and antibiotics that can contribute to endocrine disruption and ultimately estrogen dominance. Again, if you can, form a relationship with a local farmer (preferably organic/regenerative) to get your local produce, meat, and fresh herbs.
3. Start an elimination diet just for now. I know some of your favorite foods may be on this list, but this is just temporary until your gut is healed and things start to regulate. Some of the trigger foods to eliminate include:
a. GLUTEN – wheat, barley, rye, farro (breads, pastas, cookies, muffins)
b. DAIRY – cheese, butter, milk, yogurt (including lactose-free)
c. SOY – all forms including soy sauce, tempeh, fake-meat
d. EGGS – yolk and whites
e. CORN – all forms including those yummy taco shells
f. NIGHTSHADES – tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, chili peppers, and goji berries
g. SUGAR – all forms including honey, maple syrup and do not just substitute artificial sweeteners, which can cause more damage to the system
After about 4 to 6 weeks of elimination, eating whole foods, including more vegetables in the diet (of the non-nightshade family) you can start to bring some of these back one at a time and monitor your symptoms. If a food causes bloating, stomach pain, or a rash, eliminate it. If not, welcome it back into your diet. I would still recommend eliminating gluten and corn from your diet permanently. For sugar, a small amount of honey or maple syrup is ok, but still limit the amounts. Monk fruit and stevia are sweeteners that are less likely to cause spikes in your blood sugar and still give you a sweet taste.
You can also use herbs to add more flavor to your food. The phytonutrients in herbs can help to restore hormone balance. But these won’t work if you do not adjust your diet, first. Try to include some herbs in your cooking like rosemary, ginger, or turmeric. These can help reduce inflammation, promote good bacteria growth in your gut, and add amazing flavor to your dishes.
So, gut health again…it always comes back to gut health. You are what you can absorb! If your gut is damaged or you have SIBO or SIFO, you cannot absorb important nutrients that your body needs to perform its functions.
The thyroid gland needs iodine of course, but also vitamin B12, selenium, and iron to function. Vitamin C, magnesium, and good fats are important for adrenal health. Progesterone production requires zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E, B6, and magnesium. If your gut health is compromised, you can’t absorb these important nutrients (even if you take supplements).
Digestion issues like constipation, bloating, IBS, stomach pain, and food sensitivities can cause systemic inflammation and stress the system. Stress increases cortisol production. The more cortisol that is produced, the less progesterone is produced. The increase in inflammation also reduces cellular reception to hormonal signaling.
The liver is also an important part of this equation. The liver filters out toxins (including prescription medications) to eliminate them from the system. If you have abused your liver with too much sugar and alcohol, you may have a fatty liver (which will show up as elevated ALT and AST on your labs), which can compromise its ability to filter out those toxins. If you add in genetic components (discussed in the previous article), you are setting yourself up for estrogen dominance.
Take care of your liver. Sugar elimination can help, but limit or eliminate alcohol, too. Your doctor or Functional Medicine practitioner may want to start you on some liver supporting supplements, too. B vitamins are important for oxidation reactions in the liver (B2, niacin, B6, folate, and B12). Glutathione, flavonoids, sulforaphane and diindolylmethane (DIM) are also important components for oxidation reactions in the liver.
The conjugation pathway in the liver (an important detox pathway) of methylation or sulfation requires methionine, cysteine, magnesium, glutathione, B5, B12, vitamin C, glycine, taurine, glutamine, folate, choline and sulforaphane to mark certain toxins for elimination. Do not start a supplement or “liver cleanse” product without the knowledge of your healthcare provider. Not all supplements are safe for everyone, and you may cause more damage to your body if you are not safely monitored.
So, what is one thing you can do that will have the biggest impact on estrogen dominance? Eliminate sugar and reduce carbohydrates from your diet. Spikes in sugar are signally large amounts of insulin to be secreted from the pancreas. These insulin spikes tell the body to store any excess sugar as fat. Fat produces more estrogen which contributes to estrogen dominance. Yes, the first week of sugar elimination will be hard. The bad bacterial and fungal overgrowth in your gut will NOT be happy. They will likely share these feelings with you (which I called the Angry Carb Baby). I have been there. It is a very unpleasant first week but stick with it because you will feel SO much better. You will likely feel a reduction in inflammation in your body, have more energy than you have had in the past, feel less hungry all the time, and improve your mood! Reducing your sugar and carb intake can also start to reverse estrogen dominance, improve blood pressure, reduce blood sugar levels, and improve your overall health.
As we start to get into the holiday season full of cookies, pastries, cakes, and other sugary carbohydrate-laden foods, I encourage you to stop and think about how those foods can affect your body and your health. Yes, they certainly taste good, but is it worth it for the momentary dopamine release in your brain that says, “this is good!” What will those Christmas cookies do to your blood sugar, gut health, liver function, and hormone levels? How will your body feel after eating all of those carbohydrates? Will it feel sluggish and bloated? What if you choose a piece of fruit or handful of nuts instead? Will you feel energized after eating it?
Are you ready to PIVOT to functional health and wellness? Don’t wait until the New Year…choose a better you, today!